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Adela Cathcart, Vol. 1 by George MacDonald

Part 4 out of 4

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"He was dying thus, because he had tried to live as Nature said he
should not live; and he had taken his own wages--for the law of the
Maker is the necessity of his creature. His own children had forsaken
him, for they were not perfect as their Father in heaven, who maketh
his sun to shine on the evil and on the good. Instead of doubling
their care as his need doubled, they had thought of the disgrace he
brought on them, and not of the duty they owed him; and now, left to
die alone for them, he was waited on by this hired nurse, who,
familiar with death-beds, knew better than the doctor--knew that he
could live only a few hours.

"Stooping to his ear, she had told him, as gently as she could--for
she thought she ought not to conceal it--that he must die that night.
He had lain silent for a few moments; then had called her, and, with
broken and failing voice, had said, 'Nurse, you are the only friend I
have: give me one kiss before I die.' And the woman-heart had answered
the prayer.

"'And,' said the old woman, 'he put his arms round my neck, and gave
me a long kiss, such a long kiss! and then he turned his face away,
and never spoke again.'

"So, with the last unction of a woman's kiss, with this baptism for
the dead, he had departed.

"'Poor old man! he had not quite destroyed his heart yet,' thought the
schoolmaster. 'Surely it was the child-nature that woke in him at the
last, when the only thing left for his soul to desire, the only thing
he could think of as a preparation for the dread something, was a
kiss. Strange conjunction, yet simple and natural! Eternity--a kiss.
Kiss me; for I am going to the Unknown!--Poor old man!' the
schoolmaster went on in his thoughts, 'I hope my baby has met him, and
put his tiny hand in the poor old shaking hand, and so led him across
the borders into the shining land, and up to where Jesus sits, and
said to the Lord: "Lord, forgive this old man, for he knew not what he
did." And I trust the Lord has forgiven him.'

"And then the bereaved father fell on his knees, and cried out:

"'Lord, thou hast not punished me. Thou wouldst not punish for a
passing thought of troubled unbelief, with which I strove. Lord, take
my child and his mother and me, and do what thou wilt with us. I know
thou givest not, to take again.'

"And ere the schoolmaster could call his protestantism to his aid, he
had ended his prayer with the cry:

"'And O God! have mercy upon the poor old man, and lay not his sins to
his charge.'

"For, though a woman's kiss may comfort a man to eternity, it is not
all he needs. And the thought of his lost child had made the soul of
the father compassionate."

* * * * *

He ceased, and we sat silent.

* * * * *

END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.

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