SIR JOHN’S PROPOSAL

A MONTH passed, and still old Walters was a visitor at the lodge.
Still he might be seen sitting on fine days under a wide-spreading
oak-tree in the park, sometimes leaning forward with his chin resting
on his stick, at others reading his large Bible as it lay upon his
knees. Not unfrequently Sir John might be observed sitting by his
side, for he delighted in his remarks, so full of simple piety and
humility, and consequently of instruction to himself. The high-born
baronet was not above being edified by the conversation of the aged
pilgrim, whose mind seemed ripening fast for the world which could
not be far distant from him. But Walters began to speak in earnest of
returning to London. His feelings were sensitive and delicate, and
though urged to remain longer, he would not take advantage of the
kindness that proposed it. He said he had been permitted to spend a
month of happiness amidst God’s beautiful country works with his dear
boy Dick, but now the time was come for him to return to his room and
his old ways in London.

“And perhaps you feel more at home there than in any other place,”
said Sir John one morning, when he had been talking to him on his
favourite bench under the oak-tree. “You have lived there so many
years that this country life may seem irksome to you after the long
habit of the other.”

“Nay,” replied he, “London will seem very lonely after such a month
as I have spent here in my boy’s company, with everybody showing me
such kindness. And I shall miss the trees and the flowers, and the
songs of the birds. No, Sir John, I could find it in my heart to wish
I could end my days in the country, but God has willed it otherwise,
and given me a home I do not deserve, although it is amongst the
crowd and bustle and noise. Besides, why did I say I should be
lonely? Shall I not have _Him_”–and he uncovered his head, as was
his wont, at the great name–“who died for me, and loves me, and will
never leave me nor forsake me?”

Sir John was silent for a few moments; then he spoke to him on a
subject he had been turning over in his mind for some days. “You are
right, my worthy friend,” he said; “no place can be lonely to you,
and God will assuredly watch over you to the end. But suppose He were
to point out that His way of doing so, as far as this world is
concerned, would be to give you a home in the country, where you
would be cared for in health and in sickness, and where the remainder
of your years would pass in quietness and repose, would you not be
willing to follow His leading?”

“Assuredly, assuredly,” replied Walters, not in the least seeing the
drift of his remark. “But as such has not been His will, I thank Him
gratefully for my little room in town.”

“Now listen to me, my friend,” said the baronet. “It seems to me that
just as it was put into my heart to take Dick from the scenes of sin
and temptation he was exposed to in Roan’s Court, so now it is given
me to have the privilege of making your last years far more
comfortable than they would be in your lodging in town. The proposal
I wish to make to you is this: I have a cottage in the village which
I have given for her life to an attached faithful old servant, who
lives there with her niece. It is larger than she requires, and she
says she could quite well spare the little parlour and the bedroom
over it, and that she would be very glad to have you as a lodger, and
she and her niece would do their best to make you comfortable. I will
take all the arrangements for you on myself, so you will only have to
return to London to pack up your things and bid your present landlady
good-bye, and then come back again to your new country home, where
you may see Dick every day.”

Walters was silent. He could not speak. He took in all Sir John’s
plan for him, and the lonely old man’s heart leaped at the thought of
living near the child of his love. At length he rose, and with a
voice quivering with emotion, said–

“I thank you, I do indeed thank you, Sir John. It seems too much, too
much happiness for such an one as I am. But my whole life has been
filled with mercies, and this may be going to be the crowning one.
May I think over it? I am too old to be able all at once to decide.
When I have been alone awhile I can better answer you.”

“Take as long as you like to think it over,” replied Sir John–“there
is no hurry whatever.” Then kindly shaking hands with him, he went
away, for he saw that Walters was a good deal overcome. Yet he knew
that though he left him, he would not be alone, but that he would
seek the counsel and direction of Him whom he had for so long made
his dearest Friend.