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Ester Ried by Pansy (aka. Isabella M. Alden)

Part 5 out of 5

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Sadie felt strangely averse to reading that letter; in part, she
could imagine its contents, and for the very reason that she was still
"halting between two opinions," "almost persuaded," and still on that
often fatal "almost" side, instead of the "altogether," did she wait
and linger, and fritter away the evening as best she could, rather
than face that solemn letter. Even when she turned resolutely from the
window, and lighted the gas, and drew down the shade, she waited to
put every thing tidy on her writing-table, and then, when she had
finally turned the key in her writing-desk, to read over half a dozen
old letters and bits of essays, and scraps of poetry, ere she reached
down for that little white envelope, with her name traced by the
dear familiar hand that wrote her name no more. At last the seal was
broken, and Sadie read:

"My Darling Sister:

"I am sitting to-day in our little room--yours and mine. I have been
taking in the picture of it; every thing about it is dear to me, from
our father's face smiling down on me from the wall, to the little red
rocker in which he sat and wrote, in which I sit now, and in which you
will doubtless sit, when I have gone to him. I want to speak to you
about that time. When you read this, I shall have been gone a long,
long time, and the bitterness of the parting will all be past; you
will be able to read calmly what I am writing. I will tell you a
little of the struggle. For the first few moments after I knew that
I was soon to die, my brain fairly reeled; It seemed to me that I
_could_ not. I had so much to live for, there was so much that I
wanted to do; and most of all other things, I wanted to see you a
Christian. I wanted to live for that, to work for it, to undo if I
could some of the evil that I knew my miserable life had wrought in
your heart. Then suddenly there came to me the thought that perhaps
what my life could not do, my coffin would accomplish--perhaps that
was to be God's way of calling you to himself perhaps he meant to
answer my pleading in that way, to let my grave speak for me, as my
crooked, marred, sinful living might never be able to do. My darling,
then I was content; it came to me so suddenly as that almost the
certainty that God meant to use me thus, and I love you so, and I long
so to see you come to him, that I am more than willing to give up
all that this life seemed to have for me, and go away, if by that you
would be called to Christ.

"And Sadie, dear, you will know before you read this, how much I had
to give up. You will know very soon all that Dr. Douglass and I looked
forward to being to each other--but I give it up, give him up,
more than willingly--joyfully--glad that my Father will accept the
sacrifice, and make you his child. Oh, my darling, what a life I have
lived before you! I do not wonder that, looking at me, you have grown
into the habit of thinking that there is nothing in religion--you have
looked at me, not at Jesus, and there has been no reflection of
his beauty in me, as there should have been, and the result is not
strange. Knowing this, I am the more thankful that God will forgive
me, and use me as a means to bring you home at last. I speak
confidently. I am sure, you see, that it will be; the burden, the
fearful burden that I have carried about with me so long, has gone
away. My Redeemer and yours has taken it from me. I shall see you in
heaven. Father is there, and I am going, oh _so_ fast, and mother will
not be long behind, and Alfred and Julia have started on the journey,
and you _will_ start. Oh, I know it--we shall all be there! I told my
Savior I was willing to do any thing, _any thing_, so my awful mockery
of a Christian life, that I wore so long, might not be the means of
your eternal death. And he has heard my prayer. I do not know when it
will be; perhaps you will still be undecided when you sit in our room
and read these words. Oh, I hope, I _hope_ you will not waste two
years more of your life, but if you do, if as you read these last
lines that I shall ever write, the question is unsettled, I charge
you by the memory of your sister, by the love you bear her not to wait
another _moment_--not one. Oh, my darling, let me beg this at your
hands; take it as my dying petition--renewed after two years of
waiting. Come to Jesus now.

"That question settled, then let me give you one word of warning. Do
not live as I have done--my life has been a failure--five years of
stupid sleep, while the enemy waked and worked. Oh, God, forgive me!
Sadie, never let that be your record. Let me give you a motto--'Press
toward the mark.' The mark is high; don't look away from or forget
it, as I did; don't be content with simply sauntering along, looking
toward it now and then, but take in the full meaning of that earnest
sentence, and live it--'Press toward the mark!'

"And now good-by. When you have finished reading this letter, do this
last thing for me: If you are already a Christian, get down on your
knees and renew your covenant; resolve anew to live and work, and
suffer and die, for Christ. If you are not a Christian--Oh, I put my
whole soul into this last request--I beg you kneel and give yourself
up to Jesus. My darling, good-by until we meet in heaven.


The letter dropped from Sadie's nerveless fingers. She arose softly,
and turned down the gas, and raised the shade--the moonlight still
gleamed on the marble slab. Dr. Van Anden came with quick, firm tread
up the street. She gave a little start as she recognized the step, and
her thoughts went out after that other lonely Doctor, who was to have
been her brother, and then back to the long, earnest letter and the
words, "I give him up"--and she realized as only those can who know by
experience, what a giving up that would be, how much her sister longed
for her soul. And then, moved by a strong, firm resolve, Sadie knelt
in the solemn moonlight, and the long, long struggle was ended. Father
and sister were in heaven, but on earth, this night, their prayers
were being answered.

"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea,
saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their
works do follow them."


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