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"' If I had got corrupted in the army in Spain, I did not gain any good to counteract the evil while I lived in France. 1 became more forgetful of God than ever, and more immoral in conduct. Bad as I was, far as I had wan dered, the Lord had not cast me off altogether. No doubt my father's prayers were heard by the gracious God he so faithfully served, and the hour came when I was to be brought home.
"' Working at Lyons, I met a German from Wiirtemberg, an honest, kind-hearted fellow. What sorrows he had met I know not, but he was sad and home-sick. It is, perhaps, an infectious sickness : at least I caught it from him. His constant longing for home, and lamentations at living in a foreign land, touched my feelings; and thoughts of my own home crossed my mind, and one recollection after another of its peace and happiness arose and formed a strong contrast to the troubled life in the midst of which I was. In a few days I became as home-sick as my new friend. Sometimes I fancied I heard the evening bell ringing, and could scarcely be persuaded by those whom I called to listen to it that it was only imagination.
"'I had not written a line to my father for long, and now felt ashamed to do so, and resolved to present myself before him without writing beforehand. I crossed the Khine at Kehl, and shook the dust of France from my feet. Would that I could have shaken off all the evil I had learned there! I travelled slowly along the Bergstrasse, working at my trade here and there, wishing to have something in my pocket when I should get home; and thus many months passed before I reached my own canton.
"' The sound of the evening bell still haunted me, and I settled in my mind that I would manage so as to reach my father's cottage just as it was ringing. I crossed the boundary of this canton, and at length stood in that oak wood that you know, sir, from whence there is a view of the entire valley, with its pretty villages, churches, and meadows. I could distinguish every house in my own village. There I stood; and as I looked on the graveyards I trembled lest I should find the tomb of my parents amongst the little grassy mounds when I descended the hill. A woman passed with a bundle of clover on her head. She did not recognise me, but I knew her; and when she uttered the usual salutation, I longed to ask her for my family, but my lips refused to frame the words. I could but raise my cap to answer her courtesy. I still stood there. The evening dew began to form a mist over the valley, and at last the sound of the evening chimes reached me where I stood.
"' Years have passed since that moment, but never can I forget the impression of that bell upon me. It seemed to remind me of the holiness of God—of my own sinfulness— of the unhumbled state of my heart—of the incompleteness of my repentance towards God; and, throwing myself on my knees, I stammered forth the only words I could utter, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!'
"'By degrees I was able to think more calmly, and to find words to make a confession to the Lord of my sins and iniquities, and to pray that he would graciously remove the burden of my sins from my oppressed conscience. I know not how long I thus knelt and prayed, but it was dark when I rose, and I hastened down the hill and entered the village. I stood before my father's door for many minutes to recover myself. I looked in through the window, and saw that both father and mother were there, as well as my sister, and once more bending my knee and thanking God for this blessing, I entered the cottage. Hy mother looked up and cried out, 'My son! my son !'—but I will not describe the reception of the returned prodigal. There was joy in the cottage, and we know there is joy amongst the angels over a sinner that repents.
"'Now,, sir, you know why I love the evening bell. To me it is the knell of a past life of sin and shame, the Sunday chime of resurrection to a new life, and I may add the wedding bell, for very soon after that I married Lisette. That is now twenty years ago, and I may say all has prospered with me since that evening of repentance not to be repented of. You know Lisette, sir, and what a wife she is. My home is a happy one, my trade prosperous, and even my lameness is so much better that I can accompany you on your walks without pain or inconvenience.'
"Such is the story recalled to my recollection by that sweet song," said the gentleman, turning to the lady who had sung it.
"Your story will add a charm to the song," she said in reply: "whenever I sing it I shall think of Fritz; and though I am no poetess, I must add a stanza more suited to him;" and, turning to the pianoforte, near which she eat, she played the air once or twice over, and then sang the following rhymes:—
"And may those tells, those evening bells,
"Thank you, thank you," said the gentleman. "Happy would it be if every song and every chime led us to remember the heavenly-rest prepared for those who seek it through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"HIS WORD IS AS GOOD AS HIS BOSTD." "You look more cheerful to day than when I saw you last, Mary," said my grandfather.
"Do you think I do, sir? But, indeed, I have more reason to be cheerful than I had at that time," replied the poor woman.
I must tell you that my grandfather, being an old gentleman retired from business, had a good deal of leisure time on his hands; and being also active and kindly disposed, he spent some portion of that leisure time almost daily in making short calls on his poorer neighbours; and as our parish was a large one, and the people were widely scattered, this habit of his gave him always something to do. Let me add that the old gentleman's visits were not visits of curiosity or impertinence. If they had been, his neighbours would not have been so pleased to see him as they generally were. The truth is, my grandfather was benevolent as far as lay in his power; and if he had nothing else to give, he had always a few good and pleasant words to bestow on all whom he fell in with, from the little child to the oldest inhabitant in the parish. He had real sympathy in Lis soul too, and his neighbours knew it— they could not help knowing it.
The cottago, at the door of which my grandfather was stopping, was poor enough in its appearance outside, and within there was not much to recommend it besides its neatness. Mary Edwards was a notable housewife, and her husband and children reaped the advantages of this good quality in everyday comforts.
But for some weeks past, there had been trouble in that cottage. Philip Edwards had been out of work; not through his own fault, however, for he was a sober, honest, and industrious man. But even men of this character are sometimes, through unavoidable circumstances, unemployed; and then it goes hard with them and their families. It had been so with Philip; and, naturally enough, his poor wife's countenance as well as her heart had been burdened with care.
"I have more reason to be cheerful now than I had at that time," said she, in reply to my grandfather.
"I am very glad to hear it."
"Thank you kindly, sir; I knew you would be; and you will be glad to hear that my husband has got work again."
"Ah, no wonder your looks are altered, then. Where has he found employment?"
"At the Grange, sir; Mr. Wilson has taken him on, and has promised to keep him in full work all the winter."
"This is a good hearing, Mary; and I do not wonder that you look cheerful over it. There is only one thing;" and my grandfather put on a grave countenance.
"What is that, sir?" asked Mrs. Edwards, rather anxiously.
"Is Mr. Wilson to be depended on, do yon think?"
"Oh, sir," said Mary, again brightening up, "there is not the least doubt about that. I heard Mr. Wilson say it myself. It was quite a full promise, sir."
"Yes, yes, Mary; I don't doubt your having heard, nor yet that it is a full promise, as you say. But will Mr. Wilson keep to his promise? If he should not, you know, you will be as badly off as ever."
"I am not afraid of that, sir," said Mrs. Edwards; "Mr. Wilson is a true man, and his word is as good as his bond."
"Well, well, I think so too, Mary," said my grandfather; "and so I may safely congratulate you on your late trouble having passed away. And now, to speak a word or two on another matter—how is it with your soul, now?"
My grandfather had a reason for asking this question. He had had many short conversations with the poor woman on the subject of religion, and had ground to hope and believe that she was a sincere, humble Christian. But she was a doubting Christian; her faith was weak, and her fears were many and strong. My grandfather had frequently attempted to lead this fellow-disciple on to greater trust in the faithfulness of God than she seemed to exercise, but without much effect. She still went on, in her Christian pilgrimage, doubting and fearing, like Littlefaith in Bunyan's parable.
So when my grandfather asked her how it was with her soul, poor Mary's countenance fell again, and she heaved a deep sigh.
"Still in the dark valley, are you, Mary?"
"I am afraid so, sir."
"And when do you mean to get out of it?"
"Ah, sir; I should very soon do that if it depended upon myself."
"Do you know what keeps you there, Mary?"
"A great many things, sir, I think."
"Mary," continued the old Christian, "you love the Lord Jesus Christ, do you not?"
"Indeed I do, sir; at least "she hesitated here a
little, as though she feared that she had spoken too hastily; "I hope I do. I should be a very ungrateful creature if I did not."
"True; and you think that he loves you, and cares for you?"
"Sometimes I have a hope that he does, sir; but when I think of what an unworthy and ungrateful thing I am, it seems too much to hope," said poor Mary, timidly.
"But, unworthy and ungrateful as you are, I suppose you feel that you could not do without him; do you not?"
"Indeed, I could not do without him. Oh no!" Mary said this very earnestly.
"And you tell him so, I think; and you ask him in prayer to be your Saviour and friend?"
"Yes, sir; I am sure I do this."
"Mary," continued my grandfather; "don't be startled if you can help it. But it seems to me, by your own showing, that you have not near so good an opinion of the Lord Jesus Christ as you have of Mr. Wilson of the Grange."
"Oh sir, sir!" exclaimed Mary Edwards, very much shocked; "you cannot, do not, mean what you say, do
"I do, certainly. Listen, Mary," replied my grandfather, speaking affectionately but seriously; "you have not hesitated to trust Mr. Wilson's bare word; you have believed what he told you: and if I had persisted in questioning his truth and honour, you would, I dare say, have been almost vexed with me. You tell me that you have