‘If I could only believe in being forgiven!’ said the dying man.
’Oh, believe it, dear master! See, I am here; I have forgiven thee, and I do love thee. Little Nan can never come back, and yet I love thee, and forgive thee from my very heart. Will not Jesus much more forgive thee?’
‘Pray for me, Stephen. Kneel down there, and pray aloud,’ he said; and his eyelids closed feebly, and his restless head lay still, as if he had no more power to move it.
‘I cannot,’ answered Stephen; ’I’m only a poor lad, and I don’t know how to do it up loud. Miss Anne will pray for thee.’
‘If you have forgiven me, pray to God for me,’ murmured the master, opening his eyes again with a look of deep entreaty. Over Stephen’s pale face a smile was kindling, a smile of pure, intense love and faith, and the light in his pitying eyes met the master’s dying gaze with a gleam of strengthening hope. He clasped the cold hand in both his own, and, kneeling down beside him, he prayed from his very soul, ’Lord, lay not this sin to his charge.’
He could say no more; and Miss Anne, who knelt by him, was silent, except that one sob burst from her lips. The master stirred no more, but lay still, with his numb and paralyzed hand in Stephen’s clasp; but in a few minutes he uttered these words, in a tone of mingled entreaty and assertion, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’
That was all. An hour or two afterwards it was known throughout Longville, and the news was on the way to Botfield, that the master of Botfield works was dead.
The home restored.
Three months later in the year, when the new house at Fern’s Hollow was quite finished, with its dairy and coal-shed, and a stable put up at Mr. Lockwood’s desire, a large party assembled within the walls. Martha had been diligently occupied all the week in a grand cleaning down; and Tim and Stephen had been equally busy in clearing away the litter left by the builders, and in restoring the garden to some order. They had been obliged to contrive some temporary seats for their visitors, for the old furniture had not yet been brought up from the cinder-hill cabin; and the only painful thoughts Martha had were the misgiving of its extreme scantiness in their house with six rooms. The pasture before the cottage was now securely enclosed, and the wild ponies neighed over the hedge in vain at the sight of the clear, cool pool where they had been used to quench their thirst; and behind the house there was a plantation of tiny fir-trees bending to and fro in the wind, which they were to resist as they grew larger. Every place was in perfect order; and the front room, which was almost grand enough for a parlour, was beautifully decorated with flowers in honour of the expected guests, who had sent word that they should visit Fern’s Hollow that afternoon.