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mother's feelings on the one hand, and thoughtless disregard of them on the other.
“And what induced you to return at last ?” he inquired in a tone of lively interest.
“I scarcely know how to answer you," said the other, thoughtfully, “ for even to myself everything seems involved in mystery.”
“Indeed!” said Herbert, looking at him in visible surprise.
“I retired to rest one night,” proceeded James Gordon, in a low, impressive voice,“ after a hard day's work, tired and dispirited; but for several hours tossed restlessly upon my miserable bed, unable to obtain a moment's repose. At length I fell into a short uneasy doze, and while in this state, apparently between sleeping and waking, the image of my mother came, or appeared to come, most vividly before me, and while I gazed earnestly upon her well-remembered features, she bent over me with a smile, and whispered a few clear, distinct words in my ear. This circumstance, trifling and unimportant as you may perhaps deem it, exercised a powerful influence over me, and I at once felt an irresistible desire to see my dear mother again, and obtain, if possible, her forgiveness.”
“Do you recollect the words which you imagined she addressed to you?” asked Herbert.
"I do, sir,” answered the man; "they have haunted my memory ever since; and, strange to say,” he added, with an agitation that rendered his voice slightly tremulous, “they were the very same which I heard you read to her shortly before her death. I was listening outside the door for some time before I ventured in, and nothing that passed escaped me.”
He stopped abruptly, and buried his face in his hands, quite overcome at the remembrance of the painful scene.
“You have not yet told me the precise words you refer to," observed Herbert, presently.
James Gordon lifted his head, and, suppressing by a strong effort the violent and palpable emotion which convulsed his frame, he replied, “I will arise, and go to my Father.'"
“Strange indeed,” said Herbert, meditatively; ‘passing strange! That was part of your mother's favourite chapter. Truly God's ways are 'past finding out.' How wonderful are the means He often employs to bring poor wandering sinners back to Himself!"
“What do you mean, sir ? ” exclaimed the other, giving a quick start of surprise.
“Simply this, my friend : I believe that God, who deals with us according to our several necessities and peculiar dispositions and capabilities, saw fit, in His infinite wisdom, to adopt the method you have described in order to arrest you in your guilty career, and lead you to seek and find, not only your earthly, but also your heavenly parent.”
“Oh, if I only thought so!” returned James Gordon, rising hastily from his seat, and walking several times rapidly across the room, in extreme perturbation, “ if I only thought so ! But no,” he continued, sinking down in his seat again, and forcing himself to become calm; "I feel you are wrong, sir—it cannot be.”
“ Listen to His own words : 'Let the wicked forsake his the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.' Is not that a cheering promise ? "
“ Yes; but it is not for me,” rejoined the unhappy man.
"I have several times lately tried to pray, but it seems like mockery. The recollection of a thousand sins flashes across my mind, and a thousand voices seem to ring in my ears, saying that there is no hope !_no hope,” he repeated in a hollow voice, grasping with a spasmodic clutch the back of a chair, " for those who have sinned like me.”
Herbert allowed him to become somewhat composed before he spoke to him again. Then, laying his hand gently on his arm, he said impressively, “Do you not know that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners ?—so that the very fact of your being a sinner, instead of rendering you hopeless, should of itself satisfy you that there is pardon even for you. Jesus said, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.' Will not this satisfy you ?”
The man shook his head; but Herbert was well pleased to observe that the expression of his face betokened now rather thought than despair, and after offering up a brief prayer, he left him to his own reflections.
When he next saw him, his countenance was again overcast with a black cloud of hopeless misery, for Mrs. Gordon's remains had been just consigned to the grave, and while taking part in the melancholy ceremonial, the poor man could not restrain himself from giving vent to the most bitter lamentations and self-upbraidings.
“Well, sir,” he said gloomily, accosting Herbert as he saw him entering the cottage," I thought over all you told me, but it was exactly as I feared. I can get neither comfort nor hope; for whichever way I turn I see nothing but impenetrable darkness.”
“ That is a sad condition to be in,” replied Herbert.
" It is ; but after all, what else can I expect ? ” returned the man, in a tone of utter dejection. “ It almost seems," he went on, dropping his voice to a low, intensified whisper, “as if the gnawings of remorse which I now feel must bear some resemblance to the torments of the lost in hell.”
“ There is one stupendous difference,” observed Herbert, gravely, “ between your condition and theirs—they are beyond the reach of mercy, without the privilege of prayer, uninfluenced and unblessed by hope."
“ I have no hope,” he answered bitterly.
“ I am sorry for it,” rejoined Herbert, quietly ; “but I am bound to tell you it is entirely your own fault. God's declaration is plain enough—Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool;' but as, by refusing His offered mercy, you tacitly deny either His willingness or power to perform what He has promised, you must of course abide the consequences.”.
“ I deny God's power ! " exclaimed James Gordon, aghast at the implied reproach; “no, no, sir; never, even amidst my blackest crimes, aid I presume to go so far as that. I believe that He has absolute power both in heaven and on earth.”
“ Is your mind firmly made up on that point ? ” asked Herbert, glad to have at length roused him from the state of apathetic despair in which he found him.
Certainly,” was the unhesitating reply.
“ Then it follows that God could save you?”
“ Doubtless He could do so,” returned the other, slowly and anxiously, “ if such was His will."
“And what is His will concerning you ?” asked Herbert, gravely.
The man fixed his eyes intently on him, as if eager for him to say more; and he continued, taking his little Bible from his pocket, and opening it, “ Here is the answer, clear, convincing, unalterable: 'The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;' and, again, 'He will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.'”
James Gordon clasped his hands together, and looked quickly up at Herbert as if he would have spoken ; but, checking himself, he resolutely closed his lips, and waited to hear what would come next.
“A leper once came to Jesus, and said, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will : be thou clean; and immediately the leprosy departed from him.''
He said no more ; but rising from his seat, put some tracts which he had brought with him for the purpose into James Gordon's hands, and with a grave inclination of the head, took his departure, trusting that the impression which had been made upon the poor man's heart might be deepened and increased, until he too should hear the words, “I will : be thou clean,” spoken to his sorrowful, sin-stained soul, by the Great Physician, and be enabled to go on his way rejoicing.
Nor was this hope disappointed; for, as Herbert was passing the widow's cottage a day or two afterwards, he was accosted by her sister, who had noticed his approach from the window, and hurried to meet him.
“Will you come in for a minute or two, sir ? she asked in a tone of unusual excitement, • James is very anxious to see you."
She opened the door of the little sitting-room as she put the question; and before Herbert was able to make any inquiry regarding her nephew's frame of mind, he found himself in his presence.
But how can I describe the happy change which had been effected in his appearance since last Herbert saw him, or how express the latter's delight when, springing up and advancing impulsively towards him, he exclaimed, in accents of the deepest gratitude and love, while peace and serenity shone on every feature of his embrowned countenance,
“Thank God, sir, the struggle is over! all the clouds have rolled away, and I can now say—in the words of that beautiful hymn you left with me,
• Thy tears, not mine, o Christ,
Have wept my guilt away,
Into a blessed day.” “ Light and joy instead of darkness and despair! O James, what an inexpressibly glorious change !” “ It is indeed, sir !" assented the other, energetically ;
" and to me --only think of that, sir—to me, the very chief of sinners !"
“Dejected, sad, and lone, and blighted." BYRON. We left Herbert Seymour standing in Mrs. Gordon's little cottage, thankfully listening to her repentant son's account of the marvellous and unspeakably happy change which he had experienced.
A few days subsequently, we find him sitting at breakfast—the first time for many weeks-alone with his mother and Mr. Seymour.
The meal was a very silent one; but before it was ended, Herbert, who for some reason or other appeared unusually thoughtful, exchanged a brief, almost imperceptible glance with Mrs. Seymour; and then turning towards his father, said, addressing him in a tone of gentle and respectful consideration,
I suppose you know that James Gordon returned in time to his mother before she died ?"
Mr. Seymour lifted his eyes from his plate, and fixed them coldly upon his son, while answering curtly,—So have been informed."
Perhaps you have also heard,” continued the young man, forcing himself to proceed, though he felt considerable hesitation in doing so," that he is thoroughly ashamed of his past conduct, and fully resolved to lead a very different life for the time to come.
A contemptuous smile curled Mr. Seymour's lip; but Herbert went on steadily, without appearing to take any notice of it,
“I have been endeavouring to find out the state of his affairs, and regret to say that at present his circumstances seem far from prosperous.”
“Poor man!” exclaimed Mrs. Seymour, in a tone of sincere commiseration, while her husband preserved a dignified silence.
“ I promised his mother,” said Herbert, after a moment's reflection, " that I would do all in my power for him.”
“ And what, may I presume to inquire, are your benevolent intentions regarding him ? " demanded Mr. Seymour, sarcastically.
“ I thought—that is, I hoped,” faltered the young man, “that you would allow him to retain possession of his mother's cottage, where-"
“Where,” interpolated his father, with a sneer, “I could have the privilege of supporting him in luxurious idleness.”
“ By no means," returned Herbert, warmly. “He is most anxious to find employment; and I ventured to tell him that, by applying to Gibson, he would at once be furnished with some suitable occupation.”
Not a muscle of Mr. Seymour's stern countenance relaxed as he answered coolly and pitilessly,—" It will be quite useless for him to take that trouble, as I have already given Gibson instructions to refuse his application, should he make one."
Herbert started; and the blood rushed to his temples at this
unequivocal declaration of his father's sentiments. Expostulatory words, too, trembled on his lips : but he repressed them, and wisely resolved to remain silent rather than betray any unseemly warmth of
Meanwhile, Mr. Seymour leisurely proceeded to finish his breakfast, which he did with a face that seemed, by its calmness and complacency, to say the matter was conclusively and satisfactorily settled.
His gentle wife regarded him for an instant in utter amazement, and appeared uncertain whether to speak or remain silent. She was still wavering when Herbert, observing that his father was about to leave the room, said, in a low, earnest tone,
“I should feel very grateful to you if you would reconsider your determination, and for this once agree to
“Unfortunately my mind is made up,” dryly returned Mr. Seymour ; “further discussion is therefore unnecessary.”.
“But what is the poor man to do?” asked Herbert, in a voice of grave concern.
“ That is his business, not mine," was the answer, spoken coldly and haughtily.
“If you would only give him a trial,” implored the young man.
“I will encourage no reprobates on my estate," said Mr. Seymour, remorselessly.
So assured am I of James Gordon's steadfastness of purpose, that I would cheerfully hold myself responsible for his future conduct,” rejoined Herbert, eagerly.
“ Doubtless,” replied his father, with an air of indifference. “But does it never happen that your ideas and opinions are in exact opposition to mine?
* It grieves me bitterly when such is the case. In the present instance, however, I am convinced you would have every reason to be satisfied with
“I have already intimated that enough has been said on the subject,” interrupted Mr. Seymour, waxing impatient. My resolution, once taken, is unalterable.”
Herbert sighed ; and Mrs. Seymour, who had been several times on the point of adding her entreaties to his, felt her heart sink within her as she listened to these last expressive words, so significant of her husband's character.
Without giving Herbert an opportunity of replying, Mr. Seymour continued, — It is all very well for you to call the man a reformed character and so forth, because (probably for the purpose of accomplishing his own ends) he expresses, or pretends to express, regret for what he has done; but I am keen-sighted enough to see through such hypocrisy."
“Hypocrisy ! " echoed Herbert, softly, almost without being aware that he spoke at all.
“And now that this matter is arranged,” pursued the gentleman, rising from his seat, and speaking in a stern, determined voice, while his brow grew dark and contracted, “permit me to observe that in my opinion it would be better for yourself if you were to keep somewhat aloof from such men as James Gordon. You have heard the term I just now applied to him. I should be sorry to include
A meaning smile, cold, bitter, sarcastic, and severe, filled up the