Chapter XIV. The St. Augustine Scholar.
Seize the banner, spread its fold,
Seize it with no faltering hold;
Spread its bearings high and fair,
Let all see the cross is there.--KEBLE.
"HE is coming."
"Who? What, Edward Bryant?"
"Of course. You have not seen him for three whole years."
"No; I never was at home when he was, since he went to St. Augustine's."
Aline Millar was working in the kindergarten division of a great high school in London, and was now settling herself and unpacking her things for the holidays in the room she shared with Mabel, who had just completed the High School course at Awmouth. As she could not be spared by her mother, she had been glad of an engagement to help in the education of an invalid girl who could not attend the High School with her sisters. They had both grown into very [153/154] pleasant-looking maidens, with sensible, intelligent faces; Aline the prettier, and with the London air of figure and dress, though in a quiet, modest way. Mabel had, however, something more thoughtful and resolute about her brow and lip.
Aline went on asking: "Has he finished with his college, and is anything settled about him?"
"He wanted to go to the Dominion, because of Mr. Goodrich, who is an Archdeacon there now yes, and has been at home ill--and went to St. Augustine's. Oh, Eddy was so glad, but his health failed."
"Don't ramble so, Mab; which do you mean?"
"Both, in a way. For they say Mr. Goodrich must give up that horrible cold place, and all those nice fur-catching Indians, and live in a warmer climate. And did you know that Eddy had a bad fit of bronchitis last winter?"
"No, indeed; you did not tell me."
"I didn't know till mamma saw Mrs. Cobbold. Well, the medical man asked all sorts of questions, and when he found that Eddy's father, and a whole lot of Bryants besides, had gone into declines, he would not hear of his going to a cold [154/155] climate, but said he might be perfectly well and strong in a warm one."
"And is he well now?"
"Oh, yes, it was only bronchitis. I think it will end in his going to China. The S.P.G. has a mission there near Pekin, and you know that is what we always cared about most of all."
"Yes, when you cried about the poor babies."
"I could cry now! Do you know the Roman Catholics try to save them, and the nuns buy almost a cart load of these poor things, often dead or dying! And those horrid people fancy they do it to make charms with their eyes, and really have fallen on the nuns and murdered them."
"They have murdered our own mission people too. I do not think China is a very safe mission."
"One does not go to be safe," said Mabel, with a light in her eyes.
"No," said Aline. "If the call comes one has to hate one's own life also, rather than not help to widen the kingdom and brighten those dark places. But what does Mrs. Cobbold say to this notion?"
"Mrs. Cobbold fancies it is all Hong Kong, [155/156] where you can be as safe as here--with the Chinamen in petticoats and long tails, such as sometimes come in the corn ships, or, once, when some tea came in."
"And were you fired with a passion for 'the native' as at the ruins?"
"Not exactly; though I did long to know whether the poor fellows, with their sloping eyes, had been taught any Christianity; but Mr. Andrews said he was afaid it was just the contrary."
"He used to be Edward's friend."
"Yes; he gets letters from him, and comes and tells us about them. Do you know, Allie, I have been telling my pupil Linda Norwood all the old missionary stories Edward used to tell us, and getting her to do something for them, and it has made such a. difference to her. She never seemed much to care for or be interested in anything, but now she takes in her own Gospel Messenger, with her own money, and tries to work for anything that is specially wanted or to collect money for it. She is so eager to get her Messenger, and to look out for anything that is to be done. When the Zenana Mission ladies [156/157] asked for scrapbooks or dolls, or Christmas cards for the children, it was a perfect delight."
"Indeed it must have been a real blessing to her, as truly, Mab, I think the dwelling on the idea has been to both of us, making us feel how great the Church is, and that, the lengthening of her cords and strengthening of her stakes, depends on the prayer and work of the small as well as the great. I am sure it both opened our eyes and helped to train our characters."
"You have been in the way of many missionary meetings."
"I have gone to those at the Church House when I could; and I will tell you one thing that your pupil reminded me of. A lady at the Women's Association said that, many years ago, a good, kind mother told her laughingly of her children showing her two silk-worms, and saying, 'This one is to spin for home missions, and this one for foreign missions.' Of course the profits of the silk-worms did not amount to anything; but one of those children died as one of the foremost and most helpful in a mission in India, and his sister went out to work in the same field. So the silk-worms did their work."
 "In the bent of the children's minds," said Mabel.
"That is the benefit of the trifles we might despise--in the interest and bent they give."
"I wonder if it is training for anything, and whether we shall ever go out and help?" said Mabel.
"What we have to do now is to go down to mamma," returned Aline, smiling. "She must be waiting for us for her tea."
With a little shame at having talked so long and kept Aline from her, they went downstairs; but Mrs. Millar was a happy and unselfish woman, and received them by saying that she knew that they would have a great deal to say to each other, and had therefore waited to order in the little hot supper she had prepared for Aline with her tea. Still they had much to talk over, about Frances and her babies at Langbridge, and how her husband was prospering and growing quite round-backed and sunburnt with bicycling to his patients; and then the conversation drifted back to Edward Bryant, and how, when he was staying with Mr. Fraser, he was very friendly, but he looked so much the gentleman that Frances and [158/159] Lawrence Richards thought it quite a pity that he should be wasted on the strange people in the colonies and heathen parts."
"But that was the very thing he got his training for," said Aline. "He could not go back now."
"So I told his mother," said Mrs. Millar, "when she was sighing over his not being a clergyman here in England."
"Ah, you have not told us of Mrs. Cobbold, and how she gets on."
"Very fairly, I should say," replied the mother. "She is grown quite stout, and is always handsomely dressed."
"And talks in a voice just like old Mr. Cobbold," said Mable, with a little sound of imitation.
"Not always," said the mother; "only when she is supporting his dignity and telling his opinions."
"Poor thing! Do you think she is happy?" asked Aline.
"On the whole. I am sure he is less hard to please than the old gentleman at Langbridge; but when she sits with me and lets herself talk with pride and delight of her son, I sometimes [159/160] doubt whether she would not have been happier if she had continued to depend only on her Eddy."
"Oh! but then he could not have left her to go out," cried Mabel.
She might have been led to go with him," said Aline, "like the wives, sisters--yes, and mothers--I have been hearing of."
"Yes," said Mrs. Millar, "and I confess I do believe that though my old friend has, in one point of view, done well for herself, I have sometimes thought that she would have been happier if she had left herself be lifted up to Edward's sphere of thought and interests."
"Ah!" said Mabel, laughing, "I hear her pouring out to mother all her bothers about Mr. Cobbold and servants and butchers, and how upset he is, when he is anxious about his securities. You really do dread a visit from her, don't you, mamma?"
"Impertinent child! Poor woman, she is of a low-spirited nature, or else the old gentleman at the farm broke her down, for she is always nothing if not dejected," said Mrs. Millar, who was always kindhearted.
 "But," said Aline, "you feel that to care about mission work and to sympathize with Edward would be more for her happiness than to fret over Mr. Cobbold's tempers, his securities, and his dinners."
"Well, my dear, whatever takes us out of ourselves is good for us."
The girls both felt that their mother was unconsciously an instance in point. Her hands were busy over a knitted vest to be sent out in a box for one of the North Canadian Missions, and Mabel had thoroughly inflected her with zeal for the spread of the Gospel, as indeed the bundles of magazines on the side table might testify.
She did not look well, and Aline began to be anxious about some indications that Mabel had been too young to notice; but at the same time she looked happier and brighter than she had been since the loss of her little boys and her husband. She seemed to feel a consolation in her devotional books, and in the early Celebrations at the neighboring church, which she certainly had not done before, though she had always been a good, conscientious woman, taking religion as part of her duty, but not as her consolation. [161/162] Now, however, the interest in the Faith, awakened by sympathy with her little daughter, seemed to be spreading into all her life and soul.