'No, I am not strong enough, even if you could spare me.'
'Do you think Mr. Rivers could come to us?'
Those were the words, but the flush that gave colour to Arthur's face showed the effort which they cost, and his wife's brief answer was cut short by the sweetest tears she had ever shed.
She wrote a note to the clergyman, which was answered by a call the same afternoon. It took Arthur by surprise; but his mind was made up, and colouring deeply, he desired that Mr. Rivers should be shown up. Violet left them alone together, her heart throbbing with grateful hope and supplication.
Arthur's honest though faltering avowal, 'I have never thought enough of these things,' was his whole history.
It had been grace missed and neglected, rather than wilfully abused. There had of course been opportunities, but there had been little culture or guidance in his early days; his confirmation had taken place as a matter of form, and he had never been a communicant, withheld at once by ignorance and dread of strictness, as well as by a species of awe. Even his better and more conscientious feelings had been aroused merely by his affections instead of by the higher sense of duty; and now it was through these that the true voice had at length reached him.
He had learnt more from his little boy's devotions than all the years of his life had taught him. The ever-present influence under which his wife and that child lived and acted, impressed itself on him as a truth and reality, and the consciousness of his full responsibility dawned upon him. In the early part of his illness, his despair had been at the thought of his failures as husband, father, and son. Now there came on him the perception that not merely in his human relations had he transgressed, but that far more had he slighted the Almighty and Long-suffering Father. He looked back on his life of disregard, his dire offences--
Thus awakened, he watched each word from his little unconscious teacher, to gather from them clearer hopes of mercy and pardon. Happily, Johnnie, in his daily lessons, was going through the ground- work, and those words of mighty signification conveyed meanings to the father, which the innocent child had as yet no need to unfold. The long silent hours gave time for thought, and often when the watchers deemed that the stifled groan or restless movement arose from pain or oppression, it was in fact drawn forth by the weight on his mind.