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   Chapter 12 REPENTANCE.

May Brooke By Anna Hanson Dorsey Characters: 13098

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


When May recovered, she looked around her with an alarmed and bewildered feeling. The darkened, tossed-up room; the stranger watching beside her; the pale, silent form on the bed, so motionless that the bed-clothes had settled around it like a winding-sheet, were all so much like the continuation of a dreadful dream, that she shuddered, and lifted herself up on her elbow.

"You are better?" inquired a kind voice.

"Have I been ill?" she asked.

"Not ill, exactly," replied the doctor; "you fainted just as I came in with the watchman to your assistance." Then she remembered it all.

"How is my uncle now, sir?" said May, sitting up, and with a modest blush gathering up the masses of dark hair which had fallen from her comb.

"He is doing well now. He is indebted to your energy and presence of mind for his life," said the doctor.

"Oh, thank God! thank God, that he is better! Do you think, sir, that he will recover?"

"He may, but it is doubtful. I shall not be able to decide until he awakes. Meanwhile, lady, lie down, and rest. I will watch."

"I could not sleep, sir; if I could, I would obey your directions; but I will rest my head on the sofa here, that I may be better able to attend to my duties to-day," said May, in her earnest, matter-of-fact sort of way. And the doctor, a young man who was rising rapidly in his profession-a son of the people, who, through difficulties and rugged obstacles, and calumny and opposition, had emerged purified, and conscious of power from it all, and attained an honorable position professionally and socially, looked at that fragile form, and paid homage to the right-thinking and right-acting spirit it contained. Her conduct had been heroic, noble, and evinced so much strength of character that even he, accustomed to phenomena, mental and physical, wondered. He knew not whence she derived her strength; he had no idea of that divine charity which gives Titan power to the weak, and considers life itself of little worth when it does battle for the salvation of souls. It was a mystery, the effects of which he had witnessed, but could trace no further than the comparative harmony of physiology. Towards sunrise, Mr. Stillinghast turned uneasy on his pillow, and opened his eyes. He looked around him with a puzzled, angry look; his bound-up arm-his garments clotted with blood-the confusion into which his room was thrown-the strange man watching by his bedside-May resting on the old sofa-what meant it all? He tried to call out, but could only whisper.

"What's all this? Have I been robbed? Who are you?"

"I hope you feel a great deal better, Mr. Stillinghast. You have been quite ill, sir," said the doctor, soothingly. "I am Dr. Burrell; allow me to feel your pulse."

"For what? I never was sick in my life. I never had my pulse felt," he said, doggedly.

"How does your head feel, sir?"

"My head! ah, my head feels shaky. Call her here."

May was beside him in a moment, holding his hand, and looking down into his white pinched features with commiseration.

"What's all this, child? Why are you here?"

"You have been very ill, dear uncle. You know you were poorly last night. I felt uneasy about you, and sat up to listen if you should call for any thing, until I heard you fall," said May, in a low, clear, and distinct voice.

"Fall?"

"Then, sir, I ran up here, and found you on the floor, so ill-so very ill," said May, hesitating, always unwilling to speak of her own acts.

"What then?"

"I did all that I could, sir, until the doctor came," she said.

"And that means every thing, Mr. Stillinghast. She saved your life.

She used the best remedies; she put ice about your head, and bled you.

When I came you were out of danger; but be calm, sir; let me beseech

you to be calm," said the doctor.

"Did you do all this, little May?" he asked, looking earnestly at her with his piercing gray eyes.

"Yes, sir; I had read that such remedies were necessary."

"Why did you do it, little one? My life or death is of no interest to you. Tell me why you did it?" he whispered.

"Oh, dear uncle, forgive me!" said May, while her tears dripped like rain-drops on her wan cheek; "I knew that you had made no preparation for death. I would have died that you might live long enough to effect a reconciliation with Heaven."

"Profit-gain-loss-loss-loss!" he murmured; then suddenly he put up his feeble hand, and drawing May's face closer to him, kissed her cheek. "If it is not too late, pray for me!" he whispered, in tones so low that she scarcely heard them.

"Not too late. Oh no, dear uncle, it is not too late," said May, smoothing back the tangled gray hair from his sunken temples.

"Mr. Stillinghast, my dear sir, I fear that you are exciting yourself. I would recommend quiet, composure; indeed, sir, it is absolutely necessary in your case," said the doctor, looking on uneasily.

"It will make no difference, sir. I know full well whose finger has touched me. Do you know that I cannot move my left side?" said the old man in his firm, stern way.

"I feared it," said the doctor, turning away to conceal the expression of pain which this information caused him; "but it may pass off, you may quite recover yet, sir. A cup of weak tea would be good for our patient," he said to May.

May glided out of the room, followed by the gaze of the stricken old man, to prepare it for him. She ran up to awaken Helen, and told her that their uncle was dangerously ill. "Dress, dear Helen, and go to him immediately, while I get a cup of tea for him."

"How very pale you are, May! Is he in danger?" exclaimed Helen, starting up, quite awakened by the news.

But May was gone. When she went up again with the cup and saucer in her hand, Mr. Stillinghast greeted her with a look of welcome.

"Do not leave me again," he whispered, as he sipped the tea; "it will not be long, little one, that I shall keep you. Take this away now, and send for Mr. Fielding."

"Perhaps you know Mr. Fielding, sir?" said May, to Dr. Burrell.

"He is my neighbor. Can I be of service?" he replied.

"My uncle wishes to see him as early as possible. He is his man of business, I think," replied May, who felt anxious that Mr. Stillinghast should attend to his worldly concerns, and wind them up as soon as possible, that all the energies of his soul might be directed to higher objects.

"Here is a prescription, sir," said the doctor, "which I would advise you to take immediately."

"Will it cure me?

"It may re

lieve you very much."

"Will it cure me, I say?" said the old man, sharply.

"I cannot say; I can only promise temporary relief from its use."

"I won't take it. I thank you for your patience, and shall be glad to see you again; but I won't take your medicine."

"If you were a child, sir, I would compel you to take it; but as it is, I can only recommend the continual application of cold bandages to your head. I will call in this evening," said the doctor, kindly, as he left the room.

"May!"

"I am here by you, sir."

"It is not too late to do you an act of justice."

"Oh, dear, dear uncle!" said May, earnestly, "forget me; forget the affairs of earth, and think of the judgment beyond the grave! Oh, sir! indeed-indeed, I fear, that the time is too short to be wasted on perishing things."

"Listen to me!" said the old man, gathering up his failing energies, and speaking in a low, distinct voice; "I wish to save my soul, but fear it is too late. My life has been one long, dark, dismal blank. There is nothing which I can remember-not one single thine, to cheer this dreary hour. I have gained the world, and lost-heaven. Until yesterday, I derided and scorned all religions. It has been my lot in life to become entangled and betrayed by hypocrites of various professions. They disgusted and embittered me with all religion. I tried to think you a hypocrite, and cursed your patience and good works as so many snares for gain. But my eyes were opened. I followed you yesterday, out to that old negro's hut; I wrung the tale of your charities from your unwilling lips, and know and understand all. And now, in return for all my harshness, my neglect, my cruel unkindness, you save my life; you tend me, nurse me, watch me, and for what? For the love of God.

"Don't interrupt me, little one. You have proved the truth of the faith you profess by your works. It suits me. I need no doctrinal arguments, no theological and abstruse disquisitions, to convince me that it is right. I believe it, May, even at the eleventh hour, when I have but little to hope. I believe-perhaps as devils do-for, child, I tremble."

"Oh, dear uncle, the grace of contrition is never given to devils. It is Almighty God who has touched your heart. He pities, and would save you. 'I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; return ye, and live.'"

"Does he say that?"

"Yes; that, and ten thousand times more. Think of Him, dear uncle, 'who was wounded for our transgressions, who was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.'"

"What must I do besides?"

"Believe, and be baptized."

"Baptized! I was raised in the belief of the Friends, and have never been baptized," he said, musingly.

"Better so, sir, for now you can receive properly the waters of regeneration, and experience, when you so much need them, all the graces that flow from baptism into the believing soul," said May.

"I know the doctrines of your faith, May. I have read-I studied it in my days of vision and unreality as an admirable system of human philosophy; but you, child, in your humility-in your patience and long-suffering-in your cheerful docility, have taught me that it is divine."

"Oh, uncle, not me-not me! I have done nothing but duty," said May, covered with confusion. "It is the mysterious hand of Almighty God, leading you, guiding you to the truth."

"It can never-never be now! It is too late. I have wasted the hours-I have buried the talents-I have derided time-now the night cometh when no man shall work," he said, with an expression of anguish.

"Shall I bring Father Fabian? He can strengthen and cheer you with the promises of Christ; he has the power and authority from a divine source to absolve and prepare you for your passage into eternity. Oh, sir, let me go."

"Do with me what you please, strange-strong-wise little one! Only never leave me. Send your cousin for him." Just then Helen made her appearance, elaborately and beautifully dressed, as usual, and was shocked at the change in her uncle's appearance, which a few hours had made. She inquired "how he felt?"

"I believe I am ill. I wish you to take a note from May Brooke to her confessor. She must remain with me," he said, in his old way.

"I will go instantly," she said, glad to escape from such a scene, and wondering what the strange old man could have to do with a priest. May scribbled a few lines on the blank leaf of a book, tore it out, directed it to Father Fabian, and gave it to Helen.

"Try to sleep a little, sir," said May, gently.

"I have no time for sleep-tell me of Jesus Christ!"

And May took down from the shelf an old, mouldy Testament, which had not been opened for years, and read, in clear, steady tones, and with sweet pathos, the Passion of our Lord from Gethsamane to Calvary. When she finished, and looked up, the lips of that pale visage were firmly set, and from his cold, dim eyes, tears were falling apace-the first he had shed for long, dreary years-the first of contrition that had ever welled up from his soul.

He did not fear death-the mere act of dying, even the thought of annihilation, would not have stirred a ripple of fear in his heart, because, physically, he was bold, reckless, and defiant of personal danger-but the eternal instincts of his soul, developed by the providence of God, at the eleventh hour, sought their true destiny; they shrunk, with dread, from the scrutiny of Divine Purity, yet longed for immortal life, and immortal progress. Suddenly the veil had been torn from his eyes; suddenly he felt all the gnawing, hungry needs of his soul; suddenly his weakness, his wanderings, his infirmities, his tacit unbelief and indifference, were revealed, in all their frightful deformity,-and how? By a still, calm voice-the voice of a child, which had rung down the warning into his soul like thunder. "What will it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" it had said; and earth and earthly affairs had assumed the shape of nothingness; the tough, hard work of years was scattered-like a potent lever it lifted away the demoniac weight of darkness and pride from his soul, as it rung down into its frozen depths. And the strong angel of God, who had been contending with the powers of evil, to wrest it from eternal loss, bore up the glad news to heaven, that the hoary sinner repented at the eleventh hour; and there was great joy among the angels of His presence, before Him.

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