Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

. (page 18 of 19)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 18 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


sentiment of death? If so, do not leave New
York."

" My death is in the hands of Him who is as
much in one place as another, and I am con
strained to go. The thought of freedom has
become a passion that I cannot control that I
do not desire to control. Only Jessie could
keep me here, and Jessie is perfectly willing
that I should have that respite from conven
tional life which is now an imperative demand
of my nature. I want liberty. I want to be
free. I want it so much that I think the whole
world will be too small for my craving. Only
eternity can satisfy it. Why, John, if I say but
the word freedom my whole nature sings
to it."



THE KING S HIGHWAY

" A desire so imperative is more than a de
sire; it is a command, Steve."

" I think so, John."

" Then God go with you ! "

" I shall not get beyond His guiding and
preserving hand."

So the preparations for his journey went
steadily forward, and at length the time fixed
for Steve s departure arrived. On the night be
fore it, John and he sat together, long after the
household were asleep. Steve had been very
quiet and thoughtful all the previous week, for
grave and momentous questions, relating to the
future of his family and his many benevolent
enterprises, had been constantly occupying his
mind. John, however, understood his friend
at least he understood that Steve had a great
nature, never quite at home on this earth. He
was at best an exile with the " homing " pas
sion stronger than any lure that this life could
offer him. Indeed, Steve himself was frequently
aware of being something of an enigma even to
those who loved him best. He had thoughts
and feelings often about which he did not care
to speak. That very night, as he had stood
with his family watching the sun set, and listen
ing to their remarks about the beauty of the
scene, he had been intensely conscious of what
others had not been conscious of. For even to
342



COMING BACK

John the setting sun was only a yellow disk,
disappearing in a purple and golden glory, but
to Steve the heavens had been opened, and he
had seen a vision in those marvellously tinted
clouds, of dazzling temples and the crowded
pinions of cherubims, and the multitude no
man can number. And this vision, though
seen " through a glass darkly," had made him
homesick and silent, because he feared to be
misunderstood.

" What are you thinking about, Steve ?" at
length asked John. " Are you quite satisfied
with the arrangements made for carrying on the
work in your absence?"

" Yes and no. Ought I to leave the whole
weight on your shoulders, while I seek my own
health and happiness?"

" But while you are seeking your own, you
will find for others. You intend, do you not, to
examine the charities of the great European
cities, in order to adopt any really good idea?"

" I do. And I shall keep you posted, John ;
for if I find a good thing, you must carry it
forward at once. No need to wait for my re
turn. And, by-the-bye, I was through a State
Institution for the Insane yesterday, and I
noticed over all the doors of every depart
ment this admirable motto : Put yourself
in his place. John, the best of stewards, the
343



THE KING S HIGHWAY

most faithful of philanthropic workers, needs
such a reminder constantly. Would the men
and women we have put in charge be any
worse for such a noble order ever before their
eyes ? "

" I think they would be much better. It
would help us, every one. Say that an un
employed working-man came for money to go
to Pittsburg, would he not be likely to get it,
more kindly and cheerfully, if our agent put
himself in the man s place? I am sure he
would. And the same result would follow in
all the branches of The King s Highway
Fund. "

" The Unemployed Workman ! Oh, John, he
is as great a tragedy as Hamlet or the CEdipus.
How is the Land Scheme going on?"

" Not so rapidly as I could wish. Men do
not want to take the least obligation, and men
who do not want to take an obligation so easy,
and so self-respecting as you have made it, are
not the men who will build up cities in the
wilderness, and make the desert blossom as
the rose. If you gave them the land absolutely,
without pay, or even promise to pay, they would
not value it, or cultivate it yet, that is what
the majority want."

" I know," said Steve, with a smile as sad as
it was merry

344



COMING BACK

" Divide the land among the people,
And give it them quite scot free ;
To Bridget ten acres, to Pat ten pole,
And a thousand to Mrs. O Shea.
Answer me now and say."



What would they do with it, John ? "

" Sell it for as much cash as they could get.
Still, the settlement is growing; and a good
charity must grow; it cannot be manufactured."
" Well, don t get discouraged, John. It is
enough for me to have that failing. So often
I say to myself, How small a space I fill in this
great teeming world of labourers ! How little
I can do ! How marred that little is by my
ignorance and inefficiency ! And then my soul
is weary and hopeless of its work, and only
prays to be counted with those worshippers
who lie before God s altar and are still. "

" No, no, Steve ! It is not our duty to weigh
our work or its results. When you feel this
spiritual lassitude, then is the time to bid your
soul arise and join that nobler band whose
worship is not idle, and dumb, and fruitless.
Neither you nor I would be happy in the pas
sive joys of contemplation ; we want no lotos
land of musing, mystical worship; we want the
wages of going on and of doing good with
every sense we have or shall have. I ex-
345



THE KING S HIGHWAY

pect great things from your European investi
gations."

" You will be disappointed, John. As far as
I can read or hear, America is already in the
van of charitable Christian work."

" In the van let her always be."

"Yes, in some senses. But the van is not
always the best place, because it is not the men
who press to the van who are the most reliable
and serviceable. Now I should always be there
with my unsatisfied ideals and longings and my
enthusiasms, urging men to impossibilities; but
you, John, you are where the leader ought to
be just ahead of the great central force.
From there you direct those that are too im
petuous, and draw on those who have become
weary.

"John," continued Steve, "this very after
noon I got a new idea, and whatever comes or
goes, it is to be carried out. No man is better
fitted to carry it out than you are, and I am
much amazed you have not long ago suggested
it to me."

" What is, then, this new idea that I ought to
have suggested long ago? "

" I want us to own and publish a newspaper

a good paper that will represent God and the

people. I want a paper that can go where the

preacher cannot go. Have you considered

346



COMING BACK

what a power a few sheets of well-filled paper
may become? Why, John, there is no earthly,
moral power equal to it."

" The preacher

" I do not underrate him ; but you have to
go to the preacher and the paper comes to you.
If the weather is stormy and the church is far
away, the congregation consider that they must
dress for church, and get their best clothes
spoiled and a cold perhaps into the bargain.
The paper preaches to them at their fireside
and in their six-days coat. The paper permits
them to talk back to it. They say to one
another as they read it : Listen to this,
mother, or What do you say to that, father?
They discuss its theology and ethics freely
among themselves, and every one feels interested
in a sermon they have a share in. Again, the
preacher gives us the truth through one man s
heart and mind ; the paper speaks to us through
a great many hearts and minds. The preacher
is very much restricted as to subjects ; if he goes
too far afield, he is afraid to offend ; the paper
speaks out boldly, and stop my paper won t
stop it from speaking the truth. John, we must
have a paper. Call it The King s Highway, and
let it tell us all that is being done on that great
thoroughfare good and bad."

" Have you thought of the expense? "
347



THE KING S HIGHWAY

" To be sure I have. You know something
about publishing a paper. You know what
backing it will need. The Lloyd estate is good
for it."

"Amen! Now what is to be the spirit of
this great paper? "

" It is above all things to be tolerant, and to
be the organ of the poor and the needy. It is
to speak for the oppressed and the suffering in
all lands. If there is a wrong or a sorrow at
our antipodes, it is to point out the wrong and
comfort and relieve the sorrow, and that with
out regard to race, creed, or colour."

"Amen! What else?"

" Give the people a good sermon and a good,
clean love story. Men and women never tire of
either."

"A love story?"

" Yes. Old and young read love stones, nor
will they ever tire of them until they tire of
April s ever-returning mystery of daffodils and
crocus buds. Wojnen especially will read love
stories ; give them pure, sweet tales of home,
and home affections, and say a word or two
especially for the women, something that has
grown out of woman s joy and sorrow and
manifold trials and experiences. John, I am
astonished we have not thought of this wonder
working paper before ! "
348



COMING BACK

" So am I. Now about the price, Steve? "
" Make it so good that every one must have
it, but so cheap that every one can pay for it."
" You will lose money lots of it in that
way."

" The same thing was said when cheap post
age was proposed, but cheap postage has not
yet ruined the Government. But suppose I lost
money in this way, it would not be lost. No,
sir! It would be money out at the best inter
est ever humanity pays."

" Is it to advocate any special creed?"
" God forbid. Unless it could show to all
mankind how every cause and creed might be
combined by love :

4 Yet not forget

The fountain whence they rose;
As filled with many a rivulet.
The lordly Hudson flows. "

Steve was by this time in a fever of enthusiastic
foreseeing. He would hear of no such word as
" failure," and when John reminded him of the
large sums already disbursed and the large sums
necessary for carrying on all his plans, Steve
was in no way disconcerted.

" I have to give for two," he said, " for I am
sure if my father could come and speak to me
now, he would say, Pay all that I owe to the
349



THE KING S HIGHWAY

poor, Steve. Pay it with both hands. I have
five millions left, and you tell me it is increasing.
I cannot use it myself. My wife and children
cannot use it. Do you want me to bury it in a
napkin, and add dollar to dollar, until its very
weight will sink me to the lowest hell?"

" God forbid, Steve."

" Then help me to do good with it, John."

" Have you fully told me all your mind? Is
there no lingering wish or even fear?"

" I was wondering to-day if we had given
prominence enough to the Locomotion Fund.
I am sure, John, that speedy locomotion for the
unemployed is as necessary as hospitals for the
sick."

" I think you are right. I will have more
said about it."

" Get the paper to talk as quickly as you
can."

" I will. Anything else? You know we may
not have an opportunity for this discussion in
many months."

" We may never have another opportunity.
I have been much struck with the power of
music and song over those poor fellows in the
Bowery Mission. Into all our charities, John,
get as much music as you can psalms and
hymns and holy songs. I think myself, that
even in heaven, King David must remember
35



COMING BACK

The Lord is my Shepherd, and be happier
for having sung it."

He rose as he spoke, and John rose, and the
two men went to the window and looked out
over the tossing ocean. There were tears in
both their eyes, and Steve passed his arm round
John s neck, and John looked into his friend s
bright, eager face, and then broke quite down.

"Oh, Steve! Steve!" he cried; "don t go
away ! don t go ! I cannot bear to lose you !
Oh, my friend ! my dear, dear brother ! "

And Steve embraced him, and with great emo
tion said softly, " I arn so glad to hear you
speak thus, John. I knew you felt it, but oh, it
is good to hear it said. I wish men were more
often able to throw aside all restraint, and say
the kind and noble things they feel." And then
both remembered at the same moment the
same words, and smiling, said them softly
together,

" O God! That men would draw a little nearer

To one another ! They d be nearer thee ;
And understood."



351



CHAPTER XVI

"THY KINGDOM COME"

BEFORE noon next day, Steve was out on the sea,
and his family had to take up their life and order
it to his absence. That sense of the irrevocable
which always depresses those whom the ocean
sunders, paralysed the day of parting. No one
could do anything, yet all made it a point of
honour to affect a feeling of pleasure in Steve s
holiday. Even Jessie bravely fought back tears,
and showed Steve a parting face radiant with
smiles. But in spite of this assumed satis
faction perhaps because of it the reaction
was a definite depression. It was the middle of
the week, but John could not buckle to work, and
the whole family went back with Jessie, and
gave the day up to conversation and speculations
about Steve.

The first two weeks were the hardest. After
they were over, letters began to come with
an unexpected regularity, and the lassitude of
regret grew rapidly into an enthusiasm of
expectation. Every one wished to do some
thing great and unusual before Steve s return.
35 2



THY KINGDOM COME

Jessie resolved to build some additions to the
house, and to make her flower-garden a wonder
and a delight. When Steve came back it
should be to a home that would make him for
get all other homes, a home such as she had
heard him long for, with rooms large, sunny,
and airy, and without too much furniture in
them, and a garden full of solitary walks, redo
lent with fruits and flowers and musical with
bees and birds. She recalled all his desires,
and was determined to bring them to pass.

John had the paper on his mind. There
was plenty of journalist talent in New York,
and money enough to buy it, and in three
weeks The King s Highivay was reflecting on
paper the work done, and to be done, in order
to drive Apollyon off the great thoroughfare,
and prepare it for the coming of the Lord of
Hosts. Steve was sitting at breakfast one
morning in the Salutation Inn, at Ambleside,
when the first number came to him. He was
so proud of it that he could not eat another
mouthful, and instead of loitering in the lovely
land a week or two, as he had intended, he was
moved to go at once to Glasgow and Edinburgh,
to see what material he could find worthy of
its pages.

But, after all, his own forecast was in the
main only too true. Go where he would, he
2 3 353



THE KING S HIGHWAY

was dashed by the spirit of rigid economy ob
servable in all European charities. It seemed
to him that they had to pay, and that their ser
vice was chilled and cramped by this necessity.
In all his letters to John he magnified the chari
ties of his own country. Putting them against
those of older lands, he felt compelled to
admit that they had nothing to learn in the
ories, and a great deal to teach in a generous
rendering of theories.

" I find," he wrote, " that charitable houses
are hard to enter, and when the barriers are
surmounted, I have only a sense of pity and
disappointment. In some respects, I think the
criminals of Europe are better cared for than
the poor. And I have come to the conclusion,
John, that the charities of any land should be
indigenous, should spring from its special con
ditions and necessities. I think you and I
could go through Europe and not find many
ideas worth appropriating; but, John, we could
not go through the streets of New York with
our eyes and ears open and not find more
good roads for charity than we could possibly
occupy."

No amount of experience led him very far

from this estimate. He spent some time in

Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Italy, after

leaving England, but was only impressed with

354



THY KINGDOM COME

the bitterness of the poverty they had to
struggle with, and the inefficiency of their re
sources for such a struggle. Asia saddened
him still more. " Who is sufficient for such
widespread misery?" he asked despairingly.
Finally, he resolved to return to his own vine
yard, and make it the centre of his labours
and interests, " beginning first at Jerusalem"
that is, at New York, and yet not forget
ting those whom it was possible to help from
New York.

Alternating with his charitable investigations
had been many sweet retirements into that
solitude he loved. The lonely corries and
mountains of Scotland, the hidden valleys of
Norway, the deserts of Egypt, the isolated
stations of India, and the flowery gardens of
Japan, had all given him some sweet, secret
place of retreat. In these experiences his soul
grew to the perfect stature of the sons of God ;
for dear as solitude was to him, he still heard
in it the low, sad music of humanity, and thus
he rose from the plane of " what shall I do to
be saved?" to the far nobler one of "Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do? What is it that
thou requirest of me?"

And one day, while sitting in a very elysium
of beauty and sweetness near Tokio, he sud
denly felt that he must arise from this sensuous
355



THE KING S HIGHWAY

dream and go forward. Where to, and for
what purpose, he knew not, only that his days
of rest were over. Then he started for San
Francisco immediately, and as soon as he felt
the stress of civilisation round him, rose to its
spirit. A telegram to Jessie was his first
thought, and he found the possibility of tele
grams and railways to be pleasant.

This telegram brought a new life into Steve s
home; the glad news of his speedy return rang
through the house and grounds, and stirred every
one to labour and delight. How eagerly then
Jessie watched for the letter sure to follow the
telegram ! It came as quickly as possible, every
word in it glowing with love and expectation.

" I would take the first train home, my dear
one," Steve wrote, " but there are three or four
people in this vicinity I ought to see. They
helped me in my poverty, and nursed me when
I was sick and homeless. I may never get so
far West again, and at any rate, dear wife, I
could not come here and not remember them.
And alas ! I have already heard that one good
woman needs my remembrance sorely. Since
she watched me through a severe fever, her
husband has died, and she is now making a
hard struggle to find bread for her children.
But oh, Jessie, my darling, after the joy of
gratitude, the joy of seeing you ! The joy of
356



THY KINGDOM COME

the children ! The joy of home and work and
friends ! I am so happy, I cannot say how
happy I am ! "

And Jessie was not much disappointed at the
delay. " It is just like Steve," she said, be
tween laughing and crying, " and Steve is right,
is he not, John?"

" I am sure he is, Jessie," answered John.
" Steve may never be in San Francisco again,
and it would wound these old friends if he did
not call on them. And if they need his help,
the sooner help is given, the more welcome and
gracious. At the very longest, Steve should be
home in nine or ten days."

Everything in life now worked to that happy
expectation. In nine or ten days Steve would
be home. The spring was in all its glory, the
shrubs just budding, the tulips and daffodils
getting ready to blow open, and in nine or ten
days the fruit-trees would be like great white
bridal bouquets of blossoms. Jessie was satis
fied with the garden, and she went through her
house, room by room, adding a touch of colour,
hanging a picture in a better light, filling the
vases with fresh flowers (for in her heart she
expected Steve much earlier than John said),
and watching the children lest they should do
anything which might mar the spotless beauty
of their appearance.

357



THE KING S HIGHWAY

Neither did she neglect herself. She desired,
as every good wife does desire, to be fair in her
husband s eyes, and there were still some traces
of that terrible ordeal by fire that she had under
gone. Her fine colouring had never returned,
and perhaps never would, and she was yet a
little lame, and perhaps always would be so; but
apart from these drawbacks she was a hand
some woman. True religion makes women hand
some, for nothing is surer than that a lovely
soul illuminates and makes beautiful the body
it dwells in. Jessie also knew the value of be
coming costumes, and her fresh spring toilets
of green and white, with little suggestions of
amber or pink, carried out that symphony of
colour in which Nature had clothed the whole
world around her.

In Jessie s heart there was a faint disappoint
ment, when on the evening of the eighth day
Steve did not appear. But she was far from
acknowledging it. Steve s last letter to her
had said he might leave on the following day,
and so he could have reached home. But he
did not, and there was no letter or telegram to
explain the delay. Two more days passed to
the same disappointment and silence. Jessie
was now angry, and a little fearful, the more so
as John came out to ask her if she had received
any word from Steve. He affected a cheerful
358



confidence in " all being right," but Jessie
had a sickening dread that something was
wrong.

The dread grew and spread. Mrs. Lloyd and
Alice came to inquire of Jessie the next day,
and John, now really anxious, followed them.
He cautiously admitted that Steve might be
sick, and he thought some telegraphing ought
to be done, if it were only to satisfy themselves
that there was nothing seriously wrong, and as
all urged this method of relief, John immediately
put it in practice. The hotel from which Steve
had written was first interrogated, and the answer
was perplexing. " Mr. Lloyd was here for four
days. His trunks are still here and await or
ders." A great terror spread swiftly from heart
to heart. Telegrams flew to and from every
station on the route home, but no information
was obtained. Then John went West to make
such search as love and gold could make.

In the mean time, Jessie was nearly frantic
with a thousand fears. She tried to pray and
could not. She had made John promise if he
found Steve sick, to telegraph for her; and she
walked restlessly about the room, with her bon
net and cloak lying on the table, ready to start
for her husband s side at a moment s notice.
But John could not find a trace of Steve. At
the hotel he was well remembered, but from the
359



THE KING S HIGHWAY

moment he passed out of its doors, no sign of
him could be discovered. Fear deepened into
despair, and the awful silence of uncertainty and
suspense nearly broke their hearts.

Fortunately there were late photographs of
Steve, and John gave these to men who were
familiar with the country, and lavished gold
in searching every foot of ground in the city
and in the adjacent towns and villages. Noth
ing came of the quest, and finally John was
compelled to return home. Still, he would not
give up hope. He reminded Jessie of Steve s
erratic impulses to seclusion, and of that habit
he had of sinking his identity in some work
manlike disguise ; and he thought it probable
that he had done so in order to visit his old
friends, and that while in this condition, he had
fallen sick in some out-of-the-way place, unable
to communicate with his friends.

But even this hope died as weeks and months
went by, and no word or token came from the
lost man. Jessie utterly succumbed to the long
strain of suspense and despair. She lay pros
trate and speechless, while forgotten days and
forgotten opportunities of loving-kindness called
to her in sad, remorseful repenting. Oh, if just
once more she could hear Steve s strong rapid
step coming towards her ! If just once more
she could see him open the door, and look at
360



THY KINGDOM COME

her with his smile so full of love and truth !
Only once! Only once, that she might tell
him how dearly she loved, how sorry she was
that she had ever grieved or undervalued him!
For now bygone hours tortured her. They
showed her what they had expected from her,
and what they would have given her. And it
was too late ! Steve s face, as she had often
seen it, with a longing disappointed look,
haunted her desolate heart. He would come
back no more. She had deceived his hopes
so often, and now death in some form or other
had taken him away for ever ! She recalled
times when she might have made him so happy,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 18 of 19)