The Baldwin Library
ROBERT'S BIRTHDAY PRESENT.
MURRAY AND GIBB, EDINBURGH,
PRINTERS TO HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE,
A STORY FOR YOUNG & OLD.
< Storp for goung anb 0lb.
WILLIAM OLIPHANT AND CO.
THE DOCTOR'S VISITS, .
A BLESSING IN THE HOUSE, .
A SHADOW ON THE BIRTHDAY, .
THE SPELL BROKEN,. .
THE RETURN HOME, .
ROBERT'S BIRTHDAY PRESENT.
THE DOCTOR'S VISITS.
Oft doth thy God for thee a gift command,
So strange of aspect, so unsought by thee,
That loss, not gain, at first it seems to be ;
But take it childlike from thy Father's hand,
And richest blessings fill thy bosom, so
That heart and life with thankful praise o'erflow.
V E N I N G drew on, cold, foggy, and
uncomfortable, as only a November
evening can be. The rough wind blew
over the desolate stubble-fields, and a damp
heavy mist rose from the little river, that, but a
few weeks before, flowed through the rich harvest
landscape with its little rippling eddies sparkling
Robert's Birthday Present.
in the sunshine. A small penetrating rain
drizzled down, and covered village, meadow, and
wood with one dull hue of monotonous grey.
Those who were not absolutely obliged to be out
of doors in this unfriendly weather gladly re-
mained in the shelter of their homes, and drew
back within the depths of their comfortable
rooms, that they might not behold the advances
that winter was making outside. So the village
lay still as if dead; only here and there a single
light glimmered through the gloaming, and let it
be known that behind closed doors and windows
life still existed.
At one of the last houses in the lower part of
the village, the door opened, and two men stepped
out. One, wrapped in a warm overcoat, prepared
himself hurriedly for going away, while his
companion, a young peasant, still held him back
for a moment on the threshold.
'Doctor,' said he in a voice of deep emotion,
while he pressed his hand, 'I can never forget
what you have done for us to-day, and may God
reward you for it. If the child had died, I
believe my wife would not have survived, for she
is already so exhausted by care and anxiety, and
her long night watching. But I say again, if
the little maid lives to grow up, she shall learn
whom she has to thank for her life.'
'At all events, it is not I,' said the other,
smiling. 'It is my continual consolation in my
toilsome vocation, which is often so full of
fatigue and anxiety, that death and life are not
in our hands, but that we and they are alike
the servants of the Highest. And if God, sur-
passing all my hopes and expectations, gives me
such success and happiness as to-day, it would
be a sin for me to ascribe any of the praise to
'You may be right there,' answered the
countryman; 'but not the less our life-long thanks
are due to you.'
The two men pressed each other's hands again,
and while the happy father turned back into his
house, the doctor set off on his way with rapid
Robert's Birthday Present.
steps. He had soon passed through the village,
and then there lay before him the gently rising
hill where stood the old church and parsonage.
Not far from them was his own house, and that
it drew him with a strong attraction could easily
be seen by the bright looks which he cast to-
wards it, and by the quickening of his pace.
He had gone through a hard day's work, but he
looked back on it joyfully, and his thoughts
lingered with satisfaction over the happy family
which he had just left. But he began to feel
himself unstrung and wearied, and so much the
more enticing was the way home.
He was just going to enter on the footpath
that led up the hill, when a tiny spark of light
that glimmered out of the distance caught his
eye with its feeble ray, and made him pause,
undecided which way to turn. It came from a
solitary cottage at the edge of a wood, and seemed
to call on him entreatingly to come there. A
poor sick young widow dwelt there, to whom he
had promised a visit. Should he still go or not ?
The Widow's Cottage.
' It is a little late in the day to go,' thought the
doctor, 'and in such weather it could hardly be
expected of me; and besides, they must be wait-
ing rather impatiently for me at home, for I
promised them that I would come home a little
sooner than usual to-day. I will go to the poor
woman early in the morning.' With that re-
solution he took some steps in the homeward
direction. 'Yet who knows,' thought he again,
'perhaps it may be too late in the morning, and
if the poor woman has expected me in vain, I
shall be sorry then that I did not go.' So he
turned round decidedly and struck into the
meadow-path, while he drew his overcoat closer
round him to protect himself against the ever-
increasing cold and wet.
In a few minutes the doctor had crossed the
meadows, and reached the widow's cottage. He
went in by the low door to a damp, uncomfortable
room, which was dimly lighted by a flickering
oil lamp. In one corner lay, on a miserable bed,
the emaciated form of a woman who was still
12 Robert's Birthday Present.
young. Her heavy, irregular breathing alone
broke the silence of the chamber, for the old
neighbour who sat at the foot of the bed, as the
only nurse and help in need, had fallen asleep,
and only now'and then woke up in a fright,
when a more violent fit of coughing than ordi-
nary shook the poor patient, and disturbed her
slumbers. By the opposite wall stood a little
infant's bed, where the only child of the poor
widow lay covered with an old quilt. The little
boy might be about three or four months old,
but his miserable, unhealthy look made him seem
younger. It was evident from his appearance
that he had been deprived of a mother's loving
care for many weeks.
The doctor approached the patient's bed, and
took her thin hot hand in his.
'0 doctor!' she said, speaking with difficulty,
while her feverish eyes became calmer in their
expression,' God be praise that you have indeed
come at last! I have so hoped you would. Not
that you can do anything more for me, for I feel
Left in God's Hand.
I am very near my end. But my child, doctor,
what will become of him ? I leave him behind me
so entirely friendless.'
She fastened her anxiously questioning, sunken
eyes on the compassionate face of the doctor, and
pressed his hand eagerly.
'Our heavenly Father is in a more peculiar
sense the Father of the fatherless,' answered the
doctor, much moved. 'He will not forsake your
child; and I promise you that I will do my ut-
most in order to have him placed where he shall
have good care and pious up-bringing. I cannot
say anything more decided just now; but I may
bid you set your mind at rest, in the assurance
that your child will not be forsaken.'
'I thank you, doctor, more than I can express.
God will reward you for what you do for my poor
child. Yes, I will leave him in God's hand con-
tent. I have been borne along in that hand
through all my pain and sorrow myself, and have
been well kept; and I will soon be still better cared
for in the presence of Him who has washed away
Robert's Birthday Present.
all my sins in His precious blood. I may well
trust my child to Him.'
A violent fit of coughing prevented her from
saying more; and after it was over she sank back
exhausted. The anxious suspense in the expres-
sion of her face was now gone, and she lay there
still and peaceful.
'Perhaps she will sleep a little now,' said the
doctor to the old neighbour, who in the meantime
had overcome her drowsiness, and was making
preparations for lighting a little fire in the cold
stove. He gave her some orders about his
patient, and encouraged her to watch more care-
fully, then he left the room quietly.
When he got out of the cottage he found that
the rain had ceased; the wind drove the dark
clouds hither and thither, and raged howling
through the stripped trees, which groaned again
as they swayed drearily in the blast. The doctor
recrossed the meadows with a heavier step than
when he approached the cottage; he now could
hardly enjoy the thought of soon reaching his
home, for the remembrance of the dying widow
and her poor child would not let him take
pleasure in anything. He tried for a while to get
their image out of his mind. Yes,' he said to
himself,' something will be sure to turn up for the
child; and I will see what can be done for it. It
is always the way in my profession, joy and sorrow
alternate continually; one must not be too soft-
hearted, and give oneself up to every impression,
or one would be lost altogether.' Then he thought
of the little girl on whom he had operated so suc-
cessfully that afternoon, and sought to retain that
pleasant impression as long as possible; but it
would not do, he still saw continually before him
the poor helpless creature whom he had just left.
Thus sunk in thought, he mounted the height
almost without knowing it, and stood still for a
moment before his own house. From the window
of the parlour on the ground floor a bright, warm
light shone forth, and in spite of the protecting
double windows, the sound of happy voices chat-
ting together reached his ears. The doctor went
16 Robert's Birthday Present.
forward to the window and looked in, delighted
with the inviting picture that presented itself to
In the middle of the room shone the well-spread
table, where, on the dazzling white cloth, the pretty
tea service was set out which only appeared on fes-
tive occasions. A large cake of sweet bread, which
looked out from the midst of a wreath of ivy and
late roses, made it evident that this was some kind
of feast-day. A gentle, pleasant looking lady sat
at a small work-table near at hand, her fingers
plying the busy needle out and in industriously.
She raised her head occasionally to listen if she
could hear a step outside. The band of children
that surrounded her were this evening especially
impatient for the father's return, and it was no
wonder. Robert's birthday was to be kept this
evening, for on this day he was ten years old.
There could be no proper feast without their
father, and he was so particularly long of coming
Robert, the first-born, tried to shorten the time
by giving his sister Elizabeth riddles to guess.
The little Lottie was putting her doll to bed
for the third time; and Charlie, the pet lamb of
the flock, constantly cast anxious looks towards
his mother, fearing he might, after all, be sent off
to bed. It was as a particular favour that on this
day he was allowed to remain up for the festive
evening meal, and now he could only secretly rest
his great blue eyes when he thought that no one
was looking, and then open them particularly
wide, for fear any one might think he was sleepy.
None of them had as yet observed the father,
who lingered outside for a moment enjoying the
'Ah, that's it,' he thought to himself; 'this is
Robert's birthday, and we could not celebrate it
in the morning because I had to go out so early.
God be praised that we have as yet always had
enough to make a happy home for our children!
And how many have to go without that !'
And again the picture of the widow's poor
neglected child rose before him,-he would never
Robert's Birthday Present.
know such a home. Then a thought flashed
through his mind, but he would not harbour it,
and went into the house quickly, where he was
welcomed by exultant voices, and led in triumph
into the warm room.
The ten little wax tapers upon the birthday
cake were lighted, and all sat down to table.
Beside Robert's place lay several small presents
with which his sisters had surprised him. There
was a pair of warm muffatees (pulse-warmers)
from Elizabeth, a sewed book marker from
Lottie, and even from Charlie a little pic-
ture, for he would not be left behind the
others in expressing love to their brother. But
the best of all, the parents' present, was still
wanting, and was to come afterwards. Robert
had long wished for a hand sledge, such as the
pastor's Gustave had lately received. His own
old sledge was very clumsy and heavy, and the
irons were worn out so that it made very rough
driving; but with a new one how splendidly
would he career down the slope near the house!
The father had not yet had time to go with
Robert to the neighboring town-to buy or order
one, but if the weather should be better on the
morrow, the affair was to be settled; and in the
thought of that Robert was as happy as a king,
and felt as if he could hardly wait for sledge and
With an important air he now employed him-
self in cutting the cake and handing it to each of
the circle around him. His little brother had
long been enjoying this moment in anticipation;
he sat up on his high chair between father and
mother, and looked quite lively again. With
sparkling eyes he glanced round from one to
another, and received happy answering looks
The father alone was more silent than usual,
and seemed often absent from them in thought.
The mother had for some time been observing
him quietly, and now laid her hand on his
shoulder, and said kindly :
'Are you tired, or is there something wrong ?
20 Robert's Birthday Present.
Have things gone badly this afternoon with
Meier's little daughter ?'
'Thank God, the little maid is saved!' was
the father's answer; 'and I am not too tired to
be happy among you, but there is something
else that lies heavy on my heart.'
And then he related his visit to the poor sick
widow, who must so soon die and leave her little
baby all alone in the world. He told how she
had no one to whom to commit her child, and
how he pitied the poor little creature from the
depths of his soul.
All had listened attentively to the father's narra-
tive, and when he had ended, a deep silence reigned
in the room for several minutes. A sorrowful
look had come over the mother's kindly face.
Her tender, motherly, compassionate heart was
drawn to the helpless child, and a thought, too,
had arisen in her mind, which she secretly laid
in silent prayer before the loving heart of her
heavenly Counsellor. Then Robert got up gently
from his place, stood beside his father, and said:
A4 Unaniimous votc.
'Father, you would have liked to bring the
child home with you, would you not? Could it
not come to us ?'
A bright, happy light then shone in the
mother's eyes. She placed her hand silently in
her husband's, and all at once a shout of joy
broke out among the children.
'Yes, yes!' they called out all together; 'the
child can come to us. He shall be our little
brother, and get Charlie's cot, and Charlie can
have a bigger bed.'
The father had to command silence before he
could get in a word.
'I have not the least doubt of it,' he said
laughingly. 'You are all of one voice as to the
reception of the infant. One might bring you a
new little brother or sister every day, and you
would only be all the better pleased. But this
is a weighty matter, not to be undertaken as a
joke or pastime. It is a grave, earnest question
thus to adopt a child, and such a step must be
well considered before it is taken. You all know
22 Robert's Birthday Present.
very well, too, that we are not rich, and that
your dear mother and I have often to exercise
much self-denial and economy, and to save and
plan much, in order to be able to bring up you
four, and educate you, and now and then to give
you some little pleasure. A fifth child would
greatly increase the care and expense, and it
would require that each of us-you children too
-should take a share, and each in some degree
help in this matter, and not shun some sacrifice
and self-denial in order to accomplish it.'
I will gladly do what I can,' said Robert, who
evidently had the matter much at heart. 'It is
well that the sledge is not bought yet'- He
hesitated a moment, the sacrifice was not a light
one for him; then he added quickly, 'I will
gladly go without it, that you may spend the
money on this poor child. I can just have new
irons put to my old sledge, then it will be fit
to use again. The new brother will be my best
'And I,' said Elizabeth, 'don't need my
The Burden Shared.
new winter cloak just so very much. If the
old one could be mended, it would do for me
But an hour ago, indeed, she had thought very
differently about it; but a warm, bright spark
of love had fallen into her heart and lighted a
little flame there, still weak and wavering, it is
true, but soon it would surpass all earthly light,
and burn up by its loving power the selfishness
natural to her.
Lottie was charmed with the thought that
she had lately accomplished knitting a pair of
socks, with which her mother had been well
pleased. Yes, she would knit socks for the new
little brother ; he would be sure to have none.
She was sorry that she must soon go to bed,
or she would in her eagerness have begged her
mother to begin the work for her at once.
And Charlie would not be left behind in the
loving strife. 'I will give the little boy all my
crumbles,' he said gravely. All laughed, for it
was well known that it cost a daily battle to get
24 Robert's Birthday Present.
him to eat the bread crumbled in his milk. He
much preferred the milk without it.
'But what do you think ?' said Elizabeth; the
little boy cannot eat bread yet. He must have
milk, or he would become sick.'
That seemed a very troublesome matter to the
little fellow. He drew Lottie into a corner of
the room, and whispered to her, 'If the little
boy gets nothing but crumbles, and no milk, I
say, will he turn sick and die, just as the little.
canary-bird died that we buried in the garden?'
'Yes, just so,' answered Lottie earnestly;
and Charlie pondered the matter gravely for
some time. What Lottie said had great weight
with him, for she was three years older than
he, and could already read, and could even write
a few pot-hooks. He was evidently struggling
with himself in order to come at a decision
which was hard to make. At last he went hur-
riedly up to his mother, and said to her de-
cidedly, 'I will eat all the crumbles myself, and
give the milk to the little brother.'
'Receiveth .I .'
The mother kissed him with a smile, whilst
tears filled her eyes; and the father said, with
Now, in God's name, if we all, little and big,
are thus determined to help in the undertaking
by each exercising self-denial, let us decide to
receive the child, and God will be our help and
support in the deed. We will receive the infant
as from His hand, and give him a home here.
Robert's birthday present shall be a loved and
welcomed gift to us all, and may God add His
He went to the window to hide his emotions;
the mother followed him there.
'Whosoever will receive such a child in My
name, the same receiveth Me,' she whispered, and
looked gladly and thankfully up to him.
'I have absolutely never asked your consent
to this plan,' said her husband smilingly, 'and
yet most of the care and trouble will fall on you;
but I at once read in your eyes what your heart
said in the matter, and your evident alacrity was
Robert's Birt/day Present.
what gave me courage for the decision we have
come to. We can bring the baby home early
to-morrow, and we shall soon see whether it will
not grow healthy and hearty under your good
'Only to-morrow and why not to-day ?' an-
swered his wife. I would fain at once remove
all care and anxiety from the heart of that poor
mother. The weather has improved a little, so
that there is nothing to fear for the child in
bringing it here. I will dress quickly and go
with you, and we can be back in half an hour.'
She gave some hurried orders as to preparations
for the reception of the child, and bade Elizabeth
put the younger children to bed, who went away
obediently, quite rejoiced with the thought that
they too should see the new little brother next
Robert begged for leave to accompany his
parents, and they were all soon on the way to
the widow's cottage.
The sick woman had just awoke out of a short
The Mother's Heart Cheered.
slumber when the door opened, and, not a little
to her astonishment, the doctor came in again,
followed by his wife and son. Robert at once
went to the cradle of the sleeping child, whilst
his parents approached the mother.
'You told me of your anxiety about your
child,' began the doctor, with the kind, sympathiz-
ing voice which had already so often comforted
the poor sufferer; I told you then that I would
do the utmost in my power to find him a home.
Now we are come to tell you that the home is
found, and that your child shall not want for
parents, brothers, and sisters. My wife will, with
God's help, be a true mother to him, and I can
assure you that in her hands he will be well
His wife, meantime, had with deep emotion
grasped the emaciated, transparent hand which
the widow stretched out to her, and held it fast
in her own.
'Yes, I promise you,' she said, 'that I will
consider your child as my own. We will do all
Robert's Birthday Present.
that lies in our power to secure that you shall
see him again above.'
A look of transfiguring brightness spread over
the face of the poor dying one.
'Now indeed God has done all, all well,' she
said slowly, and broke off. 'I knew He would
hear me. He will bless and requite you for all that
you do for my baby. It is my last prayer here
below, and it too will have its accomplishment.'
She gave a long look into the true eyes that
gazed down on her so lovingly; these very eyes
were those that would watch over her child. A
happy smile played round her mouth, and she
added these words in a very low tone: 'Now I
can die in peace. Let me see my child just once
more for the last time on earth.'
And for the last time she looked on the little
pale face, and pressed a kiss with lips that were
already growing cold in death on its soft cheek.
The prayers for blessings on her child and his
adopted parents that rose from her heart were
heard only by Him who alone can add the
Rest and Peace.
effectual 'Yea and Amen' to all our peti-
When, a few hours later, the moon looked
through the riven clouds into the lonely chamber
of the poor widow, her pale light shone on the
still, calm face of one for whom the last struggle
was past, and the everlasting peace begun.
And above, at the doctor's house, her beams fell
on the cradle, and kissed lightly the little face of
a tiny child, who, softly and warmly bedded, slept
quietly and peacefully, while an eye full of love
and pity bent over it, and from a true motherly
heart a heartfelt prayer arose to Him who is the
'Father of the fatherless.'
A BLESSING IN THE HOUSE.
A Y S passed rapidly one after another.
From the trees in the garden and wood
the last yellow leaves had been shaken,
the short daylight was ever more and more dim,
and ever longer and longer grew the cold nights.
A sharp, icy wind sought to creep in through
the well-closed doors and windows, and many a
farmer looked expectantly at the leaden clouds,
wondering if they would not unlade their burden
of the much desired snow, which would protect
the slumbering vegetable world from the winter's
Whilst outside all the rich life of nature
' The Child grew.'
seemed dead and buried, within the doctor's house
a tender little plant was springing up quickly to
a fresh, vigorous life, and thriving well under
loving, careful nurture. Any one who had seen
the little wan creature that the doctor and his
wife had brought to his house a few weeks before,
could hardly recognize the same child in the
little sprightly Paul, the pet of the whole family.
At first the improvement seemed to progress very
slowly; but the true mother fostered and cherished
the tender life, and was soon repaid for her care.
The beautiful dark eyes became by degrees more
lively and more observant; the feeble, emaciated
limbs rounded out, and grew strong; and Charlie,
who lived in a continual state of wonderment
about the new brother, was now full of expecta-
tion of the time when Paul's little hands should
have just such dimples as his own rosy cheeks
and wee fat hands displayed.
But nobody except the mother had so much to
do with the child as Robert. It seemed as if he
really claimed him as his birthday present, and
32 Robert's Birth/day Present.
thus had a special right of possession in the little
Each day he discovered some new attainment
or excellence in him, which he triumphantly pro-
claimed to the others. In his spare hours he
cut out all sorts of playthings for the small and
as yet useless fingers; and it was astonishing to
see how the stirring, spirited boy, who formerly
was so restless that it was almost impossible to
keep him quiet a moment in the room, would now
sit for hours together on the floor, with the little
brother playing with and talking to him, as if
there could not be any more delightful employ-
ment in the world. The love and attachment
between the two was quite reciprocal. If
Robert's bright face did but peep into the room,
the little one began to kick and crow with de-
light; and if he only heard his cheery voice
outside in the entrance hall, he began listening
immediately, and watching the door.
One evening, as Robert came home from school,
a few light snowflakes were falling, and next
Better than a New Sledge.
morning, as far as could be seen over field and
wood, everything was covered with its winter
mantle of shining white. Robert hurried into the
wood-shed to bring out his old sledge, which had
been put into pretty good condition again. But
in the afternoon, when he met his playfellow
Gustave, and saw how lightly and smoothly his
new sledge glided down the hill, his own old
thing appeared very clumsy; and he could not
but remember that he too might have had just
such a new one as his friend's. But one glance
at his father's house was sufficient to put to
flight such thoughts, set all right with him, and
make him feel quite contented with his old sledge.
There stood his mother at the parlour window
with little Paul on her arm, who stretched out
his tiny hands to Robert, and screamed with
delight as he saw him shoot past. How could
he even for a moment forget the little brother
who was more to him than all the sledges in the
world! No; he would anew vow to help his
parents with all his might in that which they
Rvbert's Birthday Present.
had undertaken. With renewed pleasure he ran
round the snowy path and launched his sledge
down the slope, till the mother called him in to
Not only Robert, but all the children helped
their mother as well as they were able in the care
of the little brother. Many a pair of stockings
was knitted for him, and many a time Elizabeth
would lay aside the interesting book in which she
was buried, or Lottie would put away her doll,
in order to play with the little one. They found
it easier to make a sacrifice of self for him than
for each other; they all felt that this little
brother had been in a peculiar sense sent to them
by God's hand, and therefore they set a more
particular value on him.
This of itself was already a rich blessing which
had entered the house with the child, and the
parents rejoiced in it, and thanked God for it.
As yet they had never for one moment regretted
the step they had taken. As they laid all their
care for their own four children in the hand
True Riches. 35
of their heavenly Father, so they also com-
mitted to Him the care of this fifth child.
They knew they could not leave behind them
earthly property for any of them; but they hoped
to leave them something else that was of much
higher value. The doctor of a poor country
district cannot gather together earthly riches,
especially when he has a compassionate heart;
but he can win costly possessions and a secure
capital, the interest on which many a rich man
might envy him.
A SHADOW ON THE BIRTHDAY.
And for those dear ones nearest to our heart,
How willingly we'd pray,
All richest blessings of this earth impart
Along their pilgrim way ;
But every rising wish we leave,
While humbly one great boon we crave,-
Lord, bring them home !
Yes, home to Thee, home to the Father's house,
Though dark may be the way;
Through deserts drear, through the world's din and noise,
Heavenward through all we pray.
Be it through error's devious ways,
Be it through long and weary days,
Still home to Thee.
IG H T years had gone by since that
November evening when little Paul
found a home in the doctor's house.
A notler Birthaay.
Again Robert's birthday was to be celebrated;
but this time it was no dull, winter-like day, but
one of those mild, sunny, late-harvest days which
are sometimes given us just before the arrival of
winter. The afternoon sun shone warm on the
already somewhat bare garden before the house,
where Elizabeth, who had now blossomed forth
into a young maiden, walked slowly up and
down. Occasionally she stooped here and there
to cut a late-blowing rose, and add it to the
autumn bouquet which she held in her hand. In
the arbour at the entrance of the house, where
some last remains of bright-coloured leaves still
clung to the wild vine, sat Charlie, now a brisk
youth of some eleven years old. He was busy
at the round garden table, painting some letters
carefully on a large sheet of white paper.
One of his chief excellences in the estimation
of the village schoolmaster was his beautiful
handwriting, so he was often employed as scribe
by the whole village. Many a loving little
mother had brought him the letter which she
38 Robert's Birthday Present.
had scrawled with unaccustomed hand to her far-
off son, that he might transcribe it in his fine,
legible handwriting. At many a family feast
the artistic inscription which the obliging boy
had painted in bright colours made a grand show.
To-day he must exercise his utmost skill to pro-
duce a perfect master-piece on the paper before
him, for it was to be a birthday greeting for the
eldest brother, who was expected at home this
Lottie sat on the bench beside Charlie, engaged
in weaving a wreath of evergreens which was to
surround the inscription, while Paul prepared the
sprays and handed them to her. All were eagerly
occupied with their work; but the light-hearted-
ness was lacking among them which generally
reigns during such festive preparations. It rather
seemed as if all were in an uncomfortable mood
of strained expectancy, which yet tney did
not feel inclined to avow to each other. Un-
happily, they had but too good reason for the
feeling. Robert's visits, which formerly had
ever been most joyful events to all, had for some
time past only left a gloomy, troubled impression
on each member of the family,-an impression
that had like a long dark shadow come gradually
over them, and now at last never left them.
Robert had been for several years in the
neighboring town, where he attended the high
school. At first, he came to his home to visit the
loved ones there as often as possible; the way
had never been too long, the weather had never
been too bad for it. His studies had not suffered
from the frequency of these visits, for he always
kept a good place, and got a good certificate of
progress. Each time he appeared at home, his
arrival had been as a feast-day in the house, and
many a wreath had ere this been woven in honour
of him. Each time he came, his parents looked
with fresh pleasure on their blooming son, who
could meet their eyes with such an open, true-
hearted look. His brothers and sisters, besides
the old hearty love which had bound them to
him from childhood, began to have a great feeling
40 Robert's Birthday Present.
of respect for the eldest brother; but no one
more so than Paul. The friendship which had
from the first existed between these two ever
remained the same. Paul's dark eyes beamed
with love as they rested on Robert; and though,
in his quiet fashion, he did not make many words
about it, it was easy to see how dear the eldest
brother was to him.
But gradually things changed. Robert's visits
became rarer and shorter; he gave all sorts of
reasons for this, especially the want of time. It
seemed as if, by his own account, he had to work
uncommonly hard; but yet his certificates were
no better than formerly, on the contrary, they
became constantly less and less favourable. He
was changed himself, too. He was no longer
the bright, innocent, frolicsome boy, whose pre-
sence lighted up the whole house as with a
sunbeam. He often now seemed absent and
uncomfortable; often, too, he was out of humour,
and if any one asked him if anything were wrong
with him, he gave evasive answers, and at last
A Doubtful Friend.
said he could not endure the everlasting prying
Then at times, again, he would seem sorry for
his behaviour; he would become for a time more
confidential with them, and would come home
oftener, and be more loving than ever to all, but
only soon to change and draw back again all the
more. He seemed always to be in haste, always
unquiet. At last his visits, however expectantly
they were looked for, became only a perfect tor-
ment to the whole family.
Robert had, several times when he visited
them, brought with him a friend with whom he
had lately become very intimate, and by whom
he laid great store. He was a young man of good
family, but parentless, who lived with an old
relative, who left him at liberty to do just what
he pleased. He had not at all pleased Robert's
parents; his arrogant and frivolous nature did
not suit in their house, and what they liked to
see least of all was that he most evidently had
great influence over Robert. They warned their
Robert's Birthday Present.
son against intimacy with this young man, of
whom all sorts of rumours of no favourable
character were current. Robert impetuously re-
pelled all accusations against his best friend,' as
he called him. After that he did not bring him
home with him any more, and seldom spoke of
him. Indeed, he felt himself that Bernhard's
character was not of a kind to suit his parents
and home. But, nevertheless, he continued in
constant intercourse with him, and by degrees
was so completely enslaved by his influence, that
he could no longer shake himself free. His
studies suffered by this, for his friend derided the
idea of such hard work; he talked of nothing but
freedom and pleasure, so that at last Robert
thought himself a very slave if he worked for
some hours at his books.
His greatest wish now was to be able to live
quite free and independent of control, without
needing to give an account of himself to any one.
His friend's position seemed to him quite pecu-
liarly enviable, for he was rich, and did not need
Home Life Distasteful.
to save or scrimp on himself in any way. Robert
had his share in many of the pleasures which
Bernhard's riches procured, and so gradually be-
came accustomed to an idle and frivolous life, that
drew him farther and farther from the good way.
Then the home-life in his father's house began to
appear frightfully wearisome, commonplace, and
unfashionable; and he could hardly imagine how
he could ever have been so happy in the midst of
it. And yet, sometimes he had a longing to go
back to the old times and old ways ; for, in spite
of the pleasures amidst which he lived, he was
not happy now, but he hoped that he should be
so when once he had got quit of all the fetters
that still bound him. Thus it was very natural
that his visits at home were not of a very satis-
factory kind, especially when he had so much to
conceal, and could not be freely and openly him-
self as formerly.
So his visits became shorter and less frequent.
All suffered under the state of things. His
father's brow was clouded, his mother's clear eyes
44 Robert's Birthday Present.
became troubled, and the children felt that some-
thing untoward was going on that made them
Thus this afternoon they sat somewhat silently
at the work over which they would so gladly have
rejoiced. When the wreath was ready, Paul got
up gently and went to the sitting-room, where
the mother was dressing the tea-table. Again
the best tea-service was laid out; and the cake
too was there, which was never wanting on any
birthday. The mother had this time expended
double care on all the preparations, that, if pos-
sible, the son who had lately become as a stranger
among them might once more feel himself at
home in his father's house.
As Paul appeared at the door, she was fasten-
ing on the wax tapers round the cake, for the old
birthday custom was still retained even for the
older children. She took the first taper and
attached it slowly; her thoughts went back to
the time when she had received her first-born
from God's hand, and vowed to give him back to
Him. Then there came up before her all the
happy years of his childhood, with their sunny
memories; then the days of boyhood, when, with
heartfelt joy and thankfulness to God her Saviour,
she had watched the development of her boy's
mind, and formed the most cheering hopes for the
future from what she thought she saw in him.
She had hoped that her efforts had not been in
vain, but that a work of grace had begun in his
heart which would end in his being a true servant
of the Lord Christ. It was hard for her to add
the last tapers to the others; for associated with
them were thoughts of the dark years when all
had so changed in her boy. Where was .all the
promise of his younger years now ? Had she not
done all she could to lead him to the Saviour,
and thus to bring her hopes to a happy accom-
plishment ? Had she not daily committed her
boy to God's hand, that He might keep him and
lead him in the right way ? But it seemed as if
he had himself torn himself loose.
Hot tears streamed from her eyes as, with
Robert's Birthday Present.
trembling hand, she placed the last taper, and then
sunk down on a chair. Then she felt herself
clasped by two little arms.
O mother, mother!' cried Paul, while he
looked up to her with loving and sorrowful eyes,
'don't weep so; our good God will most certainly
change Robert from what he is. See, I love you
so that I would do anything to help you, but
I can do nothing; but is it not true that the
Saviour loves you much, much more than I do ?
Then He is sure to help you soon, for He can do
it; I will pray right earnestly to Him to do so.'
The mother dried her tears, and kissed the
'You are always my child of peace,' she said
gently,' and have ever some comfort of the best
kind for me. Yes, we will not relax in our
prayers for poor Robert.'
Paul was indeed the child of peace in the
family; with his entrance a new element had
come into the house. The others had all been
loving, warm-hearted children, but somewhat wild
The C/ild of Peace.
and unruly, so that the mother had had her own
troubles with them, and had many a time been
obliged to use sharp discipline. But Paul was
quite different; with all his natural liveliness
there was united a quiet, thoughtful nature, that
showed itself particularly in hearty lovingness and
close attachment. If the other children, when
engrossed with their play outside, forgot all else
in it, the mother could be sure at least that every
now and then the dark curly head of her adopted
son would appear at the door to look in, and nod
her a loving greeting. And when the father
returned home from visiting his patients, it was
sure to be Paul's little form that was the first to
spring out to meet him when he was seen in the
As the mother now held him clasped in her
arms, she thought of that day eight years ago
when she had taken the widow's child to be her
own; and painfully as her heart was moved at
this moment by anxiety about her first-born, she
could still, in looking back to that hour, thank
Robert's Birthday Present.
God for all that He had bestowed on her in this
adopted child. She stood up, somewhat quieted
and comforted, and finished her preparations.
Robert might be with them any moment now, she
thought; surely on this, his birthday, he would not
keep them waiting so very long. She hoped for
the best, but did not venture to put too much
trust in her own hopes, for they had so often been
The afternoon came to an end, and evening
advanced. The children went out every now and
then to look out for their brother, but in vain.
Charlie, without saying anything, quietly took
down the inscription which he had placed over the
door, for if Robert did not come till late in the
evening it would no longer be suitable. Eliza-
beth lighted the lamp in the dining-room, and sat
down at the table as her father came in.
'Is Robert not here yet?' was his first
'No,' answered the daughter in a low voice,
and looked sorrowfully at her father, on whose
formerly clear, smooth forehead deep lines were
to be seen, that were not furrowed there by years
By degrees the whole family were assembled in
the sitting-room; all seated themselves round the
table and waited in silence. Then the outer door
was opened; they heard quick steps in the en-
trance hall, and Robert walked in, breathless and
'Good evening to you all,' he said hastily,
while he wiped the perspiration from his fore-
head. 'I am sorry if you have waited for me;
I absolutely could not get here any earlier.'
No one made any reply to this statement, but
each greeted him so kindly and heartily that he
was almost ashamed of it.
May God be your guide and helper in the new
year of your life on which you have entered to-
day,' said his mother earnestly. She could have
added much more, but felt that this was not the
moment to do so.
The young people led their brother to his place,
Robert's Birthday Present.
where their presents lay ready for him. Robert's
friend no doubt would have cast a very contemp-
tuous look on them all, and would have shrugged
his shoulders at the whole entertainment, which
would have appeared quite childish to him. But
Robert happily had not got quite so far; he felt
the love which each gift expressed, only he could
not fully enjoy it, for he felt his conscience sorely
He took pains this evening to show himself
truly loving and hearty, and to try to return to
the old tone of home life; for this purpose he had
to forget the present, and think only of the days
that were gone by. He managed pretty well, so
that it seemed to him that he had not for long
been so much at home in his father's house; the
others felt the same, and rejoiced in it. But when
they were about to separate, and his father said
to him kindly:
'It is well that to-morrow is Sunday, so you
will be able to stay all day with us,'-
Robert turned away his eyes uneasily, and
His Abrupt Departure.
muttered something between his teeth that was
The next day, as the family rose from table
after the mid-day meal, Robert hurried out of the
room, and soon returned, hat and stick in hand.
'But what does this mean ?' his mother called
out in astonishment. 'Surely you can stay with
us till evening, at least to-day ?'
'No; unhappily I cannot,' answered Robert
hesitatingly. 'I have something that prevents
'And what may that be ?' said the father,
'It is not a very weighty matter, but I am
expected,' stammered Robert; and besides, I
have everything to prepare for to-morrow. I
hope to be able to stay longer next Sunday.'
He was evidently afraid of being detained by
them, and said adieu hastily. But no one held
him back. His mother gave him her hand
silently; he dared not look into her eyes, or
perhaps their sorrowful expression might have
52 Robert's Birthday Present.
made him hesitate. His father said in a sad,
'I see I must no longer require an account of
your doings, but there is One who will require it
of you. May you be able to stand before Him.'
09, 1 ll vs-Iz
THE SPELL BROKEN.
T was a beautiful day in March; the soft
breath of spring in light airs waved
the tender verdure of the meadows,
and played lightly with snowdrops that peeped
up through the grass. On the hedges and bushes
that lined the road the brown buds were bursting
open in the warm sunshine, and high up in the
pure blue of heaven a lark carolled his far-
sounding spring song of gladness.
On the footpath that led between fields and
gardens towards the city, two young men strolled
along, deeply engrossed in eager talk.
'See, Robert,' said the older of the two, while
Robert's Birthday Prcsent.
he drew his arm through that of his friend, 'it
must come to that sooner or later,-that you will
cast off the old fetters that you have already
borne so long. It will only be when you do this
that you will be able to develop properly, and
unfold into your real self.'
'But how can I get free ?' asked Robert, while
he struck the ground impatiently with his stick.
'I cannot do as you do, and be my own lord and
'And why not ?' answered Bernhard. 'Every
reasonable creature has the right to be his own
lord and master; but, in order to be that, he
must not allow himself to be bound and led
astray by old, narrow, worn-out ideas. It is true
that here, in this country, real freedom is not to
be found, particularly for you, who see nothing
but bounds and limits and obstructions all around
you; but the world is large and wide, and,
happily, man is not bound down for ever to the
very identical clod of earth on which fate has
cast his lot.'
Ideas of Freedom.
And so you are going away?' asked Robert,
with a beating heart.
'Yes; certainly I am going forth, good friend.
But you do not need to say that with such a
distressed voice; you, too, are a child of freedom
if you will. Only look around you and see how
everything about us speaks of and preaches free-
dom to us. These buds here all burst forth from
their narrow prison into the light and air; and
'ae more they set themselves free from what
bound and confined them, the more they unfold
in beauty, till at length they appear in the full
completeness of their being.'
Robert had an observation at the tip of his
tongue which his sounder human understanding
suggested, namely, that the trees and flowers
only unfold to their complete fulness and beauty
in the place where the hand of their Creator had
set them; and that only while rooted in the
wholesome soil, which was suited to the pecu-
liarities of each, could they grow and flourish-
elsewhere, they would be stunted and pine away.
Robert's Birthday Present.
But he took care not to utter any such observa-
tions; his friend would only have ridiculed his
tiresome, sober views of things. To such a
pass had Robert brought himself with his free-
dom, that he dared not even utter the most
natural thoughts and feelings of his heart to his
most trusted friend. So he was silent, and let
Bernhard paint for him brilliant pictures of a
free, bright life, where he would have the whole
world at command, and would only need to put
forth the hand to take its best gifts. His eyes
began to sparkle.
Yes; it was Bernhard alone who understood
him, who knew his very innermost needs, and
how to supply them. How temptingly the future,
as pictured by him, lay before him, were he only
free from the old bonds! But he would bear
them no longer, he would cast them off; and
if his parents could in the least degree go in
with his higher, freer views, they must, he
thought, understand how it was that he acted
A Weak Decision.
By the time the two friends had reached the
town, Robert's decision was taken. He gave Bern-
hard his hand as a pledge of his consent to his
proposal; and Bernhard took upon him the care
of making all the necessary preparations for their
A few days after this, Robert was again on the
way to see his parents. He was afraid of the
disclosure which he had to make to them, but
he intended to remain firm and true to his
decision. What could please them better, he
thought in the discontent of his heart, than to
see him set off, and thus to be quit of him ? Had
not his visits home for some time past always
brought nothing but disquiet to the family, in-
stead of being a pleasure to them? Were not
his parents always oppressed and anxious, his
brothers and sisters silent and embarrassed, while
he was among them ? With these representa-
tions, which, no doubt, had a great deal of truth
in them, he sought to quiet his accusing con-
science; but he did not succeed, and the nearer
Robert's Birthday Present.
he came to his home, the paler did his bright
visions of the future become, the glory fading out
of the pictures which he had painted in his
Suddenly, as he drew near his home, little
Paul appeared, bounding along over the meadows,
bringing a bunch of violets in his hand. He
had seen and recognized his brother from a dis-
tance, and hurried to meet him as fast as possible,
full of Joy at his unexpected arrival.
'0 Robert!' he exclaimed, 'how delightful
that you have come and nobody knows anything
about it, so it will be such a pleasant surprise to
all of them.'
I doubt that,' said Robert, half touched and
half bitterly; 'my visits are no such great pleasure
to any one here; but they will soon come to an
'Why ?' asked Paul anxiously, while he looked
up inquiringly at Robert. 'Will you not come
home any more ? or are you going away ?'
'Yes, far away,' answered his brother, speaking
Difficulties inz the Palk.
more to himself than to the child. 'But what
am I saying ?' he added aloud. 'That is no
concern of yours; I must speak to my parents
about it. Go away and play again, and be a
good, brave boy.'
Paul went away, but not to play. Slowly he
crept along the pathway that led behind the
house to a little arbour; there he sat down in a
corner and began to weep violently, while from
time to time he sobbed out, He will go away;
Robert will go far away!'
In the meantime, Robert had a long conversa-
tion with his parents; but he did not say, by any
means, all that he had intended, for when he
saw his mother's face pale with alarm at the very
opening of the unexpected announcement, his
courage sank within him.
No; he could not so violently tear himself free
in spite of all their love. He must try to do it
in some manner that would spare their feelings
more; but how? If he had only not given his
promise; were he not so completely in his friend's
Robert's Birthday Present.
hands! With divided heart he listened to the
warnings and entreaties of his parents-admoni-
tions full of love and patience, warnings full of
hope and trust. Could he have only given him-
self up entirely to them! but he was no longer
free. His mother admonished him to diligent,
faithful perseverance in prayer as the only means
of salvation against all evil and temptation; for
by it he might obtain the help of that Saviour
who, if trusted in, would not only wash away all
his past transgressions, but give him strength to
support him in all temptation. Yes, thought
Robert, perhaps if he had prayed thus all along,
it would be the better for him now; but it was
too late now, and he [must find help in some
other 'way. His friend had taken good care
gradually to draw him away from the faith of his
childhood,-his 'childish faith,' as he called it,-so
that at last little of it remained to him. But in
the house, and the presence of his parents,-whose
outer and inner life both rested on the foundation
of this faith, grew out of it, and bore witness to
The Father's Advice.
it,-Robert ever felt again some of the power of
His father at the close of their conversation
held out his hand to him, saying:
'You see, Robert, we can use no compulsion
with you, and would not if we could; but to such
a rash, wilful undertaking as this of which you
speak we can never give our consent, and may
God keep you from attempting to execute it
without our consent. Work industriously for a
season, and then the time will come when you
can, with all propriety, go forth into the wide
world, but with very different plans and pur-
poses, and_in very different company, from what
you now propose; and then our blessing on you
and your purposes shall not be wanting.'
Some hours later Robert was walking restlessly
up and down his room, while he thought over the
conversation which he had held with his parents;
then Paul came in with a note in his hand-a lad
had brought it from town for Robert.
Paul looked on as Robert tore open the en-
Robcrt's Birh/lday Present.
velope, and hastily glanced over the contents of
the letter. The boy was happier now; he had
heard from the mother that Robert was not to go
away after all. Oh, how happy that made him!
But what could this little note contain ?
Robert changed colour as he read it, then
measured the room up and down with hasty
strides, and appeared full of painful disquiet.
It must be,' he murmured at last. 'I must go,
cost what it will!'
Then he saw Paul's terrified face. 'Child,' he
said hastily, 'you do not understand anything
about what I am saying; I was only speaking to
inyself. Just you keep yourself quiet, and think
about your own concerns.'
'But you are going away after all,' said Paul
'Yes, of course, away to town,' answered
Robert evasively, 'and to-morrow, too. I had
thought I could stay a little longer, but I find by
this note that I must be back in town sooner than
I had intended.'
Paul looked so scrutinizingly into Robert's
eyes that they sank before the child's gaze; then
Paul went quietly out of the room without a
word more. The mournful certainty which was
impressed on him he imparted to no one, but it
lay heavy on his young heart.
The next day Robert took leave of his parents
and the young people to go back to town. He
managed, by a great effort of self-command, to
appear quite calm; and his parents were so full
of hope and confidence in him, that they were
not struck by anything peculiar in his manner.
When he had at last escaped from them all, and
was taking his way with a heart full of uneasy
feelings along the narrow field path which led
to the little shady road by which he would pro-
ceed to town, he heard hasty steps behind him,
and turning round, saw his youngest brother
'I will go with you a little bit of the way,'
Paul called to him, 'and carry your travelling
bag as usual.'
Robert's Birtiday Present.
Robert gave it him, took the little hand in
his own, and for a time the two went along in
silence. As they came to the place where the
path joined the road, Robert said kindly:
'Now it is time for you to turn back, or you
will be too late of getting home. Good-bye; give
me another kiss.'
'Robert, I know what you intend to do,' said
Paul, while he could hardly keep back his tears;
' I have told no one, but I will not cease praying
for you, and perhaps you will come home all the
Robert grew pale.
No,' he replied quickly, 'don't pray for me !'
He was just going to add that prayer was not of
much use in general; but while looking into
those devout, innocent child's eyes, he could not
say it. 'Pray for the others,' he added gently,
'but not for me; for me it is too late.'
'I always pray for all the others, but most of
all for you, Robert; and now every day I will ask
our dear Lord God to send you soon back to us.'
The Tempter's Power.
He gave his brother his bag with a hasty faro-
well and a kiss, and then Robert hurried with
quick step towards the town; while Paul, lean-
ing against a tree, looked after him for long, until
a turning in the road hid him from his eyes,
and then he went slowly back to the house.
In the note which Robert had received from
his friend Bernhard, he was again reminded of
his promise, and admonished not to allow himself
to be drawn back from the course on which they
had determined. Bernhard knew well his power
over Robert; only these words were enough to
bring him again completely under the fetters
from which the conversation with his parents
had seemed about to free him.
When the friends were together again, and
Bernhard laid the plan of their travels before
Robert, and spoke of the splendid time they
would have together, he was again completely
blinded, and his parents' words were for the
time all forgotten. He would write to them and
then go away without any leave-taking, and thus
66 Robert's Birthday Present.
they would be spared the unnecessary sorrow.
He tried to quiet his beating heart by the thought
that he would return to them quite a man, and
then his parents themselves would see how right
he had been in his determination to go out into
The following days were filled up with pre-
parations for the journey, so that Robert, in the
midst of the external bustle, somewhat forgot his
internal disquiet. Only at night when he went
to bed, and in the morning as he awoke early,
all seemed strange and sorrowful to him; and he
was continually disturbed by the thought of the
little brother who would doubtless then be pray-
ing for him. He could hardly bear it,-it often
seemed to him as if this held him back and
hindered him in all his doings and actings,
At last the day of departure came. The even-
ing before, Robert wrote to his parents, told them
briefly what he was about to do, and begged them
not to make any inquiries about him till he, of
his own accord, sent them news of himself. The
Into the Wide World.
next morning he sealed the letter hastily without
reading it over, in case he might again repent
his resolution, and took it to the post himself.
He saw it slide down into the letter-box, and now
he felt that his fate was indeed decided. Why
must Paul's words again, at that very moment,
sound in his ears,' I will never cease praying for
you, and perhaps you will come home all the
In the meantime Robert had no desire to go
home; he longed to wander far away with his
friend. They went forth into the wide world
in their golden age of freedom. Above them
was the bright blue of the spring heavens; around
them was Nature in her richest glory. They
travelled from town to town, and saw all that
was most beautiful and glorious. Bernhard's
well filled purse ensured their wanting for
nothing. Each day brought some new gratifica-
tion, some new enjoyment; each day they plunged
deeper into the vortex of pleasure. Yes; it was
a happy life indeed,-so Robert often sail to
Robert's Birthday Present.
himself, well, perhaps just a little too often
for a thing that was so very certain, such a matter
of course. But he felt it necessary to tell himself
of his happiness; for there were moments when
his life would not appear so very beautiful to
him after all. But he thought the best was yet
to come; they were only at the beginning of their
course. In a few days they would go on board
ship, and then .a new world of wonders would
unfold before them. What they sought on the
other side of the ocean, and what the aim of their
life there was to be, was as yet quite uncertain
to Robert. He tried to banish every grave thought
by indulging in high-flown, fantastic imaginations.
He was free now, and for a little time that seemed
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon the two
friends reached their seaport town, and rowed out
in a little boat on the open sea. To Robert the
first impression was quite overpowering, as he
saw the countless multitude of vessels of all kinds
that lay there,-some just returned from foreign
Cared for by None.
parts, others lying ready to slip their anchors and
sail forth into far distant climes. He had already,
in the bustling streets of the town, where there
was a continual coming and going of busy men,
felt almost awe-stricken. How small and insigni-
ficant he appeared to himself, how unregarded and
forsaken in the stream of humanity, where each
apparently thought only of himself. But on the
mighty sea, amid the great vessels with their
towering masts and huge sides, he felt himself
quite lost. Yes; here indeed there was no one
to ask him for that account of his comings and
goings and acting, the desire for which he had
so often mentally complained of at home. Here
nobody troubled his head about him; he could
work or not work, live frivolously and idly, or
live sedately and industriously, just as he pleased.
Who was there to make the least inquiry about
him, or take the least interest in him? He
might be sick or miserable, nay, he might even
die, and who would regard him? It made
Robert sad, and tightened his breath as he
70 Robert's Birthday Present.
thought of it; it was a terrible thing this freedom.
But he was awakened from these gloomy thoughts
by Bernhard's voice
'See, look up !' he called to him; 'now we are
coming to our ship. It is a splendid steamer, is it
Robert looked up as, with a few more strokes of
the oar, they were brought up alongside a stately
'We shall go on board to-morrow,' continued
Bernhard, 'and then we are fairly off. When
this swift courser has borne us away far over the
ocean, it will not be so easy to get us back
'If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell
in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there
shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall
hold me.' Why must Robert at once think of
these words then ? It was long enough since
he had heard them or thought of them. But it
was not as a consolation that they came to his
heart, speaking of light on an unknown path, as
Thoughts of Home.
they have done many a time and oft to forsaken
and lonely ones, far from home and comfort. No;
they only frightened him, and he tried hard to
forget them. He was glad when their row was
over, and they were again on land. He thought
these gloomy ideas and feelings would soon pass
by, that they only came from his being over-
strained and tired by his journey; to-morrow he
would again be fresh and bright, and able to
look cheerfully out on his life.
When he went to rest that night his thoughts
took him involuntarily-indeed against his will
-back to his home. He wondered if they thought
of him there, and with what sort of feelings ? It
was good to know of one house at least in this
wide, wide earth to which he belonged, and where
his home was. But he could not think peace-
fully of that home, and did not wish to dwell on
the remembrances connected with it. He had
of his own accord torn himself loose from this
one abode where he was so loved, and now there
was no other choice for him but just to go on in
Robert's Birthday Present.
the way on which he had entered. Did Paul
still pray for him, or had he wearied of doing so ?
However unpleasant and disquieting the thoughts
of these prayers had formerly been to him, now
they seemed like a point of light, which he would
gladly hold fast amid the darkness which sur-
rounded him. He at last fell asleep, with the
picture of his little brother praying for him still
before his mental vision.
When Robert next morning awoke from un-
easy slumber, the sun was already casting bright
beams in at his chamber window. The sorrowful
thoughts of the night before had all gone, and
he determined to enter on the new day gay and
full of courage. But when the joy of any mind
is not founded on heart-fellowship with God in
Christ, it is a mere delusion, which a breath may
disperse. From all approach to such fellowship
Robert had long torn himself loose; at first un-
consciously, and afterwards ever more consciously,
until the gulf of separation had become so wide
that only very occasionally the voice of God still
Is he Home-sick.
made itself heard in his heart, as if out of the
far distance. So his happiness was nothing but
a vain delusion and excitement, that kept him
in continual unrest.
It was a lovely, bright Sunday morning. From
all the church towers of the city the bells rang
forth their invitations to God's worship in full
chorus. Bernhard and Robert stood at the open
window, and looked down on the broad street,
which was full of well-dressed people, who singly
or in groups were taking their way to church.
'They will be going the same road at home
just now,' said Robert, and sighed involuntarily.
Bernhard looked at him amazed.
'I believe you absolutely are home-sick,' he
called out. 'Come, that is something quite too
delightful! Even yesterday I saw you looked
down in the mouth; but you must get the better
of this. Who would ever think of you here, in
the midst of a vast, beautiful city, and in full
view of the grand, immeasurable ocean, looking
back with longings to a miserable little unknown
74 Robert's Birthday Present.
village ? Well,' he continued ironically, 'you can
still make your choice between a life full of
freedom and enjoyment abroad in the world, and
the old ignoble life that you knew so long. You
can, if you like, bury all the days of your youth
amid the dust of musty books, or pass them in a
dark, dismal merchant's store. Or, if you prefer
it, you can, like your father, spend your life in
going from house to house in the heat of summer
days and in the frost of cold winter nights, to
have your ears filled with country boors' gabble
about their toothache and rheumatic pains; only
you do not seem to me quite the youth to appre-
ciate such a life.'
'Say what else you like, only do not mock
at my father,' broke in Robert, interrupting his
friend in a tone of decision to which he was
However little inviting to himself a calling
full of self-sacrifice and performance of duty
might seem, still the image of his father now
rose before him with a vividness and truth that
A Wordfor his Father.
had long been absent from his mind. Yes; it
was a life full of hardship and self-denial that
he often led, and besides that, a life without
the least hope of fame or recognition from the
great world. But still it was a rich life; and
Robert could not but recall many a thankful
look and many a hearty word of blessing that
had been expended on his father, and which had
their own peculiar value, and outweighed many
'No,' said he again; 'do not mock at my father
and his life. We ought, perhaps, rather to envy
Something like a touch of emotion passed over
I believe you are a better fellow than I am,'
he answered. 'That is because you have had
parents. I have only grown up like a weed.
But now, come, we will not waste this lovely
morning in dull thoughts. Let us have a walk
together; but first will you see if one of my
papers can have got amongst yours ? I lost it
76 Robert's Birthday Present.
yesterday evening, and it may have got mixed
up with your things.'
Bernhard left the room whistling a tune, while
Robert drew out his portfolio to seek for the
missing paper. He turned everything over with-
out finding it. Perhaps it might have got into
the side pocket; he opened that, and, not a little
to his amazement, out fell a little note, evidently
folded up by some childish hand, and with the
address on it written in large text, To my dear,
It must be from Paul; but how came it there ?
After some consideration, Robert remembered that,
on the day of his departure from home, Paul had
carried his travelling bag part of the way for him,
and probably, when they were walking one be-
hind the other along the narrow field path, had
put the little letter into the portfolio, which was
in the bag. As it was in the side pocket which
Robert scarcely ever used, he had never before
observed it. With sorrowful feelings he opened
the note and read the following words:-
'MY DEAR, DEAR ROBERT,- I know you are
thinking of going far away, and perhaps you may
never come back. Oh, how sad that would be
for us all! Father and mother love you so dearly,
and we all love you so dearly, and rejoice so much
when you come home. Please do not go away
with your friend; it would make us all so un-
happy. Your friend can never love you nearly
so well as we do, and all the people in the far
away lands do not know you or love you. So
come back home soon, very soon. You once, when
I was a very little child, told me the story of the
lost son, who went away from home and gave his
father so much sorrow; but he was very unhappy
in the far-off land, and then he turned back to
his father; and the father had great joy when
he saw him coming home, and made a great feast
to welcome him. Mother weeps often because
of you, and father, too, is sorrowful. I believe
they fear you may be like-this lost son, wandering
from them and from God. But say, will you not
turn back before you go far away ? I will pray
Robert's Birthday Present.
every day to the Saviour for you, and entreat
Him to forgive you, and wash you in His blood,
and put it into your heart to come home again.
He, too, loves you so much; I think He will do
it.-Your little brother, 'PAUL.'
Robert read the childish words, and read them
still again. All became dark before his eyes, and
he felt his heart beat rapidly. It was as if from
every quarter the voice came to him, 'To-day if
ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.'
He got up, took his hat, and rushed out hastily,
without knowing where he was going.
As he hurried through the streets of the town,
he looked up and saw the wide expanse of ocean
before him. No! thither he would not go; the
sight of it should not lead him farther astray.
It seemed to him as if all the ships lying there
waiting for passengers and freight wished to take
him off into the wide world in spite of himself,
and he felt almost afraid of them. He turned
round and rushed off landwards, till he got so
Behold he Prayeth.
far that he could no longer see the sea; then he
struck into a meadow path, and threw himself
down exhausted on the grass under a tree. Hot
tears poured from his eyes, and fell on the letter
that he still held open in his hand.
'Lord, I have sinned; pardon me, wash me,
help me, lead me back to the right way!'
These were the only words he could stammer
out; but they were of the number of those re-
pentant, believing prayers, in answer to which
the entrance to the Father's house is again opened
to the wandering child, and free forgiveness is
extended to him.
THE RETURN HOME.
T was the evening before Whitsunday.
In the doctor's house everything in
the way of cleaning and putting in
order was finished early in the day, and by after-
noon all was in perfect order. The mother always
loved to have it so every Saturday, but more
especially before any high festival day. She
could then, with her children, after the often
unresting, fatiguing work of the week was done,
enjoy on the Saturday afternoon the foretaste of
the Sabbath stillness, and with quiet, collected
heart enter on the Sabbath when it arrived.
But to-day everything was peculiarly quiet in
the house. A sore burden had lain on it for
long, and its pressure was all the more felt in
festive times. The mother went slowly from
one room to another, to see if all was in order.
Not a speck of dust was to be seen anywhere;
Elizabeth had fulfilled her duty too conscien-
tiously to allow of that. Had the mother's heart
only been lighter and more free from care, she
would have found pleasure in seeing this. In
the parlour, the floor was spotlessly white; the
snow-white curtains hung before the window in
light folds, and moved gently in the mild summer
wind that was wafted in from the garden.
Only on the mother's face all was cloudy and
sad, while all was bright around. Since the early
part of the year she had become very pale, and
the silver threads that now were so numerous
amid her brown hair showed what a hard and
trying time she had just passed through. She
set in order some trifling matters here and there,
took away the great work-basket that would not
be needed any more to-day, took the old, faded
cover off the round table, and put on a better one;
Robert's Birthday Present.
but she did all mechanically, because she was
accustomed to do it, while evidently her thoughts
were not in her occupation, but far away.
When all was done, she took her little knitting-
basket, and went into the garden, where Eliza-
beth was sitting, under the great chestnut tree,
with her sewing in her hand. She looked up
and sighed gently as she saw her mother ap-
proaching her looking so wearied; but with the
desire of making her forget her sorrow, she
assumed a cheerful countenance, and said cheerily,
'I have had your place ready here for a long
time. You have worked about so much to-day,
you must rest now and enjoy this beautiful, calm
'Working about often suits me better than
sitting still,' answered the mother. In the midst
of external unrest, I feel the inner disquietude the
less. Oh, when will it all have an end ?'
She let her work fall on her lap, while she
looked forth with sad and weary eye over the
landscape before her. Around her the roses
The Mother's Suspense.
bloomed in their luxuriant glory, and mingled
their sweet breath with the rich odour of the
mignonette; the stocks and geraniums unfolded
their variegated richness of colour, and all around
was a picture of beauty, and gladsome, blooming,
prosperous life. But the mother scarcely saw it;
her eyes passed over it all, and seemed to lose
themselves in the far distance, where her thoughts
Heavy, weary days had come over the house-
hold with that letter of Robert's, which told his
parents of his intended travels. The complete
uncertainty about Robert's future fate was about
the most painful part of the matter. Where was
he now ? in what companionship ? and to what
temptations exposed ? Was there any hope that
he would still turn back to the right way before
all was over with him ? The parents prayed and
hoped; but as weeks passed without any news
of their son reaching them, their hopes became
weaker and their care and anxiety about him
ever greater. Little was said between them about
Robert's Birthday Present.
Robert, that they might not distress each other;
but each knew that the other thought of him
continually and prayed for him unceasingly.
The children tried to lighten their parents' trouble
by being particularly loving and tractable; and
so, in the time of trial, many a real blessing grew
up among them which would bear rich fruit in
days to come.'
Lord! only do Thou not let my child out
of Thy sight!' prayed the mother in her heart.
'If we cannot see him, and can know nothing of
him, still Thou canst keep him, and lead him, and
bring him home again in Thine own good time.'
'Pray,' she said, turning to Elizabeth, 'read me
again our favourite hymn, Commit Thou all Thy
way." It has helped and calmed me already so
often, and it will help me again now.'
The book lay on the table before them. Eliza-
beth took it up and opened it at the well-accus-
tomed page. Just then the house door was
opened, and Paul came out with a light straw
'Mother,' he half whispered, somewhat hesitat-
ingly, 'I am going again. You will not be
anxious about me if I should perhaps be a little
late of returning home ?'
'Oh, child,' answered the mother, while tears
filled her eyes, 'how often you have gone already !
Do you really still believe that he may soon
come home again ?'
'Yes, indeed, mother; I am always expecting
him, but particularly to-day. It seems to me as
if he must come this evening. Our dear Lord
will assuredly give us a right blessed Pentecostal
feast; and we have prayed to Him so much for
'Well, then, go in God's name, dear Paul.
May He grant that your childlike trust in Him
shall be rewarded.'
She kissed him heartily, and again, in her heart,
silently called him her child of peace. How many
evenings already had he gone to the little forest
road which Robert had generally taken when he
returned home from the city; but he had always
86 Robert's Birthday Present.
hitherto come back alone and sad. But to-day
he went with a greater feeling of confidence than
ever before. He did not wish to be too early,
so he went slowly along the narrow meadow path
by the side of the murmuring brook, on the edge
of which thousands of forget-me-nots bloomed,
and seemed to nod a friendly greeting to him as
he passed. He plucked one of them here and
there, and bound them up into a bouquet. To
right and left of him the fragrant hay lay on the
fields, while many industrious hands were en-
gaged in gathering it together, that it might be
put under cover before the evening bell sounded.
High-laden waggons passed Paul by; rosy-
cheeked children were perched on the top of
them, half hidden in hay. Men and women,
wearied with their labour, yet full of joy and
thankfulness for the rich increase of the ground,
followed the reeling waggons. As they passed
the boy, they gave him a friendly greeting, and
several called to him, 'I say, are you going again
to meet your brother? He will not come. Come
you back with us; it will soon be dusk, and you
will be all alone up there !'
But Paul would not let them keep him back,
but went on his way. The people looked after
him till he disappeared in a corn-field, where the
tall blades hid his small form. Paul did not
need to hurry, for he did not expect his brother
before sunset. It was so beautiful here among
the waving corn; and he often stopped a mo-
ment to gather a burning red poppy, or a deep
blue corn-flower, and add it to his nosegay. Soon
he reached the end of the field, and after a few
steps gained the great lime-tree that was at the
side of the road. It was at this place that he
had bid farewell to Robert months ago, and here
he would wait in hopes of seeing him return
again. All was still and solitary around him;
only the birds in the neighboring wood sung
their many-voiced evening song, and a flight of
twittering swallows crossed each other in swift
flight hither and thither high in the air above
him. The sun went down behind the opposite
Robert's Birthday Present.
hill, drawing purple and golden clouds around
him as he disappeared, and in the village below
the evening bells began to chime. Paul folded
his hands together, and again there came to his
lips the oft-repeated childish but trustful prayer
for Robert's return. The last rosy streaks of
light gradually faded from the sky, and it became
more and more dusk. But Paul did not yet
think of his return home; he strained his eyes to
see as far as possible along the road. At last he
saw, quite far in the distance, a dark point that
was sharply defined against the clear evening
sky, and appeared to come nearer. Paul waited
a little, and then looked again; this time he
could distinguish the form of a man. Was it
Robert ? Paul's heart beat till he could hear it.
A bend of the road hid the as yet unknown
figure from his view, but he must soon appear
again from among the wood near him.
'0 dear Lord, grant that it may be Robert!'
Paul prayed silently, while he looked with intense
eagerness towards the point where the form must
soon appear. Then he heard a twig crack; a step
was audible among the withered leaves on the
road. A moment after, the figure appeared from
behind the bushes-it was Robert! Paul uttered
a cry of joy, and would have run to meet him,
but his feet almost refused to serve him.
But Robert sprang to him, clasped him in his
arms, and said, with quivering voice,' Have you
really been waiting for me, Paul ? Here I am
again, indeed! you have drawn me home by your
prayers and your letter. God will bless you and
reward you for it.'
Paul was scarcely able to say anything, he
could only gaze at his brother. How changed he
was he looked so pale and exhausted, wearied in
body and soul. But he was there again, and that
was the chief thing; when once at home, he
would soon become strong and well again.
The two went hand in hand down the path
that Paul had mounted alone. They scarcely
spoke a word; only, as they came near the house,
Robert stood still a moment, and asked, with a
90 Robert's Birthday Present.
low, trembling voice, 'But will they receive me
'Certainly,undoubtedly!' answered Paul eagerly,
and drew his brother hurriedly through the
garden into the house. There they had already
heard the steps, the room door was opened, a
bright ray of light shone out from it, and before
Robert well knew where he was, he was clasped
in the arms of his parents and brothers and
He had so much to say to them, but could
utter nothing but' Forgive me, forgive me;'and as
he looked into his father's true, kind eyes, and
saw his mother's loving glance, both so gladly and
thankfully directed to him, he knew that all was
forgiven him, and that he was received again as a
child in his father's house.
It was not for a long time, nor till after the first
tumult of surprise and joy was over, that Robert
could give his parents a full and honest account
of all that for so long had come as a barrier
between him and them. He spoke openly and
The Way Back.
penitently of his proud, high ideas, his thankless-
ness, his want of affection, his inconsiderateness
and arrogance. Then he told them all about his
travels, the stings of conscience which he continu-
ally tried to suppress, till Paul's letter really
touched his heart and moved him to return home.
He related further how he released himself from
his companion, and, without money and alone, took
his way homewards. He had come most part of
the way on foot, and slept many nights among
the hay. By various kinds of labour he had
tried to earn money enough to help him on his
way. He would not write to his parents; he
would rather try and get through the school of
hardship into which he had brought himself all
alone; but the longing to be at home had left him
no rest, and had constantly supplied the courage
and energy he needed for proceeding on his way
in the face of all difficulties. Then he had fallen
sick, and been ill for several days in the house of
some kind-hearted peasants, who had nursed him
kindly in their rough way. He was scarcely well
92 Robert's Birthday Present.
when he again set off, and, by God's help, had at
last reached home.
However bright the beginning of my journey
might seem,' said Robert in concluding his narra-
tive, the hard and toilsome close of it was still
by far the best part of it; for in my setting out I
was without God, and entirely under the power of
my own foolish, blinded heart. I felt that in the
midst of all my apparent happiness, and could get
no peace. But on my journey back, though I
toiled along weary and apparently forsaken, and
often did not know what would become of me
on the morrow, still I felt that God's hand was
leading me, and that I was not going on a way
chosen by my own self-will; and, amid all ex-
ternal and internal exhaustion, that always re-
newed my courage and strength, and I was only
tormented and pained by the thought that I
could not beg your forgiveness as soon as I
wished. All my life long the remembrance of
all the care and sorrow I have caused you will
never fade from my mind; and just as little can I
forget the love and faithfulness with which you
have received me back again. By God's help,
things will, with me, be very different in the
'Yes, with God's help,' said the father kindly,
while his mother pressed her son's hand warmly;
'that is the great fault, that we begin so many
things without His help. Therefore it is that we
go so far and so long astray before we let our-
selves be put right by Him. It is only when our
eyes are at last opened to see that there is no
true happiness without His blessing, that then,
seeking Him through His Son, we obtain pardon
for the past, and help to begin anew in the right
It was late. The mother saw that Robert
needed rest greatly, and brought the Bible, that
the father might conduct their evening devotions.
'Pray, father,' whispered Robert, 'read the
fifteenth chapter of Luke.'
And the father, with a voice full of emotion,
read of the pitying love of the true Shepherd, who
Robert's Birthday Present.
follows the lost sheep until He finds it, and of the
joy there is in heaven over the repentant sinner.
And he read further of the son that was lost and
found again. His voice trembled as he read, and
the lost son who had been found, and who now
sat at his side, covered his face with his hands,
and wept hot tears tears of deep repentance
and of blessed thankfulness; and those tears
doubtless were pleasing in the sight of God.
Midnight was past, and all had long ago gone
to rest; only the mother still remained up. As
sorrow and care had kept her awake through
many a weary night of watching, so now joy and
thankfulness would not let sleep come to her
eyes. She took a light and went into Robert's
chamber, in which again, as formerly, little Paul's
bed stood. She approached her son's bed gently;
he lay there still and calm; his face was pale and
worn looking, his eyes still red with weeping, but
assuredly it was long since he had enjoyed such
a tranquil, peaceful sleep as now in this first night
at home again in his parents' house.
The Blessing Owned. 95
His mother gazed on him a long time, then
turned to Paul's bed. Again, as on the first night
when she had knelt there by his cradle, the moon
sent her soft beams on the couch of the adopted
child, and gently kissed the innocent face sleeping
so calmly and soundly. The mother folded her
hands in prayer as she bent down over the boy.
Oh, what a rich blessing had God given her with
this child! Could she ever have expected or
imagined it ? She could only give thanks and
praise to Him from the depths of a heart warm
with gratitude, and say in the words of her
'Praise to Thee, my God, be given,
Glory, honour, thanks be brought;
Thou hast all things well arranged,
All things are by Thee well wrought.
Now I see, with thankful heart,
All the wisdom of Thy ways;
And confess, as is my part,
Blest is he who trusts and prays.'
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25. Bible Wonders.
26. Jessie Grey.
27. The Old ahd New Home.
28. The German Drummer Boy.
29. Alice Herbert, and Emily's Choice.
30. Sowing the Good Seed.
31. Master Peter's Wanderings in Search of Knowledge.
32. The Besieged City, and the Heroes of Sweden.
33. Joseph Pilmor, the Quaker Soldier.
34. Franziska. A Story for Girls. By Miss Clarke.
35. His Excellency. By the Author of "Biddy."