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The Deacon's Desire

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DeaconBassatt'síavoritequotation at prayer meeting wasthe well-remembered hynin: "Must T be curricil to the skiea On flowery beds ot ease, While othere lought to win the priie, And lilcd tlirough bloody seaai" In fact it was the only poetry in which he ever iudulged. One look, however, at the stern, solemn face of the good, sincere, earnest, old man would have convincedany one present that not with his lipsonlydid heutter these words, but with all the strengt h of his heart. Deacon Bassatt kept the village store as his father had donebefore him, but thinge were different now froni then. There was no need forhim to measure out sugar and molasses, ashisparents had done. There were busy clerks to do it now, for the store had grown with the villaje, .and with the axeeption of the squire thore was not a richer man for miles around than Deacon Bassatt. His fortune had been honestly made too, for thesmallest child could be safely trusted in buying at his store. Yet with it all a harder, sterner man could not be found. With him if a thing was not nght it was wrong. There were no halfway measures, as every man employed in his establisment distinctly understood. Perhaps if his fair gentle wife had lived it mlght have been different. She was the only one who evjr had understood hïa rugged nature. But early one March morning when the snow was meltiuK on che billa and the birds beginning to chirp a little, she laid lier tiny girl in his arms and siiid, oh! so tenderly and in such low faint tones: "Zadok, dear,takecare of my little blossom. Keep her for me unepottod froni the world." She died that nignt. "l'nspotted from the world.'' He never forgot those words. Over and over he éaid them to himself. How was he to keep his little girl in the world and yet not of the world? Everybody thought the deacon would marry again. That he would marry some good, sensible woinan, perhaps, who would take care of his little motherless child; and there were some of the aood sisters of his church that would gladly have consented to cpnsole him and at the same time take charge of the handsome house opposite the store. But the deacon himself never dreamed of such a thing. How could he think of another wite when before his eyes always was that lonely little grave on the hillside, covered in springtime with violets as blue as her eyes? No one ever uessed that beneath that hard, stern exterior he carried a heart that was well nigh broken when the great clods of oarth were thrown on i the eoffin of his loved one. He sent for his sister, Miss Priscilla Bassatt, who certainly carried out his views in regard to raising children. She doarly loved the little Prudence, but, likeher brother, she never allowed her affection to show itself. Strict and stern had been the religious training of both the deacon and herself. There was no compromise with Satan in regard to either dress or deportment. Everything that savored of worldly desires or (leshy vanity was stricken out of their lives. "Levity in manners leads to laxity in principies" was a part of her creed. So she Sternly glowered at the bad little boys who sat in the back benches. The possihility that there tnight be some good ones among them never entered her head. Of course they were all bad. How could they help it with such raising as they had! Yet, when the fever raged in the village, and !ew were found willing to enter the infected homes, Misa Priscilla carne to the front. From house to house she went, with nourishing food and medicine, and tenderly bathed the llushed, burning brows with her cool, steady hand. Prudence Bassatt grew to womanhood, pure and sweet, like a fair, lonely little harebell, clinging. with all its gentle niiaht to the great stony rocks. A dainty lit tle lady, with eyes as blue and soft as her dead mother's She never had a companion except the squire's young danghter. and she had died when she was lifteen. So from that time Prudence had gone on her way, lonely and quiet, for the deacon was very careful of his daughter's friends. Deacon Bassatt had one great desire. Until that was gratified he could not, he thought, devote his time to anything else. Years beforo he had made up in his mind just how many thousauds were necessary to make Prudente a rich woman before he would waste one moment in pleasure. So all his energies were directed to that end. It came to pass one bright morning that Zodok Bassatt was suiprised ly a visit from his cousin, Harriet Wentworth. 'Tin goin to take your little girl home with me, Cousin Zadok," she said emphatically. "Prudence doea not look very strona, and certainly needs a chango from the humdrum lift she has been leading.'1 Hnindrum Ufe! Deacon Bassatt stared in amazement. It was the same life that he liad alwaya lived, and his íather had lived before him, and therefore it was good enough for her. "She is just the age oí my Alice," continued Mis. Wentworth, "and I am sure tbey w.ill both enjoy the visit." At first the deacon was strenuously opposed to the unheard-ofproceeding. líe tllílnked his cousin very stiftiy, but sai'l he preferred to keep his daughtei' athome, and away f rom the follies of c-i(y lifo. But Mrs. Wentworth was not to be balked. "Lnl hercohie with me, Zadok," she pleaded. "Indeed, it is lor lier good. She grows more üke her mother every day." That last suggcstion made him falter. lie remembered how her mother, with the same sweet dispqaition and gentU; ways, hadfaded beíore his eyes. So, after a little moro persuasión it wa.s decided, and wiien Cousin Harriet went back totown Prudence went witii her; luit not without man y a BltenC prayer in her father's heart tliat she might not be led away by 1 the pomps aml vanities of this wieked world. At lust the bustie of city life confus;'d the quiet, shy maiden. Many a time she wiehe.l herselt back witli her silent fatlier and precise A unt Priscilla. But as flays wore away thinga alterod. One afternoon her cousin Alice came bustlins into the room, exclaiming: "Oh, Prue, Toni is waitlng downstaire with a friend of his, Owen Rainsford, who is going to try our new organ in the church, and Toni saya lie will take us if we hurry." In the confusión, I'rue hardly noticed tlie dark-eyed stranger who was introduced to her; and in a few minutes, Under her cousin Törh's quick escort, the party reached the chürch. "Let me stay down here," pleaded Prudence, as they prepared to go up to the organ loft. "I will irait in one of the pews lor you; indeed, I would much vather." "Why, you bashful little Prue," laughed Alice. Uut they let her have her wish. With hands elaapéd tightly together, Prudence Bassatt looked with awe around the beautiful church, so different froni any 'with wh'ich she had been accusto.'iied. Down through the great stamed windows the Bun feil in a mellow light at her feet and glittered on tho chancel rails. Suddenly there feil upon her ear such a bnrst of music that she fairly held lier breath. Louder and yrander the notos o! the organ pealed forth, and then sank to low, sweet tonesnnd finally died away in silence. The pink on her cheeksdeepenedtoa carnatïon as she listened, breathlessiy- Was it possible there could be sounds like that on earth.r When the niusio ceased the merry party caine down stairs. But Prudence still sat silent in the pêv. "Well, Prue," said Alice, have you fallen asleep? How did you like Mr. Rainsford's playing?', Prudence did not answer, but there was a quiver about the sensitive mouth, and the blue eyes had grown dark with emotion. With ready, tact Owen Rainsfoid said. "Suppose wc go and ask the sextonforaglassof water. The church is too hot." Somethingin the look of those sweet eyes raised to his and brimming with tears made hÍ3 heart beat as it had never done before. That was the beginning of it. From thal t ime .scarcely aday passed but Owen Rainstord found lus way to the Wentworths. Coueiu Harriet noticed it. How could she help it? But, then, he was her son Tom'smost intímate friend and a talented young man of spotless reputation, so he was perfectly welconie. The days and weeks went by and Prue's visit grew to an end. With a pang she acknowledged to herself that she was not half so eager to return af she ought to be, when she ïecollected how patiently her father and lonely Aunt Prisrillii awaited her return. "I ani going away to-morrow," she said to Owen Rainsford as they stood before the open grate one morning. "Going away!" Horepeated itblankly. Then he turned suddenly to her and said: "Dear little Prue, day by day yonr face has grown intq mj heart until every note I play is for you. Only promise some day to love me as dearly as I love you." A great wave of wonder and happiness swept over the girl, as she listened to these words, so different from anything she had ever heard. "Prue," he said, looking down into the beautiful eyes, "I am going to ask your father if he will some day let me have you. If he says 'yee,' will you say it, too?" Such a low, faint reply canio from rue! But it satisfied hini. Deacon Bassátl was dunib with astonishmeiit when Owen liainsford asked to marry his dau'ghter. It could not be possible! Why I 'rue had scarcely been away three months. In vain the young man pleaded that he was willing to wait for years, if only ho might be permitted to see her in the meantime. The deacon bitterly reproaehed bimself forhaving permitted iiis daughtet to (all into the hands of the Phili.-tines, the latter bein represent ed by t his scheming fortune-hunter. Oí COUrse it was her money the young fellow wanted. The possibility that Rainsford might really be in love did not enter her father's head. ïïow could he in that short time.' Why, he himself had gone to see her motherfor five years before he had asked her to marry hini. It did not matter to him how much his cousin Harriet thought of the young man. She was a woman and easily deceived. Nothing she could say on the subject would have any effect. In the mort decisivo and sweebing terms, therefore, helet Owen Rainsford know that never again, by word ovdeed, was he to attempt to address his daughtex. But the young man was not one to be so ensily disposed of. Until he heard his fate trom Prue's owri lips he would not consider it deoided, he said. Perhaps if Prue had told her father that with all her heart she loved Rainsford, thinga might have been diflierent. But she was too timidto acknowlede in the iaee of lus indignation. So with treniöling lips she said "goodbye." Her lover took the little hand in his for. the lasl l ime and said: "I will never forget you. and if ever you send lor me I will come to you, though it sliould be to the ends of the earth." Then he went away. Deacon Bassatt ebngratüláted himself that he had saveil his daughter so proniptly, aml inwaidly resolved that. never again should she leave his sight. The winter was a hard one t bat year and it seemed to teil on Prue's delicate constituí ion. When the spring came she would be better, she said. But the spring came and still she seemed to droop. Deacon Ba&satt's desire, itïeantitne, had been granted. With a great siih of relief he closed the account book, tiltedback hischairand looked around tho room with gratified piide. At last lie had achieved the great wish of his existence: Prudence Bassatt was a rich woman. At the end of the year he would leave the store forever and devote all his time to her for the niainderof his life. He was not a miserly man; it was not for the mere money alone that he had toiled all these weary years early and late; it was for her. And i:ow he had acecmplished what he had undertaken. Prue need never have a wish ungratitied lor the want of money. So with a sense of ease he leaned back and indulged himself in dreains of the future. They were quickly brought to an end by t he entrance of Mrs. Wentworth. "Why, cousin Harriet," heexclaimed "when did you come? llave you been over to the house?" Cousin Harriet shook hands with hini and answered in the atiirnuitive. Then, having seated herself in one of the wooden chairs, she began abruptly: "Cousin Zadok, what have you i been doing with Prue? She looks as f she would not live a year, and I believe it will be your fault." The deacon sprang to his feet, his face ashen with terror, and cauht her convulsively by the arm. "Harriet Wentworth," he gasped, "W bat do you mean?" She was startled by the effect of her words, and answered soothingly: "It is very likely lam mistaken. Shemay be omy a little lonely. ButI believe in my heart she is pining lor Owen Rainsford." "Shehas oever men tioned lus nameonce since hewent away," said tlio deacon, eagerly. "I think she has ahnost forgotten liim." .Mis. Wentworth shook her hcad. "Prue is such 11 shy little thing, and, believea so implicitly in you, that I do not wonder she does not speak of him. But she will never forget him." Deacon Bassatt hurried across the road. Was it nossible that for this he had toiled all his life long? Cculd it be trne that his little blossom would never use tho money wbioh he had spent all his time in making. W'ith trembling hands he pushed back the hali-opened door and entered the room were Prudence was sitting. W'ith a pang he noticed how very palé and fragüe she looked. "Little Prue," he said, as he bent low over the pretty brown hair, "did you love Owen Rainsford?" A criinson blush swcpt ovnr her face "Oh, father," she answered softly, "I could not help it. " For a moment tho stern oíd ninn was silent. Thon he took lier hand in his and tried to smile as he said huskily: "I have cbanged my mind andam going back to the city to teil him to come and see us. Cousin Harriet tolls me he is a very worthy young man." A surprised happy look carne into her eyes. She laid her cheek down on his great rough handasshesaid: "You are the dearest father hl all the world." Deacon Baesatt's visit to the city, however, was all invain. Owen Rainsford could not be found. He had gone to Europe, liis friends said, and they could not cive his address just then. But the deacon did not abandon his quest. He would have given his life to save that little face at home. So, week after week, he went to the city, till at last Prue's letter went acros3 the ocean. Bank over Mie great waters carne a clipking message: "Will return in the next steamer." With a pleased smile the deacon laid the words in t he little blue-veined hand. "I am so glad," she said simply. "I wanted to see him once again." Eagerly the anxious father watrhed lor the coming of the vessel, hoping by some means to i'estore Prue to health. The day the steamer was expected toarrive hewent up to thecity, aayins to Prue, ashe bid hergood-bye, I will bring him back with me." He never brought him back. There was a message ioatead awating him, stating that Owen Rainsford had died on tho day before the wssel arrived. How he reached homehenever knew. Asht'ii pale, he gropedhis way into the great sunny room wherePriscillastood anxÍQUsly awaiting for him. "He is dead," groaned the deacon. "It is my fault. I have killed my little lamb." For a moment the room seemed to ree! around as Priscilla Bassatt's steady oerves deserted her. Then she spoke up bravely: "Zadok, no earthly power could have saved out Prudence, even if she had her lover, for she was never strong. What you did you thought was foji1 the best and she will never blame you." Somehow there carne to the poor broken heart of the deacon a ray of comfort ut these words. With trembling steps he followed Priscilla up the stairs to where his darling lay. As they enteied the room Prue turned her eyes expectantiy toward the door. "Is he coming?" she asked softly. "shall I see him soon?" The deacon could nol answer, but with a great sob dropped down on his knees by the little white bed and buried his face in his hands. Miss Priscilla looked at the wan, wistfal face and a mist canie over her eyes. "Yes, dear," she softly answered, gently, "you will see him very soon." A glad. contented look carne into the violet eyes. Then Prue slipped her cold little hand like a snowtlake into the great brown oneof her father. "Prue," hegasped, "will you forgive me? I thought I was doing it for your good. But it was all- a dreadiul- mistake." "Why, father," she answered in tender toues, "you have always been good to me." ■'Don't, don't, my dailing," hegreaned in despair. Then he tried to pray, but the prayer that he could. deliver so promptly in meeting failed him, and his Ijpa refused to move. The shadow on the wall grew deeper. The white eyelids feil lower, till the lashes almost swcpt the cheek. Miss Priscilla looked despairingly at the deacon. But no words cime. Suddenly there rose to Cousin Ahce the remembrance of something Owen Rainsford had sung the night before Prue went home. Siie softly comnienced tosing, wliile her tears were falling. Art thon weary, art thon languid, Art thon sore áistrees'd? "Come to me," saith one, "anü coming- I3( ;it rest." Such a happy lookcame overPrue'a face and the thin hand olaeped more tightly that of her father." Then there feil a silence in the room. Outside the bees wen bumming and the birds were t wit tering in a slow, (íleepy fashion. Nearer and nearer crept the shadow on the wall as the sim went down. But anothershaïow had ent ered the room, a still, uuseen presenoSj and quietly, with a smile on her lips, tired little Prue lay at rest.


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