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fallen once more on unheeding ears, or not; for with a little sigh,
born partly of relief, and partly of sorrow, that the opportunity was
gone, she turned to meet Dr. Van Anden, and was sent for a few moments
out into the light and glory of the departing day, to catch a bit of
its freshness.

It was as the last midnight stroke of that long, long day was being
given, that they were gathered about the dying bed. Sadie was there,
solemn and awe-stricken. Mrs. Ried had arisen from her couch of
suffering, and nerved herself to be a support to the poor young wife.
Dr. Douglass, at the side of the sick man, kept anxious watch over
the fluttering pulse. Ester, on the other side, looked on in helpless
pity, and other friends of the Hollands were grouped about the room.
So they watched and waited for the swift down-coming of the angel of
death The death damp had gathered on his brow, the pulse seemed but
a faint tremble now and then, and those whose eyes were used to death
thought that his lips would never frame mortal sound again, when
suddenly the eyelids raised, and Mr. Holland, fixing a steady gaze
upon the eyes bent on him from the foot of the bed, whither Ester had
slipped to make more room for her mother and Mrs. Holland, said, in a
clear, distinct tone, one unmistakable word - "Pray!"

Will Ester ever forget the start of terror which thrilled her frame as
she felt that look and heard that word? She cast a quick, frightened
glance around her of inquiry and appeal; but her mother and herself
were the only ones present whom she had reason to think ever prayed.
Could she, _would_ she, that gentle, timid, shrinking mother? But Mrs.
Ried was supporting the now almost fainting form of Mrs. Holland, and
giving anxious attention to her. "He says pray!" Sadie murmured, in
low, frightened tones. "Oh, where is Dr. Van Anden?"

Ester knew he had been called in great haste to the house across the
way, and ere he could return, this waiting spirit might be gone - gone
without a word of prayer. Would Ester want to die so, with no voice to
cry for her to that listening Savior? But then no human being had
ever heard her pray. Could she? - must she? Oh, for Dr. Van Anden - a
Christian doctor! Oh, if that infidel stood anywhere but there, with
his steady hand clasping the fluttering pulse, with his cool, calm
eyes bent curiously on her - but Mr. Holland was dying; perhaps the
everlasting arms were not underneath him - and at this fearful thought,
Ester dropped upon her knees, giving utterance to her deepest need in
the first uttered words, "Oh, Holy Spirit, teach me just what to say!"
Her mother, listening with startled senses as the familiar voice fell
on her ear, could but think that _that_ petition was answered; and
Ester felt it in her very soul, Dr. Douglass, her mother, Sadie, all
of them were as nothing - there was only this dying man and Christ, and
she pleading that the passing soul might be met even now by the Angel
of the covenant. There were those in the room who never forgot that
prayer of Ester's. Dr. Van Anden, entering hastily, paused midway in
the room, taking in the scene in an instant of time, and then was
on his knees, uniting his silent petitions with hers. So fervent and
persistent was the cry for help, that even the sobs of the stricken
wife were hushed in awe, and only the watching doctor, with his finger
on the pulse, knew when the last fluttering beat died out, and the
death-angel pressed his triumphant seal on pallid lip and brow.

"Dr. Van Anden," Ester said, as they stood together for a moment
the next morning, waiting in the chamber of death for Mrs. Ried's
directions - . "Was - Did he," with an inclination of her head toward
the silent occupant of the couch, "Did he ever think he was a
Christian?"

The doctor bent on her a grave, sad look, and slowly shook his head.

"Oh, Doctor! you can not think that he - " and Ester stopped, her face
blanching with the fearfulness of her thought.

"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" This was the
doctor's solemn answer. After a moment, he added: "Perhaps that one
eagerly-spoken word, 'Pray,' said as much to the ears of Him
whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, as did that old-time
petition - 'Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.'"

Ester never forgot that and the following day, while the corpse of one
whom she had known so well lay in the house; and when she followed
him to the quiet grave, and watched the red and yellow autumn leaves
flutter down around his coffin - dead leaves, dead flowers, dead hopes,
death every-where - not just a going up higher, as Mr. Foster's death
had been - this was solemn and inexorable death. More than ever she
felt how impossible it was to call back the days that had slipped away
while she slept, and do their neglected duties. She had come for this,
full of hope; and now one of those whom she had met many times each
day for years, and never said Jesus to, was at this moment being
lowered into his narrow house, and, though God had graciously given
her an inch of time, and strength to use it, it was as nothing
compared with those wasted years, and she could never know, at least
never until the call came for her, whether or not at the eleventh hour
this "poor man cried, and the Lord heard him," and received him into
Paradise.

Dr. Van Anden moved around to where she was standing, with tightly
clasped hands and colorless lips. He had been watching her, and this
was what he said: "Ester, shall you and I ever stand again beside a
new-made grave, receiving one whom we have known ever so slightly, and
have to settle with our consciences and our Savior, because we have
not invited that one to come to Jesus?"

And Ester answered, with firmly-drawn lips "As that Savior hears me,
and will help me _never_!"




CHAPTER XXII.

"LITTLE PLUM PIES."


Ester was in the kitchen trimming off the puffy crusts of endless
pies - the old brown calico morning dress, the same huge bib apron
which had been through endless similar scrapes with her - every thing
about her looking exactly as it had three months ago, and yet so far
as Ester and her future - yes, and the future of every one about
her was concerned, things were very different. Perhaps Sadie had a
glimmering of some strange change as she eyed her sister curiously,
and took note that there was a different light in her eye, and a sort
of smoothness on the quiet face that she had never noticed before. In
fact, Sadie missed some wrinkles which she had supposed were part and
parcel of Ester's self.

"How I _did_ hate that part of it," she remarked, watching the fingers
that moved deftly around each completed sphere. "Mother said my edges
always looked as if a mouse had marched around them nibbling all the
way. My! how thoroughly I hate housekeeping. I pity the one who takes
me for better or worse - always provided there exists such a poor
victim on the face of the earth."

"I don't think you hate it half so much as you imagine," Ester
answered kindly. "Any way you did nicely. Mother says you were a great
comfort to her."

There was a sudden mist before Sadie's eyes.

"Did mother say that?" she queried. "The blessed woman, what a very
little it takes to make a comfort for her. Ester, I declare to you,
if ever angels get into kitchens and pantries, and the like, mother
is one of them. The way she bore with my endless blunderings was
perfectly angelic. I'm glad, though, that her day of martyrdom is
over, and mine, too, for that matter."

And Sadie, who had returned to the kingdom of spotless dresses and
snowy cuffs, and, above all, to the dear books and the academy, caught
at that moment the sound of the academy bell, and flitted away. Ester
filled the oven with pies, then went to the side doorway to get a
peep at the glowing world. It was the very perfection of a day - autumn
meant to die in wondrous beauty that year. Ester folded her bare arms
and gazed. She felt little thrills of a new kind of restlessness all
about her this morning. She wanted to do something grand, something
splendidly good. It was all very well to make good pies; she had done
that, given them the benefit of her highest skill in that line - now
they were being perfected in the oven, and she waited for something.
If ever a girl longed for an opportunity to show her colors, to honor
her leader, it was our Ester. Oh yes, she meant to do the duty that
lay next her, but she perfectly ached to have that next duty something
grand, something that would show all about her what a new life she had
taken on.

Dr. Van Anden was tramping about in his room, over the side piazza, a
very unusual proceeding with him at that hour of the day; his windows
were open, and he was singing, and the fresh lake wind brought tune
and words right down to Ester's ear:

"I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do,
Or wondrous thing to know;
I would be guided as a child,
And led where'er I go.

"I ask thee for the daily strength,
To none that ask denied,
A mind to blend with outward life,
While keeping at thy side;
Content to fill a little space
If thou be glorified."

Of course Dr. Van Anden did not know that Ester Ried stood in the
doorway below, and was at that precise moment in need of just such
help as this; but then what mattered that, so long as the Master did?

Just then another sense belonging to Ester did its duty, and gave
notice that the pies in the oven were burning; and she ran to their
rescue, humming meantime:

"Content to fill a little space
If thou be glorified."

Eleven o'clock found her busily paring potatoes - hurrying a little,
for in spite of swift, busy fingers their work was getting a little
the best of Maggie and her, and one pair of very helpful hands was
missing.

Alfred and Julia appeared from somewhere in the outer regions, and
Ester was too busy to see that they both carried rather woe-begone
faces.

"Hasn't mother got back yet?" queried Alfred.

"Why, no," said Ester. "She will not be back until to-night - perhaps
not then. Didn't you know Mrs. Carleton was worse?"

Alfred kicked his heels against the kitchen door in a most
disconsolate manner.

"Somebody's always sick," he grumbled out at last. "A fellow might as
well not have a mother. I never saw the beat - nobody for miles around
here can have the toothache without borrowing mother. I'm just sick
and tired of it."

Ester had nearly laughed, but catching a glimpse of the forlorn face,
she thought better of it, and said:

"Something is awry now, I know. You never want mother in such a
hopeless way as that unless you're in trouble; so you see you are just
like the rest of them, every body wants mother when they are in any
difficulty."

"But she is my mother, and I have a right to her, and the rest of 'em
haven't."

"Well," said Ester, soothingly, "suppose I be mother this time. Tell
me what's the matter and I'll act as much like her as possible."

"_You_!" And thereupon Alfred gave a most uncomplimentary sniff.
"Queer work you'd make of it."

"Try me," was the good-natured reply.

"I ain't going to. I know well enough you'd say 'fiddlesticks' or
'nonsense,' or some such word, and finish up with 'Just get out of my
way.'"

Now, although Ester's cheeks were pretty red over this exact imitation
of her former ungracious self, she still answered briskly:

"Very well, suppose I should make such a very rude and unmotherlike
reply, fiddlesticks and nonsense would not shoot you, would they?"

At which sentence Alfred stopped kicking his heels against the door,
and laughed.

"Tell us all about it," continued Ester, following up her advantage.

"Nothing to tell, much, only all the folks are going a sail on the
lake this afternoon, and going to have a picnic in the grove, the very
last one before snow, and I meant to ask mother to let us go, only how
was I going to know that Mrs. Carleton would get sick and come away
down here after her before daylight; and I know she would have let
me go, too; and they're going to take things, a basketful each one of
'em - and they wanted me to bring little bits of pies, such as mother
bakes in little round tins, you know, plum pies, and she would have
made me some, I know; she always does; but now she's gone, and it's
all up, and I shall have to stay at home like I always do, just for
sick folks. It's mean, any how."

Ester smothered a laugh over this curious jumble, and asked a humble
question:

"Is there really nothing that would do for your basket but little bits
of plum pies?"

"No," Alfred explained, earnestly. "Because, you see, they've got
plenty of cake and such stuff; the girls bring that, and they do like
my pies, awfully. I most always take 'em. Mr. Hammond likes them,
too; he's going along to take care of us, and I shouldn't like to go
without the little pies, because they depend upon them."

"Oh," said Ester, "girls go, too, do they?" And she looked for the
first time at the long, sad face of Julia in the corner.

"Yes, and Jule is in just as much trouble as I am, cause they are all
going to wear white dresses, and she's tore hers, and she says she
can't wear it till it's ironed, cause it looks like a rope, and Maggie
says she can't and won't iron it to-day, _so_; and mother was going
to mend it this very morning, and - . Oh, fudge! it's no use talking,
we've got to stay at home, Jule, so now." And the kicking heels
commenced again.

Ester pared her last potato with a half troubled, half amused face.
She was thoroughly tired of baking for that day, and felt like saying
fiddlesticks to the little plum pies; and that white dress was torn
cris-cross and every way, and ironing was always hateful; besides it
_did_ seem strange that when she wanted to do some great, nice thing,
so much plum pies and torn dresses should step right into her path.
Then unconsciously she repeated:

"Content to fill a _little_ space
If _Thou_ art glorified."

_Could_ He be glorified, though, by such very little things? Yet
hadn't she wanted to gain an influence over Alfred and Julia, and
wasn't this her first opportunity; besides there was that verse:
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do - ." At that point her thoughts took
shape in words.

"Well, sir, we'll see whether mother is the only woman in this world
after all. You tramp down cellar and bring me up that stone jar on the
second shelf, and we'll have those pies in the oven in a twinkling;
and that little woman in the corner, with two tears rolling down her
cheeks, may bring her white dress and my work-box and thimble, and put
two irons on the stove, and my word for it you shall both be ready by
three o'clock, spry and span, pies and all."

By three o'clock on the afternoon in question Ester was thoroughly
tired, but little plum pies by the dozen were cuddling among snowy
napkins in the willow basket, and Alfred's face was radiant as he
expressed his satisfaction, after this fashion:

"You're just jolly, Ester! I didn't know you could be so good. Won't
the boys chuckle over these pies, though? Ester, there's just seven
more than mother ever made me."

"Very well," answered Ester, gayly; "then there will be just seven
more chuckles this time than usual."

Julia expressed her thoughts in a way more like her. She surveyed
her skillfully-mended and beautifully smooth white dress with smiling
eyes; and as Ester tied the blue sash in a dainty knot, and stepped
back to see that all was as it should be, she was suddenly confronted
with this question:

"Ester, what does make you so nice to-day; you didn't ever used to be
so?"

How the blood rushed into Ester's cheeks as she struggled with her
desire to either laugh or cry, she hardly knew which. These were very
little things which she had done, and it was shameful that, in all the
years of her elder sisterhood, she had never sacrificed even so little
of her own pleasure before; yet it was true, and it made her feel like
crying - and yet there was rather a ludicrous side to the question, to
think that all her beautiful plans for the day had culminated in plum
pies and ironing. She stooped and kissed Julia on the rosy cheek, and
answered gently, moved by some inward impulse:

"I am trying to do all my work for Jesus nowadays."

"You didn't mend my dress and iron it, and curl my hair, and fix my
sash, for him, did you?"

"Yes; every little thing."

"Why, I don't see how. I thought you did them for me."

"I did, Julia, to please you and make you happy; but Jesus says that
that is just the same as doing it for him."

Julia's next question was very searching:

"But, Ester, I thought you had been a member of the church a good
many years. Sadie said so. Didn't you ever try to do things for Jesus
before?"

A burning blush of genuine shame mantled Ester's face, but she
answered quickly:

"No; I don't think I ever really did."

Julia eyed her for a moment with a look of grave wonderment, then
suddenly stood on tiptoe to return the kiss, as she said:

"Well, I think it is nice, anyway. If Jesus likes to have you be so
kind and take so much trouble for me, why then he must love me, and I
mean to thank him this very night when I say my prayers."

And as Ester rested for a moment in the arm-chair on the piazza, and
watched her little brother and sister move briskly off, she hummed
again those two lines that had been making unconscious music in her
heart all day:

"Content to fill a _little_ space
If Thou be glorified."




CHAPTER XXIII.

CROSSES.


The large church was _very_ full; there seemed not to be another space
for a human being. People who were not much given to frequenting the
house of God on a week-day evening, had certainly been drawn thither
at this time. Sadie Ried sat beside Ester in their mother's pew, and
Harry Arnett, with a sober look on his boyish face, sat bolt upright
in the end of the pew, while even Dr. Douglass leaned forward with
graceful nonchalance from the seat behind them, and now and then
addressed a word to Sadie.

These people had been listening to such a sermon as is very seldom
heard - that blessed man of God whose name is dear to hundreds and
thousands of people, whose hair is whitened with the frosts of many
a year spent in the Master's service, whose voice and brain and heart
are yet strong, and powerful, and "mighty through God," the Rev. Mr.
Parker, had been speaking to them, and his theme had been the soul,
and his text had been: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the
whole world and lose his own soul?"

I hope I am writing for many who have had the honor of hearing that
appeal fresh from the great brain and greater heart of Mr. Parker.
Such will understand the spell under which his congregation sat even
after the prayer and hymn had died into silence. Now the gray-haired
veteran stood bending over the pulpit, waiting for the Christian
witnesses to the truth of his solemn messages; and for that he seemed
likely to wait. A few earnest men, veterans too in the cause, gave
in their testimony - and then occurred one of those miserable,
disheartening, disgraceful pauses which are met with nowhere on earth
among a company of intelligent men and women, with liberty given them
to talk, save in a prayer-meeting! Still silence, and still the aged
servant stood with one arm resting on the Bible, and looked down
almost beseechingly upon that crowd of dumb Christians.

"Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord," he repeated, in earnest,
pleading tones.

Miserable witnesses they! Was not the Lord ashamed of them all, I
wonder? Something like this flitted through Ester's brain as she
looked around upon that faithless company, and noted here and there
one who certainly ought to "take up his cross." Then some slight idea
of the folly of that expression struck her. What a fearful cross
it was, to be sure! What a strange idea to use the same word in
describing it that was used for that blood-stained, nail-pierced cross
on Calvary. Then a thought, very startling in its significance, came
to her. Was that cross borne only for men? were they the only ones
who had a thank-offering because of Calvary? Surely _her_ Savior hung
there, and bled, and groaned, and died for HER. Why should not she
say, "By his stripes _I_ am healed?" What if she should? What would
people think? No, not that either. What would Jesus think? that, after
all, was the important question. Did she really believe that if she
should say in the hearing of that assembled company, "I love Jesus,"
that Jesus, looking down upon her, and hearing how her timid voice
broke the dishonoring silence, would be displeased, would set it down
among the long list of "ought not to have" dones? She tried to imagine
herself speaking to him in her closet after this manner: "Dear Savior,
I confess with shame that I have brought reproach upon thy name this
day, for I said, in the presence of a great company of witnesses, that
I loved thee!" In defiance of her education and former belief upon
this subject, Ester was obliged to confess, then and there, that
all this was extremely ridiculous. "Oh, well," said Satan, "it's not
exactly _wrong_, of course; but then it isn't very modest or ladylike;
and, besides, it is unnecessary. There are plenty of men to do the
talking." "But," said common sense, "I don't see why it's a bit more
unladylike than the ladies' colloquy at the lyceum was last evening.
There were more people present than are here tonight; and as for the
men, they are perfectly mum. There seems to be plenty of opportunity
for somebody." "Well," said Satan, "it isn't customary at least, and
people will think strangely of you. Doubtless it would do more harm
than good."

This most potent argument, "People will think strangely of you,"
smothered common sense at once, as it is apt to do, and Ester raised
her head from the bowed position which it had occupied during this
whirl of thought, and considered the question settled. Some one began
to sing, and of all the words that _could_ have been chosen, came the
most unfortunate ones for this decision:

"On my head he poured his blessing,
Long time ago;
Now he calls me to confess him
Before I go.
My past life, all vile and hateful,
He saved from sin;
I should be the most ungrateful
Not to own him.
Death and hell he bade defiance,
Bore cross and pain;
Shame my tongue this guilty silence,
And speak his name."

This at once renewed the struggle, but in a different form. She no
longer said, "Ought I?" but, "Can I?" Still the spell of silence
seemed unbroken save by here and there a voice, and still Ester
parleyed with her conscience, getting as far now as to say: "When
Mr. Jones sits down, if there is another silence, I will try to say
something" - not quite meaning, though, to do any such thing, and
proving her word false by sitting very still after Mr. Jones sat down,
though there was plenty of silence. Then when Mr. Smith said a few
words, Ester whispered the same assurance to herself, with exactly the
same result. The something _decided_ for which she had been longing,
the opportunity to show the world just where she stood, had come at
last, and this was the way in which she was meeting it. At last
she knew by the heavy thuds which her heart began to give, that the
question was decided, that the very moment Deacon Graves sat down she
would rise; whether she would say any thing or not would depend upon
whether God gave her any thing to say - but at least she could stand
up for Jesus. But Mr. Parker's voice followed Deacon Graves'; and this
was what he said:

"Am I to understand by your silence that there is not a Christian man
or woman in all this company who has an unconverted friend whom he or
she would like to have us pray for?"

Then the watching Angel of the Covenant came to the help of this
trembling, struggling Ester, and there entered into her heart such a
sudden and overwhelming sense of longing for Sadie's conversion, that
all thought of what she would say, and how she would say it, and
what people would think, passed utterly out of her mind; and rising
suddenly, she spoke, in clear and wonderfully earnest tones:

"Will you pray for a dear, dear friend?"

God sometimes uses very humble means with which to break the spell of
silence which Satan so often weaves around Christians; it was as if
they had all suddenly awakened to a sense of their privileges.

Dr. Van Anden said, in a voice which quivered with feeling: "I have
a brother in the profession for whom I ask your prayers that he may


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