Read CHAPTER XIX - WONDERFUL TIDINGS of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on

“Well,” sighed Peace blissfully, while Mrs. Campbell was helping her dress for Sunday School the first Sunday after her return from Fairview, “this has been a busy week.  There hasn’t been a minute to spare, yet it doesn’t seem like this could be Sunday already.  Where has the time gone to?”

“I sh’d think you would know,” grunted Allee from her seat on the rug where she was laboriously lacing her shoes.  “You have walked your legs off, pretty near,-haven’t you?”

“Mercy, no!  I haven’t done half the tramping I could have done if these old crutches didn’t make walking so slow.”

Behind her back, the white-haired grandmother smiled her amusement, for since Peace’s home-coming five days before, the child had not been still a minute.  From garret to cellar, from garden to river, and from one end of the street to the other she had hopped, renewing old acquaintanceships, relating her experiences, and thoroughly enjoying herself.  After her long absence from Martindale and the weary months of imprisonment, it was such a wonderful privilege to be able to get about again, even if it must be with the aid of those two awkward crutches.  There were so many things to tell and so many people to tell them to.  So the grandmother smiled behind Peace’s back, for it seemed to her that no one person in perfect trim could have accomplished more in those five days than had the brown-eyed maid on crutches.

“I can’t see as they make much difference,” Allee persisted.  “You have gone everywhere you wanted to, haven’t you?”

“O, yes, except to St. John’s and of course his whole family’s been away on their vacation, so I couldn’t see them.  I ’xpect they are home now, though, ’cause he is to preach at his own church today.  Grandpa said we’d take the horses this afternoon if it doesn’t rain and drive up there.  It don’t look much like rain now, does it, though it did when we first got up.  I do hope it won’t,-not until we’ve got started too far to turn back anyway.  I want to see Aunt Pen, too.  My!  I can hardly wait for afternoon to get here.  It has been such a long time since I’ve seen them all.  Bessie is ’most a year old now, ain’t she?  She won’t know me, and I s’pose likely even Glen has forgotten.  I telephoned three times yesterday in hopes they would be home, but no one answered, so I guess they didn’t get back till night.”

“Have you ’phoned them yet this morning?” asked Allee, whisking into the counterpart of Peace’s freshly starched dress, and backing up to Mrs. Campbell to be buttoned.

“No, I haven’t had time.  We didn’t get up real early, and breakfast was so late, and Gussie had such a heap of dishes to wash, ’cause Marie didn’t do ’em last night, like she said she would, and Jud was fairly purple ’cause his necktie would not tie right, and Grandpa couldn’t find some papers he needed for Sunday School, and Dr. Dick came to take Gail to church, and then I had to get ready myself.”

“And it is time we were going now if we get there before the morning service is out,” suggested Mrs. Campbell, settling a white, rose-wreathed hat on Allee’s golden curls, and reaching for her own turban, which lay on the dresser close by.

“Then come on.  I’m ready,” responded Peace, hopping nimbly down the stairway.  “Doesn’t it seem funny to see me going to Sunday School again?  What do you s’pose folks will say when I hobble in all by myself?  Won’t it be great to see the s’prise on Miss Gordon’s face when I go into my old class with the rest of the girls?  I made Gail and Faith and everyone else promise not to tell her I would be there today.  I want to s’prise her.  Just smell the roses!  They ain’t all gone yet.  And someone’s been mowing grass!  Isn’t it perfectly lovely out-of-doors today?  Why, there’s the church!  I’d no idea we were so near.  It hasn’t changed a bit, has it?  But it seems as if it was years since I was there last.”

So Peace chattered blithely on, and Mrs. Campbell, watching her, felt a great lump rise in her throat.  Peace, their own laughing, sunshiny, irrepressible Peace had come back to them once more.  It was a song of thanksgiving that her heart was singing, yet her eyes were filled with tears.

“There is Myrtie Musgrove!” Mrs. Campbell’s meditations were interrupted by the girl’s enthusiastic exclamation, and with a start of surprise she saw the great stone edifice looming up directly in front of them, with scores of spick and spandy boys and girls assembled on the lawn, waiting for the church service to come to a close.

“And there’s Gertrude Miller and Dorothy Bartow,” said Allee.  “Everyone is out today.”

“No wonder,” returned Peace.  “It’s such a lovely day.  I don’t see how anyone could stay at home.  Hello, Myrtie and Nina and Fannie and Julia and Rosalie, and oh, everyone!”

A chorus of delighted cries greeted her, and immediately the two sisters were swallowed up by a group of excited, clamoring schoolmates, while Mrs. Campbell, from the background, watched the pretty tableau.

Suddenly the strains of the Doxology rolled out on the summer air through the open church windows, followed by a brief silence, and then the great doors swung open and the motley congregation thronged out into the sunshine.

“Church is over,” said Peace, as she saw the people hurrying past.  “Let’s go inside.”

“O, Peace,” cried an eager voice at her elbow, as she climbed the stone steps to the vestibule, “Miss Gordon told me to give this to you-”

“How’d she know I would be here?” demanded Peace aggressively.

“Why, Dr. Shumway told us-”

“I might have known someone would squeal,” was the irritated reply.  “Men folks are worse than women about gabbling.  They never can keep their mouths shut.  I wanted to s’prise the people myself.”

Miss Gordon’s message-bearer drew back somewhat disconcerted by her reception.  But the cloud on the small face, growing rosy and round once more, abruptly lifted, and Peace, with a gleam of mischief in her eyes, inquired, “Did he tell you his secret, too?”

“What secret?  No, you tell us about it,” they clamored.

The aisle was almost blocked at that point by the tall form of Dickson Shumway, leaning on his cane, for his injured limb was none too strong yet, and Peace purposely waited till she was directly behind him, when she said in a shrill, high voice, which made everyone look and listen, “Why, Dr. Shumway is going to marry my sister Gail as soon as ever he can get her to settle the day. Now will you give away any more of my secrets, Dr. Dick?” For at the sound of her voice the young giant had turned a startled face toward the delighted crowd at the door, but a burst of tempestuous applause drowned whatever he might have replied; and Peace, triumphant, slipped past him to her seat, while the congregation showered him with congratulations.

Not until she had taken her place among her classmates did Peace find time to glance at the scrap of paper which Miss Gordon’s messenger had thrust into her hand, and this is what she read: 

“‘The Handwriting on the Wall.’  Da:25-27.  Mené, Mené, Tekel, Upharsin.  Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

Turning to the girl who had given her the bit of writing, she snarled, “You’re trying to April Fool me.  Miss Gordon never gave you that.”

“She did, too.  It was our Golden Text a few weeks ago.  Today is Review Sunday, and when the superintendent calls on our class you are to read what is on that piece of paper.”

“But I can’t read it,” Peace protested.

“Why not?  It’s perfectly plain writing.”

“Well, what does it mean, Agnes?  I never saw such words before.  How do you pronounce them?”

Agnes rattled off the text without a glance at the paper, and Peace lapsed into indignant silence.  As if anyone would suppose that she could believe such an outrageous thing as that!

Agnes saw the look of unbelief in the brown eyes, and said haughtily, “If you think I’m lying, ask someone else.”

“I’m going to,” was the frank retort.  “Where is Miss Gordon?  Ain’t she going to be here today?”

“Yes, but she will be late.  She had to go back home for something she forgot, and she thought maybe our class might be called on ’fore she got here again.  Ours is the third lesson.”

Peace glanced about her.  Already the orchestra had begun to play, and she would attract too much attention if she left her seat, but she must ask someone else what those queer words meant.  O, there was Faith coming down the aisle.  She probably would be cross about it, but she would know.  Peace leaned over the arm of the pew and seized her sister’s dress as she passed.  Faith raised her eyebrows questioningly, but halted long enough to say, “Well?”

“How do you p’onounce these words?” asked the smaller girl, holding out the wrinkled slip; and Faith glibly read under her breath, “’Mené, Mené, Tekel, Upharsin.  Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting.’”

Peace glared at her witheringly, and snatched the paper from her hand.  Did everyone take her for a fool just because she had been in the hospital six months?

Her glance fell upon the stately figure of President Campbell, just settling himself comfortably in the Bible Class, a few seats in the rear.  “He won’t lie to me,” she whispered confidently.  “Nor he won’t joke me, either.”

Frantically she beckoned to him, but he did not see her, and as the music had ceased by this time, she caught up her crutches and hobbled back to consult him.  It seemed as if every eye in the house was focused upon her, and her face burned hotly as she stumbled down the aisle; but she must know what those words meant before it came her turn to speak, else the whole congregation would laugh at her.

The President took the crumpled slip, and, after a hasty survey, whispered slowly, “’Mené, Mené, Tekel, Upharsin.  Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting.’”

Poor, bewildered Peace crept back to her seat.  “I don’t see any sense to it,” she pondered, studying the cryptic message with puzzled eyes.  “It must be right, or Grandpa wouldn’t have said so.  Sounds like ‘pickle,’ but it’s spelled with a ‘t.’  It must be ‘tickle,’ I guess.”

A sharp nudge from her nearest neighbor’s elbow brought her out of her revery with a start.  The superintendent was calling for the Golden Text of Lesson III.

Peace leaped to her feet, her crutches forgotten, and her voice rang clearly through the big room.  “Minnie, Minnie, tickle the parson.  Thou are wanted for the balance that is found waiting.”

There was a moment of intense hush, then a ripple of amusement swept over the congregation, but before it could break into the threatened roar of laughter, the superintendent with rare tact announced, “Let us sing Hymn Number 63, ’Sweet Peace, the Gift of God’s Love’.”

As the notes of the organ swelled through the house, Peace sank into her place, apparently overcome with confusion and mortification.  Immediately an arm stole gently about her shoulders, and a familiar voice whispered comfortingly in her ear, “Never mind, little girl, there is no harm done.”  Miss Gordon, flushed and breathless, had slipped into the pew behind her class just in time to hear poor Peace’s blunder; and knowing how sensitive a child’s heart is, she sought to make light of the matter.

But Peace, scarcely heeding, vaguely asked, “Never mind what?  O, their laughing?  I’m used to that.  I don’t care.”

But she looked disturbed, distraught, and it was very evident to her that she neither saw nor heard the rest of the service.  Even when the benediction had been pronounced and hosts of friends gathered about her to express their delight at her presence with them once more, she seemed abstracted and made her escape as soon as she could get away.

This was so unlike harum-scarum Peace that her sisters wondered, although they attributed it to chagrin over her blunder, and considerately refrained from asking questions.  But when they had reached home once more, and were gathered in the cool library waiting for Gussie’s summons to dinner, Peace abruptly burst forth, “I b’lieve I could walk without those old crutches.  I stood up without ’em this morning when I forgot about using them.”

She glanced defiantly from one face to another, as if expecting a storm of protest; but to her great surprise, Mrs. Campbell smiled encouragingly as she mildly inquired, “Why don’t you try it, dear?”

The crutches fell to the floor with a crash.  Peace took several halting steps across the room, as if afraid to trust herself.  The blood flew to her pale cheeks, dyeing them crimson, a look of wonder, almost alarm, shone in her eyes, her breath came in startled gasps, and clasping her hands together in rapture, she half whispered, “I can walk, I can WALK!  I CAN WALK!  My legs are all right again!”

Suddenly she let out a scream of wildest exultation, seized her hat from the library table where she had thrown it, and rushed pell-mell from the door.

“Peace!” cried Mrs. Campbell, starting up in alarm.

“O, Peace!” echoed the sisters, giving chase.

“Stop, Peace!” thundered the President, hurrying after them all.

“Where are you going?” the whole family demanded.

“To tell St. John and-”

“But we haven’t had dinner yet” protested Gail.

“It doesn’t matter!” Peace was out of the house and down the steps by this time.  “I must tell St. John!”

“But childie, Jud hasn’t harnessed the horses.”

“O, Grandpa, I can’t wait.  It will be so long.  My feet won’t keep still!  I can walk!  I must tell St. John!” Shaking her hat at them as she ran, as if to ward them off, she fled down the quiet Sunday street, leaving the family hanging in open-mouthed amazement over the picket fence, staring after her.  And the last glimpse they caught of their transported Peace as she whisked around the corner was a pair of lithe, brown-clad legs climbing aboard a northbound car.  She was on her way to tell St. John and Elspeth the wonderful tidings.

Peace could walk again!