"It's true. I've been pleading with him—and preaching to him too; and the other day he said he would think about it. That's a concession, for he has always said he would not think of such a thing."
"I'm so glad so very, very glad, Lucy."
"And Chester, I believe it's you who have made the change in him. He's been so different since you have been with us. He hasn't been so angry with me when I talked of 'Mormonism.' He has let me read my books without any remonstrance. And do you know, even Uncle Gilbert is affected. He and papa must have had some profound discussions about us and our religion for he has asked me to lend him some books. He'll no doubt want to know from your all about Utah and the people out there."
"And I shall be pleased to tell him," said Chester.
The father stood as if hesitating, in the doorway.
"Come in, papa," said Lucy. "Chester's come."
"Yes; I see he has," replied the father as he came to greet the young man, and shake his hand warmly.
"I'm glad, with Lucy to see you with us again."
"And I am glad to be with you," said Chester honestly.
The morning was spent together. The beginnings of a London fog kept them in doors, which was no hardship, as the three seemed to have so much to talk about. After lunch, the fog changed its intentions, lifted, disappeared and let the sun have full sway. To be sure, some smoke still lingered, but out where the Strongs were staying it only mellowed the distances.
That afternoon it occured to Chester that the relationship now existing between him and Lucy called for a further understanding with the father. He knew, of course, that the father's attitude toward him had changed; Lucy's words and the father's actions justified him in the thought.
Chester managed to accompany the father in his stroll in the park that afternoon, and without delay, he broached the subject so near his heart. The minister listened quietly to the young man plead his case, not interrupting until he had finished. They seated themselves on a bench by the grass. The father looked down at the figures he was drawing with his cane on the ground and mused for a moment. Then he said:
"Yes; I have given my consent, by my actions, at least. I have no objection to you. I like you very much. Lucy does too, and fathers can't very well stop such things. But there still remains the fact that Lucy is not well. There is no telling how long she can live, and yet I have heard of cases like hers where marriage has been a great benefit."
"I thank you for your kind words," said Chester. "Let me assure you I shall be controlled by your judgement as to marriage. We are neither of us ready for that. Of course, I sincerely hope she will get stronger. I think she will; but meantime you have no objection to my loving her, and doing all for her that my love can do?"
"Certainly not, my boy, certainly not." The father placed his hand on the young man's shoulder as he said it. Chester noted the faint tremor in voice and hand, and his heart went out to him.
"You are a comfort and a strength to Lucy—and to me," continued Mr. Strong. "We miss you very much when you are away. Can't you stay with us right along. Perhaps that's not fair to ask—your home and friends—"
"I have no home, my dear sir; and my friends, are few. I told you, did I not, my history?"
"Yes, you told me, I remember."
"And remembering, you think no less of me."
"Not a bit—rather more."
"Let me serve you then, you and Lucy. If you need me, I equally need you. Let me give what little there is in me to somebody that wants me. My life, so far, has been full of change and somewhat purposeless. I have drifted about the world. Let me now anchor with you. I feel as though I ought to do that—"
The man clung closer to Chester, who, feeling a thrill of dear companionship, continued:
"Let me be a son to you always, and a sister to Lucy, until it can be something more."
"Yes, yes, my boy!"
Others were out basking in the warm sun that afternoon. Those that walked leisurely and took notice of events about them, were impressed by the affectionate behavior of the two men. Lucy Strong was herself out. She was curious to know what had become of Chester and her father, besides, the sun was inviting. She soon found them, herself undiscovered. She paused, examined the flower beds, and became interested in the swans in the lake. Her face beamed with happiness when she saw them, for their shoulders were close together and Chester had her father's hands clasped firmly in his own. She tiptoed up behind them on the grass, then slipped her hands over each of their eyes.
"Guess," she laughed.
"A fairy princess," said Chester.
"Mother Goose," responded the father.
They moved apart and let her sit between them.
"The rose between," suggested Chester.
"The tie that binds," corrected the girl, placing an arm about each of them.
Then they all laughed so merrily, that the infection reached a ragged urchin playing on the gravel-path near by.
"My dear," said the father. "Chester has promised to stay with us, and be—"
"Your man—about—the—house," finished Chester.
"Which we certainly need," agreed Lucy. "Two people, Strong by name, but mighty weak by nature, as my old nurse used to say, require some such a man. I'm glad father picked you."
"He chose us, rather, Lucy," said the father.
"Well, either way."
"Both," affirmed Chester, at which they all laughed again.
A carriage with liveried coachman and footman, and containing two ladies drove by. The little boy had to leave his gravel castle while the wheels of the carriage crushed it to the level. The boy looked at the ruins a moment, then at the departing vehicle. Then he started his building anew safely away from wheel tracks.
"A young philosopher," remarked the minister, observing the occurrence.
"Papa," said Lucy, after a pause of consideration, "you have made me so happy to-day. You can make my joy complete by granting me one other thing."
"What's that?" asked he unthinkingly.
"Let me be baptized," she replied softly.
The father's body stiffened perceptibly, and his face sobered.
"Believe me, papa, I am sorry to have to annoy you so much on the matter; but I can't help it. Something within me urges me on. I can't get away from the testimony which I have, any more than I can get away from my shadow."
"You can get away from your shadow," said the minister.
"Yes; by going into the dark, and that I do not want to do. I want to live in the light,—the beautiful gospel light always."
Chester listened in pleased wonder to Lucy's pleadings. He added nothing as she seemed able to say all that was necessary. In time the father's face softened again, and he turned to Chester to ask:
"What do you think of such arguments?"
"They're splendid—and reasonable—and true, sir."
"Of course, you would say so. Well, I'll think about it, Lucy."
"But, papa, you've been thinking about it a lot, and time is going. Say yes today, now—here with Chester and me—and the Lord alone. Besides, papa, now I ought to be one with Chester in everything. That's right, isn't it?"
"Yes; that's right."
"So you consent?"
"I didn't say that."
"You must. I'm of age anyway, and could do it without your consent; but I don't want to. I want your blessing instead of your disapproval on such an important step."
"Could she stand the ordeal, do you think?" asked the father of Chester.
"In a few days when she gets a little stronger—yes."
"Well, let's walk a bit. You two go ahead. I must think."
The two did as they were told nor looked back. The one was not thinking clearly and logically, so much as he was fighting over the eternal warfare of conviction against policy. He also knew. He had received more of a testimony than he ever admitted, even to himself. If he should do as his innermost conscience told him, he also would join Lucy in baptism of water for the remission of sins; but that thought he pushed from him. He, an old man in the ministry, to now change his faith—to cut himself off from his life's work—no, that would never do. It was different with Lucy, quite another thing. She had set her heart on it and on Chester, and it would be best for her—yes, it would be best for her.
When Chester was saying good-night to Lucy that evening, the father came out into the hall to them.
"Chester," said he, "tell Elder Malby I should like to see him to morrow. He is the one that attends to baptism into the Mormon Church, isn't he?"
"Yes," replied Chester. "I shall tell him."
"Oh, papa, you dear, good papa!" exclaimed Lucy throwing her arms about him.
"There, there now, behave—say good-night to Chester."
But she clung to him and kissed him through her tears of joy. Then she went to Chester.
The father turned to go.
"Wait a moment, papa," said Lucy: "I want to go with you."
With a parting kiss for Chester, and a murmured good night, she took her father's arm and led him in.
Lucy gained in strength so rapidly that within a week it was thought safe to let her be baptized. Her father, Uncle Gilbert, Chester, the housekeeper at headquarters and one other sister were present at the Baths. Elder Malby performed the ordinance. Three others were also baptized at the same time.
Uncle Gilbert was very curious as also a little nervous at what he called the "dipping." He couldn't see why the ceremony required a whole swimming pool when a few drops sprinkled on the forehead, had, as long as he had any recollection, been sufficient. The father witnessed the ordinance unmoved. Lucy went through the ordeal bravely, and when she came out from the dressing room where the sisters had helped her, he kissed her placidly on the forehead.
The party took a cab to the mission headquarters, where a simple service was held of singing and prayer, Elder Malby making a few remarks on the meaning and purpose of the ordinance of baptism. The newly baptized were then confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then the housekeeper invited them all down to the dining room, and again there were a few simple special features in celebration of the happy occasion.
And it was a happy time in the one only way which comes from duty done. A sweet, quiet peace abode in every heart. Was not the Heavenly Father well pleased with these as He had been when the Son had done likewise. And the Holy Ghost, the Comforter from heaven rested upon them softly as a dove,—that was the secret of their supreme joy.
As Lucy had predicted, Uncle Gilbert's curiosity brought him to Chester for more information regarding Utah and the "Mormons." The very next day after the baptism, Uncle Gilbert met Chester before he entered the house. They greeted each other pleasantly, and then Chester inquired about Lucy, and how she was feeling.
"Lucy seems to be all right," was the reply, "though her father isn't so well this morning. He had a bad night but is sleeping now. That's why I met you here, so that he might not be disturbed by the bell."
"I'm sorry," said Chester. "These attacks seem to be coming frequently."
"My brother has not been well for years. For a long time he has had to fight hard with himself and his nerves. Sometimes they get the best of him for a time, and, of course, as he gets older, he has less strength. I wish we could get him to Kildare Villa. He would be himself again down there."
"We were to have gone in a day or two, were we not?"
"Yes; but he can't leave yet—Do you want to see Lucy?"
"Just for a few moments; she'll be busy with her father."
Uncle Gilbert went in the house, considerately sending her out alone. She was radiantly beautiful to Chester that morning in her soft white dress, fluffy hair, and glowing eyes; but he only looked his love for her, and said:
"Good morning, Sister Strong."
"Good morning, Brother Lawrence," she responded.
"How are you feeling?"
"I am feeling fine. But poor papa—"
"Yes; Uncle Gilbert told me."
"We'll have to remain here until he gets over the attack. Uncle is anxious to get home, and I must admit I'd rather be at Kildare Villa than here."
Then Uncle Gilbert came out with hat and cane. He was going for a walk with Chester, he said, for it would be wiser not to disturb the sleeper. He explained to Lucy that her father was getting a much needed rest, and that she was to see to it that he was not disturbed. Chester would "keep" with his Uncle Gilbert for a few hours.
The morning was fair, so the two men struck out for Hyde Park. They walked across the big stretches of grass, then rested on a seat by the Serpentine. As yet, not many people were about, and the London hum had not risen to its highest pitch.
Uncle Gilbert wanted to know about Utah, and Chester entered into a detailed description of the state and her people.
"I have, of course, heard of the Mormon people; but I will admit my ideas are somewhat vague. My brother, as a preacher, must of course, have come in contact with all sorts of religious professions. He seems to know considerable about Mormonism. Where did he learn that?"
Chester explained what part Lucy had played in this.
"Well, he agrees very much with her belief, for I have heard conversations which lead me to that conclusion. Of course, all that is their business, not mine particularly. Let's walk out in the middle of the park where we can make believe we are not in London, but out in the beautiful green country which God has made."
The grass being dry, they could sit down on it to rest.
"As you are, I presume, to become a member of the family some day," said Uncle Gilbert, "I am going to tell you something about my brother. It is not a pleasant subject, but I have concluded that you can be told. It is a family secret, you must understand, and must be treated as such. It is only because I believe your knowledge of the truth may help my brother that I am telling you this.
Chester thanked him for his confidence. He would be glad to help in any way he could.
"Well, the story is this: My brother in his younger days before he was married, had an unfortunate experience with a young woman. There was a child as the result. The woman, as nearly as I can make out, married well enough, and later, joined the Mormons and went to Utah. She did not take the child with her, for some reason unknown to me, at least; and so the boy—for it was a boy—became lost to his father, and as far as I know, to his mother also. I don't suppose all this worried my brother as a young man; but recently, within the past few years, I should say, his conscience seems to have pricked him severely. He has some vigorous views of fatherhood and the obligations flowing therefrom—and I can't say but he is right—and now he worries about his own great neglect. He has talked to me about it, so I know. Sometimes he worries himself sick, and then his nervous trouble gets the overhand."
Chester lay on the grass looking up into the sky, complacently chewing a spear of grass, while Uncle Gilbert was talking.
"What was the woman's name?" asked Chester.
"I can't recall it just now. In fact, I don't think I ever heard it. Now, another thing that you must know, and you must not be annoyed at this: at times, I believe he imagines you to be that boy of his."
Chester sat up, and exactly at the moment when he looked into the face of Uncle Gilbert a cog in the machinery of his own thoughts caught into a cog of the wheel within wheels which the man at his side had been revealing. The cog caught, then slipped, then caught again. Wheels began to revolve, bringing into motion and view other possible developments.
"That's only when his illness makes him delerious," continued Uncle Gilbert. "As I said, you must pay no attention to him under those conditions, but I thought you ought to know."
"Yes; yes," whispered the young man—"Thank you." For him, Hyde Park and London had disappeared: all earthly things had become mist out of which he was trying to emerge.
"You don't know the woman's name," Chester asked again, with dry lips—"Tell me her name."
"I don't remember. I'm not sure, but I believe I have heard my brother, in his times of delerium speak of Anna."
"Anna. Anna," repeated Chester, as he stared into space. Uncle Gilbert looked at the young man, and then repented of telling him. He was a little annoyed at his manner. He arose, brushed the grass from his clothes, and said:
"Well, let's be going."
Chester went along mechanically. At the Marble Arch Uncle Gilbert was about to hail a bus, when Chester stopped him.
"You'll excuse me, wont you for not returning with you—I—I—"
"But I gave my word to Lucy that I would bring you back."
"Yes; I know, I'll come after a while—but not now—you go on,—I—I—there's your bus now; you had better take it."
Uncle Gilbert, still a little annoyed, climbed on the bus and left his companion looking vacantly at the line of moving busses.
Chester went back into the park. There was room to breathe there and some freedom from fellow beings. He left the beaten paths. Oh, that he could get away from everybody for a time! Old Thunder out among the Rocky Mountains would be an ideal place just now.
The wheels of thought went surely and correctly. There was no slipping of cogs now. The Rev. Thomas Strong was his father.
Every link in the chain of evidence fitted. There was no break. He went over the ground again and again. There came to him now facts and incidents which he had heard from his foster parents, and they all fitted in other facts and strengthened his conclusions. Now he also remembered and understood some of his mother's remarks about ministers. Yes, Thomas Strong was his father! Lucy's father! Why, he and Lucy were brother and sister!
It is quite useless to try to tell all that was in Chester Lawrence's thoughts and heart from then on all that afternoon. He did not know, neither did he care how long he lay on the grass in the park, but there came a time when his solitude became unbearable, so he walked with feverish haste into the crowded streets. The lamps were being lighted when he came to the Thames Embankment, where he watched for a time the black, sluggish water being sucked out to sea by the outgoing tide. Then he walked on. St. Paul loomed high in the murky darkness. He got into the ridiculously narrow streets of Paternoster Row, where he had on his first visit bought a Bible. The evening was far spent and the crowds were thinning when he recognized the Bank of England corner.
Realizing at last that he was tired, he climbed on top of a bus going in the direction of his lodgings, where he arrived somewhere near midnight. He went to bed, but not to sleep for many hours.
"Lucy, you are my sister. I love you as that—but my wife you never can be—" yes; he would have to tell her that. But why had this father of his let him and Lucy go on as they had? He had told his father the secret of his life. He remembered distinctly his father's actions how he had even called him "son," which he had thought at the time was for Lucy's sake. Knowing him and Lucy to be brother and sister, why had he permitted them to form ties such as had been formed? Was it a plot on his father's part to again bring misery to human souls, to make to suffer those that were of his own flesh and blood? No, no; that was impossible. Surely he was not that kind of man.
More clearly now the panorama of his life came before him. Where was the Lord in all this? He had thought the Lord had led his steps wonderfully to so meet one who made his life supremely happy—but now—the darkness and the despair of soul came again—was this not a hideous nightmare? The day would bring light and peace.
Towards morning, Chester dozed fitfully, and at last when he awoke the day was well advanced. He and Uncle Gilbert had been in the park—uncle in reality now. Yes; it all came to him again. It had been no dream.
Chester got up, soused himself in cold water, then as he was dressing said to himself. "Well, what's to be done? I must make this thing sure one way or another." Perhaps there may be a mistake, though he could not understand how. He would go direct to Thomas Strong and ask him.
He had no appetite for breakfast, so he ate none. As early as he thought wise, he set out. How should he meet Lucy? What could he say? If he could only evade her.
No; Lucy was watching for him, with a worried expression on her face, which deepened when she saw Chester's.
"I must see your father," he said with no effort to even take her hand.
"Papa is not any better, I fear."
"But I must see him. Where is Uncle Gilbert?"
"Shall I call him?"
Lucy returned, and Uncle Gilbert met Chester in the hall.
"He is very nervous again this morning, and I don't think you ought to excite him," explained the brother.
"I must see him—just for a minute. I'll not engage him in any extended conversation."
"That you cannot do as he can hardly speak. His trouble affects him in that way."
"Let me see him just for a moment—alone, please. Is he awake?"
"Oh yes; he's not that bad. Go in a moment, then, but be careful."
Chester passed in where the minister sat in an arm chair, propped up with pillows, signs of Lucy's tender care. As Chester entered, the man smiled and reached out his hand. The resentment in the young man's heart vanished, when he saw the yearning in the suffering man's face. Yet he stood for some time rooted to the spot, looking at the man who was no doubt his father. Every line of that face stood out boldly to Chester. How often, in his boyhood days he had pictured to himself what his father was like—and here he was before him. In those days he had nursed a hatred against that unknown sire, but now there was no more of that. If only,—Chester kneeled by the side of the minister's chair, letting the old man cling to his hand. He looked without wavering into the drawn face and said:
"Are you my father?"
The man's hand dropped as if lifeless, but Chester picked it up again, holding it close.
"Tell me," he repeated, "are you my father?"
"Yes," came slowly and with effort, as tremblingly the father put his hands first on Chester's shoulders as he kneeled before him, then raised them to his head, asking, "Do—you—hate—me? Don't—" That seemed to be all he was able to articulate.
"No, no; I do not hate you; for are you not—are you not my father!"
The son put his arms around his father's neck and kissed him. The father patted contentedly the head of the young man, as a parent fondly caresses a child. They were in that position when Lucy tapped lightly on the door, opened it, and came in.
Chester got away from Lucy and Uncle Gilbert that morning, without betraying his father's secret, which had now also become his own. If his father had kept the secret so long, it was evidently for a purpose; he would try not to be the first to reveal it. He kissed Lucy somewhat hurriedly, she thought, as he left.
The sooner he got away the fewer of his strange actions he would have to explain. He did not look back when he walked away for fear that Lucy would be watching him from window or door.
He went back to his own lodgings rather more by instinct than by thought. He slipped into his room, looked aimlessly about, then went out again. He must be alone, yet not confined within walls. The park was not far away, but he walked by it also, on, on. This London is limitless, he thought. One could never escape it by walking. He met other men some hurrying as if stern duty called, others sauntering as if they had no purpose in life but quiet contemplation. He met women, and if he could have read through their weary eyes their life's story, he would not perhaps, have thought his own was the most cruel. A little boy was gathering dust from the pavement, and Chester was reminded of that other little fellow's structure which the carriage wheels had demolished. Well, he was under the wheel of fate himself. He had heard of this wheel, but never had he been under it until now!
Chester found himself a street or two from the mission office. He would call and perhaps have a talk with Elder Malby. Why had he not thought of that sooner? He quickened his steps, and in a few minutes he was ringing the bell. He heard it tingle within, but no one responded. He rang again, and this time steps were heard coming up from the basement. The housekeeper opened the door.
"Good morning," she greeted him with a smile.
"Good morning, is Elder Malby in?"
"No; none of the elders are in. They are out tracting, I think—but won't you come in?"
"No, thank you, I wanted to see Elder Malby."
"Well, he might be back at any time—come in and rest. You look tired."
"Well—I believe I will."
He followed the motherly housekeeper into the office parlor, where she bade him be seated. She excused herself as her work could not be neglected—Would he be interested in the London papers, or the latest Deseret News. She pointed to the table where these papers lay, then went about her work.
Chester looked listlessly at the papers, but did not attempt to read. Presently, the housekeeper came back.
"I'm having a bite to eat down in the dining room. Come and keep me company. The Elders don't eat till later, but I must have something in the middle of the day."
Chester went with her into the cool, restful room below, and partook with her of the simple meal. Not having had breakfast, he ate with relish. Besides, there was a spirit of peace about the place. His aching heart found some comfort in the talk of the good woman.
Shortly afterwards, Elder Malby arrived, and he saw in a moment that something was the matter with his young friend.
"How are the folks," he asked, "Lucy and her father?"
"He is not well," Chester replied.
"That's too bad. And you are worried?"
"Yes; but not altogether over that. There is something else, Brother Malby. I'll have to tell you about it. Will we be uninterrupted here?"
"Come with me," said the elder and he took him into his own room up a flight of stairs. "Now, then, what can I do to help you?"
"You will pardon me, I know; but somehow, I was led to tell you my story on ship-board, and you're the only one I can talk to now." Then Chester told the elder what he had learned. When he had finished, the elder's face was very grave.
"What ought I to do?" asked Chester; "what can I do?"
The other shook his head. "This is a strange story," he said; "but there can be no doubt that you are his son. You look like him. I noticed it on ship-board, but of course said nothing about it. But you do look like him."
"Yes; but why he encouraged you to make love to your sister—that is beyond me—I—I don't know what to say."
"Oh, what can I do?"
There was a pause. Then the elder as if weighing well every word, said:
"My boy, you can pray."
"No; I can't even do that. I haven't said my prayers since this thing came to me. What can I pray about? What can I ask of God?"
"Listen. It is easy to pray when everything is going along nicely, and we are getting everything we ask for; but when we seem to be up against hard fate; when despair is in our hearts and the Lord appears to have deserted us, then it is not so easy; but then is when we need most to pray."
"Yes, yes, brother, true enough; but what's the use?"
"Look here, once before, in your life, you felt as you do now; and you told me yourself that not until you said both in your heart and to God 'Thy will be done' did you get peace. Try it again, brother. There is no darkness but the Light of Christ can penetrate, there is no seeming evil but the Lord can turn to your good. What did Job say of the Lord?"
"I don't know."
"'Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.' And you are not yet as Job. He lost everything. You have gained a father and a sister. That, certainly, is something."
"Yes, it is; and yet in the finding of these two, I have lost—well—you know—"
"Yes; I know; but the Lord can even make that right. Trust Him, trust Him, always and in everything. That's my motto for life. I can not get along without it."
"Thank you so very much."
They talked for some time, then they went out for a walk.
"But you haven't time to spend on me like this," remonstrated Chester.
"I am here to do all the good I can, and why should my services not be given to those of the faith as well as to those who have no use for me nor my message? Come along; I want to tell you of another letter which I received from home,—yes, the twin calves are doing fine."
Chester smiled, which was just what his companion wanted. "You remain here today," continued the elder. "The boys will be in after a while, and then we shall have dinner. After that, if you are still thinking too much of your own affairs, we'll take you out on the street and let you preach to the crowd."
"That might help," admitted Chester.
"Help! It's the surest kind of cure."
Chester remained with the elders during the afternoon and evening, even going out with them on the street. He was not called on to preach, however, though he would have attempted it had he been asked.
Chester slept better that night. He felt so sure of himself next morning that he could call on Lucy, and do the right thing. He did not forget or neglect his prayers any more, and he was well on the way of saying again, "Thy will be done," in the right spirit.
Uncle Gilbert met Chester at the door, not very graciously, however. He replied to Chester's inquiries sharply:
"My brother is quite ill, brought about, I have no doubt, by your unwise actions of yesterday morning. What was the matter with you? I don't understand you."
Chester did not attempt any explanation or defense.
"And Lucy, too, was quite ill yesterday—no; she is not up yet—no; I don't think you had better come in. I shall not permit you to see my brother again until he is better."
"I'm very sorry," said Chester. "I must see Lucy, however, and so I'll call again after a while." He walked away. He did not blame Uncle Gilbert, who was no doubt doing the best he knew, although somewhat in the dark. He walked in the park for an hour and then came back.
Lucy met him at the gate. She was dressed as if for walking. Her face betrayed the disturbance in her soul, and Chester's heart went out in pity for her.
"Yes," she said simply, "I was going out to find you, I heard Uncle Gilbert send you away. Shall we walk in the park?"
"Yes; I am glad you came out. Is your father worse this morning?"
"I don't think he is worse. He is simply in the stage of his attacks when he can't talk. I'm sure he'll be all right in a day or two; but Uncle Gilbert don't understand."
"And you, Lucy—you must not worry."
"How can I help it? Something is the matter with you. Why do you act so strangely?"
They found the bench on which they were wont to rest, and seated themselves.
Chester could not deny that he had changed; yet how could he tell her the truth? She must know it, the sooner the better. It might be many days before her father could tell her, even if he were inclined to do so. The situation was unbearable. She must know, and he must tell her.
"Lucy," he said after a little struggle with his throat, "I have something to tell you,—something strange. Oh, no, nothing evil or bad, or anything like that."
He took her hands which were trembling.
"You must promise me that you will take this news quietly."
"Just as quietly as I can, Chester."
"Well, you know how excitement affects your heart, so I shall not tell you if you will not try to be calm."
"And now, of course, I can be indifferent, can I, even if you should say no more? Oh, Chester, what is it? The suspense is a thousand times harder than the truth. What have you got to tell me? What passed between you and papa last evening? Is it—have you ceased to love me?"
"No, no, Lucy, not that. I love you as much as ever, more than ever for something has been added to my first love—that of a love for a sister."
"Yes, Chester I know. When I was baptized—"
"No; you don't know. I don't mean that."
"What do you mean?"
Oh, it was so hard to go on. One truth must lead to another. If he told her he was her brother in the flesh as well as in the spirit, she would want to know how, why; and the explanation would involve her father. He had not thought of that quite so plainly. But he could not now stop. He must go on. He felt about for a way by which to approach the revelation gradually.
"You have never had a brother, have you?" he asked.
"Would you like to have one?"
"I've always wanted a brother."
"How would I do for one?"
She looked at him curiously, then the sober face relaxed and she smiled.
"Oh, you'd make a fine one."
"You wouldn't object."
"I should think not."
"But, now, what would you think if I was your real brother, if my name was Chester Strong?"
"I'd think you were just joking a little."
"But I'm not joking, Lucy; I am in earnest. Take a good look at me, here at this profile. Do I look like your father?"
She looked closely. "I believe you do," she said, still without a guess at the truth. "Your forehead slopes just like his, and your nose has the same bump on it. I never noticed that before."
"What might that mean, Lucy?"
"What might what mean?"
"That I look like your father."
He had turned his face to her now, but she still gazed at him, as if the truth was just struggling for recognition. The smile vanished for an instant from her face, and then returned. She would not entertain the advance messenger.
"I don't object to your looking like my papa, for he's a mighty fine looking man."
"Lucy, you saw what your father and I were doing last night?"
"What did you think—what do you now think of us?"
"Again, Chester, I don't object to you and father spooning a bit. In fact, I think that's rather nice."
Chester laughed a little now, which loosened the tension considerably; but he returned to the attack:
"Lucy, what would you think if your father had a son who had been lost when a baby, and that now he should return to him as a grown man?"
"Well, I would think that would be jolly, as the English say."
"And that his son's name was Chester Lawrence?" he continued as if there had been no interruption.
Now the cog in Lucy's mental make-up caught firmly into the machinery that had been buzzing about her for some time.
"Are you my brother?" she asked.
"Yes; I am your brother."
"My real, live, long lost brother?"
"Now I see what you have been driving at all this time. You say you are my brother, that my father is your father. Now explain."
"That's not so easy, Lucy. I would much rather your father would do that. But I can tell you a little, for it's very little I know—and, Lucy, that little is not pleasant."
"But I must know." Her face was serious again. She was bracing herself bravely too.
"I was born outside the marriage relation, and your father was my father!"
That was plain enough—brutally plain. The girl turned to marble. Had he killed her?
"Go on," she whispered.
"No more now—some other time."
"Go on, Chester."
Chester told her in brief sentences the simple facts, and what had led to his discovery of the truth just the other day. It was this that had caused the change she had noticed in him.
"Lucy, I was not sure," he said, "so I went to your father last night and asked him pointedly, directly, and he said 'Yes.' That explains the situation you found us in. My heart went out to my father, Lucy; and his heart went out to his son."
"The son to which his heart has been reaching for many long years, Chester. Yes, I see it plainly.... You have told the truth ... you are my brother—you—"
She trembled, then fell into his arms; but she controlled herself again, and when he kissed her pale face and stroked her hair, she opened her eyes and looked steadily up into his face. Thus they remained for a time, heedless of the few passers-by who but looked at a not uncommon sight. She closed her eyes again, and when she opened them Chester was struggling hard to keep back the tears.
To tell the truth, both of them cried a little about that time, and it did them good too. They got up, walked about on the grass for a time until they could look more unmovedly at their changed standing to each other. Then they talked more freely, but things were truly so newly mixed that it was difficult to get them untangled. At last Lucy said she would have to go back to her father—our father, she corrected.
"And he knows, remember," said Chester to her. "I and you also know. We know too," he added, "that the Lord is above, and will take care of us all."
"Yes," said Lucy.
Then they went back. The father was still very ill. Chester did not try to see him, for Uncle Gilbert had not relented.
"I'm going to see Elder Malby this afternoon," said Chester. "This evening I shall call again. Meanwhile"—they were alone in the hall now—"you must keep up your courage and faith. I feel as though everything will yet turn out well."
He took her as usual in his arms, and she clung to him closer than she had ever done before.
"Chester," she said, "I can't yet feel that there is any difference in our relationship. You are yet my lover, are you not?"
"Yes, Lucy; and you are my sweetheart. Somehow, I am not condemned when I say it. What can it be—"
"Something that whispers peace to our hearts."
"The Comforter, Lucy, the Comforter from the Lord."
The delay in getting back to Kildare Villa was making Uncle Gilbert nervous. In his own mind, he blamed Chester Lawrence for being the cause of much of the present trouble, though in what way he could not clearly tell. The young man's presence disturbed the usual placid life of the minister. Why such a disturber should be so welcomed into the family, the brother could not understand. Perhaps this new-fangled religion called "Mormonism" was at the root of all the trouble.
In his confusion, Uncle Gilbert determined on a very foolish thing: he would get his brother and Lucy away with him to Ireland, leaving Chester behind, for at least a few days. Of course, a young fellow in love as deeply as Chester seemed to be, would follow up and find them again, but there would be a respite for a time. With this idea in mind, Uncle Gilbert, the very next day, found Chester at his lodgings; and apparently taking him into his confidence, told him of his plan. Chester was willing to do anything that Uncle Gilbert and "the others" thought would be for the best. Chester was made to understand that "the others" agreed to the plan, and although the thought sent a keen pang through the young man's heart, he did not demur.
It must also be admitted that Uncle Gilbert was not quite honest with Lucy, for when he proposed to her to get her father to Ireland as soon as possible, she understood that Chester was lawfully detained, but would meet them perhaps in Liverpool. Though she, too, felt keenly the parting, yet she mistrusted no one.
So it came about that Lucy and her father were hurried to the station early next morning to catch a train for Liverpool. The minister was physically strong enough to stand the journey, but he mutely questioned the reason for this hasty move. Chester had absented himself all the previous day, and he did not even see them off at the station. Lucy could not keep back the tears, though she tried to hide them as she tucked her father comfortably about with cushions in the first class compartment which they had reserved.
Uncle Gilbert's victory was short lived, however; no sooner did the ailing man realize that Chester was not with them than he become visibly affected. He tried hard to talk, but to no avail. He looked pleadingly at Lucy and at his brother as if for information, but without results. Lucy's pinched, tear-stained face added to his restlessness, and there was a note of insincerity in Uncle Gilbert's reassuring talk that his brother did not fail to discern.
That ride, usually so pleasant over the beautiful green country, was a most miserable one. It was so painful to see the expression on the minister's face that Uncle Gilbert began to doubt the wisdom of the plan he was trying. Lucy became quite alarmed, and asked if they ought not to stop at one of the midland cities; but Uncle Gilbert said they could surely go on to Liverpool.
"But we can't cross over to Ireland. Father could not possibly stand the trip," she said.
The uncle agreed to that. "We'll have to stop at Liverpool for a day or so—I have it!" he exclaimed, "Captain Andrew Brown is now at home. He told me to be sure to call, and bring you all with me. He has a very nice house up the Mersey—a fine restful place. We'll go there."
And they did. Lucy could say nothing for or against, and the father was so ill by the time they reached Liverpool that he did not seem to realize what he was doing or where he was going. A cab took them all out from the noises of the city to the quiet of the countryside. It was afternoon, and the sun shone slantingly on the waters of the river, above which on the hills amid trees and flowering gardens stood the house of Captain Andrew Brown.
As the carriage rolled along the graveled path to the house, the captain himself came to meet them, expressing his surprise and delight, and welcoming them most heartily. The minister was helped out and into the house, where he was made comfortable. Lucy was shown to her room by the housekeeper. Uncle Gilbert made explanations to the captain of the reason for this untoward raid on his hospitality.
"I'm mighty glad you came," said the captain. "You couldn't possible have gone on, and as for stopping at a hotel—if you had, I should never have forgiven you."
The sick man would not take anything to eat. He lay as if half asleep, so he was put to bed. Lucy remained with him during the evening. Once in a while he would open his eyes, reach out his hand for hers and hold it for a moment. Poor, dear father, she thought, as she stroked his hair softly. What could Chester mean to leave his father, even for a few days? He ought to be here.... She could not understand. Was it all just an excuse to get away from them? to get away from this newly-found father and sister? She would not believe that of Chester. That couldn't be true, and yet, and yet—
She turned lower the light, went to the window, and looked out on the river. A crescent moon hung above the mist. The water lay still as if asleep, only broken now and then by some passing craft. The breeze played in the trees near the window and the perfumes of the rich flower beds were wafted to her. The girl stood by the window a long time as if she expected her lover-brother to come to her through the half darkness. Perhaps, after all, it was better he did not come. Perhaps he had acted wisely.
The father lay as if sleeping, so she continued to look out at the moon and the water. Her heart burned, but out of it came a prayer. Then she quietly kneeled by the window sill, and still looking out into the night she poured out the burden of her heart to the Father whose power to bless and to comfort is as boundless as the love of parent for child.
Captain Brown was not an old man, yet in his fine strong face there were deep lines traced by twenty years on the sea. Ten years on the bridge basking in the sun, facing storm and danger had told their tale. He was in the employ of a great navigation company whose ships went to the ends of the earth for trade. He had built this home-nest for wife and child, to which and to whom he could set the compass of his heart from any port and on any sea. Three years ago wife and child had taken passage over the eternal sea. Now he came back only occasionally, between trips. His housekeeper always kept the house as nearly as possible like it was when wife and child were there.
"I have a week, perhaps ten days ashore," explained Captain Brown next morning at the breakfast table, "and I was just wondering what I could do all that time—when here you are! You are to remain a week. Tut, tut, business"—this to Uncle Gilbert who had protested—"you ought not to worry any longer about business. Aren't we making you good money? Oh, I see! Aunt Sarah; well, we'll send for her. Your father can't possibly be moved, can he, Miss Lucy?"
"He's very comfortable here," replied Lucy.
"To be sure he is—and you, too, look as though a rest would help you."
"I have to get back soon—ought to be in Cork tomorrow, in fact," said Uncle Gilbert.
"Well, now Gilbert, if you have to, I've no more to say—about you. Go, of course; but Lucy and her father are going to stay with me. I'm the doctor and the nurse. You go to Aunt Sarah, for that's your 'business reason' and it's all right—I'm not blaming you—and in a week come back for your well brother."
"Yes, that might do," agreed Uncle Gilbert, with much relief in his manner of saying it. "I don't like to impose on you—"
"Look here—if you want to do me a favor, you go to your wife and let me take care of these people. In fact," he laughed, "I don't want you around bothering. The steamer sails for Dublin this evening."
Out of this pleasant banter came the fact that Uncle Gilbert could very well go on his way to Ireland. His brother was in no immediate danger—in fact that morning he was resting easily and his power of speech was returning. Gilbert spoke to his brother about the plan, and no protest was made. So that evening, sure enough, Uncle Gilbert was driven in to Liverpool by the captain, where he set sail for home.
No sooner was his brother well out of the way than Lucy's father called to her. He had been up and dressed all afternoon. He was now reclining in the captain's easy chair by the window. Lucy came to him.
"Yes, father," she said.
He motioned to her to sit down. She fetched a stool and seated herself by him, so that he could touch her head caressingly as he seemed to desire.
"Where is Chester?" he asked slowly, as was his wont when his speech came back.
"In London," she replied. "He could not come with us."
"So—Gilbert said;—but I—want him."
"Shall we send for him?"
The father looked out of the window where shortly the moon would again shine down on the river. He stroked the head at his knee.
"Lucy, you—love me?"
"Oh, father, dear daddy, what a question!"
"I—must—tell you—something—should—have told you—long ago—"
It was difficult for the man to speak; more so, it appeared, because he was determined to deliver a message to the girl—something that could not wait, but must be told now. Impatient of his slow speech, he walked to the table and seated himself by it.
"Light," he said; and while Lucy brought the lamp and lighted it he found pencil and paper. She watched him curiously, wondering what was about to happen. Was he writing a message to Chester?
From the other side of the table she watched him write slowly and laboriously until the page was full. Then he paused, looked up at Lucy opposite, reached for another sheet and began again. That sheet was also filled, and the girl's wonder grew. Then he pushed them across the table, saying, "Read;" and while she did so, he turned from her, his head bowed as if awaiting a sentence of punishment.
A little cry came from the reader as her eyes ran along the penciled lines. Then there was silence, broken only by her hard breathing, and the ticking of the clock on the mantel. Then while the father still sat with bowed head, the girl arose softly, came up to him, kneeled before him, placed a hand on each of his cheeks, kissed him, and said:
"You are my father anyway—always have been, always will be—the only one I have ever known. Thank you for taking me an outcast, orphaned baby and adopting me as your own. Oh, I love you daddy for that!
Just a few days before a son had found a father at this man's knee; now by the same knee Lucy first realized that this man was her father only in the fact that he had fathered her from a child; but as that, after all, is what counts most in this world, she thought none the less of him; rather, her heart went out to the man in a way unknown before.
"Chester doesn't know this?" she asked. "Chester is not my brother?"
"Oh, he must know this—he must know right away," she panted.
"Yes—I meant to tell—but I couldn't—" said he.
"I know daddy dear; I know, don't worry. We'll send for him right away—poor boy. There's Captain Brown now. I'll run down and ask him to send a telegram. Yes, I have his address."
She kissed him again, holding his head between her palms, and saying softly, "Daddy, dear daddy." Then she sped down to where the Captain was talking in the hall. The Rev. Thomas Strong looked up, listened to their conversation, and then smiled.
The reason why Chester permitted Lucy and his father to set out for Ireland without him was because he trusted Uncle Gilbert—and the Lord; however, it was no easy matter to be thus left behind. Surely, he would be more of a help than a hindrance on the journey. He forced himself to lie abed the morning they were to be off, until after the train left. Then, knowing he was safe from doing that which his Uncle had desired him not to do, he leisurely arose, very late for breakfast.
The problem with the young man now was what to do while he was waiting. London sights, even those he had not seen before, were tame now. The newly-found father and sister had already left him. Had it not been a dream, and was he not now awake to the reality of his old life?
He found himself once more attracted to the Mission headquarters. Elder Malby was at home that morning. Chester told him the latest development.
"Has she—have they—deserted me, do you think?" asked Chester.
"No—I don't think so," replied the elder thoughtfully. "Lucy did not impress me as a girl who would do that. I see no reason for such actions, but perhaps Uncle Gilbert was right. Your father needed to get away from you to readjust himself to the new condition."
"Well, perhaps,—but what can I now do? this waiting will be terrible."
"You'll come with me this morning. I have some calls to make."
And so all that day Chester remained with Elder Malby, visiting Saints and investigators, adjusting difficulties, and explaining principles of the gospel. It was a splendid thing for the young man, this getting his thoughts from self; and before evening, he had obtained so much of the missionary spirit that he asked to be permitted to bear his testimony at the street meeting. "The louder the mob howls and interrupts, the better for me," he declared. "You remember the other evening when a young fellow stood within a few feet of you and kept repeating: 'Liars, liars, from Utah'?"
"Yes; I remember."
"I'd like to talk to that fellow tonight."
So Chester talked at the street-meeting that evening, but to a very orderly lot of people. After the services, many pressed around him and asked him questions. One young man walked with him and the elders to the mission office. They talked on the gospel, and Chester forgot his own heartache in ministering to another heart hungering for the truth.
The next morning, Chester tried again to remain in bed, but this time without success. He was up in the gray awakening city, walking in the park, listening to the birds near by and the rumbling beginnings of London life. After breakfast, he went again to the Church office.
"You must excuse me for thus being such a bother," he explained to Elder Malby, "but—but I can't keep away."
"I hope you never will," replied the elder, encouragingly. "It is when men like you keep away that there is danger."
"What's the program today?"
"Tracting. Do you want to try?"
"Yes; I want to keep going. Yesterday was not bad. I felt fine all day."
That afternoon Chester had his first trial in delivering gospel tracts from door to door. He approached his task timidly, but soon caught the spirit of the work. He had a number of interesting experiences. One old gentleman invited him into the house, that he might more freely tell the young man what he thought of him and his religion, and this was by no means complimentary. An old lady, limping to the door and learning that the caller was from America, told him she had a son there—and did he know him? Then there were doors slammed in his face, and some gracious smiles and "thank you"—altogether Chester was so busy meeting these various people that he had no time to worry over those who now should be nearly to Kildare Villa in green Ireland.
While he was eating supper with the elders, which Elder Malby said he had well earned, a messenger came to the door. Was one Chester Lawrence there? Yes.
"A telegram for him, please."
Chester opened the message and read:
"Come to Liverpool in morning. All well. Tell me when and where to meet you—Lucy."
Chester handed the message to Elder Malby.
"Once more, don't you see," said the elder, smiling, "all is well."
"Yes; yes," replied Chester in a way which was more of a prayer of thanksgiving than common speech.
Early the following morning Captain Brown was rewarded for his gallant lack of inquisitiveness regarding the sending and the receiving of telegrams by Lucy coming to him with her sweetest smile and saying:
"Captain Brown, was that horse and carriage you used yesterday yours?"
"Oh no; that belongs to my neighbor—only when I am not using it. Do you wish a drive this morning?"
"I want to meet the noon train from London at Lime Street Station; and if it wouldn't be too much trouble—"
"Not at all. My neighbor is very glad to have me exercise the horse a bit. Can you drive him alone?"
"I'm a little nervous."
"Will I do for coachman?"
"If you would, Captain?"
"Then that's settled. I'll go immediately and make arrangements;" which he did.
"Papa," said Lucy to her father, "the captain will drive me to the station. You'll be all right until we get back?"
"All right, yes; don't worry more about me. I'm getting strong faster than I ever did before. See."
He paced back and forth with considerable vim in his movements. "Why," he continued, stopping in front of Lucy and kissing her gently on the cheek, "I feel better right now than I have for a long time—better inside, you know."
Lucy did not understand exactly what he meant by the "inside," but she did not puzzle her head about it. She was happy to know that her father was so well and that Chester was speeding to her. The day promised to be fair, and the drive to the station would be delightful. She was looking out of the window.
"Lucy," said her father, placing his hand on her shoulder, "you need not tell Captain Brown the little secrets you have learned; and I think your Uncle Gilbert need not know any more than he does. It is just as well for all concerned that these things remain to outward appearances just as they have in the past."
"All right, papa."
"We—Chester and you and I will know and understand and be happy. What else matters?"
"Now, there's the captain already. He's early; but perhaps he intends driving you about a bit first."
That was just it. The morning air was so invigorating, Captain Brown explained, that it was a pity not to feel it against one's face. He knew of a number of very pretty drives, round-about ways, to the station, and the fields were delightfully green just then.
In a short time away they rattled down the graveled road, the father waving after them. It was a good thing, said Lucy, that strong hands had the reins, for the horse was full of life. They sped over the smooth, hedge-bordered roads, winding about fields and gardens until they arrived at Calderstone Park. Here the captain pointed out the Calder Stones, ruins of an ancient Druid place of worship or sacrifice. Then they drove leisurely through Sefton Park, thence townward to the station.
They had a few moments to wait, during which the driver stroked the horse's nose, talking to him all the while not to be afraid of the noisy cars. The whistle's shrill pipe sounded and the train rolled in. The captain stood by his horse, while Lucy went to the platform, and met Chester as he leaped from the car.
"Oh, ho," said the captain to his horse, when he saw the meeting. A partial explanation was given him of the "certain young man" whom they were to meet.
The captain held the carriage door open to them like a true coachman. "Take the back seat, please," he commanded, after the introduction; "in these vehicles, the driver sits in front."
The captain drove straight home, so in a very-short time they were set down at the steps.
"Go right in," he said. "I'll take the horse back, and be with you shortly."
The housekeeper met them in the hall, took wraps and hats, and directed them upstairs where the "gentleman" was waiting. Lucy had had no opportunity to tell Chester the secret about herself, so she would have to let his father do so. They walked quietly to the father's room and opened the door softly. He appeared to be sleeping in his chair, so they tip-toed into another room.
"Is he better?" asked Chester.
"Nearly well again." They did not seat themselves, but stood by the table. She came close to him, smiling up into his face and said, "Everything's all right, Chester."
"Yes, of course," he replied. "You are looking so rosy and well, I forget you are an invalid."
"Don't think of it. I'm going to live a long, long time, Chester—with you. Listen, dear, and don't look so worried. Things have changed again. I don't need to break good news gently, so I may tell you now, papa—I mean, your father, has been telling me something I never dreamed of—Chester, listen. I'm not your father's child—only by adoption—you're not my brother, only of course in the brotherhood of the faith."
"Lucy, what are you saying?"
"I am telling you the truth—as I was told it. He adopted me as a baby—I was an orphan—I am not your sister. Chester—I—"
He seized her hands, and held her at arms length, while his eyes seemed to devour her. She could not repress the tears, and when he saw them, he drew her close and kissed her.
"Lucy, not my sister, but my sweetheart again, my little wife to be—what—does it all mean?"
There came a loud knock at the door, and the father entered without being bidden. He walked firmly up to them, placed a hand on each shoulder, and said:
"My son, I have to ask your forgiveness again. I intended to tell you about Lucy as soon as you learned the truth about yourself, but I was hindered. Don't think, my boy, that I would purposely cause you suffering. What Lucy has told you is true, and I am so glad that the misunderstanding and the mixups no longer exist between us."
The three now found seats and talked over the new situation in which they found themselves, not forgetting the part Uncle Gilbert had taken in recent events, until the strenuous voice of Captain Brown had to supplement the housekeeper's bell, before the three would come down for luncheon.
Those were golden days to Chester, Lucy, and the Rev. Thomas Strong. Out of restless uncertainty, doubts, fears, and heart-aching experiences they now had come to a period of peaceful certainty. Out of straits they had come to a quiet sun-kissed harbor.
Captain Brown looked on all this happiness approvingly. His shore leave was going splendidly. The neighbor's horse and carriage were often brought into requisition, and the father would not be denied his share of these drives. The captain's own boat, long since unused, was put into commission, and with the captain at the tiller the whole family sailed over the placid Mersy. The moon grew rounder, and as the evenings were warm, the boat often lingered in the moonlight. Then songs were sung, Chester and Lucy singing some which the father recognized as "Mormon," but which the captain knew only as beautiful and full of sweet spirit.
During those days when the visitors remained with the captain rather more for his own sake than for any other reason, there was just one little cloud in Chester's and Lucy's sunlight. That was that the father took no abiding interest in the religion which now meant so much to them. Once or twice the subject had been carefully broached by Chester, but each time the father had not responded. He made no objections. The young man sometimes thought there would be more hope if he did. However, he and Lucy were not discouraged. They reasoned, with justice, that it was no easy matter to change a life-long habit of belief and practice. They comforted each other by the hope that all would be well in the end. Had they not already ample evidence of God's providence shaping all things right.
It was plainly to be seen, however, that the father took great comfort in his new-found son; and well any father might, for Chester was a strong, open-spirited, clean young man. Father and son strolled out together, Lucy sometimes peeping at them from behind the curtain, but denying herself of their company. Chester, by his father's request, told him more of his life's story. The father wished to live as much as could be by word-telling the years he had missed in the life of his son; and the father, for his part, acquainted Chester with his more recent years. "I married quite late in life," said the father, "a sweet girl who did much for me. That we had no children was a great disappointment to both of us, and when we saw that very likely we never would have any of our own, we found and adopted Lucy. She would never have known the truth about that had not you come and compelled me to tell it. But it's all right now, and the Lord has been kinder to me than I deserve."
"'God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,'"
"'He plants his footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm,'"
mused the father.
At another time the father said to Chester:
"My boy, it would please me if you would take my name. You need not discard the one you already have, but add mine to it—yours by all that's right."
"I have no great fortune, but I have saved a little; and when I am gone, it will be yours and Lucy's—I'll hear no objections to that—for can't you see, all that I can possibly do for you will only in part pay for the wrong I have done. You say you have no definite plans for the future. Then you will come with us to Kansas City, where I expect to take up again my labors in the ministry, at least for a time."
Lucy came upon them at this point.
"Chester has promised to take my name," explained the father.
"That will make it unnecessary for you to change yours," said Chester, as he put his arm around her.
A week passed as rapidly as such golden days do. Chester sent the latest news to Elder Malby. Uncle Gilbert, always impatient, wrote from Kildare Villa, asking when they were "coming home." Captain Brown had made a number of trips of inspection to the docks to see how the loading of his ship was progressing.
At the captain's invitation they all visited the vessel one afternoon.
"Why," exclaimed Lucy in surprise, when she saw the steamer at the dock, "you have a regular ocean liner here. I thought freight boats were small concerns."
"Small! well, now, you know better. Come aboard."
He led the way on deck, and then below.
"This ship is somewhat old," explained Captain Brown, "but she is still staunch and seaworthy. As you see, she has once been a passenger boat, and in fact, she still carries passengers—when we can find some who would rather spend twelve days in comfort than be rushed across in six or seven by the latest greyhounds. I say, when we can find such sensible people," repeated the captain, as he looked curiously at his guests.
The dining room was spacious, the berths of the large, roomy kind which the grasp for economy and capacity had not yet cut down.
"This is a nicer state room than I had coming over," declared Lucy. "Why can't we return with Captain Brown?"
"I should be delighted," said the captain. "The booking offices are on Water Street."
"When do you sail?" asked the father.
"In three days, I believe we shall be ready."
"And your port?"
"A dozen or so—plenty of room, you see. We'll make you comfortable, more so than on a crowded liner. Think about it, Mr. Strong."
"We shall," said Lucy and her father in unison.
And thus it came about that the party of three visiting with Captain Andrew Brown, decided to sail with him to New York. A few more days on the water was of no consequence, except as Chester said to Lucy, to enjoy a little longer the after-seasickness period of the voyage. As for Chester himself, he was very pleased with the proposition.
A visit to the company's office in Water Street completed the arrangement. "Yes," said the agent, "we can take care of you. There will be a very small list of passengers, which gives you all the more room. Besides, it's worth while to cross with Captain Brown."
As the boat did not lay up to the Landing Stage, but put directly to sea from the dock, the passengers were stowed safely away into their comfortable quarters the evening before sailing. When they awoke next morning, they were well out into the Irish sea, the Welsh hills slowly disappearing at the left. Chester was the first on deck. He tipped his cap to Captain Brown on the bridge as they exchanged their morning greetings. The day was bright and warm, the sea smooth. Chester stood looking at the vanishing hills, glancing now and then at the companionway, for Lucy. As he stood there, he thought of the time, only a few days since, when he had caught his first sight of those same green hills. What a lot had happened to him between those two points of time! A journey begun without distinct purpose had brought to him father and sweetheart. Outward bound he had been alone, empty and void in his life; and now he was going home with heart full of love and life rich with noble purpose.
Chester's father appeared before Lucy. The son met him and took his arm as they paced the deck slowly. The father declared to Chester that he was feeling fine; and, in fact, he looked remarkably well.
"I am sorry we did not hear from Gilbert before we sailed," said the father; "but I suppose the fault was ours in not writing to him sooner."
"He barely had time to get the letter," said Chester.
"I suppose so. But it doesn't matter. We should only have just stopped off at Kildare Villa to say goodbye, any way."
"It's a pity we don't stop at Queenstown. He could have come out on the tender."
"Perhaps he would, and then perhaps he wouldn't. It would depend on just how he felt—halloo, Lucy—you up already?"
"I couldn't lay abed longer this beautiful morning," exclaimed Lucy as she came up to them. "Isn't this glorious! Is Wales below the sea yet?"
"No; there's a tip left. See, there, just above the water."
"Goodbye, dear old Europe," said Lucy, as she waved her handkerchief. "I've always loved you—I love you now more than ever."
Father and son looked and smiled knowingly at her. Then they all went down to breakfast.
Just about that same time of day, Thomas Strong's delayed letter reached his brother in Cork. Uncle Gilbert read the letter while he ate his breakfast, and Aunt Sarah wondered what could be so disturbing in its contents; for he would not finish his meal.
"What is it, Gilbert?" she asked.
"Thomas, Lucy, and that young fellow, Chester Lawrence are going to—yes, have already sailed from Liverpool with Captain Brown."
"And they're not coming to see us before they leave?"
"Didn't I say, they're already on the water—or should be—off to New York with Captain Brown—and he doesn't touch at Queenstown, and in that boat—"
Uncle Gilbert wiped his forehead.
"I'm sorry that they did not call," commented Aunt Sarah complacently; "but I suppose they were in a hurry, and Captain Brown will take care of them."
"In a hurry! No. Captain Brown—" but the remark was lost to his wife. He cut short his eating, hurried to town, and, in faint hopes that it might be in time, sent a telegram to his brother in Liverpool which read:
"Don't sail with Captain Brown. Will explain later."
This telegram was delivered to Captain Brown's housekeeper, who sent it to the steamship company's office, where it was safely pigeon-holed.
The morning passed at Kildare Villa. The telegram brought no reply. In foolish desperation, hoping against hope, Uncle Gilbert took the first fast train northward, crossed by mail steamer to Holyhead, thence on to Liverpool, where he arrived too late. The boat had sailed. He went to the steamship company's office in Water Street, and passed, without asking leave, into the manager's office. That official was alone, which was to Gilbert Strong's purpose.
"Why did you permit my brother to sail with Captain Brown?" asked he abruptly.
"My dear Mr. Strong," said the manager, "calm yourself. I do not understand."
"Yes, you do. You know as well as I do that his ship is—is not in the best condition. You ought not to have allowed passengers at all."
"Sit down, Mr. Strong. The boat is good for many a trip yet, though it is true, as you know, that she is to go into dry dock for overhauling on her return. Has your brother sailed on her?"
"He has, my brother, his daughter and her young man. I suppose there were other passengers also?"
"Yes; a few—perhaps twenty-five all told. Don't worry; Captain Brown will bring them safely through."
"Yes," said Gilbert Strong, as he left the office, "yes, if the Lord will give him a show—but—"
He could say no more, for did he not know full well that at a meeting of company directors at which he had been present, it had been decided to try one more trip with Captain Brown in command, and the fact that the boat was not in good condition was to be kept as much as possible from the captain. A little tinkering below and a judicious coat of paint above would do much to help the appearance of matters, one of the smiling directors had said. And so—well, he would try not to worry. Of course, everything would be well. Such things were done right along, with only occasionally a disaster or loss—fully covered by the insurance.
But for all his efforts at self assurance, when he went home to Aunt Sarah he was not in the most easy frame of mind.
* * * * *
The little company under Captain Brown's care was having a delightful time. The weather was so pleasant that there was very little sickness. Chester again escaped and even his father and Lucy were indisposed for a day or two only. After that the long sunny days and much of the starry nights were spent on deck. The members of the company soon became well acquainted. Captain Brown called them his "happy family."
And now Chester and Lucy had opportunity to get near to each other in heart and mind. With steamer chairs close together up on the promenade deck where there usually were none but themselves, they would sit for hours, talking and looking out over the sea. "Shady bowers 'mid trees and flowers" may be ideal places for lovers; but a quiet protected corner of a big ship which plows majestically through a changeless, yet ever-changing sea, has also its charms and advantages.
On the fourth day out. The water was smooth, the day so warm that the shade was acceptable. Chester and Lucy had been up on the bridge with Captain Brown, who had told them stories of the sea, and had showed them pictures of his wife and baby, both safe in the "Port of Forever," he had said. All this had had its effect on the two young people, and so when they went down to escape the glare of the sun on the exposed bridge, they sought a shady corner amid-ships. When they found chairs, Chester always saw that she was comfortable, for though well as she appeared, she was never free from the danger of a troublesome heart. The light shawl which she usually wore on deck, hung loosely from her shoulders across her lap, providing a cover behind which two hands could clasp. They sat for some time that afternoon, in silence, then Lucy asked abruptly:
"Chester, you haven't told me much about that girl out West. You liked her very much, didn't, you?"
"Yes," he admitted, after a pause. "I think I can truthfully say I did; but this further I can say, that my liking for her was only a sort of introduction to the stronger, more matured love which was to follow,—my love for you. I think I have told you before that you bear a close resemblence to her; and it occurs to me now that therein is another of God's wonderful providences."
"How is that?"
"Had you not looked like her I would not have been attracted to you, and very likely, would have missed you and my father, and all this."
"I'm glad your experience has been turned to such good account. Now, I for example, never had a beau until you came."
"Oh, don't feign surprise. You know, I'm no beauty, and I never was popular with the boys. Someone once told me it was because I was too religious. What do you think of that?"
"Too religious! Nonsense. The one thing above another, if there is such, that I like about you is that your beauty of heart and soul corresponds to your beauty of face—No; don't contradict. You have the highest type of beauty—"
"Beauty is in the eyes that see," she interrupted.
"Certainly; and in the heart that understands. As I said, the highest type of beauty is where the inner and the outer are harmoniously combined. I think that is another application of the truth that the spiritual and the mortal, or 'element' as the revelation calls it, must be eternally connected to insure a perfect being. Somehow, I always sympathize with one whose beautiful spirit is tabernacled in a plain body. And yet, my pity is a hundred times more profound for one whom God has given a beautiful face and form, but whose heart and soul have been made ugly by sin—but there, if I don't look out, I'll be preaching."
"Well, your congregation likes to hear you preach."
Space will not permit the recording of the number of times emphasis was given to various expressions in this conversation by the hand pressure under the shawl.
"Now," continued he, "I can't conceive of your not having any admirers."
"I didn't say admirers—I said beaux."
"Well, I suppose there is a difference," he laughed.
"Of course, I have known a good many young men in my time, but those matrimonially inclined usually passed by on the other side."
"Perhaps they knew I was coming on this side."
"Perhaps—There's papa. He looks lonesome. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves to hide from him as we did yesterday."
"I agree; but he'll find us now."
Lucy drew the father's attention, and he found a chair near them.
"Isn't the sea beautiful," said Lucy, by way of beginning the conversation properly, now a third person was present. "And what a lot of water there is!" she continued. "What did Lincoln say about the common people? The Lord must like them, because he made so many of them. Well, the Lord must like water also, as He has made so much of it."
"Water is a very necessary element in the economy of nature," said the father. "Like the flow of blood in the human body, so is water to this world. As far as we know, wherever there is life there is water."
"And that reminds me," said Lucy eagerly, as if a new thought had come to her, "that water is also a sign of purity. Water is used, not only to purify the body, but as a symbol to wash away the sins of the soul. Paul, you remember, was commanded to 'arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins'." Lucy looked at Chester as if giving him a cue.
"In the economy of God," said Chester, "it seems necessary that we must pass through water from one world to another. In like manner, the gateway to the kingdom of heaven is through water. 'Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God' is declared by the Savior himself."
Whether or not the father understood that this brief sermonizing was intended primarily for him, he did not show any resentment. He listened attentively, then added:
"Yes; water has always held an important place among nations. Cicero tells us that Thales the Milesian asserted God formed all things from water—Out in Utah, Chester," said the father, turning abruptly to the young man, "you have an illustration of what water can do in the way of making the desert to blossom."
"Yes; it is truly wonderful, what it has done out there," agreed Chester. Then being urged by both his father and Lucy, he told of the West and its development. He was adroitly led to talk of Piney Ridge Cottage and the people who lived there, their home and community life, their trials, their hopes, their ideals. Ere he was aware, Chester was again in the canyons, and crags and mountain peaks, whose wildness was akin to the wildness of the ocean. Then when his story was told, Lucy said:
"I know where I could get well."
"Where?" asked Chester.
"At Piney Ridge Cottage."
Chester neither agreed nor denied. Just then a steamer came into sight, eastward bound. It proved to be an "ocean grayhound," and Captain Brown coming up, let them look at it through his glass.
"She's going some," remarked the captain; "but I'll warrant the passengers are not riding as easy as we."
"Somehow," said the father, "a passing steamer always brings to me profound thoughts. Now, there, for example, is a spot on the vast expanse of water. It is but a speck, yet within it is a little world, teeming with life. The ship comes into our view, then passes away. Again, the ship is just a part of a great machine—I use this figure for want of a better one. Every individual on the ship bears a certain relationship to the vessel; the steamer is a part of this world; this world is a cog in the machinery of the solar system; the solar system is but a small group of worlds, which is a part of and depends on, something as much vaster as the world is to this ship. This men call the Universe; but all questions of what or where or when pertaining to this universe are unanswerable. We are lost—we know nothing about it—it is beyond our finite minds."
Captain Brown stood listening to this exposition. His eyes were on the speaker, then on the passing steamer, then on the speaker again.
"Mr. Strong," said he, "at the last church service I attended in Liverpool, the minister was trying to explain what God is,—and just that which you have said is beyond us, that vast, unknown, unknowable something he called God."
"Oh," exclaimed Lucy, involuntarily.
"I'll admit the definition is not very plain," continued the captain. "We get no sense of nearness from it. I would not know how to pray to or worship such a God; but what are we to do? I have never heard anything more satisfactory, except—well, only when I read my Bible."
"Why not take the plain statement of the Bible, then?" suggested Chester.
"I try to, but my thinking of these things is not clear, because of the interpretation the preachers put upon them—excuse the statement, Mr. Strong; but perhaps you are an exception. I have never heard you preach."
The minister smiled good-naturedly. Then he said, "Chester here, is quite a preacher himself. Ask his opinion on the matter."
"I shall be happy to listen to him. However, I have an errand just now. Will you go with me?" this to Chester.
Chester, annoyed for a moment at this unexpected turn, arose and followed the captain into his quarters.
"Sit down," said the captain. "I was glad Mr. Strong gave me an opportunity to get you away, for I have a matter I wish to speak to you about, a matter which I think best to keep from both Mr. Strong and Lucy—but which you ought to know."
The officer seated himself near his table on which were outspread charts and maps. About the table hung a framed picture of the captain's wife and child, a miniature of which he carried in his breast pocket.
"In the first place," began Captain Brown, "I want you to keep this which I tell you secret until I deem it wise to be published. I can trust you for that?"
Always in the company of the passengers, Captain Brown's bearing was one of assurance. He smiled readily. But now his face was serious, and Chester saw lines of care and anxiety in it.
"I am sorry that I ever suggested to you and your friends—and my dear friends they are too," continued the captain, "that you take this voyage with me, for if anything should happen, I should never forgive myself. However, there is no occasion for serious alarm—yet."
"What is the matter, captain?"
"I have been deceived regarding the condition of this ship. I was made to understand that she was perfectly sea-worthy—this is my first trip with her—but I now learn that the boilers are in a bad state and the pumps are hardly in a working condition. There is—already a small leak where it is nearly impossible to be reached. We are holding our own very well, and we can jog along in this way for some time, so there is no immediate danger."
Chester experienced a sinking at the heart. From the many questions which thronged into his mind, he put this:
"When might there be danger?"
"If the leak gets bad and the pumps can not handle it. Then a rough sea is to be dreaded."
"What can we do?"
"At present, nothing but keep cool. You are the only one of the passengers that knows anything about this, and I am telling you because I can trust you to be wise and brave, if necessary. If things do not improve, we shall soon be getting our boats in shape. We shall do this as quietly as possible, but someone might see and ask questions. We shall depend on you—and I'll promise to keep you posted on the ship's true condition."
"Thank you, sir."
"And now," said the captain as his face resumed its cheerful expression, "I must make a trip below. When you see me on the bridge again, come up and make that explanation which Mr. Strong said you were able to do. I shall be mighty glad to listen to you."
Chester protested, but the captain would not hear it. "I'll be up in the course of half an hour," said the seaman. "Promise me you'll come?"
"Of course, if you really wish it?"
"I was never more earnest in my life. My boy, let me tell you something'. I have listened at times to your conversation on religious themes—you and Lucy have talked when I could not help hearing—and I want to hear more—I believe you have a message for me."
There was a smile on the captain's face as he hurried away. And Chester's heart also arose and was comforted, as he lingered for a few moments on the deck and then joined Lucy and his father.
In blissful ignorance of any danger, the passengers and most of the crew went the daily round of pleasure or duty. The games on deck, the smoking and card-playing in the gentlemen's room, the sleeping and the eating all went on uninterrupted. Captain Brown, though quieter than usual, was as pleasant and thoughtful as ever. The sea was smooth, the weather fine, and the ship plowed on her course with no visible indication that she was slowly being crippled.
Lucy had for her use, one of the largest and best ventilated rooms in the ship. It was so pleasant there, that she spent much of her time in its seclusiveness. It is needless to state that Chester shared that comfort and seclusion. Reading, talking, building castles which reached into the heavens, these two basked in the warm light of a perfect love. After a little buffeting about in worldly storms, two hearts had come to rest; and how penetratingly sweet was that serene peace of soul. In him she saw her highest ideals realized, her fondest hopes and dreams come true. In her he found the composite perfectness of woman. All his visions from early youth to the present materialized in the sweet face, gentle spirit and pure soul of Lucy Strong!
Chester, the day after Captain Brown had told him about the condition of the ship, found Lucy in her room. She was not well, the father had said, so Chester sought her out. She was reclining on the couch. His heart, burdened with what he knew melted towards the girl. He drew a stool up to her, and kissed his good-morning.
"Not so well today?" he asked.
"No; my heart has been troubling me all night; but I'm better now."
"Now, see here, my girl, I'm the one that ought to be ill."
"How's that?" she smiled at him.
"Have we not exchanged hearts?"
"Oh, I see. Yes; but the strength only went with mine. The weakness I retained. It would not have been fair otherwise."
She sat up and pushed back her hair. He seated himself near her and drew her in his arm. He held her close.
"Some things," said he, "we can not give, much as we would like. Some burdens we must carry ourselves."
"Which I take it, is a very wise provision," she added.
There was silence after that. It was not easy for either of them to talk, each being constrained with his own crowded thoughts. Chester listened to the rhythmic beat of the machinery, and wondered vaguely how long it would continue thus, and what would happen if it had to stop.
"Chester," said Lucy at last, "what if I should die?" She clung to him as she said it.
"But, my dear, you're not going to die. You're going to get completely well again—You're going to stay with me, you know."
"That's the worst, when I think of it—the thought of separating from you—O Chester, I can't do that—All my life I've waited and watched for you, and now to leave you, to lose you again—and we've been together such a short time! I can't bear to think of it." The tears welled in her eyes.
"Then, my sweetheart mustn't think of it. We are going to be together, we two. 'Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge ... where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried!' quoted the young man, knowing not the prophetic import of his words. She leaned on his shoulder, and he stroked the hair from her forehead.
"Did you have a talk with Captain Brown?" she asked. "Did you answer his questions?"
Chester started, then understood. "Oh, yes," he replied. "Yesterday on the bridge we talked for an hour. He asked me all manner of questions, and I think I satisfied him. He had heard of Mormonism,' of course, but never of its message of salvation. I believe he's converted already."
"I'm so glad, for he is such a nice man. Chester, I wish your father were more susceptible to the gospel. I can't understand him. He never opposes, nor does he now find fault with me; but as for himself—well, he says he's going back to the pulpit."
"I am just as sorry as you, on that score; but we can but do our best, and let the Lord take care of the rest."
Now when their thoughts ranged from self to others, Lucy felt so much better that she declared she was ready for the deck. So leaning on Chester's arm, they carefully climbed the stairs, and came to the open. There was a breeze, and a bank of clouds hung low to windward. Chester adjusted Lucy's wrap closely as they paced the deck slowly. The clouds lifted into the sky, shutting out the sun. On the horizon, winkings of lightning flashed. Evidently, a storm was coming.
Captain Brown was quiet at the luncheon table. Chester noted it, and afterwards, followed the captain to the bridge.
"How goes it?" asked Chester.
"Not well," was the reply. "Do you see that list to larboard."
"I don't understand."
Without pointing, which action others might see, the captain explained that the ship tilted to one side, also that there was a slight "settling by the head," that is, the ship was deeper in the water forward than at any other part. Chester noticed it now, and asked what it meant.
"It means," explained the captain, "that we are slowly settling—sinking, in plain words. The pumps can not manage the water coming into the hold. There is also some trouble with the cargo, which causes the list or leaning to one side. From now on, I shall be on the lookout for assistance, which I think, will come in ample time—Now tell me more about this new prophet, Joseph Smith."
For an hour they conversed. Then the captain had to go below again, and Chester went in search of Lucy. A number of the passengers were standing near the larboard rail. They noticed the slope of the deck, but did not realize its meaning, and Chester did not enlighten them. A peculiar heart-sinking feeling persisted with him, which the coming storm did not alleviate.
The captain was not in his place at dinner, which was all the more noticeable, because it was the first time he had been absent. Some of the passengers were beginning to feel the effects of the higher seas, and they did not eat much. Very few went back to the deck from the table. Lucy and the minister were among those who went to bed, but Chester, clad in water proofs was easier on deck.
The wind was blowing hard, increasing in time to quite a gale. The waves broke over the ship's prow, slushing the forward deck and driving all who were out either back or to an upper deck. Chester kept away from Captain Brown on the bridge, where he no doubt would remain throughout the night.