The Minister's Wooing



MARY returned to the house with her basket of warm, fresh eggs, which she set down mournfully upon the table. In her heart there was one conscious want and yearning, and that was to go to the friends of him she had lost,—to go to his mother. The first impulse of bereavement is to stretch out the hands towards what was nearest and dearest to the departed.

Her dove came fluttering down out of the tree, and settled on her hand, and began asking in his dumb way to be noticed. Mary stroked his white feathers, and bent her head down over them till they were wet with tears. “Oh, birdie, you live, but he is gone!” she said. Then suddenly putting it gently from her, and going near and throwing her arms around her mother’s neck,—“Mother,” she said, “I want to go up to Cousin Ellen’s.” (This was the familiar name by which she always called Mrs. Marvyn.) “Can’t you go with me, mother?”

“My daughter, I have thought of it. I hurried about my baking this morning, and sent word to Mr. Jenkyns that he needn’t come to see about the chimney, because I expected to go as soon as breakfast should he out of the way. So, hurry, now, boil some eggs, and get on the cold beef and potatoes; for I see Solomon and Amaziah coming in with the milk. They’ll want their breakfast immediately.”

The breakfast for the hired men was soon arranged on the table, and Mary sat down to preside while her mother was going on with her baking,—introducing various loaves of white and brown bread into the capacious oven by means of a long iron shovel, and discoursing at intervals with Solomon, with regard to the different farming operations which he had in hand for the day.

Solomon was a tall, large-boned man, brawny and angular; with a face tanned by the sun, and graven with those considerate lines which New England so early writes on the faces of her sons. He was reputed an oracle in matters of agriculture and cattle, and, like oracles generally, was prudently sparing of his responses. Amaziah was one of those uncouth over-grown boys of eighteen whose physical bulk appears to have so suddenly developed that the soul has more matter than she has learned to recognize, so that the hapless individual is always awkwardly conscious of too much limb; and in Amaziah’s case, this consciousness grew particularly distressing when Mary was in the room. He liked to have her there, he said,—“but, somehow, she was so white and pretty, she made him feel sort o’ awful-like.”

Of course, as such poor mortals always do, he must, on this particular morning, blunder into precisely the wrong subject.

“S’pose you’ve heerd the news that Jeduthun Pettibone brought home in the ‘Flying Scud,’ ’bout the wreck o’ the ‘Monsoon'; it’s an awful providence, that ’ar’ is,—a’n’t it? Why, Jeduthun says she jest crushed like an egg-shell”; —and with that Amaziah illustrated the fact by crushing an egg in his great brown hand.

Mary did not answer. She could not grow any paler than she was before; a dreadful curiosity came over her, but her lips could frame no question. Amaziah went on:—

“Ye see, the cap’en he got killed with a spar when the blow fust come on, and Jim Marvyn he commanded; and Jeduthun says that he seemed to have the spirit of ten men in him; he worked and he watched, and he was everywhere at once, and he kep’ ’em all up for three days, till finally they lost their rudder, and went drivin' right onto the rocks. When they come in sight, he come up on deck, and says he, 'Well, my boys, we're headin’ right into eternity,’ says he, 'and our chances for this world a’n’t worth mentionin’, any on us; but we’ll all have one try for our lives. Boys, I’ve tried to do my duty by you and the ship,—but God’s will be done! All I have to ask now is, that, if any of you git to shore, you’ll find my mother and tell her I died thinkin’ of her and father and my dear friends.’ That was the last Jeduthun saw of him; for in a few minutes more the ship struck, and then it was every man for himself. Laws! Jeduthun says there couldn’t nobody have stood beatin’ agin them rocks, unless they was all leather and ingerrubber like him. Why, he says the waves would take strong men and jest crush ’em against the rocks like smashin’ a pie-plate!”

Here Mary’s paleness became livid; she made a hasty motion to rise from the table, and Solomon trod on the foot of the narrator.

“You seem to forget that friends and relations has feelin’s,” he said, as Mary hastily went into her own room.

Amaziah, suddenly awakened to the fact that he had been trespassing, sat with mouth half open and a stupefied look of perplexity on his face for a moment, and then, rising hastily, said, “Well, Sol, I guess I’ll go an’ yoke up the steers.”

At eight o’clock all the morning toils were over, the wide kitchen cool and still, and the one-horse wagon standing at the door, into which climbed Mary, her mother, and the Doctor; for, though Invested with no spiritual authority, and charged with no ritual or form for hours of affliction, the religion of New England always expects her minister as a first visitor in every house of mourning.

The ride was a sorrowful and silent one. The Doctor, propped upon his cane, seemed to reflect deeply.

“Have you been at all conversant with the exercises of our young friend's mind on the subject of religion?” he asked.

Mrs. Scudder did not at first reply. The remembrance of James’s last letter flashed over her mind, and she felt the vibration of the frail child beside her, in whom every nerve was quivering. After a moment, she said,—"It does not become us to judge the spiritual state of any one. James’s mind was in an unsettled way when he left; but who can say what wonders may have been effected by divine grace since then?”

This conversation fell on the soul of Mary like the sound of clods falling on a coffin to the ear of one buried alive;— she heard it with a dull, smothering sense of suffocation. That question to be raised?—and about one, too, for whom she could have given her own soul? At this moment she felt how idle is the mere hope or promise of personal salvation made to one who has passed beyond the life of self, and struck deep the roots of his existence in others. She did not utter a word;—how could she? A doubt,— the faintest shadow of a doubt,—in such a case, falls on the soul with the weight of mountain certainty; and in that short ride she felt what an infinite pain may be locked in one small, silent breast.

The wagon drew up to the house of mourning. Cato stood at the gate, and came forward, officiously, to help them out. “Mass’r and Missis will be glad to see you,” he said. “It’s a drefful stroke has come upon ’em.”

Candace appeared at the door. There was a majesty of sorrow in her bearing, as she received them. She said not a word, but pointed with her finger towards the inner room; but as Mary lifted up her faded, weary face to hers, her whole soul seemed to heave towards her like a billow, and she took her up in her arms and broke forth into sobbing, and, carrying her in, as if she had been a child, set her down in the inner room and sat down beside her.

Mrs. Marvyn and her husband sat together, holding each other’s hands, the open Bible between them. For a few moments nothing was to be heard but sobs and unrestrained weeping, and then all kneeled down to pray.

After they rose up, Mr. Zebedee Marvyn stood for a moment thoughtfully, and then said,—“If it had pleased the Lord to give me a sure evidence of my son’s salvation, I could have given him up with all my heart; but now, whatever there may be, I have seen none.” He stood in an attitude of hopeless, heart-smitten dejection, which contrasted painfully with his usual upright carriage and the firm lines of his face.

Mrs. Marvyn started as if a sword had pierced her, passed her arm round Mary’s waist, with a strong, nervous clasp, unlike her usual calm self, and said,— “Stay with me, daughter, to-day!—stay with me!”

“Mary can stay as long as you wish, cousin,” said Mrs. Scudder; “we have nothing to call her home.”

Come with me!” said Mrs. Marvyn to Mary, opening an adjoining door into her bedroom, and drawing her in with a sort of suppressed vehemence,—“I want you!—I must have you!"

“Mrs. Marvyn’s state alarms me,” said her husband, looking apprehensively after her when the door was closed; “she has not shed any tears, nor slept any, since she heard this news. You know that her mind has been in a peculiar and unhappy state with regard to religious things for many years. I was in hopes she might feel free to open her exercises of mind to the Doctor.”

“Perhaps she will feel more freedom with Mary,” said the Doctor. “There is no healing for such troubles except in unconditional submission to Infinite Wisdom and Goodness. The Lord reigneth, and will at last bring infinite good out of evil, whether our small portion of existence be included or not.”

After a few moments more of conference, Mrs. Scudder and the Doctor departed, leaving Mary alone in the house of mourning.


WE have said before, what we now repeat, that it is impossible to write a story of New England life and manners for superficial thought or shallow feeling. They who would fully understand the springs which moved the characters with whom we now associate must go down with us to the very depths.

Never was there a community where the roots of common life shot down so deeply, and were so intensely grappled around things sublime and eternal. The founders of it were a body of confessors and martyrs, who turned their backs on the whole glory of the visible, to found in the wilderness a republic of which the God of Heaven and Earth should be the sovereign power. For the first hundred years grew this community, shut out by a fathomless ocean from the existing world, and divided by an antagonism not less deep from all the reigning ideas of nominal Christendom.

In a community thus unworldly must have arisen a mode of thought, energetic, original, and sublime. The leaders of thought and feeling were the ministry, and we boldly assert that the spectacle of the early ministry of New England was one to which the world gives no parallel. Living an intense, earnest, practical life, mostly tilling the earth with their own hands, they yet carried on the most startling and original religious investigations with a simplicity that might have been deemed audacious, were it not so reverential. All old issues relating to government, religion, ritual, and forms of church organization having for them passed away, they went straight to the heart of things, and boldly confronted the problem of universal being. They had come out from the world as witnesses to the most solemn and sacred of human rights. They had accustomed themselves boldly to challenge and dispute all sham pretensions and idolatries of past ages,—to question the right of kings in the State, and of prelates in the Church; and now they turned the same bold inquiries towards the Eternal Throne, and threw down their glove in the lists as authorized defenders of every mystery in the Eternal Government. The task they proposed to themselves was that of reconciling the most tremendous facts of sin and evil, present and eternal, with those conceptions of Infinite Power and Benevolence which their own strong and generous natures enabled them so vividly to realize. In the intervals of planting and harvesting, they were busy with the toils of adjusting the laws of a universe. Solemnly simple, they made long journeys in their old one-horse chaises, to settle with each other some nice point of celestial jurisprudence, and to compare their maps of the Infinite. Their letters to each other form a literature altogether unique. Hopkins sends to Edwards the younger his scheme of the universe, in which he starts with the proposition, that God is infinitely above all obligations of any kind to his creatures. Edwards replies with the brusque comment,—“This is wrong; God has no more right to injure a creature than a creature has to injure God”; and each probably about that time preached a sermon on his own views, which was discussed by every farmer, in intervals of plough and hoe, by every woman and girl, at loom, spinning-wheel, or washtub. New England was one vast sea, surging from depths to heights with thought and discussion on the most insoluble of mysteries. And it is to be added, that no man or woman accepted any theory or speculation simply as theory or speculation; all was profoundly real and vital,—a foundation on which actual life was based with intensest earnestness.

The views of human existence which resulted from this course of training were gloomy enough to oppress any heart which did not rise above them by triumphant faith or sink below them by brutish insensibility; for they included every moral problem of natural or revealed religion, divested of all those softening poetries and tender draperies which forms, ceremonies, and rituals had thrown around them in other parts and ages of Christendom. The human race, without exception, coming into existence “under God’s wrath and curse,” with a nature so fatally disordered, that, although perfect free agents, men were infallibly certain to do nothing to Divine acceptance until regenerated by the supernatural aid of God’s Spirit,—this aid being given only to a certain decreed number of the human race, the rest, with enough free agency to make them responsible, but without this indispensable assistance exposed to the malignant assaults of evil spirits versed in every art of temptation, were sure to fall hopelessly into perdition. The standard of what constituted a true regeneration, as presented in such treatises as Edwards on the Affections, and others of the times, made this change to be something so high, disinterested, and superhuman, so removed from all natural and common habits and feelings, that the most earnest and devoted, whose whole life had been a constant travail of endeavor, a tissue of almost unearthly disinterestedness, often lived and died with only a glimmering hope of its attainment.

According to any views then entertained of the evidences of a true regeneration, the number of the whole human race who could be supposed as yet to have received this grace was so small, that, as to any numerical valuation, it must have been expressed as an infinitesimal. Dr. Hopkins in many places distinctly recognizes the fact, that the greater part of the human race, up to his time, had been eternally lost,—and boldly assumes the ground, that this amount of sin and suffering, being the best and most necessary means of the greatest final amount of happiness, was not merely permitted, but distinctly chosen, decreed, and provided for, as essential in the schemes of Infinite Benevolence. He held that this decree not only permitted each individual act of sin, but also took measures to make it certain, though, by an exercise of infinite skill, it accomplished this result without violating human free agency.

The preaching of those times was animated by an unflinching consistency which never shrank from carrying an idea to its remotest logical verge. The sufferings of the lost were not kept from view, but proclaimed with a terrible power. Dr. Hopkins boldly asserts, that “all the use which God will have for them is to suffer; this is all the end they can answer; therefore all their faculties, and their whole capacities, will be employed and used for this end. The body can by omnipotence be made capable of suffering the greatest imaginable pain, without producing dissolution, or abating the least degree of life or sensibility..... One way in which God will show his power in the punishment of the wicked will be in strengthening and upholding their bodies and souls in torments which otherwise would be intolerable.”

The sermons preached by President Edwards on this subject are so terrific in their refined poetry of torture, that very few persons of quick sensibility could read them through without agony; and it is related, that, when, in those calm and tender tones which never rose to passionate enunciation, he read these discourses, the house was often filled with shrieks and wailings, and that a brother minister once laid hold of his skirts, exclaiming, in an involuntary agony, “Oh! Mr. Edwards! Mr. Edwards! is God not a God of mercy?”

Not that these men were indifferent or insensible to the dread words they spoke; their whole lives and deportment bore thrilling witness to their sincerity. Edwards set apart special days of fasting, in view of the dreadful doom of the lost, in which he was wont to walk the floor, weeping and wringing his hands. Hopkins fasted every Saturday. David Brainerd gave up every refinement of civilized life to weep and pray at the feet of hardened savages, if by any means he might save one. All, by lives of eminent purity and earnestness, gave awful weight and sanction to their words.

If we add to this statement the fact, that it was always proposed to every inquiring soul, as an evidence of regeneration, that it should truly and heartily accept all the ways of God thus declared right and lovely, and from the heart submit to Him as the only just and good, it will be seen what materials of tremendous internal conflict and agitation were all the while working in every bosom. Almost all the histories of religious experience of those times relate paroxysms of opposition to God and fierce rebellion, expressed in language which appalls the very soul,—followed, at length, by mysterious elevations of faith and reactions of confiding love, the result of Divine interposition, which carried the soul far above the region of the intellect, into that of direct spiritual intuition.

President Edwards records that he was once in this state of enmity,—that the facts of the Divine administration seemed horrible to him,—and that this opposition was overcome by no course of reasoning, but by an “inward and street sense,” which came to him once when walking alone in the fields, and, looking up into the blue sky, he saw the blending of the Divine majesty with a calm, sweet, and almost infinite meekness.

The piety which grew up under such a system was, of necessity, energetic,— it was the uprousing of the whole energy of the human soul, pierced and wrenched and probed from her lowest depths to her topmost heights with every awful lifeforce possible to existence. He whose faith in God came clear through these terrible tests would be sure never to know greater ones. He might certainly challenge earth or heaven, things present or things to come, to swerve him from this grand allegiance.

But it is to be conceded, that these systems, so admirable in relation to the energy, earnestness, and acuteness of their authors, when received as absolute truth, and as a basis of actual life, had, on minds of a certain class, the effect of a slow poison, producing life-habits of morbid action very different from any which ever followed the simple reading of the Bible. They differ from the New Testament as the living embrace of a friend does from his lifeless body, mapped out under the knife of the anatomical demonstrator;—every nerve and muscle is there, but to a sensitive spirit there is the very chill of death in the analysis.

All systems that deal with the infinite are, besides, exposed to danger from small, unsuspected admixtures of human error, which become deadly when carried to such vast results. The smallest speck of earth’s dust, in the focus of an infinite lens, appears magnified among the heavenly orbs as a frightful monster.

Thus it happened, that, while strong spirits walked, palm-crowned, with victorious hymns, along these sublime paths, feebler and more sensitive ones lay along the track, bleeding away in life-long despair. Fearful to them were the shadows that lay over the cradle and the grave. The mother clasped her babe to her bosom, and looked with shuddering to the awful coming trial of free agency, with its terrible responsibilities and risks, and, as she thought of the infinite chances against her beloved, almost wished it might die in infancy. But when the stroke of death came, and some young, thoughtless head was laid suddenly low, who can say what silent anguish of loving hearts sounded the dread depths of eternity with the awful question, Where?

In no other time or place of Christendom have so fearful issues been presented to the mind. Some church interposed its protecting shield; the Christian born and baptized child was supposed in some wise rescued from the curse of the fall, and related to the great redemption,— to be a member of Christ’s family, and, if ever so sinful, still infolded in some vague sphere of hope and protection. Augustine solaced the dread anxieties of trembling love by prayers offered for the dead, in times when the Church above and on earth presented itself to the eye of the mourner as a great assembly with one accord lifting interceding hands for the parted soul.

But the clear logic and intense individualism of New England deepened the problems of the Angustinian faith, while they swept away all those softening provisions so earnestly clasped to the throbbing heart of that great poet of theology. No rite, no form, no paternal relation, no faith or prayer of church, earthly or heavenly, interposed the slightest shield between the trembling spirit and Eternal Justice. The individual entered eternity alone, as if he had no interceding relation in the universe.

This, then, was the awful dread which was constantly underlying life. This it was which caused the tolling bell in green hollows and lonely dells to be a sound which shook the soul and searched the heart with fearful questions. And this it was that was lying with mountain weight on the soul of the mother, too keenly agonized to feel that doubt in such a case was any less a torture than the most dreadful certainty.

Hers was a nature more reasoning than creative and poetic; and whatever she believed bound her mind in strictest chains to its logical results. She delighted in the regions of mathematical knowledge, and walked them as a native home; but the commerce with abstract certainties fitted her mind still more to be stiffened and enchained by glacial reasonings, in regions where spiritual intuitions are as necessary as wings to birds.

Mary was by nature of the class who never reason abstractly, whose intellections all begin in the heart, which sends them colored with its warm life-tint to the brain. Her perceptions of the same subjects were as different from Mrs. Marvyn’s as his who revels only in color from his who is busy with the dry details of mere outline. The one mind was arranged like a map, and the other like a picture. In all the system which had been explained to her, her mind selected points on which it seized with intense sympathy, which it dwelt upon and expanded till all else fell away. The sublimity of disinterested benevolence,—the harmony and order of a system tending in its final results to infinite happiness,—the goodness of God,—the love of a self-sacrificing Redeemer,—were all so many glorious pictures, which she revolved in her mind with small care for their logical relations.

Mrs. Marvyn had never, in all the course of their intimacy, opened her mouth to Mary on the subject of religion. It was not an uncommon incident of those times for persons of great elevation and purity of character to be familiarly known and spoken of as living under a cloud of religious gloom; and it was simply regarded as one more mysterious instance of the workings of that infinite decree which denied to them the special illumination of the Spirit.

When Mrs. Marvyn had drawn Mary with her into her room, she seemed like a person almost in frenzy. She shut and bolted the door, drew her to the foot of the bed, and, throwing her arms round her, rested her hot and throbbing forehead on her shoulder. She pressed her thin hand over her eyes, and then, suddenly drawing back, looked her in the face as one resolved to speak something long suppressed. Her soft brown eyes had a flash of despairing wildness in them, like that of a hunted animal turning in its death-struggle on its pursuer.

“Mary,” she said, "I can’t help if,— don’t mind what I say, but I must speak or die! Mary, I cannot, will not, be resigned!—it is all hard, unjust, cruel!— to all eternity I will say so! To me there is no goodness, no justice, no mercy in anything! Life seems to me the most tremendous doom that can be inflicted on a helpless being! What had we done, that it should be sent upon us? Why were we made to love so, to hope so,— our hearts so full of feeling, and all the laws of Nature marching over us,—never stopping for our agony? Why, we can suffer so in this life that we had better never have been born!

“But, Mary, think what a moment life

is! think of those awful ages of eternity! and then think of all God’s power and knowledge used on the lost to make them suffer! think that all but the merest fragment of mankind have gone into this,—are in it now! The number of the elect is so small we can scarce count them for anything! Think what noble minds, what warm, generous hearts, what splendid natures are wrecked and thrown away by thousands and tens of thousands! How we love each other! how our hearts weave into each other! how more than glad we should be to die for each other! And all this ends—O God, how must it end?—Mary! it isn’t my sorrow only! What right have I to mourn? Is my son any better than any other mother's son? Thousands of thousands, whose mothers loved them as I love mine, are gone there!—Oh, my wedding-day! Why did they rejoice? Brides should wear mourning,—the bells should toll for every wedding; every new family is built over this awful pit of despair, and only one in a thousand escapes!”

Pale, aghast, horror-stricken, Mary stood dumb, as one who in the dark and storm sees by the sudden glare of lightning a chasm yawning under foot. It was amazement and dimness of anguish; —the dreadful words struck on the very centre where her soul rested. She felt as if the point of a wedge were being driven between her life and her life’s life,—between her and her God. She clasped her hands instinctively on her bosom, as if to hold there some cherished image, and said in a piercing voice of supplication, “My God! my God! oh, where art Thou?”

Mrs. Marvyn walked up and down the room with a vivid spot of red in each cheek and a baleful fire in her eyes, talking in rapid soliloquy, scarcely regarding her listener, absorbed in her own enkindled thoughts.

“Dr. Hopkins says that this is all best, —better than it would have been in any other possible way,—that God chose it because it was for a greater final good,— that He not only chose it, but took means to make it certain,—that He ordains every sin, and does all that is necessary to make it certain,—that He creates the vessels of wrath and fits them for destruction, and that He has an infinite knowledge by which He can do it without violating their free agency.—So much the worse! What a use of infinite knowledge! What if men should do so? What if a father should take means to make it certain that his poor little child should be an abandoned wretch, without violating his free agency? So much the worse, I say!—They say He does this so that He may show to all eternity, by their example, the evil nature of sin and its consequences! This is all that the greater part of the human race have been used for yet; and it is all right, because an overplus of infinite happiness is yet to be wrought out by it!—It is not right! No possible amount of good to ever so many can make it right to deprave ever so few;—happiness and misery cannot be measured so! I never can think it right,—never!—Yet they say our salvation depends on our loving God,—loving Him better than ourselves,—loving Him better than our dearest friends.—It is impossible!—it is contrary to the laws of my nature! I can never love God! I can never praise Him!—I am lost! lost! lost! And what is worse, I cannot redeem my friends! Oh, I could suffer forever,—how willingly!—if I could save him!—But oh, eternity, eternity! Frightful, unspeakable woe! No end!—no bottom!—no shore!—no hope!—O God! O God!”

Mrs. Marvyn’s eyes grew wilder,—she walked the floor, wringing her hands,— and her words, mingled with shrieks and moans, became whirling and confused, as when in autumn a storm drives the leaves in dizzy mazes.

Mary was alarmed,—the ecstasy of despair was just verging on insanity. She rushed out and called Mr. Marvyn.

“Oh! come in! do! quick!—I'm afraid her mind is going!" she said.

“It is what I feared,” he said, rising from where he sat reading his great Bible, with an air of heartbroken dejection. “Since she heard this news, she has not slept nor shed a tear. The Lord hath covered us with a cloud in the day of his fierce anger.”

He came into the room, and tried to take his wife into his arms. She pushed him violently back, her eyes glistening with a fierce light. “Leave me alone!” she said,—“I am a lost spirit!”

These words were uttered in a shriek that went through Mary’s heart like an arrow.

At this moment, Candace, who had been anxiously listening at the door for an hour past, suddenly burst into the room.

“Lor’ bress ye, Squire Marvyn, we won’t hab her go in’ on dis yer way,” she said. “Do talk gospel to her, can’t ye? —ef you can’t, I will.”

“Come, ye poor little lamb,” she said, walking straight up to Mrs. Marvyn, “come to ole Candace!”—and with that she gathered the pale form to her bosom, and sat down and began rocking her, as if she had been a babe. “Honey, darlin’, ye a’n’t right,—dar’s a drefful mistake somewhar,” she said. “Why, de Lord a’n’t like what ye link,—He loves ye, honey! Why, jes’ feel how I loves ye,—poor ole black Candace,—an’ I a’n’t better’n Him as made me! Who was it wore de crown o’ thorns, lamb?— who was it sweat great drops o’ blood?— who was it said, 'Father, forgive dem’? Say, honey!—wasn’t it de Lord dat made ye?—Dar, dar, now ye'r' cryin’!—cry away, and ease yer poor little heart! He died for Mass’r Jim,—loved him and died for him,—jes’ give up his sweet, precious body and soul for him on de cross! Laws, jes’ leave him in Jesus’ hands! Why, honey, dar’s de very print o’ de nails in his hands now!”

The flood-gates were rent; and healing sobs and tears shook the frail form, as a faded lily shakes under the soft rains of summer. All in the room wept together.

“Now, honey,” said Candace, after a pause of some minutes, “I knows our Doctor’s a mighty good man, an’ larned, —an’ in fair weather I ha’n’t no 'bjection to yer hearin’ all about dese yer great an’ mighty tings he’s got to say. But, honey, dey won’t do for you now; sick folks mus’n’t hab strong meat; an’ times like dese, dar jest a’n’t but one ting to come to, an’ dat ar’s Jesus. Jes’ come right down to whar poor ole black Candace has to stay allers,—it’s a good place, darlin’! Look right at Jesus. Tell ye, honey, ye can’t live no other way now. Don’t ye 'member how He looked on His mother, when she stood faintin’ an’ tremblin’ under de cross, jes' like you? He knows all about mothers’ hearts; He won’t break yours. It was jes’ ’cause He know'd we’d come into straits like dis yer, dat he went through all dese tings,—Him, de Lord o’ Glory! Is dis Him you was a-talkin’ about?—Him you can’t love? Look at Him, an’ see ef you can’t. Look an’ see what He is!—don’t ask no questions, and don’t go to no reasonin’s,—jes’ look at Him, bangin’ dar, so sweet and patient, on de cros!s All dey could do Couldn’t stop his lovin’ ’em; he prayed for ’em wid all de breath he had. Dar’s a God you can love, a’n’t dar? Candace loves Him,—poor, ole, foolish, black, wicked Candace,—and she knows He loves her,”—and here Candace broke down into torrents of weeping.

They laid the mother, faint and weary, on her bed, and beneath the shadow of that suffering cross came down a healing sleep on those weary eyelids.

“Honey,” said Candace, mysteriously, after she had drawn Mary out of the room, “don’t ye go for to troublin' yer mind wid dis yer. I’m clar Mass'r James is one o’ de ’lect; and I’m clar dar’s consid’able more o’ de ’lect dan people tink. Why, Jesus didn't die for nothin’,—all dat love a’n’t gwine to be wasted. De ’lect is more’n you or I knows, honey! Dar’s de Spirit,—He’ll give it to ’em; and ef Mass’r James is called an’ took, depend upon it de Lord has got him ready,—course He has,—so don’t ye go to lavin’ on yer poor heart what no mortal creetur can live under; ’cause, as we’s got to live in dis yer world, it’s quite clar de Lord must ha’ fixed it so we can; and ef tings was as some folks suppose, why, we couldn’t live, and dar wouldn’t be no sense in anyting dat goes on.”

The sudden shock of these scenes was followed, in Mrs. Marvyn’s case, by a low, lingering fever. Her room was darkened, and she lay on her bed, a pale, suffering form, with scarcely the ability to raise her hand. The shimmering twilight of the sick-room fell on white napkins, spread over stands, where constantly appeared new vials, big and little, as the physician made his daily visit, and prescribed now this drug and now that, for a wound that had struck through the soul.

Mary remained many days at the white house, because, to the invalid, no step, no voice, no hand was like hers. We see her there now, as she sits in the glimmering by the bed-curtains,—her head a little drooped, as droops a snowdrop over a grave;—one ray of light from a round hole in the closed shutters falls on her smooth-parted hair, her small hands are clasped on her knees, her mouth has lines of sad compression, and in her eyes are infinite questionings.


WHEN Mrs. Marvyn began to amend, Mary returned to the home cottage, and resumed the details of her industrious and quiet life.

Between her and her two best friends had fallen a curtain of silence. The subject that filled all her thoughts could not be named between them. The Doctor often looked at her pale cheeks and drooping form with a face of honest sorrow, and heaved deep sighs as she passed; but he did not find any power within himself by which he could approach her. When he would speak, and she turned her sad, patient eyes so gently on him, the words went back again to his heart, and there, taking a second thought, spread upward wing in prayer.

Mrs. Scudder sometimes came to her room after she was gone to bed, and found her weeping; and when gently she urged her to sleep, she would wipe her eyes so patiently and turn her head with such obedient sweetness, that her mother’s heart utterly failed her. For hours Mary sat in her room with James’s last letter spread out before her. How anxiously had she studied every word and phrase in it, weighing them to see if the hope of eternal life were in them! How she dwelt on those last promises! Had he kept them? Ah! to die without one word more! Would no angel tell her?—would not the loving God, who knew all, just whisper one word? He must have read the little Bible! What had he thought? What did he feel in that awful hour when he felt himself drifting on to that fearful eternity? Perhaps he had been regenerated,—perhaps there had been a sudden change;—who knows?—she had read of such things; —perhaps—Ah, in that perhaps lies a world of anguish! Love will not hear of it. Love dies for certainty. Against an uncertainty who can brace the soul? We put all our forces of faith and prayer against it, and it goes down just as a buoy sinks in the water, and the next moment it is up again. The soul fatigues itself with efforts which come and go in waves; and when with laborious care she has adjusted all things in the light of hope, back flows the tide, and sweeps all away. In such struggles life spends itself fast; an inward wound does not carry one deathward more surely than this worst wound of the soul. God has made us so mercifully that there is no certainty, however dreadful, to which life-forces do not in time adjust themselves,—but to uncertainty there is no possible adjustment. Where is he? Oh, question of questions!— question which we suppress, but which a power of infinite, force still urges on the soul, who feels a part of herself torn away.

Mary sat at her window in evening hours, and watched the slanting sunbeams through the green blades of grass, and thought one year ago he stood there, with his well-knit, manly form, his bright eye, his buoyant hope, his victorious mastery of life! And where was he now? Was his heart as sick, longing for her, as hers for him? Was he looking back to earth and its joys with pangs of unutterable regret? or had a divine power interpenetrated his soul, and lighted there the flame of a celestial love which bore him far above earth? If he were among the lost, in what age of eternity could she ever be blessed? Could Christ be happy, if those who were one with Him were sinful and accursed? and could Christ’s own loved ones be happy, when those with whom they have exchanged being, in whom they live and feel, are as wandering stars, for whom is reserved the mist of darkness forever? She had been taught that the agonies of the lost would be forever in sight of the saints, without abating in the least their eternal joys; nay, that they would find in it increasing motives to praise and adoration. Could it be so? Would the last act of the great Bridegroom of the Church be to strike from the heart of his purified Bride those yearnings of self-devoting love which His whole example had taught her, and in which she reflected, as in a glass, His own nature? If not, is there not some provision by which those roots of deathless love which Christ’s betrothed ones strike into other hearts shall have a divine, redeeming power? Question vital as life-blood to ten thousand hearts,—fathers, mothers, wives, husbands,—to all who feel the infinite sacredness of love!

After the first interview with Mrs. Marvyn, the subject which had so agitated them was not renewed. She had risen at last from her sick-bed, as thin and shadowy as a faded moon after sunrise. Candace often shook her head mournfully, as her eyes followed her about her daily tasks. Once only, with Mary, she alluded to the conversation which had passed between them;—it was one day when they were together, spinning, in the north upper room that looked out upon the sea. It was a glorious day. A ship was coming in under full sail, with white gleaming wings. Mrs. Marvyn watched it a few moments,—the gay creature, so full of exultant life,—and their smothered down an inward groan, and Mary thought she heard her saying, "Thy will be done!”

“Mary,” she said, gently, “I hope you will forget all I said to you that dreadful day. If had to be said, or I should have died. Mary, I begin to think that it is not best to stretch our minds with reasonings where we are so limited, where we can know so little. I am quite sure there must be dreadful mistakes somewhere.

"It seems to me irreverent and shocking that a child should oppose a father, or a creature its Creator. I never should have done it, only that, where direct questions are presented to the judgment, one cannot help judging. If one is required to praise a being as just and good, one must judge of his actions by some standard of right,—and we have no standard but such as our Creator has plated in us. I have been told it was my duty to attend to these subjects, and I have tried to,—and the result has been that, the facts presented seem wholly irreconcilable with any notions of justice or mercy that I am able to form. If these be the facts, I can only say that my nature is made entirely opposed to them. If I followed the standard of right they present, and acted according to my small mortal powers on the same principles, I should be a very bad person. Any father, who should make such use of power over his children as they say the Deity does with regard to ns, would be looked upon as a monster by our very imperfect moral sense. Yet I cannot say that the facts are not so. When I heard the Doctor’s sermons on 'Sin a Necessary Means of the Greatest Good,’ I Could not extricate myself from the reasoning.

“I have thought, in desperate moments, of giving up the Bible itself. But what do I gain? Do I not see the same difficulty in Nature? I see everywhere a Being whose main ends seem to be beneficent, but whose good purposes are worked out at terrible expense of suffering, and apparently by the total sacrifice of myriads of sensitive creatures. I see unflinching order, general good-will, but no sympathy, no mercy. Storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, sickness, death, go on without regarding us. Everywhere I see the most hopeless, unrelieved suffering,—and for aught I see, it may be eternal. Immortality is a dreadful chance, and I would rather never have been.— The Doctor’s dreadful system is, I confess, much like the laws of Nature,— about what one might reason out from them.

"There is but just one thing remaining, and that is, as Candace said, the cross of Christ. If God so loved us,—if He died for us,—greater love hath no man than this. It seems to me that love is shown here in the two highest forms passible to our comprehension. We see a Being who gives himself for us,—and more than that, harder than that, a Being who consents to the suffering of a dearer than self. Mary, I feel that I must love more, to give up one of my children to suffer, than to consent to suffer myself. There is a world of comfort to me in the words, 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ These words speak to my heart, I can interpret them by my own nature, and I rest on them. If there is a fathomless mystery of sin and sorrow, there is a deeper mystery of God’s love. So, Mary, I try Candace’s way,—I look at Christ,—I pray to Him. If he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father, it is enough. I rest there,—I wait. What I know not now I shall know hereafter.”

Mary kept all things and pondered them in her heart. She could speak to no one,—not to her mother, nor to her spiritual guide; for had she not passed to a region beyond theirs? As well might those on the hither side of mortality instruct the souls gone beyond the veil as souls outside a great affliction guide those who are struggling in it. That is a mighty baptism, and only Christ can go down with us into those waters.

Mrs. Scudder and the Doctor only marked that she was more than ever conscientious in every duty, and that she brought to life’s daily realities something of the calmness and disengagedness of one whose soul has been wrenched by a mighty shock from all moorings here below. Hopes did not excite, fears did not alarm her; life had no force strong enough to awaken a thrill within; and the only subjects on which she ever spoke with any degree of ardor were religious subjects.

One who should have seen moving about the daily ministrations of the cottage a pale girl, whose steps were firm, whose eye was calm, whose hands were ever busy, would scarce imagine that through that silent heart were passing tides of thought that measured a universe; but it was even so. Through that one gap of sorrow flowed in the whole awful mystery of existence, and silently, as she spun and sewed, she thought over and over again all that she had ever been taught, and compared and revolved it by the light of a dawning inward revelation.

Sorrow is the great birth-agony of immortal powers,—sorrow is the great searcher and revealer of hearts, the great test of truth; for Plato has wisely said, sorrow will not endure sophisms,—all shams and unrealities melt in the fire of that awful furnace. Sorrow reveals forces in ourselves we never dreamed of. The soul, a bound and sleeping prisoner, hears her knock on her cell-door, and wakens. Oh, how narrow the walls! oh, how close and dark the grated window! how the long useless wings beat against the impassable barriers! Where are we? What is this prison? What is beyond? Oh for more air, more light! When will the door be opened? The soul seems to itself to widen and deepen; it trembles at its own dreadful forces; it gathers up in waves that break with wailing only to flow back into the everlasting void. The calmest and most centred natures are sometimes thrown by the shock of a great sorrow into a tumultuous amazement. All things are changed. The earth no longer seems solid, the skies no longer secure; a deep abyss seems underlying every joyous scene of life. The soul, struck with this awful inspiration, is a mournful Cassandra; she sees blood on every threshold, and shudders in the midst of mirth and festival with the weight of a terrible wisdom.

Who shall dare be glad any more, that has once seen the frail foundations on which love and joy are built? Our brighter hours, have they only been weaving a network of agonizing remembrances for this day of bereavement? The heart is pierced with every past joy, with every hope of its ignorant prosperity. Behind every scale in music, the gayest and cheeriest, the grandest, the most triumphant, lies its dark relative minor; the notes are the same, but the change of a semitone changes all to gloom;—all our gayest hours are tunes that have a modulation into these dreary keys ever possible; at any moment the key-note may be struck.

The firmest, best-prepared natures are often beside themselves with astonishment and dismay, when they are called to this dread initiation. They thought it a very happy world before,—a glorious universe. Now it is darkened with the shadow of insoluble mysteries. Why this everlasting tramp of inevitable laws on quivering life? If the wheels must roll, why must the crushed be so living and sensitive?

And yet sorrow is godlike, sorrow is grand and great, sorrow is wise and farseeing. Our own instinctive valuations, the intense sympathy which we give to the tragedy which God has inwoven into the laws of Nature, show us that it is with no slavish dread, no cowardly shrinking, that we should approach her divine mysteries. What are the natures that cannot suffer? Who values them? From the fat oyster, over which the silver tide rises and falls without one pulse upon its fleshy ear, to the hero who stands with quivering nerve parting with wife and child and home for country and God, all the way up is an ascending scale, marked by increasing power to suffer; and when we look to the Head of all being, up through principalities and powers and princedoms, with dazzling orders and celestial blazonry, to behold by what emblem the Infinite Sovereign chooses to reveal himself, we behold, in the midst of the throne, “a lamb as it had been slain.”

Sorrow is divine. Sorrow is reigning on the throne of the universe, and the crown of all crowns has been one of thorns. There have been many books that treat of the mystery of sorrow, but only one that bids us glory in tribulation, and count it all joy when we fall into divers afflictions, that so we may be associated with that great fellowship of suffering of which the Incarnate God is the head, and through which He is carrying a redemptive conflict to a glorious victory over evil. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.

Even in the very making up of our physical nature, God puts suggestions of such a result. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” There are victorious powers in our nature which are all the while working for us in our deepest pain. It is said, that, after the sufferings of the rack, there ensues a period in which the simple repose from torture produces a beatific trance; it is the reaction of Nature, asserting the benignant intentions of her Creator. So, after great mental conflicts and agonies must come a reaction, and the Divine Spirit, co-working with our spirit, seizes the favorable moment, and, interpenetrating natural laws with a celestial vitality, carries up the soul to joys beyond the ordinary possibilities of mortality.

It is said that gardeners, sometimes, when they would bring a rose to richer flowering, deprive it, for a season, of light and moisture. Silent and dark it stands, dropping one fading leaf after another, and seeming to go down patiently to death. But when every leaf is dropped, and the plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is even then working in the buds, from which shall spring a tender foliage and a brighter wealth of flowers. So, often in celestial gardening, every leaf of earthly joy must drop, before a new and divine bloom visits the soul.

Gradually, as months passed away, the floods grew still; the mighty rushes of the inner tides ceased to dash. There came first a delicious calmness, and then a celestial inner clearness, in which the soul seemed to lie quiet as an untroubled ocean, reflecting heaven. Then came the fulness of mysterious communion given to the pure in heart,—that advent of the Comforter in the soul, teaching all things and bringing all things to remembrance; and Mary moved in a world transfigured by a celestial radiance. Her face, so long mournfully calm, like some chiselled statue of Patience, now wore a radiance, as when one places a light behind some alabaster screen sculptured with mysterious and holy emblems, and words of strange sweetness broke from her, as if one should hear snatches of music from a door suddenly opened in heaven. Something wise and strong and sacred gave an involuntary impression of awe in her looks and words;—it was not the childlike loveliness of early days, looking with dovelike, ignorant eyes on sin and sorrow; but the victorious sweetness of that great multitude who have come out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In her eyes there was that nameless depth that one sees with awe in the Sistine. Madonna,— eyes that have measured infinite sorrow and looked through it to an infinite peace.

“My dear Madam,” said the Doctor to Mrs. Scudder, “I cannot but think that there must be some uncommonly gracious exercises passing in the mind of your daughter; for I observe, that, though she is not inclined to conversation, she seems to be much in prayer; and I have, of late, felt the sense of a Divine Presence with her in a most unusual degree. Has she opened her mind to you?"

“Mary was always a silent girl,” said Mrs. Scudder, “and not given to speaking of her own feelings; indeed, until she gave you an account of her spiritual state, on joining the church, I never knew what her exercises were. Hers is a most singular case. I never knew the time when she did not seem to love God more than anything else. It has disturbed me sometimes,—because I did not know but it might be mere natural sensibility, instead of gracious affection.”

“Do not disturb yourself. Madam,” said the Doctor. “The Spirit worketh when, where, and how He will; and, undoubtedly, there have been eases where His operations commence exceedingly early. Mr. Edwards relates a ease of a young person who experienced a marked conversion when three years of age; and Jeremiah was called from the womb. (Jeremiah, i. 5.) In all cases we must test the quality of the evidence without relation to the time of its commencement, I do not generally lay much stress on our impressions, which are often uncertain and delusive; yet I have had an impression that the Lord would be pleased to make some singular manifestations of His grace through this young person. In the economy of grace there is neither male nor female; and Peter says (Acts, ii. 17) that the Spirit of the Lord shall be poured out and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Yet if we consider that the Son of God, as to his human nature, was made of a woman, it leads us to see that in matters of grace God sets a special value on woman’s nature and designs to put special honor upon it. Accordingly, there have been in the Church, in all ages, holy women who have received the Spirit and been called to a ministration in the things of God,—such as Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, the prophetess. In our own days, most uncommon manifestations of divine grace have been given to holy women. It was my privilege to he in the family of President Edwards at a time when Northampton was specially visited, and his wife seemed and spoke more like a glorified spirit than a mortal woman,— and multitudes flocked to the house to hear her wonderful words. She seemed to have such a sense of the Divine love as was almost beyond the powers of nature to endure. Just to speak the words, ‘Our Father who art in heaven,' would overcome her with such a manifestation that she would become cold and almost faint; and though she uttered much, yet she told us that the divinest things she saw could not be spoken. These things could not be fanaticism, for she was a person of a singular evenness of nature, and of great skill and discretion in temporal matters, and of an exceeding humility, sweetness, and quietness of disposition.”

"I have observed of late,” said Mrs. Scudder, “that, in our praying circles, Mary seemed much carried Out of herself, and often as it she would speak, and with difficulty holding herself back. I have not urged her, because I thought it best to wait till she should feel full liberty.”

“Therein you do rightly, Madam,” said the Doctor; “but I am persuaded you will hear from her yet.”

It came at length, the hour of utterance. And one day, in a praying circle of the women of the church, all were startled by the clear silver tones of one who sat among them and spoke with the unconscious simplicity of an angel child, calling God her Father, and speaking of au ineffable union in Christ, binding all things together in one, and making all complete in Him. She spoke of a love passing knowledge,—passing all love of lovers or of mothers,—a love forever spending, yet never spent,—a love ever pierced and bleeding, yet ever constant and triumphant, rejoicing with infinite joy to bear in its own body the sins and sorrows of a universe,—conquering, victorious love, rejoicing to endure, panting to give, and offering its whole sell with an infinite joyfulness for our salvation. And when, kneeling, she poured out her soul in prayer, her words seemed so many winged angels, musical with unearthly harpings of an untold blessedness. They who heard her had the sensation of rising in the air, of feeling a celestial light and warmth descending into their souls; and when, rising, she stood silent and with downcast drooping eyelids, there were tears in all eyes, and a hush in all movements as she passed, as if something celestial were passing out.

Miss Prissy came rushing homeward, to hold a private congratulatory talk with the Doctor and Mrs. Scudder, while Mary was tranquilly setting the tea-table and cutting bread for supper.

“To see her now, certainly,” said Miss Prissy, “moving round so thoughtful, not forgetting anything, and doing everything so calm, you wouldn’t ’a’ thought it could be her that spoke those blessed words and made that prayer I Well, certainly, that prayer seemed to take us all right up and put us down in heaven! and when I opened my eyes, and saw the roses and asparagus-bushes on the manteltree-piece, I had to ask myself, 'Where have I been?’ Oh, Miss Scudder, her afflictions have been sanctified to her!— and really, when I see her going on so, I feel she can’t be long for us. They say, dying grace is for dying hours; and I’m sure this seems more like dying grace than anything that I ever yet saw.”

“She is a precious gift,” said the Doctor; “let us thank the Lord for his grace through her. She has evidently had a manifestation of the Beloved, and feedeth among the lilies (Canticles, vi. 3); and we will not question the Lord’s further dispensations concerning her.”

“Certainly,” said Miss Prissy, briskly, “it’s never best to borrow trouble; 'sufficient unto the day’ is enough, to be sure. —And now, Miss Scudder, I thought I’d just take a look at that dove-colored silk of yours to-night, to see what would have to be done with it, because I must make every minute tell; and you know I lose half a day every week for the prayer-meeting. Though I ought not to say I lose if, either; for I was telling Miss General Wilcox I wouldn’t give up that meeting for bags and bags of gold. She wanted me to come and sew for her one Wednesday, and says I, ‘Miss Wilcox, I’m poor and have to live by my work, but I a’n’t so poor but what I have some comforts, and I can’t give up my prayer-meeting for any money,—for you see. if one gets a little lift there, it makes all the work go lighter,—but then I have to be particular to save up every scrap and end of time.”

Mrs. Sendder and Miss Prissy crossed the kitchen and entered the bedroom, and soon had the dove-colored silk under consideration.

“Well, Miss Scudder,” said Miss Prissy, after mature investigation, “here’s a broad hem, not cut at all on the edge, as I see, and that might be turned down, and so cut off the worn spot up by the waist, —and then, if it is turned, it will look every bit and grain as well as a new silk; —I’ll sit right down now and go to ripping. I put my ripping-knife into my pocket when I put on this dress to go to prayer-meeting, because, says I to myself, there’ll be something to do at Miss Scudder’s to-night. You just get an iron to the fire, and we’ll have it all ripped and pressed out before dark.”

Miss Prissy seated herself at the open window, as cheery as a fresh apple-blossom, and began busily plying her knife, looking at the garment she was ripping with an astute air, as if she were about to circumvent it into being a new dress by some surprising act of legerdemain. Mrs. Scudder walked to the looking-glass and began changing her bonnet cap for a tea-table one.

Miss Prissy, after a while, commenced in a mysterious tone.

“Miss Scudder, I know folks like me shouldn't have their eyes open too wide, but then I can’t help noticing some things. Did you see the Doctor’s face when we was talking to him about Mary? Why, he colored all up and the tears came into his eyes. It’s my belief that that blessed man worships the ground she treads on. I don’t mean worships, either,—’cause that would be wicked, and he’s too good a man to make a graven image of anything, —but it’s clear to see that there a’n’t anybody in the world like Mary to him. I always did think so; but I used to think Mary was such a little poppet—that she’d do better for—Well, you know, I thought about some younger man;—but, laws, now I see how she rises up to be ahead of everybody, and is so kind of solemn-like. I can’t but see the leadings of Providence. What a minister's wife she’d be, Miss Scudder!—why, all the ladies coming out of prayer-meeting were speaking of it. You see, they want the Doctor to get married;—it seems more comfortable-like to have ministers married; one feels more free to open their exercises of mind; and as Miss Deacon Twitchel said to me,—‘If the Lord had made a woman o’ purpose, as he did for Adam, he wouldn’t have made her a bit different from Mary Scudder.’ Why, the oldest of us would follow her lead,—’causo she goes before us without knowing it.”

“I feel that the Lord has greatly blessed me in such a child,” said Mrs. Scudder, “and I feel disposed to wait the leadings of Providence.”

“Just exactly,” said Miss Prissy, giving a shake to her silk; “and as Miss Twitchel said, in this case every providence seems to p’int. I felt dreadfully for her along six months back; but now I see how she’s been brought out, I begin to see that things are for the best, perhaps, after all. I can’t help feeling that Jim Marvyn is gone to heaven, poor fellow! His father is a deacon,—and such a good man!—and Jim, though he did make a great laugh wherever he went, and sometimes laughed where he hadn’t ought to, was a noblehearted fellow. Now, to be sure, as the Doctor says, ‘amiable instincts a’n’t true holiness’; but then they are better than unamiable ones, like Simeon Brown’s. I do think, if that man is a Christian, he is a dreadful ugly one; he snapped me short up about my change, when he settled with me last Tuesday; and if I hadn’t felt that it was a sinful rising, I should have told him I’d never put foot in his house again; I’m glad, for my part, he’s gone out of our church. Now Jim Marvyn was like a prince to poor people; and I remember once his mother told him to settle with me, and he gave me ’most double, and wouldn’t let me make change. ‘Confound it all, Miss Prissy,' says he, “I wouldn't stitch as you do from morning to night for double that money.’ Now I know we can’t do anything to recommend ourselves to the Lord, but then I can’t help feeling some sorts of folks must be by nature more pleasing to Him than others. David was a man after God’s own heart, and he was a generous, whole-souled fellow, like Jim Marvyn, though he did get carried away by his spirits sometimes and do wrong things; and so I hope the Lord saw fit to make Jim one of the elect. We don’t ever know what God’s grace has done for folks. I think a great many are converted when we know nothing about it, as Miss Twitchel told poor old Miss Tyrel, who was mourning about her son, a dreadful wild boy, who was killed falling from mast-head; she says, that from the mast-head to the deck was time enough for divine grace to do the work.”

“I have always had a trembling hope for poor James,” said Mrs. Scudder,— “not on account of any of his good deeds or amiable traits, because election is without foresight of any good works,—but I felt he was a child of the covenant, at least by the father’s side, and I hope the Lord has heard his prayer. These are dark providences; the world is full of them; and all we can do is to have faith that the Lord will bring infinite good out of finite evil, and make everything better than if the evil had not happened. That’s what our good Doctor is always repeating; and we must try to rejoice, in view of the happiness of the universe, without considering whether we or our friends are to be included in it or not.”

“Well, dear me!” said Miss Prissy, “I hope, if that is necessary, it will please the Lord to give it to me; for I don’t seem to find any powers in me to get up to it. But all’s for the best, at any rate,—and that’s a comfort.”

Just at this moment Mary’s clear voice at the door announced that tea was on the table.

“Coming, this very minute,” said Miss Prissy, bustling up and pulling off her spectacles. Then, running across the room, she shut the door mysteriously, and turned to Mrs. Scudder with the air of an impending secret. Miss Prissy was subject to sudden impulses of confidence, in which she was so very cautious that not the thickest oak-plank door seemed secure enough, and her voice dropped to its lowest key. The most important and critical words were entirely omitted, or supplied by a knowing wink and a slight stamp of the foot.

In this mood she now approached Mrs. Scudder, and, holding up her hand on the door-side to prevent consequences, if, after all, she should be betrayed into a loud word, she said, “I thought I’d just say, Miss Scudder, that, in case Mary should—the Doctor,—in case, you know, there should be a—in the house, you must just contrive it so as to give me a month’s notice, so that I could give you a whole fortnight to fix her up as such a good man’s—ought to be. Now I know how spiritually-minded our blessed Doctor is; but, bless you, Ma’am, he's got eyes. I tell you, Miss Scudder, these men, the best of ’em, feel what’s what, though they don’t know much. I saw the Doctor look at Mary that night I dressed her for the wedding-party. I tell you he’d like to have his wife look pretty well, and he’ll get up some blessed text or other about it, just as he did that night about being brought unto the king in raiment of needle-work. That is an encouraging thought to us sewing-women.

“But this thing was spoken of after the meeting. Miss Twitchel and Miss Jones were talking about it; and they all say that there would be the best settingout got for her that was ever seen in Newport, if it should happen. Why, there’s reason in it. She ought to have at least two real good India silks that will stand alone,—and you’ll see she’ll have ’em, too; you let me alone for that; and I was thinking, as I lay awake last night, of a new way of making up, that you will say is just the sweetest that, ever you did see. And Miss Jones was saying that she hoped there wouldn’t anything happen without her knowing it, because her husband’s sister in Philadelphia has sent her a new receipt for cake, and she has tried it and it came out beautifully, and she says she’ll send some in.”

All the time that this stream was flowing, Mrs. Scudder stood with the properly reserved air of a discreet matron, who leaves all such matters to Providence, and is not supposed unduly to anticipate the future; and, in reply, she warmly pressed Miss Prissy’s hand, and remarked, that no one could tell what a day might bring forth, —and other general observations on the uncertainty of mortal prospects, which form a becoming shield when people do not wish to say more exactly what they are thinking of.

[To be continued.]