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Lucy Raymond; Or, The Children's Watchword By Agnes Maule Machar Characters: 17414

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Lucy's Home.

"Is the heart a living power?

Self-entwined, its strength sinks low;

It can only live in loving,

And by serving, love will grow."

s Lucy passed in under the acacias which shaded the gate, she was met by a pretty, graceful-looking girl about her own age, who, with her golden hair floating on her shoulders and her hat swinging listlessly in her hand, was wandering through the shrubbery.

"Why, Lucy," she exclaimed, "what a time you have been away! I've tried everything I could think of to pass the time; looked over all your books, and couldn't find a nice one I hadn't read; teased Alick and Fred till they went off for peace, and pussy till she scratched my arm. Just look there!"

But Lucy's mind had been too much absorbed to descend at once to the level of her cousin's trifling tone; and having been vexed previously at her refusal to accompany her to Sunday school, she now regretted exceedingly that Stella had not been present to hear Miss Preston's earnest words.

"Oh, Stella," she said eagerly, "I do so wish you had been with me! If you had only heard what Miss Preston said to us, it would have done you good all your life."

"Well, you know I don't worship Miss Preston," replied Stella, always ready to tease, "she looks so demure. And as for dressing, why, Ada and Sophy wouldn't be seen out in the morning in that common-looking muslin she wore to church."

"Oh, Stella, how can you go on so?" exclaimed Lucy impatiently. "If you only had something better to think of, you wouldn't talk as if you thought dress the one thing needful."

"That's a quotation from one of Uncle Raymond's sermons, isn't it?" rejoined Stella aggravatingly.

Lucy drew her arm away from her cousin's and walked off alone to the house, obliged to hear Stella's closing remark: "Well, I'm glad I didn't go to Sunday school if it makes people come home cross and sulky!" And then, unconscious of the sting her words had implanted, Stella turned to meet little Harry, who was bounding home in his highest spirits.

Lucy slowly found her way to her own room, her especial sanctuary, where she had a good deal of pleasure in keeping her various possessions neatly arranged. At present it was shared by her young visitor, whose careless, disorderly ways were a considerable drawback to the pleasure so long anticipated of having a companion of her own age. Just now her eye fell at once on her ransacked bookcase all in confusion, with the books scattered about the room. It was a trifle, but trifles are magnified when the temper is already discomposed; and throwing down her gloves and Bible, she hastily proceeded to rearrange them, feeling rather unamiably towards her cousin.

But as she turned back from the completed task, her card with its motto met her eye, like a gentle reproof to her ruffled spirit-"Looking unto Jesus." Had she not forgotten that already? She had come home enthusiastic-full of an ideal life she was to live, an example and influence for good to all around her. But, mingled in her aspirations, there was an unconscious desire for pre-eminence and an insidious self-complacency-"little foxes" that will spoil the best grapes. She had to learn that God will not be served with unhallowed fire; that the heart must be freed from pride and self-seeking before it can be fit for the service of the sanctuary. Already she knew she had been impatient and unconciliatory, contemptuous to poor ill-trained Nancy, whose home influences were very unfavourable; and now, by her hastiness towards her cousin, whom she had been so anxious to influence for good, she had probably disgusted her with the things in which she most wanted to interest her.

She did not turn away, however, from the lights conscience brought to her. Nurtured in a happy Christian home, under the watchful eye of the loving father whose care had to a great extent supplied the want of the mother she could scarcely remember, she could not have specified the time when she first began to look upon Christ as her Saviour, and to feel herself bound to live unto Him, and not to herself. But her teacher's words had given her a new impulse-a more definite realization of the strength by which the Christian life was to be lived-

"The mind to blend with outward life,

While keeping at Thy side."

Humbled by her failure, she honestly confessed it, and asked for more of the strength which every earnest seeker shall receive.

With a much lighter heart and clearer brow, Lucy went to rejoin Stella, whom she found amusing herself with Harry and his rabbits, having forgotten all about Lucy's hastiness. Lucy seated herself on the grass beside them, joining readily in the admiration with which Stella, no less than Harry, was caressing the soft, white, downy creature with pink eyes, which was her brother's latest acquisition.

"I want him to call it Blanche-such a pretty name, isn't it, Lucy?" said Stella.

"I won't," declared the perverse Harry, "because I don't like it;" and so saying, he rushed off to join "the boys," as he called them.

"What have you got there?" asked Stella, holding out her hand for Lucy's card, which she had brought down. "Yes, it's pretty, but Sophy does much prettier ones; you should see some lovely ones she has done!"

"Has she?" asked Lucy with interest,-thinking Stella's sister must care more for the Bible than she herself did, if she painted illuminated texts. "I was going to tell you this was what Miss Preston was speaking to us about."

"I don't see that she could say much about that, it's so short. I don't see what it means; Jesus is in heaven now, and we can't see Him."

"Oh, but," exclaimed Lucy eagerly, overcoming her shy reluctance to speak, "He is always near, though we can't see Him, and is ready to help us when we do right, and grieved and displeased when we do wrong. I forget that myself, Stella," she added with an effort, "or I shouldn't have been so cross when I came home."

Stella had already forgotten all about that, and felt a little uncomfortable at her cousin's entering on subjects which she had been accustomed to consider were to be confined to the pulpit, or at any rate were above her comprehension. She believed, of course, in a general way, that Christ had died for sinners, as she had often heard in church, and that in some vague way she was to be saved and taken to heaven, when she should be obliged to leave this world; but it had never occurred to her that the salvation of which she had been told was to influence her life now, or awaken any love from her in response to the great love which had been shown toward her. Not daring to reply, she glanced listlessly over the hymn on the card, but took up none of its meaning. She had never been conscious of any heavy burden of sin to be "laid on Jesus." Petted and praised at home for her beauty and lively winning ways, her faults overlooked and her good qualities exaggerated, she had no idea of the evil that lay undeveloped in her nature, shutting out from her heart the love of the meek and lowly Jesus. She could scarcely feel her need of strength for a warfare on which she had never entered; and Lucy's words, spoken out of the realizing experience she had already had, were to her incomprehensible.

She was a good deal relieved when the tea-bell rang, and Lucy's two brothers, Fred and Harry, with her tall cousin Alick Steele, joined them as they obeyed the summons to the cool, pleasant dining-room, where Alick's mother, Mr. Raymond's sister, who had superintended his family since Mrs. Raymond's death, was already seated at the tea-table. Her quiet, gentle face, in the plain widow's cap, greeted them with a smile, brightening with a mother's pride and pleasure as she glanced towards her son Alick, just now spending a brief holiday at Ashleigh on the completion of his medical studies. He was a handsome high-spirited youth, affectionate, candid, and full of energy, though as yet his mother grieved at his carelessness as to the "better part" which she longed to see him choose. He had always spent his vacations at Ashleigh, and was such a favourite that his visits were looked forward to as the pleasantest events of the year.

"Girls," said Alick, "I saw such quantities of strawberries this afternoon."

"Where?" interrupted Harry eagerly.

"Was anybody speaking to you?" asked his cousin, laughing. "But I'll tell you if you won't go and eat them all up. Over on the edge of the woods by Mill Bank Farm. I could soon have filled a basket if I had had one, and if mother wouldn't have said it was Sabbath-breaking!"

"Alick, my boy," said his mother gravely, "you mustn't talk so thoughtles

sly. What would your uncle say?"

"He'd say it was a pity so good a mother hadn't a better son. But never mind, mother dear, you'll see I'll come all right yet. As for these strawberries, Lucy, I vote we have a strawberry picnic, and give Stella a taste of real country life. They'll give us cream at the farm, and the Fords would join us."

Stella looked a little of the surprise she felt at the idea of the farmer's children being added to the party, but she did not venture to say anything, as Alick was by no means sparing in bringing his powers of raillery to bear on what he called her "town airs and graces."

"Well, you needn't make all the arrangements to-night," interposed Mrs. Steele; "you know your uncle doesn't like Sunday planning of amusements."

And just then Mr. Raymond entered the room, his grave, quiet face, solemnized by the thoughts with which he had been engrossed, exercising an unconsciously subduing influence over the lively juniors. Mr. Raymond never frowned upon innocent joyousness, and even the boisterous little Harry was never afraid of his father; yet there was about him a certain realization of the great truths he preached, which checked any approach to levity in his presence, and impressed even the most thoughtless; although, not tracing it to its real source, they generally set it down simply to his "being a clergyman." His children looked up to him with devoted affection and deep reverence; even Stella could not help feeling that her uncle must be a very good man; and to Alick, who under all his nonsense had a strong appreciation of practical religion, he was the embodiment of Christian excellence.

"Well, Stella," said her uncle, turning kindly to his niece, "I hope you had a pleasant afternoon. I suppose our little Sunday school looks very small after the great city ones."

"We never go to Sunday school at home, uncle," said Stella, with one of her winning smiles; "there are so many common children."

"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed Alick, seizing the opportunity of putting down Stella's airs. "Why don't you get up a select one, then, attended only by young ladies of the best families?"

Stella coloured at the sarcastic tone, but Mr. Raymond only said kindly, "Did you ever think, my dear child, how many of these poor common children, as you call them, you will have to meet in heaven?"

It was certainly a new idea to Stella, and made her feel rather uncomfortable; indeed she never cared much to think about heaven, of which her ideas were the vaguest possible.

As they went to evening service, Alick did not omit to rally Stella on her want of candour in leaving her uncle under the impression that she had been at Sunday school that afternoon.

"Why, Alick!" she exclaimed in surprise, "I didn't say I had been at Sunday school. If Uncle Raymond supposed so, it wasn't my fault."

"Only, you answered him as if his supposition was correct. I have always understood that intentionally confirming a false impression was at least the next thing to telling a story."

"Well, I'm sure Stella didn't think of that," interposed Lucy good-naturedly, noticing the rising colour of vexation on Stella's countenance.

"How tiresome they all are here!" thought Stella; "always finding out harm in things. I'm sure it wasn't my business to tell Uncle William I hadn't been at Sunday school. Sophy and Ada often tell the housemaid to say they are not at home when they are, and don't think it any harm. What would Alick say to that?"

By one of those coincidences which sometimes happen-sent, we may be sure, in God's providence-Mr. Raymond took for his text that evening the words, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." The coincidence startled Lucy, and made her listen with more than ordinary attention to her father's sermon, though, to do her justice, she was not usually either sleepy or inattentive. Mr. Raymond began by alluding to the "race set before us," which the apostle had spoken of in the previous verse,-the race which all who will follow Christ must know, but only in the strength He will supply. The young and strong might think themselves sufficient for it, but the stern experience of life would soon teach them that it must be often run with a heavy heart and weary feet; that "even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men utterly fall;" and that it is only they who wait on the Lord, "looking unto Jesus," who shall "mount up on wings as eagles," who shall "run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."

Then he spoke of the Helper ever near-the "dear Jesus ever at our side," in looking to whom in faith and prayer, not trying to walk in our own strength, we may get

"the daily strength,

To none who ask denied,"-

the strength to overcome temptation and conquer sloth, and do whatever work He gives us to do. Something, too, he said of what that work is: First, the faithful discharge of daily duty, whatever its nature; then the more voluntary work for Christ and our fellow-men with which the corners of the busiest life may be filled up-the weak and weary to be helped, the mourner to be sympathized with, the erring brother or sister to be sought out and brought back, the cup of cold water to be given for Christ's sake, which should not lose its reward.

He ended by speaking of the grounds on which Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith," the great salvation won by Him for us on the cross,-a salvation to be entered upon now, so that during this life we may begin that glorious eternal life which is to go on for ever. Then he besought his hearers, by the greatness of that love which had prompted the infinite sacrifice, by the endurance of that mysterious depth of suffering which the Son of God bore for men, that He might "save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him," to come at once to have their sins washed away in the Redeemer's blood, which alone could "purge their consciences from dead works to serve the living God."

Many and many a time during Lucy's after-life did the words of that sermon come back to her mind, associated with her father's earnest, solemn tones, with the peaceful beauty of that summer Sabbath evening-with the old church, its high seats and pulpit and time-stained walls, and the old familiar faces whom all her life she had been wont to see, Sunday after Sunday, in the same familiar seats.

And what of the others? Bessie Ford, too, had noticed the coincidence, and had listened to the sermon as attentively as a somewhat volatile mind would allow her, and had gathered from it more than she could have put into conscious thought, though it was destined to bring forth fruit.

And far back, in a dusky corner of the little gallery, gleamed the bright brown eyes of little Nelly, who had ventured back to the church, and, hearing the familiar sound of the text, listened intently and picked up some things which, though only half understood, yet awakened the chords which had been already touched to a trembling response.

Even little Harry in some measure abstained from indulging in his ordinary train of meditation during church-time, consisting chiefly of planning fishing excursions and games for the holidays. How many older and wiser heads are prone to the same kind of reverie, and could not have given a better account of "papa's sermon" than he was usually able to do! Fred, the quiet student, listened with kindling eye and deep enthusiasm to his father's earnest exposition of the divine truth which had already penetrated his own mind and heart; and Alick heard it with a reverent admiration for the beautiful gospel which could prompt such noble sentiments, and with a vague determination that "some time" he would think about it in earnest.

Stella alone, of all the young group, carried away nothing of the precious truth which had been sounding in her ears. She had gone to church merely as a matter of form, without any expectation of receiving a blessing there; and during the service her wandering eyes had been employed in taking a mental inventory of the various odd and old-fashioned costumes that she saw around her, to serve for her sister's amusement when she should return home. It is thus that the evil one often takes away the good seed before it has sunk into our hearts. Stella would have been surprised had it been suggested to her that the words of the last hymn, which rose sweetly through the church in the soft summer twilight, could possibly apply to her that evening:

"If some poor wandering child of thine

Have spurned to-day the voice divine,

Now, Lord, the gracious work begin;

Let him no more lie down in sin!"

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