KATIE JOHNSTONE’S CROSS

A Canadian Tale

By A. M. M.


CHAPTER XVIII.

Going Home.


  “Fold her, oh Father, in Thine arms,
    And let her henceforth be
A messenger of love between
    Our human hearts and Thee.”



    IT might have been thought that Katie’s life would have been a very sad and lonely one after her friend’s marriage and departure, and she had once feared this herself, but it was not so. Her heart was too full of the peace which cannot be taken away, and her time too full of thought and work for others, to leave her much leisure for realising the sense of her loneliness, though she did continually miss Helen, as well as her brother, from whom, however, she had regular and satisfactory letters that helped not a little to preserve her cheerfulness. She tried to keep up as much of Helen’s visiting and other work as, with her limited strength, she could overtake, and at home she always had Martha’s watchful care and Mr Grey’s genial kindliness, as well as abundance of interesting [Page 202] reading, when she was too tired for active work. Helen and Mr Russell very often sent her some new book or periodical which they thought she should like; and Mr Grey’s small library was well stocked with valuable works of older times, some of which—as for instance, “Hall’s Contemplations”—she much enjoyed. Mr Grey took care to make her a sharer in the interests of his parish work, so that her mind was never without some object of interest to engage her affections and occupy them for good. Then Helen’s occasional visits, and those which she from time to time made to her friend’s new home, were full of enjoyment at the time, and of pleasant memories in the retrospect.
    Clara, too, returned home before long, not so much spoiled as Katie had feared; and the latter found her a willing assistant in anything in which she asked her help—though Clara was not good at finding out work for herself. The pleasant visits to Pine Grove were renewed, though the place looked strange in the absence of the familiar faces. Caroline had gone to England with her husband’s regiment, and she and Arthur had met again there. Arthur occasionally divided his letters between Clara and Katie; and a passage in one of those which he wrote to the latter from Switzerland, where he was travelling during the summer, was especially gratifying to her. He had been describing the grand scenery of the Bernese Alps, and the impression which they had made upon him, and added—
    “I feel more and more, in the midst of these sublime though silent tokens of God’s presence and working, how great will be the glory of ‘the King in His beauty,’ when [Page 203] our eyes shall see Him. Do you remember speaking to me of that once, and of how infinitely small in comparison are most of the objects on which people usually fix their desires here? I am more and more resolved on what was first suggested to me through you—not to rest satisfied with any aim centred in self, or even with the contemplation of human wisdom, and the study of human knowledge, but to look onward to eternal realities, and in their light to try to do as well as I can the highest work to which God calls any man here—that of winning souls for eternal life.”
    Not long after she got this letter, Katie received a visit from her former pupil, James Egan, whom, in the tall, respectable-looking youth he had grown, she at first hardly recognised. He was now working with a carpenter in Ashby, with good hopes of being eventually taken into his master’s business. He had carried on his education, so far at least as he was likely to require it, and spoke sensibly and gratefully of his obligations to Katie. “I’m sure, miss, it was your trouble that began the making of me, only I’m afraid you’ll not think it was worth while for that.”
    But Katie had long ceased to regret anything that had happened to her, and was too full of the pleasure of seeing that Jim had turned out so well for any other thoughts.
    There are many such boys as Jim in all our towns and villages—“springs shut up”—“fountains sealed,” as far as any development of their higher nature goes, and destined, if let alone, only to perpetuate and extend the evil influences which have made them what they are. It only needs a little watchful but patient care, and some trouble and active kindness, to awaken their better nature, and turn [Page 204] them into useful citizens, instead of roughs, to disturb tranquillity and order, and to become at last inmates of so-called reformatories and penitentiaries. Perhaps every reader of this tale might be able to do something towards reclaiming one such; and were every one to try who could, it would more advance the prosperity of Canada than any development of merely material resources.
    Jim had, however, a great sorrow soon after this. The little brother, so clever and thoughtful, who had been Katie’s favourite pupil, died of an inflammatory disease, brought on, she feared, by his mother’s neglect. She saw him often during his illness, and tried to lead his mind to the Saviour of whom she had so often told him; and she had the satisfaction of knowing that he died with His name on his lips, as he breathed a simple childish prayer which she had taught him. His sisters are fast growing into nice, useful girls, able to make their father’s home comfortable, and likely to become good servants. Their father himself continues steady and industrious, though his wife still indulges in her old drinking ways whenever she has an opportunity. But, through the care that has been exercised over them, it may be hoped that the evil effects of her conduct will not extend beyond herself.
    But Katie’s work was nearly finished now. In the beginning of the second winter after Helen’s marriage, Mr Grey and she went to be present at the baptism of Helen’s baby, and in returning home she caught a severe cold from exposure to rain, which ultimately settled on her lungs. She had always had a predisposition to her mother’s constitutional malady, and, once seated, it made rapid progress [Page 205] in her delicate frame. Her strength sank very quickly; but as she never complained, and as she always appeared to rally from the fits of weakness to which she was subject, Mr Grey was scarcely alarmed at their recurrence, until Dr Elliott told him he had better send for Helen, as the end could not be far distant.
    Helen was much shocked, when she arrived, to see Katie’s condition. She could not “restrain bitter tears,” though Katie smiled and said, “You should not grieve, Helen, or grudge my going to papa and mamma and Hughie—and ‘the island valley of Avilion,’” she added, dreamily—

            “‘Where falls not hail or rain, or any snow,
            Nor ever wind blows loudly.’”

    “But that is not the best of what you are going to,” said Helen, a little anxiously, through her tears.
    “Oh, no!” replied Katie, with a radiant smile; “‘the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him.’”
    Helen would not leave her friend again so long as she lived. The fading away was very gradual, and attended with very little pain. Towards the last there seemed to be a prostration of all her powers, and she occasionally wandered in her talk, seemingly recalling pleasant scenes and associations from her past life. Clara, as well as Helen, was a faithful and loving attendant to the last. When death came, it was like the peaceful falling asleep of a weary child, stealing on without her knowing of it. But those who had known so well her heart and life did not need words to assure them that the faith which had held her up so long had not forsaken her now. [Page 206]
    She was laid in the grave on a sweet sunny day in April; and as Helen saw the green turf replaced on her lowly bed, and heard the melodious carol of a bird on a branch above her head, she thought of that long-past Good Friday when she had gone to see her, and wondered at the abundant fruit which had sprung from that unconscious sowing.
    They could not mourn bitterly over her death, feeling that such mourning would have been selfish. Even Mr Grey, as he felt he might soon follow her, could scarcely regret that so gentle a lamb had been safely folded before his own departure.
    Ned grieved a good deal when he heard of his sister’s death, and so did Arthur; but they both soon felt that they could not wish her recalled; and to both her memory was long a preservative from evil, and an incitement to good. Clara missed her friend sadly, and now tends with care the quiet resting-place, which Helen always loves to visit when she comes to Lynford. Clara tries to fill Katie’s place somewhat, and is much more disposed to look for work, and do it in her own way, than she might ever have been but for her friend’s example and influence.
    Caroline Ainslie is as graceful as ever, and much admired, as well as a great favourite with those whom she meets in society. She has no children, and her time, of which she has a good deal to spare, is divided between the gaieties of her circle and the manufacture of various adornments for her house and person; but she has never known a genuine enthusiasm for an unselfish object, or the blessedness of working for Him who gives His servants such an abundant award in the success of their work. [Page 207]
    Ned has begun to enjoy an income of his own earning, and has nearly realised his self-imposed task of clearing off the remains of his father’s debts. He is steady and diligent, and strongly attached to his early friend, Arthur; who, after completing his university course, has nearly finished his studies for the Church, and endeavours to repay the good he had received from Katie by trying to exercise an influence for good over her brother.
    Arthur and Clara Winstanley, Ned, and James Egan have very different destinies before them, and are likely to move in very different spheres; but they have each benefited, in no small degree, by Katie Johnstone’s cross, and the way in which it was borne.
[Page 208]

 

THE END.