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It cannot be denied that Mr. Mellor fostered very severe thoughts and severe feelings in the case "Re Uncle Chris and his vow;" but his wife was as ready to forgive as she was slow to be angry with her brother; and as for the trouble itself, she simply, as it were, wrote it all down on the tablets of her heart and spread it daily before the Lord, with a prayer of child-like trust.
"To Jesus then your trouble bring,
Nor murmur at your lot;
While you are poor, and He is King,
"But pay-day is so near!" the tempter would whisper. "But my God is nearer !" she would reply. "But debt is a bad thing!" "True; so bad that, when the poor debtor has nothing to pay, God frankly forgives him." "Oh, go your own wilful way, then," cries the foiled enemy; and arising peacefully from her knees, the tried mother goes her own way, which is simply to wait for help which she is confident will be sent in the best of all times-the Lord's time. And yet-oh, yet it certainly is very close to New Year's Day! And in due course New Year's Day dawned.
Dawned as cloudless as such a day should dawn, bright and sunny but only in the sun. Where shadows lay it was cold and cheerless, and a very dreary reach of shadow lay along poor Chrissie's path on that first of January. She jumped out of bed and read her text, the first for the year, from the new almanack that she had nailed on the wall last night; but try as she might, she could not attain to what she called a "new yearish feeling;" and though she attempted to throw cheerfulness into her tone, as to her daily morning kisses were added the unusual "happy new year," the evident hesitation in her voice attracted her mother at once.
"Chrissie, love," she promptly said, to ward off any outburst of feeling, as it is such a fine day, we have decided to walk over and meet Charlie, and bring him back with us -you will like that?"
Bring him in safe custody, you see, Chrissie." This was from her father, who little thought the effect his remark, meant to be playful, would have on his young daughter.
"Custody! Oh, father, what a dreadful word!" And her long-pent feelings found vent in a flood of tears.
"Oh, Charles! you have frightened the poor child-on New Year's Day too; it's too bad."
You foolish Chrissie !" laughed Mr. Mellor; "have you never heard of the sweet custody of love? That is the kind that is going to be my boy's escort to-day. We are going to meet him, as he is trembling to meet us. Won't you
make one of the party? If there are any blows to be dealt in the form of hard words, I promise you shall have the dealing of them—I can't."
But Chrissie's joyful "You darling !" stopped any further threat or promise (which ?) on Mr. Mellor's part; and as for the rest of breakfast-time, it was passed in such buoyancy of spirits that the great event of the day was forgotten; nor was it broached until the trio were part way over the broad moor which separated the next coaching town from their country residence, and then it was only hinted at by a few earnest words of faith and trust, whispered by Mrs. Mellor to her husband, in reply to a sudden pressure of her hand as it rested on his arm for assistance over the uneven ground. She understood all that this pressure meant to convey of fatherly love and apprehension blended in one strong feeling.
Meanwhile, where was Uncle Chris? Where we least expected to find him. Trudging resolutely towards his sister's house. Full of remorseful feelings, he had retired to bed, but not to rest; for a text learnt years ago at his mother's knee, without notice of its approach, suddenly sounded (it seemed audibly) in his ears: "If ye forgive not"-"Well, what then ?" said he, pettishly." Then neither will your Father forgive you." "That's strong!" said Uncle Chris; "very strong. it."
must think upon
When the New Year dawned, he had so thought upon it that he had determined to act; hence is it that we meet him to-day with his face resolutely turned towards Mr. Mellor's, whose house he reached only to find the family absent.
"I must rest, though, and write a line too," he said to the servant, who forthwith showed him into the parlour, and laid Chrissie's blotting-case before him, saying, 66 I think you will find all you require there, sir."
And more than I want, too, it seems: I by no means want to read people's secrets," muttered Uncle Chris, as he tried to avert his eyes from the page of pinky blottingpaper which lay upturned before him, with that part of Chrissie's letter we have already read so distinctly legible that he had no choice but to read it, if even an irresistible attraction had not rooted his eyes to the girlish writing. In vain he tried to write a few common-place lines, to tell his sister he had called. Chrissie's blotting-paper, and nothing else, could he see or think of. At last, crushing his half-finished note into his pocket, he carefully closed the case, but not till he had as carefully torn out the page that witnessed against him. This he folded almost tenderly, and laid it in his purse, and then stole like a thief from the house, much to the servant's mystification, when she presently entered to ask if he would take some refreshment. Chrissie never missed the page, though her first act on returning was to open her case to look for an envelope. She never knew that it had been abstracted until the evening, when a sealed letter was put into her hands, with the message, "Bearer waits for an answer."
"Oh, mother !—father! It is from Uncle Chris! May I open it ?"
Mrs. Mellor turned an anxious look towards her husband, who nodded to Chrissie.
"Of course you may, silly child."
Chrissie did so, as well and speedily as her trembling hands would let her, then turning back to the envelope, to
reassure herself that the writing was her uncle's, she exclaimed, turning very pale as she spoke :
"Why, whatever does it mean? Here is my letter to him on this blotting-paper, and—and, yes-and a cheque for the money I asked for! Oh, mother! what does it mean? I assure you I had no hand in it-indeed I had not." And for the second time on New Year's Day, Chrissie was like to burst out crying.
"I see it all, my child; and instead of blaming you, I can only say, as Joseph did, it was not you, but God.1 The Lord has chosen this way to make peace in our family, and to relieve us of one of the sorest trials we have ever had. I see your father accepts this offer of reconciliation at dear Christopher's hands."
"I can do no otherwise, my dear, when I read this." And from a slip of paper which had fallen from the page of thickly-written blotting-paper, she read as follows:
"Yours to hand.
God bless you for it. Accept the enclosed, and apply it as you please. Tell father I cannot be the forgiver, because I have need to be the forgiven; but I know that if we forgive not from our hearts (mind that), neither will our Heavenly Father 'forgive us. As for the vow bad ones are best broken. I smashed mine at one o'clock this morning, when the New Year's bells chimed out. "Your repentant,
Please, sir, the messenger can't wait; what answer shall he take back?" asked Susan.
"Mr. and Mrs. Mellor's best love to his master, and they will walk over to dine with him to-morrow, and Miss Chrissie and Mr. Charlie too-then we can-ahem!-what, Chrissie ?"
"Bring the rest of the blotting-case ?" she suggested. "Ah, yes; the rest of the blotting-case," replied her 1 Gen. xlv. 8.
father: "yes; but mind, only the rest. We will keep this one page: it may prove a helpful In memoriam!*
"I thought that meant in memory of?"" asked Chrissie. "So it does, silly child, so it does: keep it for that very purpose, of course."
"'Tis thus our gracious God provides
Our comforts and our cares-
The New Wear.
"What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."-Jas. iv. 14.
"We spend our years as a tale that is told."-Psa. xc. 9.
THE brevity of life and the rapid flight of time are subjects which have formed themes for writers in
The Patriarch Job, who lived so many years ago, in expressing his thoughts with regard to the shortness of life, made use of this exclamation, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle." He also compares human life to "the wind" that passes by in a moment, and to "a cloud that vanishes away."
Since the days of Job many have tried to impress upon their fellow-men the importance of recognising that life at its longest is but short, and at its best uncertain. But, alas, with how little result. Men live now just as they have done since the creation of the world, for this life only, as though it were to last for ages, and there were no eternity to follow.
Year after year passes by, and they do not apparently realise the fact that life is drawing to a close, until at length the summons comes and finds them unprepared. How much wiser to have had constantly rising from their lips and hearts the prayer, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
2 Psa. xc. 12.