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-given up all hope. And when you thought of that woman soon to become a widow, of those children soon to become orplians, and of their probable struggles with privation and want, you turned your face to the wall and wept. Oh! how bitter were those tears ! And you cried out for reprieve-reprieve until you might make some provision for their wants. Who was it heard that piteous cry, and gave you what
asked ? “ Ten years ago your oldest boy sánk into the grave. As the hour drew on, you saw that he was dying in despair. And as you thought of the awful future that awaited him, you remember the anguish of your spirit. Entering your closet, you locked the door, and spent one long night in agonizing prayer. You prayed, not for the life, but for the soul of your darling. Oh, God!' you cried, save, save, for Jesus' sake, save the soul of my dying child !' Who was it heard that prayer, and sent your son to heaven in the triumphs of faith and the joys of a brilliant hope of everlasting bliss ?
"Fifteen years ago you were in the gall of bitierness and in the bonds of iniquity. A sense of your guilt seized you, and for days and weeks there seemed to be no ray of hope for your poor soul. The darkness
became more intense. Comfort forsook your spirit by day, and sleep your eyes by night. But just wien a settled despair seemed to seal up your spirit to an awful doom, the light broke, and you sprang from despair to the arms of a forgiving Redeemer, and a joy like that of heaven filled your cup to overflowing. Who was it pitied you in that dark hour, and took your sins away ?”
As the merchant listened to the thrilling tale, trembling seized his limbs, and sweat broke out upon his brow; and looking up, he saw two hands held out to him. They had been pierced with nails, and were dropping blood. Glancing at the face of the speaker, he saw streams of blood like great tears streaming down that face of love, from the wounds made by the crown of thorns. The side, too, had been pierced with a spear, and the feet were torn and bleeding.
And as he gazed, he awoke. It was dream; but deep in his soul he knew that it was not all a dream. And kneeling upon the floor, he lifted his hands to heaven and cried for pardon, and then and there re-pledged his soul, his body, and his fortune, to Him whose life-blood had been poured out for his salvation.
2 Story for the Christmas Fireside. .
THE BRAVE DAYS OF-NOW.
A TRUE TALE. Part the First- December 25th. HARRY PERCIVAL and Will Brayton were intimate friends and companions. They were born in the same village, educated at the same school, adopted the same business, and went up to London to follow that business in the same “ house." It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that they occupied the same apartments, and, every way, were just as intimate as two young men, similarly related, could very well be. They were both the sons of pious parents ; and, having both professed to give their hearts to God, they connected themselves with the same church, and sat down at one table of the Lord. Nevertheless, in point of character, as hitherto revealed,
they were not one ; and, though it is quite possible that, as is often the case, their very (seeming) contradiction of cha. racter might have attracted and united them, it is quite certain that their friend. ship was due, in great part, to the mutuality of the circumstances with which, as yet, they had been surrounded. And, so, not to forget that the unseen sympathies which had made them in an especial sense school - fellows and play-mates stillendured, now that they were fellow-clerks, it must not be forgotten that their courses of thought had been widely divergent, and that their present dispositions seemed highly to contrast with each other.
Harry, whose age gave him a slight seniority, was a mere theorist ;-that is to say, he took from a portion of history a certain ideal of things, and then looked
through that ideal at the whole of the real things round about him. The consequence was, that, as read in the light of that ideal, realities looked very lamentable ; and, the ideal confused, what wonder that the real looked anything but clear or charming ? What was, was not what ought to be; and what had been was not what was. He put his theory of the Past into one scale, and his theory of the Present into the other; and though he was continually weighing them, he continually touched the latter with his finger, and, of course, it kiched the beam. Every cynical exposure of present faultiness or incompetence met with a three-times-tbree ; and every clap-trap exaltation of past bravery
was received with thrice the three. “Great ” the preacher, “happy, the speaker, “clever " the writer, who preached, or spoke, or wrote in the selfsame tune. The men of whom the country should be proud were the men who dishonoured the country, and declared that her faults were still so many she could not be loved ! Though a pretended hero-worshipper, he went, for his heroism, where never a hero went, not among the living, but among the dead. He would stand all day long upon a veritable Bridge of Sighs, musing on the uselessness of launching his skiff upon the life-stream ; for why?—the age of sea-kings was past. Indeed, the age of everything was past; and only the puling dotage remained.
Brayton, on the other hand, was the very reverse of all this. A realist, in the very best sense of the term, was be. Not that he failed to study the past; but, then, he looked at the past through the present, -a method the very reverse of his friend's, -and, accordingly, he saw that, just as the Past had been the Present, everything that was heroic in the Past had been heroically achieved in that Present. Very clearly did he see that if they had contented themselves by sighing for the braver times before them, they would have left no “good times” for his friend to lament, and, by that lamentation, to dishonour. Granted, too, the inferiority of the present; given, then, the greater need for all things that should in anywise redeem it. And to that right resolutely did he set himself;. and whenever he read of ancient worth, or recognized contemporary sordidness, the more did he resolve to honour the one by every personal abnegation of the other. He could not rest content by appreciating the
Christian glories of bygone centuries; he must endeavour to exemplify them, however humbly, in his own day and generation. Else, what of the future? To sighing for nothing shall surely succeed sighing for something; and so we had better not sigh at all, but try. And men in all time were very much alike; and if we only marched, with a firm and fearless step, they would remember that, and of their charity for give our weakness. And God called, and the gospel; and should not he answer?
It may readily be judged, then, that there were no few discussions, if very few decisions, in the cozy little sitting-room of our young friends. Often and often the subject came uppermost; and, disguise it as they might, it came uppermost too often. To this formation of character, and this contrasted formation, rules of conduct began to follow, and they were contrasted. While Harry Percival withdrew himself more and more from every effort of useful ness, and even went so far as to give up his class at the Sabbath-school, and very seldom occupyhis seat in the house of God, Will Brayton became more and more earnest in every good work, and even went so far as to relinquish many of his own comforts for the better discharge of his labours. Percival's position necessarily involved a personal determination to let things go, and by descending to their level
, get along the smoothest; but Brayton's position necessarily required that he should never be satisfied with things as they were but ever try, in whatever way, to raise them to a loftier altitude. Of course Harry affected to laugh at the foolish zeal of Will; and Will, in return, pitied the mistake of Harry. One of two alternatives soon became imminent, either the one must yield to the other, and join with him, cr they must separate, being stumbling blocks to each other. This came of their prior intimacy, and the closeness of their present relationships; and, as Will expected no yielding either on Harry's side or on his own, he made up his mind to make one last struggle, and then let this thing alone.
Now, at the time of which we have just written, it wanted only five or six weeks to Christmas, and Brayton resolved to time the struggle to that, as one would think, most unsuitable season. knows very well what he is about, and so let us let him alone. He knows that Harry and he have been accustomed to spend
their holiday in "the old place at home,” and, though he acknowledges that last year's excursion passed off pretty well, he cannot forget that rather too much of Percival's philosophy showed itself upon the occasion, and that the new year's holiday spent in Town was pretty much devoted to the ridiculing of the Christmas holiday spent in the Country. Accordingly, he marks out his plans, and resolves on letting Harry have it nearly all his own way, meanwhile,-perhaps, the better to fit him for what should follow. He remembers that the only song Harry sang last Christmas was all chorus, and that that chorus, not sung, but dolefully muttered, was something about “ the brave days of old;" with occasional variations, substituting “good times” for “brave days." “ Chorus
, gentlemen," is the watch-word of his plan; and, by making others join in the chorus
, he expects to make the sweet singer himself vow to sing it never again.
Well the morning of the 24th of December dawns at last, and in a few hours it will be Christmas-eve. Now-adays, however, you can do a great deal in a few hours ; and, in a very few, Harry and Will, who breakfasted together in London, are dining apart in their respective homes -never mind where. It has been their custom to take their first meal in their own old home, and in the midst of all the old (yet changing) faces there ; and, then, by arrangement of the families, Christmaseve is spent in one home, and Christmasday in the other, alternately. This year the Braytons have the former ; and, that being so, all the Percivals will be coming in to tea--such a troop of them, and such a herry troop; for Harry is the exception in the house, and just because of that I believe he is estimated far more than otherwise he would be. Will Brayton is at an exception; and, yet, even among the Braytons there is an exception to-day. It is Will's eldest sister, the eldest girl — eldest child but one.
She looks out of
There's something going to happen, depend upon it, that she Loes not like. And that ran-tan at the
a deeper shade still to her books. It is the Percivals; and Harry is in Salutations over, and a very fair amount of by-play performed, tea is announced, and the company adjourn, the distinguished couples being Mr. Harry Percival and döiss Brayton, and Mr. Will Brayton and
Miss Percival. The tea-table, however, soon engrosses attention ; for, instead of the customary good cheer-cakes, and jams, and muffins, and toast, and I know not what innumerable “make-ups” of fanciful device—the plainest of the plain appears, and the tea-urn is alone supported by plates of bread and butter ; and, grace said, apologies even for these are instant and constant. Everybody expresses a sentiment to the effect that most of the things usually found at our festive boards are wretched inventions of modern tastelessness and imbecility, and everybody concludes, and begins again, by sighing for the “good tiines” of “the brave days of old.” Indeed, they go back to the very recent salutations, and are afraid that they partook too much of modern modes and.. manners; and they are only fearful lest Mr. Harry should not appreciate their passionate admiration of the past, and, therefore, misunderstand their unadulterated contempt for the present.
Poor Harry! Every piece of bread he puts to his mouth suggests to him something proverbial about one's bread being taken out of one's mouth; and, for the life of him, he cannot fathom this bread-andbutter mystery. He looks at Will, but Will seems the most headstrong in his wholesale conversion to bygone glories. He looks at Miss Brayton—Miss Brayton in company-and, seeing her plate empty, hands her the everlasting bread and butter. She, too, faintly murmurs something about the good times that are gone ; but I can see that her brother suspects that her good times are not quite so far back as her words are understood to imply.
It is just the same all the evening. No games are proposed, and everybody sits and sighs. No fruits grace the table ; and, while all the ladies play with their handkerchiefs, all the gentlemen play with their penknives,-poor Harry has cut his finger twice! And supper turns out worse than the tea; for the bread seems to have far less butter on it, and the tea was better than is the coffee. Yet apologies are plentiful enough, and the miserable contrivances of latter-day Christmas-eves are sparingly exposed. The brave days, aye, and the brave nights, of old! Christmaseve was Christmas-eve then! But-now ! And
so they parted—the Percivals apologizing to the Braytons for not thanking them for their delightful hospitality, and the Braytons apologizing to the
sorts in some way.
Percivals for not thanking them for their delightful company ! It was the most ludicrous parting you ever saw, and poor Harry could put up with it no longer. He became quite cross, and even to her almost rude. He showed the better part of valour, however, and, very hastily, and pleading indisposition, retreated. Indisposed he was, in fact ; and it was very well he retreated, for all the rest were as nearly beyond control as he; and before he had got very far, such a peal of Christmas laughter rang through the frosty air, that he suddenly paused, and thought he heard once more an echo of the brave days of_last Christmas time! Capital, Will Brayton! The mode of treatment works well; and, if Miss Brayton can only be induced to deny herself a little longer, Harry Percival will be cured for life. And is not she interested in that cure ?
• What can it all mean?” says he, as he tears along the village street—that ancient way, over which the overplus of his boyish energy had often spent itself. “What can it all mean ? says he, as he gains his little chamber—that snug room, in which they had all once expected to see him die, and in which he should almost prefer to die. " What can it all mean?" as he hides himself in the comforts of the old bed-that dear old bed, a little too short now, but far more comfortable than that fine affair in London, as unlike this as the two quilts upon them. " What can it all mean?”
says he; and, then, one comfort strikes him, and in that comfort he sinks to sleep.
That comfort is this :-“ One thing, at any rate, they will not dare not to have. If there is one woman in the land who could do without making a Christmas pudding, that woman is not my mother. That mercy endureth for ever. A brave day to-morrow !”
A little too fast, Harry, I am afraid ; and, indeed, they are all thinking that you have been a little too fast to-night. But there is one who, knowing thee well, excuseth thee, and that one is her whose name, next to that of thy Father in heaven, thou wilt always do well to sleep upon. She enters thy chamber now; and, as her face bends over that of her beloved boy, she is very sorry at, if quite satisfied of, the lesson he is learning. The tear she sheds is an earnest, not unseen in heaven, of a mother's sacrifice for the well-being of her son !
The famous 25th of December, then,
dawns at last, but never had such a 25th of December dawned before in the house of the Percivals. No pleasant surprises greeted Harry as he stepped out of bed; and, do what he could, he could not reconcile himself to produce the surprises he himself had brought down from London in his customary box. There had been wet Christmas-days, and snowy ones there had been also ; Christinas-days cold and frosty, and Christmas-days sunny and warm almost ; but this Christmas-day was not a Christmas-day, to them. No Christmas-tree stood in the hall, and no younger branches covered every available point the house over.
It was all apology, apology; and everybody lamented the hypocrisy of modern “merry Christmas” salutations, and, for themselves, were superior to the practice. Perfectly amazed, Harry began to get very nervous as to whether or not his peace of last night would turn out to be just; and at length he wandered into the kitchen, determined to satisfy himselfor see that he was not going to be satisfied. Nothing extraordinary was in process there, and no seasonable sights and smells were to be discovered. Everything was as staid and serious as though this 25th of December had fallen on a Sabbath ; and he began to think that if this was the very old way of keeping Christmas, he would prefer a way not quite so old— quite modern in fact. «What can it all mean?"
Why, it meant just what it had all meant; and that meaning became, ere long, too obvious to hide. In due course the Braytons arrived to dinner, and, after it was due, the dinner—nay, the cold meat and bread and cheese-arrived in the dining-room. It was partaken of just as tea and supper had been on the previous day, and was succeeded by attendance at the service in the parish church--a new feature at the Percivals'. Then came tea, which, with the evening, and succeeding supper, exactly corresponded to the plan of the previous day; and then came
“I say, Will Brayton, I can suffer this no longer. I confess myself beaten ; and, as true
as I love-my mother there, you'll never catch me sighing for the brave days of old' again, that is to say, the very old days. (Loud laughter, hear
, hear, from Will, and general applause.) You have taught me rather a hard lesson, and I should scarcely have thought, per: haps, that somebody, that everybody in fact, would have joined in it so beartily
(I didn't,' Miss Brayton all but said); but I am glad I have learned it (loud cheers), and I am sure that Will and I will be better friends than ever. ( Hear, hear,'
from fathers Percival and Brayton.) Now, si mother, put that handkerchief by, and,
with God's blessing, I will try to be more like thee, and do each day what each day findeth for me to do." (Prolonged applause, waving of handkerchiefs, twinkling of eyes, shaking of hands, stamping of little feet, and general vociferations, in the midst of which two kisses went off, one upon the cheek of Dame Percival, and another upon that of- never mind who.)
And didn't they play, and didn't they laugh, and didn't they sing, and didn't they leeep Christmas (for he had only about two hours to live), and didn't they, after all said and done, wish each other many happy returns of that day, and pledge each other's health and happiness in “just a little bit” of “such a nice little Christmaspudding,”, coming in, as it did, just in time ?
But, then, Harry Percival didn't care about going to bed that night quite so soon!
Part the Second.-January the 1st. WILL BRAYTON and Harry Percival in hope and joy ; and if they could only the course of a few days returned to town. cheer a few hours of a few, well a per-cenThey were more intimate than ever ; and, tage of good would be done, and that mere perbaps, more truly than ever. Harry's per-centage might in good time become a better nature had asserted itself ; and if principal! They could contrive to seat in that Will saw in his friend more to re- about a dozen people in their little parspect and admire, Harry saw in his friend lour, and seat them there they would, more to cherish and love. " So far, so and serve them there, on the night of the good,” thought Will; but, then, although new year's day, with one of the very best the iron had been heated, aye, and pretty suppers or dinners their humble purses well beaten, it had yet to be tempered. could command. A happy thought! Old True, as Christian young men, their first people they would have ; six old women impulse of thankfulness expressing itself and six old men; and they would call to the God of every grace, often and often them, not from comfortable homes, but did they bend before Him in prayer, and from the streets, the alleys, and the garrets. plead with Him for help and blessing. There were plenty enough to call, and there Then, as next best thing, thought Will were plenty that would come. and, ob, how rightly-to work, to work. On the 1st of January, then, having conAnd what should they do? Two or three cluded their dinner by a friendly exchange days of holiday still remained; and, though of Percival and Brayton mince pies, our in the matter of the resumption of his re- young friends set to work, not without a ligious duties he wanted to leave Harry thought of absent helpmates, to make pretty much to his own heart, still, he ready for their guests. They had been sought to throw in some special oppor- thinking and experimenting upon the mattunity, which, really opportune, might com- ter for a day or two previously, and at plete the good change just commenced. length they had fallen upon à planWhat should it be?
Percival said it was Brayton's, and BrayHe had it, he thought, at last. Though ton said it was Percival's—whereby they it had ended merrily enough, they had not might make the most of their chamber at spent what might be called a very merry
the least inconvenience to the company. Christmas, and therefore they might very Who that company should consist of no. well allow themselves a little extra merri-body on earth knew as yet ; for it was ment at the new year, and by so doing agreed that they should have all nearly bave increased happiness then. And, pray, ready, and then, that Percival should go how better than by extending their merri- and gather six men, and Braytou go and ment, and enabling others to partake of gather six old women. Soon á bright their joy, could they hope to have a real fire blazed in the grate, the table looked increase Sf it? There were thousands of tempting enough (by mere neatness of laypeople in London to whom this new year ing out), the chairs were all in their places, time would be anything but a signal of the shutters: closed, and the curtains