While he was yet on his knees, a cry of anguish arose from one of the huts at the foot of the hill. It died away in a low, heart-broken wail. Mr. Mason knew its meaning well. That cry had a special significance to him. It spoke reproachfully. It said, “There is comfort for you, for where life is there is hope; but here there is death.”
Again the word of God came to his memory,—“Weep with them that weep.” Starting up hastily, the missionary sprang over the black beams, and hurried down the hill, entered the village, and spent the greater part of the remainder of that night in comforting the bereaved and the wounded.
The cause of the pastor’s grief was not removed thereby, but the sorrow itself was lightened by sympathy; and when he returned, at a late hour, to his temporary home, hope had begun to arise within his breast.
The widow’s cottage afforded him shelter. When he entered it, Henry and his mother were seated near a small table on which supper was spread for their expected guest.
“Tom Armstrong will recover,” said the missionary, seating himself opposite the widow, and speaking in a hurried, excited tone. “His wound is a bad one, given by a war-club, but I think it is not dangerous. I wish I could say as much for poor Simon. If he had been attended to sooner he might have lived; but so much blood has been already lost that there is now no hope. Alas for his little boy! He will be an orphan soon. Poor Hardy’s wife is distracted with grief. Her young husband’s body is so disfigured with cuts and bruises that it is dreadful to look upon; yet she will not leave the room in which it lies, nor cease to embrace and cling to the mangled corpse. Poor, poor Lucy! she will have to be comforted. At present she must be left with God. No human sympathy can avail just now; but she must be comforted when she will permit any one to speak to her. You will go to her to-morrow, Mrs. Stuart, won’t you?”
As this was Mr. Mason’s first meeting with the widow since the Sunday morning when the village was attacked, his words and manner showed that he dreaded any allusion to his own loss. The widow saw and understood this; but she had consolation for him as well as for others, and would not allow him to have his way.
“But what of Alice?” she said, earnestly. “You do not mention her. Henry has told me all. Have you nothing to say about yourself—about Alice?”
“Oh! what can I say?” cried the pastor, clasping his hands, while a deep sob almost choked him.
“Can you not say that she is in the hands of God—of a loving Father?” said Mrs. Stuart, tenderly.
“Yes, I can say that—I have said that; but—but—”
“I know what you would say,” interrupted the widow; “you would tell me that she is in the hands of pirates,—ruthless villains who fear neither God nor man, and that, unless a miracle is wrought in her behalf, nothing can save her—”