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too much complacency to suit Ester's state of mind; but he took no
notice of her broadly-given hint further than to assure her that she
need give herself no uneasiness on that score; he should certainly be
on time. Then he went off, looking immensely relieved; for Mr. Newton
frankly confessed to himself that he did not know how to take care of
a lady. "If she were a parcel of goods now that one could get stored
or checked, and knew that she would come on all right, why - but a
lady. I'm not used to it. How easily I could have caught that train,
if I hadn't been obliged to run back after her; but, bless me, I
wouldn't have her know that for the world." This he said meditatively
as he walked down South Street.

The New York train had carried away the greater portion of the
throng at the depot, so that Ester and the dozen or twenty people who
occupied the great sitting-room with her, had comparative quiet. The
wearer of the condemned brown silk and blue ribbons was still there,
and awoke Ester's vexation still further by seeming utterly unable to
keep herself quiet; she fluttered from seat to seat, and from window
to window, like an uneasy bird in a cage. Presently she addressed
Ester in a bright little tone: "Doesn't it bore you dreadfully to wait
in a depot?"

"Yes," said Ester, briefly and truthfully, notwithstanding the fact
that she was having her first experience in that boredom.

"Are you going to New York?"

"I hope so," she answered, with energy. "I expected to have been
almost there by this time; but the gentleman who is supposed to be
taking care of me, had to rush off and stay just long enough to miss
the train."

"How annoying!" answered the blue ribbons with a soft laugh. "I missed
it, too, in such a silly way. I just ran around the corner to get some
chocolate drops, and a little matter detained me a few moments; and
when I came back, the train had gone. I was so sorry, for I'm in such
a hurry to get home. Do you live in New York?"

Ester shook her head, and thought within herself: "That is just as
much sense as I should suppose you to have - risk the chance of missing
a train for the sake of a paper of candy."

Of course Ester could not be expected to know that the chocolate drops
were for the wee sister at home, whose heart would be nearly broken if
sister Fanny came home, after an absence of twenty-four hours, without
bringing her any thing; and the "little matter" which detained her
a few moments, was joining the search after a twenty-five-cent bill
which the ruthless wind had snatched from the hand of a barefooted,
bareheaded, and almost forlorn little girl, who cried as violently
as though her last hope in life had been blown away with it; nor
how, failing in finding the treasure, the gold-clasped purse had been
opened, and a crisp, new bill had been taken out to fill its place;
neither am I at all certain as to whether it would have made any
difference at all in Ester's verdict, if she had known all the
circumstances.

The side door opened quietly just at this point and a middle-aged man
came in, carrying in one hand a tool-box, and in the other a two-story
tin pail. Both girls watched him curiously as he set these down on the
floor, and, taking tacks from his pocket and a hammer from his box, he
proceeded to tack a piece of paper to the wall. Ester, from where
she sat, could see that the paper was small, and that something was
printed on it in close, fine type. It didn't look in the least like a
handbill, or indeed like a notice of any sort. Her desire to know what
it could be grew strong; two tiny tacks held it firmly in its place.
Then the man turned and eyed the inmates of the room, who were by this
time giving undivided attention to him and his bit of paper Presently
he spoke, in a quiet, respectful tone:

"I've tacked up a nice little tract. I thought maybe while you was
waiting you might like something to read. If one of you would read
it aloud, all the rest could hear it." So saying, the man stooped
and took up his tool-box and his tin pail, and went away, leaving the
influences connected with those two or three strokes of his hammer to
work for him through all time, and meet him at the judgment. But if
a bomb-shell had suddenly come down and laid itself in ruins it their
feet, it could not have made a much more startled company than the
tract-tacker left behind him. A tract! - actually tacked up on the
wall, and waiting for some human voice to give it utterance! A tract
in a railroad depot! How queer! how singular! how almost improper!
Why? Oh, Ester didn't know; it was so unusual. Yes; but then that
didn't make it improper. No; but - then, she - it - Well, it was
fanatical. Oh yes, that was it. She knew it was improper in some way.
It was strange that that very convenient word should have escaped her
for a little. This talk Ester held hurriedly with her conscience. It
was asleep, you know; but just then it nestled as in a dream, and gave
her a little prick; but that industrious, important word, "fanatical,"
lulled it back to its rest. Meantime there hung the tract, and
fluttered a little in the summer air, as the door opened and closed.
Was no one to give it voice? "I'd like dreadful well to hear it," an
old lady said, nodding her gray head toward the little leaf on the
wall; "but I've packed up my specs, and might just as well have no
eyes at all, as far as readin' goes, when I haven't got my specs
on. There's some young eyes round here though, one would think." she
added, looking inquiringly around. "You won't need glasses, I should
say now, for a spell of years!"

This remark, or hint, or inquiry, was directed squarely at Ester, and
received no other answer than a shrug of the shoulder and an impatient
tapping of her heels on the bare floor. Under her breath Ester
muttered, "Disagreeable old woman!"

The brown silk rustled, and the blue ribbons fluttered restlessly for
a minute; then their owner's clear voice suddenly broke the silence:
"I'll read it for you, ma'am, if you really would like to hear it."

The wrinkled, homely, happy old face broke into a beaming smile, as
she turned toward the pink-cheeked, blue-eyed maiden. "That I would,"
she answered, heartily, "dreadful well. I ain't heard nothing good,
'pears to me, since I started; and I've come two hundred miles. It
seems as if it might kind of lift me up, and rest me like, to hear
something real good again."

With the flush on her face a little hightened, the young girl promptly
crossed to where the tract hung; and a strange stillness settled over
the listeners as her clear voice sounded distinctly down the long
room. This was what she read.

SOLEMN QUESTIONS.

"Dear Friend: Are you a Christian? What have you done to-day for
Christ? Are the friends with whom you have been talking traveling
toward the New Jerusalem? Did you compare notes with them as to how
you were all prospering on the way? Is that stranger by your side
a fellow-pilgrim? Did you ask him if he _would_ be? Have you been
careful to recommend the religion of Jesus Christ by your words, by
your acts, by your looks, this day? If danger comes to you, have you
this day asked Christ to be your helper? If death comes to you this
night, are you prepared to give up your account? What would your
record of this last day be? A blank? What! Have you done _nothing_ for
the Master? Then what have you done against Him? Nothing? Nay, verily!
Is not the Bible doctrine, 'He that is not for me is against me?'

"Remember that every neglected opportunity, every idle word, every
wrong thought of yours has been written down this day. You can not
take back the thoughts or words; you can not recall the opportunity.
This day, with all its mistakes, and blots, and mars, you can never
live over again. It must go up to the judgment just as it is. Have you
begged the blood of Jesus to be spread over it all? Have you resolved
that no other day shall witness a repeatal of the same mistakes? Have
you resolved in your own strength or in His?"


During the reading of the tract, a young man had entered, paused a
moment in surprise at the unwonted scene, then moved with very quiet
tread across the room and took the vacant seat near Ester. As the
reader came back to her former seat, with the pink on her cheek
deepened into warm crimson, the new comer greeted her with -

"Good-evening, Miss Fannie. Have you been finding work to do for the
Master?"

"Only a very little thing," she answered, with a voice in which there
was a slight tremble.

"I don't know about that, my dear." This was the old woman's voice.
"I'm sure I thank you a great deal. They're kind of startling
questions like; enough to most scare a body, unless you was trying
pretty hard, now ain't they?"

"Very solemn questions, indeed," answered the gentleman to whom this
question seemed to be addressed. "I wonder, if we were each obliged
to write truthful answers to each one of them, how many we should be
ashamed to have each other see?"

"How many would be ashamed to have _Him_ see?" The old woman spoke
with an emphatic shake of her gray head, and a reverent touch of he
pronoun.

"That is the vital point," he said. "Yet how much more ashamed we
often seem to be of man's judgment than of God's."

Then he turned suddenly to Ester, and spoke in a quiet, respectful
tone:

"Is the stranger by my side a fellow-pilgrim?"

Ester was startled and confused. The whole scene had been a very
strange one to her. She tried to think the blue-ribboned girl was
dreadfully out of her sphere; but the questions following each other
in such quick succession, were so very solemn, and personal, and
searching - and now this one. She hesitated, and stammered, and flushed
like a school-girl, as at last she faltered: "I - I think - I believe - I
am."

"Then I trust you are wide-awake, and a faithful worker in the
vineyard," he said, earnestly. "These are times when the Master needs
true and faithful workmen."

"He's a minister," said Ester, positively, to herself, when she had
recovered from her confusion sufficiently to observe him closely, as
he carefully folded the old woman's shawl for her, took her box and
basket in his care, and courteously offered his hand to assist her
into the cars for the New York train thundered in at last, and Mr.
Newton presented himself; and they rushed and jostled each other out
of the depot and into the train. And the little tract hung quietly
in its corner; and the carpenter who had left it there, hammered, and
sawed, and planed - yes, and prayed that God would use it, and knew not
then, nor afterward, that it had already awakened thoughts that would
tell for eternity.




CHAPTER VIII.

THE JOURNEY'S END.


"Yes, he's a minister," Ester repeated, even more decidedly, as, being
seated in the swift-moving train, directly behind the old lady and the
young gentleman who had become the subject of her thoughts, she found
leisure to observe him more closely. Mr. Newton was absorbed in the
_Tribune_; so she gave her undivided attention to the two, and could
hear snatches of the conversation which passed between them, as well
as note the courteous care with which he brought her a cup of water
and attended to all her simple wants. During the stopping of the train
at a station, their talk became distinct.

"And I haven't seen my boy, don't you think, in ten years," the old
lady was saying. "Won't he be glad though, to see his mother once
more? And he's got children - two of them; one is named after me,
Sabrina. It's an awful homely name, I think, don't you? But then, you
see, it was grandma's."

"And that makes all the difference in the world," her companion
answered. "So the old home is broken up, and you are going to make a
new one."

"Yes; and I'll show you every _thing_ I've got to remember my old
garden by."

With eager, trembling fingers, she untied the string which held down
the cover of her basket, and, rummaging within, brought to light
a withered bouquet of the very commonest and, perhaps, the very
homeliest flowers that grew, if there _are_ any homely flowers.

"There," she said, holding it tenderly, and speaking with quivering
lip and trembling voice. "I picked 'em the very last thing I did, out
in my own little garden patch by the backdoor. Oh, times and times
I've sat and weeded and dug around them, with him sitting on the stoop
and reading out loud to me. I thought all about just how it was while
I was picking these. I didn't stay no longer, and I didn't go back to
the house after that. I couldn't; I just pulled my sun-bonnet over my
eyes, and went across lots to where I was going to get my breakfast"

Ester felt very sorry for the poor homeless, friendless old
woman - felt as though she would have been willing to do a good deal
just then to make her comfortable; yet it must be confessed that that
awkward bunch of faded flowers, arranged without the slightest regard
to colors, looked rather ridiculous; and she felt surprised, and not
a little puzzled, to see actual tears standing in the eyes of her
companion as he handled the bouquet with gentle care.

"Well," he said, after a moment of quiet, "you are not leaving
your best friend after all. Does it comfort your heart very much to
remember that, in all your partings and trials, you are never called
upon to bid Jesus good-by?"

"What a way he has of bringing that subject into every conversation,"
commented Ester, who was now sure that he was a minister. Someway
Ester had fallen into a way of thinking that every one who spoke
freely concerning these matters must be either a fanatic or a
minister.

"Oh, that's about all the comfort I've got left." This answer came
forth from a full heart, and eyes brimming with tears. "And I don't
s'pose I need any other, if I've got Jesus left I oughtn't to need any
thing else; but sometimes I get impatient - it seems to me I've been
here long enough, and it's time I got home."

"How is it with the boy who is expecting you; has he this same
friend?"

The gray head was slowly and sorrowfully shaken. "Oh, I'm afraid he
don't know nothing about _Him_."

"Ah! then you have work to do; you can't be spared to rest yet. I
presume the Master is waiting for you to lead that son to himself."

"I mean to, I mean to, sir," she said earnestly, "but sometimes I
think maybe my coffin could do it better than I; but God knows - and
I'm trying to be patient."

Then the train whirred on again, and Ester missed the rest; but one
sentence thrilled her - "Maybe my coffin could do it better than I."
How earnestly she spoke, as if she were willing to die at once, if by
that she could save her son. How earnest they both were, anyway - the
wrinkled, homely, ignorant old woman and the cultivated, courtly
gentleman. Ester was ill at ease - conscience was arousing her
to unwonted thought. These two were different from her She was a
Christian - at least she supposed so, hoped so; but she was not like
them. There was a very decided difference. Were they right, and was
she all wrong? wasn't she a Christian after all? and at this thought
she actually shivered. She was not willing to give up her title, weak
though it might be.

"Oh, well!" she decided, after a little, "she is an old woman,
almost through with life. Of course she looks at everything through a
different aspect from what a young girl like me naturally would;
and as for him, ministers always are different from other people, of
course."

Foolish Ester! Did she suppose that ministers have a private Bible
of their own, with rules of life set down therein for them, quite
different from those written for her! And as for the old woman, almost
through with life, how near might Ester be to the edge of her own life
at that very moment! When the train stopped again the two were still
talking.

"I just hope my boy will look like you," the old lady said suddenly,
fixing admiring eyes on the tall form that stood beside her, patiently
waiting for the cup from which she was drinking the tea which he had
procured for her.

Ester followed the glance of her eye, and laughed softly at the
extreme improbability of her hope being realized, while he answered
gravely:

"I hope he will be a noble boy, and love his mother as she deserves;
then it will matter very little who he looks like."

While the cup was being returned there was a bit of toilet making
going on; the gray hair was smoothed back under the plain cap, and
the faded, twisted shawl rearranged and carefully pinned. Meantime her
thoughts seemed troubled, and she looked up anxiously into the face of
her comforter as he again took his seat beside her.

"I'm just thinking I'm such a homely old thing, and New York is such
a grand place, I've heard them say. I _do_ hope he won't be ashamed of
his mother."

"No danger," was the hearty answer; "he'll think you are the most
beautiful woman he has seen in ten years."

There is no way to describe the happy look which shone in the faded
blue eyes at this answer; and she laughed a softly, pleased laugh as
she said:

"Maybe he'll be like the man I read about the other day. Some mean,
old scamp told him how homely his mother was; and he said, says
he, 'Yes, she's a homely woman, sure enough; but oh she's such a
_beautiful_ mother!' What ever will I do when I get in New York," she
added quickly, seized with a sudden anxiety. "Just as like as not,
now, he never got a bit of my letter, and won't be there to get me!"

"Do you know where your son lives?"

"Oh, yes, I've got it on a piece of paper, the street and the number;
but bless your heart, I shouldn't know whether to go up, or down, or
across."

Just the shadow of a smile flitted over her friend's face as the
thought of the poor old lady, trying to make her way through the city
came to him. Then he hastened to reassure her.

"Then we are all right, whether he meets you or not; we can take a
carriage and drive there. I will see you safe at home before I leave
you."

This crowning act of kindness brought the tears.

"I don't know why you are so good to me," she said simply, "unless you
are the friend I prayed for to help me through this journey. If you
are, it's all right; God will see that you are paid for it."

And before Ester had done wondering over the singular quaintness of
this last remark there was a sudden triumphant shriek from the engine,
and a tremendous din, made up of a confusion of more sounds than
she had ever heard in her life before; then all was hurry and bustle
around her, and she suddenly awakened to the fact that as soon as they
had crossed the ferry she would actually be in New York. Even then she
bethought herself to take a curious parting look at the oddly matched
couple who were carefully making their way through the crowd, and
wonder if she would ever see them again.

The next hour was made up of bewilderment to Ester. She had a confused
remembrance afterward of floating across a silver river in a palace;
of reaching a place where everybody screamed instead of talked, and
where all the bells were ringing for fire, or something else. She
looked eagerly about for her uncle, and saw at least fifty men who
resembled him, as she saw him last, about ten years ago. She fumbled
nervously for his address in her pocket-book, and gave Mr. Newton
a recipe for making mince pies instead; finally she found herself
tumbled in among cushions and driving right into carriages and carts
and people, who all got themselves mysteriously out of the way; down
streets that she thought must surely be the ones that the bells
were ringing for, as they were all ablaze. It had been arranged that
Ester's escort should see her safely set down at her uncle's door,
as she had been unable to state the precise time of her arrival; and
besides, as she was an entire stranger to her uncle's family, they
could not determine any convenient plan for meeting each other at the
depot. So Ester was whirled through the streets at a dizzying rate,
and, with eyes and ears filled with bewildering sights and sounds, was
finally deposited before a great building, aglow with gas and gleaming
with marble. Mr. Newton rang the bell, and Ester, making confused
adieus to him, was meantime ushered into a hall looking not unlike
Judge Warren's best parlor. A sense of awe, not unmixed with
loneliness and almost terror, stole over her as the man who opened the
door stood waiting, after a civil - "Whom do you wish to see, and what
name shall I send up?"

"Whom _did_ she wish to see, and what _was_ her name, anyway. Could
this be her uncle's house? Did she want to see any of them?" She felt
half afraid of them all. Suddenly the dignity and grandeur seemed
to melt into gentleness before her, as the tiniest of little women
appeared and a bright, young voice broke into hearty welcome:

"Is this really my cousin Ester? And so you have come! How perfectly
splendid. Where is Mr. Newton? Gone? Why, John, you ought to have
smuggled him in to dinner. We are _so_ much obliged to him for taking
care of _you_. John, send those trunks up to my room. You'll room with
me, Ester, won't you? Mother thought I ought to put you in solitary
state in a spare chamber, but I couldn't. You see I have been so many
years waiting for you, that now I want you every bit of the time."

All this while she was giving her loving little pats and kisses, on
their way up stairs, whither she at once carried the traveler. Such a
perfect gem of a room as that was into which she was ushered. Ester's
love of beauty seemed likely to be fully gratified; she cast one eager
glance around her, took in all the charming little details in a second
of time, and then gave her undivided attention to this wonderful
person before her who certainly was, in veritable flesh and blood, the
much-dreamed over, much-longed for Cousin Abbie. A hundred times had
Ester painted her portrait - tall and dark and grand, with a perfectly
regal form and queenly air, hair black as midnight, coiled in heavy
masses around her head, eyes blacker if possible than her hair. As to
dress, it was very difficult to determine; sometimes it was velvet and
diamonds, or, if the season would not possibly admit of that, then a
rich, dark silk, never, by any chance, a material lighter than silk.
This had been her picture. Now she could not suppress a laugh as
she noted the contrast between it and the original. She was even two
inches shorter than Ester herself, with a manner much more like a
fairy's than a queen's; instead of heavy coils of black hair, there
were little rings of brown curls clustering around a fair, pale
forehead, and continually peeping over into the bluest of eyes; then
her dress was the softest and quietest of muslins, with a pale-blue
tint. Ester's softly laugh chimed merrily; she turned quickly.

"Now have you found something to laugh at in me already?" she said
gleefully.

"Why," said Ester, forgetting to be startled over the idea that she
should laugh at Cousin Abbie, "I'm only laughing to think how totally
different you are from your picture."

"From my picture!"

"Yes, the one which I had drawn of you in my own mind. I thought you
were tall, and had black hair, and dressed in silks, like a grand
lady."

Abbie laughed again.

"Don't condemn me to silks in such weather as this, at least," she
said gaily. "Mother thinks I am barbarous to summon friends to the
city in August; but the circumstances are such that it could not well
be avoided. So put on your coolest dress, and be as comfortable as
possible."

This question of how she should appear on this first evening had been
one of Ester's puzzles; it would hardly do to don her blue silk at
once, and she had almost decided to choose the black one; but Abbie's
laugh and shrug of the shoulder had settled the question of silks. So
now she stood in confused indecision before her open trunk.

Abbie came to the rescue.

"Shall I help you?" she said, coming forward "I'll not ring for Maggie
to-night, but be waiting maid myself. Suppose I hang up some of these
dresses? And which shall I leave for you? This looks the coolest," and
she held up to Ester's view the pink and white muslin which did duty
as an afternoon dress at home.

"Well," said Ester, with a relieved smile, "I'll take that."

And she thought within her heart: "They are not so grand after all."

Presently they went down to dinner, and in view of the splendor of the
dining-room, and sparkle of gas and the glitter of silver, she changed
her mind again and thought them very grand indeed.

Her uncle's greeting was very cordial; and though Ester found it


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