ANOTHER CHRISTMAS DAY

“There came a glorious morning, such a one
As dawns but once a season. Mercury
On such a morning would have flung himself
From cloud to cloud, and swum with balanced wings
To some tall mountain: when I said to her,
‘A day for gods to stoop,’ she answered ‘Ay,
And men to soar.’”

TENNYSON.

Ruby goes about her work and play very gravely for the next few days.
A great sorrow sits at her heart which only time can lighten and chase
away. She is very lonely, this little girl–lonely without even knowing
it, but none the less to be pitied on that account. To her step-mother
Ruby never even dreams of turning for comfort or advice in her small
troubles and griefs. Dad is his little girl’s _confidant_; but, then,
dad is often away, and in Mrs. Thorne’s presence Ruby never thinks of
confiding in her father.

It is a hot sunny morning in the early months of the new year. Ruby is
riding by her father’s side along the river’s bank, Black Prince doing
his very best to accommodate his long steps to Smuttie’s slower amble.
Far over the long flats of uncultivated bush-land hangs a soft blue
haze, forerunner of a day of intense heat. But Ruby and dad are early
astir this morning, and it is still cool and fresh with the beautiful
young freshness of a glorious summer morning.

“It’s lovely just now,” Ruby says, with a little sigh of satisfaction.
“I wish it would always stay early morning; don’t you, dad? It’s like
where it says in the hymn about ‘the summer morn I’ve sighed for.’
P’raps that means that it will always be morning in heaven. I hope it
will.”

“It will be a very fair summer morn anyway, little girl,” says dad, a
sudden far-away look coming into his brown eyes.

At the child’s words, his thoughts have gone back with a sudden rush of
memory to another summer’s morning, long, long ago, when he knelt by
the bedside where his young wife lay gasping out her life, and watched
Ruby’s mother go home to God. “I’ll be waiting for you, Will,” she had
whispered only a little while before she went away. “It won’t be so
very long, my darling; for even heaven won’t be quite heaven to me with
you away.” And as the dawning rose over the purple hill-tops, and the
birds’ soft twitter-twitter gave glad greeting to the new-born day, the
angels had come for Ruby’s mother, and the dawning for her had been the
glorious dawning of heaven.

Many a year has passed away since then, sorrowfully enough at first for
the desolate husband, all unheeded by the child, who never missed her
mother because she never knew her. Nowadays new hopes, new interests
have come to Will Thorne, dimming with their fresher links the dear old
days of long ago. He has not forgotten the love of his youth, never
will; but time has softened the bitterness of his sorrow, and caused
him to think but with a gentle regret of the woman whom God had called
away in the suntime of her youth. But Ruby’s words have come to him
this summer morning awakening old memories long slumbering, and his
thoughts wander from the dear old days, up–up–up to God’s land on
high, where, in the fair summer morning of Paradise, one is waiting
longingly, hopefully–one who, even up in heaven, will be bitterly
disappointed if those who in the old days she loved more than life
itself will not one day join her there.

“Dad,” Ruby asks quickly, uplifting a troubled little face to that
other dear one above her, “what is the matter? You looked so sorry, so
very sorry, just now,” adds the little girl, with something almost like
a sob.

“Sorry. Did I?” says the father, with a swift sudden smile. He bends
down to the little figure riding by his side, and strokes the soft,
brown hair. “I was thinking of your mother, Ruby,” dad says. “But
instead of looking sorry I should have looked glad, that for her all
tears are for ever past, and that nothing can ever harm her now. I was
thinking of her at heaven’s gate, darling, watching, as she said she
would, for you and for me.”

“I wonder,” says Ruby, with very thoughtful brown eyes, “how will I
know her? And how will she know me, dad? God will have to tell her,
won’t He? And p’raps I’ll be quite grown up ’fore I die, and mother
won’t think it’s her own little Ruby at all. I wish I knew,” adds the
child, in a puzzled voice.

“God will make it all right, dear. I have no fear of that,” says the
father, quickly.

It is not often that Ruby and he talk as they are doing now. Like all
true Scotchmen, he is reticent by nature, reverencing that which is
holy too much to take it lightly upon his lips. As for Ruby, she has
never even thought of such things. In her gay, sunny life she has had
no time to think of the mother awaiting her coming in the land which
to Ruby, in more senses than one, is “very far off.”

Far in the distance the early sunshine gleams on the river, winding out
and in like a silver thread. The tall trees stand stiffly by its banks,
their green leaves faintly rustling in the soft summer wind. And above
all stretches the blue, blue sky, flecked here and there by a fleecy
cloud, beyond which, as the children tell us, lies God’s happiest land.

It is a fair scene, and one which Ruby’s eyes have gazed on often,
with but little thought or appreciation of its beauty. But to-day her
thoughts are far away, beyond another river which all must pass, where
the shadows only fall the deeper because of the exceeding brightness
of the light beyond. And still another river rises before the little
girl’s eyes, a river, clear as crystal, the “beautiful, beautiful
river” by whose banks the pilgrimage of even the most weary shall one
day cease, the burden of even the most heavy-laden, one day be laid
down. On what beauties must not her mother’s eyes be now gazing! But
even midst the joy and glory of the heavenly land, how can that fond,
loving heart be quite content if Ruby, one far day, is not to be with
her there?

All the way home the little girl is very thoughtful, and a strange
quietness seems to hang over usually merry Ruby for the remainder of
the day.

But towards evening a great surprise is in store for her. Dick, whose
duty it is, when his master is otherwise engaged, to ride to the
nearest post-town for the letters, arrives with a parcel in his bag,
addressed in very big letters to “Miss Ruby Thorne.” With fingers
trembling with excitement the child cuts the string. Within is a long
white box, and within the box a doll more beautiful than Ruby has ever
even imagined, a doll with golden curls and closed eyes, who, when
set upright, discloses the bluest of blue orbs. She is dressed in the
daintiest of pale blue silk frocks, and tiny bronze shoes encase her
feet. She is altogether, as Ruby ecstatically exclaims, “a love of a
doll,” and seems but little the worse for her long journey across the
briny ocean.

“It’s from Jack!” cries Ruby, her eyes shining. “Oh, and here’s a
letter pinned to dolly’s dress! What a nice writer he is!” The child’s
cheeks flush redly, and her fingers tremble even more as she tears the
envelope open. “I’ll read it first to myself, mamma, and then I’ll give
it to you.”

“MY DEAR LITTLE RUBY” (so the letter runs),

“I have very often thought of you since last we parted, and now do
myself the pleasure of sending madam across the sea in charge of
my letter to you. She is the little bird I would ask to whisper
of me to you now and again, and if you remember your old friend
as well as he will always remember you, I shall ask no more. How
are the dollies? Bluebell and her other ladyship–I have forgotten
her name. I often think of you this bleak, cold weather, and envy
you your Australian sunshine just as, I suppose, you often envy
me my bonnie Scotland. I am looking forward to the day when you
are coming home on that visit you spoke of. We must try and have
a regular jollification then, and Edinburgh, your mother’s home,
isn’t so far off from Greenock but that you can manage to spend
some time with us. My mother bids me say that she will expect you
and your people. Give my kindest regards to your father and mother,
and, looking forward to next Christmas,

“I remain, my dear little Ruby red,
“Your old friend,
“JACK.”

“Very good of him to take so much trouble on a little girl’s account,”
remarks Mrs. Thorne, approvingly, when she too has perused the letter.
“And what an exquisite doll! You must certainly write and thank Mr.
Kirke, Ruby. It is the least you can do, after his kindness, and I am
sure he would like to have a letter from you.”

“I just love him,” says Ruby, squeezing her doll closer to her. “I wish
I could call the doll after him; but then, ‘Jack’ would never do for
a lady’s name. I know what I’ll do!” with a little dance of delight.
“I’ll call her ‘May’ after the little girl who gave Jack the card, and
I’ll call her ‘Kirke’ for her second name, and that’ll be after Jack.
I’ll tell him that when I write, and I’d better send him back his card
too.”

That very evening, Ruby sits down to laboriously compose a letter to
her friend.

“MY DEAR JACK” (writes Ruby in her large round hand),

[“I don’t know what else to say,” murmurs the little girl, pausing with
her pen uplifted. “I never wrote a letter before.”

“Thank him for the doll, of course,” advises Mrs. Thorne, with an
amused smile. “That is the reason for your writing to him at all, Ruby.”

So Ruby, thus adjured, proceeds–]

“Thank you very much for the doll. She is just a lovely doll.
I am calling her ‘May Kirke,’ after the name on your card, and
after your own name; because I couldn’t call her ‘Jack.’ We are
having very hot weather yet; but not so hot as when you were here.
The dolls are not quite well, because Fanny fell under old Hans’
waggon, and the waggon went over her face and squashed it. I am
very sorry, because I liked her, but your doll will make up. Thank
you for writing me. Mamma says I am to send her kindest regards to
you. It won’t be long till next Christmas now. I am sending you
back your card.

“With love, from your little friend,
“RUBY.

“P.S.–Dad has come in now, and asks me to remember him to you. I
have had to write this all over again; mamma said it was so badly
spelt.”

Jack Kirke’s eyes soften as he reads the badly written little letter,
and it is noticeable that when he reaches a certain point where two
words, “May Kirke,” appear, he stops and kisses the paper on which they
are written.

Such are the excessively foolish antics of young men who happen to be
in love.

“The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.”

TENNYSON.

Christmas Day again; but a white, white Christmas this time–a
Christmas Day in bonnie Scotland.

In the sitting-room of an old-fashioned house in Edinburgh a little
brown-haired, brown-eyed girl is dancing about in an immense state
of excitement. She is a merry-looking little creature, with rosy
cheeks, and wears a scarlet frock, which sets off those same cheeks to
perfection.

“Can’t you be still even for a moment, Ruby?”

“No, I can’t,” the child returns. “And neither could you, Aunt Lena,
if you knew my dear Jack. Oh, he’s just a dear! I wonder what’s keeping
him? What if he’s just gone on straight home to Greenock without
stopping here at all. Oh dear! what if there’s been a collision.
Dad says there are quite often collisions in Scotland!” cries Ruby,
suddenly growing very grave.

“What if the skies were to fall? Just about as probable, you wild
little Australian,” laughs the lady addressed as Aunt Lena, who bears
sufficient resemblance to the present Mrs. Thorne to proclaim them
to be sisters. “You must expect trains to be late at Christmas time,
Ruby. But of course you can’t be expected to know that, living in the
Australian bush all your days. Poor, dear Dolly, I wonder how she ever
survived it.”

“Mamma was very often ill,” Ruby returns very gravely. “She didn’t
like being out there at all, compared with Scotland. ‘Bonnie Scotland’
Jenny always used to call it. But I do think,” adds the child, with
a small sigh and shiver as she glances out at the fast-falling snow,
“that Glengarry’s bonnier. There are so many houses here, and you can’t
see the river unless you go away up above them all. P’raps though in
summer,” with a sudden regret that she has possibly said something
not just quite polite. “And then when grandma and you are always used
to it. It’s different with me; I’ve been always used to Glengarry.
Oh,” cries Ruby, with a sudden, glad little cry, and dash to the
front door, “here he is at last! Oh, Jack, Jack!” Aunt Lena can hear
the shrill childish voice exclaiming. “I thought you were just never
coming. I thought p’raps there had been a collision.” And presently
the dining-room door is flung open, and Ruby, now in a high state of
excitement, ushers in her friend.

Miss Lena Templeton’s first feeling is one of surprise, almost of
disappointment, as she rises to greet the new-comer. The “Jack” Ruby
had talked of in such ecstatic terms had presented himself before the
lady’s mind’s eye as a tall, broad-shouldered, handsome man, the sort
of man likely to take a child’s fancy; ay, and a woman’s too.

But the real Jack is insignificant in the extreme. At such a man one
would not bestow more than a passing glance. So thinks Miss Templeton
as her hand is taken in the young Scotchman’s strong grasp. His face,
now that the becoming bronze of travel has left it, is colourlessly
pale, his merely medium height lessened by his slightly stooping form.
Ay, but his eyes! It is his eyes which suddenly and irresistibly
fascinate Miss Lena, seeming to look her through and through, and when
Jack smiles, this young lady who has turned more than one kneeling
suitor from her feet with a coldly-spoken “no,” ceases to wonder how
even the child has been fascinated by the wonderful personality of
this plain-faced man.

“I am very glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Templeton,” Jack Kirke
says. “It is good of you to receive me for Ruby’s sake.” He glances
down at the child with one of his swift, bright smiles, and squeezes
tighter the little hand which so confidingly clasps his.

“I’ve told Aunt Lena all about you, Jack,” Ruby proclaims in her shrill
sweet voice. “She said she was quite anxious to see you after all I had
said. Oh! Jack, can’t you stay Christmas with us? It would be lovely if
you could.”

“We shall be very glad if you can make it convenient to stay and eat
your Christmas dinner with us, Mr. Kirke,” Miss Templeton says. “In
such weather as this, you have every excuse for postponing your journey
to Greenock for a little.”

“Many thanks for your kindness, Miss Templeton,” the young man
responds. “I should have been most happy, but that I am due at Greenock
this afternoon at my mother’s. She is foolish enough to set great store
by her unworthy son, and I couldn’t let her have the dismal cheer
of eating her Christmas dinner all alone. Two years ago,” the young
fellow’s voice softens as he speaks, “there were two of us. Nowadays
I must be more to my mother than I ever was, to make up for Wat. He
was my only brother”–all the agony of loss contained in that “was” no
one but Jack Kirke himself will ever know–“and it is little more than
a year now since he died. My poor mother, I don’t know how I had the
heart to leave her alone last Christmas as I did; but I think I was
nearly out of my mind at the time. Anyway I must try to make it up to
her this year, if I possibly can.”

“Was Wat like you?” Ruby asks very softly. She has climbed on her
long-lost friend’s knee, a habit Ruby has not yet grown big enough to
be ashamed of, and sits, gazing up into those other brown eyes. “I wish
I’d known him too,” Ruby says.

“A thousand times better,” Wat’s brother returns with decision. “He was
the kindest fellow that ever lived, I think, though it seems queer to
be praising up one’s own brother. If you had known Wat, Ruby, I would
have been nowhere, and glad to be nowhere, alongside of such a fellow
as him. Folks said we were like in a way, to look at; though it was a
poor compliment to Wat to say so; but there the resemblance ended. This
is his photograph,” rummaging his pocket-book–“no, not that one, old
lady,” a trifle hurriedly, as one falls to the ground.

Ruby clambers down to pick it up. “Mayn’t I see it, Jack?” she
petitions.

Jack Kirke grows rather red and looks a trifle foolish; but it is
impossible to refuse the child’s request. Had Ruby’s aunt not been
present, it is possible that he might not have minded quite so much.

“I like her face,” Ruby determines. “It’s a nice face.”

It is a nice face, this on the photograph, as the child has said. The
face of a girl just stepping into womanhood, fair and sweet, though
perhaps a trifle dreamy, but with that shining in the eyes which tells
how to their owner belongs a gift which but few understand, and which,
for lack of a better name, the world terms “Imagination.” For those
who possess it there will ever be an added glory in the sunset, a
softly-whispered story in each strain of soon-to-be-forgotten music,
a reflection of God’s radiance upon the very meanest things of this
earth. A gift which through all life will make for them all joy
keener, all sorrow bitterer, and which they only who have it can fully
comprehend and understand.

“And this is Wat,” goes on Jack, thus effectually silencing the
question which he sees hovering on Ruby’s lips.

“I like him, too,” Ruby cries, with shining eyes. “Look, Aunt Lena,
isn’t he nice? Doesn’t he look nice and kind?”

There is just the faintest resemblance to the living brother in the
pictured face upon the card, for in his day Walter Kirke must indeed
have been a handsome man. But about the whole face a tinge of sadness
rests. In the far-away land of heaven God has wiped away all tears for
ever from the eyes of Jack’s brother. In His likeness Walter Kirke has
awakened, and is satisfied for ever.

“How do you do, Mr. Kirke?” says Ruby’s mother, fluttering into the
room. Nowadays Mrs. Thorne is a very different woman from the languid
invalid of the Glengarry days. The excitement and bustle of town life
have done much to bring back her accustomed spirits, and she looks more
like pretty Dolly Templeton of the old days than she has done since
her marriage. “Will is just coming. We have been out calling on a few
friends, and got detained. Isn’t it a regular Christmas day? I hope
that you will be able to spend some time with us, now that you are
here.”

“I have just been telling Miss Templeton that I have promised to eat
my Christmas dinner in Greenock,” Jack Kirke returns, with a smile.
“Business took me north, or I shouldn’t have been away from home in
such weather as this, and I thought it would be a good plan to break my
journey in Edinburgh, and see how my Australian friends were getting
on. My mother intends writing you herself; but she bids me say that
if you can spare a few days for us in Greenock, we shall be more than
pleased. I rather suspect, Ruby, that she has heard so much of you,
that she is desirous of making your acquaintance on her own account,
and discovering what sort of young lady it is who has taken her son’s
heart so completely by storm.”

“Oh, and, Jack,” cries Ruby, “I’ve got May with me. Your dolly, you
know. I thought it would be nice to let her see bonnie Scotland again,
seeing she came from it, just as I did when I was ever so little. Can’t
I bring her to Greenock when I come? Because, seeing she is called
after you, she ought really and truly to come and visit you. Oughtn’t
she?” questions Ruby, looking up into the face of May’s donor with very
wide brown eyes.

“Of course,” Jack returns gravely. “It would never do to leave May
behind in Edinburgh.” He lingers over the name almost lovingly; but
Ruby does not notice that then.

“Dad,” Ruby cries as her father comes into the room, “do you know what?
We’re all to go to Greenock to stay with Jack. Isn’t it lovely?”

“Not very flattering to us that you are in such a hurry to get away
from us, Ruby,” observes Miss Templeton, with a slight smile.
“Whatever else you have accomplished, Mr. Kirke, you seem to have
stolen one young lady’s heart at least away.”

“I like him,” murmurs Ruby, stroking Jack’s hair in rather a babyish
way she has. “I wouldn’t like never to go back to Glengarry, because I
like Glengarry; but _I should_ like to stay always in Scotland because
Jack’s here.”

“As the stars for ever and ever.”

“Jack,” Ruby says very soberly, “I want you to do something for me.”

Crowning joy has come at last to Ruby. Mrs. Kirke’s expected letter,
backed by another from her son, has come, inviting the Thornes to spend
the first week of the New Year with them. And now Ruby’s parents have
departed to pay some flying visits farther north, leaving their little
girl, at Mrs. Kirke’s urgent request, to await their return in Greenock.

“For Jack’s sake I should be so glad if you could allow her,” Jack’s
mother had said. “It makes everything so bright to have a child’s
presence in the house, and Jack and I have been sad enough since Walter
died.”

Sad enough! Ay, in all truth so they had. Few but Jack could have told
how sad.

“Fire away, little Ruby red,” is Jack’s rejoinder.

They are in the smoking-room, Jack stretched in one easy chair, Ruby
curled up in another. Jack has been away in dreamland, following with
his eyes the blue wreaths of smoke floating upwards from his pipe to
the roof; but now he comes back to real life–and Ruby.

“This is it,” Ruby explains. “You know the day we went down to
Inverkip, dad and I? Well, we went to see mamma’s grave–my own mamma,
I mean. Dad gave me a shilling before he went away, and I thought
I should like to buy some flowers and put them there. It looked so
lonely, and as if everybody had forgotten all about her being buried
there. And she was my own mamma,” adds the little girl, a world of
pathos in her young voice. “So there’s nobody but me to do it. So,
Jack, would you mind?”

“Taking you?” exclaims the young man. “Of course I will, old lady.
It’ll be a jolly little excursion, just you and I together. No, not
exactly jolly,” remembering the intent of their journey, “but very
nice. We’ll go to-morrow, Ruby. Luckily the yard’s having holidays just
now, so I can do as I like. As for the flowers, don’t you bother about
them. I’ll get plenty for you to do as you like with.”

“Oh, you are good!” cries the little girl, rising and throwing her arms
round the young man’s neck. “I wish you weren’t so old, Jack, and I’d
marry you when I grew up.”

“But I’m desperately old,” says Jack, showing all his pretty, even,
white teeth in a smile. “Twenty-six if I’m a day. I shall be quite an
old fogey when you’re a nice young lady, Ruby red. Thank you all the
same for the honour,” says Jack, twirling his moustache and smiling to
himself a little. “But you’ll find some nice young squatter in the days
to come who’ll have two words to say to such an arrangement.”

“I won’t ever like anybody so well as you, anyway,” decides Ruby,
resolutely. In the days to come Jack often laughingly recalls this
asseveration to her. “And I don’t think I’ll ever get married. I
wouldn’t like to leave dad.”

The following day sees a young man and a child passing through the
quaint little village of Inverkip, lying about six miles away from the
busy seaport of Greenock, on their way to the quiet churchyard which
encircles the little parish kirk. As Ruby has said, it looks painfully
lonely this winter afternoon, none the less so that the rain and thaw
have come and swept before them the snow, save where it lies in
discoloured patches here and there about the churchyard wall.

“I know it by the tombstone,” observes Ruby, cheerfully, as they close
the gates behind them. “It’s a grey tombstone, and mamma’s name below
a lot of others. This is it, I think,” adds the child, pausing before
a rather desolate-looking grey slab. “Yes, there’s her name at the
foot, ‘Janet Stuart,’ and dad says that was her favourite text that’s
underneath–‘Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.’
I’ll put down the flowers. I wonder,” says Ruby, looking up into Jack’s
face with a sudden glad wonder on her own, “if mamma can look down from
heaven, and see you and me here, and be glad that somebody’s putting
flowers on her grave at last.”

“She will have other things to be glad about, I think, little Ruby,”
Jack Kirke says very gently. “But she will be glad, I am sure, if she
sees us–and I think she does,” the young man adds reverently–“that
through all those years her little girl has not forgotten her.”

“But I don’t remember her,” says Ruby, looking up with puzzled eyes.
“Only dad says that before she died she said that he was to tell me
that she would be waiting for me, and that she had prayed the Lord
Jesus that I might be one of His jewels. And I’m not! I’m not!” cries
Ruby, with a little choke in her voice. “And if I’m not, the Lord Jesus
will never gather me, and I’ll never see my mamma again. Even up in
heaven she might p’raps feel sorry if some day I wasn’t there too.”

“I know,” Jack says quickly. He puts his arm about the little girl’s
shoulders, and his own heart goes out in a great leap to this child who
is wondering, as he himself not so very long ago, in a strange mazed
way, wondered too, if even ’midst heaven’s glories another will “feel
sorry” because those left behind will not one far day join them there.
“I felt that too,” the young man goes on quietly. “But it’s all right
now, dear little Ruby red. Everything seemed so dark when Wat died,
and I cried out in my misery that the God who could let such things be
was no God for me. But bit by bit, after a terrible time of doubt, the
mists lifted, and God seemed to let me know that He had done the very
best possible for Wat in taking him away, though I couldn’t understand
just yet why. The one thing left for me to do now was to make quite
sure that one day I should meet Wat again, and I couldn’t rest till
I made sure of that. It’s so simple, Ruby, just to believe in the
dear Lord Jesus, so simple, that when at last I found out about it, I
wondered how I could have doubted so long. I can’t speak about such
things,” the young fellow adds huskily, “but I felt that if you feel
about your mother as I did about Wat, that I must help you. Don’t you
see, dear, just to trust in Christ with all your heart that He is able
to save you, and He _will_. It was only for Wat’s sake that I tried to
love Him first; but now I love Him for His own.”

It has cost Ruby’s friend more than the child knows to make even this
simple confession of his faith. But I think that in heaven’s morning
Jack’s crown will be all the brighter for the words he spoke to a
doubting little girl on a never-to-be-forgotten winter’s day. For it is
said that even those who but give to drink of a cup of cold water for
the dear Christ’s sake shall in no wise lose their reward.

“I love you, Jack,” is all Ruby says, with a squeeze of her friend’s
hand. “And if I do see mamma in heaven some day, I’ll tell her how
good you’ve been to me. Oh! Jack, won’t it be nice if we’re all there
together, Wat and you, and dad and mamma and me?”

Jack does not answer just for a moment. The young fellow’s heart has
gone out with one of those sudden agonizing rushes of longing to the
brother whom he has loved, ay, and still loves, more than life itself.
It _must_ be better for Wat–of that Jack with all his loyal heart
feels sure; but oh, how desolately empty is the world to the brother
Jack left behind! One far day God will let they two meet again;
that too Jack knows; but oh, for one hour of the dear old here and
now! In the golden streets of the new Jerusalem Jack will look into
the sorrowless eyes of one whom God has placed for ever above all
trouble, sorrow, and pain; but the lad’s heart cries out with a fierce
yearning for no glorified spirit with crown-decked brow, but the dear
old Wat with the leal home love shining out of his eyes, and the warm
hand-clasp of brotherly affection. Fairer than all earthly music the
song of the redeemed may ring throughout the courts of heaven; but
sweeter far in those fond ears will sound the well-loved tones which
Jack Kirke has known since he was a child.

“Yes, dear,” Jack says, with a swift, sudden smile for the eager little
face uplifted to his, “it _will_ be nice. So we must make sure that we
won’t disappoint them, mustn’t we?”

Another face than Ruby’s uprises before the young man’s eyes as he
speaks, the face of the brother whose going had made all the difference
to Jack’s life; but who, up in heaven, had brought him nearer to God
than he ever could have done on earth. Not a dead face, as Jack had
looked his last upon it, but bright and loving as in the dear old days
when the world seemed made for those two, who dreamed such great things
of the wonderful “may be” to come. But now God has raised Wat higher
than even his airy castles have ever reached–to heaven itself, and
brought Jack, by the agony of loss, very near unto Himself. No, Jack
determines, he must make sure that he will never disappoint Wat.

The red sun, like a ball of fire, is setting behind the dark, leafless
tree-tops when at last they turn to go, and everything is very still,
save for the faint ripple of the burn through the long flats of field
as it flows out to meet the sea. Fast clasped in Jack’s is Ruby’s
little hand; but a stronger arm than his is guiding both Jack and
Ruby onward. In the dawning, neither Wat nor Ruby’s mother need fear
disappointment now.

“I’m glad I came,” says Ruby in a very quiet little voice as the train
goes whizzing home. “There was nobody to come but me, you see, me and
dad, for dad says that mamma had no relations when he married her. They
were all dead, and she had to be a governess to keep herself. Dad says
that he never saw any one so brave as my own mamma was.”

“See and grow up like her, then, little Ruby,” Jack says with one of
his bright, kindly smiles. “It’s the best sight in the world to see a
brave woman; at least _I_ think so,” adds the young man, smiling down
into the big brown eyes looking up into his.

He can hardly help marvelling, even to himself, at the situation in
which he now finds himself. How Wat would have laughed in the old
days at the idea of Jack ever troubling himself with a child, Jack,
who had been best known, if not exactly as a child-hater, at least as
a child-avoider. What has come over him nowadays? Is it Wat’s mantle
dropped from the skies, the memory of that elder brother’s kindly
heart, which has softened the younger’s, and made him “kind,” as Ruby
one long gone day had tried to be, to all whom he comes in contact
with? For Wat’s sake Jack had first tried to do right; ay, but now it
is for a greater than that dear brother’s, even for Christ’s. Like Mr.
Valiant-for-Truth of old renown, Wat has left as sword the legacy of
his great and beautiful charity to the young brother who is to succeed
him in the pilgrimage.

“Jack,” Ruby whispers that evening as she kisses her friend good night,
“I’m going to try–you know. I don’t want to disappoint mamma.”

Up in heaven I wonder if the angels were glad that night. God was, I
know. And Jack. There is an old, old verse ringing in my ears, none the
less true that he who spoke it in the far away days has long since gone
home to God: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of
the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars
for ever and ever.”

Surely, in the dawning of that “summer morn” Jack’s crown will not be a
starless one.

Share