At first the minister seemed scarcely to listen, as he sat with closed eyes and knitted brows, but gradually the wrinkles disappeared like ripples, an expression of repose supervened, and when the draper lifted his eyes at the close of his reading, there was a smile of quiet satisfaction on the now aged-looking countenance. As he did not open his eyes, Drew crept softly from the room, saying to Dorothy as he left the house, that she must get him to bed as soon as possible. She went to him, and now found no difficulty in persuading him. But something, she could not tell what, in his appearance, alarmed her, and she sent for the doctor. He was not at home, and had expected to be out all night. She sat by his bedside for hours, but at last, as he was quietly asleep, ventured to lay herself on a couch in the room. There she too fell fast asleep, and slept till morning, undisturbed.
When she went to his bedside, she found him breathing softly, and thought him still asleep. But he opened his eyes, looked at her for a moment fixedly, and then said:
“Dorothy, child of my heart! things may be very different from what we have been taught, or what we may of ourselves desire; but every difference will be the step of an ascending stair—each nearer and nearer to the divine perfection which alone can satisfy the children of a God, alone supply the poorest of their cravings.”
She stooped and kissed his hand, then hastened to get him some food.
When she returned, he was gone up the stair of her future, leaving behind him, like a last message that all was well, the loveliest smile frozen upon a face of peace. The past had laid hold upon his body; he was free in the Eternal. Dorothy was left standing at the top of the stair of the present.
The desolation that seized on Dorothy seemed at first overwhelming. There was no refuge for her. The child’s tears, questions, and outbreaks of merriment were but a trouble to her. Even Wingfold and Helen could do little for her. Sorrow was her sole companion, her sole comfort for a time against the dreariness of life. Then came something better. As her father’s form receded from her, his spirit drew nigh. I mean no phantom out of Hades—no consciousness of local presence: such things may be—I think sometimes they are; but I would rather know my friend better through his death, than only be aware of his presence about me; that will one day follow—how much the more precious that the absence will have doubled its revelations, its nearness! To Dorothy her father’s character, especially as developed in his later struggles after righteousness—the root-righteousness of God, opened itself up day by day. She saw him combating his faults, dejected by his failures, encouraged by his successes; and he grew to her the dearer for his faults, as she perceived