“If Mas’r pleases,” said Tom, “Miss Eva used to read this so beautifully. I wish Mas’r’d be so good as read it. Don’t get no readin’, hardly, now Miss Eva’s gone.”
The chapter was the eleventh of John,—the touching account of the raising of Lazarus, St. Clare read it aloud, often pausing to wrestle down feelings which were roused by the pathos of the story. Tom knelt before him, with clasped hands, and with an absorbed expression of love, trust, adoration, on his quiet face.
“Tom,” said his Master, “this is all real to you!”
“I can jest fairly see it Mas’r,” said Tom.
“I wish I had your eyes, Tom.”
“I wish, to the dear Lord, Mas’r had!”
“But, Tom, you know that I have a great deal more knowledge than you; what if I should tell you that I don’t believe this Bible?”
“O, Mas’r!” said Tom, holding up his hands, with a deprecating gesture.
“Wouldn’t it shake your faith some, Tom?”
“Not a grain,” said Tom.
“Why, Tom, you must know I know the most.”
“O, Mas’r, haven’t you jest read how he hides from the wise and prudent, and reveals unto babes? But Mas’r wasn’t in earnest, for sartin, now?” said Tom, anxiously.
“No, Tom, I was not. I don’t disbelieve, and I think there is reason to believe; and still I don’t. It’s a troublesome bad habit I’ve got, Tom.”
“If Mas’r would only pray!”
“How do you know I don’t, Tom?”
“I would, Tom, if there was anybody there when I pray; but it’s all speaking unto nothing, when I do. But come, Tom, you pray now, and show me how.”
Tom’s heart was full; he poured it out In prayer, like waters that have been long suppressed. One thing was plain enough; Tom thought there was somebody to hear, whether there were or not. In fact, St. Clare felt himself borne, on the tide of his faith and feeling, almost to the gates of that heaven he seemed so vividly to conceive. It seemed to bring him nearer to Eva.
“Thank you, my boy,” said St. Clare, when Tom rose. “I like to hear you, Tom; but go, now, and leave me alone; some other time, I’ll talk more.”
Tom silently left the room.
Week after week glided away in the St. Clare mansion, and the waves of life settled back to their usual flow, where that little bark had gone down. For how imperiously, how coolly, in disregard of all one’s feeling, does the hard, cold, uninteresting course of daily realities move on! Still must we eat, and drink, and sleep, and wake again,—still bargain, buy, sell, ask and answer questions,—pursue, in short, a thousand shadows, though all interest in them be over; the cold mechanical habit of living remaining, after all vital interest in it has fled.
All the interests and hopes of St. Clare’s life had unconsciously wound themselves around this child. It was for Eva that he had managed his property; it was for Eva that he had planned the disposal of his time; and, to do this and that for Eva,—to buy, improve, alter, and arrange, or dispose something for her,—had been so long his habit, that now she was gone, there seemed nothing to be thought of, and nothing to be done.