Divers Women
by Pansy and Mrs. C.M. Livingston
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She submitted with good grace, and began to feel some dawnings of gratitude towards her deliverer.

Old Mr. Winters had walked back and forth from the fire to the window for the last half-hour. "Why don't the child come," he said. "I'm sure something has happened to her. If I could only go out and see, but I should make poor headway, hobbling about in the drifts." He could do nothing himself, so he fled to his unfailing refuge, asking the God who rules the storms to protect his darling.

Mrs. Winters had said for the tenth time, "Why, father, I think she wouldn't start back in this storm." Nevertheless she placed her rocking-chair close by the window and looked down the road far more than she sewed. Their anxiety reached its height when they saw a stranger toiling up the hill bearing their daughter in his arms. The door was opened long before they reached it, and Edna called out, "I'm all right, mother."

"Why, it's Mr. Monteith, as sure as I live," said Edna's father.

"Yes, Mr. Winters," said Mr. Monteith, "I found a stray lamb of yours on the highway, and brought it home."

"May God reward you," and Mr. Winters clasped his hand warmly. "I have been very anxious. I did not see what was to become of her if she was on her way in this terrible storm. How providential that you happened to be going her way."

Mr. Monteith winced a little at this.

"You will stay with us to-night, of course," Mr. Winters said.

"Oh, no, indeed! Thank you! I must get back before dark. Will rest a few minutes, though."

The Storm King was out in full force that day, for during those few minutes huge banks piled themselves against windows and doors, and the wind shrieked and moaned like a demon, shaking the house to its foundations.

"Now," said Mr. Winters as his guest rose to go, "it is madness for you to think of going home tonight, and I must insist that you stay. I am disabled just now, or I would harness old Prince and get you through."

Here Edna came in with her pleading eyes and, "Do stay; I know it is not safe for you to go."

Motherly Mrs. Winters entreated also. How could he resist such urgency, especially when it exactly fitted in with what he desired above all things to do. He yielded, and was soon comfortably established in the large old rocker by the fire. And now he enjoyed the pleasure of a new experience. The stereotyped fashionable house he knew all about, but this old house that looked small, and yet stretched itself out into many cosy rooms; it was quaint, it was unique, and so was the little household. It was like stepping into a book, and that a book of poems. What was the charm of that low-browed room he sat in? Could it be the broad fireplace, wherein blazed and snapped a veritable back-log? Mr. Winters had stoves to warm the house, but he insisted on keeping this fire to look at.

When they all gathered about the tea-table, his critical eye noted many little points that a less refined man would not have thought of. The fine white table-linen, delicate old-fashioned china, a piece or two of highly polished silver, and the table not vulgarly loaded with too great variety, yet everything delicious and abundant. Mr. and Mrs. Winters, too, though unpretending, were persons of refinement and intelligence. He was puzzled to understand how a young girl, reared in so much seclusion, should possess such grace and culture as did Edna. After tea, when she played and sang, his mystification increased, for the bird-like voice and delicate touch were superior to much that he heard among his city friends. It came out in the course of conversation, however, that Edna had spent the last six years in one of the finest schools in Boston—an inmate of her aunt's family; and now she had come back to them to gladden the eyes of those two, who almost set her up as an idol; come back, not spoiled, taking up her daily little homely duties again with real zest.

Mr. Monteith found Mr. Winters most congenial company. He had read extensively, and was keen in argument, throwing in a bit of poetry or a witty story, as the case required. Edna brought her crotcheting and made herself into a picture in one corner of the fireplace, her changing, speaking face and piquant remarks lending interest to the dullest subject.

"It is my opinion, Mr. Monteith," said Mr. Winters, as a fierce blast dashed sheets of snow against the windows, "that, in all probability, you will be obliged to spend your Christmas with us. If this storm continues at this rate you will be a prisoner."

"For which I shall be most devoutly thankful," he answered.

"Well, our turkey is all ready, and we shall thank kind Providence for sending you to us, snow-bound as we are."

Mr. Winters took down the old Bible and read "a portion with judicious care," then a hymn and prayer, and the good-nights, and Mr. Monteith was in the guest-chamber—a little white room under the eaves, cold-looking in its purity but for the firelight glow. "The name of that chamber was Peace," thought Mr. Monteith, as his delighted eyes surveyed, it and with Bunyan's Pilgrim he felt that he had reached "already the next door to heaven." It surely must be the "chamber of peace," because "the window opened towards the sunrising," and in the morning a glorious panorama spread itself before him. Fences and all unsightly objects had disappeared. Just one broad expanse of whiteness as far as the eye could reach. The rough old hills, from foot to summit, wore a robe of unsullied whiteness—the soft white garment rested lightly on roof and tree, over all the rising sun shed rays of rosy light. It accorded well with Mr. Monteith's spirit when he heard Mr. Winters singing—

"The New Jerusalem comes down. Adorned With shining grace."

The host and his visitor launched into a tide of talk immediately after breakfast. They had so many things in common to talk over that there seemed to be no end. So occupied was Mr. Monteith with the father that he seemed to bestow very little attention on the daughter; on the contrary, no word or look of hers escaped him.

At one time the perilous walk of yesterday was the subject of conversation, and Mr. Winters was again expressing his gratitude. "So strange," he remarked, "that you should have been coming this way. How did you happen to start out in such a storm?"

Mr. Monteith did not like to talk upon that subject; he murmured something about "business," while a slight flush tinged his cheeks, and at once asked Mr. Winters "what effect he supposed the resumption of specie payment would have upon the state of the country," and the unsuspecting old gentleman was ready to enter with avidity upon the discussion of that subject.

The Christmas dinner duly disposed of, Edna opened the piano, and Mr. Monteith delighted the old people by joining his exquisite tenor to Edna's voice in some old hymns. Mr. Winters called for his favourites, "St. Martins," "Golden Hill," "Exhortation," and listened with tears in his eyes at their faithful rendering, even essaying to put in a few notes of bass himself among the quavers of old St. Martins.

Not until the shadows began to steal into the room did Mr. Monteith take his departure, much to his own regret as well as that of his entertainers, with many promises of future visits.

A few days after Christmas the stage-driver left at the door a small box marked "Samuel Winters." The old gentleman put on his glasses and opened it with much curiosity. Behold, there lay a lovely bouquet of roses, carnations, and violets. He lifted it with care, and a card marked "Hugh Monteith" fell from it. "That is odd," he said, with a roguish look at Edna, "to send these things to me; they are pretty, though, I declare," and he buried his face in a fragrant rose, then involuntarily hummed—

"How sweet the breath beneath the hill. Of Sharon's dewy rose."

Another prolonged inhalation and he called, "Mother, come here and smell this pink; it's the very one that my mother used to border her flowerbeds with when I was a boy." Then he gave the bouquet into Edna's care while he went off, in imagination, into his mother's garden, tied up the sweet peas and trained the morning-glories once again. How each flower, like a dear human face, stood before him looking into his eyes. The damask roses, the Johnny-jump-ups, larkspur, bachelor-buttons, ragged ladies, marigolds, hollyhocks, and a host of others that are out of fashion now. That bouquet furnished him a pleasant reverie for an hour. It brought no less pleasure to Edna. Their new friend had not forgotten them, and her intuitions told her for whom the lovely blossoms were intended.

After that it grew to be quite a thing of course for Mr. Samuel Winters to receive a box of flowers. He always pretended to appropriate them to himself, much to Edna's glee, as he did the not infrequent visits of Mr. Monteith to "The Pines," often remarking, after a pleasant evening's discussion—

"That is an uncommon young man, coming so far to chat with me. He's one among a thousand; the most of them haven't time nowadays to give a civil word to an old man."

He had a deeper purpose in this than might have been supposed. There were few things he did not think over as he sat looking into the fire. What if this young man should unwittingly steal away his darling's heart and then flit away to some other flower, and leave this, his own treasure, with all the soul gone out of her life. He believed Mr. Monteith to be an honourable man, but then he would hedge this blossom of his about and guard it carefully. There should be no opportunity for tender speech that meant nothing.

One day Edna was in town, passing through one of the busy streets. Among the gay turnouts came one that caught her attention instantly: a prancing span of grays before a light sleigh. Among the furs and gay robes sat Mr. Monteith and a young lady, beautiful to Edna as a dream. Even in the hurried glance she noted the pink and white complexion, the blue eyes peeping through golden frizzes, set off by a dark-blue velvet hat with a long white plume. Mr. Monteith raised his hat and bowed low to Edna in pleased surprise. Edna went on with a little pang at her heart; it might have been less had she known that Miss Paulina Percival's invitation to ride came in this fashion: Making it convenient to emerge from a store just as Mr. Monteith came from the bank and was about to step into his sleigh, she engaged him in conversation, then exclaimed:

"Oh, Mr. Monteith! What a lovely span of greys, they match perfectly." Then with a pretty pout: "Naughty man, you never asked me to try them."

"Suppose I ask you now," he said, and even while he spoke he said to himself, "Edna Winters would never have done that."

Miss Percival needed no urging; she was soon seated in triumph by Mr. Monteith's side, the envy of many another city belle.

That night Edna stood at the window of her little chamber, looking out on the fair earth glittering like diamonds in the moonlight. She was not often in the mood she found herself in tonight: restless, gloomy, with no heart for anything. She began to take herself to task for it. Why had the light suddenly gone out of everything and life to seem flat and dull? She knew why. It was simply because she had seen that bewitching-looking girl riding with Mr. Monteith. And what of that? Was she foolish enough to believe that he cared for her, a simple country girl, just because he had given her a few flowers and called there. He probably considered these common attentions that he offered to many others. Her cheeks burned at the remembrance of the delight she had felt in his society. The last few weeks had been the happiest she had ever known. No words of his would justify her, either. She was vexed at herself. Here it had turned out that she was just like any other silly girl, holding her heart in her hand, ready to bestow it unasked. In her self-accusing spirit, she forgot that looks and tones may speak volumes in the absence of words.

"Now, Edna Winters," she told herself, as she stared out on the white hills, "you might as well look things in the face to-night and have it done with. I shall probably spend a great part of my life on this very hill, living on in just the way I did before I knew him. Why not? That is the way Samantha Moore and Jane Williams have been doing these ever so many years. They keep right on, and on, and on. Nothing happens to them. There is no change in their lives. Why should there be in mine? They clean house spring and fall, can fruit, go to town, have the sewing society, and so on"—and Edna shuddered a little at the picture she had sketched of her own future. These two were neighbours, whose peaceful dwellings nestled among the hills before her. Then she felt condemned as she heard floating up from the sitting-room, the "wild, warbling strains" of Dundee, her dear old father's voice, with just a little tremble in the tones. "How thankful she ought to be for this blessed home of hers." The stove-pipe came up from below and warmed her room. She came over to it, and inclined her head to hear the words:

"Oh, God, our help in ages past Our strength in years to come, Our refuge from the stormy blast, And our eternal borne."

Sure enough! God our "strength in years to come," even though they be wearisome years. A little "stormy blast" had swept over her. She would fly to her Refuge, and then the "eternal home." What if this life was not just as we would have it, the next one will be; and Edna "laid her down in peace and slept."

"Heigh ho!" said Mr. Winters one bright day, "whom have we here?" A merry jingle of bells suddenly stopped and two gray horses and a handsome sleigh stood in front of the gate. "Mr. Monteith, eh? He has most likely come to take me out riding," he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Miss Edna, will you ride?" Mr. Monteith asked when the greetings were over. Edna's eyes sought her mother's for reply. It was not every gentleman, be he ever so great and rich, that this primitive, independent father and mother would entrust with their treasure, their one ewe lamb.

"Yes. Edna might go, but he would be sure to bring her home before dark?"

"Trust me; did I not bring her home before dark once?" he laughingly asked. The two were soon tucked among the robes, skimming briskly over the smooth, hard surface, which is just the next thing to flying. They flew about the streets of the town a little while; met Miss Paulina, who stared at Edna and said to a young lady by her side: "Whoever can that be with Mr. Monteith?" Then their route stretched many miles out into the quiet country. The journey was long, but not tedious. It was beguiled by low-spoken words that kept time to the slow, silvery chime of the bells—the old musical, mysterious words that established a covenant between those two, needing only the word from father and mother and minister to make binding and never-ending.

Mr. Monteith was said, by belles of the town, to be destitute of a heart—at least all their arts had not succeeded in finding it; even Miss Percival, skilful as she was, had also failed, much to her sorrow. To be sure, the heart was of small account to her, only so that she might be mistress of the stately Monteith mansion, might possess those gray ponies for her very own, and glitter in the silks and jewels and laces that his money would buy. She had no heart herself, because in her very shallow nature there was not room for one. Paulina had failed thus far, but she was not discouraged. Mr. Monteith's mother was old and feeble; she would die some day, then "we shall see what we shall see"—then, of course, he would need someone to preside over his home; and who so well fitted to adorn it as she, the acknowledged beauty of the town?

When the time of birds and blossoms had come again, and picnics and excursions were revived, Paulina said to her dearest friend:

"What do you think that delightful man has gotten up now? Mr. Monteith, I mean. He is to have a little breakfast party in the country—just a few of us, you know. We are to go in carriages. I dare say you'll be invited, too. Isn't it a charming novelty? I presume it is to an old uncle and aunt of his, you know," and the butterfly girl tripped on without waiting for replies. Accordingly, one balmy June morning, a merry company alighted at "The Pines," and were ushered into a fairy-like room.

Green vines crept and twined along the white walls, drooping over doors and windows, and trailing down the muslin curtains as if they grew there. The flowers were not made into stiff bouquets, but here and there was a handful of roses or sweet-scented violets. The old fireplace lost itself in callas, ferns, and ivies, while the mantel blossomed out into tube-roses and mosses. One of the recesses formed by the large chimney was turned into a leafy bower, the bells of white lilies fringing the green archway.

"Beautiful!" "Exquisite!" murmured the guests. "I verily believe we have come to a wedding," said one.

In another moment Mr. Monteith and his bride stood in the niche under the lilies, and the minister spoke the mystic words that declared them "no more twain, but one."

Edna was not glittering in satin and jewels. Her dress was apparently a soft white cloud floating about her, looped here and there with a cluster of lilies of the valley. A wreath of the same flowers fastened her veil; and the sweet face and luminous eyes that gleamed through its folds seemed just another rare flower.

The formalities and congratulations all over, Mr. and Mrs. Monteith passed down the walk under the spreading branches to their carriage.

The apple-blossoms showered fragrant blessings on them as they went their way, and the bridegroom whispered: "Do you remember the first time you and I came up this hill together?"


There was an audible rustle in the large congregation of St. Paul's Church, well-bred people though they were, as their young minister came up the aisle with his bride and seated her in the minister's pew. They not only turned their heads, giving one slight glance, seeing all without seeming to, as cultured people know how to do, but they broke all rules in their code of good manners by a succession of twistings of the neck. It was not easy to settle down content after one short look at the beautiful being who glided by the minister's side. Had he seated a veritable fairy in that pew the sensation could scarcely have been greater. Her beauty was of that rare blonde type—hair of spun gold, eyes of sapphire, and complexion fine and delicate as a rose-leaf. She was youthful and richly dressed, the dark-green velvet suit, white plumes and fine laces, well setting off her marvellous beauty. Her eyes fairly drooped before the undisguised admiration expressed in many faces.

The minister himself saw nothing of it at all. He was annoyed at finding himself actually late, and his thoughts were intent on getting to his place in the pulpit with all possible speed. It was not one of his ambitions to be conspicuous; he was accustomed to slip quietly into his place from the chapel door, and his apparently triumphal march into his church on the first Sabbath of his return, after all the people had assembled, as if to say, "Behold us now!" was not to his taste nor of his planning; all this threw his thoughts into a tumult unfitting him in part for his sacred duties.

At the close of service that day, the congregation did not discuss the minister's sermon, they were absorbed in another subject: the minister's wife. The opinions were various. Grave old deacons looked askance at her in her regal beauty as they passed out, shook their heads, and repeated to each other the familiar saying, that wise men often make fools of themselves when they come to the business of selecting a wife. One lady said she was "perfectly lovely;" another, that she had "a great deal of style;" another, that "her dress must have cost a penny, and she did not see for her part how a Christian could find it in her conscience to dress like that."

"One would have thought," Mrs. Graves said, "that a man like Mr. Eldred would have chosen a modest, sensible person for his wife, who would be useful in the church, but then, that was the way, a minister was just like any other man, money and a pretty face would cover up a good many failings." Mrs. Graves was the mother of three sensible, modest girls, who would have made capital ministers' wives. Why will ministers be so shortsighted?

"But, mother," Tom Graves asked, "aren't you pretty fast? How do you know but she is sensible and modest; you never heard her speak a word?"

"Anybody with half an eye don't need to hear her speak to know all about her."

"The idea of a minister's wife," said Mrs. Meggs, "with her hair frizzed, and such a long trail for church!"

"She paints, I know she does!" said sallow Miss Pry. "There never was such a complexion as that born on to a human being."

Those who did not say anything, who made it a rule never to speak uncharitably of anyone, seemed well satisfied to have others to do it for them, and looked and sighed their holy horror that their minister should have shown so little discretion in choosing a wife. Just to think of her leading the female prayer-meeting and being president of the Missionary society, humph!

Ah! if there had been one dear "mother in Israel," with love enough to bear this young thing in the arms of her faith to the mercy seat and plead a blessing for her—with courage enough to try to win her to see the blessedness of living a consecrated life, it might all have been different.

When Thane Eldred first met Vida Irving he was immediately taken captive. So fair a vision never crossed his path before; whatever of enchantment might have been wanting in golden curls and blue eyes was completed by a voice such as few possess, rich, sweet, and fine compass; had she been poor it might have brought her a fortune. When he heard her sing in such angelic strains the sweet hymns he loved, he took it for granted that the words of fervent devotion but gave voice to the feelings of her own heart. So fair a bit of clay, he reasoned, must contain a soul of corresponding beauty, and he forthwith invested her with all the charms of an angel. A slight misgiving, it is true, sometimes crossed his mind as to whether she could adapt herself easily to the difficult position of a pastor's wife. She had the air of an empress, and the hauteur of her manner was often so great as to gain her positive enemies, and yet the deluded man, with blind eyes, reasoned, "I can mould her to what I will when she is mine; it is the fault of a false education, I am quite sure her heart is all right."

And why did the spoiled beauty condescend to smile upon one, who by his very profession, if closely following in the footsteps of the lowly Master, must needs abjure the vanities and enticements of this world, and live a life of self-denying toil. Not a thought of that kind had ever entered her pretty head. A minister in her estimation was an orator, the idol of a wealthy people, and a gentleman of elegant ease. There was a fascination about this dark-eyed young minister; his graceful dignity and impassioned eloquence pleased her fancy, so the sudden attachment was mutual.

Early left a widow, with a large fortune, Mrs. Irving devoted herself to her idol, her only child, with unremitting devotion; nothing that would add to her happiness or her attractions was neglected, and now with her education completed, the fond mother looked about her, seeking a brilliant alliance for this rare daughter, when lo! she found the matter settled. Vida's own sweet will had been the ruling power ever since she came into the world, and the mother was obliged to submit to the inevitable with as good grace as she could command under the circumstances.

A poor minister! who could have dreamed that the daughter would have made such a choice. With this mother's views of life, and life eternal, it is not to be wondered at that she felt bitter disappointment. The prospect, though, was not wholly dark, he was "handsome and talented," and that went far toward consolation; then, too, he would probably be called in time to a large, important church, and have D.D. at the end of his name, and it would sound well to say "My son-in-law, Rev. Dr. Eldred, of Boston, or New York City," and to discourse of his brilliant preaching, his wealthy parishioners, the calls he had declined, etc.

St. Paul's Church was situated in a small city of large manufacturing interests, and while there were many families of wealth and position in the church, there were also many who were obliged to toil hard and practice the utmost economy in order to have any left to pay their subscription with. Some of these looked with no kindly eyes on the magnificent changes of toilet that Mrs. Eldred brought out Sabbath after Sabbath; now a sealskin sacque, then an Indian shawl, and suits innumerable of rich silks in all possible tints, suited to all possible occasions.

"It makes a body feel as if they hadn't a thing fit to wear, the way Mrs. Eldred comes out in her silks and velvets," Mrs. Jenks, a mechanic's wife, remarked to her neighbour. I wonder what she'd say to wearing a black alpaca dress seven years running, for her best dress! I declared, it made me feel as if there wa'n't any sort of use scrimping and saving as we do, to pay fifteen dollars a year to support the minister; I told John we better not pay but five next year, and I'd put the other ten on my back. He's got a rich wife, he don't need much salary now. Just to think of her fur sacque, and great handsome shawl, and here I havn't had a new cloak this ten years—have to wear my blanket shawl to church.

"Yes, I think's much!" answered Mrs. Myers, emphatically. "She's as proud as Lucifer, too. Mr. Eldred shook hands with me real friendly like last Sunday, and asked 'How is the little one?'—as he always calls my Tommy—then he introduced me to her, and she turned her head toward me, and looked at me from head to foot, exactly as if she was saying to herself 'Dress, twenty-five cents a yard; shawl five dollars, hat, two dollars;' then she gave me what she'd call a bow may be, she swept her eyelashes down, and tilted her head back, instead of forward, and I thought I saw the least mite of a curl on her lip, (she's got a dreadful proud mouth, anyway;) she didn't offer to put out her hand, not she! she was afraid I'd soil her white kids, with something less than a dozen buttons on them."

"Well, it's too bad," Mrs. Jenks said, "and he such a good Christian man as he is—wonder what he wanted to go and marry such a wife for, anyhow; I don't believe he more than half approves of her himself, now he sees how she goes on, but, poor man, he's got to make the best of it now; I shall always think everything of him though, he was so kind to us when Peter was sick."

Mrs. Eldred was not entirely ignorant of the duties expected from a minister's wife, but she had resolved, as far as she was concerned, to ignore them. Because she had married a minister was no sign that she was to be subject to the whims of a whole parish; she could consider herself bound by no rules that did not apply equally as well to every other member of the church. Her mother had forewarned her, and advised her to this course:

"A minister's wife, my dear," said the worldly-wise mother, "is usually a slave. So just put your foot down in the beginning, and don't wear yourself out. Enjoy yourself all you can. Poor child! it is a dismal life at best that you have chosen for yourself, I fear."

Mrs. Eldred did not state her peculiar views to her husband, by any means; she should just quietly carry out her plans, and he would learn to submit in time. Mother said that was the way to manage a husband.

It was Thursday night. The first bell for prayer-meeting was ringing when Mr. Eldred came down from his study. His young wife sat under the drop-light cosily established in a large easy-chair, absorbed in the last number of Scribner. She was robed in a white flannel wrapper, and her long, fair hair was unbound, lying in bright waves about her shoulders. Mr. Eldred contemplated the pretty picture a moment, then he said:

"You look comfortable, my dear: but do you know that is the first bell for prayer meeting?"

"Oh, I am not going to meeting. I am perfectly delighted to have an evening to myself once more, when that indefatigable people of yours are engaged. I am actually worn out receiving calls," she said, languidly.

Mr. Eldred was disappointed. He had thought more than once that day how he should enjoy it; to have his dream realized, Vida walking with him, to his own meeting, and sitting near, singing as none but she could sing. A spice of vanity mingled with it too. How the people would listen and admire! He felt annoyed and was about to protest, but she looked so like an angel in her soft white dress that he had not the heart to find fault. So he kissed her good-bye, and went his way alone.

She accompanied him the next week; to be a disappointment, however. Her voice joined not in the hymns of praise, she remarking at the close of the meeting:—

"Do you think I could sing in all that discord? It is horrible; it sets every nerve in my body on edge. People always sing that way in prayer-meeting, every one trying to sing, though not knowing one note from another. One old man by me sang five notes below the key; a woman on the other side screamed out as many above; a girl before me had a strong nasal twang. I should think you'd go distracted; and, by the way, what a quantity of common people attend your church!"

Mr. Eldred looked into the fire and repeated half aloud, "The common people heard Him gladly."

As the weeks went on, it became evident to him that he must abandon the pleasant plans he had formed of companionship in his work. He attended meetings alone, made calls alone, and grew weary of apologizing for Vida.

She was willing to attire herself royally and make a round of fashionable calls with him on the first families, but concerning calls on the humbler of the flock she gaily remarked, that she did not purpose turning city missionary. "When ladies called upon her, she would return their calls, that is, if she wished to continue the acquaintance; but as for running all about town hunting out obscure people, that was out of the question."

There was a gay clique in the church who eagerly welcomed the pastor's wife to their circle. They organised a literary society and gave Shakespearian entertainments.

Mrs. Eldred's fine literary taste and musical abilities made her a valuable acquisition. She soon became the centre about which it revolved. Was there a difficult part to be rendered, or a queen of beauty to be represented, Mrs. Eldred was sure to be chosen, and she gave herself with enthusiasm to the absorbing fascination.

Mr. Eldred had united with them in the beginning, but when he discovered that the members of the society were much more interested in getting up costumes than they were in their own mental improvement, and that the whole thing was degenerating into private theatricals, he withdrew, and urged his wife to do the same, but no amount of persuasion could move her in the least; her own will had been her law too long. And this was the being he had thought to mould! It was all so different from the picture he had sketched of these first months of their married life, the picture of sunny, happy days, flowing on with scarce a ripple. Instead, they held long heated discussions that only served to widen the distance between them.

"I beg your pardon," Vida said, in sarcastic tones, during one of these skirmishes, "but I think it would be much more to your profit to attend the meetings of our society than to find fault with me. If you would study Shakespeare more, it might freshen up your sermons somewhat, and lift them from the commonplace. I cannot but think you are degenerating. The first discourse I heard you preach was filled with poetical fancies and literary allusions, and the language was flowery and beautiful. Your preaching seems to have changed of late; last Sabbath, for example, it was mere 'talk' without rhetoric or eloquence; the most ignorant in the church could have understood them. I thought you would receive a call soon to a wealthy church in a large city, but you never will make a reputation if you preach in this style."

Mrs. Eldred's angry passions were raised to a high pitch, or she would not have spoken thus plainly.

The sorely tried spirit of the man who listened could not repress a groan at the conclusion of this long tirade. He did not trust himself to say one word, but went with a slow, heavy step, like one who had received a mortal hurt, to his study. The irritation he might otherwise have felt at such words, was lost in sorrow at the utter lack of sympathy, and apparent ignorance of the spirit and aims of the gospel.

He had been coming nearer to Christ the last few months, had received a new baptism, and with it a new view of preaching the gospel. He had, doubtless, spoken in an unknown tongue to scores of his hearers. Now he turned the key on his elegant essays, and, asking the Lord for a message, he was trying to tell it with no "great swelling words," but in humility and plainness of speech, holding up Christ, hiding himself, intent only on saving souls.

Satan had told him before that the world and some Christians would count his preaching "not deep;" now his own wife had repeated the thought. He had been so happy in his work, and he longed to throw himself into it with nothing to come between him and "This one thing I do." But daily trials on account of one who should have been his greatest helper, saddened him, so that much of his labour was mechanical, and he carried a heavy burden. The anxiety was continuous, for he was well aware that many busy tongues were censuring her, while kindlier critics were grieved at her course.

At rare intervals she attended the ladies' meetings, but no persuasions could induce her to take any part in them. She visited those whom she fancied, and persistently refused to visit others; thus he laboured under constant embarrassment, and was in a chronic state of apology for her. And yet Mrs. Eldred could make herself the most fascinating of beings. There were evenings when she chose to shine at home. Then she would with artistic skill brighten the room, and beguile her husband from his books, and the time would go on wings, as they read and discussed a new book, and sung together their old and new songs. At such times the careworn minister forgot that any clouds obscured his sky.

One evening Mrs. Eldred entered her husband's study, resplendent in white satin and diamonds, saying:—

"Thane, it is quite time you too were dressed."

"Dressed for what?" he said with an astonished air.

"Why, is it possible that you have forgotten that we have an invitation to Mrs. Grantley's tonight?"

"I recall the invitation now, but I never gave it a second thought, nor did I suppose that you had. Did you not notice from the wording that it was to be a dancing party. I think there must be some mistake about it, as I never was invited before our marriage to these parties, nor have we been since; I cannot understand why they should ask us now."

"Why, pray, should we not be invited? It is not necessary for you to dance, of course. We shall be obliged to go, for I have accepted the invitation," Mrs. Eldred replied, with a nothing-further-to-be-said air.

"I am sorry you accepted an invitation for me, without consulting me, but I cannot go," her husband answered gravely.

"Oh fie! How old and strait-laced you are for a young man; why Dr. Henry often went and looked on, and his daughter danced, and people liked him all the better for it. You will be immensely unpopular if you pursue that course. Don't you think," she continued, encouraged by his silence, "that it savours a little of bigotry and egotism to set one's self up to condemn an amusement that many other Christians approve? What is your ground of objection? One would suppose that you had received a direct revelation on the subject."

"I have," he said, and his clear eyes looked full into hers, "directly from the Master himself. Don't you know that a person who is absorbed in Christian work, a consecrated Christian, is not absorbed in all these amusements, and one who is, has no room in his heart for Christ. There is a law of Natural Philosophy, you know, which says that 'Two bodies cannot occupy the same place at the same time', and there is a somewhat similar law in regard to a soul, stated by the Lord himself. 'Ye cannot serve two masters.' It is the world or Christ with every soul, and I have chosen Christ."

"I know this much," she said, coldly, "that fanatics are the most intolerable of all people. I have danced all my life, and since I became a church-member, and never had it hinted to me before that I was not a Christian because I loved it. You need not go; John can take me and call for me, and I will make excuses for you."

"My dear wife! would you do that? Surely you did not yourself intend to dance; the most liberal would be shocked, I fancy, were a minister's wife to dance."

"And why? I am not the minister. I recognise no restraints that do not apply as well to every Christian woman. You told me yourself that Mrs. Graham is an excellent lady; she is a member of your church, and dances, I am told. Why should not one professor of religion have the same privileges as another?"

"Vida," he said, in a tone of mingled pain and tenderness, "it is only a short time since we were pronounced 'no more twain hut one;' you said then the thought made you glad. How can you separate your interests from mine now? Will you do what would dishonour my calling were I to do it? The world counts us one, your action is mine, and just or unjust, they do not accord to you the right to wade quite so far into the sea of worldly pleasures as they themselves feel privileged to do. They would point the finger of ridicule at both of us, and charge us with inconsistency. We will not stop to argue the right and wrong of the subject now, supposing your conscience does not shut you out from the dance, let worldly prudence and a desire to keep our names from common gossip, influence you, I pray you, if indeed my wishes and opinion are of no value."

But the young wife was in no frame for recollecting tender vows, nor listening to reason. She threw off his arm with an impatient gesture, and glancing at her watch, said:—

"I have not only accepted an invitation to this party, but promised to dance. It is getting late and I must go."

Mr. Eldred controlled his agitation by a mighty effort, and in a low, calm tone said:—

"Then I must save you from disgracing us both. I insist, I command you not to go."

Had he struck her, she would not have been more astonished. She stood as if stunned for a moment; then with a stately air, she swept by him and ascended the stairs to her room. What was his consternation, as he stood gazing out into the moonlight, presently to see her pass down the walk, step into the carriage and drive away!

Turning from the window, he paced the floor with anguish keen as though she had gone from him for ever. What obstinacy, what unreasoning wilfulness—and what would come of it? He spent the long night brooding over his great sorrow, the root of which was the fear that his dear wife did not belong to Christ, for beloved her through all her unloveliness. "Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church." His love had something in it of the divine pity and patience that our blessed Lord feels for his sinning, stumbling, and exasperating children.

Mrs. Eldred was not that type of womankind who spent their wrath in tears and reproaches. When she was angry, she was unapproachably so, as frigid as an iceberg. The crisis had come. Her husband had dared to command.

The next morning there was not the turn of an eyelid that could be construed into penitence. A brawling woman is but little less endurable than a perfectly silent one. You may almost as well "flee to the house-top" from one as the other. What few words were spoken by Mr. Eldred at the breakfast table received no replies.

In the course of the forenoon he went to fulfil an engagement a few miles in the country, where he was detained till late in the day. He sat in his study in the gathering twilight longing for, but not expecting, a word from his wife of contrition and conciliation. He was summoned to tea, but no wife appeared. After a little he went in search of her. She was not in the house. It was growing dark. He was perplexed and anxious. Again he went to their room, hoping to find some explanation of the strange absence. On the mantel lay a note addressed to him. As he read he gazed about to assure himself that it was not a horrible dream, half expecting his wife to gleefully spring into his arms from some hiding-place; but all was silent save his own moans of pain.

Vida had gone! Had "fled to her mother for protection from a tyrant." So the letter ran; it was in her own graceful hand; her name was affixed. It was no cruel joke. She said, moreover, that it was evident that their tastes were not congenial; it was out of the question for her to be tied down to the sort of life he expected of her; that she had borne reflections on her conduct that she had not tolerated from any other being! Tyranny was of all things most hateful to her; the climax was now reached when he ventured "to command."

"She recognised no such right. She never would; she would not be called to account every time she stepped over a forbidden imaginary line; it was plain they had been mistaken in each other, and disappointed; they did not add to each other's happiness, as appeared from the gloom enveloping him day and night; the last months were months of discord; she felt neglected; he was poring over books or seeking other society in an interminable round of calls; plainly what he needed in a wife was a sort of co-pastor; it was not too late to secure such a person, since the law granted divorce for wilful desertion."

With this last sentence the letter closed. Not a word betrayed the faintest regret at severing so solemn a bond. He searched it over and over to see if in some corner he could not find one tender word for him, a word that would reveal down deep in her heart the light of her great love for him, even such love as he had for her—a faint glimmer through the clouds of anger and recrimination. It was not there, not one syllable to show that the heart of the writer had not turned to ice. Yes, there was another sentence, more cruel and hopeless still: "Do not try to change my resolution, as though it were made in a pet; it is final—unalterable."

It could not be true. He looked wildly about as if to have the terrible truth dispelled. He opened her closet door and her bureau drawers, but the pretty, festive robes were all gone; the dainty garments were not in their places. A little pair of half-worn slippers, and the blue ribbon that had tied her hair were all he found. He seized them convulsively, as a part of Vida when she was sweet and simple—as she could be.

He sat for long hours with the letter in his hand, as one who holds his death-warrant. Then falling upon his face, he cried to his Helper. And He who is of great pity and tender mercies heard, and drew nigh in the darkness and comforted him, even "as one whom his mother comforteth," and when the morning dawned he arose and took up the burden of life again, where he was, ere Vida Irving stole into his heart. No, not that, it could never be the same again. When the lightning sends his lurid bolt down a noble tree, it may not wave green and fair as once; there will be dead branches and the gnarled seam to tell the story that

"Fire hath scathed the forest oak."

The grave man who went out into life again carried the marks of the conflict in sad eyes and pale cheeks. Not the least of this great trial was to meet and answer the looks and questions of the curious. For the present he could truthfully say:

"Mrs. Eldred has unexpectedly gone to her mother."

Meanwhile he resigned his charge, much to the sorrow and dismay of all. He disposed of all the elegant furnishings of the parsonage, and with haste left the spot that had been the scene of an exquisite torture. No defined plans were before him, save to get far away from any who could have had the least knowledge of him previously. No fugitive from justice ever felt more nervous haste. He pushed on, never pausing till he reached the very verge of civilisation in the far south-west. Not that he would be a hermit or misanthrope, but perchance find a people destitute of the gospel. He would bring it to them. He must preach Christ till death. This should be his joy and comfort; henceforth no other love should come between his soul and his dear Master.

And he found his work, as if an unerring path had been marked out straight to the little log church in the woods.

While Vida sat in a lofty temple of arches and massive pillars, the sunlight toned to the appropriate dimness, as it stole through the stained windows, the same hour her husband stood in the log church of the wilderness, its arches and pillars outside—the tall old trees locking arms overhead. Nature softened the fierce rays in this temple as well, for they filtered through thick green boughs, and flecks of light fell here and there, a stray one resting halo-like upon the minister's head, transfiguring him in the eyes of the hungry souls whose upturned faces drank in the words of life.

This unlearned, simple people with whom he had cast his lot, had their faults, but to the refreshment of his soul, they had no card or dancing parties, theatre or opera to steal the soul from Christ after the manner of more cultured Christians. The church was the apple of their eye. They made sacrifices for it, and travelled weary miles in the worst of weather, rather than lose a "meeting."

The young gifted pastor of St. Paul's Church was never more appreciated than now by these hardworking, warm-hearted pioneers. It was their daily wonder and thanksgiving that such a man should ever have been sent to them. Nothing that they could do for him was too much, and their loving devotion was like balm to his weary soul. His people were scattered for miles away, but the pastoral calls were as faithfully made as when they were comprehended within the limits of a few squares. The mild winter climate of that region was like one long autumn of the Eastern States. Mounted on his faithful pony, he spent a large part of every day riding over the prairies. The blue skies and the bright sunshine were tonics to the heart as well as to the body. Sometimes his route lay for miles through the woods, where perfect solitude reigned but for the chatter of birds that circled about him. In these long rides his heart went back over the past, reviving the memory of those first precious days with Vida. They seemed far away, and their recollection, like the perfume of wilted flowers plucked from the grave of a dear one. If he could not have prayed for her then, hourly, his heart would have broken.

Mrs. Irving changed her residence, putting many hundred miles between her new and the old home, so that Vida might begin life anew, as she phrased it, without embarrassment. In a large hotel in the great city, with seaside and mountain trips, parties and operas was much more to Vida's taste than dull life in a quiet parsonage, and she expected to play the role of a pastor's wife.

With her mother as chaperon she led a gay life, going, coming, revelling at will in her freedom. As before her marriage, she attracted much attention. Admired and courted, suitors innumerable paid her homage. But a positive nature and strong will asserted themselves here. Only such attentions as befitted a wife to receive were tolerated. She knew the law did not count her free; and if she had analyzed her secret heart, there was no true reason why she cared to be free. No face she met had power to quicken her pulses or extract from her a second thought. The inner heart had long ago been pre-empted, but the blind wilful creature knew it not. The face most often seen in her dreams; the voice that whispered in her ear; the sad dark eyes that seemed to follow her reproachfully, belonged to none of the gay gallants about her. Her previous history being unknown she was a problem in that circle.

There came a change. Mrs. Irving's health began to fail. The eminent physicians far and near were consulted in vain; and as the symptoms became more denned and alarming, Vida could not shut her eyes to the fact that her mother was in a most critical state. She was a devoted daughter, though the weeds of selfishness, fostered by the mother's hand, at times almost overtopped filial affection. Now she shut herself in from society and devoted herself to her mother with unremitting care. Every whim of the invalid was gratified.

One day, after weary months of suffering, she said: "O Vida dear, I would pray to die, if I were not afraid."

"Why afraid, mother? I'm sure you've been a member of a church these many years, and a faithful attendant on its services, and you have been kind to the poor and such a dear mother," said Vida, caressing her. "I don't think you need be afraid."

"O child, that will not stand in the great day. Don't mention anything I've done or been, I beg you," moaned the poor mother. "I've been nothing but a miserable worldling. Now I'm almost through with it all, and I've no peace or comfort. It's all dark, dark. O what shall I do?"

"Let me send for Dr. Hines," said Vida.

"O I cannot talk to him. He's a stranger; and I'm so weak. What must I do, O what?"

Vida had been a member of the same church. But now she sat wrapped in gloom, feeling powerless to help, yet longing to comfort her dying mother. In the midst of her sad thoughts as she sat watching, while gentle slumber had stolen for a moment over the mother, she remembered the words of a text she had heard her husband preach from, "What must I do to be saved?" The sermon was all gone.

"If it asks that question in the Bible, it must answer it," she thought. So finding a Bible, she sat down to search for the old answer to the old question.

"Reading the Bible, dear?" said her mother, opening her eyes.

"Oh, mother, mother, I've found the answer."

The plain short direction was read; the mother repeated it over feebly. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

"Read about Him, O do," and she seemed to summon soul and body to listen, as Vida, led doubtless by the Spirit, read here and there of Him who died for us. Day after day the reading went on; and while the mother slept, the daughter pondered the wonderful words she had read; preached to her for years, apprehended by her only just now. Her heart was filled with horror and fear at her treatment of such a Saviour; at her daring to number herself among his people; then that heart melted as she read of his love and pity, and casting away her robe of self-righteousness for the first time in her life, she knelt before Him a heart-broken, contrite sinner. He took the burden from her heart and gave her "peace."

While she still bowed at the bedside, praying her whispered prayer that her dear mother might "see Jesus," that mother put out her thin hand and laid it on the golden head, murmuring:

"Dear daughter, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; He has forgiven me. It is all peace, peace. Thank Him."

And Vida's clear, low tones of thanksgiving came to her dying mother sweet as the voice of angels, whose song soon burst upon her ear.

How clear an "evidence of Christianity" is this. A soul exchanging pride, haughtiness, and rebellion for humility and submission. Vida, meekly bowing to the storm that burst over her head, and filled with joy and peace that had not been hers in the brightest hour of worldly pleasure. It was not so hard, with this new-born love and trust, to see the grave close over that dear mother. It was gilded with the light of that day when "we shall rise again."

In these hours of bereavement Vida's heart went out with a longing cry for her husband. The love that she had stifled and called dead was there, deeper and purer. Now that she had been brought by this divine mystery unto full sympathy with him, he was the one soul on earth whose love she craved.

Perverse human heart! Here she was, no one to control her actions, possessed of wealth, youth, beauty, freedom to journey to other lands, and revel in the grand and beautiful of nature and art, yet the one only thing she desired, or that would satisfy, was to creep back into the niche she had filled in that other heart, that large, pure soul that she had thrust from her in her wicked folly and blindness. Now she would devote her life to searching for him, if indeed he were still living, and the doubt brought a keen pang; or had he, too, thrust her out and barred the door, so that she might never more enter? Or—worse than death—had he given the place to another, as she bade him do? It was a weary search, with this terrible uncertainty shrouding it. She advertised in mystical language, so none but he could comprehend it. She examined the church records of the denomination with which he was connected, but found no clue there.

She attended conventions where large companies of ministers were in session, and eagerly looked them over, hoping and praying that her eyes might fall on that one that her heart asked for. It was growing exciting and absorbing, this strange search. She frequently visited towns where a popular preacher or lecturer was announced, and made one of the vast throng that passed about him; then, taking a favourable position, rapidly scanned the upturned faces, wondering, meanwhile, what that strange, subtle something is, by which we recognise each other; that unerring consciousness, so that among ten thousand faces, could we view them one by one, we know at a glance that the one we seek is not there; we do not stop, and doubt, and compare—we know.

She humbled herself to the very dust, and wrote letters far and near to his ministerial friends, that brought only sorrowful replies. And now there came a remembrance that he had often spoken of the far west as a wide and promising field for labour; that some time he should like to go there and build up a church. He might have gone there now. So, with this forlorn hope, she started westward; spending the summer journeying, stopping over the Sabbath at straggling villages, and visiting different churches. Wearied out at length, she recalled the fact that an uncle had removed, with his family, to the south-west, several years before.

She searched out their whereabouts and hastened thither, intending to spend but a brief season. But yielding to their entreaties she remained through the autumn. It was now drawing near to Christmas, and still she lingered. She was growing hopeless, and that pleasant home filled with boys and girls was a diversion from her grief.

"Do, cousin Vida, go with me to-day, won't you?" asked Harry, a bright boy of fourteen. "I know a splendid place about ten miles from here, where we can get some evergreens; I want to trim up the house for Christmas just as we used to in New York State. I'll take the spring waggon and the ponies, and we'll go—you and I—all alone, and bring home lots of greens, all cut off in short branches."

"You forget," his mother said, "that your cousin is not used to riding in spring waggons over rough roads, and ten miles will be a long drive for her."

"There are some red berries there, too," went on Harry, as if he had not heard the objections, "and moss, and long vines that the frost hasn't found yet; besides it's a grand day to ride."

"You dear boy," said Vida, "I'll go for half of the inducements you offer." She was only too glad to fall in with any plan that diverted her sad thoughts.

The drive lay for a long distance through the lovely open country, the grass in many parts still green as in midsummer, and over all the perpetual sunshine of that region. A soft golden light that even in mid-winter glorifies the commonest object; bright skies, balmy air, and her lively companion, cheered even Vida's drooping spirits.

Arrived in the woods, Harry ran here and there with joyful enthusiasm, now climbing a tree like a squirrel, then darting into a thicket for mosses. They loaded the waggon with green boughs and filled their basket with treasures of moss and lichens, and the gay-plumed birds flitted about with hospitable little chirps, welcoming their visitors to their bowers of green. As each became more intent in adding to their store they became separated. Vida was a little distance behind a low, thick growth of trees, disentangling a long vine of bitter-sweet, when she heard a voice that thrilled her very soul. There was just one voice like that in all the world. Trembling, she bent her head and peeped through the branches. One swift glance and she knew him—her husband.

A strong self-control prevented her from swooning or crying out in her great joy. Shaking like a leaf, yet holding firmly to a tree-trunk, she gazed into the dear face. It was paler and thinner, there were dark rings under the eyes, but the finely-curved mouth had the same calm, sweet expression that told of peace within.

How like a king among men he looked, as he stood there, his hands filled too with mosses and lichens, looking kindly on the boy and talking interestedly. She never realised her utter folly so keenly as at this moment. How she longed to fly to him and fall at his feet in sorrowful confession. Two things kept her back: no eyes must witness their first meeting, and another dreadful thought—what if it were too late. What if he had taken her at her word and loved another.

She had not been a woman of the world so long for naught. She was an adept in hiding her heart far out of sight. When Harry returned she could calmly ask him, "Whom he had found in that out-of-the-way place?"

"Why, don't you think!" said Harry, "among all the other precious things in these woods I've found a minister. Wish we could put him right on top of our boughs and things, and carry him home too, for Christmas. Wouldn't mother be glad to see him, though! He preaches every Sunday in a log church right down hereaways, and the people come from all round the country to hear him. He looks as if he could preach, too. Such eyes as he has, that look you through and through. Say, let's you and me go to hear him next Sunday, will you?"

"Yes, I will!" Vida said, with such fervour and emphasis that Harry gave her a keen look and wondered why she had a bright red spot in each cheek. He wondered more before they reached home, for his cousin laughed and sung in childlike glee, and was sad and silent by turns. Her restlessness could not wait until the Sabbath. The excitement and suspense were unendurable.

Confiding in her aunt, it was arranged between them that Moses, the old coloured man of all work, should accompany her to Cedar Vale the next afternoon. Just what she would do when she reached there was not clear to her, but stay away she could not.

When the children were well off to school again after the nooning, Vida, mounted on a fleet little pony, attended by her trusty guide, rode quietly away. Her heart beat wildly when they drew near the settlement. They came at last upon the church, standing in a lovely grove of maples. The door stood slightly ajar. At a little distance from it Vida dismounted, and directed Moses to wait there for her. She had a consuming desire to look into the church where her husband preached, to stand a moment in the very spot where he stood Sabbath after Sabbath.

She stepped softly in, and there, kneeling by the little pulpit, his head bowed upon the desk, was—her husband!

Timidly and slowly, as one who has no right, she noiselessly drew near and knelt beside him. Stranger eyes may not look upon a scene so sacred; but the two souls bowed together before that altar came nearer to heaven than mortals often get.

Had not the waning light warned them that they were still upon the earth, they might never have tired of looking into one another's eyes, and telling each to each the experiences of that lifetime they had lived since their separation, and striving to put into words the depths of joy that crowned this blessed hour.

Before they left the church they knelt again in that sacred spot, and each in low fervent words poured out thanksgivings, craving a blessing on their reunited lives, and, by a mutual and irresistible impulse, both spoke again their marriage vows before the Lord, in his temple.

When they rode away that Christmas Eve on their second bridal tour, the setting sun, smiling through the trees and slanting across their pathway, fell on them like a benediction. Slowly and dreamily they went on their way, willing that this ride over crackling twigs and rustling leaves, with the soft, light of the dying day closing about them, should go on for ever. The earnest admiring gaze of the husband brought girlish blushes to the face of the bride. He was drawing contrasts; the sweet humble face and the simple adornings of her who rode by his side, made a fairer picture than the queenly lady of haughty airs and magnificent attire, who seemed to have passed out of existence.

Never was fairer Christmas tide than this, in that merry household; those memorable evergreens festooning it as a bower—and a romance—a poem—lived out—not written. There were no costly gifts, and yet, gifts the most precious—two souls given back to each other. If the joy bells in their hearts but had voice, their silvery ringing would have filled all the land.

"Vida, can you be happy here until spring?" Mr. Eldred asked, a few days after Christmas. "My work would suffer, I fear, were I to leave it now."

"Why leave it in the spring, dear Thane? Let us stay here always, in this beautiful, quiet place, where the people love you so, and—I did not tell you yet," Vida said, half shyly, "but my money is not mine any more. I gave it all to the dear Lord, I would like to build a pretty church with some of it, and here we will stay and work, you and I together. I can help you now, Thane—a little. Don't you like my plan?" she said, anxiously, when he did not speak.

"My darling, you have made me so happy that I could not speak," he said, after a little. "I wish it above all things—to go on with my work here, and a new church is so much needed. How strange that you should be willing to stay, and that we can work together! Oh, Vida! I prayed—with faith, I thought—but I never dreamed of an hour like this; surely 'It has not entered into our hearts to conceive the things which God has prepared for them that love Him—in this life.'"

There was another sensation in an audience when the pastor of the log church brought in his wife, for naught so fair and sweet had ever gladdened their rustic eyes before. The singing that day was mostly solo, or at least, duets. Her pure, birdlike voice filled the church, and what could they do but listen, wondering meanwhile whether it might not be a lark, or an angel come down for a season.

When a teeming, busy town covered the prairie, and the heel of agriculture and commerce crushed out the wild flowers, the log church was preserved as a memorial, while the spire of the handsome new one was eagerly pointed out, its story treasured and handed down to children's children.

These two spent their happy lives ministering to this simple people, their hearts and hands so filled with work that they had no time to sigh for the privileges of more cultivated surroundings. The pastor's wife was the warm friend and sympathizer of the common people, and her name was singularly appropriate—Vida—well-beloved.


The poor women and girls are so taken up with cleaning their houses and dishes, and preparing their daily meals, that they will not give themselves up to thinking in the least. So writes Miss Blunt concerning the women of India. It was something of the same sort that prevented Mrs. John Williams from giving herself up to thinking, or from thinking about anything but her own private affairs. Not that Mrs. Williams gave herself up to scrubbing doors and windows and cleaning pots and pans with her own hands, but she was "taken up" all the same. When Christ was a babe on earth there was no room for him in the inn, so to-day many a heart is so full that Christ and his cause are turned out. If a heart is full how can it hold more? Do not suppose that there was no thinking done by Mrs. Williams. She superintended all her work and did much of her own sewing; as her family was not small and her income not large, and she kept but one servant, it took a vast deal of thinking and worrying to keep the Williams family up to the standard, which was one not of neatness and comfort simply, but that she should live in the same style as those of her friends whose incomes were possibly twice as large as her own, that her children's clothes should be just as fine and as fashionably made as theirs, that she herself should be able to make as good an appearance as the best when she went into society, that her parlour should be furnished as far as in her lay, with all the elegance and taste that the law of the fashionable world required. This was the grand aim to which she bent all her energies.

Mrs. Williams was a member in good and regular standing of an orthodox church. She regularly occupied her pew in the sanctuary, and when she had no other engagement, attended the weekly prayer-meeting, but the most persistent and zealous member of the "Ladies' Foreign Missionary Society" had never succeeded in inducing her to attend their monthly meetings, but just once. She took pains to explain it carefully to her conscience that she believed in Foreign Missions, but that didn't prove that it was necessary for her to spend a whole afternoon each month hearing dry reports and "papers" about countries with outlandish names. What good did that do anyway? It was mysterious—how ladies could do justice to their families and spend so much time out. As for herself she could scarcely keep up with her calls. But then! they neglected their families, of course they did; women that were always on a committee for something or other, and running off here and there to all kinds of meetings. Very likely, too, it just suited some women to get up on a platform before an audience, and read a "paper" or "report." It was just a little leaning to Woman's Rights. She believed in a woman keeping in her own sphere, and for her part she craved no such notoriety. She had always noticed, too, that the women who gave themselves up to those things seemed to lose all regard for their appearance. Now it really was a duty one owed to their friends, to dress well, and some of those missionary women were wearing their last year's bonnets; and dresses of the styles of three or four years back—perfect frights!

She did not see the need of women having a society by themselves either. Probably they raised just as much money before the ladies got to making such a fuss about it, it all came out of their husband's pockets anyway. Her husband always had contributed to Foreign Missions, and always would probably (it's true he did, a dollar a year!) and was not that just as well as for her to be bothering her head about it?

"There!" said Mrs. Williams, one bright afternoon in April, as she glanced from her window. "There comes that Mrs. Brown. I know what she's after. She wants me to go to that stupid missionary meeting. I suppose this is the afternoon for it. I promised her I would go again some time—sorry I did too. That's just as much sense as some persons have; think that one can drop everything and go to a missionary meeting—in the spring of the year, too, when there is so much sewing to be done;" and she hastily instructed Bridget to tell Mrs. Brown that she was "engaged." So Mrs. Brown went on her way to the meeting, and sat in heavenly places, and had her heart stirred with new love and zeal, while Mrs. Williams sat at home, and worked diligently on a dress for her young daughter, an elaborate dress of frills, and lace, and embroidery, and many weary stitches. At the close of the day she congratulated herself that she had accomplished a fine afternoon's work.

There were whole seas of sewing to be waded through, Mrs. Williams said, before she could have any spare afternoons. There was the dressmaking, all her own dresses to be remodelled after the present style, besides new ones (when Mrs. Williams had a dressmaker in the house—to use her own words—she "almost worked herself to death") then there was all the other sewing. It really was appalling to think of the amount of ruffling and tucking and side-pleating and puffing that must be gone through, before the summer wardrobes of herself and her little daughters would be completed. There was the house-cleaning, the smallest detail of which required her personal supervision, for Mrs. Williams was elaborate throughout; all her housekeeping was squared up to certain fine lines. If she ever had a morsel of time from these things, stern necessity compelled her to spend it in fancy work; for tidies, and soft pillows, and bracket-covers, and stand-covers, and mats were indispensable. When Mrs. Williams was asked to subscribe for "Woman's Work for Woman," she assured them that she knew already all about woman's work that she desired to.

It was done at last—the spring sewing and the house cleaning, and the summer heats had come. The day was warm, and Mrs. Williams, in a cool white wrapper, had established herself on the parlour sofa with a book. She had neglected to tell Bridget that she was not at home, and just as she was in the most absorbing part of one of George Eliot's absorbing novels, a caller was ushered in. "Mrs. Brown! that missionary woman again! Was ever anyone so persecuted before?" Here she had just come to a breathing spell, where she had hoped to take a little rest and comfort, and now she must be annoyed. To go, was out of the question. It was too hot; and besides, she did not in the least feel like going to a meeting of any sort. She wanted to finish her book; so she told Mrs. Brown that she was very much worn out with over-exertion, and the day was so warm that she would not venture out. She should probably fall asleep in the meeting if she went. It seemed that even when there came a time that work did not fill Mrs. Williams' heart, Satan was on the alert to pre-empt it, and keep her from all Christian activity. How he must rejoice at each new withe he fastens over the heart he covets. Here was a large-hearted, energetic, skilful woman—thoroughly consecrated. She would be a power for Christ. Mrs. Williams was not a hard-hearted woman, but she found no time to listen to the sorrowful story of those who know not God. She knew very little of it at all, and like her heathen sisters, was so "taken up" that she "could not give herself to thinking."

When the rage for decorating and the mania for pottery seized the female mind, it began to dawn across Mrs. Williams' perceptions that all her belongings were exceedingly plain, that she positively needed, and must have two large vases for the parlour at least. She lay awake thinking about it a good part of the night. Something must be done. The expensive imported ware was out of the question—beyond the limits of her purse at present. Mrs. Williams was a woman of resources, who seldom failed to rise to the necessity of the occasion; and from her inner consciousness she evolved a perfectly delightful plan. When a young girl at school, she had taken lessons in oil colours, and possessed not a little artistic ability. Why not manufacture her own pottery and decorate her own china? That was a most inspiring idea; she could scarcely wait for morning to appear, so eager was she to put her plans into execution. She would go into the city, get a few instructions and some materials, "then we shall see what we shall see."

The next day was a harbinger for a hot day; but what of that? What would not one undergo when pottery was in question? So she spent the sultry-summer days examining all the different styles of vases with the same eager minuteness that an amateur milliner studies hats on "opening day." Her vases should be precisely like that elegant pair of Copenhagen ware that cost fifty dollars. Then this ambitious, energetic, deluded woman went home, and proceeded to shut herself in her room, and dabbled in paint from morning till night. Her enthusiasm arose to such a pitch, that she neglected her sewing and her calls; and after she had produced a really creditable pair of vases, she was stimulated to go on. She painted lovely little bouquets on her tea-set, and decorated everything in the house from china to coal-scuttle.

About this time Mrs. Williams received an invitation to a party, not an unusual thing, but this was a very select affair; the very highest stratum of society. She was holding a counsel with herself, and doing some very close thinking on the all-important subject of her wardrobe, and she came to the usual feminine conclusion that "positively" she had "nothing to wear," when she was interrupted by a call from the collectors of the missionary society—the faithful, punctual collectors, whose visits were as sure as the sun and the dews. Mrs. Williams had decided that self-defence required her to become a member of that society, afford it she must, in some way. Her bills for the pottery had amounted to a considerable sum, home industry notwithstanding, and the fact stared her in the face that she must have a new silk for that party—but it was plain she had dodged those collectors just as long as she could.

What a relief it was to learn that only ten cents a month constituted one a member of the society. She answered quite graciously that she should be most happy to throw in her mite. If Mrs. Williams could have had a peep into the collectors' books, and have seen that Mrs. A. and Mrs. B. subscribed fifty cents a month, and that Mrs. C. and D. subscribed one dollar a month, and others whom she copied and followed were even benevolent to the amount of two or three dollars a month, then Mrs. Williams would have compassed sea and land to procure the money, before she would have allowed her name to be among theirs with, that small amount set after it. She suggested that she pay the whole sum at once. "What was the use of troubling them to call every month;" and when they said they preferred to have it in monthly payments, she thought within herself, "Now, that is just like women; they have no business capacity, most of them, travelling up and down, wasting their time, making twelve trips for what they might accomplish in one;" which hasty censure upon her own sex was only another proof that she had not "given herself up to thinking;" certainly not on the philosophy of giving.

Having disposed of the collectors, Mrs. Williams sallied forth on a shopping expedition, in high spirits at having come off so easily, and yet a placid feeling in her conscience that now she had contributed to "foreign missions." She spent the morning in weighing the merits of this piece of silk and that, and finally purchased a dress, rich and costly, and some soft filmy laces of marvellous beauty at a marvellous price. If her poor weak conscience made a protest it was silenced by "I must have it." Who shall say that the heathen are all in Africa or China, or the islands of the sea?

And so the busy days went on, dressmaking, house-cleaning, calling, canning, pickling, parties, pottery, and fancy work, time for it all. How could one think much about such far-away interests as heathen women when her hands and heart were so full?

Sometimes we call such "Marthas," and make light of the fact that we have loaded ourselves down with such heavy burdens, and take comfort in the thought that one of the women whom Jesus loved was in the same condemnation; but we forget that her anxious housewifely cares were for Jesus. Dare we say as much for ours?

One morning Mrs. Williams was not bustling about with her usual activity. She sat in her own room with a grave, troubled face. She was in deep thought, and it was not some scheme for adding to her wardrobe, or the furnishings of her house, that formed the subject of her meditations. Perhaps the days are not past when the Lord speaks to a soul "in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men." Mrs. Williams was not a nervous woman, full of strange fancies, and her dreams heretofore had been passed by as idle phantasies of the brain, but the remarkable and solemn one of the previous night could not be so dismissed, and like one of old, her "spirit was troubled."

In her dream, the day had come for her to die, and leave her busy work for evermore. She could recall it all most vividly, the flash of surprise, the anguish, the feeling that she was not ready, the swift searching of her heart to find her hope, the feeble despairing cry, Oh Christ, forgive me! the weeping friends, not heeded in the all-absorbing thoughts, "What is this? Where am I going?"

Then the sinking away, the last gasp, and eternity opened! In the distance there dawned upon her vision the glory of the city, the golden gates, the crowns, the harps, the white-robed throng, the wonderful music thrilling her soul. As she tremblingly approached the gate, her heart gave a bound, for that kingly One could be no other than Christ the Lord, the one she loved years ago before the world got hold of her. Surely he would recognise her; but when she timidly ventured nearer, and spoke his name, there was no smile of welcome, no "Come, ye blessed;" the look was cold, the face averted. In tears and agony she begged an angel to open the gates and let her in. When he asked her whence she came, and by what right she hoped to enter, she murmured out that she belonged to Christ's church when she was on earth. Then he bade her come with him. He lifted a veil and said, "Look!"

There were rooms filled with beauty, opening into each other, and stretching off into the distance. There was rich furniture, carpets of softest velvet covered the floors, mirrors and paintings filled the walls; there were exquisite vases of delicate tints and graceful forms, finest statuary, innumerable and endless articles of ornamentation, and, lying about in rich profusion, were costly silks and glittering satins and rare laces; jewellery flashed out here and there; diamonds and pearls and all precious gems in beautiful settings, novels in costly binding, food delicate and tempting in abundance and variety. "It was for such as these," the sad voice of the angel said, "that you bartered your soul; these are the things you coveted and toiled for in your earth-life."

How perfectly empty and unsatisfying it all looked to her now, with that glorious city in full view, and the shining ones gathered about their King; their hallelujahs rising in grand chorus to "Him who loved them and washed them in his blood." In deep distress she begged to be allowed to go in where the Saviour was. Then the angel lifted another veil.

There were the dark places of the earth spread out before her; millions upon millions of human beings bowing before idols, little children cast into cruel flames, and women, sad, wretched women, a whole world full of them; besides those, there were the poor, degraded, ignorant ones of her own city.

"Did you ever read in your Bible, said the angel, 'Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me?'"

Deep horror seized upon her, for memory brought before her, as in letters of fire, that other word in her own Bible—that awful word, "depart."

Mrs. Williams needed no Daniel to interpret her dream. Unlike the one of the King of Babylon it brought her in brokenness of spirit to the feet of her Saviour; and he who said, "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you," was faithful to his promise.

The woman, who left her room after hours of heart-searching and confession before God, came out of that room with "the new spirit"—a consecrated soul, henceforth to be obedient to the Master's slightest wish. The whole aim of her life was changed, her pursuits, her style of living. She found, too, ample time to do the Lord's work, and to "look well to the ways of her household," and the Lord gave her much service for him, and the work was very sweet.

Does he not wait to give to any of us who have been half-hearted laggard Christians, this "new spirit," this anointing whenever we shall give our whole hearts to him. Then shall it be "joy, nor duty," then we shall say, My tongue, dear Lord, to speak for Thee, my hands to minister to Thee, my feet to run Thine errands.




The ladies of Thorndale met one afternoon in early autumn in Mrs. Lee's parlour for an important purpose. There was a previous understanding that the meeting was for all who felt interested in discussing plans for their own mental improvement during the coming winter. The chairman said: "Now, ladies, speak out your minds on this subject with freedom and promptness."

Mrs. Peterson spoke first—she always did—"For my part I wish we could study or read something or other that would give us something to talk about when we meet in sewing society and other places. I'm tired going to sewing society and sitting perfectly mum by the side of my next neighbour, because I don't know what under the sun to say. After we have done up the weather and house cleaning and pickling and canning, and said what a sight of work it is, and asked whether the children took the measles and whooping-cough, and so on, I'm clear run out, for I won't talk about my neighbours, and I don't keep any help; I've noticed 'hired girls' is a subject that doesn't seem to run out very soon."

"Let us form a literary society," said one; "prepare essays, and discuss some subject that will require considerable study in posting ourselves." This lady was newly married, and "boarded;" therefore time was one of the things that she possessed in the greatest abundance.

"That will never do," said a busy little mother, "every lady that was to prepare an essay would be sure to have a sick baby, or a house full of company; then the most of us can only give little snatches of time to this, besides the afternoon or evening that we meet; that would surely be a failure; we want something that will not end in smoke after a few weeks."

Mrs. Lewis spoke next. When Mrs. Lewis spoke everybody always paid attention. She was a large, fine looking lady of seventy or thereabouts. Old age had crowned her with a halo of soft snowy hair, while her dark eyes still glowed with almost the brightness of youth. Her naturally fine mind, enriched by extensive reading, and her deep religious experience, combined to constitute her almost an oracle in the little town. In all their gatherings she was the centerpiece, a very queen for dignity and elegance, in her invariable black silk, and soft white cap. "Let us study the Bible," said Mrs. Lewis. "I don't know of any book we are more ignorant of."

"Oh, Mrs. Lewis! You wouldn't make us into a Sabbath-school class, I hope," said feathery little Mrs. Etheridge. "I thought we did that up years ago. I am sure I can repeat quantities of it," and she tossed back her pretty head and looked wise. "The Bible is all well enough for the Sabbath, but I should dearly love to read the poets. I am passionately fond of Byron; some of his poems are just too sweet for anything."

Some of the wise ones almost thought Mrs. Lewis' text had a spice of sarcasm in it as she quoted for answer, "The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple."

Miss McIntosh, learned, and strong-mindedly inclined, said that she had heard that the ladies in Millville had spent one afternoon a week in the study of Political Economy, with very much benefit; they felt that their minds had been enlarged and strengthened; her preference would be for something of that sort, some broad, deep subject, that would require study; she would suggest Mental Philosophy.

"The Bible just fits in there," said Mrs. Lewis. "'Thy Word is a great deep,' and Peter said that Paul wrote 'things hard to be understood,' you remember."

"And that's queer, too," spoke up Mrs. Peterson. "Such a deep book, and yet I feel more at home in it than in any other book you have talked about, and I haven't much learning to speak of either. But I get so interested in some of the folks in it, and the Lord's dealings with them. I've been thinking about Moses ever since Mr. Parker preached about his not being allowed to go into the promised land. It seems as if I was acquainted with him. It must have been a powerful disappointment to him, after he had trudged along so many years—turned back, too, when he'd got a good piece on his way; then it was so aggravating, to get up there and look over into the nice green meadows, and know that if he hadn't let out his temper so, he might have gone in with the rest of them. I declare, I got so exercised thinking it over when I was a working my butter, that I forgot to salt it."

"I think I should like to study Shakespeare," said Mrs. Berkeley. "Where does one find such knowledge of human nature as there? Where else are such rare gems to be had by digging?"

"In my book," said Mrs. Lewis, "the Psalmist says, 'It is more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold;' and another says, 'It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' Is not that a knowledge of human nature that excels even Shakespeare?"

"It strikes me a variety would suit all," said another. "George Eliot's writings are full of power, and deep enough for me, I assure you. We might read some of her books, then some of Dickens and Thackeray, then occasionally a book of poems; Longfellow and Whittier, or, if we want to study harder, there is Mrs. Browning, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. It would be excellent discipline to try and get at the exact meaning of the authors, and puzzle out all the obscurities, it would not be long before we should feel quite rich in a literary way. In reading such works together, and talking them over, of course we make them ours as we can in no other way."

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever," quoted Mrs. Lewis. "Do you know that all those writings, valuable and good in their place as they are, when compared with the Bible seem to me just like grass and flowers? Now, if we have but a little time to give to study, why not spend a good part of it in studying the 'endureth-for-ever' book, because, as nearly as I can find out, that book and ourselves are the only things in this world that are going to endure for ever? Don't it strike you that in such a case we ought to be more familiar with it than with all these others?"

Mrs. Lewis' solemn words put a silence on the lips for a few minutes, but practical Mrs. Brown broke it by remarking:

"Perhaps it would be a good plan for us to study hygiene. I have always thought, if we gave more attention to ventilation, and to what we shall eat and wear, and so on, we should have better health."

"Yes," said a still more practical sister, "that would be real nice. Then I was noticing in the paper that there is a Presbyterian cook-book just out. I should like to have some read out of that."

This caused a smile to go around the circle, for Mrs. Boot was one of those inveterate pie and cake makers, whose life consisted in the abundance of pastry; who was an unhappy woman until she had obtained the last new receipt for cake and made it up.

"I have an idea," said a bright little lady. "Suppose we all agree to spend at least two evenings a week in reading or study at home, then bring what we gather to the sewing-society and talk it over, each one give some bit of news or scientific fact, or give a review of the last new book."

"Oh, I have tried that a little on my own book," said Mrs. Peterson. "I sat up one night after all the rest had gone to bed, and read all about that Dr. Somebody, with a hard name—I can't pronounce it, it begins with an 'S.' Well, he and his wife are digging up buried cities, hundreds and thousands of years old—and finding the most wonderful things, money, and jewellery, and splendid vases, and all sorts of nice things. Now, says I to myself, I've got something to talk about at sewing society to-morrow. It'll make 'em open their eyes, too, I guess, so I read it all over again, to be sure and have it at my tongue's end. Well, I went to sewing society, and when there was a kind of a lull in talk, I began to tell three or four that sat around me, all about that wonderful story that I'd been reading. Do you believe it, they just poked fun at my story, and said, 'of course 'twa'n't true, and we couldn't believe half we read in the papers, and it would tura out like the Cardiff giant, most likely.' I was going on to tell how he brought, out the curiosities, and ever so many people saw them, and of course it was true; but la! one wanted the thread, another the scissors, and another called out, 'Mrs. Peterson, do you overcast your seams or fell 'em?' Then Mrs. Baker said, 'Why, Melia Parsons, you're making that little pair of pants upside down, then they all hollered and yelled at Melia, and I never tried to tell anything more about Dr. What-yer-call-him and his cities; might just as well try to talk in a hornets' nest."

This speech produced so much merriment that the chairman playfully called Mrs. Peterson to order, and the talk went on. Some thought a course of history was "just the thing," in short, there were as many different plans and opinions as there were ladies, it began to look very much as if no decision could ever be reached.

"I hope," said Mrs. Lewis, "that I shall not be thought persistent or officious if I say a few more words. You know I am fond of reading, there was a time when I read everything, now I am turning away from it all, to the blessed Bible. While I would not disparage liberal culture, nor the reading that conduces to it, I think the time has come when we cannot remain ignorant of the Bible and be guiltless. Some people feel mortified if they cannot tell just where every line of poetry that happens to be quoted can be found, but who thinks of being ashamed because they cannot tell the author of the matchless poems in the Old Testament? I do think there are no poems like Isaiah's and Jeremiah's and the Psalms. For imagery and pathos and sweetness all other poems are tame in comparison. Do we want works of power? He says, 'My word is as the fire and the hammer.' Is it tragedy that our souls delight in? There is the divine tragedy: 'But He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities.... He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth,' and the closing scene: 'And behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened.'"

"If we wish to strengthen and discipline our minds, and grow in knowledge, let us study the Bible by all means, for here we find difficulties enough to tax an angel's powers, and at the same time find rest and consolation, means of growth, too, for we are assured that those who meditate on that Word 'shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.' Oh, you do not know, if you never have tried it, how blessed it is to build up a pyramid of texts, for instance, all about God's love to us, and the names he calls us by; it makes his love such a reality. Theft there are the promises, soft pillows for weary heads, and there are directions for all perplexities. I tell you there is nothing like the Bible. I have tried all the rest. Like Solomon I have found it all vanity. 'Oh, how I love thy law!' 'How sweet are thy words unto my taste!' When this becomes our experience, life will be a different thing to us; it will not be dull and empty. You know how we get absorbed in other reading, perhaps a novel, and it leaves a gloomy, unsatisfied feeling when it is done, but the Bible is never done, and the studying it grows and grows every day. When the Lord comes, I'm afraid we shall not feel comfortable if he finds us studying hard on every other book and his laid by covered with dust. If I were to ask you what book you would advise me to spend the most of my time on, the few years that I live, whether the Bible or the current literature of the day, you would probably say, 'The Bible by all means, because you have but a few years left to you at most,' but the truth is, that many in this room may die before I do. Not one of us knows what day the books will for us be for ever closed; and did it never cross your minds that the Bible is the only book we will want to take with us away down to the edge of the river? When I lie down to die I feel sure that I shall not wish for a page of mental philosophy whispered in my ear, nor the finest passage of Shakespeare; but, 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Thou art with me,' and 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love.' 'Thou art mine, I have called thee by my name.' 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'"

"Let us compromise this matter," suggested Mrs. Parker. "Let every other meeting be devoted to Bible study, and a committee be appointed to select something from the works mentioned here to-day as subjects for the intervening meetings."

This seemed to strike all favourably, and was voted upon, receiving an affirmative vote. It was further suggested and decided that Mrs. Lewis should lead all the Bible meetings.

"Then I shall take you in hand at once," said Mrs. Lewis, "and announce that the next meeting will be at my house next Thursday afternoon, and the subject will be 'How to Use the Book.' I shall ask you to look out texts on the subjects, and to bring pencils and Bibles that you will not be afraid to mark, and do, dear sisters, let us give to the study of this Book the same zeal and painstaking that we do to our housekeeping, or our gardening or fancy work, then we shall receive a blessing—I am sure of it."



Mrs. Lewis' parlour was not like anybody's else. Some of her neighbours said she was "queer, as much money as she had, too." By "queer" they meant that it was perfectly incomprehensible to them, that Mrs. Lewis did not have her parlour hung in dark paper with gilt blommies; have lace curtains with very long trails, a dark, many-coloured carpet, mirrors, and handsome furniture wearing linen aprons; the whole thing shut up stately and dark, except on high days; this, instead of the cheery room where five-minute callers with cards and best toilets seldom came; people always "ran in" here and stayed awhile. This room was large and light, both wall and carpet a delicate tint of grey, brightened here and there by bits of colour in the shape of gaily-covered easy-chairs, rug tidies, and the like, yet nothing was too fine for daily use.

There were fine engravings on the walls, and plants and sunshine in the south windows. In the centre stood a large round table covered with books, newspapers, pen and ink; altogether it looked much more like a gem of a study than a parlour, but was the best and handsomest room in the house, whatever it might be called; and here Mrs. Lewis knit, and sewed and studied, here the fire was always bright and the welcome warm; young and old went in and out with freedom. Her table was supplied with the best and latest books and magazines, so making a sort of reading-room, as free and open to young men as though it were public.

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