|Chapter 6||Contents||Chapter 8|
Our father had at length reconciled himself to the order of things, and delighted in showing off the attainments of his three tall lads among our friendly neighbors. It gratified him for people to notice the very apparent signs of chemical industry on William's "working hands," as he always called them; and whenever Philip, the theologian, came home, he had to preach, catechise, and visit; while Fritz, the medical student, tried his hand at writing prescriptions of medicine, which was to cure the various ailments of the sick villagers. Not our father alone, but all the people of the neighborhood sympathized in our enterprises, and rejoiced at our culture and progress; for everyone knew that the pastor had no private property, and the fact of his sons receiving professional educations was a puzzle to many.
Once a kind professor expressed his surprise to me upon this point. So I told him our secret, which was that our mother, who managed the whole affair, had the help and support of some one who bears the wonderful key which fits and opens all the cash boxes of earth. But although our poor mother had struggled through many difficulties and sorrows, the worst still awaited her. The experiences of life had greatly altered my father's opinions, and instead of holding his former rationalistic views, he now owned a lively Christian faith. About this time the presentiment of his approaching removal to a higher life seemed forcibly impressed on his mind, so that one day, calling his daughter to him, he said: "Beate, my time for remaining with you is short. I shall be suddenly struck by the hand of death, and I wish you to promise that when you see me lying at the last extremity you will whisper in my ear the name of Jesus; for I want to go through the dark valley carrying that name within my soul."
The child gave her word, little thinking how soon she would be called upon to fulfill it. Very shortly our father sickened, and at once sank into such weakness that all were greatly alarmed, and before his absent children could be summoned, he died. When Beate whispered the Savior's name in his ear, during the last moments, his glaring eyes once more lighted up in grateful love, and then closed forever.
A large concourse of friends met to celebrate the funeral, among them many neighboring clergymen. One of these had dreaded meeting our mother, for he thought that the ruins of all her hopes, in this sudden stroke, would have crushed her into despair. Throughout the mournful service he watched her closely, but to his surprise she appeared calm and at rest. At the close, he could not refrain from expressing his wonder. "What does it mean?" he asked; "all the plans and the joy of your life are swept away, and yet you are composed and cheerful!" "Ah, dear friend," she replied, with a beaming face, "I certainly was almost distracted as I started to walk into that sad procession today, with my nine orphan children; especially when we stood in church, and I looked upon the coffin with which all my hopes for this life were to be buried. At that moment it was midnight in my soul; I saw no star in heaven, and no path on earth. Then I lifted my eyes unto Him who, up to this time, had been my only hope and refuge, and begged for one beam of His eternal love to shine into my beclouded heart. Suddenly it was as if a voice cried in my ear; 'Be still and take no care. Henceforth God alone will provide for you and your children! It shall be just as it was when He took Moses away, and the children of Israel had scarcely reached the borders of the promised land. He saw fit to bring His people into Canaan without the help of their old leader, so that everyone might see it was all His work.'
"In listening to these words my heart grew light, and I answered, 'If that is so, I am content, and even the dark path shall be a joyful way to me!' It is this that strengthens me. For I know He is faithful, and keeps all His promises."
|Chapter 6||Contents||Chapter 8|