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Mrs. Harrison could only press the boy close to her heart and murmur over him tender words, while Joy's little voice said:
"Kiss me too, Jack, dear Jack. Of course every one forgives you--because G.o.d for Christ's sake has forgiven us. Oh, dear, _dear_ old Jack!"
It was not till Jack was in his bed that night that his mother, kneeling by him, poured out her heart in thankfulness to G.o.d. Then he drew from under his pillow the old red and yellow handkerchief, and in a few words told the story as the sailor had told it to him.
"The token has come at last," poor Patience said. "Yes, I marked those letters on the handkerchief with my own hand. Oh, Jack! Jack! it all comes back to me, and I have had a weary time of waiting; but it is better to _know_ at last."
_THE HERITAGE OF PEACE._
The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment; and the house that is built on the sand must needs fall to ruin at last.
Mr. Skinner received the box with his accustomed composure, though he turned deadly pale. It was an _extra_ordinary coincidence that the box was found in the sandy ground. How it came there he was at a loss to conjecture.
"The less said about it the better," George Paterson remarked, "and you owe this boy a full apology."
"Well, it _is_ possible there is a mistake somewhere. However, we will give the youngster the benefit of the doubt, and send him home to his mother."
"Doubt!" Maggie exclaimed vehemently; "_doubt_! You stole the box, Joe, and hid it in the garden behind your house. You were _seen_ to bury it; you had better make a clean breast of it."
"Oh, spare him, Maggie Chanter!" poor infatuated Mrs. Skinner said.
Then, with a white face and an expression on it none who saw it will ever forget, Mr. Skinner, with a wave of his long thin hand, left the house.
Nothing more was ever heard of him. The crooked paths of deceit and dishonesty can have but one end, unless by G.o.d's grace those paths are forsaken, and the strait and narrow way chosen in their place. Poor Aunt Amelia had indeed reason to rue the day when she had listened to the flattering words of the wily man. He left her with an empty purse, a ruined custom, and a sore heart. But she was now delivered from one who in her folly she had trusted, and there were many who, hearing her story, pitied her, and gave back the custom they had withdrawn.
Another year pa.s.sed away, and it brought more peaceful times.
Perhaps Patience Paterson's life could not be called sunny or bright; but it is calm and peaceful, and she is the happy wife of a good and n.o.ble-hearted man, who had loved her faithfully for many years.
George Paterson was conscious that the deep respect he now felt for his wife would scarcely have been the same had she yielded to his wishes, and, taking it for granted that her husband was dead, had married him while his end was undecided. Patience may well set an example to others in this matter, and her evening-tide light will be clouded by no misgivings and no self reproaches.
She had asked for some token, and it was given. Through the trial of her boy's absence came the blessing of the long-looked-for tidings; and in this, as in many another step of her pilgrimage, she could feel the truth of the words, "To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness."
They took a pretty house near Gorlestone, and George became a prosperous man. Jack was taught his business as ship's carpenter, and the control exercised by his step-father was most salutary. He is likely to grow up a good and useful man.
The two houses, called by Uncle Bobo "The Home, Number One and Number Two," became popular as lodgings for single ladies and their maids, and were said to be amongst the best and most comfortable in or near Yarmouth.
Old Colley and his children were not forgotten, and were often invited to tea in the garden behind the two houses, where Uncle Bobo and Colley would exchange many stories or yarns of their early days.
Little Miss Joy did not get strong or vigorous, but she was able to walk about by the help of an arm. Uncle Bobo would sometimes hire a donkey-chair, and trudge by her side as it rolled along the esplanade, or was taken down to the edge of the water, where she loved to sit and think, and listen to the sweet music of the chime of the waves.
It was one lovely summer's evening when little Miss Joy was enjoying the air and her favourite song of the waves, that Bet, now grown a tall and less ungainly girl, came up to her with a thin, sad-looking woman dressed in black.
"I've made Aunt 'Melia come," Bet said. "I told her you wanted her, and here she is."
"I've got the camp-stool in the chair," Joy said. "Sit down, Aunt Amelia, and let us be comfortable and happy."
Mrs. Skinner shook her head.
"No, my dear, I can never be happy. I leave that to other people."
"Oh, yes, you can be happy!" little Miss Joy said.
"No, no; not with a broken heart!"
"G.o.d can mend broken hearts. Don't you know that, Aunt Amelia? 'He gives medicine to heal their sickness.'"
"Not when troubles are brought upon one's self by one's own folly and sin, my dear. No, no."
"I don't think that makes any difference," said little Miss Joy in her clear, musical voice. "He healeth those that are broken in heart; He giveth medicine to heal their sickness. He telleth the number of the stars: He calleth them all by their names. I do _love_ that psalm, because it shows G.o.d cares for little things like me and my little troubles, and for great and mighty things like the stars. For, you know, I _have_ my little troubles. I do long to run and skip as I used to do, and wait on Uncle Bobo and mother, when she is tired and the lodgers are rather tiresome, and poor grannie is cross, and _I_ am inclined to grumble and be cross too."
"Never, never, my dear," said Mrs. Skinner.
"Well, I know I _feel_ cross, and I go to G.o.d for His medicine. I wish you would go too, Aunt 'Melia."
Mrs. Skinner shook her head.
"I think grannie has gone to Him, and she is happier, I know. He will give it you if you ask Him. His medicine is love, the love He had for us when He gave us the Lord Jesus."
Mrs. Skinner still shook her head, but tears rolled down her thin, faded cheeks.
"I must be going now," she said. "Good-bye, my dear."
"Good-bye. Kiss me, Aunt 'Melia;" and then Bet, who had purposely kept apart, came up with some sh.e.l.ls she had gathered for Joy, and said, as she had gone to fetch Aunt Amelia, she would take her home again. So they turned and left Joy, and then Uncle Bobo came down from the seat where he had been watching what pa.s.sed, and, calling the donkey-boy, he told Joy it was time to be going home.
"What have you been saying to poor Mrs. Skinner?" he asked.
"Not much, dear Uncle Bobo; but, oh, I am so sorry for her, and I wish I could comfort her! I love poor Mrs. Skinner now, indeed I do."
"Love her! Well, bless your little heart, you love everybody, I think."
"Yes, I think I do, and I am so happy, Uncle Bobo. Let us go home now."
Dear little Miss Joy! Who shall say what is the guerdon she and those like her wear?
Truly those that are the maintainers of peace have a blessed heritage; for the golden fruit of righteousness is a glorious harvest for those who make peace. Yes, and for those childlike souls there is quietness and a.s.surance for ever.