Chapter X. Dedication.
Guard thou thy words, the thoughts control
That o'er thee swell and throng,
They will condense within thy soul
And turn to purpose strong.
THE lectures on foreign missions did prove very interesting. They were on a regular system, and began with a sketch of how the duty of "preaching the Gospel to every creature" was keenly felt in the early days of the church, and how, in the slacker Middle Ages, it never was entirely extinct, and, at last, after the discovery of America, and in the general stir and quickening of religious life, it revived again--but only in our own country with anything like energy. He told how Captain Cook's voyages began unintentionally the rousing work, by showing a few choice spirits the great untrodden fields--William Carey, about 1789, a poor and struggling man, first stirred the waters. An elderly minister who heard him speak declared his own feeling to [110/111] have been: "If the Lord would make windows in Heaven, might this be?"
And when, somewhat later, the subject of missionary societies was brought forward in Scotland, an eminent lawyer declared that it was to be apprehended that their funds might be used against the British Constitution; but how these faint germs were watered by grace, and gradually multiplied and increased, the first convert in India being baptized in 1800! Great examples, such as Henry Martyn, Schwartz, Judson, Marshman, Williams, and Selwyn were touched on in this first lecture, and the plan was explained; dwelling in some detail on the principal central missions in turn, one in each lecture, so that the hearers might have a better understanding of what had been done, what was being done, and what remained to be done.
The speaker had the gift of marshalling his facts so that they had the charm of a romance, and each meeting was better attended than the preceding, even by those who only cared to pass away a Lenten evening in a not inappropriate manner; but, to Edward Bryant and the two younger Millars, these lectures were the great [111/112] event of the week. The readings at the working party kept up the interest with the girls, so that Mabel thought of little else, and Edward's enthusiasm, which had been dormant for a time, was thoroughly awakened. For a time the sea had drawn him, as it were, and gratified his yearnings for novelty and adventure; but the ruder side of a sailor's life, as he saw it, repelled him at his age, and the more moderate boating society amusement of the "Tritons" failed to satisfy him after he had acquired some dexterity. There was no great probability of rise or promotion to occupy his mind in the office, and all he read, in his favorite literature, voyages and travels, tended, whether such were the view of the writers or not, to impress on him the need of devotion to the cause, and the longing to give himself to it as a true servant and follower of his Master.
The duty to his mother, as her only son, at first seemed to silence the conviction, though it could not silence the longings, partly of enterprise and weary impatience of his present life and outlook, partly of the higher spirit of devotion. And indeed there began to be symptoms which [112/113] made it doubtful whether he were as necessary to his mother as before, symptoms which an amused look of Frances Millar made perceptible to him. There were those roses in her bonnet, there was the cocoa for breakfast because Mr. Cobbold liked it, and, what was worse, she had objected to his coming whistling into the house because it disturbed Mr. Cobbold's evening nap; and a latch key was refused him, no doubt, on Mr. Cobbold's instigation, and she did not like him to bring Andrews in with him even to smoke in the kitchen, because Mr. Cobbold disapproved of a lot of rowdy young men about the place. It hurt Edward, for Andrews was very far from being a rowdy young man, and Mrs. Bryant had seemed to like him. When this was put forward, she answered:
"Oh, I don't know any harm of Mr. Andrews; only I can't have a lot of young fellows always straking in and out. It's not due to the boarders."
"I don't see why the boarders should be masters of the house," said Edward. "Mother, you used to be nicer to me at home at Langbridge."
"I'm sure, Eddy----" She turned her face [113/114] away and began to cry. "I'm willing to do anything for you with all my heart, and so is Mr.------"
Edward would not wait to hear Mr. who, but tramped out of the house and lighted his pipe in the street, while his mother murmured to herself: "There, the boy is in one of his tantrums, when he ought to give way to the boarders--and such a boarder as Mr. Cobbold. Well,--if--if it is, I'm sure it is all for his good. My only boy!" And she cried again, while Edward wandered out toward the sea, with his hands in his great-coat pockets, and bethought himself, first, that home and mother were changed to him; and then, as the low swish and murmur of the waves first soothed, and then seemed to call, him, that there were worlds beyond, where he might be doing work that would satisfy his conscience, and have a real home and blessing on it, such as he could not see in adding up endless figures unless he was doing so to support his mother as his duty. And suppose his mother did not need him?" Yes, oh, Christ! I will be Thine, and do Thy work."
Perhaps it was the sound of the little bell of [114/115] the mission chapel of the harbor that had made him touch his hat in reverence to the muttered prayer, "Show me which is my duty: I will be Thy servant and do Thy work "; and made him turn his steps into the rough edifice, half schoolroom half chapel, where a few "longshore men," several women and many children were present for a few short prayers, a little instruction, and an address. It did not bear directly on the subjects of Edward's confused and troubled mind, but it sent him away with a certain soothed sense that a way might be shown to him of devoting himself to the service of God, if it were God's will to relax the ties of earthly duty so as to free him for it.
Two days later the next lecture described the solitary work of Dr. Judson, and his sufferings in Burmah; then Mr. Marx and his school of princes, with their martyrdom under King Thee-baw; and the later development among the Karens and the intelligent Burmans. Also of Singapore, of Rajah Brooke, and brave Bishop Macdougal and his wife--the hopes, the disappointments, the testimony, the success, the blessings, the needs.
 "Oh, Eddy, is it not glorious?" said Aline, as they moved out; and "How beautiful upon the mountains" little Mabel was whispering.
"It does not seem as if anything else was worth living for," said Aline.
"I mean to try," said Edward, between his teeth.
"Oh! and can't women go too?" cried Mabel. "There was Mrs. Macdougal, and all the Mrs. Judsons! Oh! women can be missionaries."
"Her little soul has always been full of it," said Aline, "and indeed!
Aline broke off, shyly remembering the way in which these great ladies had become missionaries; but, like Mabel, Edward's soul was too full of the thought for any less important, and as soon as he had seen the two girls to their door he hurried off, while his impressions were at their strongest, to see whether the lecturer had left the room, and to ask him how it was possible to be prepared and accepted for such mission work.
The lecturer, Canon Brodie, was taking down and rolling up his maps and portraits, with two of the clergy and a pupil-teacher helping him. Edward felt the disadvantage of having had no [116/117] intercourse with any of the clergy of Awmouth. He had gone to church, but had a great distaste to walking with his mother, Mr. Grant, and Mr. Cobbold to the apportioned seats in the parish church, and had preferred to try all the churches round, and on fine Sundays to go out on his bicycle to one of those in the country, or to be attracted by the best music, or the more interesting preachers. The vicar of the parish had called on Mrs. Bryant, but though she was always civil, she had not seen that it was needful to give him much encouragement, and he had never even heard of her son.
If it had not been for the freshness of his resolution, Edward's first shyness would have carried him off at once; but he was there, and had been seen, and one of the clergymen came and asked if he had lost his hat or umbrella.
"No, sir, thank you; but I wished to speak to Mr. Brodie." So the die was cast.
The curate steered him up to Canon Brodie, who turned, expecting an inquiry after some relation in Burmah or Singapore, for he did not often hear what was now uttered, in a tone of desperate resolution:
 "Sir, I should be much obliged if you would tell me of any way in which I could be put in training for mission work abroad."
All the eyes looked him over, and saw a respectable-looking youth with a good open face, highly colored from the effort he had made, and with steadfast mouth and grey eyes, that had looked straight up for a moment, and then were cast down. The Canon glanced at the curates to see whether this were an acquaintance, then said: "I should like to talk to you. Will you give me your address?"
He gave his home and his business address, from which it could be understood what was his position as an office clerk.
"You live with your mother? I could call and see her to-morrow morning. Is she aware of your wish?" as Edward seemed to hesitate.
"She knows it has long been my wish; but I have not broached it to her yet."
"And may I ask whether you are of age?"
"I shall be twenty in July. There is a certain sum of money to come to me when I am twenty one, perhaps I should mention, that is, if my mother can get on without it."
 "No. 12 Freshet Road," said one of the curates. "That is St. Mark's parish. Do you know the rector? Can you give a reference to him?" They were now all walking away together.
"I have been about to different churches," said Edward, with some diffidence; "but my mother knows him, and Miss Grant, who boards with us. And Mrs. Millar, of 11, Undercliff Road, knows all about us," he added.
"Mrs. Millar," said the curate. "My sister knows that family--nice girls. At the mission's working party, eh?"
"Yes, sir. They come from our old home, Langbridge."
"Have you had this design long?" the Canon asked, rather suddenly.
"Ever since I was a boy at the Grammar School," said Edward. "There was a magic lantern that made me think, and Mr. Goodrich lent me books."
"Goodrich of Saskatchewan?" exclaimed the Canon.
"Yes, sir," cried Edward, lighting up. "Do you know him?"
"I saw him not six weeks ago. He has a tidy [119/120] little church and congregation, and is getting on with the Indians."
From that moment all was friendly and easy on that side. There seemed to be no more doubt about young Bryant's earnestness; but as he wished to prepare his mother, and perhaps the Canon also wished to understand his position better, it was determined that the visit to her, and the consultation about ways and means and localities, should be left till this had been done.