We are passing through busy
streets, where restless footfalls beat on unceasingly. We pause a moment,
for here in olden days England's maiden Queen rode by, and reined her
steed to admire a noble tree, bearing the well-known "Black Pear." Then
and there did her right royal will command, such pear should thenceforth
form heraldic part of that "Faithful City's" arms. A few paces onward, and
Elizabeth with royal bounty selected the site, and assigned endowment, of
homes for the homeless. And so the royal alms became alms-houses. It is a
royal place still, for here sojourneth many a king's daughter, though
humble and lowly in guise. Yes, to many an aged one this is the last
waiting antechamber to the court of the great King. Gladly ready are they,
waiting for the moment when they shall enter into that presence, where is
fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
But they shall speak for
themselves, though pen can never trace the flowing utterance, the
heaven-bright smile, that add reality to their words. Elizabeth S. is
sitting in her old corner, and the best chair and cushion are quickly
placed for her visitor. We must pass by all the hearty welcomes.
"Here you find me, far from
home, and yet every night it is such joy to me to think I am one day
nearer. When I wake in the morning, I think I've got over a great deal of
my journey to heaven, without knowing it. Oh, no one knows the joy I have;
I only long to go and see Him face to face.
Soon I shall be out of the
enemy's gunshot, and be where faithful pilgrims wander no more, but are
for ever with the Lord. But you have been to Ireland, my dear, and I think
they don't know much about Him there?"
She listens, and wonders,
and pities; and says—
"Poor things, what can they
do, they have not got Christ. Oh, how dark their poor souls must be! He is
my all; what can they do without Him! Oh, He is precious; when shall I see
Him face to face? He is very present with me now, but then there will be
no veil. Oh, to think of those blind priests, and my own precious
minister! I always look to see who goes up the pulpit, and if it's not Mm,
my heart sinks. I can welcome all God's servants, yet I take most to him
that preaches to my heart. How lively he comes among us old people; I know
his step in a minute, and say, 'Blessed be he that cometh in the name of
We must pass on to a
simple-minded old body who cannot read a word.
"How are you Mrs E.?"
'Oh, my dear Miss, it's a
handsome treat to see you again. I've been to the table, and I want to
tell you how trembling and unworthy I felt to take that blessed
acknowledgment. It overpowered me like, such love to a poor creeping one
as I am. But I do love Him, yes, I love that blessed name of Jesus. My
poor Tom loved it too, and that sweet hymn I learnt, 'How sweet the name
of Jesus sounds.' Ah! my Tom, my jewel's gone. I think I see him walking
up there—but he is too far off for me to reach him yet, but I am getting
nearer and nearer."
Then she listens even as a
little child to the words of Him who "spake as never man spake."
We should like to
photograph our next friend, with her intellectual forehead and calm, sweet
smile. The refinement of grace pervades her tone and manner, and we sit
down here to learn some of her long and well-learnt lessons,
"Dear E., it is so pleasant
to come and see you again, and your room is quite beautiful after the
Irish cabins. But I do wish you had something better to look at than that
great red wall."
E.—"That wall, dear Miss,
teaches me many a sweet lesson. I look at those stones, and think how all
rest on one foundation; I see each in its little niche, just where the
master's hand laid it, and I see all cemented 'together. Then I think of
the one foundation, Jesus Christ, and how His living stones are laid one
on the other in the spiritual temple, and I hope there is some little
niche for me to fill. Then, the strong cement of love binds us together in
one blessed union. I have been very ill lately, and one day I really
thought the undressing of my mortality was come. I felt no alarm; no wish,
no will but His. My mind was brought back to the word on which I first
cast anchor long years ago, 'The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth
us from all sin.' Then what a claim He has upon us, who redeemed and
cleansed us in His own blood! We are not our own, but bought with that
priceless blood, and are His, and His for ever."
We must now run up those
narrow stairs, in that very dark corner of the alms-houses. A sunbeam
never strays in there, the little window is due north, and our teacher,
the red wall, frowns closely in upon it. But there is one light step and
youthful smile that often throws something like sunshine on the lonely,
desolate one who dwells there.
'' I heard you were ill,
D., are you better this morning?"
"Yes, I am better now,
thank you. Oh, what should I have done if my dear young visitor had not
come her rounds! I crept down one night to shut the staircase door, and
could not get back again, and for a long, long time I lay on the stairs,
and then crept cold to bed. So one came for two days, and I lay ill and
cold and lonely. Then Miss V. came, and didn't she run and get a brick and
heat it, and put it hot to my feet; and didn't she boil the kettle, and
get me a warm drink, and didn't she shake my pillows? Didn't her smile
cheer me up? I have not been cold since she came, —that dear young lady!"
We will leave many more
kind words and good unwritten, and give a parting glance at the faded
picture of good Queen Bess, still hanging on the old gallery wall. Once a
year aged fingers wreathe childhood's flowers, leaves of oak and sunny
buds, to twine around their queenly memorial.
Shall we knock at an old
man's home? It is hard to find so many pious mankind, but maybe it is they
talk less. But our friend Tom not only talks, but lives, the life all do,
to whom "to die will be gain." He is a quaint old man; it is a wonder his
tidy wife does not look after his hair,—such long, straying locks; very
proud must she have been of them in his young days. The room is hung round
with inky-looking old plates of ancient divines, down to the bright-coloured
portrait of our own dear little Princess Royal. Every shelf and corner is
stuffed with curious glasses, china cups, chalky parrots, little Samuels,
and odd and-end curiosities. Thomas is by his pleasant fireside, and the
round table has the green-baize covered Bible on it,—a well-turned-over
Bible, with divers markers of faded ribbons and twists of paper, marking
some well-conned passages.
I shall begin our talk, for
his heart is full of One; and he can "speak of the things touching the
"I like some one to call,
to whom I can speak out my mind. It's my Redeemer I like to speak of—He is
my delight. I am here for hours by myself, but He is my best
company-keeper. I have His Word too—'my song in this house of my
Visitor—"Oh, T., how
different it is to hear you speak of the Bible, and as they do in poor
"Ay, Miss, I always heard
it was a queer country, but I believe it's those priests at the bottom of
it all, and they are blind, and so lead them backward instead of forward."
Visitor—"It is just so,
Thomas, and I will tell you what old Mick the basket-maker said about the
Bible, &c., &c.—'A dead letter!'"
"Did a man dare to say the
Bible was a dead letter? Why, it's my life—it's a letter of life to me.
Why, it's Him himself—isn't Jesus in the Word? I know I found Him in it,
and that's the life in my dead heart. Well now, poor man, I am sure I will
pray for old Mick. I argues pretty stiff with a Roman Catholic myself,
sometimes, about that Virgin. I would not like to trust my prayers to the
ears of a dead woman. Poor enough my prayers are anyway, and how can she
be here and everywhere to hear us all at once? Well, I never could come
If not wearied with these
passing calls, reader, you may perchance like to hear again of these our
morning friends. Shall we pay them a more lengthened call, and gather
their simple histories, and hear of all the way in which the Lord has led
them through the wilderness?
Fair reader! will you, too,
try some gloomy, shivering morning to take sunshine to some lone, dark
room? Just close your pleasant book, just leave that intricate strain of
Beethoven's, that difficult cadence for your voice, for which doubtless
you will earn the world's cold "Thank you," in the evening's brilliant
gathering. Go, listen to the music of some widow's heart which may sing
for joy to find in yon a friend to care for her, to listen to her pent-up
tale of sadness ! Go, read the words of Him who ''careth for the poor and
needy," and pour their healing balm into that wounded heart! Do you still
shrink from following the steps of Him who went about doing good? Oh, see
well if yet the love of God has entered' into your own heart—or is it self
you live for? Take heed lest to you may be said those last, startling
words of endless reproach, ''I was sick, and ye visited me not."