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Tip Lewis and His Lamp

CHAPTER IV.

"They that seek Me shall find Me."

Mrs. Lewis's room was in order for once; swept, and even dusted; the cook-stove cooled off, and the green paper curtain at the window let down, to shut out the noise and dust; it was quiet there too.

Kitty stood in the open door, her face and hands clean, hair combed, and dress mended; stood quite still, and with a sober face, unmindful, for once, that there were butterflies to chase and flies to kill all around her. In the only comfortable seat in the room, a large old-fashioned arm-chair, sat the worn, wasted frame of Kitty's father. There was a look of hopeless sadness settled on his face. Neither Tip nor his mother were to be seen. One or two women were moving through the house, with quiet steps, bringing in chairs and doing little thoughtful things in and about that wonderfully orderly room.

On the table was that which told the whole story of this unusual stillness and preparation. It was a pine coffin, very small and plain; and in it, with folded hands and brown hair rolled smoothly back from his baby forehead, little Johnny lay, asleep. Somebody, with a touch of tenderness, had placed a just budding rose in the tiny white hand, and baby looked very sweet and beautiful in his narrow bed. Poor little Johnny! his had been a sad, neglected babyhood; many weary hours had he spent in his cradle, receiving only cross looks from Kitty, and neglected by the mother, who, though she loved Johnny, and even because she loved him, must leave him to work for her daily bread. But it was all over now: Johnny's cries would never disturb them again; Johnny's weary little body rested quietly in its coffin; Johnny's precious self was gathered in the Saviour's arms.

Tip came out of the bedroom, and softly approached the coffin; his hair, too, was partly combed, and some attempt had been made to put his ragged clothes in order. His heart swelled, and the tears gathered in his eyes, as they rested on the baby.

Tip loved his little brother, and though he had not had much to do with him, yet he had this much to comfort him,—Johnny had received only kindness and good-natured words from him, which was more than Kitty could say. As she stood there in the door, it seemed to her that every time she had ever said cross, naughty words to the poor baby, or turned away from his pitiful cry for comfort, or shook his little helpless self, came back to her now,—stood all around his coffin, and looked straight at her. Poor Kitty thought if he could only come back to them for a little while, she would hold him in her arms all night, without a murmur.

People began to come in now from the lowly houses about them, and fill the empty chairs. Mrs. Lewis came out from the bedroom, and sat down beside the arm-chair, thankful that her tear-stained face and swollen eyes were hidden, by the thick black veil which some thoughtful neighbour had sent for her use.

In a few minutes a dozen or more people had filled up the vacant spaces in the little room, and Mr. Holbrook arose from his seat at the coffin's head.

Tip turned quickly at the first sound of his voice, and listened eagerly while he read from the book in his hand, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God," listening until the closing sentence was read, "And there shall be no more death; neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."

Tip had never paid such close attention to anything in his life as he did to Mr. Holbrook's words; after that they were very simple and plain spoken, so that a child might understand them, and were about heaven, that beautiful city of which Tip had heard and thought more during the last three weeks than he ever had in his life before. His heart had been in a constant Struggle with Satan, ever since that morning in the Sabbath school. He didn't know enough to understand that it was Satan's evil voice which was constantly persuading him that he could not be anybody, that-he was only a poor, miserable, ragged boy, with nobody to help him, nobody to show him what to do; that he might as well not try to be anything but what he was; and he didn't know either that the other voice in his heart which struggled with the evil counsel, which said to him, "Other boys as poor and ignorant as you are have reformed; that Robert did about whom the teacher told you; and then, if you don't, you will never see that river nor the fountain, nor the streets of gold," was the dear, loving voice of his Redeemer.

Now, as he listened to Mr. Holbrook, and heard how Johnny, little Johnny whom he loved, had surely gone up there to be with Christ for ever, and how Jesus, looking down on the father and mother, and the children who were left, said to them, "I want you, too, to give Me your hearts, so that when I gather My jewels I may come for you." The weak, struggling resolves in his heart grew strong, and he said within himself, while the tears fell slowly down his cheeks, "I will; I'll begin to-day."

The coffin-lid was screwed down, and Johnny's baby-face shut out from them for ever. A man came forward and took the light burden in his arms, and bore it out to the waggon; down the narrow street they drove, to the burial-ground, which was not far away. They laid Johnny down to sleep under the shade of a large old tree; and the grass waved softly, and the birds sang low, and the angels surely sang in heaven, because another little form was numbered among the thousands of children who stand "around the Throne."

The people moved slowly from the grave,—all but Tip; he didn't want to leave Johnny; he wanted to follow him, and he didn't know how. Mr. Holbrook glanced back at the boy standing there alone, paused a moment, then, turning back, laid his hand gently on Tip's shoulder.

"You can go up there too, my boy, if you will," he said, in a low, kind tone.

Tip looked up quickly, then down again; he wanted to ask how—what he should do; but his voice choked, he could not speak a word; and with the earnest sentence, "God bless you, my little friend, and lead you to Himself," Mr. Holbrook turned and left him.

Tip wandered away into the woods for a little. When he returned the earth was heaped up fresh and black over the new mound, and Johnny was left underneath it all alone. Tip walked around it slowly, trying to take in the thought that the baby was lying there; that they should never see him again; trying, a moment after, to take in the thought that he was not there at all, but had gone up to the beautiful world which the hymn told about; then he thought of the chorus, and almost felt it.—"I long, I long, I long to be there."

Tip had heard people pray; he had been to Sabbath school often enough to catch and remember most of the words of the Lord's Prayer; he knew enough of God to understand that He could hear prayer, and that His help must be asked if one wanted to get to heaven. He hesitated a moment, glanced half fearfully around him,—no one was there, no one but himself, and Johnny, lying low at his feet, and God looking down upon him. Presently he knelt down before the little grave, and began,—

"Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come"—Then he stopped. Tip was in earnest now; he did not understand that prayer: he felt as though he was not saying what he meant. He commenced again,—

"Oh, Jesus, I want"—Then he waited a minute. What did he want? "I want to be different; I'm a wicked boy. I want to go where Johnny is when I die. Do show me how!"

Did Jesus ever fail to hear such a prayer as that,—simple, earnest, every word of it felt? Never—and He never will.

Tip rose up from that spot feeling that something was different. Ay, and always would be different; the Saviour had reached down and taken hold of the young seeker's hand, and would for ever after lead him up toward God.

 

 

 

 


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