‘Yes,’ said the boy, hanging down his head, and wondering how Miss Anne could possibly know that.
‘Ah, Stephen,’ she continued, ’God requires of us something more than such prayers. He bids us really and truly to love our enemies—love which He only can know of, because it is He who seeth in secret and into the inmost secrets of our hearts. I may hear you pray for your enemies, and see you try to do them good; but He alone can tell whether of a truth you love them.’
‘I cannot love them as I love you and little Nan,’ replied Stephen.
‘Not with the same kind of love,’ said Miss Anne; ’in us there is something for your love to take hold of and feed upon. “But if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” Your affection for us is the kind that sinners can feel; it is of this earth, and is earthly. But to love our enemies is heavenly; it is Christ-like, for He died for us while we were yet sinners. Will you try to do more than pray for my uncle and Black Thompson? Will you try to love them. Will you try for Christ’s sake?’
‘Oh, Miss Anne, how can I?’ he asked.
‘It may not be all at once,’ she answered tenderly; ’but if you ask God to help you, His Holy Spirit will work within you. Only set this before you as your aim, and resist every other feeling that will creep in; remembering that the Lord Jesus Himself, who died for us, said to us, “Love your enemies.” He can feel for you, for “He was tempted in all points as we are."’
As she spoke the last words, they heard the master’s voice calling loudly for Miss Anne, and Stephen watched her run swiftly up the shrubbery and disappear through the door. There was a great bolting and locking and barring to be heard within, for it was rumoured that Mr. Wyley kept large sums of money in his house, and no place in the whole country-side was more securely fastened up by day or night. But Stephen thought of him pacing up and down his room through the sleepless night, praying God to have mercy upon him, yet not willing to give up his sin; and as he turned away to the poor little cabin on the cinder-hill, there was more pity than revenge in the boy’s heart.
Stephen and the Rector.
The report of the expulsion of the family from Fern’s Hollow spread through Botfield before morning; and Stephen found an eager cluster of men, as well as boys and girls, awaiting his appearance on the pit-bank. There was the steady step and glance of a man about him when he came—a grave, reserved air, which had an effect upon even the rough colliers. Black Thompson came forward to shake hands with him, and his example was followed by many of the others, with hearty expressions of sympathy and attempts at consolation.
‘It’ll be put right some day,’ said Stephen; and that was all they could provoke him to utter. He went down to his work; and, though now and then the recollection thrilled through him that there was no pleasant Fern’s Hollow for him to return to in the evening, none of his comrades could betray him into any expression of resentment against his oppressor.