Elsie's Kith and Kin by Martha Finley
"Tell me the old, old story."
"My dear Zoe! what a happy face!" was Ella's pleased exclamation, as the two met in the breakfast-room.
"Very bright, indeed!" said Arthur, who had come in with Zoe, smiling kindly upon her as he spoke.
"Because it reflects the light and joy in my heart," she returned. "Wouldn't it be strange if I were not happy in knowing that my husband is not seriously hurt? Oh, we have been so happy together, that I have often feared it could not last!"
"There seems every reasonable prospect that it will," Arthur said, as they seated themselves at the table. "You are both young and healthy, your tastes are congenial, and you have enough of this world's goods to enable you to live free from carking cares and exhausting labors."
Zoe was in so great haste to return to Edward, that she could scarce refrain from eating her breakfast more rapidly than was consistent with either politeness toward her guests or a due regard for her own health: but she tried to restrain her impatience; and Arthur, who perceived and sympathized with it, exerted himself for her entertainment, telling amusing anecdotes, and making mirth-provoking remarks.
Ella, perceiving his designs, joined in, in the same strain. Zoe presently entered into their mood, and they seemed, as in fact they were, a light-hearted and happy little breakfast party; both Arthur and Ella feeling greatly relieved by the favorable change in their cousin, not for Zoe's sake alone, but also because of their own affection for him.
Edward no longer needed Arthur as nurse: indeed, Zoe claimed the right to a monopoly of the, to her, sweet task of waiting upon him, and attending to all his wants. So Arthur resigned in that capacity, but was to continue his visits as physician.
He and Ella returned to Roselands shortly after leaving the breakfast-table; and Zoe, in joyous, tender mood, took her place by her husband's bedside.
He welcomed her with a loving smile, taking her hand in his, and carrying it to his lips.
"Arthur has condemned me to lie here for a full week," he said. "It would seem a weary while in the prospect, but for the thought of having, through it all, the sweet companionship of my darling little wife."
"Dear Ned, how good in you to say so!" she murmured, kneeling beside the bed, and laying her cheek to his. "I don't believe there's another creature in the world that thinks my society of much account."
"If you are right in that, which I very much doubt," he said with a smile of incredulity, "it only shows their want of taste, and makes no difference to us, does it, love, since we are all the world to each other?"
"I am sure it makes no difference to me," she responded: "if you love, and are pleased with, me, it's very little I care what anybody else may think or say about me. But, oh! isn't it nice to be alone together again?"
"And remember, you are to make all possible use of me,--as nurse, reader,--when you feel that you would like to listen to book or news-paper,--as amanuensis, every thing."
"Yes, dearest, I expect to employ you in all those capacities by and by; but at present, I want nothing but to have you sit by my side, and talk to me, while I hold your hand, and feast my eyes on the face that is to me the dearest in all the world."
At that, the pretty face was suffused with blushes and smiles. "I'm so happy! so very happy!" she murmured, stealing an arm round his neck. "It is such a change from yesterday, when for a little while, I--I thought you--were gone, and--and without my having had a chance to ask your forgiveness."
The sobs came thick and fast as she went on. "O Ned! dear, dear Ned! I--I don't mean ever to be cross to you again, especially when we are going to part even for an hour."
"No," he said, with emotion, and drawing her closer to him; "we should not have parted so; we had promised each other we would not; and I should have gone to you and made it up with you before leaving the house."
"It was all my fault," she sobbed; "and if--if you had been taken from me, I could never have had another happy moment."
"Thank God that we are spared to each other!" he said with fervent gratitude. "And now, dear wife, let us try to forget that there has been ever any coldness or clashing between us. Let us enjoy the present, and be as happy in each other as if no cloud, even the slightest, had ever come over our intercourse as husband and wife."
"Yes," she said. Then, lifting her face, and gazing earnestly into his, "How pale and exhausted you look!" she cried in alarm. "I have talked, and let you talk, too much and too excitingly. I'm afraid cousin Arthur will say I am but a poor sort of nurse. Now," withdrawing herself from his embrace, and gently re-arranging his pillows, and smoothing the bed-clothes, "shut your eyes, and try to sleep. I'll stay close beside you, and be as quiet as a mouse."
With a faint smile, he did as he was bidden; and she fulfilled her promise to the letter, watching beside him with love and solicitude for two hours, till his eyes again unclosed, and met hers, gazing so tenderly upon him, with an answering look of ardent affection.
"You have had a good nap, and look quite refreshed, dear," she said, bending over him, and softly stroking his hair with her little white hand.
"Yes; I feel much better," he said. "And you, love,--have you been sitting there all this time?"
"Of course I have," she answered gayly: "did you think I would break my word, or feel any desire to go away and leave you?"
"I know you to be the most devoted of nurses, when it is I who require your services," he returned, with a tenderly appreciative smile. "You are the best of little wives. But you must be very weary, and I want you now to go and take some exercise in the open air."
"Is that an order?" she asked playfully.
"Not yet," he returned, in the same tone; "but, if not obeyed as a request, it may become--something stronger."
"Well," she said laughing, "it won't hurt me if it does: you can't hurt me in that way any more; for do you know, Ned," and she bent lovingly over him, pressing a kiss upon his forehead, "I have become such a silly thing, that I actually enjoy obeying you,--when you don't order me as if you thought I wouldn't do as you wish, and you meant to force me to it."
"Forgive me, love, that I have ever done it in that spirit," he said remorsefully, and coloring deeply.
"Ned, I haven't any thing to forgive," she said, with sudden energy and warmth of affection.
"Then you will obey about the air and exercise?" he asked, returning to his playful tone.
"Presently, sir, when I have seen you eat something. It's time for that now, according to the doctor's directions."
She rang for refreshment, saw him take it, then left him for a short time in the care of old Aunt Phillis, while she donned riding hat and habit, mounted her pony, and flew over several miles of road and back again.
She seemed to bring a breath of fresh air with her when she returned to his side.
"My darling," he said, smiling up at her, "how the roses glow on your cheeks, and how bright your eyes are! Give me a kiss, and then sit down close by my side."
"I obey both orders most willingly," she said merrily, as she bent down and kissed him on lips and forehead and cheek, then took possession of the chair she had vacated on leaving the room.
"Now, sir, what next?"
"Move your chair round a trifle, so that I can have a better view of your face."
She smilingly obeyed. "There! does that satisfy your lordship?"
"Quite. Now talk to me."
"Any thing you please: the principal thing is to hear the music of your voice."
"Suppose I sing, then."
"Yes, yes!" eagerly; "that's just what I should enjoy. Let it be, 'I love to tell the story.'"
Zoe had a beautiful voice. Soft and sweet and clear it rose,--
"'I love to tell the story Of unseen things above, Of Jesus and his glory, Of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, Because I know it's true: It satisfies my longings As nothing else can do. "I love to tell the story: 'Twill be my theme in glory, To tell the old, old story, Of Jesus and his love. "I love to tell the story: More wonderful it seems, Than all the golden fancies Of all our golden dreams. I love to tell the story, It did so much for me; And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee. "I love to tell the story; 'Tis pleasant to repeat What seems, each time I tell it, More wonderfully sweet. I love to tell the story, For some have never heard The message of salvation From God's own Holy Word. "I love to tell the story; For those who know it best, Seem hungering and thirsting To hear it like the rest. And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, 'Twill be the old, old story, That I have loved so long.'"
The last note died away, and for a moment there was silence in the room. Edward lay gazing into his wife's eyes with a look of sad, yearning tenderness.
"O Ned! why, why do you look so at me?" she asked, with a sudden burst of tears, and dropping her face on the pillow beside his. He had been holding her hand while she sang; he kept it still, and, laying his other one gently on her head, "Zoe, my darling," he said, in tones tremulous with emotion, "it is the one longing desire of my heart that you may learn the full sweetness of that old, old story. O love! sometimes the thought, 'What if my precious wife should miss heaven, and our union be only for time, and not for eternity,' sends so keen a pang to my heart, that I know not how to endure it."
"O Ned! surely I shall not miss it," she said, with a sob: "my father and mother were such good Christians; and you, my own husband, are so good too."
"Ah, my darling!" he sighed, "that hope is but as a spider's web. Do you not remember that passage in Ezekiel, 'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God'? And it is repeated again and again, 'Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.' Zoe, dear, no righteousness but the imputed righteousness of Christ can save the soul from death. He offers it to you, love; and will you continue to reject it?"
"Ned," she sobbed, "I wish I had it: I often think I would be a Christian if I only knew how, but I don't."
"Do you not?" he asked, in some surprise. "I will try to make it plain. Jesus offers you a full and free salvation, purchased by what he has done and suffered in your stead, that 'God might be just, and yet the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.'
"'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'
"He bids you come to him, and says, 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.'"
"But how shall I come?" she asked. "Tell me just how."
"How do you come to me, love, when you feel that you have displeased me, and want to be reconciled?"
"Oh! you know I just come and acknowledge that I've been hateful and cross, and say how sorry I am, and that I don't mean to behave so any more, and ask you to forgive and love me; and, dear Ned, you are always so willing and ready to do that, you hardly wait till I've said my say, before you put your arms round me, and hug and kiss me, and it's all right between us."
"Yes, dearest; and God, our heavenly Father, is far more ready to receive and forgive us when we turn to him with sorrow for our sins, confessing them and pleading for pardon in the name, and for the sake, of his dear Son, our Saviour," "I'm afraid I don't feel half so sorry as I ought."
"Who of us does? but we are not to wait for that. We must come to him, to be shown the evil of our natures, the sinfulness of our lives.
"'Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.'"
"But how am I to make myself believe?" she asked.
"'By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.' So you see, we have to go to Jesus for it all,--for repentance, for faith, for salvation from the guilt and love of sin, and from eternal death.
"The plan of salvation is very simple,--its very simplicity seems to stumble many; they don't know how to believe that it is offered them as a free gift; they think they must do something to merit it; but it cannot be bought, it is 'without money and without price.' 'Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,' Come to Jesus, dear one; come now, for only the present moment is yours; delay is most dangerous, for the invitation may be withdrawn at any time."
"If I could only see him! If I could hear his voice!" she sighed.
"That you cannot; yet you know I am not nearer to you, or more willing to hear a petition from you, than he is."
At that moment a well-known step was heard in the hall without; and as Zoe rose hastily, wiping her eyes, Arthur tapped at the door.