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and many a step these loving brothers took, in summer's bright days, in search of materials for a bouquet, for “ mother and Emma were so fond of flowers.”
The two brothers were as much attached to each other as two could possibly be. Wherever Charley was seen, Willie was sure not to be far off. Some of the villagers conferred on them the sobriquet of “David and Jonathan,” while the old schoolmaster gave them the classic designation of “ Castor and Pollux.” Love was indeed the great element in which these children moved.
But the loving, the gentle, the pious mother, was the centre of her family's affection. With them she knelt around that altar first erected in happy days gone by. With them she sung the songs of Zion, and to them she read out of that precious volume that had been the study and companion of one who was now no more. Then her boys would kneel down, one at each side, and, laying their heads on her knee, would repeat,“ Our Father.” But this picture of loveliness was yet to be marred.
At the time our sketch commences, the minister's widow had been residing in Clifton for some eighteen months. For the first six months she had endeavoured to support herself and children by teaching ; but her health failed her, and for some time their scanty pittance had been procured by her busy needle. But lately that needle had been but seldom used, and the widow was rarely seen abroad. The least exertion wearied her during the day, and a distressing cough troubled her during the night. She could no longer sing to little Emma of “the better land,” neither could she lead her boys to the throne of grace in audible prayer. Those hours of the day that had been devoted to such exercises seemed to bring painful feelings to her mind, now that she could no longer engage in her wonted duties, and a tear would tremble for a moment on her cheek. But she murmured not. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight,” seemed to be the language of her heart.
The warm breath of summer had passed away, and with it much of the beauty that was wont to adorn the village of Clifton. The neighbouring fields had been shorn of their treasures and looked bare and dreary, and the woods were invested with the sear and yellow robes of early winter, and already the mournful requiem of departed beauty and gladness was being sung by the chilly blast as it swept through the forest. And was not death abroad, too, gathering into his garner buds and blossoms of humanity? And did not the blast, as it swept past, bear on its wings wailings from crushed hearts, tidings of cruel disappointments, and forewarnings of bereavements soon to be accomplished ? The shadow of the insatiable Reaper was already against the cottage. There in a little room, lay the Widow Anderson—the lovely and beloved centre of attraction of her peaceful family.
Day by day, for weeks past, her strength had been diminishing, and now she lay upon her couch panting and weary, like some radiant being from another world. To those unaccustomed to the delusive character of her disease, her appearance would only have elicited sentiments of admiration for her unearthly beauty. But love and peace and beauty cannot soften Death's unrelenting heart, neither can wealth nor honour bribe him to stay awhile.
Slowly and silently the bed-room door was opened, and Charles stood at the bedside of the slumberer. Long and wistfully he gazed on that lovely countenance, then stooping down he imprinted a kiss on the burning cheek, and whispered “mother.” The sleeper awoke.
Charles, my son!” “Are you any better now, mother ?"
“Yes ; I feel easier than I was. What time is it, Charles ?—it seems as if I had been sleeping a long time.”'
“It is just six o'clock, mother-and Willie and I have got such a nice cake for you, and all is ready for supper. Do
you think you can sit up while you eat ?” “No, Charles ; I am too weak,” said Mrs. Anderson, and I don't feel like eating. Call in Willie and Emma, and take the Bible and read to me.”
The other children were called in. “Read the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel,” said the widow, as her eldest boy took the Bible, and sat down at the bedside.
“Let not your heart be troubled ; ye believe in God, believe also in me,” were the consoling words now heard in the chamber of affliction. The reader continued till the eighteenth verse was read ; "I will not leave you comfortless ; I will come to you.”
“These are precious words, Charles," said Mrs. Anderson," and how often have we found them true. We have often been pinched by poverty, and suffered from cold and hunger, but God never left us comfortless. Remember, Charley and Willie, if you are good, God will never leave you comfortless. God means to teach us in these words that although we may be left friendless in the world,
that he will provide for and protect us. You may be, some day, without friends-orphans”-here the tears gathered in the mother's eyes—“but if you love and serve Jesus he will never leave you-he will never forsake you. Now sing,” she continued, after a moment's pause, “sing, 'On Jordan's stormy banks I stand.' I love to hear you sing.”
Simple and sweet were the strains of melody that were heard in the cottage, as the two boys joined in singing a song of Zion to their mother. Sometimes little Emma sung too, in childish lispings, the familiar song, for it was a family lullaby.
Little did the children then think that they were singing with their mother for the last time—that the hymn that had been used as a cradle song to lull them to sleep, was to their mother the last music of earth that thrilled her heart as she lay down to sleep in Jesus. After singing they knelt down--not resting their heads, as in former days, on her knee, but at her bedside, and each repeated the evening prayer. They then placed little Emma on a chair by her mother, and left the room.
It was a cold and dreary night. The snow was beginning to fall, and the chill blast was sweeping drearily around the cottage. With saddened hearts, they knew not why, the brothers drew near the few embers on the hearth. They were cold and hungry. The last crust of bread and cup of milk had been given to Emma, and that cake that neighbour Dudley had given to Willie for running on some message, must not be touched-that was for mother-it would be so good for her.
And where was the strong arm and loving heart of a husband and father, to shield the loved ones in this the day of trouble ? Away, many miles over hill and valley, was a little graveyard embosomed in the woods, and there under a green hillock lay the husband and father of these sufferers. No storms of life's troubled sea could reach him there ; no wailings of sorrow, bursting from the torn hearts of the loved ones, could disturb his rest. Full well he had laboured in the work of the ministry while he lived ; but the Master said, “It is enough;" and he fell asleep in Jesus.
While away on his duties of preaching the Gospel to his fellow-men, he sickened. No dear wife was there to soothe or comfort ; no children stood around his couch to receive his parting blessing. Strange faces were about him, and strangers' hands soothed his dying pillow. His wife arrived just in time to bid him farewell for
He immediately recognized her, and grasping her hand, whispered, "Mary--my work-is done. The Saviour calls me.”
“Dear Henry, is Christ precious to you?” asked his weeping wife.
“None but Christ,” whispered the dying man. how precious he is now! All is well !"
Becoming uneasy, he desired to be raised a little, but when the attendants were about to fulfil his wish, a pang of mortal agony depicted itself on the pallid features.
“Oh! Saviour! succour-bless--” exclaimed his wife, as she beheld the loved one in the last conflict. The agony was but momentary--a placid sweetness now spread itself on the countenance of the dying preacher.
“Mary–farewell! God will take care of you-farewell—Jesus-glory-" and Henry Anderson gently fell asleep.
And there, in the little sheltered nook, they buried
him ; and the widow, with her fatherless children, turned away to their desolate home. And few, few cared to inquire how it would fare with her and her little ones.
And now, after two years hard struggling, we find clouds hovering over the bereaved family-cloucls, however, with a silver lining. For, dark and gloomy and dreary as the clouds may be that often overshadow the pathway of God's children, they all have bright edges to them; thus proclaiming that God's face is not turned away, but that his countenance is only hid from their view for a season.
The brothers had been sitting by the fire for nearly an hour, when little Emma, whom they thought must be asleep, came running into the room, and desired to be taken on Charley's knee.
“I thought you were sleeping, Emma,” said Charles, as the child got settled on the desired spot. “I'm not sleepy," replied the child, “but come see
Mamma's sleeping, Charley ; mamma no speak to Emma."
The children went slowly and cautiously into the little bed-room, and for fear of disturbing their mother, they walked to the bedside on tiptoe. The candle was burning dimly by the side of the sleeper, revealing her features calm and peaceful. Charles drew near and looked upon his mother. The eyes were partly closed, the jaw had fallen ; (mamma was asleep!-she was sleeping in death!
Next day beheld a company assembled at the cottage. A coffin was there, too, and Charles and William, with little Emma, who had been taken during the night to a neighbour's house, stood close by.
What a scene of sorrow was there presented ! Ere the coffin lid was screwed down, the children drew near to the beloved dead to take a last look. Farewell, dear mother!" gasped Charles, in heartrending tones, as he stooped down and imprinted a kiss on the cold lips.
“Come, Willie, kiss mother—we will see her no more. William gave vent to a passionate burst of grief. But