Chapter XXVII.

They were still in conversation when Mrs. Birtwell returned. Her eyes were wet and her face pale and sorrowful. She sat down beside her husband, and without speaking laid her head against him and sobbed violently. Mr. Birtwell feared to ask the question whose answer he guessed too well.

"How is it with our friend?" Mr. Elliott inquired as Mrs. Birtwell grew calmer. She looked up, answering sorrowfully:

"It is all over," then hid her face again, borne down by excessive emotion.

"The Lord bless and comfort his stricken ones," said the minister as he arose and stood for a few moments with his hand resting on the bowed head of Mrs. Birtwell. "The Lord make us wiser, more self-denying and more loyal to duty. Out of sorrow let joy come, out of trouble peace; out of suffering and affliction a higher, purer and nobler life for us all. We are in his merciful hands, and he will make us instruments of blessing if we but walk in the ways he would lead us. Alas that we have turned from him so often to walk in our own paths and follow the devices of our own hearts! His ways are way of pleasantness and his paths are peace, but ours wind too often among thorns and briars, or go down into the gloomy valley and shadow of death."

A solemn silence followed, and in that deep hush vows were made that are yet unbroken.

"If any have stumbled through us and fallen by the way," said Mr. Elliott, "let us here consecrate ourselves to the work of saving them if possible."

He reached his hand toward Mr. Birtwell. The banker did not hesitate, but took the minister's extended hand and grasped it with a vigor that expressed the strength of his new-formed purpose. Light broke through the tears that blinded the eyes of Mrs. Birtwell. Clasping both of her hands over those of her husband and Mr. Elliott, she cried out with irrepressible emotion:

"I give myself to God also in this solemn consecration!"

"The blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ rest upon it, and make us true and faithful," dropped reverentially from the minister's lips.

Somewhere this panorama of life must close. Scene after scene might still be given; but if those already presented have failed to stir the hearts and quicken the consciences of many who have looked upon them, rousing some to a sense of danger and others to a sense of duty, it were vain to display another canvas; and so we leave our work as it stands, but in the faith that it will do good.

Hereafter we may take it up again and bring into view once more some of the actors in whom it is impossible not to feel a strong interest. Life goes on, though the record of events be not given,--life, with its joys and sorrows, its tempests of passion and its sweet calms, its successes and its failures, its all of good and evil; goes on though we drop the pencil and leave our canvas blank.

It is no pleasant task to paint as we have been painting, nor as we must still paint should the work now dropped ever be resumed. But as we take a last look at some of the scenes over which we now draw the curtain we see strong points of light and a promise of good shining clear through the shadows of the evil.