Part 3 out of 5
over" occasionally in school, but even this service of her eyes had been
fitful and indifferent; and as for her head paying any sort of attention
to the reading, it might as well have been done in Greek instead of
French, which language she but dimly comprehended even when she tried.
But now she ought to have a Bible. She ought not to wait for that velvet
covered one. A whole week in which to find what some of her orders
were, and no way in which to find them. Of course she could buy one, but
how queer it would seem to be going to the museum to make a purchase of
a Bible! "They will wonder why I did not bring my own," she murmured,
with that life-long deference that she had educated herself to pay to
the "they" who composed her world. And in another instance the new-born
feeling of respect and independence asserted itself. "I can't help
that," she said, positively, shaking her curls with a determined air;
"and it really makes no difference what anybody thinks. Of course I must
have a Bible, and I only wish I had it for this morning, I shall
certainly get one the first opportunity." Then she turned and said
"good-morning" to the pretty little lady who occupied the tent next
door, and between whom and herself a pleasant acquaintance was springing
"Are you going to the lecture?" Flossy, asked and the small lady shook
her head, with a wistful air.
"Dear me, no! My young tyrant wouldn't consent to that. I meant to take
him down with me and try him, but he has gone to sleep; and it is just
as well, for he would have been certain to want to do all the talking.
He has no idea that there is any one in the country who knows quite as
much as he does." It was said in a half complaining tone, but underneath
it was the foundation of tender pride, that showed her to be the vain
mother of the handsome tyrant. Still it seemed to be Flossy's duty to
condole with her.
"You miss most of the meetings, do you not?"
"Three-fourths of them. You see it is inconvenient to have a husband who
is reporter for the press, and who must be there to hear. It is only
when he must write up his notes for publication that I can get a chance;
and even then, unless it is baby's sleepy time, it does me no good. I am
especially sorry this morning, for Dr. Cuyler used to be my pastor. He
married me one summer morning just like this, and I haven't laid eyes on
him since. I should like to hear his voice again, but it can't be done."
Now who would have imagined that, with all the powers that were
bestirring themselves to come to Flossy's education, it would have been
a rosy, crowing baby, in the unconsciousness of a morning nap, that
should have given her her first lesson in unselfishness? Yet he was the
very one. It flashed over Flossy in an instant from some source. Who was
so likely to have suggested it as the sweet angel who hovered over the
"Oh, Mrs. Adams, let me stay with baby, and you go to hear Cuyler. It is
a real pity that you should miss him, when he is associated with your
life in this way. I never saw him, and though, of course, I should like
to, yet I presume there will be opportunities enough. I will be as
careful of baby as if he were my grandson; and if he wakens I will charm
him out of his wits, so that it will never occur to him to cry."
Of course there was demurring, and profuse expressions of thanks and
declinatures all in a breath. But Flossy was so winning, so eager, so
thoroughly in earnest; and the little Mrs. Adams did so love her old
pastor, and did feel so anxious to see him again, that in a very short
time she was beguiled into going in all haste to her tent to make a
"go-to-meeting" toilet; and a blessed thing it was that that sentence
does not mean at Chautauqua what it does in Buffalo, or Albany, or a
few other places, else Dr. Cuyler might have slipped from them before
the necessary articles were all in array. It involved simply the
twitching off of a white apron, the settling of a pretty sun hat--for
the sun actually shone!--and the seizure of a waterproof, needed, if she
found a seat, to protect her from the damp boards--needed in any case,
because in five minutes it might rain--and she was ready.
Ruth came to the door.
"Come, Flossy," she said; "where in the world are you? We shall be
late." And said it precisely as though she had been waiting for that
young person for half an hour.
Flossy emerged from the adjoining tent.
"I am not going." she said. "I have turned nurse-girl, and have the
sweetest little baby in here that ever grew. Mrs. Adams is going in my
place. Mrs. Adams, Miss Erskine."
And as those two ladies walked away together Mrs. Adams might have been
heard to say:
"What a lovely, unselfish disposition your friend has! It was so
beautiful in her to take me so by storm this morning! I am afraid I was
very selfish; which is apt to be the case, I think, when one comes in
contact with actual unselfishness. It is one of the Christian graces
that is very hard to cultivate, anyway; don't you think so?"
Ruth was silent; not from discourtesy, but from astonishment. It was
such a strange experience to hear any one speak of Flossy Shipley as
"unselfish." In truth she had grown up under influences that had combined
to foster the most complete and tyrannical selfishness--exercised
in a pretty, winning sort of way, but rooted and grounded in her very
life. So indeed was Ruth's; but _she_, of course, did not know that,
though she had clear vision for the mote in Flossy's eyes.
Meantime Marion had staid her busy pen and was biting the end of it
thoughtfully. The two tents were such near neighbors that the latter
conversation and introduction had been distinctly heard. She glanced
around to the girl on the bed.
"Eurie," she said, "are you asleep, or are you enjoying Flossy's last
"I heard," she said. "The lazy little mouse has slipped out of a
tedious hour, and has a chance to lounge and read a pleasant novel. I
dare say the mother is provided with them."
Then Marion, after another thoughtful pause:
"But, my child, how do you account for the necessity of going to the
neighbors and taking the supervision of a baby in order to do that?
Flossy need not have gone to church if she didn't choose."
"Yes she need. Don't you suppose the child can see that it is the
fashion of the place? She is afraid that it wouldn't look well to stay
in the tent and lounge, without an excuse for doing so. If that girl
could only go to a place where it was the fashion for all the people to
be good, she would be a saint, just because 'they' were."
"She would have to go to heaven," muttered Marion, going on with her
"And, according to you, there is no such place; so there is no hope for
her, after all. Oh, dear! I wonder if you are right, and nothing is of
any consequence, anyhow?" And the weary girl turned on her pillow and
tried not to think, an effort that was hard to accomplish after a week's
experience at Chautauqua.
Flossy sat herself down beside the sleeping darling, and cast about her
for something to amuse or interest, her eyes brightening into beauty as
she recognized a worn and torn copy of the Bible. Eurie would have been
surprised to see the eagerness with which she seized upon the book that
was to afford her entertainment. She turned the leaves tenderly, with a
new sense of possession about her. This Bible was a copy of letters that
had been written to her--words spoken, many of them, by Jesus himself.
Strange that she had so little idea what they were! Marion, with her
boasted infidel notions, knew much more about "The Book" than Flossy
with her nominal Christian education and belief. She had no idea where
to turn or what to look for to help her. Yet she turned the leaves
slowly, with a delicious sense of having found a prize a--book of
instructions, a guide book for her on this journey that she was just
beginning to realize that she was taking. Somewhere within it she would
find light and help. The book was one that had been much used, and had a
fashion of opening of itself at certain places that might have been
favorites with the little mother. At one of those places Flossy halted
and read: "'After this there was a feast of the Jews.' After what, I
wonder?" she said within herself. She knew nothing about it. "Never
mind, I will see pretty soon. This is about a feast where Jesus was. And
Jesus went up to Jerusalem." "Oh, how nice to have been there, wherever
that was." The ignorant little thing had not the least idea where
Jerusalem was, except that it was in that far away, misty Holy Land,
that had seemed as vague and indefinite to her as the grave or as
heaven. But there came suddenly to her heart a certain blessed analogy.
"If I were going to write an account of my recent experiences to some
dear friend that I wanted to tell it to," she said, talking still to
herself, or to the sleeping baby, "I would write it something like this:
'After this'--That would mean; let me see what it _would_ mean. Why,
after that party at home, when I danced all night and was sick. 'After
this there was a feast of the Christian people at Chautauqua, and Jesus
went there.' I could certainly write that, for I have seen him and heard
him speak in my very heart." Then she went on, through the second verse
to the third. "'In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of
blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water,'" and here a
great swell of tears literally blinded her eyes. It came to her so
suddenly, so forcibly. The great multitude here at Chautauqua--blind.
Yes, some of them. Was not she? How many more might there be? Many of
whom she knew, others that she did not know, but that Jesus did. Waiting
without knowing that they were waiting. With tears and smiles, and with
a new great happiness throbbing at her heart, she read through the
sweet, simple, wonderful story; how the poor man met Jesus; how he
questioned; how the man complained; and how Jesus was greater than his
infirmity. Through the whole of it, until suddenly she closed the book,
her tears dried, and a solemn, wondering, almost awe-struck look on her
face. She had got her lesson, her directions, her example. She could
bear no more, even of the Bible, just then. She said it over, that
startling verse that came to her with a whole volume of suggestion:
"'_And the man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus which had
made him whole._'"
Ruth Erskine, with her skirts gathered daintily around her, to avoid
contact with the unclean earth, made her way skill fully through the
crowd, and with the aid of a determined spirit and a camp-chair secured
a place and a seat very near the stand. The little lady who timidly
followed in her lead was not quite so fortunate, inasmuch as she had no
camp-chair, and was less resolved in her determination to get ahead of
those who had arrived earlier; so she contented herself with a damp seat
on the end of a board, which was vacated for her use by a courteous
Ruth, you must understand, was not selfish in this matter because she
had planned to be, but simply because it had never occurred to her to be
otherwise, which is one of the misfortunes that come to people who are
educated in a selfish atmosphere. Ruth Erskine had come to this meeting
fully prepared to enjoy it. Dr. Cuyler was a star of sufficient
magnitude to attract her. During her frequent visits to New York she had
heard much of but had never seen him. The people whom she visited were
too elegant in their views and practices to have much in common with the
church which was so pronounced on the two great questions of religion
and temperance. Yet, even with them, Dr. Cuyler and Dr. Cuyler's great
church were eccentricities to be tolerated, not ignored. Therefore Ruth
had had it in her heart to enjoy listening to him sometime. The sometime
had arrived. She had dressed herself with unusual care, a ceremony which
seemed to be quite in the background among the people who were at home
at Chautauqua. But someway it seemed to Ruth that the great Brooklyn
pastor should receive this mark of respect at her hands; so she had
spent the morning at her toilet and was now a fashionable lady,
fashionably attired for church.
If the people who vouchsafed her a glance as she crowded past indulged,
some of them, in a smile at her expense, and thought the simple temple
made of trees and grasses an inappropriate surrounding to her silken
robes and costly lace mantle, she was none the wiser for that, you know,
and took her seat, indifferent to them all, except that presently there
stole over her the sense of disagreeable incongruity with her outdoor
surroundings; so Satan had the pleasure of ruffling her spirits and
occupying her thoughts with her rich brown silk dress instead of letting
her heart be touched with the solemnity and beauty of the grand hymn
which rolled down those long aisles. Satan has that everlasting weapon,
"What to wear, and what not to wear," everlastingly at command and
wonderfully under his control. But Ruth, in her way, was strong-minded
and could control her thoughts when she chose; so she presently shook
off the feeling of annoyance and decided to give herself up to the
influences of the hour.
By this time Dr. Cuyler appeared and was introduced, Ruth gave him the
benefit of a very searching gaze, and decided that he was the very last
man of all those on the platform whom she would have selected as the
speaker. Probably if Dr. Cuyler had known this, and known also that his
personal presence entirely disappointed her, he would not have been
greatly disconcerted thereby. But his subject was one that found an
answering thrill in this young lady's heart--"Some Talks I Have Had With
Great Men." Ruth liked greatness. In her calm, composed way she bowed
before it. She would have enjoyed being great. Celebrity in a majestic,
dignified form would have been her delight. She by no means admitted
this, as Eurie Mitchell so often did. She by no means sought after it in
the small ways within her reach. Small ways did not suit her; they
disgusted her. But if she could have flashed into splendid greatness, if
by any amount of laborious study, or work, or suffering, she could have
seen the way to world-wide renown she would have grasped for it in an
The next best thing to being renowned one's self was to have renowned
people for friends. This was another thing that Ruth coveted in silence.
She wanted no one to know how earnestly she aspired to, sometime,
making the acquaintance of some of the great people not--the vulgarly
great, those who were in a sense, and in the eyes of a few, great
because of the accidents of fortune and travel. She knew such by the
scores. Indeed, she had been in circles many a time where _she_ shone
with that sort of greatness herself. Perhaps it was for that reason that
it was such a despised height to her. But she meant the _really_ great
people of this world--people of power, people who moved the masses by
the force of their brains. Not one such had she ever met to look upon as
an acquaintance; and here was this man telling off the honored names by
the score, and saying, "My friend, Dr. Guthrie"--"My good friend, Thomas
Carlyle"--"My dear brother, Newman Hall." How would it seem to stand in
intimate relationship with one single gifted mind like these, and was
she destined ever to know by actual experience?
There was another reason why Ruth had desired to choose Dr. Cuyler to
listen to rather than some other names on the programme, because, from
the nature of his subject she had judged it most unlikely that he
should have about him any arrows that would touch home to her. Not that
she put it in that language; she did not admit even to herself that any
of the solemn words that had been spoken at Chautauqua had reference to
her; and yet in a vague, fitful way she was ill at ease.
She had moments of feeling that there was a reach of happiness possessed
by these people of which she knew nothing. Little side thrusts had come
to her from time to time in places where she least expected them. That
question, asked by Flossy during her night of unrest, "Should you be
afraid to die?" hovered around this quietly poised young lady in a most
unaccountable manner. All the more persistently did it cling because she
could not shake it off with the thought that it was silly. Common sense
told her that the strange, solemn shadow, which came so steadily after
men, and so surely enveloped one after another among the grandest
intellects that the world owned, was not a thing to pass over lightly.
After all, why should she _not_ be afraid of death? Then that strange
gentleman who had persisted in ranking her among the praying people! he
had left his shadow. Why did she not pray? She wondered over this in a
vague sort of way; wondered how it seemed to kneel down alone, and speak
to an invisible presence; wondered if those who so knelt always felt as
though they were really speaking to God.
There were times when Ruth was exceedingly disgusted with these
perplexing thoughts, and wanted nothing so much as to get away from
them. She resented this intrusion upon her quiet. This day was one of
those in which she was impatient of all these things, and she had made
her toilet with great satisfaction, and said within herself
complacently: "We are to have one hour at last devoted to this mundane
sphere and the mortals who inhabit it; most of the time these
Chautauquans talk and act as though earth was only a railroad station,
where people changed cars and went on to heaven. Dr. Cuyler is going to
refresh us with some actual living specimens of humanity. He can't make
a sermon out of that subject if he tries."
But Ruth Erskine had not measured the power of the earnest preachers of
Jesus Christ. As if Dr. Cuyler could talk for an hour to thousands of
immortal souls, and leave Christ and heaven and immortality out.
To Ruth these three words constituted a sermon, and she got them that
day. Not that he had an idea that he was preaching Christ, except
incidentally, as a man refers almost unconsciously to the one whom he
loves best in all the world but Ruth knew he was. It came in little
sudden touches when she least expected it, when heart and soul were
wrought upon with some strong enthusiasm by the splendid picture of a
splendid man--as when he told of Spurgeon. It was a glowing description,
such as thrilled Ruth, and made her feel that to have just one glimpse
of that great man, with his great marvelous power over humanity, would
be worth a lifetime.
Suddenly the speaker said: "The secret of that man's power lies, first,
in his study of the Bible." Ruth started and came down like a bomb-shell
from her wondrous height. The Bible! copies of which lay carelessly on
every table of her father's elegantly furnished house unstudied and
unthought of. How very strange to ascribe the power of the great
intellect to the study of one book that was more or less familiar to
every Sunday-school boy. "Second, in short, simple, homely language."
Ruth smiled now. Dr. Cuyler was growing absurd, as if it were not the
most common thing in the world to use simple, homely language! No
Spurgeons could be manufactured in that way, she was sure. "Third,
mighty earnestness to save souls." Here was a point concerning which
Ruth knew nothing.
Dr. Cuyler's manner put tremendous force into the forceful words, and
carried conviction with them. She wondered how a really _mighty_
earnestness to save souls made a man appear? She wondered whether she
had ever seen such a one; she went rapidly over the list of her
acquaintances in the church. She smiled to herself a sarcastic,
contemptuous smile; she had met them all at parties, concerts,
festivals, and the like; she had seen them on occasions when _nothing_
seemed to possess them but to have a good time like the rest of the
Like the rest of the world, Ruth reasoned and decided from her chance
meetings with the outside life of these Christians, forgetting that she
had never seen one of them in their closets before God; rather, she
knew nothing about these closets, nor the experiences learned there, and
could only reason from outside life. This being the case, what a pity
that her verdict of those lives should have called forth only that
contemptuous smile! Wandering off in this train of thought, she lost the
speaker's next point, but was called back by his solemn, ringing close.
"Put these together, melt them down with the love of Christ, and you
have a Spurgeon. God be thanked for such a piece of hand work as he!"
Another start and another retrospect. _Did_ she know any people who put
these together; who made a real, earnest, constant study of the Bible as
school girls studied their Latin grammars, and who were really eager to
save souls because they had the love of Christ in their hearts, and who
said so in plain simple language? "Does he, I wonder?" she said to
herself. "I wonder if his sermons sound like that? I should like to hear
him preach just once. Oh, dear! if he isn't running off to Moody and
Sankey. It _is_ a sermon after all!"
On the whole, Ruth was disgusted. Her brain was in a whirl; she was
being compelled to hear _sermons_ on every hand. She was sick of it.
They had been great men of whom she had heard, and she admired them all;
she wanted the secret of their power, but she didn't want it to be made
out of such commonplace material as was in the hands of every child. She
did not know what she wanted--only that she had come out to be
entertained and to revel in her love of heroes, and she had been pinned
down to the one thought that _real_ men were made of those who found
their power in their Bible and on their knees.
The solemn, earnest, tender closing to this address did not lessen her
sense of discomfort. Then just beside her was carried on a conversation
that added to her annoyance.
"They are big men," a man said. He was dressed in a common business
suit; his linen had not the exquisite freshness about it that her
fastidious eyes delighted in; his hands looked as though they might have
been used to work that was rough and hard; his straggling hair was
sprinkled with gray, and there was not a striking feature about him.
"They are big men," he said, "and I've no doubt it is a big thing to
know them, and talk with them, and have a friendly feeling for each, as
if they belonged to him, but he knows a bigger one than them, and the
best of it is, so do we. The Lord Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, is
not to be compared to common men like these."
And now Ruth's lips curled utterly. She was an aristocrat without
knowing it. She believed in Christianity, and in its power to save the
poor and the commonest, but this insufferable assumption of dignity and
superiority over the rest of the world, as she called it, was hateful to
her in the extreme. It would have startled her exceedingly to have been
told that she was angry with the man for presuming to place _his_ Friend
higher in the list of great ones than any of those given that day; and
yet such was actually her feeling. She swept her skirts angrily away
from contact with the man, and spoke so crustily to the little lady who
had come in her wake that she moved timidly away.
Just at her left were two gentlemen shaking hands. Both had been on the
stand together, she knew the faces of both, and _one_ ranked just a
trifle higher in her estimation than any one at Chautauqua. She edged a
little nearer. She lived in the hope of making the acquaintance of some
of these lights, just enough acquaintance to receive a bow and a clasp
of the hand, though how one could accomplish it who was determined that
her interest in them should neither be seen nor suspected, it would be
hard to say; but they were talking in eager, hearty tones, not at all as
if their words were confidential--at least she might have the benefit of
"That was a capital lecture," the elder of the two was saying. "Cuyler
has had great advantages in his life in meeting on a familiar footing so
many of our great men. When you get thinking of these things, and of the
many men whom you would like to know intimately, what is the thought
that strikes you most forcibly?"
"That I am glad I belong to the 'royal family,' and have the opportunity
of knowing intimately and holding close personal relations with Him who
'spake as never man spake.'"
The other answered in a rare, rich tone of suppressed jubilance of
"Exactly!" his friend said; "and when you can leave the fullness of
that thought long enough to take another, there is the looking forward
to actual fellowship and communion not only with him, but with all these
glorious men who are living here, and who have gone up yonder."
Ruth turned abruptly away. The very thought that possessed the heart of
the plain-looking man and that so annoyed her; and these two, whom to
know was an honor, were looking forward to that consummation as the
height of it all!
A WAR OF WORDS.
"Well, why not?" she said, as she went slowly down the aisle. Of course
all these people would be in heaven together, and why should they not
look forward to a companionship untrameled by earthly forms and
conventionalities, and uncumbered by the body in its present dull and
ponderous state? What a chance to get into the best society! the highest
circle! real best, too, not made up of money, or blood, or dress, or any
of the flimsy and silly barriers that fenced people in and out now. Then
at once she felt her own inconsistency in growing disgusted with the
plainly-dressed, common-looking man. If he did really belong to that
"royal family," why not rejoice over it? Wasn't _she_ the foolish one?
She by no means liked these reflections, but she could not get away from
"How do you do?" said a clear, round voice behind her; not speaking to
her, but to some one whom he was very glad to see, judging from his
tone. And the voice was peculiar; she had been listening to it for an
hour, and could not be mistaken; it belonged to Dr. Cuyler himself. She
turned herself suddenly. Here was a chance for a nearer view, and to see
who was being greeted so heartily. It was the little lady whose society
had been thrust upon her that morning by Flossy. And they were shaking
hands as though they were old and familiar acquaintances!
"It is good to see your face again," that same hearty voice which seemed
to have so much good fellowship in it was saying. "I didn't know you
were to be here; I'm real glad to see you again, and what about the
husband and the dear boy?"
At which point it occurred to Miss Ruth Erskine that she was listening
to conversation not designed for her ears. She moved away suddenly, in
no way comforted or sweetened as to her temper by this episode. Why
should that little bit of an insignificant woman have the honor of such
a cordial greeting from the great man, while he did not even know of
To be sure, Dr. Cuyler had baptized and received into church fellowship
and united in marriage the little woman with whom he was talking; but
Ruth, even if she had known these circumstances, was in no mood to
attach much importance to them.
She wandered away from the crowd down by the lake-side. She stopped at
Jerusalem on her way, and poked her parasol listlessly into the sand of
which the hills lying about that city were composed, and thought:
"What silly child's play all this was! How absurd to suppose that people
were going to get new ideas by _playing_ at cities with bits of painted
board and piles of sand! Even if they _could_ get a more distinct notion
of its surroundings, what difference did it make how Jerusalem looked,
or where it stood, or what had become of the buildings?"
This last, as it began dimly to dawn upon her, that it was useless to
deny the fact that even such listless and disdainful staring as she had
vouchsafed to this make-believe city had located it, as it had not been
located before, in her brain.
When she produced the flimsy question, "What difference does it make?"
you can see at once the absurd mood that had gotten possession of her,
and you lose all your desire to argue with any one who feels as foolish
as that. Neither had Ruth any desire to argue with herself; she was
disgusted with her mind for insisting on keeping her up to a strain of
"A lovely place to rest!" she said, aloud, and indignantly, giving a
more emphatic poke with her parasol, and quite dislodging one of the
buildings in Jerusalem. "One's brain is just kept at high pressure all
Now, why this young lady's brain should have been in need of rest she
did not take the trouble to explain, even to herself. She sat herself
down presently under one of the trees by the lake-side and gave herself
up to plans. She was tired of Chautauqua; of that she was certain. It
stirred her up, and the process was uncomfortable. Her former composed
life suited her taste better. She must get away. There was no earthly
reason why she should not go at once to Saratoga. A host of friends were
already there, and certain other friends would be only too glad to
follow as soon as ever they heard of her advent in that region. Before
she left that rustic settee under the trees she had the programme all
"We will get through to-morrow as we best can," she said, sighing over
the thought that to-morrow being the Sabbath would perforce be spent
there, "and then on Monday morning Flossy and I will just run away to
Saratoga and leave those two absurd girls to finish their absurd scheme
in the best way they can."
And having disposed of Flossy as though she were a bit of fashionable
merchandise without any volition of her own, Ruth felt more composed and
went at once to dinner.
There came an astonishing interference to this planning, from no other
than Flossy herself. To the utter amazement of each of the girls, she
quietly refused to be taken to Saratoga; nor did she offer any other
excuse for this astonishing piece of self-assertion than that she was
having a good time and meant to finish it. And to this she adhered with
a pertinacity that was very bewildering, because it was so very new.
Marion laughed over her writing, to which she had returned the moment
dinner was concluded.
"That is right, Flossy," she said, "I'm glad to see Chautauqua is having
an effect of some sort on one of us. You are growing strong-minded; mind
isn't a bad thing to have; keep to yours. Ruth, I am astonished at
_you_; I shall have to confess that you are disappointing me, my child.
Now, I rather expected this dear little bit of lace and velvet to give
up, conquered, in less than a week, but I said to myself, 'Ruth Erskine
has pluck enough to carry her through a _month_ of camp-life,' and here
you are quenched at the end of four days."
"It isn't the camp-life," Ruth said, irritably. "I am not so much a baby
as to care about those things to such a degree that I can't endure them,
though everything is disagreeable enough; but that isn't the point at
Marion turned and looked at her curiously.
"What on earth is the point then? What has happened to so disgust you
"The point is, that I am tired of it all. It is unutterably stupid! I
suppose I have a right to be tired of a silly scheme that ought never to
have been undertaken, if I choose to be, have I not, without being
called in question by any one?"
And feeling more thoroughly vexed, not only with the girls, but with
herself, than ever she remembered feeling before, Ruth arose suddenly
and sought refuge under the trees outside the tent.
Marion maintained a puzzled silence. This was a new phase in Ruth's
character, and one hard to manage.
Flossy looked on the point of crying. She was not used to crossing the
wills of those who had influence over her, but she was very determined
as to one thing: she was not going to leave Chautauqua.
"Nothing could tempt me to go to Saratoga just now," she said,
"Why?" asked Marion, and receiving no answer at all felt that Flossy
puzzled her as much as Ruth had done. However, she set herself to work
to restore peace.
"This letter is done," she said, gayly, folding her manuscript. "It is a
perfectly gushing account of yesterday's meeting, for some of which I am
indebted to the Buffalo reporters; for I have given the most thrilling
parts where I wasn't present. Now I'm going to celebrate. Come in, Ruth,
we are of the same mind precisely. I would gladly accompany you on the
afternoon train to Saratoga with the greatest pleasure, were it not for
certain inconveniences connected with my pocket-book, and a desire to
replenish it by writing up this enterprise. But since we can't go to
Saratoga, let's you and I go to Mayville. It is a city of several
hundred inhabitants, six or eight, certainly, I should think; and we can
have an immense amount of fun out of the people and the sights this
afternoon, and escape the preaching. I haven't got to write another
letter until Monday. Come, shall we take the three o'clock boat?"
Neither of these young ladies could have told what possible object there
could be in leaving the lovely woods in which they were camped and
going off to the singularly quiet, uninteresting little village of
Mayville, except that it was, as they said, a getting away from the
preaching--though why two young ladies, with first-class modern
educations, should find it so important to get themselves away from some
of the first speakers in the country they did not stop to explain even
to themselves. However, the plan came to Ruth as a relief, and she
unhesitatingly agreed to it; so they went their ways--Flossy to the
afternoon meeting (since Eurie declared herself so far convalescent as
to be entirely able to remain alone) and the two of the party who had
prided themselves up to this time on their superiority of intellect down
to the wharf to take the boat for Mayville.
The ride thither on the lovely lake was almost enough to excuse them for
their folly. But the question what to do with themselves afterward was
one that burdened them during all that long summer afternoon. They went
to the Mayville House and took a walk on the piazza, and the boarders
looked at them in curiosity, and wondered if it were really a pleasanter
walk than the green fields over at Chautauqua.
They ordered dinner and ate it at the general table with great relish,
Ruth rejoicing over this return to civilized life. One episode of the
table must be noted. Opposite them sat a gentleman who, either from
something in their appearance, or more probably from the reasonable
conclusion that all the strangers who had gathered at the quiet little
village were in some way associated with the great gathering, addressed
them as being part of that great whole.
"You people are going to reap a fine harvest, pecuniarily, to-morrow;
but how about the fourth commandment? You Christians lay great stress on
that document whenever a Sunday reading-room or something of that sort
is being contemplated, don't you?"
The remark was addressed to both of them, but Ruth was too much occupied
with the strangeness of the thought that she was again being counted
among "Christian people" to make any answer. Not so Marion. Her eyes
danced with merriment, but she answered with great gravity:
"We believe in keeping holy the Sabbath day, of course. What has that to
do with Chautauqua. Haven't you consulted the programme and read: 'No
admission at the gates or docks'?"
The gentleman smiled incredulously.
"I have read it," he said, significantly, "and doubtless many believe it
implicitly. I hope their faith won't be shaken by hearing the returns
from tickets counted over in the evening."
There was a genuine flush of feeling on Marion's face now.
"Do you mean to say," she asked, haughtily, "that you have no faith in
the published statement that the gates will be closed, or do you mean
that the association have changed their minds? Because if you have heard
the latter, I can assure you it is a mistake, as I heard the matter
discussed by those in authority this very morning; and they determined
to adhere rigidly to the rules."
"I have no doubt they will, so far as lies in their power," the
gentleman said, with an attempt at courtesy in his manner. "But the
trouble is, the thing is absurd on the face of it. If I hold a ticket
for an entertainment, which the Association have sold to me, it is none
of their business on what day I present it, provided the entertainment
is in progress. They have no right to keep me out, and they are
swindling me out of so much money if they do it."
"You have changed your argument," Marion said, with a flash of humor in
her eyes. "You were talking about the amount of money that the
Association were to earn to-morrow, not the amount which you were to
lose by not being allowed to come in. However, I am willing to talk from
that standpoint. If you hold the _season_ ticket of the Association, and
are stopping outside, you will be admitted, of course. It is held to be
as reasonable a way to go to church as though you harnessed your horses
at home and drove, on the Sabbath, to your regular place of worship. But
you buy no ticket _for_ the Sabbath, and none is received from you; and
if you choose not to go, the Association neither makes nor loses by the
operation, and, so far as money is concerned, is entirely indifferent
which you decide to do. What fault can possibly be found with such an
"Well," said the gentleman, with a quiet positiveness of tone, "I
haven't a season ticket, and I don't mean to buy one, and I mean to go
down there to meeting to-morrow, and I expect to get in."
"I dare say," Marion answered, with glowing cheeks. "The grounds are
extensive, you know, and they are not walled in. I haven't the least
doubt but that hundreds can creep through the brush, and so have the
gospel free. There is something about 'he that climbeth up some other
way being a thief and a robber;' but, of course, the writer could not
have had Chautauqua in mind; and even if it applies, it would be only
stealing from an Association, which is not stealing at all, you know."
"You are hard on me," the gentleman said, flushing in his turn, and the
listeners, of whom there were many, laughed and seemed to enjoy the
flashing of words. "I have no intention of creeping or climbing in. I
shall present the same sort of ticket which took me in to-day, and if it
doesn't pass me I will send you a dispatch to let you know, if you will
give me your address."
"And if you _do_ get in, and will let me know, I will report at once to
the proper authorities that the gate-keepers have been unfaithful to
their trust," said Marion, triumphantly.
"But, my dear madam, what justice is there in that? I have paid my
money, and what business is it to them when I present my ticket? That is
keeping me out of my just dues."
"Oh, not a bit of it; that is, if you can read, and have, as you admit,
read their printed statement that you are not invited to the ground on
Sunday. Your fifty-cent ticket will admit you on Monday. And you surely
will not argue that the Association has not a right to limit the number
of guests that it will entertain over the Sabbath?"
"Yes, I argue that it is their business to let me in whenever I present
Marion laughed outright.
"That is marvelous!" she said. "It is wicked for them to receive payment
for your coming in on the Sabbath, and it is wicked for them not to let
you in on your ticket. Really, I don't see what the Association are to
do. They are committing sin either way it is put. I see no way out of it
but to have refused to sell you any tickets at all. Would that have
made it right?"
The laugh that was raised over this innocently put question seemed to
irritate her new acquaintance. He spoke hastily.
"It is a Sabbath-breaking concern, viewed in any light that you choose
to put it. There is no sense in holding camp-meetings over the Sabbath,
and every one agrees that they have a demoralizing effect."
"Do you mean me to understand you to think that the several thousand
people who are now stopping at Chautauqua will be breaking the Sabbath
by going out of their tents to-morrow and walking down to the public
The bit of sophistry in this meekly put question was overlooked, or at
least not answered, and the logical young gentleman asked:
"If they think Sabbath services in the woods so helpful, why are they
not consistent? Let them throw the meeting open for all who wish to
come, making the gospel without money and without price, as they pretend
it is. Why isn't that done?"
"Well, there are at least half a dozen reasons. I wonder you have not
thought of one of them. In the first place, that, of course, would tempt
to a great deal of Sabbath traveling, a thing which they carefully guard
against now by refusing to admit all travelers. And in the second place,
it would give the Chautauqua people a great deal to do in the way of
entertaining so large a class of people. As it is, they have quite as
much as they care to do to make comfortable the large company who belong
to their family. And in the third place--But perhaps you do not care to
hear all the reasons?"
He ignored this question also, and went back to one of her arguments.
"They don't keep travelers away at all, even by your own admission. What
is to hinder hundreds of them from coming here to-day and buying season
tickets in order to get in to-morrow?"
He had the benefit of a most quizzical glance then from Marion's shining
eyes before she answered.
"Oh, well, if the people are really so hungering and thirsting for the
gospel, as it is dispensed at Chautauqua, that they are willing to act
a lie, by pretending that they are members _who have been and are to be
in regular attendance_, and then are willing to pay two dollars and a
half for the Sunday meeting, I don't know but I think they ought to be
allowed to _creep_ in. Don't you?"
GETTING READY TO LIVE.
Amid the laughter that followed this retort the company rose up from the
table and went their various ways, to meet, perhaps, again.
"How on earth do you manage to keep so thoroughly posted in regard to
Chautauqua affairs? One would think you were the wife of the private
secretary. _I_ shouldn't have known whether the gates were to be opened
or closed to-morrow."
This from Ruth as the two girls paced the long piazza while waiting for
the carriage which was to take them to the boat; for, having exhausted
the resources of Mayville for entertainment, they were about to return
"I'm here in the capacity of a newspaper writer, please remember," she
answered promptly, "and what I don't know I can imagine, like the rest
of that brilliant fraternity. I am not really positive about a great
many of the statements that I made, except on the general principle that
these people belong to the class who are very much given to doing
according to their printed word. It says on the circulars that the gates
will be closed on the Sabbath, and I dare say they will be. At least, we
have a right to assume such to be the case until it is proven false."
"What class of people do you mean who are given to doing as they have
agreed? Christian people, do you refer to?"
"Well, yes; the sort of Christians that one meets at such a gathering as
this. As a rule, the namby-pamby Christians stay away from such places;
or, if they come, they float off to Saratoga or some more kindred
climate. I beg your pardon, Ruthie, that doesn't mean you, you know,
because you are not one of any sort."
"Then do you take it to be their religion which inclines you to trust
to their word, without having an individual acquaintance with them?"
Marion shrugged her shoulders.
"Oh, bother!" she said, gayly, "you are not turning theologian, or
police detective in search of suspicious characters, are you? I never
pretend to pry into my notions for and against people and things; if I
was betrayed into anything that sounded like common sense I beg your
pardon. I am out on a frolic, and mean to have it if there is any such
"Well, before you go back into absolute nonsense let me ask you one more
question. Do you really feel as deeply as you pretended to that man, on
all these questions of the Chautauqua conscience? I mean, is it a vital
point in your estimation whether people go there to church on Sunday or
Marion hesitated, and a fine glow deepened on her face as she said,
after a little, speaking with grave dignity:
"I do not know that I can explain myself to you, Ruth, and I dare say
that I seem to you like a bundle of contradictions; but it is a real
pleasure to me to come in contact with people who have earnest faith
and eager enthusiasm over _anything_, and principle enough to stand by
their views through evil and good report. In this way, and to a great
degree, this meeting is a positive delight to me, though I know
personally as little about the feeling from which they think their
actions take rise as any mortal can. Does that answer satisfy you, my
blessed mother confessor? or are you more muddled than ever over what I
do, and especially over what I do _not_ believe?"
"If I believed as much as you do I should look further."
Ruth said this with emphasis; and there was that in it which, despite
her attempts to throw it off, set Marion to thinking, and kept her
wonderfully quiet during their return trip.
On the whole, the flight to Mayville was not viewed entirely in the
light of a success. Ruth had been quiet and grave for some time, when
she suddenly spoke in her most composed and decided voice:
"I shall go to Saratoga on Monday, whether any one else will or not; I
shall find plenty of friends to welcome me, and I shall take the
morning train from here."
But she didn't.
Meantime Flossy's afternoon had been an uninterrupted satisfaction to
her. She attended the children's meeting, and it was perfectly amazing
to her newly awakened brain how many of the stories, used to point
truths for the children, touched home to her.
Dr. Hurlbut, of Plainfield, seemed to have especially planned his
address for the purpose of hitting at some of the markedly weak points
in her character, though no doubt the good man would have been utterly
amazed had he known her thoughts.
She listened and laughed with the rest over the story of the poor tailor
who promised a coat to a customer for one, two and three weeks, heaping
up his promises one on the other until he had a perfect pyramid of them,
only to topple about his ears. She heard with the rest the magnificent
voice ring out the solemn conclusion:
"Children, he did not mean to lie. He did not even think he was a liar.
He only _broke his promises_."
They all heard, and I don't know how many shivered over it, but I _do_
know that to Flossy Shipley it seemed as if some one had struck her an
actual blow. Was it possible that the easy sentences, the easy promises,
to "write," to "come," to "bring this," to "tell that," made so
gracefully, sounding so kindly, costing so little because forgotten
almost as soon as her head was turned away, actually belonged in that
list described by the ugly word "lie." Flossy had been a special sinner
in this department of polite wickedness because it just accorded with
her nature; such promises were so easy to make, and seemed to please
people, and were so easy to forget. Like the tailor, she hadn't meant to
be a liar, nor dreamed that she was one.
But her wide-open ears took it all in, and her roused brain turned the
thought over and over, until, be it known to you, that that girl's happy
pastor, when he receives from her a decided, "Yes, sir, I will do it,"
may rest assured that unless something beyond her control intervenes she
will be at her post.
So much did Dr. Hurlbut accomplish that afternoon without ever knowing
it. There were many things done that afternoon, I suspect, that only
the light of the judgement day will reveal. Over the story of the two
workmen, who each resolved to stick to a certain effort for six months,
and did it, the one earning thereby a patent right worth thousands of
dollars, and the other teaching a little dog how to dance to the
whistling of a certain tune, Flossy looked unutterably sober, while the
laughter swelled to a perfect roar around her. It was hard to feel that
not "six months" only, but a dozen years of intelligent life, were gone
from her, and she had not even taught a dog to dance a jig! That was the
very way she put it in her humility; and I do not say that she placed it
too low, because really I don't know that Flossy Shipley had _ever had_
even so settled a purpose in life as that! She had simply fluttered
around the edge of this solemn business that we call living.
But along with the sober thought glowed the earnest purpose: given
another dozen years to my young lady's life and they will bear a
different record; and whatever they bear, Dr. Hurlburt will be in a
sense responsible for, though he never saw her and probably never will.
Verily this living is a complicated bewildering thing Well for us that
_all_ the weight of the responsibility is not ours to bear.
There was still another story, and over it Flossy's lips parted, and her
eyes glowed with feeling. That wonderful machine that the most skillful
workmen tried in vain to repair, that was useless and worthless, until
the name of the owner was found on it, and he was sent for, then indeed
it found the master-hand, the only one who could right it; she did not
need Dr. Hurlbut's glowing application. "So He who made us, and engraved
his name, his image, on our bodies, can alone take our hearts and make
Flossy listened to this and the sentences that followed, thrilling her
heart with their power and beauty--thrilling as they would not have done
one week ago, for did she not know by actual experience just how blessed
a worker the great Maker was? Had she not carried her heart to him, and
had he not left his indelible impression there? Oh, this was a wonderful
meeting to Flossy--one that she will never forget--one that many others
will have reason to remember, because of the way in which she listened.
But was it not strange, the way in which her education was being cared
After tea she stood at the entrance of the tent, looking out for the
girls--looking out, also, on the cool, quiet sunset and the glory spread
everywhere, for there had been sunshine that day, part of the time, and
there was a clear sun setting. Under her arm she held the treasure which
she had in the morning determined to possess--a good, plain, large-print
Bible, not at all like the velvet-covered one that lay on her
toilet-stand at home, but such as the needs of Bible students at
Chautauqua had demanded, and therefore much better fitted for actual
service than the velvet.
Among the many passers-by came Mrs. Smythe. She halted before Flossy.
"Good-evening. I thought your party must have left. I haven't seen you
since Thursday. Haven't you been fearfully bored? We are going to leave
on Monday morning--going to Saratoga. Don't some of you want to join us?
"I don't know," Flossy said, thoughtfully mindful of Ruth and her plan
that had not worked. "It is possible that Miss Erskine may Do your
entire party go?"
"Oh, not my nephew, of course! Nothing could tear him away. He is
perfectly charmed with all this singing and praying and preaching, but I
confess it is too much of a good thing for me. I am not intellectually
inclined, I like the music very well, and some of the addresses are
fine; but there is such a thing as carrying meetings to excess."
At this point she turned quickly at the sound of a firm step behind her,
and greeted a young man.
"Speak of angels and you hear their wings, or the squeak of their
boots," she said. "We were just talking about you, Evan. My nephew, Mr.
Roberts, Miss Shipley. I believe you have never met before."
Had they not! There was a heightened flush on the cheek of each as they
shook hands. It was clear that each recognized the other.
"Are we strangers?" he asked, with a bright smile, speaking so low that
Mrs. Smythe, whose attention had already wandered from them to a group
who were passing, did not hear the words, "On the contrary, I think we
are related, though I do not know that we have happened to hear each
other's names before."
Flossy understood the relationship--sons and daughters of one
Father--for she knew this was the young man who had twice questioned her
concerning her allegiance to that Father. Also, she remembered him as
the only one whom she had ever heard pray for her.
Mrs. Smythe called out a gay good-evening to them, and joined a party of
friends, and Mr. Roberts leaned against a tree and prepared to cultivate
the acquaintance of his newly-found relative.
"You have one of those large, sensible-looking Bibles, I see," he said.
"I have been very much tempted, but I could not make myself feel that I
really needed one."
"I really needed mine," Flossy said, smiling. "I left my Bible at home.
I had not such a thought as bringing it along. I feel now as if I had a
treasure that I didn't know how to use. It is quite new to me. I don't
know where to read first, but I suppose it makes no difference."
"Indeed it does make great difference," he said, smiling, "and you will
enjoy finding out how to read it. Chautauqua is a good place for such a
study, and the Bible reading this evening is an excellent place to
commence. Are you going?"
"Yes, indeed!" Flossy said, with brightening eyes. "I have been looking
forward to it all day. I can't think what a Bible reading is. Do they
just read verses in the Bible?"
"Yes," he said, smiling. "It is just Bible verses, with a word of
explanation now and then and a little singing. But the Bible verses are
something remarkable, as you will see. It is nearly time for service.
Are you ready? Shall we walk down and secure seats?"
So they went down together it the early twilight, and took seats under
the trees amid the glowing of brilliant lights and the soft sound of
music coming from the piano on the stand.
THE SILENT WITNESS.
That Bible reading! I wish I could make it appear to you as it did to
Flossy; Shipley. Not that either, because I trust that the sound of the
Bible verses is not so utterly new to you as it was to her--rather, that
it might sound to you as it did to the earnest-souled young man who sat
beside her, taking in ever; word with as much eagerness as if some of
the verses had not been his dear and long-cherished friends; nay, with
more eagerness on that account.
Do you know Dr. Parsons, of Boston? It was he who conducted that
reading, and his theme was, "The Coming of the Lord."
Let me give you just a few of the groupings as he called them forth
from his congregation under the trees, and which he called "the Lord's
own testimonies to his coming:"
"Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
"Therefore, be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the
Son of man cometh." "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor
the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." "Take ye heed, watch and pray:
for ye know not when the time is."
Four solemn warnings from the Head of the vineyard. They reached to
Flossy's very soul, and she had that old well-known thrill of feeling
that almost every Christian has some time experienced.
"If _I_ had only been there; if He had spoken such words to _me_, I
could never, never have forgotten, or been neglectful. If I could only
have heard Him speak!" And as if in answer to this longing cry Dr.
Parsons himself read the next solemn sentence, read it in such a way
that it almost seemed as if this might be the sacred garden, and
_Himself_ standing among the olive-trees speaking even to _her_:
"And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." Here, then, was her
direction from His own lips. Though centuries had passed since He spoke
them they echoed down to her. She was not overwhelmed; she was not
crushed by the new and solemn sense of her calling that flowed over her.
The Lord himself was there in every deed, and whispered in her ear, "It
is I, be not afraid." And her heart responded solemnly, "Aye, Lord, I
feel thy presence; I have been sleeping, but I am awake, and from
henceforth I _will_ watch."
That Bible reading was like a whole week of theological study to Flossy.
It was not that she learned simply about the blessed assurance, the
weight of testimony amounting to an absolute certainty, concerning the
coming of the Lord. But there were so many truths growing out from that,
so many incentives to be up and doing; for she found before the reading
closed that one must not only watch, but in the watching work; and there
were so many reasons why she should, and so many hints as to the way and
the time. Then there was, also, the most blessed discovery that the
Bible was not a book to treat like an arithmetic. That one must read
through the Book of Genesis, and then go on to Exodus, a chapter to-day,
two chapters to-morrow, and perhaps some days, when one was not in too
great a hurry and could read very fast, take half a dozen chapters, and
so get through it. But she learned that there were little connecting
links of sweetness all the way through the book; that she had a right to
look over in Revelation for an explanation of something that was stated
in Deuteronomy. She did not learn all this, either, at this one time;
but she got a vivid hint of it, strong enough to keep her hunting and
pulling at the lovely golden thread of the Bible for long years to come.
There were special points about the closing verses that throbbed in her
heart, and awakened purposes that never slept again. It was the
gentleman who sat beside her who read the solemn words of the verse:
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the
heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt
with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall
be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved,
what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and
His voice was very earnest, and his face had an eager look of solemn
From it she felt the truth that while the words which he had been
reading were full of solemnity, and while he felt the sense of
responsibility, there was also that in them which filled his heart with
great joy, for when that time should come would not he be with his Lord?
Again, when a little later he gave the closing verses of this wonderful
lesson, reading them from her Bible, because in the dimness the print
was larger and clearer than his own, they made the conclusion of the
"Ye are the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not
of the night, nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do
others, but let us watch and be sober."
He marked it with his pencil as he finished reading, and as he returned
the book to her keeping he said with a smile:
"We will, shall we not?"
And it felt to Flossy like a convenant, witnessed by the Lord himself.
But Dr. Parsons, you know, knew nothing of all this. Chautauqua was the
place for sowing the seed; they could only hope that the Lord of the
vineyard was looking on and watching over the coming harvest; it was not
for their eyes to see the fruits.
Sunday morning at Chautauqua! None of all the many hundreds who spent
the day within the shadow of that sweet and leafy place have surely
forgotten how the quaint and quiet beauty of the place and its
surroundings fell upon them; they know just how the birds sang among
those tall old trees; they know just how still and blue and clear the
lake looked as they caught glimpses of it through the quivering green of
myriad leaves; they know just how clearly the Chautauqua bells cut the
air and called to the worship. It needs not even these few words to
recall the place in its beauty to the hearts of those who worshiped
there that day; and for you who did not see it nor feel its power there
is no use to try to describe Chautauqua. Only this, it is a place to
love and look back to with a sort of sweet and tender longing all your
Our girls felt somewhat of the sacredness of the place; at least they
went around with a more decided feeling that it was Sunday than they had
ever realized before. Three of them did.
To Flossy this day was like the revelation of a new heaven and a new
earth. Her first Sunday in Christ!
There was no sunshine, neither was there rain. Just a hush of all
things, and sweetness everywhere.
After breakfast Ruth and Marion lolled on their cots and studied the
programme, while the other two made hasty toilets, and announced their
intention of going to Sunday-school.
"What in the name of sense takes you?" queried Marion, rising on one
elbow, the better to view this strange phenomena.
"Why I have a mission," Eurie said. "About three thousand people have
been talking all this week about teaching a few Bible verses to some
children to-day, and I am going to find out what they are, and what is
so wonderful about them. Besides, I was taken for a being named Miss
Rider, and on inquiry I find her to be what they call an infant-class
teacher, so I am going to hunt her up and see if we look alike and are
Flossy chose to make no answer at all, and presently the two departed
together to attend their first Sabbath-school since they were known as
children. As they passed a certain tent Eurie's ready ears gained
information from other passers-by:
"This is where the little children are; Miss Rider is going to teach
"_I'm_ going in here," she said, decidedly, to Flossy. "That is the very
lady I am in search of." And seeing Flossy hesitate, she added: "Oh, you
may go on, it is just as well to divide our forces; we may each have
some wonderful adventure. You go your way and I will go mine, and we'll
see what will come of it."
The tent was full apparently; but that spirit which was rife at
Chautauqua, and which prompted everybody to try to look out a little for
the comfort of everybody else, made a seat full of ladies crowd a little
and make room for her. Rows and rows of little people with smiling faces
and shining eyes! It was a pretty sight. Eurie gave eager attention to
the lady who was talking to them, and laughed a little to herself over
the dissimilarity of their appearance.
"Hair and eyes and height, and everything else, totally unlike me!" she
said. "She is older than I, too, ever so much. She doesn't look as I
thought Miss Rider would."
But what she was saying proved to be very interesting, not only to the
little people, but to Eurie. She listened eagerly. It was important to
discover what had been so stirring the Sunday-school world all the week.
She was not left in doubt; the story was plainly, clearly, fascinatingly
told; it was that tender one of the sick man so long waiting, waiting to
be helped into the pool; disappointed year after year, until one blessed
day Jesus came that way and asked one simple question, and received an
eager answer, and gave one brief command, and, lo! the work was done!
The long, long years of pain and trial were over! Do you think this
seemed like a wonderful story to Eurie? Do you think her cheeks glowed
with joy over the thought of the great love and the great power of
Alas, alas! to her there was no beauty in him. This simple tender story
did not move her as the commonplace account of a common sickness and
common recovery given in a village paper would have done. The very most
that she thought of it was this: "That Miss Rider has a good deal of
dramatic power. How well she tells the story! But dear me! how stupid it
must be. What is the use of taking so much trouble for these little
midgets? They don't understand the story, and of what use would it be to
them if they did? Something that happened to somebody hundreds of years
But now her attention was arrested by the sound of a very loud whisper
just behind her, given in a childish voice. "Miss Rider, Miss Rider,"
the child was saying, and emphasizing her whisper by a pull at a lady's
dress. Eurie turned quickly; the dress belonged to a young, fair girl,
with fresh glowing face and large bright eyes, that shone now with
feeling as she listened eagerly to this story, and to the comments of
the children concerning it. Then she in turn whispered to the lady
nearest her: "Is it Miss Rider who is teaching?" "No, it is Mrs. Clark,
of Newark. That is Miss Rider leaning against a post."
Then Eurie looked back to her. "She is no older than I," she murmured;
"indeed not so old, I should think. Her hair must be exactly the color
of mine, and we are about the same height. I wonder if we _do_ look in
the least alike? What do I care!" Yet still she looked; the bright face
fascinated her. The little child had won the lady's attention; and the
lips and eyes, and indeed the whole face, were vivid with animation as
she bent low and answered some troubled question, appealing to the
diagram on the board, and making clear her answer by rapid gestures with
her fingers. The lady beside Eurie volunteered some more information.
"Miss Rider was to have taught this class, I heard. I wonder why she
"I don't know," Eurie answered, briefly. Then she looked back at her
again. "She is jealous," she said to herself. "She was to have taught
this class this morning, and by some blundering she was left out, and
she is disgusted. She will say that such teaching as this amounts to
nothing; she could have done it five times as well; or, if she doesn't
_say_ that last, she will think it and act it. I have no doubt these
rival teachers cordially hate each other, like politicians."
Nevertheless that fresh young face, with its glow of feeling, fascinated
her. She kept looking at her; she gave no more attention to the lesson.
What was it, after all, but an old story that had nothing to do with
her; the fact that it was taken from the Bible was proof enough of that.
But she watched Miss Rider. The session closed and that lady pressed
forward to assist in giving out papers. The crowd pushed the willing
Eurie nearer to her, so near that she could catch the sentence that she
was eagerly saying to the lady near her.
"Isn't Mrs. Clark delightful? It was such a beautiful lesson this
morning. I think it is such a treat and such a privilege to be allowed
to listen to her. Yes, darling," this last to another little one
claiming a word, "of course Jesus can hear you now, just as well as
though He stood here. He often says to people, 'Wilt thou be made
whole?' He has said so to you this morning."
Eurie turned away quickly. She had had her lesson. It wasn't from the
Bible, nor yet did she find it in those hundred little faces so eager
to know the story in all its details. It was just in that young face not
so old as hers, so bright, so strong, so thoroughly alert, and so
thoroughly enlisted in this matter. The vivid contrast between that life
and hers struck Eurie with the force of a new revelation.
She went to the general service under the trees; she heard a sermon from
Dr. Pierce, so full of power and eloquence that to many who heard it
there came new resolves, new purposes, new plans. I beg her pardon, she
did not listen; she simply occupied a seat and looked as though she was
But the truth was, she had not learned yet to listen to sermons. The
very fact that it was a sermon made it clear to her mind that there was
to be nothing in it for her; this had been her education. In reality,
during that hour of worship she was engaged in watching the changeful
play of expression on Miss Rider's face, as her eyes brightened and
glowed with enthusiasm or trembled with tears, according as the
preacher's words roused or subdued her.
Well, Eurie had her lesson. It was not from the Bible, it was not from
the preacher's lips except incidentally, but it was from a living
epistle. "Ye shall be witnesses of me," was the promise of Christ in the
long ago, just before the cloud received him out of sight. Is not that
promise verified to us often and often when we know it not?
Miss Rider had no means of knowing as she sat a listener that Sabbath
morning that she was witnessing for Christ. But she was just as surely
speaking for him as though she had stood up amid that throng and said:
"I love Jesus." "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord." And the poet has
said: "They also serve who only stand and wait." Blessed are those in
whom the waiting and the service go together.
AN OLD STORY.
Meantime Flossy, deserted by her companion, made her way somewhat
timidly down to the stand, amazed by the great congregation of people
who had formed themselves into a Sunday-school. With all their haste the
girls had gotten a very late start. The opening exercises were all over,
and the numerous teachers were turning to their work. Strangely enough,
the first person whom Flossy's eye took in distinctly enough for
recognition was Mr. Roberts. He had recognized her, also, and was coming
"How do you do this morning?" he said, holding out his hand. "Do you
know I have a mission for you? There are two boys who seem to belong to
nobody, and to have nothing in common with this gathering, except
curiosity. The superintendent has twice tried to charm them in, but
without success--they will come no further than that tree. I think they
have slipped in from the village, probably in a most unorthodox fashion,
and what I am coming at is, will you go out under the tree to them and
beguile them into attending a Sabbath-school for once in their lives?
They look to me as though it was probably a rare occurrence."
Now you are not to suppose that this invitation came to Flossy with the
same sound that it would have had to you, if Mr. Roberts had come to you
that Sabbath morning and asked you to tell those two boys a Bible story.
It is something that you have probably been doing a good deal of, all
your grown-up life, and two boys at Chautauqua are no more to you than
two boys anywhere else, except that there is a delightful sensation
connected with having a class-room out in the open air. But imagine
yourself suddenly confronted by Dr. Vincent, and asked if you would be
so kind as to step on the platform and preach to five thousand people,
from a text that he would select for you! Now you have something of an
idea as to how this request felt to Flossy. A rare glow spread all over
her face, and she looked up at her questioner with eyes that were
quivering in tears.
"You do not know what you are saying," she said, in low and trembling
voice. "I have not been to a Sabbath-school in seven years, and I never
taught anybody anything in my life."
It was true that he did not know. It seemed to him such a very little
thing that he had asked. However, he spoke gently enough as one who was
courteous, even when he could not quite comprehend.
"Then is not to-day a good time to commence? You will surely never have
a better opportunity."
But she shook her head, and turned quite away from him, walking down
among the trees where no people were. Her joy was all gone, and her
pleasant time. She had meant to go to Sabbath-school; to sit down
quietly in some body's class and learn, oh! a very great deal during the
next hour. Now she was all stirred up, and could not go anywhere.
As for Mr. Roberts, he went back to the large class who were waiting
for him. And those two boys hovered around the edge of that feast like
hungry creatures who yet had never learned to come to the table and take
their places. Flossy looked at them; at first indignantly, as at
miserable beings who had spoiled her pleasure; then she became
fascinated by their bright, dirty faces and roguish ways. She edged a
little nearer to them. Boys she was afraid of; she knew nothing about
them. Had they been a little older, and been dressed well, and been of
the stamp of boys who knew how to bring her handkerchief to her when she
dropped it, she would have known what to say to them. But boys who were
not more than twelve or fourteen, and who were both ragged and dirty,
were new phases of life to her.
"Why don't you go to Sunday-school?" she questioned at last, with a
timid air. She could at least ask that. They were not the least timid as
to answering; the older and the dirtier of the two turned his roguish
eyes on her and surveyed her from head to foot before he said:
"Why don't you?"
Flossy was unprepared for this question, but she answered quickly and
"Because I am afraid to go."
Both boys stared, and then laughed, and the other younger one said:
"So be we."
"I suppose we are both very silly," Flossy said. "But I have not been to
Sunday-school for so long that I have forgotten all about it. Let's have
one of our own that we are not afraid to go to."
And she sat bravely down on the stump at her feet; her mood had changed
very suddenly; only yesterday she had read a verse in that Bible, and it
thrilled her then, and came to her now:
"The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him
Suppose she were the man, and these were the Jews, could she not say to
them, "He has made me whole"? She could tell them about that pool, and
about the sick man. It wouldn't be teaching in Sunday-school, but it
would be doing the best thing that she could.
It suddenly occurred to her to wonder where the lesson was that was
being taught this morning, and she consulted the lesson leaf that Mr.
Roberts had left in her hand. The glow on her face deepened and spread
as she recognized the very story which had so filled her heart the day
before! What if the great Physician had actually selected her to tell of
that miracle of healing to these two neglected ones! Surely they were
not so formidable as the Jews! But how in the world to begin was a
bewilderment. Clearly she must decide at once if she was to have any
class, for her two boys began to look about them, and show signs of
"Did you ever hear about a wonderful spring that used to cure people?"
"Lots of 'em. I used to live right by one that cured the rheumatiz."
"But this one would cure other things, only it wouldn't cure people all
the time. There was just one time in the year when it would do it; and
then the one that got in first was the only one cured."
Her listeners looked skeptical.
"What was that for?" queried the bolder of the two. "Why didn't it cure
"I don't know," Flossy said. "There are ever so many things that I know
that I can't tell why they are so. For instance, I don't know why that
spring you have been telling me about cures the rheumatism, but I know
it does, for you told me so."
"No more do I," the boy said, promptly, having in his heart a rising
respect for the young teacher and her story.
Then this new beginner, with the air of a diplomatist, told all the
details of this wonderful cure, without once mentioning the name of
either person or place. An innate sense of the human heart told her that
"Jerusalem" and "Jesus" were both probably connected in the minds of
these two with the Bible, and their appearance told her that they were
likely to be skeptical as to the interest of Bible stories. But, like
all ignorant persons, there was a credulous side to their nature. It is
surprising what marvelous stories people are prepared to receive and
credit, provided only that they do not come from the Bible, with a "Thus
saith the Lord" to vouch for them. Then, indeed, they are apt to become
"unreasonable" and "improbable." Presently her boys volunteered some
remarks and asked some questions.
"Jolly! that fellow must have felt good: I guess he wanted to run all
around the country and tell about it. Where was this spring, and what
was the man's name that cured him?"
The other chimed in: "Yes, and how did he do it? That's what I'm after.
And is he dead? 'cause I don't hear of no such cures now-days."
Then was Flossy tremulous of heart. She had become eagerly interested in
her story and her boys. Would the charm that she had woven be broken the
moment they knew the story's origin? But of course she must tell them,
for what good else would the story do?
"He is dead," she said, slowly, answering the last question first. "That
is, he is what _you_ call dead. But, of course, you know as well as I do
that that doesn't mean what it seems to; it means simply that he doesn't
live in the same place that he once did. He went to heaven to live ever
so many years ago."
She waited to feel the effect of this announcement. The boys were silent
and grave. They had evidently heard of heaven, and had some measure of
respect for the name. The new teacher did not know what to say next. The
boys helped her. The younger one drew a heavy sigh.
"Well, all I've got to say is, I wish he was alive now," he said, in a
regretful tone, "'cause my mother has been sick longer than thirty-eight
years; she has been sick about all her life, and she is real bad now, so
she can't walk at all. I s'pose he could cure her if he was here."
"I suppose he could cure her now." Flossy said this slowly, reverently,
looking earnestly at the boy, hoping to convey to him a sense of her
meaning. He looked utterly puzzled. Light began to dawn on the face of
the older boy.
"She's been tellin' us one of them Bible stories," he said, speaking not
to Flossy, but to his companion, and assuming an injured air, as if a
wrong had been done them.
Flossy spoke quickly:
"Of course I have. I thought you wanted to hear something that really
happened, and not a made up story." This seemed to be an appeal to their
dignity, and they eyed her reflectively.
"How do you know it happened?" ventured the younger one.
Flossy gave a rapid and animated answer.
"There are about a hundred reasons why I know it; it would take me all
day to tell you half of them. But one is, that I read it in a book which
good men who know a great deal, and who have been studying all their
lives to find out about it, say they know is true; and I believe what
they tell me about Washington and Lincoln and other men whom I never
saw, so I ought to believe them when they tell me about this man."
"But there's _one_ thing you don't know. You don't know that he can cure
folks now, and he don't do it." This was spoken with a quiet
positiveness, and with the air that said, "_That_ can't be disputed, and
you know it can't."
Flossy hesitated just a moment; the glow on her face deepened and
spread. Then she answered in much the same tone that the boy had used:
"I know he _can_, and I have good reason for knowing. I'll tell you a
secret; you are the very first persons I have told about it, but he has
cured me. I have been sick all my life, when I came here to Chautauqua I
was sick. I could not do anything that I was made to do, and I kept
doing things all the time that were not meant for me to do, but he has
The boys looked at her in absolute incredulous wonder.
"Was you sick in bed when you came?" ventured one of them at last.
"No; it is not that kind of sickness that I mean. That is when the body
is sick, the body that when the soul goes away looks like nothing but
marble, can not move, nor feel, nor speak; that isn't of much
consequence, you know, because we are sure that the soul will go away
from it after awhile. It is this soul of mine that is going to live
forever that was cured."
"How do you know it was?" came again from these wondering boys. Flossy
smiled a rare, bright smile that charmed them.
"If _yours_ had been cured you would not ask me that question," she
said; "you would _know_ how I know it. But I can't tell you how it is
don't you know there are some things that you are sure of that you can't
explain? You are sure you can think, aren't you? but how would you set
to work to explain to me that you are sure? The only way that you can
know how is by going to this doctor and getting cured; then you will
"I'd like him if he would cure folks' _bodies_," began the boy who had a
sick mother, speaking in a doubtful, somewhat dissatisfied tone.
"He does," Flossy said, quickly. "Don't people's bodies get well
sometimes? and who can cure bodies except the one who made them? If you
want your mother cured you ought to try him. If she is to be made well
you may be sure that he can do it; but why should he so long as you do
not care enough about it to ask him?"
There was a rush and a bustle among the crowds in the distance.
Sunday-school session was over, and the great company were moving for
seats for the morning service. The boys took the alarm and fled, each
glancing back to nod and smile at the bright apparition who had told
them a story. Flossy picked up her Bible; she had not needed to use it
during this talk. The story of Bethesda had burned itself so into her
heart with that morning reading that she had no need to look at it
again. She gave a thoughtful little sigh.
"I don't know about that being teaching," she said within her heart,
"but I certainly told them about Jesus, and I told them it was Jesus who
had 'made me whole.' I made my own experience 'witness' for me to that
degree. If that is what they mean by teaching I like to do it. I mean to
go to Sunday-school just as soon as I get home, and if I find out that
they just tell about things as they are in the Bible I can do it. I can
make the boys listen to me, I know."
Bright little fairy that she was! There was a new glow about her face.
She was waking to the thought that there was such a thing as power over
people's brains. No danger but she will use her knowledge. Let me tell
you another thing that Chautauqua did for her. It planted the seed that
shall blossom into splendid teaching. There was one teacher who gave
many glances that morning to the little group around that old tree
stump. Mr. Roberts, from his point of observation, not far away, watched
this scene from beginning to end. It fascinated him. He saw the timid
beginning and the ever-increasing interest, until, when Flossy closed
her Bible and arose, he turned his eyes from her with a quiet smile in
them, and to himself he said: "Unless I am very greatly mistaken she has
found something that she can do."
PEOPLE WHO, "HAVING EYES, SEE NOT."
"Girls!" said Eurie, as she munched a doughnut, which she had brought
from the lunch-table with her, and lounged on a camp-chair, waiting for
the afternoon service, "do you know that Flossy taught a class in
Sunday-school this morning?"
"Taught a class!" repeated both Marion and Ruth in one voice, and with
about equal degrees of amazement.
"She did, as true as the world. That is, she must have been teaching.
The way of it was this: I went to see the little midgets exhibit
themselves, and when I came out of the tent and walked over toward the
stand, there sat Flossy on that old stump just back of the stand, and
before her were two of the roughest-looking boys that ever emerged from
the backwoods. They were ragged and dirty and wild; and as wicked little
imps as one could find, I am sure. Flossy was talking to them, and she
had a large Bible in her lap and one of those Lesson Leaves that they
flutter about here so much; and--well, altogether it was an amazing
sight! She was certainly talking to them with all her might, and they
were listening; and it is my opinion that she was trying to play
Sunday-school teacher, and give them a lesson. You know she is an
imitative little sheep, and always was."
"Nonsense!" Ruth said, and she seemed to speak more sharply than the
occasion warranted. "Just as if Flossy Shipley couldn't have anything to
say to two boys but what she found in the Bible! Little she knows what
is in it, for that matter. I suppose she wandered out that way because
she did not know what else to do with herself, and talked to the boys by
way of amusement. She has often amused herself in that way, I am sure."
"Ah, yes; but these specimens were rather too youthful and dirty for
that sort of amusement, and she had a Bible in her lap."
"What of that! Bibles are as common as leaves here. I found two lying on
the seat which I took this morning. People seem to think the art of
stealing has not found its way here."
"Flossy is changed," interrupted Marion. "The mouse is certainly
different from what _I_ ever saw her before; she seems so quiet and
self-sustained. I thought she was bored. Why, I expected her to hail a
trip to her dear Saratoga with absolute delight! She belongs to just the
class of people who would find the intellectual element here too strong
for her, and would have to flutter off in that direction in
self-defense. Ruthie, you have the temper of an angel not to fly out at
me for bringing in Saratoga every few minutes. It isn't with 'malice
aforethought,' I assure you. I forget your projected scheme whenever I
speak of it; but you must allow me to be astonished over Flossy's
refusal to go with you. Something has come over the mousie that is not
explainable by any of the laws of science with which I am acquainted."
"Don't trouble yourself to apologize, I beg. I hope you do not think I
am so foolish as to care anything about your hints as to Saratoga. Of
course I recognize my right in this world to be governed by my own
tastes and inclinations. I have enjoyed that privilege too long to be
disturbed by trifles." This from Ruth; but I shall have to admit that it
was very stiffly spoken, and if she had but known it, indicated that she
_did_ care a great deal. In truth she was very sore over her position
and her plans. She who had prided herself on her intellectuality bored
to the very point of leaving, and Flossy, who had been remarkable for
nothing but flutter and fashion, actually so interested that she could
not be coaxed into going away! What _was_ it that interested her? That
was the question which interested and puzzled Ruth. She studied over it
during all the time that Marion and Eurie were chatting about the
Flossy _was_ different; there was no shutting one's eyes to that fact.
The truth was that she had suddenly seemed to have little in common
with her own party. She certainly said little to them; she made no
complaints as to inconveniences, even when they amounted to positive
annoyances with the rest of the party; she had given up afternoon
toilets altogether, and in fact the subject of dress seemed to be one
that had suddenly sunken into such insignificance as to cease to claim
her thoughts at all.
Grave changes these to be found in Flossy Shipley. Then, too, she had
taken to wandering away alone in the twilight; during the short spaces
between services she was nowhere to be found, but the Chautauqua bell
brought her back invariably in time to make ready for the next service.
"There is certainly more to the little mouse than I ever expected
before. If Chautauqua wakes _our_ wits as it has Flossy's we shall have
reason to bless the day that Dr. Vincent invented it." This Ruth heard
from Marion as she roused herself from her reverie to give attention to
what the girls were saying. They had got back to a discussion of Flossy
again. It was a subject that someway annoyed Ruth, so she dismissed it,
and made ready for the afternoon meeting, whither they all went.
To Marion the morning sermon had been an intellectual treat. She had a
way of listening to sermons that would have been very disheartening to
the preacher if he had known of it. She had learned how to divest
herself of all personality. The subject was one that had nothing to do
with her; the application of solemn truths were for the people around
her who believed in these things, but never for her; so she listened and
enjoyed, just as she enjoyed a book or a picture, just as if she had no
soul at all, nothing but an intellect.
It was very rare indeed that an arrow from any one's quiver touched her.
But there was one single sentence in Dr. Pierce's sermon that was
destined to haunt her. Said he: "When the blind man was questioned he
couldn't argue, he didn't try to; but he could stand up there before
them and say, 'Whereas I was blind, now I see; make the most of that.'
And wasn't it an unanswerable argument? There is no argument like it.
When men are honest and earnest and spiritual in Wall Street, it tells."
Now that was just the kind of sentence to delight Marion's heart. The
inconsistencies of Christians was one of her very strong points, she
saw them bristling out everywhere, and she looked about her with a
satisfied smile on her face that so large a company of them were getting
so sharp a thrust as this.
And suddenly there flashed across her brain an utterly new thought.
"Whereas I was _blind_, now I see." "Perhaps," she said to
herself--"_perhaps_ I am blind. What if that should be the only reason
why these things are not to me as they are to others. How do I know,
after all, but there may really be a spiritual blindness, and that it
may be holding me? How do I know but that the reason some of these poor
ignorant people whom I meet are so firm in their belief of Christ and
heaven is because they have had just this experience?
"'Whereas I _was_ blind, now I see!' How can I possibly tell but that
this may be the case? I wonder what I _do_ think anyway? Do I really
think that all these men gathered here are either deceived or deceivers?
One or the other they must be--and either position is too silly to
sustain--or else I must be blind. If there should be such a thing as
seeing, and I discover it too late! If there is a too late to this
thing, and I do not find it out simply because I am blind, what then?
The sun shines, of course, though I dare say an entirely blind man
doesn't believe it. Doesn't have an idea anyway what it is--how can he?"
Over and over did she revolve this sentence, and look at it from every
attainable standpoint. No use to try to shut it off, back it came. All
the clatter with which she had amused herself during the interval
between meetings had not banished it. No sooner was she seated under
those trees waiting for the afternoon service than the thought presented
itself for her to consider.
"I wonder if there are different degrees of moral blindness?" she said,
suddenly. "People who can see just enough to enable them to keep
constantly going the wrong way, so that they are no better off than the
blind, except that they admit that there is such a thing as seeing. The
thing is possible, I suppose."
Ruth turned and looked at her wonderingly.
"What _are_ you talking about?" she asked at last.
"I'm moralizing," Marion said, laughing. "You yourself suggested that
train of thought. I was wondering which of us was right in our notions,
you or I; and, for all practical purposes, what difference it made."
"You are too high up for me to follow. I haven't the least idea what you
"Why, I tell you I was contrasting our conditions. Let me see if I have
a right view of them. Don't you honestly think that there is a God, and
a heaven, and a hell, and that to escape the one place and secure the
other certain efforts upon your part are necessary?"
"Why, of course I think so. I have never made any pretense of
disbelieving all these things. I think it is foolish to do so."
"Exactly. Now for one question more: Have you made the effort that you
believe to be necessary?"
"Have you been hired as an exhorter?" Ruth said, trying to laugh. "Why,
no, I can not say that I have."
"Well, then, suppose you and I should both die to-night. _I_ don't
believe any of these things; you do, but you don't practice on your
belief. Then, according to your own view, you will be lost forever;
and, according to that same view, so shall I. Now, practically, what
difference is there between us? So if it is really blindness, why may
not one be totally blind as well as to have a little sight that keeps
one all the time in the wrong way?"
"I dare say we are quite as well off," Ruth said, composedly; "only I
think there is this point of difference between us. I think your
position is silly. I don't see how any one who has studied Paley and
Butler, and in fact any of the sciences, can think so foolish a thing as
you pretend to. One doesn't like to be foolish, even if one doesn't
happen to be a Christian."
"Foolish?" Marion repeated, and there was a fine glow on her face.
"Don't you go and talk anything so wild as that! If there is any class
of people in this world who profess to be simpletons, and act up to
their professions, it is you people who believe _everything_ and _do_
nothing. Now just look at the thing for a minute. Suppose you say,
'There is a precipice over there, and every whiff of wind blows us
nearer to it; we will surely go over if we sit here; we ought to go up
on that hill; I know that is a safe place,' and yet you sit perfectly
still. And suppose I say, 'I don't believe there is any such thing as a
precipice, and I believe this is just as safe a place as there is
anywhere,' and _I_ sit still. Now I should like to know which of us was
acting the sillier?"
"You would be," Ruth said, stoutly, "if you persisted in disbelieving
what could be proved to you so clearly that no person with common sense
would think of denying it."
"Humph!" said Marion, settling back; "in that case I think there would
be very little chance for each to accuse the other of folly; only I
confess to you just this, Ruth Erskine, if you could _prove_ to me that
there was a precipice over there, and that we were being carried toward
it, and that the hill was safe, I know in my very soul that I should get
up and go to that hill. I would not be such a fool as to delay, I know I
"You are frank," Ruth said, and her face was flushed. "I am sure I don't
see why you don't make the attempt and decide for yourself, if you feel
this thing so deeply. _I_ think there ought to be a prayer-meeting on
your account. If I knew Dr. Vincent I would try to have this thing
turned into a regular camp-meeting time, then you would doubtless get
all the help you need."
Marion laughed good-humoredly.
"Don't waste your sarcasm on me," she said, cheerily; "keep your weapons
for more impressible subjects. You know I am not in the least afraid of
any such arguments. I have been talking downright truth and common
sense, and you know it, and are hit; that is what makes you sarcastic.
Did you know that was at the bottom of most sarcasm, my dear?"
"Do hush, please. These people before us are trying hard to hear what
the speaker is saying."
This was Ruth's answer; but she had had her sermon; and of all the
preachers at Chautauqua, the one who had preached to _her_ was Marion
Wilbur, the infidel school-teacher! It was her use of Dr. Pierce's arrow
that had thrust Ruth. She gave herself up to the thought of it all
during that wonderful afternoon meeting. Very little did she hear of the
speeches, save now and then a sentence more vivid than the rest; her
brain was busy with new thoughts. _Was_ it all so very queer? Did it
look to others than Marion a strange way to live? Did she actually
believe these things for which she had been contending? If she did, was
she in very deed an idiot? It actually began to look as though she might
be. She was not wild like Eurie, nor intense and emotional, like Marion;
she was still and cold, and, in her way, slow; given to weighing
thoughts, and acting calmly from decisions rather than from impulse. It
struck her oddly enough now that, having so stoutly defended the
cardinal doctrines of Christian faith, she should have no weapons except
sarcasm with which to meet a bold appeal to her inconsistency.
"When I get home from Saratoga," she said, at last, turning uneasily in
her seat, annoyed at the persistency of her thoughts, "I really mean to
look into this thing. I am not sure but a sense of propriety should lead
one to make a profession of religion. It is, as Marion says, strange to
believe as we do and not indicate it by our professions. I am not sure
but the right thing for me to do would be to unite with the church.
There is certainly some ground for the thrusts that Marion has been
giving. My position must seem inconsistent to her. I certainly believe
these things. What harm in my saying so to everybody? Rather, is it not
the right thing to do? I will unite with the church from a sense of
duty, not because my feelings happen to be wrought upon by some strong
excitement. I wonder just what is required of people when they join the
church? A sense of their own dependence on Christ for salvation I
suppose. I certainly feel that. I am not an unbeliever in any sense of
the word. I respect Christian people, and always did. Mother used to be
a church-member; I suppose she would be now if she were not an invalid.
Most of the married ladies in our set are church-members. I don't see
why it isn't quite as proper for young ladies to be. I certainly mean to
give some attention to this matter just as soon as the season is over at
Saratoga. In the meantime I wonder when there is a train I can get, and
if I couldn't telegraph to mother to send my trunks on and have them
there when I arrived."
A "SENSE OF DUTY."
It is not so easy to get away from ones self as you might think, if you
never had occasion to try it. Ruth Erskine--who honestly thought herself
on the high road to heaven because she had decided to offer herself for
church-membership as soon as she returned from Saratoga--did not find
the comfort and rest of heart that so heroic a resolution ought to have
It was in vain that she endeavored to dismiss the subject and try to
decide just what new costume the Saratoga trip would demand. If she
could only have gotten away from the crowd of people and out of that
meeting back to the quiet of her tent, she might have succeeded in
arranging her wardrobe to her satisfaction; but she was completely
hedged in from any way of escape, and the inconsiderate speakers
constantly made allusions that thrust the arrow further into her brain;
I am not sure that it could have been said to have reached her heart.
"Who is to blame that you can not all be addressed as _workers_ for
Christ? Who is _your_ Master? Why do you not serve him?"
These were sentences that struck in upon her just as she was deciding to
have a new summer silk, trimmed with shirrings of the same material a
She did not know whether the speaker gave a peculiar emphasis to that
word, or whether it only sounded so to her ears. Did this resolution
that she had made put her among the _workers_? What was she ready to do?
Teach in the Sabbath-school? Involuntarily she shrugged her shoulders;
she did not like children; tract distributing, too, was hateful work,
and out of style she had heard some one say. What wonderful work was to
be done? She was sure _she_ didn't know. Sewing certainly wasn't in her
line; she couldn't make clothes for the poor; but, then, she could give
money to buy them with. Oh, yes, she was perfectly willing to do that.
And then she tried to determine whether it would be well to get a new
black grenadine, or whether a black silk would suit her better. She had
got it trimmed with four rows of knife pleating, headed with puffs, when
she was suddenly returned to the meeting.
Somebody was telling a story; she had not been giving sufficient
attention to know who the speaker was, but he told his story remarkably
well. It must have been about a miserable little street boy who was
sick, and another miserable street boy seemed to be visiting him.
This was where her ears took it up:
"It was up a ricketty pair of stairs, and another, and another, to a
filthy garret. There lay the sick boy burning with a fever, mother and
father both drunk, and no one to do anything or care anything for the
boy who was fighting with death. 'Ben,' said his dirty-faced visitor,
bending over him, 'you're pretty bad ain't you? Ben, do you ever pray?'
'No,' says Ben, turning fevered eyes on the questioner: 'I don't know
what that is.' 'Did you know there was a man once named Jesus Christ? He
come to this world on purpose to save people who are going to die. Did
you ever be told about him?' 'No; who is he?' 'Why, he is God; you have
to believe on him.' 'I don't know what you mean.' 'Why, ask him to save
you. When you die you ask him to take you and save you. I heard about
him at school.' 'Will he do it?' 'Yes, he will _sure_. Them says so as
have tried him.' Silence in the garret, Ben with his face turned to the
wall the fever growing less, the pulse growing fainter; suddenly he
turns back. 'I've asked him,' he said; 'I've asked him, and he said he
Ruth looked about her nervously. People were weeping softly all around
her. Marion brushed two great tears from her glowing cheeks, and Ruth,
with her heart beating with such a quickened motion that it made her
faint, wondered what was the matter with every one, and wished this
dreadful meeting was over, or that she had gone to Saratoga on Saturday.
It was hard to go back to the puffs on that grenadine dress in the
midst of all this, but with a resolute struggle she threw herself back
into an argument as to whether she would stop on her way to make
purchases, or run down to Albany as soon as she was comfortably settled
at her hotel. Mr. Bliss was the next one who roused her.
You have never heard him sing? Then I am sorry for you. How can I tell
you anything about it? You should hear Ruth tell it! How his voice
rolled out and up from under those grand old trees; how distinctly every
word fell on your ear, as distinctly as though you and he had been
together in a little room alone, and he had song it for you.
"This loving Savior stands patiently--
Though oft rejected,
Calls again for thee.
Calling now for thee, prodigal,
Calling now for thee;
Thou hast wandered far away,
But he's calling now for thee."
What _was_ the matter with everybody? Was this an army of prodigals who
had gathered under the trees this Sabbath afternoon? Turn where she
would they were wiping away the tears; she felt herself as if she could
hardly keep back her own; and yet why should she weep? What had that
song to do with her? _She_ certainly was not a prodigal: she had never
wandered, for she had never professed to be a Christian.
What strange logic, that because I have never owned my Father's love and
care, therefore I am not a wanderer from him!
Ruth did not understand it; she felt almost provoked; had she not
decided this very afternoon and for the first time in her life that it
was fitting and eminently the proper thing to do to unite with the
church, and had she not determined upon doing it just as soon as the
season was over? What more could she do? Why could she not now have a
little peace? If this was the "comfort" and "rest" that the Christians
at Chautauqua had been talking about for a week, she was sure the less
she had of them the better, for she never felt so uncomfortable in her
life. Nevertheless, she adhered to her resolution.
So settled was she that it was the next proper thing to do that she
staid at home from the meeting that evening to write a letter to Mr.
Wayne, the gentleman who you will perhaps remember, accompanied the
girls to the depot on the morning of their departure, and expressed his
disgust with the whole plan.
As this is the first _religious_ letter Miss Ruth Erskine ever wrote,
you shall be gratified with a copy of it:
"I am alone in the tent this evening--the girls have all gone to
meeting; but I, finding it exhaustive, not to say tiresome, to be so
constantly listening to sermons, have staid at home to write to you. I
have something to tell you which I know will please you. I am going to
start for Saratoga to-morrow morning. I think I shall take the 10:50
train. Now don't you make up your mind to laugh at me and say that I
have grown tired of Chautauqua sooner than any of the rest. It is true
"You know my mode of life and my enjoyments are necessarily very
different from Eurie's and Marion's. Those two naturally look upon this
place as an escape from every-day drudgery; in short, as an economical
place in which to enjoy a vacation and see a good deal of first-class
society; for there are a great many first-class people here, there is no
denying that. Not many from our set, you know, but a great many
celebreties in the literary world that it is really very pleasant to
"I am not sorry that I came; if for nothing else I am glad to have come
on the girls' account; they would hardly have ventured without me, and
it is a real treat to them.
"You will wonder what has become of poor little Flossy, and want to know
whether she is going to follow me to Saratoga as usual, but the little