Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/401

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359
E. W. BARNES.

the remains of his decayed fire, there his arm-chair, and there the old time-piece, telling the same monotonous tale. The dawn was not yet breaking, and his dim lamp was just expiring in its socket.

It was indeed the old familiar scene, which had witnessed all his struggles, all his tears, but which he had briefly exchanged for the communion and the minstrelsy of heaven. He rose, and pressed his hand to his brow. It was then indeed a dream, and he had been revelling amid the hallowed joys of “the spirit-land?” Yet, if “millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,” might not this be one, sent on a mission of mercy to his suffering, struggling spirit; to raise him from despondency; to bid him bear on unmurmuringly, and, while wearing the cross, to look ever upward and onward to the promised crown?

When the Rector awoke the next morning, the sun was brighter to his eye, the wind fell more softly on his cheek, and stirred the light clustering hair upon his brow. He was no more alone, for that ministering angel had taken up her abode within his soul, and her serene smile was fixed upon him ever. He loved the clouds, the air, the earth; he loved the glittering icicle that was melting in tears beneath the sunbeam; and he loved the snow-wreath that gracefully hung over the cottage porch. Love—love to God, and love to man—was the prevailing attribute of his soul; and those who listened that day to the voice of their rector in his village church, felt, though they knew not why, a higher, fuller sense of the “beauty of holiness.” His words were fraught with a new energy; his voice rose with his choir in the full strains of the Christmas anthem; and when he entered his pulpit, a new and divine inspiration seemed to have touched his lips, as with a live coal from the altar.

That vision of the night became to the young rector the vision also of his waking hours; and when his congregation wondered at the new traits which manifested themselves in his character,—when they saw his peculiar serenity under all the ever-varying phases of his existence, they saw not the angel within the sanctuary of his spirit, and the hand that, pointing upward to the crown, pointed also to the words—“This awaits thee in Heaven.