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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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and she had doled him out the poorest kind of
compensation. She remembered times when
she had profited by his generosity, only to pro
tect her own selfishness. He had loved her,
and she had wounded him cruelly. Twice she
had made him weep. Certain words she had
said, certain looks she had given, secret for
gotten unkindnesses all at once became alive,
and all said to her, " Too late ! Too late ! "
Alas ! the irreparable has this magic freshness,
and the soul compelled to remember the love
it has wasted and wounded, suffers from such
refinements of tenderness real heart-rending.
One hour, Jessie prayed for. One hour of the
many hours in which she had made Steve un-



THE KING S HIGHWAY

happy. Only one hour, to tell him how sorry
she was, to ask his forgiveness, and kiss her
pardon from his lips. No ! No ! Neither to
day, nor to-morrow, nor throughout eternity,
would she find one of the many hours she had
spent in making miserable the heart that loved
her so truly and so unselfishly.

Thus, full of wretched remorse and anxiety,
the months went by, and it was again spring.
Then one day a dark, rough-looking man en
tered John s office. He sat down in a chair
opposite him, and, looking calmly into John s
face, said :

" I was with him to the end. I saw every
thing. I heard the last words he spoke."

"You mean Mr. Lloyd?" asked John, look
ing at his visitor with sorrowful fear.

" I mean the man I called Steve. He called
himself Steve. Sandy McLaurin of San
Francisco told me you wanted to find him.
Well, you can t find him, and I am glad of it.
He is far beyond the law and the lawyers. He
is at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and he
is. better there than in your clutches, and
more, I would n t believe Steve ever did any
thing wrong, not if you swore yourself black
and blue over it."

" Stop, my friend ! "

" I am Steve s friend, not yours."
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THY KINGDOM COME

" I am Steve s friend. I am also his brother."

" Oh ! that s it ! "

" If you believe that Steve Lloyd is wanted
for anything but love and honour, you are
much mistaken. And if you are telling me
that Steve is dead, thinking to lead me on a
wrong scent, let me tell you, it is a great cruelty.
His mother and wife and sister and children and
I, myself, still keep a hope of his return. Do
not for God s sake kill that hope, unless you
have sure and certain knowledge of his death."

" I have."

"What is it?"

" I saw him die."

"Where? How?"

" I 11 tell you. I met Steve when I was sec
ond engineer on the Alaska. We were mates
and friends, and I loved him. Who could help
loving, him? I don t take to people in general,
but I took to Steve, and I loved him. It is no
matter to you what fortune took me to Frisco,
but I was there looking for a job, when one
morning I saw Steve on the street, and he was
so bright and handsome that I could not help
but say, God bless you, Steve ! I m out of luck
and very shabby, and you needn t speak to me;
but I am glad to see you looking like the gentle
man you are and always were. Well, sir, if I d
been the richest man and the greatest man in
363



THE KING S HIGHWAY

the world, Steve could n t have been more set
up to meet me. He asked me where I was
staying, and I said at Sandy McLaurin s, and he
said, well, then he d stay there, too. We talked
a bit, and then agreed to meet at Sandy s for
supper at six o clock, and I never thought for a
moment that he was going to quit the first hotel
in the place to come to me."

" Stay. Do you remember the date of this
meeting? "

" To be sure. It was on May the sixth of
last year."

"Yes," said John, sadly; "the proprietor
told me that he paid his bill on the afternoon
of the sixth, and said he would come for his
trunks later."

"Well, sir, he intended to do so, no doubt;
but just after I left Steve, the captain of a coast
steamer stopped me, and asked if I would run
his engines down the water about thirty miles
the next day. He was going to take a party of
women and children on a picnic to some big
orange grove. I said I would go, and I begged
Steve to come with me ; and I begged him so
hard that he finally consented, though I could
see he did n t want to go. And he told me he
intended taking the ten o clock train at night
for the East, but I assured him we would be
back by eight at the latest, and so he would
3 6 4



THY KINGDOM COME

have two hours to come and go on. He thought
it would be enough, and so went with
me."

" Do you remember the name of the place ? "

" San Justa; but it is nothing of a place, only
some big gardens and a grove and a few houses.
All went well enough ; the women had tea-parties
under the trees, and the children ate fruit and
danced and played ; but the captain spent the
day in a drinking-house, and when he came
aboard he was reckless and quarrelsome. There
was a full moon though, and it was light as day,
yet I felt in myself that something was going to
happen. I told Steve so, and asked him to keep
the captain in sight. Half an hour afterwards
a big steamer struck us, and went straight
ahead."

" But she stopped to see what damage she
had done?"

" No, she did n t, and I can t blame her much.
She was badly hurt herself, and our captain gave
her such blaspheming ill words as were not fit
to get help with ; and very likely they thought
if we needed help we would have found decent
language to say so. Anyway, we were left
alone, and I knew what was coming. I went
on deck, and the first thing I saw was the cow
ardly captain and crew putting off in a boat, and
Steve standing by the gunwale, with an iron
365



THE KING S HIGHWAY

bar in his hand, threatening to brain any man
who got into a boat while there was a woman
or a child to save. I saw him standing on the
sloping deck of the fast-sinking ship, helping
them into the boats, while the water rose to his
knees and higher and higher but he got
every woman and child safely off; and he went
down with a blessing on his lips."

Both men were weeping, and John could not
utter a word. The stranger continued, " I had
stood by him and helped him all I could, and
he saw me in the water just as he was sinking,
and he called out: Good-bye, David! God
help, and save, and bless that is all. But it
is enough to comfort you, I hope." Then see
ing John take out his check book, he added,
" Stop that. I heard about the reward, but I
would n t touch a penny for nothing in the
world."

" Take your expenses at any rate."
" I will not. I was coming to New York on
my own affairs. While Steve was living I would
have done anything for him heart and hands
could do free and welcome. It is n t likely I 11
pocket money for a kindness to the dead. What
do you take me for? I am sorry enough for
those who loved him, but he died a good death.
No man could die better than Steve did. Tell
them that ; and good-bye, sir ! "
366



Then John sat still with his eyes covered, but
seeing the whole tragedy. He understood the
situation, the strong arm which would work
miracles of salvation, the kind encouragement
to the weak*, the sunny trust that at the last
moment could pray for help for another rather
than for himself, and he could weep no longer.
He thought of his friend as knocking all his life
long at a door not opened longing and wist
fully watching and then suddenly a door
opened into heaven, and a voice heard saying,
" Come up hither." No, he could not weep for
Steve. The long yearning of his heart for
freedom was stilled. His soul had slipped the
bonds of its incarnation. Steve was for ever
among the Freedmen of God.

So the agony of the long waiting was at last
over; the grief not sure was now certain.
And in spite of his grief he found grace to say,
" Thank God for a death so noble ! " It was
best now that all who loved Steve should know
the truth. He went out at once to Jessie s home
and found Mrs. Lloyd and Alice sitting with
her. She had not been expecting John, and
the moment he entered she divined the news
he brought.

"What is it, John?" she asked in a whisper.
"Is Steve dead?"

" Steve is alive for ever ! "
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THE KING S HIGHWAY

Then sitting down by the three women, and
mingling his tears with theirs, John told the
story of Steve s heroic death. " He gave his
life a ransom for many lives, for the helpless
women and children who would have been left
to perish if Steve had not stood at the sinking
gunwale for them. There is nothing to weep
for in such a death ; " and yet John bowed his
head and wept bitterly.

Then a marvellous thing took place. Jessie,
who had been prostrate in a silent despair for
weeks, suddenly rose to her feet, and with
clasped hands and uplifted eyes, in a rapture of
rejoicing, gave God thanks for Steve s glorious
discharge from all the sorrows of mortality. " I
can weep no more. There is a better way
before me, John," she cried, stretching out her
hands to him. " Show me how to stand in
Steve s place. You know what good works he
planned. I will carry them out and forward.
I consecrate my life to this promise. As Steve s
wife, I too often failed ; as Steve s widow I will
pay to the poor, as long as I live, the debt of
love I owe him. Steve, I know, has left me all
he possessed. I give with all my heart one
million dollars of it as a thank-offering to God
for the love he gave, and for the love he has
taken away blessed be the name of the
Lord ! "

368



THY KINGDOM COME

" Blessed be the name of the Lord ! " Ah !
there are joys and triumphs for those who sub
mit. With heart crushed, and on the very
borders of despair, Jessie found strength to say,
" Thy will be done," and in that moment the
song of the redeemed who trust in the Lord
made her glad. From weeping she turned to
work, from the thought of herself and her own
sorrow to the thought of others and the sorrows
of others. In as far as possible she took Steve s
place in the labours of TJic Kings Highway.
Money she gave with a liberal hand ; and not
only money, but time, strength, influence, and
life. Many charities, never heard of before,
flow this day like an unseen stream among the
meadows from her heart and hands, charities
having for their object the nameless, little-
regarded trials of wifehood and motherhood
and girlhood.

At first she worked with the thought of Steve
in her soul ; but she soon rose higher, to the
thought of God ; and though sometimes dis
couraged, when every other anchor drags, the
thought of God steadies her wavering heart.
Greatly strengthened and helped by Mrs. Lloyd
and Alice, who stand at her right hand and her
left, the three women are constantly busy, pre
paring the way of the Lord, and lifting up the
gates of holiness, so that the King of Glory
24 369



THE KING S HIGHWAY

may come in, and abide in our cities, and fill
the whole land with righteousness, and peace,
and contentment.

This good day is coming! Coming in spite
of all oppositions and discouragements. The
work Steve and John began goes silently and
steadily forward. The two millions soon be
came too little for its necessities, and Mrs. Lloyd
and Alice and many others have added to the
fund. The high places of sin are being broken
down, and the rough places of suffering smoothed
and bridged over ; and the day of the Lord is at
hand ! John knows it, and he neither wearies
nor falters in well-doing. God inspires him, and
humanity inspires him; and if his heart ever
fails him for a moment, he has but to cast his
eyes upward and around. For all around
over the hearth and on the lintels of the door,
circling the seal of their work, and on the mar
gin of every paper, is the grand prophetic
motto Steve chose for it: " Thy Kingdom Conic"
It is even carved on the frame of the exquisite
portrait of Steve which Mrs. Lloyd has given
to the office of the charities he founded ; and
John has but to gaze on that radiant face to
catch virtue from it. Often he whispers as he
stands before it:

" Steve ! You have been a pillar of fire to
me ! Still I can hear you say, Be strong, John,
37



THY KINGDOM COME

be strong, and again, be strong! Oh, brave,
kind soul, by what shore tarriest thou now?

In some far shining sphere
Conscious or not of the past
Still thou performest the Word
Of the Spirit in whom thou didst live. "

And to this joyful certainty all who love
Steve still work, having in their hearts a sure
and certain hope that he " in some far shining
sphere " is working with them in the great end
towards which all creation travaileth together

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be clone,
On earth as it is in Heaven.



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000 545915





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