Read CHAPTER VI - DEATH, THEN LIFE of 'Our guy' / The elder brother, free online book, by Mrs. E. E. Boyd, on ReadCentral.com.

“MRS. Nelson will be willing to let Martha go to a good home for her board and clothing until she learns enough to be entitled to wages, Ruth,” Agnes joyfully announced. After a little consultation as to whether their old dresses could be cut down for her, and some misgiving on the part of Ruth as to the training of such a mere child, when neither of them could devote much time to her, they concluded to make the trial.

“If she’s worth anything she will be worth a great deal to me just now, for it will enable me to do what I have long been planning, without seeing any way to accomplish it,” thought Ruth.

Martha, poor child, in her great joy at the thought of living with “Miss Agnes,” seemed to have forgotten the painful circumstance which compelled her to leave home. But on the day that her mother finished patching her few clothes, tying them up and telling her she might go at once to her new home, there came sad tidings from the hospital. They need never hope to have the husband and father home again, unless to take one last look before they buried him out of sight.

“Let me stay with you, mother; Miss Agnes will not be angry, and you will be so lonely,” plead the child, forgetting everything else in the one great thought of her mother’s approaching widowhood.

“Yes, I will be lonely,” wailed the mother. “God only knows the loneliness and heart-ache that is in store for me. But we’ll not shed tears now, child, there’ll be time enough by and by. We must away to to see him; he’ll have a word to say to us I’m thinking.”

She meant to be brave, and to keep back the tears until “by and by,” but the thought of hearing the last words, perhaps, or what was worse, finding him unable to speak to her, completely unnerved her, and the strength she had all along tried to keep for her children’s sake, failed her. In the midst of this scene, while Martha stood beside her mother, wringing her hands and beseeching her not to groan so, Agnes stepped in, having had but one session of school.

“What is it?” she enquired, alarmed. “Your father is not dead, Martha?”

“I don’t know, they sent word that he was dying, and we are going to him. Won’t you go, Miss Agnes? I am afraid,” and the child shuddered as she spoke.

A shudder passed through Agnes, but she said: “Yes, I will go with you, but I must find some of the scholars to send home and tell Miss Ruth.” She thought with horror of going there to the hospital, where men and women were lying struggling for life, to be followed by their wild, staring eyes, and their cries of entreaty for relief. For a moment she was possessed with the feeling that she could not encounter the fearful sight, and the question arose: “Why need I cause myself to suffer when I cannot relieve the sufferings I shall witness?” But ashamed of her cowardice, she banished the thought as unworthy a place in her heart, glad to be able to share the sorrows and help to comfort those whose time of trial and sore distress had come.

“I shall need help one day, perhaps,” she said to herself, “if Ruth or Guy should be taken first. But I pray God that I may die before them, unless ” here the child-like-spirit showed itself, and her soul became suddenly strong “it would be to His glory that I should thus suffer.”

A boy was sent with a message to Ruth, and then, as Mrs. Nelson was ready, they set out on their mournful visit. It was a long and silent walk. The heart of the sorrow-stricken woman was too full for words, and Agnes, so young and unaccustomed to such scenes, did not know what was best to say.

The hand that held Martha’s tightened its grasp as they came within sight of the hospital, and although the voice was very low that whispered in the woman’s ear, “Be strong, God will help you,” it gave courage and re-assurance.

Up the broad steps and through the long corridors they passed; Martha trembling and drawing closer, while Agnes dared not look to the right or left. Presently they stopped before a curtained recess, and drawing aside the curtain Mrs. Nelson passed in. Martha wanted her teacher with her, she said; but when she was told her father might have things to say to his wife and child alone, she withdrew her hand and followed her mother. It was not long, however, until the nurse came out with a request for Martha’s teacher.

“He wants some singing, Miss, and the little girl told him you could sing beautiful,” said the man. As Agnes stepped near the bedside, Martha called out eagerly, “Here she is, father, this is Miss Agnes.”

He tried to speak, but it was only a movement of the lips, no sound came. Sitting where he could see her, Agnes began in a low, clear voice, to sing:

“There is a fountain fill’d with blood, ”

When she came to the lines

“And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away, ”

the dying man held out his hand as if beckoning her over. Again his lips moved, and stooping she heard: “Again sing.”

As her voice arose again, slowly repeating the words, her heart made supplication for the soul so rapidly passing away. Hymn after hymn was sung, all speaking of Jesus and his great love for sinners, and to Agnes it seemed that Jesus was himself speaking in each. She knew he was there in the midst of them, and wondered if the sick man saw him. Bending down, she whispered: “O, how the Saviour loves you; do you love Him?”

He looked at her with the strange, earnest look the dying only have; the look that seems to be measuring eternity; and then his hands were raised and clasped, while his eyes remained fixed on hers.

“He is asking you to pray,” said the nurse; “He is near gone.”

There was no time to listen to Satan now, or to think of anything but this soul venturing out into the unknown future. Was it prepared?

O, how she plead for him! As if face to face, she talked with God. The Holy Spirit gave her words and great assurance; it seemed as if the answer must come. He had promised to hear and to give the things desired. He had never refused to listen to the feeblest petition, and here was a burdened soul; was not the Saviour near, to take from it its burdens? So she entreated as though she alone could save him, yet knowing well that Jesus alone had power to forgive sins.

They had been sobbing around her, but she did not know it. Now there was a strange silence, a sudden calm, and she felt that she had prevailed. As they rose from their knees, something about the dying man attracted them. While they had been kneeling, Jesus had drawn near and whispered to him. The power and music of that voice were ringing in his ear; the beauty of His smile was flooding his soul and radiating his face. In that moment he had passed from death into life.

His wife and child looked at him with awe; the nurse drew back as if the place were too “holy ground” for him. Only Agnes and the new-born soul understood it. But it had only caught a glimpse of the Saviour; before long, with the same indescribable expression, it passed away to be “forever with the Lord.”

They went home silently as they had gone there; but a new feeling had taken possession of them. They had seen strange things; new thoughts had been given them, and death had not to them its old terror, for they had seen it swallowed up in victory.