‘Indeed it is, Mrs. King; but I think you must have done your best.’
‘I hope I have, Sir,’ she said sadly; ’I’ve tried, but my ability is not much, and he is a lively lad, and I’m sometimes afraid to be too strict with him.’
’If you have taught him to keep himself in order, that’s the great thing, Mrs. King; if he has sound principles, and honours you, I would hope much for him.’
’And, Sir, that boy he has taken a fancy to; he is a poor lost lad who never had a home, but Harold says he has been well taught, and he might take heed to you.’
’Thank you, Mrs. King; I will certainly try to speak to him. You said nothing of Alfred; do you think he will not be well enough?’
‘Ah! Sir,’ she said in her low subdued voice, ’my mind misgives me that it is not for Confirmation that you will be preparing him.’
Mr. Cope started. He had seen little of illness, and had not thought of this. ’Indeed! does the doctor think so ill of him? Do not these cases often partially recover?’
‘I don’t know, Sir; Mr. Blunt does not give much account of him,’ and her voice grew lower and lower; ’I’ve seen that look in his father’s and his brother’s face.’
She hid her face in her handkerchief as if overpowered, but looked up with the meek look of resignation, as Mr. Cope said in a broken voice, ‘I had not expected—you had been much tried.’
‘Yes, Sir. The Will of the Lord be done,’ she said, as if willing to turn aside from the dark side of the sorrow that lay in wait for her; ’but I’m thankful you are come to help my poor boy now—he frets over his trouble, as is natural, and I’m afraid he should offend, and I’m no scholar to know how to help him.’
‘You can help him by what is better than scholarship,’ said Mr. Cope; and he shook her hand warmly, and went away, feeling what a difference there was in the ways of meeting affliction.
‘The axe is laid to the root of the tree,’ was said by the Great Messenger, when the new and better Covenant was coming to pierce, try, and search into, the hearts of men.
Something like this always happens, in some measure, whenever closer, clearer, and more stringent views of faith and of practice are brought home to Christians. They do not always take well the finding that more is required of them than they have hitherto fancied needful; and there are many who wince and murmur at the sharp piercing of the weapon which tries their very hearts; they try to escape from it, and to forget the disease that it has touched, and at first, often grow worse rather than better. Well is it for them if they return while yet there is time, before blindness have come over their eyes, and hardness over their heart.
Perhaps this was the true history of much that grieved poor Mrs. King, and distressed Ellen, during the remainder of the summer. Anxious as Mrs. King had been to bring her sons up in the right way, there was something in Mr. Cope’s manner of talking to them that brought things closer home to them, partly from their being put in a new light, and partly from his being a man, and speaking with a different kind of authority.