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the lady, she said, “Dear Mrs. Frere, we are thinking how entirely beautiful the font is looking."
“Are you, my love ? I am doing it after the pattern chosen by my dear child last year, and I rejoice when I remember that although she is not here to help me, she has joined the great thanksgiving above, and is beyond all suffering and sorrow. Eight infants I have brought to baptism here, and now I think and believe they are all safe with the LORD JESUS. Here is your dear papa,” she continued to Emily, as the Vicar entered the church with his curate, Mr. Weston. They shook hands with Mrs. Frere, and admired her work, which was by this time completed. Mr. Branstone expressed a hope that she would join them at the vicarage after the evening service, to which she cordially acceded, and nodding a good morning to the girls, she left the church, as a group of village children and two very old men entered the porch with some flowers.
Parson,” said the oldest of the two old men, as hat in hand he came forward, “I be eighty-seven to-day, and I be thinkin that may be I shan't come no more to the Harvest Sarvice, so would ye please to let me look round afore the time? I can't see so plain when the lights
“ Come in, Jennings, come in, look round; why you have some fruit as well as flowers."
Yes, sir, all my little strip had in it, but I'd like to give 'em to Miss Marsden yonder, for the cap'en he war very fond of these 'ere little apples, and when he came I allays had some saved for him.”
Go on, Jennings, and you will find Miss Marsden in the chancel. Ah, Tomson,” added the Vicar, “how is
wife?" “ Thank ye, sir, she be hearty well, and hope to come to-night;" but here a servant appeared who handed the Vicar two notes, on perusing which he took up his hat and left the church hurriedly.
Eva and Emily had walked slowly round the church, and now they stood by the organ. It bore the inscription, “ Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD,” and was ornamented with a beautiful cornucopia filled with corn, fruit, and flowers. The window-ledges were heaped with beautiful and rare ferns, interspersed with hothouse plants and moss, while the texts, “Praise ye the LORD,” visitest the earth, and blessest it," and " Rejoice in the LORD," with many others, occupied their several positions.
The decorations were nearly completed, and Mrs. Marsden came
down the church to find her son. He sat in their family pew, with his head hidden in his hands. Recognising his mother's footstep, he turned towards her, saying, “Is it time to leave, mother?”
“No, dear, we have not quite finished, but I thought you would be lonely, as I saw you had completed the lectern, which looks very nicely. I knew I should find
here.” Yes, I am quite at home in my old place, and I beg you not to stay : go back to our party, and ask Aunt Lena when she has finished to come for me, and I will walk home with her. I should like to be alone for a time, dear mother.”
“Very well, my son, I will not forget you," and knowing she could leave him safely, she went away.
Miss Marsden and Norah had joined Eva and Emily at the organ. To her sister Mrs. Marsden delivered her message from Arthur, and then requested Mrs. Branstone to accompany her home to luncheon ; after which there would be the afternoon practice.
“I want a chat with you, dear Mrs. Branstone,” said Mrs. Marsden, at which the Vicar's wife secretly wondered, for the tone was confidential, but like a wellbred woman she kept her curiosity to herself. “I wonder where
I have not seen him all the morning, he generally comes in and out so much." But Mrs. Marsden dismissed the subject with “ Never mind
your worthy husband, I want to speak to you about Arthur.”
And then the two ladies talked together very earnestly, and apparently they were of one opinion, for they became quite affectionate before they reached the vicarage.
To return to the group around the organ.
do not forget, this afternoon, Mrs. Weston, Mrs. Leverington, Norah, Eva, Emily, all of you, and Arthur ; Norah, dear, go and fetch him, will you ?”
Very forgetful surely of Miss Marsden, after her promise not to forget him, to call Eva and Emily, and put on her bat and walk off with them out of the chancel door! Every one had left the church with the exception of two men, who were clearing away stray pieces of evergreen and string, and carrying off ladders, steps, hammers, nails, &c., the cushions were turned, the pews dusted, and all was left ready for the evening. Eva and Emily, with Miss Marsden, walked slowly through the park,—the two girls were so quiet that Aunt Lena at last rallied them.
“A penny for your thoughts, girls."
Aunty, dear, we are thinking about several people, and you among them.”
“And what can there be so interesting to think of respecting me, that such a deep silence reigns between two such talkative young ladies ?"
May we tell you, Miss Marsden ?” “Yes, Emily, by all means.
Well, then, aunty,” broke out Eva, we wonder what you can have to rejoice at, because Mr. Branstone says, ' everybody ought to rejoice, for every one has cause for rejoicing.'
“My dear girls, I have so much to rejoice at that I cannot rejoice enough; you have heard of Captain Arbuthnot, and you remember him, and you feel that it is impossible for me to be ever really happy
, again. At first I thought, I never could be happy any more, but after a time I found out how sinful I was, and how many sweet consolations my God had left me, loved ones around me, work to do for Him, and sweet memories of the only man I ever loved."
“But, aunty, we spoke also this morning of Mrs. Frere, and when we talked to her she quite unconsciously answered us, and then as I watched dear Arthur at work I thought of him.”
Yes, dear, his is a sad trial, but he has much cause to rejoice, for the trial has been blessed to him, and while it has strengthened the love of all around him, it has brought forth the inward light which dwells within, and which sheds a halo round his earthly path.”
And once more, aunty, the old and the poor, like old Jennings, for instance, what have they to rejoice at ?”
“If they have the Spirit of GoD abiding in them, they can rejoice in hope of everlasting life, and we have all a common cause of rejoicing to-night, into which I need not enter : you, too, my dear girls, have much to rejoice over."
Yes, Miss Mar den,” answered Emily, “and not least among our causes of rejoicing is that we can talk so freely to a dear kind aunty
“My goddaughters, I feel the same love for you both, and as I watch you grow up, I trust to see you thoughtful and affectionate women ; do not grieve for me, dear Emily and Eva, for Aunt Lena is very happy.”
Here they turned into the avenue, and saw Mrs. Marsden, Mrs.
Branstone, with Norah, Arthur, and a whole troop of young ones coming to meet them. Mrs. Marsden, drawing her sister-in-law on one side, thus addressed her :
“Lena, you are to welcome another niece in dear Norah, Arthur has just told me of their engagement.”
“I am not much surprised, Amy, for I have been in Arthur's confidence, and from my own observations I counselled him to take this step, sending Norah to him this morning for that purpose; I felt certain that in her he would find a sure and willing guide ; being debarred from judging for himself, poor fellow, he has made use of Aunt Lena's eyes, and they have not deceived her,-a fear remains with Arthur that Mr. Branstone will consider him insufficient as a protector to Norah, but I do not feel so,-may I tell my two favourites ?”
Permission was quickly granted, then followed great hugging and kissing of Norah, and much congratulation to Arthur, who although rather pale looked radiantly happy, and Emily hazarded the naïve question as to where he had asked Norah.
He replied, “Norah has been the victim of stratagem, and Aunt Lena has been the deviser; she sent Norah to me, and on our way home I had my question answered, and learned my great happiness, I shall never forget this Harvest Thanksgiving, and how can I thank Aunt Lena sufficiently ?”
“By being as happy as I wish you to be," answered his aunt.
Mrs. Marsden seeing her husband and the vicar approaching, led her son to meet his father, and they returned by another route to the house.
Norah and Arthur had known each other from childhood, and the affliction of the latter had only served to strengthen the affection Norah felt for him, while with true maidenly reticence she kept aloof from offering her sympathy. Arthur dreading his sentence, and fearing to lose her, took Aunt Lena into his confidence, and the result was that we have recorded. The old old story was told, and the consent of the parents soon obtained, but Mr. Branstone appeared preoccupied and full of thought, and if Arthur could have seen his face, he would have doubted his reply coming from his heart when he said, “ Arthur Marsden, I could not give my child to any one with so much real joy as I shall feel when I give her to you."
Of what was the vicar thinking ?
through the park under the still leafy boughs. Suddenly Mr. Branstone announced to them that he had received a note from the organist
, saying that illness prevented his attendance that evening, and that unfortunately he could find no substitute to take his place; he deeply regretted it, but he trusted to the ladies of the vicarage and the hall to help in the present emergency.
“Papa, why did you not tell us before !” said Norah, “perhaps I might have managed it; now what can we do ?”
“My dear, I only received the note this morning, and I feel sure your time has been fully occupied."
Norah blushed consciously, and turned away her face, while her father continued,
“I have unexpectedly found a substitute myself, therefore please to step into the vestry, while I go with Miss Marsden to arrange the music, lest the sight of so large a party should overcome the poor man who is already waiting."
Miss Marsden walked up to the organ, and the rest entered the vestry; the vicar disappeared in the church, and closed the vestry door behind him.
“How mysterious papa has become,” said Norah ; "what is he doing, mamma, do you know P”
“No, my dear, I am quite at a loss to conjecture; he was talking a long time with Mr. Marsden, and I think he is in the secret."
“If so he has not told me,” said Mrs. Marsden.
“Only Stevenson," answered Eva; “I do not think he detained him.”
"Perhaps old Tomson's wife is ill again,” said Emily.
“No," replied Arthur, “I heard him say she hoped to be here this evening.”
"Well, now we shall know," chorused all as the door opened, and Mr. Branstone beckoned them.
They walked into the church, and standing near the organ was Aunt Lena, with a strange gentleman by her side. Was this the substitute ? Was this the expected stranger ? Oh, he was not a stranger to Aunt Lena. He stepped forward, and with a cry of delight Mrs. Marsden and Mrs. Branstone recognised Captain Arbuthnot.
“Dear friends," said he, “ I cannot express to you my joy at seeing