At last, when the dew was beginning to moisten the grass, and the fast-lengthening shadows told that the long summer day was drawing to a close, a bell sounded to collect the children, and after singing the evening hymn, and having been commended by Mr. Raymond to the care of Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps, all quietly dispersed to their homes. The “picnic” so eagerly looked forward to was over, as all earthly pleasures must sooner or later be. Not a single incident had marred its harmony, and, to Nelly Connor in particular, the day had been one of unmingled and unprecedented enjoyment. How different from what it would have been had she not, in a strength from above, overcome the temptation to which she had so nearly yielded!
“Only, since our souls
At the touch of natural grief,
When our earthly loved ones sink,
Lend us, Lord, Thy sure relief,—
Patient hearts, their pain to see,
And Thy grace, to follow Thee.”
Stella’s visit was now drawing to a close. She had very much enjoyed its novelty, and had, during her stay, made some acquisitions, though not of a kind that she yet appreciated, or was even conscious of. It was impossible for her to be so long in a household where every day was begun and closed by invoking God’s presence and guidance, where His blessing and approbation were steadily regarded as the best of all good, where the standard of action was that laid down in His word, and where His strengthening grace was looked upon as the most necessary equipment for daily life, without receiving a deeper impression of the importance of these things than she had ever before felt. And though the members of her uncle’s family had their share of human imperfections, yet on the whole the example she had seen around her had been sufficiently consistent to show her, almost against her will, the beauty of a Christian life, as contrasted with one based wholly on worldly principles. Some seeds of good, at all events, she carried back with her, though she was far from having profited as she might have done, had her heart been more open to receive the influences around her.
It had been a new thing to Lucy to have a companion of her own age and sex; she had become really attached to her winsome cousin, and all the transient irritation which Stella had often caused her passed into oblivion now that they were really about to part. Alick was to escort Stella to the residence of a friend whom she was to visit on her way home; and the cousins parted with affectionate hopes of a visit from Stella next summer, and also of a winter visit which Mr. Raymond had half promised that Lucy should make to her cousin’s city home.