Authors: Grace Livingston Hill
© 2013 by Grace Livingston Hill
Print ISBN 978-1-62029-389-8
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-62416-048-6
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-62416-047-9
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher.
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
Cover design: Faceout Studio,
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio44683,
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Printed in the United States of America.
he minister sat in his study beside his desk, thoughtfully reading over a carbon copy of a letter written in his own characterful script.
His strong, kindly, spiritual face wore a troubled look as he considered each word earnestly, a shade of anxiety in his tired eyes, his firm lips set almost sternly. He wore the look of one who was going over once more a momentous decision to make sure he was right.
The hand that held the paper was fragile, and the flesh of his face was almost transparent from recent illness, but there was nothing fragile about his expression. Although a man of a natural sweetness and tenderness, he looked now like one girded for battle, and the reading of the letter might have been the polishing of his sword.
Presently he laid the letter on the desk and bowed his head upon his folded hands over it, as if in prayer.
That was not the first time he had prayed over that letter. He was a man of prayer and never made a momentous decision without resorting to his Guide. The letter had been written through prayer and after long consideration. A moment later he lifted his head, and the strong, gentle face wore a look of peace. He opened a drawer of his desk, took out a large manila envelope, put the letter into it among some other papers, and replaced it in the drawer, closing the drawer carefully.
Just then, Amorelle came hurrying down the stairs and entered the room with a worried look toward the clock. Her delicate face was a flowerlike replica of her father’s. She had the same mixture of sweetness and strength in her glance and the firm set of her lips.
“Father dear,” she said tenderly, a little reproachfully, “do you realize that it is almost eight o’clock and you are supposed to be in bed at half past seven? You know the doctor was very particular about it this first time you are downstairs. You are more tired than you know.”
“Yes, I know, dear, but I can’t go for a few minutes yet. I am expecting a caller, and he ought to be here any minute now. He was to come not later than eight o’clock.”
“Oh, Father!” said Amorelle in distress. “You mustn’t see callers tonight! You promised me and you promised the doctor that you would absolutely drop the parishional work until you were really strong again. You know the church does not want you to have any burdens to keep you from a quick recovery.”
“This is not parishional work, Daughter. This is a very important matter of business that has been causing me great perplexity and anxiety. It will not take five minutes to transact and then I will retire at once. I have not time now, but I will explain it to you later. I wrote and asked this man to come tonight, and it will distress me greatly if he does not come. Believe me, child, it will do me more harm than good for me not to see him. It will take very little time and then I can rest in peace. It is something that must be attended to at once.”
There was something in his quiet voice of authority, in the steady look of his keen blue eyes, that held Amorelle from protesting further. She stood, troubled, in the doorway, wondering whether she ought to call the doctor and get her father to bed in spite of his insistence. But while she hesitated the doorbell rang.
“There he is now,” said the minister, rising, his clerical dignity upon him like a garment. “Won’t you let him in, dear? It is Mr. Pike. Lemuel Pike.”
“Oh, Father! Lemuel Pike! How could he possibly be connected with anything important enough to risk your health? He is a sucker, that’s what he is, a selfish sucker! Everybody says so! He just wants to bleed you, borrow money or something. He always has made you look troubled every time he has called. Please,
, Father, let me tell him you are not well enough yet to see him.”
Amorelle’s voice was full of distress.
“No, Amorelle, I must see him. This matter is most important to me. You do not understand. I will explain when he is gone. Will you open the door or must I go myself?”
There was a look of determination on her father’s face that Amorelle knew well, a look she had learned to obey during the years, and she turned swiftly to open the door.
“I can’t let you stay but five minutes,” she said in a low voice, but pleasantly enough, to the tall, thin visitor who stood on the porch. “This is Father’s first day downstairs, and he ought to have been in bed half an hour ago.”
Amorelle wondered why it always annoyed her that this man’s eyes were set so close together.
“Your father sent for me!” said Lemuel Pike coldly. And he strode past her into the study, closing the door behind him.
Amorelle looked anxiously after him then hovered around the hall and parlor, not far from the study door. For some unexplained reason, she felt uneasy about this meeting. Her father seemed tired and worn. That transparent look in his face frightened her. She eyed the clock and listened for the slightest sound from the study but heard only a low murmur of voices now and then.
She went from one window to another, looking at the clock all the while. At last when the parlor clock had ticked out ten minutes after eight, she went to the study door and grasped the knob firmly, at the same time tapping lightly with her fingertips on the door, and then swinging it wide open.
“Father dear!” she said with a very good imitation of his own firmness. “I really must send you to bed at once or I shall have to call the doctor. You know I had very definite orders from him that I dare not disobey.”
She had a swift vision of the two men standing facing one another, her father with a bunch of bills in his hand and Mr. Pike holding a slip of paper. Had Lemuel Pike been borrowing money from Father, now when they were having such heavy expenses?
She gave the caller a quick, suspicious glance, and Lemuel Pike returned a malignant glance to her, deliberately folded the slip of paper, and put it into his pocket.
But when she glanced at her father again, he seemed astonishingly relieved and was answering her meekly enough, “Yes, dear, we are just done.”
Lemuel paused with his fingers still at his pocket.
“You don’t think you would be willing to rewrite this, leaving out that objectionable phrase, Mr. Dean?” he asked, looking away from Amorelle and giving the minister a meaningful glance.
“No, Mr. Pike, I have thought the matter over carefully, and I feel that it is written as it should be.”
Lemuel passed from the room without even a good night. At the front door he paused and gave a swift look back. Something made Amorelle turn back also. She saw her father bent over, groping on the floor for something. As they both looked, he turned back the corner of the rug and seemed to be feeling around.
“Don’t do that, Father!” she called sharply, fearsomely. “I’ll find whatever you have dropped in just a minute. You are exerting yourself too much!”
The close-set eyes of Lemuel gave another swift glance back. The minister seemed to be poking something under the rug and smoothing the rug back again.
“I’ve found it,” he said a bit breathlessly, slowly straightening up. “It was just my desk key that I dropped.”
But Lemuel’s look lingered thoughtfully, almost suspiciously, on him as he stepped reluctantly from the manse, leaving behind him that which he loved dearer than his life. Amorelle caught his glance. She never had liked Lemuel Pike. She felt that he was almost criminal now in coming to bother her father when he was just recovering from a serious illness. He ought to have known better even if her father did send for him. It was very likely that Lemuel had asked to come or else her father would surely never have sent for him at a time like this. She could remember that, for a number of years, every time her father had been to see Lemuel Pike, he had returned with distress in his eyes and had sat for long periods, looking off thoughtfully into space, with troubled brow and deep-drawn sighs.
Amorelle closed the front door forcefully and hurried back into the study. She found her father had sunken back into his big armchair, where he had been sitting most of the day, a bright look in his eyes but unutterable weariness on his white face.
“Well, it’ll be all right now, little girl!” he said in a weak voice, with a faint smile on his pale lips. “I was so afraid I would leave you without—” The last words were almost a whisper, a gasp. Amorelle looked at him in consternation.
“Sit still,” she said gently, trying to keep the fright from her voice. “I’ll get you some hot milk before you try to go upstairs.”
She hurried into the kitchen, hoping Hannah was still there, but Hannah had gone out to visit her sick sister for a while, and Amorelle had to heat the milk herself. When she came back with it, her father’s eyes were closed, and there was a strange stillness about his figure that frightened her. She tried to force a spoonful of the hot milk between his lips, but the lips did not respond.
Frantically she ran to the telephone and called the doctor, rushed to the medicine cabinet, and brought smelling salts, but before she heard the doctor’s step at the door, inexperienced as she was, she was sure that her beloved father had left her.
They carried the precious form up to his room and laid it upon his bed. The doctor worked over him for hours, but the minister did not come back from the other world to which he had passed so swiftly and easily.
Kind friends came quickly in response to the doctor’s call. They wore startled faces and spoke gently to the minister’s white-faced daughter. They offered sympathy and comfort and wept because they had loved the minister. They tried to take Amorelle away to their homes—several of them tried—but the girl sat, white and silent, and shook her head. She even smiled at one dear woman.
“I couldn’t leave him!” she said. “Please don’t ask me.”
“But you cannot do anything more for him. He would want you to come away, I am sure,” urged the woman.
Amorelle shook her head.
“No. He wouldn’t,” she answered softly. “He would know how I would feel. He would know I would want to be here till the end. He knew he must go soon, even if he got well from this attack, and he often talked it over with me. Please, I could not go away.”
So they let her alone at last, all but a kind neighbor who insisted upon staying through the night. They were very kind people and were deeply shocked that the man who had brought them comfort and sympathy in all their distresses, who had borne with their whimsicalitites and criticisms and bickerings and strife, had slipped away so quietly without warning. They had not supposed his illness was serious. He had not wanted them to know. So they were sincere in their deep sorrow and tender with the young daughter left thus, alone in the world.
The next morning the city newspapers told the story. Her father’s face looking earnestly at her from the printed column with a notice of his death and a brief account of his life was like a blow to Amorelle. How had they known so soon? It seemed almost an intrusion, yet afterward when she summoned courage to read what they had printed, her heart throbbed with pride that he was rated so highly. Her quiet, unobtrusive father who had never sought honors was yet honored by those who had sometimes ignored him in his lifetime.
Then there came letters—flocks of them, troops of them. All the brother ministers in the vicinity wrote, telling how they honored him. Some of the names she recognized as those who had opposed him in presbytery in some move for deeper spirituality, who had playfully laughed at him as being a little fanatical. Yet they honored him now. She could read the sincere appreciation of his strong, true character even between the polite phrases that they felt it incumbent upon them to write.
Telegrams of sympathy poured down upon her from men high in office in his denomination, from college presidents, from scholars, and especially from several great spiritual leaders. It almost overwhelmed her and brought sudden tears of joy to her eyes. Not that it mattered what the great of the earth thought about him, but yet it comforted her that his worth and integrity had been recognized by his contemporaries.
The strange days before the funeral dragged by relentlessly; sad decisions to be made, terrible questions cropping up that seemed so out of place at a time like this and yet were a part of the whole cruel business of dying.
There came a message the second day after her father’s death from her uncle Enoch, her father’s brother.
I mourn with you in your great loss which is also my own. Deeply regret an injury to my knee will prevent my being with you at the funeral. We want you to plan to come at once to us and make your home here at least for the present. Let us know when to expect you
Amorelle looked at the message with a sad little smile and thought how pleased her father would be that this message had come. He was very fond of his brother, though they had been separated for years. But he had been sure that Uncle Enoch would stand by her when the shock of his death should come.
She put the message away in her bureau drawer. It was good to know that there was a place to go, but there was an unknown quantity to deal with in the shape of a strange new step-aunt and cousin whom she had never seen, a recent second marriage after Uncle Enoch had been a widower for years. She shrank from the unfamiliar contact. Aunt Clara, in her few brief messages, had impressed her as a worldly woman, perhaps a selfish one. However, that was a question that would have to be dealt with afterward. So she laid the message out of sight and tried to put it out of mind while she went alone with God through the hard days that were before her.
There were many who came to offer loving sympathy, but of course it was hard to meet even the ones whom she and her father had always loved. Again and again she had to retreat to her room and kneel beside her bed for strength to go on. It would be so much easier if she could have died, too, she thought.
There were kindly, well-meant offers to do shopping for her. Shopping! What would one want of shopping now? What did anything matter now, with her world gone into twilight? “No thank you, no shopping,” she said sadly, trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice.
“But surely you’ll want a black dress and hat!” they said.