Chapter 96945005

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Chapter NumberXIII
Chapter TitleA Vision of Angels.
Chapter Url
Full Date1900-08-16
Page Number3
Word Count2915
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleSouthern Argus (Port Elliot, SA : 1866 - 1954)
Trove TitleLights and Shadows
article text LIGHTS and SHADOWS. By]£yra Keith, Authoress of'Tains and Penalties,' ' Divided Lives,' etc Altrighb res treed by authoress. Continued from our last issue. CHAPrEB, XHL— 'A Vision of Angels. ' They the holy ones and weakly, Who the cross of suffering bore, . Folded their pale hands so meeWy, Spake with us on earth no more.' Longfellow. The blow had fallen— little Eric Forester was dead, and Mabel sat alone in the little room next the shop. She need not have baen alone, a dozen or more neighbours would gladly have kept her company, but, in her low, sweet voice she begged every one to leave her. It was yesterday he died, and this afternoon they had buried him : now the rain-drops were falling siiently like tears upon his grave. Mabel watched them falling as she sat by the window ; she was very still ; her hands lay loosely clasped upon her knee ,- there was a far away look in her eyes, she was wondering about the child, all diy she had wondered in a dreamy, misty sort of way, wondered as he lay there in the corner of the little room with his sweet eyes closed, and the violets upon his breast, wondered what the exchange from earth was like ? — whether his mother had been close by to welcome him ? {she felt sare she had) ? — wondered whether the timid little spirit felt nervous and alarmed with the swinging open of the wondrous gales of pearl? Then the question, ' Is it -well with the child ?' kept beating with measured beats upon her aching brain, .and the answer came, bom unbidden, of intuition, ' It is well.' Aye well with him. Well, and without her — God's peace had come upon him full and sweet, but her own heart ached sadly. 'It was well with him, him ' ; but she was alone, oh, so alone. As she thought of it great unmanageable tears, long held back, forced themselves from behind her aching lids dropping heavily upon her folded hands, they were the first she had shed, and she saw just their counterpart, large drops from a too-heavily charged cloud, falling- as summer rain upon the grave? out side. The drippings from the verandah made little round holes .with ever- widening rings round them, she watched with eyes that saw not, how straight the drops fell into the tiny holes, yet realised almost unconsciously that just so they were falling upon Eric's grave. A loosened branch of monthly rose tapped with its wet, disconsolate buds against the window, as if to remind her how many times the child had watched them blow. The milk cart drove up the street, the apple cheeked woman with the white sun-bonnet doling out to each customer their supply from the brightly pol ished cans ; then as the familiar click of the jug against the can smote on Mabel's ear she gulped down the sob that came with the re membrance that to-night no extra half-pint would be needed for her darling's supper. Silently she sat on, while the evening closed in, and the shadows of the tall poplars fell aslant the village street as for a few sec onds the sun asserted his supremacy, and shone out above the clouds before finally saying to the world 'good night.' Boys went whistling up and down, and more than one stopped his merry note as he crossed the road to flatten a little, freckled, sun-burned face in friendly curiosity against her window pane. By and bye the stars came out and lights began to twinkle in the houses — not a tea-table that night in Norham but Mabel and the little (ad who *? was not,' were the sub jects of kindly, sympathetic talk, yet she never thought of tea for herself. The tiny kettle had sung away cheerily as ever, had bubbled up and boiled over, hissing and steaming as though to remind her that now was the time fcr the evening meal, but she sat on oblivious of it all, and the fire turned low and finally went out, leaving nothing but seared and blackened ashes. Much as she had been telling herself was even now the case with her own heart — her life appeared to have come to a sudden stop, to a point where nothing earthly seemed of the least consequence. She was not naturally of a morbid disposition, but the grave had now closed over all that made life worth living, she supposed she must still continue to exist, but she was quite alone, neither kith nor kin to call her own. With little Eric's last sigh, and the tender pressure of his tiny hand, a dead blank hid risen up to confront her. Nothing mattered now, fate had done its worst — but was it fate ? Sud denly the recollection came to her of one of the child's visionary experiences, which he had recounted to her at the time, a dream it could hardly be called coming as it did so nearly upon the borderlands of sleeping and wakiner. One of the child's delights had been to pic true himself strong and healthy as other chil dren, playing hi the fields, gathering flowers in the sunshine, basking in the sweeeJ open air, instead of being for ever couped up in a small, close room, or wheeled abroad in an iuvalid chair ; and an a-*ded delight was to recount these half-waking dreams to Mabel when her day's work was done, and she for a little while was ' all his own.' The very last he had ever told her returned to her memory now vividly — he had fanciful wa)r of speaking of himself as ' the boy,' as though at ordinary times he was some nondescript creature, hard of definition, but, in his dreams he was looking at himself from quite a differ ent standpoint — halfclosing his eyes, his smali, wasted hands lightly clasped on his breast, his voice would &ow on in a drea my undertone. ?: It was the time of daWes and butter-cups, blue skies, fleecy, slow-sailing clouds, and the singing of birds, ' the boy ' lay on his back in the meadow grasses, his legs crossed, his head resting upon his arms, one hand held a bunch of primroses and violets. His eyes were as blue as the sky overhead, and his hair was lovely and golden — some folks said he was beautiful enough to be an angel. He lay upon the bank «f a small, rippling brook, which babbled lazily to itself, as it twisted in and out among its white and brown stones, he was listening to the song of a lark, which had now but mounted from her lowly nest among the grasses, and wes pouring forth in very ecstasy of heart her morning hymn of praise, he watched the bird as she mounted higher and higher becoming at last a mere speck in the blue intensity overhead, but yet the rich, glad notes of her song fell upon his ears. White, fleecy clouds sailed the azure, which the * boy ' noted as he watched the bird's up rising. ' I wish I were a lark,' he sighed, ' that I might also sail aloft among all the white and blue up there.' Even as he sighed he saw one white cloud detach itself from the rest and float nearer and yet nearer to the earth, until at last it enveloped the boy, lyins like a pure, soft mantle of swan's down all about him ; then, the sensation came to him of being gently lifted from the ground, and borne aloft into the air, the white softness which he had taken to be a cloud now re solving itself into the outlines of most beauti ful white, fleecy wings, larger and softer than those of any bird on earth, these were beneath and all around him, and out of their midst, appeared, gazing tenderly down upon him, the most lovely faces he had ever beheld. He was not afraid, no, not in the very least ; had he not, Out one mon-cnt lwfore, been longing to sail away among those fleecy, white masses oflovliness which he had l-een so intently watching? Even yet he fancied he could still distinguish the song of the lark as she continued her carols at the very gate of heaven itself. The air was full of music, soft, un define 1, seemed rather a fragrance than a sound so liquidly pellucid were the notes as they rose and fell like a liquid shower of light, was it the breathing of the angels ? (for such he was now sure they were), or was it merely the rustling of their wings as softly and slowly they mounted into spice that caused this delicious harmony of sound ? ' The boy ' looking up into the faces bending over him experienced a feeling of most exquisite delight, perfect, immeasurable, such as he could never have dreamed of. His body even seemed to have become ethereally light, gravitation apparently having lost all control of it, and he lay like a feather upca the snowy pinions upholding him, yet, at trie ! same time, he retained the full use of his reasoning faculties, being perfectly conscious of his surroundings. The'faces bending over him inspired him with confidence, and presently he asked : ' Where are you taking me ?' * Home] rcolied one, and as ' tha boy ' peered more closely into her lovely counten ance, it seemed as though the co'n'^isd motherhood of a whole generation of earthly mothers was there.' * Home ! We are taking you home,' she said, and her voice was like the tinkling of silver bells. * Home?' queried ' the boy,* ' but I was at home, I was listening to the lark, I had been gathering flowers for Mabel. Are you taking me away from her — she will want me ?' his tone was vcy earnest now. ' Aye. she will miss thee, thou poor change child,' murmured the angel, 'but your true home was ne?er rightly on yonder sin-stricken planet, a world which denies the very father hood of its Miker, that world is too hard, too bitter, too xvickeJ a place for you, dear child.' * Where then are you carrying me ? Is it to heaven ?' he whispered now. All the beautiful faces stnilel, ' Heaven ?' they queried, ' ah, you mortals hive strange ideas of heaven— ^-heaven is a state, not a place, heaven is harmony, a re-uniting of the spiirt with its Father — God — ray child. We are bearing you now to_ a world, to which pure souls belong, where sin and ignoroa e are unknown, where the inhabitants spen 1 their lives in loving; God who gave them being, not in denying his very existence as is the case with yonder poor sinstricken world (and she shuddered as she. spoke). We are bearing you away before your soul becomes contam inated by its taint.' All phe angel faces smiled in unison as their companion spoke, and * the boy's ' face glowed as he watched then. Suddenly he spoke again. ' My Tnother P Shall I see her? Do you know where I can find my mother ?' AU at once, even while he asked the ques tion, the beautiful music grew louder and louder, it seemed as though the air was filled with sweet sounds, and looking up to see where it was all coming from * the boy ' saw — oh, Mabel — he saw that one of those beautful angels carrying him on its wings was his mother. And then — oh, then,' and'he sighed ' then you called me.' Mabel's eyes had been full of tears when he had finished his story, and they were full again now as it returned to her memory. No, it was not fate, cruel, blind, remorseless fate, that had stricken her. ' Not in cruelty, not in wrath The reaper came that day, T'was an angel visited the green earth, And bore ' her flower ' away.' It was a fortnight now since he had .been taken suddenly ill ; it looked as though he had just been waiting lor the long-delayed news of their missing father. A letter had come one night, and a newspaper enclosed in the letter which was directed ia strange haad'.vriting, was a certificate of death ; the inventor had never reached Klondyke but had ' fallen by the way.' The details were very meagre, and quietly and sorrowfully Mabel ar-] the child talked of ' poor father,' and the little they knew concerning his end. It seemed somehow as though they must have known all along that he was dead — used, in a my, as they had become to his absence — yet there was the constant looking fonvard to news of him, and a gap would now be in their lives, that the excitement bom of long continued expectancy was withdrawn. Eric bad for many months now ni?htjy asked the same question when the poVt. ar rived ' I3 there a letter to-night, Mabel ? ' and ni^htlv, until this recent one, Mabel-had re plied : ' None to-night, dear, but there's another mail to morrow.' A letter, to the child, simply mean the one thing, viz : — news of his father, {who, seemingly upon leaving them, had vanished into thin' air, and the long-continued cry of the child's hungTy little heart was for a letter to fill the blank which this long-continued silence caused ^Jnow it had come — come vvitn its added burden of sorrow, taking away even the slight hope that had been their? while the waiting lasted. Mabel sang the child to sleep that night as she so often did. with the song of the ' better land.'' It soothed ar. ^ quieted her own heart, too, resting her from the ad led weight of care and responsibility which the news of her father's deith hid brought. In the first shock of reading the news, for however long we wait for bad tid ings, it is a shock at la?t, she hal remem bered tli at now there was only her owa life stauding between this frail child and tlie out side, homeless worid. It blanched her cheek and paled her brow for a moment ; tn the next she thanked God that she was heak'ay and strong. She remembered now as she sat at the window with the fast-gathering shadows closing round her that she had shed no tears for her father, very solemnly they had talked of the closing 'scene of his life, far from them, with none but strangers to lay his head on the clay pillow which some timei r another we all must press ; but, for the sake of the child, she had suppressed all emotion, drawing his attention from the fact of death, as death, and pointing him rather to it as the doar of life the gate of heaven, then sweetly she had spoken of the joy it would be to their father and mother to meet again, how glad the gentle mother must be to have him once again in her keeping, with all ths weary, earthly pilgrimage a thing of the past. So she had soothed the child, forgetting her own sorrow in the effort to lighten his. Time enough to give vent to her own, she thought, when sleep had him in its quiet sleeping ; but little was to be hers for the contemplation of either psst or future, for the night was but a few hours old when her heart stood still as a Jow wail of pain escaped the lips of the child. She was at his side in an instant — deadly pain had him in its grasp, already great drops of perspiration stood out like' bead's upon his forehead, and looking at the pinched features she knew by quick intuition, even then, that, the waters of a full cup were about to be wrung out of her. She felt as though tha knowledge had always been with her, that re-united, her parents would need their crip pled boy, the call would be given and she would be alone. She knew the end when it came, she had been waiting for it all day. It was. just a fortnight a^far as time went, but an eternity as regarded her feelings since the post had brought the fatal letter. Ralph Emerson was there too ; he had dropped in for the hun dredth time to enquire about the child ; a neighbour was minding the shop for Mabe! ; and she pointed him to the open door of the little room where the child Jay, still fully dressed. The pain was gone now, but was succeeded by a deadly weakness, the doctor had told her from the first firmly, but merci fully, that tivere was no hope. He was wasting words, she knew it as well as he— every minute of the day there had been beat ing unceasingly upon both heart and brain the words — ' No hope !'' ' No hope f' To be continued in our next.