“Who knew our mother was such a pretty woman? Where’s her equal in this whole city?” said Ralph.
That glad Christmas was the harbinger of many happy years to the Murrays. The back parlour was that day, by the thankful mother, consecrated to the comfort of the family—thenceforth light, warmth, and beauty reigned in that room. There they gathered evenings, under the drop-light about the round table, with books and work, and talk and music. Father, too, suddenly discovered that there was a lull in business, and that cheerful chimney-corners were more attractive than ledgers. Ralph and the girls brought their young friends there. What was strangest of all, the nervous headaches almost entirely disappeared; even the high notes of a song, or the jingling of piano-keys, failed to bring them back. The crowning climax of the whole was this: there was positively no scolding in that house. The evil spirit had been exorcised, and that mother was given the victory day by day. Peace was in her heart and on her brow.
She was so changed in the eyes of her children that she seemed almost an object of adoration. Not the last drop in her cup of joy were the many little ways in which they showed their keen appreciation of the change in her.
One night, after all had retired, conscience knocked at Margaret’s door. She tried to sleep, but her visitor persisted. Margaret was face to face with all her hard, impertinent words and ways toward her mother.
“Flo,” she said, “a miracle has come to mother, or she’s getting to be an angel, or something,” but “Flo” was fast asleep; then she tossed and turned, again. Then came a tap on mother’s door. Mrs. Murray came quickly.
“Mother,” said Margaret, throwing her arms about her, and hiding her face in her mother’s neck, “I have been a wicked girl. Forgive me, dear precious mother.”
Blessed words! Margaret was soon sleeping quietly, but her mother’s heart was so full, her joy so great, that she lay thinking of the gift that He had sent her at that Christmas time.
“Peace on earth,” had been literally fulfilled to her.
“Oh, mother, I will get back before it snows much, and I shall not mind if a few flakes of snow do light on me. Please do not object to my going, a walk is just what I’m longing for;” and Edna Winters drew on her gloves and stepped from the door of her home, a low-roofed farm-house on the hill, which, in its gray old age, seemed a part of the hill itself.
It was not the beauty of the afternoon that tempted Edna out, for the leaden sky almost met the gray hills; and all wore the same sober hue, sky, hills, house, and leafless trees. The wind howled fiercely through the group of pine-trees in the yard, that seemed but deep shadows on the general grayness, and occasional flakes of snow were already flying about. Father Winters looked through the front window after his daughter, and shook his head, saying: