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preparing to go; " but you'll come round all right now. I'm glad you did not want to see a priest, with his crosses and wafers and trumpery: he would have mumbled you into purgatory, as sure as fate. I hope, good Sister, if I have the ill luck to be wounded, you will consider me a deserving object of charity.”
“I should not expect such submission as your friend here has shown," replied Anka.
“Oh, I am the meekest of mortals when I am sick." “ Yes, while the danger lasts,” said Avallo, feebly.
“Well, I dare wager anything that while that ugly deaf old crone had the handling and cherishing of you, your temper was not the serenest, nor your words distilled honey. I had just such a nurse last time; wait until I have beauty and benevolence in attendance, and see if Carlos Alba does not show himself a very pattern of resignation.” Anka hoped she should never have to make the experiment; and saw him depart without any regret.
All the world looked new and fair to Count Avallo, when, after long weeks of suffering and waiting, he was able to crawl out into the palace court-yard. The sun had never shone so brightly, the clouds had never worn such lovely tints, as they did that morning.
6. I am like one raised from the dead,” said he to his nurse, when she came to look after him. “I did not think that common things could look so beautiful; the world must have dressed herself anew since I was buried."
“ 'Tis not the world that has changed, Count,” said Anka, “'tis the force of contrast-after darkness and despair, the light is doubly sweet. Nature only wears the colour of your own mind; she is always fair. It is We that are so dull, and call things .common. Nothing is mean or common that the hand of God has made."
“You think, then, that He made and directs such light and unimportant things as yonder fleecy clouds, skimming across the sea of blue over our heads ?”
Assuredly, just as much as He controls the small events of our own lives. Is not that a better and happier thought than yours of chance; at. least, more reasonable ?”
“I admit there is little reason in my old belief, or disbelief, as you would call it. I feel within and around me a mysterious unseen power : that within, I call my immortal self; and that which surrounds me, I call the Great Spirit. You give it a distinct character, and person, and name, and call it your · Father.' Where I doubt and dread, you love and trust : I do not wonder at your calling your thoughts "happy, but it is truth I seek now, more than happiness.”
“If you find the first, the last will not need searching for,” replied Anka.
“Speaking of small events, I suppose you would say, good sister, that the course of a single shot in the mêlée and tumult of a battle is guided by the same ever-present and all-seeing influence ?”
“And why not, Count? You will not deny that it is by His power the sun rises and sets, and never wanders out of his appointed path, yet some day the sun's light will fade and he will die ; but we shall never die. Do you think that man is of less importance in the eyes of his Maker than soulless things ? Can anything be overlooked by Him that concerns one of His immortals ?”
“Do all Belgian women carry so much knowledge under their caps ?” asked Avallo, smiling.
“ The Bible makes every one wise that takes a delight in its study; for no other book can tell us what we are, or whither we are going. The course of a single shot is not always such a small event either-it may affect the destiny of a human being; for the Lord has a reason and purpose for everything that He does, though the wherefore is often hidden from us."
Avallo turned to her with moistened eyes. “ Though you are too modest to say so, I think you have not found it very difficult to guess why my strength and pride were laid so low, and why I was made to know myself. I am ready to acknowledge the beneficence of any supernatural agent that led your wandering steps to this place."
The days of convalescence were ended : the Count had dispensed with help for several days; and though much altered and emaciated, his step was firm, and his hand steady enough to defend himself, at least. The other soldiers were only waiting for him that they might rejoin their company, and Anka's work seemed done in the palace, but Avallo prayed her to remain until he was ready to depart. The day before he left he purchased a horse, and, cased in his armour, he entered the room where Anka sat, making a scarf that was to replace his own.
She looked up, “Are you going to-day?"
"No," said Avallo, pacing slowly up and down the room. “I am only trying the weight of this steel; I did not think it was so heavy." Anka eyed him doubtfully, as he tried to make himself believe that, with a little exercise, he should not feel so uneasy under its pressure ; but he became paler every minute. He stopped at last in his weary walk, and read the meaning of her anxious look. “ You think I am hardly fit to be trusted out of your sight yet,” he said, seating himself beside her. “I shan't do much execution this week on your friends ; and I confess to you that I am heartily sick of this inglorious warfare, and of Philip's deceitful policy. How can I triumph in victories that disgrace us in the eyes of other nations ? I cannot now turn my back upon Aremberg, but should I survive the approaching action, I shall seek leave to retire from the army until Philip finds a more honourable field, in which his soldiers can distinguish themselves.”
Anka's busy fingers continued their task, and Avallo watched them, feeling moody and depressed. Suddenly he asked, “Where are you going to-morrow, Sister, when you leave the palace ?”
"I have hardly determined," she replied; “I had resolved to return to Germany, but there is work enough here at present."
“But does not your Order direct where you shall go ?”
"I do not belong to any Order," said Anka; "I am perfectly free to travel whither Providence directs."
“But you are under vows, like other Sisters of Charity, are you not ?” he demanded.
“No; I am only bound in my heart to the service of Jesus Christ.” “ And you are free, free as other maidens are ?"
“Yes,” said Anka, speaking with evident reluctance, “free from religious TOWS.”
Avallo again paced the room, this time with quicker steps. Now had come the hour that Cuthbert had foreseen and dreaded. Presently the Count came and stood before Anka, his cheeks flushed, and his great dark eyes gleaming.
Anka, I am a soldier, and used to speak my mind plainly; forgive my bluntness, and only remember that my tongue utters truly the thoughts of
When this fort is taken, go with me into Spain: myself and half of everything that I possess is yours. I shall think my wealth is of value, at last, if you will share it with me.'
Anka was startled and distressed : “Do not speak of it, I may not hear you."
“If you are not foresworn, there can be no harm in listening to the honourable words of a man whose life you have saved, and into whose soul you have brought the first ray of light.”
“I am well repaid, Count Avallo, without such a costly evidence of your gratitude as you have frankly offered me,” replied she, rather coldly.
“Gratitude ! did you think that it was gratitude that made me wish to enthrone you as mistress of my Castilian domains ? Nay, gratitude would lead me to die for you at any moment; but not for such a sentiment alone would I kneel at any woman's feet.”
“I am sorry if I have wronged you, even in thought, but still, Count, I must not hear you; it is treason to another. I thank you, but it may not be.”
“ Then you are pledged ?”
“And yet you say that you are homeless and friendless : you cannot be bound. Go with me, and teach me what you will, and your God shall be mine. Would you have me lose my way in a labyrinth of doubts ?” “I cannot go with you: I have nothing to give; I emptied my heart
Count Avallo is too noble to ask me to break even unspoken vows.
The next morning Anka brought the scarf, and fastened it across the Count's shoulders. He was grave, but gentle in manner, and his voice failed as he thanked her, and said reverently, “ May the God of love bless
you !” As he was preparing to mount, she detained him a moment, and asked him to accept her New Testament.
"It will be a somewhat dangerous companion in our camp," said he; " but still I will defend it, as I would gladly have done yourself, with my life.”
He waved an adieu, and rode off; Anka watching his dark plume dancing in the breeze, till it disappeared. Before, however, the gallant Count could rejoin his comrades, the battle had been fought, and lost, and Aremberg was slain.
Loving and striving, now weak and now strong;
With oft-failing footsteps this dull earth along?
Burdened and bound with the weight of our woe;
And gaining their summits with steps sad and slow?
With sorrow and sighing on billows of change ;
Lost on a sea that is boundless and strange?
Yearning for vision beyond the dull sod ?
G. W. THOMSON.
"HE FIRST LOVED ME.”—A TRUE NARRATIVE. D. W. H. was a young man brought up from childhood under my ministry. When he reached manhood he was hale, hearty, and strong-perhaps proud of his strength. He was fond of athletic sports, and trained himself sedulously for them, but was suddenly arrested by disease, which made him understand the words, “Let not the mighty man glory in his might.” For two years he used every means within his reach for the restoration of his health, and the preservation of his life. But in vain. Slowly and steadily disease made progress, which neither sea-breezes nor medical skill could arrest. During this period I must have seen him often in his accustomed place in the house of God, but I was unaware of his condition till some nine months ago I was requested to visit him, and startled
by the announcement that he and a young married sister were believed to be dying of consumption. I shall never forget my first visit to them. Two young persons, with all those physical attributes of form and appear
which young men and young women covet and almost worship, sitting together in their father's house, with the evident stamp of death on their faces, and with unmistakeable signs of deep, inward unhappiness; though they desired and welcomed my visit, yet regarding it almost as their death-knell. Three months after the sister passed away, not without good hope that she had found Him in whom is the life of the soul. It was Daniel's lot to survive her for more than five months. And his experience both before and after is full of instruction. It may be divided into three stages or periods.
The first period may be described as that of inward resistance to what seemed to be the will of God—that he should die. I don't mean that he used means to prevent his dying. That he was bound to do. But he could not submit to the thought of dying; he rebelled inwardly against what became month after month more plain, that it was the will of God that he should die. He was like a man encircled by a strong enclosure, through which there was no way, except the way which death might open. And by this way he would not go. His spirit would not.
And who can wonder? But lately rejoicing in his strength, the world around him and before him all bright-death to him was unmingled darkness; an enemy on whose face he dared not look, and from which he shrank with all the sensitiveness of a natural instinct. Death had not at this time lost its sting. And what could he do but gather himself up within himself, and say, will not die.”
This was, I think, very much the state of mind in which he was when I first saw him, although he did not avow his feelings to me in the form in which I have expressed them.
The second stage or period of his experience was one of perplexity, difficulty, and doubt, arising from his consciousness of sinful neglect and forgetfulness of God in the days of health. And I have the means of illustrating this period in the words of a friend who was his frequent visitor for months before his death, and to whom he owed much: “I was misled for some time,” she says, “ by his calm and quiet manner, and thought he had a rest of mind, which he really had not. He seemed to feel no interest in
any but religious subjects, and several times said to me how much he had learned about Christ, how much he now saw of the beauty of His character. He would say, “Many people used to tell me to believe—that I had nothing to do but believe ; but I really knew little about this Christ, and how could I believe ? Since you have been with me I understand, and see as I never did, how worthy He is of our trust and love. But in spite of this increasing interest in the Saviour's work and character, I found that my dear friend had no abiding-place in the consciousness of Christ's love, and did not look forward to the future with any comfort. He had a pecu