Meantime, was Kitty forgotten? Not a bit of it. If ever boy prayed for any one, Tip prayed for her. His very soul was in it; yet thus far his prayers seemed to have been in vain. The lesson, one Sabbath morning, was on "God's answers to prayer." Tip listened closely, yet with an unsatisfied longing in his eyes.
"Mr. Holbrook," he said, waiting after the rest had gone, "is there time for just one question?"
"Yes, for two, if you like," said Mr. Holbrook, sitting down again; "what is it, Edward?"
"I want to know why God don't answer folks' prayers right away?"
Mr. Holbrook smiled. "If your questions are all as hard as that, Edward, I don't think there will be time for another to-day. But there may be several reasons: we will try to find them. Sometimes God doesn't answer our prayers at once, simply to try our faith, to see whether we are willing to take Him at His word, and keep on asking, until He is ready to give; or whether we will grow tired in a little while, and give it up. And sometimes we spend all our strength in praying, and don't work; then, often, we don't believe we shall get what we are praying for. Do you understand me?"
"No, sir," answered Tip promptly.
"Well, let me see if I can make it plainer. For whom are you praying, Edward, that you are troubled this morning, because you have not been heard?"
"For Kitty; I have been, this long time. Kitty's my sister, and I want her to love Jesus; but it don't seem to do any good for me to pray for her.
"It is possible that God may be trying your patience, but not probable; I think we can find a better reason. Do you work while you pray? I mean, do you talk with Kitty,—tell her what you are praying for,—urge her to come to Christ,—try to show her how?"
Tip looked grave. "I did talk a little to her once, but it didn't seem to do her any good, and I haven't said a word since."
"Did you ever read in the Bible what is said about such praying, about saying, 'Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,' and not doing anything?"
Tip shook his head, and Mr. Holbrook held out his hand for the little Bible.
"Let me find it for you, and when you go home you may read it, and see if you, in praying for Kitty and never saying a word to her, are not a little like that man. Then there's another thing. Do you really believe that God will do what you ask Him? You say every day in your prayer, 'O God, make Kitty a Christian;' and yet, wouldn't you be very much astonished if Kitty should come to you to-day, and say, 'I want to be a Christian!' Are you looking out for any such thing?"
Tip generally spoke his honest thoughts.
"No," he said gravely, "I ain't."
The church bell began to ring, and Mr. Holbrook arose. "I think, if you begin to work and pray together, and then ask God to help you to believe, that He will surely do as He has promised; that you will soon find your prayers answered."
This he said while gathering up his books and papers ready to start, and then,—
"Edward, why don't you come to our Thursday evening prayer-meetings?"
Tip's eyes were full of astonishment.
"I never once thought of it," he said. "Why, Mr. Holbrook, boys don't go, do they?"
"No," said the minister sadly, "they don't; because I don't know of another boy of your age in this whole town who loves the Saviour. Only think what a work there is for you to do!"
Tip went home with his brain full of new thoughts. No, he didn't go home; he only went as far as the elm-tree, and there he sat down and read what Mr. Holbrook had marked in his Bible. Yes, that was just the way in which he had been praying for Kitty; and it was certainly true, as Mr. Holbrook had said, nothing could surprise him more than that Kitty should really and truly come to Jesus.
Before he went from under the tree that day, he prayed this prayer: "O God, teach me to believe that you will make Kitty love Jesus, and show me how to help her."
After this, of course he looked out for his chances in which to work, and of course he found them,—found one that very day. After dinner Kitty wandered off by herself. Tip watched her, and she took the road leading to the cemetery. God put it into his heart to hurry after her; so, when he came up to her, where she sat, on a large stone which she had rolled very near to Johnny's grave, his heart was beating at the thought of the great work which he had to do.
"What did you come for?" said Kitty, looking up.
Tip hesitated a minute, then told the plain truth.
"I came after you."
"I suppose I know that: you didn't come before me."
"I mean I came to see you."
"Well, look at me, then, and go off; I don't want you here."
Clearly, whatever was to be said must be said quickly, and Tip's heart was very full of its message, so his voice was tender:
"Oh, Kitty, I came to ask you if you wouldn't be a Christian. I do want it so, it seems as if I couldn't wait."
Kitty looked steadily and gravely at her brother. "What do you mean by 'be a Christian?'" she asked at last.
"I mean love Jesus, and do as He says."
"What'll I love Him for?"
"'Cause you can't help it, when you find out how much He loves you, and all the things He does for you."
"What does He say do?"
"He says be good; try to do right things all the time."
Kitty's eyes flashed. "Now, ain't you mean," she said angrily, "to come and tell me such things, when you know I ain't good, and can't be good? Isn't mother ugly and cross and scolding to me all the time? and don't I have to work and work, always, and never have anything? And I'm cross and get mad, and I will, too. I can't help it."
"Oh, but, Kitty," Tip interrupted eagerly, "you don't know about it! He helps you, Jesus does. When anything is the matter, when you feel cross and bad, you just go and kneel down and tell Him all about it, and He helps you every time. And up in heaven, where you can go when you die, nobody ever gets cross and scolds. And it's beautiful there: they sing, and have fountains, and wear gold crowns; and—and Johnny is there, you know; and I'm going, and I do want you to come along."
Kitty's face had been growing graver and graver with every word her brother spoke, and when at last he stopped, with his eyes turned towards Johnny's little grave, Kitty's shawl was crumpled up in her two hands and held tightly to her face; and she was crying, not softly and quietly, but rocking herself back and forth, and giving way to great sobs which shook her little form.
Tip looked distressed; he didn't know what to say next; he stooped down to her at last, and spoke softly: "Oh, Kitty, I'm sorry for you! if you only would love Jesus, it would make you happy."
"I want to—I want to!" sobbed Kitty; "I would if I knew how."
Tip's heart gave a bound of joy—a surprised bound, too; he had not expected it so soon.
"It's easy, Kitty, it is, truly, if you only just ask God to do it. You see He can hear every word you say; He hears you now, but He wants you to ask Him about it. Say, Kitty, I'll go off and leave you,—I'll go where I can't see nor hear you,—then you kneel down and tell Jesus about it, and He'll help you."
"Stop!" said Kitty, as Tip was turning away; "wait! I don't know what to say."
"Why, just tell Him, just as you did me, and ask Him to help you. You see, Kitty, you can't do a thing without that; He's got to look after you every single minute, or it's nothing at all."
Tip went away, and Kitty was left alone,—alone in the spot where her brother had first found the Saviour. She felt very strangely; she had been left there alone to offer her first prayer.
Kitty had never been taught to kneel down by her bedside every evening, and repeat "Our Father;" it was all new and strange to her. She sat still a long time, with the sober look deepening on her face. At last she got down on her knees and rested her little hard hands on the hard snow which covered Johnny's bed, and she said, "Jesus, I want to be what Tip says. I want to love you if you'll let me. Nobody loves me, I guess. Tip says you'll help me all the time. If you will, I'll try."
After she had said this, slowly and thoughtfully, stopping long between each sentence, she didn't feel like rising up; she wanted to say more, so she repeated it, adding, "Tip says I must be good. I can't be good, but I'll try."
Over and over was the simple, earnest prayer repeated.
Tip did not go back to Johnny's grave; he took a side road down through the edge of the grove, and so went home; and when he reached home, he went up to his attic room, and knelt down and prayed for Kitty as only those can pray who have been working as well as asking for what they want.
Kitty was stirring the pudding for supper when he saw her again,—stirring away hard at the heavy mass, which grew thicker and harder to stir every moment. He went over to her.
"Kitty, let me do this;" and she gave up the pudding-stick. Tip stirred away.
By and by she leaned over the kettle to put in some salt, and as she sprinkled it around she caught his eager, longing look. She nodded her head. "I guess He heard," she said softly.
"I know He did," Tip answered, his eyes very blight; in his heart he sang "Glory!" And the angels in heaven sang for joy; for that night there had been laid aside a white robe and a crown of gold for Kitty Lewis.