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consolation after affliction in a Catholic (Roman) country, than in cold, Protestant England.
It was on a warm, bright autumnal afternoon, one of those glorious days which seem to impart their own brilliant, yet calm joy to all around, that the Elters reached their home. The woods glowed with every gorgeous shade of crimson, brown, yellow, and green; the tarn lay unruffled by a breath of wind, “ clear as solid crystal,” its still loveliness reflecting the neighbouring soft line of hills with their deep shadows, and the boundless sky with every light, passing cloud; whilst the air was mild and sweet as on a soothing spring day. All, however, seemed unnoticed by the travellers, and when the carriage stopped at the hall door, Lady Elter dropped her large crape veil, so as entirely to hide her face, and hastily passing into one of the sitting rooms, gave way to a burst of uncontrollable emotion, Ellen waited for her father, and clasped her arms affectionately round his arm. Sir John's fine countenance was deeply shadowed with grief, although he was evidently struggling not to yield to his emotion.
They entered the house together: he threw himself into an arm-chair with a heavy groan : Ellen knelt by his side, longing to speak some words of consolation, and yet dreading lest she should only aggravate his grief. She herself as yet had but a faint knowledge of the only Source whence true comfort could be derived.
After some moments of silence, Sir John said, in a tone which sounded more kind than his words, “Go, child—why do you stay by me ? Nothing can ever make me happy again.-Goleave me." Ellen's eyes overflowed afresh as she silently obeyed, and leaving the room, wandered out into the open air, hardly knowing where she went, and quite heedless of the lovely scene around her. She walked on by the side of the tarn, realizing almost more vividly than before, her loss, and yearning after some resting place, some spot of sympathy, where she might lay her weary head, and weep not alone and without consolation. Then her thoughts recurred to the Friedhof of N
and the young girls she had seen on the last day she spent there, kneeling by a new-made grave in such heartrending agony,—and whom she had watched an hour later as they left the chapel with calm, serene faces, as though the time spent in God's house, in His special presence, had been a charm for healing and relief.
But they were not Protestants," she said to herself. At that moment Ellen's attention was aroused by a short peal from the Church bells, which brought freshly to her thoughts her brother's last hour, and she resolved on going to the churchyard to gaze on the spot where he was laid. She proceeded slowly, and the bells had ceased before she came to the porch. Ellen was surprised to find the door open, and still more so, when on entering she found herself amongst a small, but attentive congregation engaged in the
Evening Service. An instinctive feeling of rest and relief rose in Ellen's heart, and some of the bitter desolation she had experienced a few minutes before vanished as she knelt down likewise ; but although she mechanically followed the movements of the congregation, her mind was wandering, and she did not really pray.
It was on the 30th of September, and the officiating priest began to read the second lesson,—that mysterious and beautiful chapter which has bee selected by the Church as the fittest to instruct and comfort the mourner at the moment of acutest agony, when he is committing to the earth the remains of his loved one, never to behold him more until the resurrection day.
At first Ellen scarcely listened ; for at that moment it had occurred to her that he, whose voice she now heard, was the priest who had stood beside her brother's dying bed, and had laid him in
But as the lesson continued, the solemn words being uttered as though he who spoke them felt their meaning in his inmost heart, Ellen's attention became fixed, and though she had often read the chapter, it seemed to her as if now for the first time she had really any understanding of its deep meaning.
The service over, Ellen mechanically followed those who left the Church, and engrossed in thought, (for a new train had now been aroused,) she had gone some way before she wished she had spoken to Mr. Mordaunt, who undoubtedly was the officiating minister, as perhaps she might have heard from him some particulars respecting her brother. For a moment Ellen was half inclined to turn back, but it was growing late, and besides, her timidity shrunk from approaching a stranger. On returning home a new pang came across her: the gloom and stillness of the house, usually so full of guests and life, struck her painfully, especially as she foresaw the dulness and want of occupation her mother would experience. Everybody now seemed to speak in a hushed whisper; and if any of the villagers employed about the grounds chanced to meet one of the mourning family, bis silent acknowledgment as he respectfully passed, spoke how great was his sympathy for their bereavement. The following day, finding that she could afford neither pleasure nor comfort to her parents, Ellen went out alone; her mind still dwelling upon the events of yesterday, and thinking differently from what she had ever thought before, upon the service of her Church, in which she had then joined. Ellen recollected her brother's words about “ Church all day long,” and it crossed her mind that perhaps after all there might be as much help here for the mourner as in Roman Catholic countries. Partly curiosity, and partly a better feeling, made Ellen now turn towards the Church. It wanted yet some time to the hour of service, and Ellen went slowly up to the family vault, which had last been opened to receive the brother she so dearly loved. The vault was situated exactly beneath the east window and Ellen sat down upon a tombstone close at hand, and looked thoughtfully and sorrowfully upon the cold marble. It was again a calm brilliant autumn day, the children were in school, and no noise broke the silence of the hallowed place of rest, except the plash of the waterfall, and one blackbird, which now and then gave a short clear note from the beech-tree where he sat.
Ellen bad not been there long, when a soft sound near, made her turn; but a few steps off she saw a little girl of six or seven years kneeling beside a small turfed grave. The child's hands were folded on her breast, and her head rested against a low white cross at the head of the grave. Her deep black frock told as plainly as her attitude that she was a little mourner. Soon she rose, and taking up a wreath of autumn flowers from the ground, hung it upon the cross; just then she caught sight of Ellen, and seemed half frightened, but Ellen moved towards her, and said gently, “ You seem to love that grave,-whose is it ?”
“ Willie's” answered the child, as she looked steadily at Ellen. “ And who was Willie ?” she asked. Papa's Willie, and mine—and God's,” she added in a lower
Ellen's interest and sympathy were excited; she took the little girl's hand, and said, “Will you tell me about Willie? I have lost my darling brother too,” and her eyes filled with tears.
“But then he's gone to heaven, like Willie, isn't he ?" the child asked. “ When Willie was ill I cried very much, and even papa cried too, but now that he's gone to be with Jesus Christ, papa says we must try not to cry; but to think of him as he is now; so safe and happy. But I do cry sometimes, when I wake in the sunny mornings, and remember that Willie can't play with me any more.”
“Then have you no other brother to play with you ?" said Ellen.
“No, mamma and Willie are gone; and papa and I are alone now,” she answered, and shook her little head mournfully.
Ellen put her arms round the little girl and kissed her, saying, “Then you are like me. Tell me how old Willie was.”
The child's shyness was quite overcome by Ellen's gentle tone and manner, and sympathy with what filled her heart ; she leant against her and looked up in her face as she said, “ I'm seven, and Willie was eight. O he was so good : everybody loved dear Willie ! and he said when he was a man he would be a Clergyman like
papa, and that he would have a very beautiful church, and he would try and teach everybody to be good. Papa says," she added after a minute's pause, “ that Willie's happier now than he ever, could have been here, even if he had grown up to be a Clergyman; and it must be so, because papa said it out of ihe Bible."
“ And how long is it since Willie left you ?” Ellen asked,
“ It's put here," the little girl said, and she pointed to the foot of the cross, where Ellen read :
“W.M., September 3rd., 18—," • What then is your name?" “ Alice Mordaunt," the child replied.
Ellen started. Their Vicar himself then had lost an only son almost at the same moment he had been watching her brother's dying bed ; and that must have been the boy of whom Wilfrid was so fond.
Her interest in her little companion increased, and she said, “My brother too died here, not long after yours," and turning to the vault, added, “He is here."
Alice hesitated a moment, and then said, “Was the tall handsome gentleman, who loved Willie so much, and who looked so very pale, your brother ?”
Ellen assented. “O but then you must not cry!" Alice exclaimed, “ for papa was with him, and told him about heaven, and Jesus Christ waiting for him there, and he read the same words over him that he did over Willie, and I know Willie's happy.”
Ellen bent over her little comforter and kissed her; when suddenly Alice sprang up, for she saw my brother approaching the beltry door, and seizing his hand, drew him towards Ellen, exclaiming, Papa, come and tell her not to cry, because of heaven and the angels."
Ellen was startled when she saw Mr. Mordaunt standing beside her; she rose and stood, not knowing what to say ; but he put out his hand to her, saying in a kind gentle voice, “I cannot look upon Miss Elter as a stranger, especially on this spot."
Ellen struggled to be composed, but her efforts were in vain and she burst into tears.
“ It is just church-time,” Mr. Mordaunt said, “and within these holy walls you will find the best comfort; after service, if you wish it, I shall be ready to tell you all I can respecting your : brother.”
Ellen could not reply, but she followed Alice into Church, and knelt by her side. When the service began she felt more como posed, and better able to join in it than on the previous day. When the service was over, Ellen returned to Wilfrid's grave, where my brother shortly joined her; and sitting between the graves of his child and her brother, she listened with the deepest interest to his details respecting Wilfrid's illness.
“ Mr. Elter took a great fancy for a dear child of mine," he said, “ who lies very near him; and repeatedly he took him as a companion in his walks. One hot day my Willie came home wet through. I thought little of it on his account,
-a fine healthy boy ; but I trembled to think that your brother, whose delicate appearance had already alarmed me, should incur the same risk, The next morning I went to inquire after him.
time, Mr. Elter had not seemed at all willing to speak on any serious subject with me, but then he received me differently; and I saw that something had touched the hidden secrets of his heart. He afterwards told me how much he had been struck by a simple expression of my Willie's. When the thunder-storm began, which had surprised them on a moor out of reach of any shelter
, (and it was a very severe, storm,) your brother asked Willie if he was afraid. "No,' he answered, for it's God's storm.' “ But lightning does kill people sometimes,' Mr. Elter said. afraid to die?' Willie asked; and he stopped, folded his hands, and said, “If the lightning kills us, please take us to JESUS Christ. Your brother said that the little fellow's words filled his heart with very deep and painful thought. "Am I afraid to die ? The question came back upon him incessantly, and he vainly strove to banish it. The voice of God had reached him in the storm; the still small voice followed. Consumption was fast stealing upon Wilfria Elter; and that day's soaking in the storm hastened it: but my boy was taken first. With him inflammation came on rapidly. His friend came to see him, and when Wilfrid left the vicarage, it was with a very thoughtful expression of countenance. I found from Willie that he had asked him many questions about religion, with an openness which as yet he had never shown me.
A few days closed my child's sufferings. On the morning that he died, Wilfrid entreated me to allow him to see Willie once more. My sweet boy was perfectly sensible; and seeing that Wilfrid was unable to speak, from emotion, he said gently, “You will come to me in heaven, won't you ?! Wilfrid burst into tears, and said, “If I knew how, I would indeed, Willie.' Oh but papa will tell you how, as he told me,' Willie answered. That evening my child died. I saw your brother the next day, and my sorrow for my own loss was half lost in gratitude to God for the feelings which I saw were aroused in the young man, whose end, it was apparent, was near at hand. I had a long conversation with him; that conversation will never be forgotten by me. I had just committed my child's body to the grave, when I received a summons to your brother. It was evident to me that he was on his death-bed, and I was thankful to perceive that he knew it too. However much we may have thought upon death, and striven to be ready, it is an awful thought, that the hour is really come;' and to one who has not had always before him, that it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment,' the certainty must be appalling. It must be painful to you, Miss Elter, to hear me say it; but your brother had, during the last days of his life, to contend against the fruits of years of carelessness and indifference. I do most fervently believe that his confession of sin and his cry for pardon were sincere and heartfelt, and that though late, through the mercy of Him Who ever liveth to make