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wise designs." Then, looking round on us with a benign, fatherly smile, he said:
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace:
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And He will make it plain !"
That was enough! A happy smile ran all round the table, and we felt that we were friends-fellow-travellers on the road to everlasting life. Oh, how sweet it is thus to fall in with others who speak the language of Zion, and by one touch of the golden key set the whole chord vibrating with heavenly music! I felt particularly reproved, and yet drawn to the kindly old man, whose iron-grey hair now seemed to me like a crown of glory irradiating his head. I do not know what my countenance expressed as I met his eyes bent on me, but he must have read my thoughts, for, turning very gently towards me, he said in an undertone:
"We have often ugly tempers of our own, young lady, when we get snowed-in,' either actually or figuratively; but the Lord never snows-in His people for nothing. When He hedges them in we may be quite sure that He does so for His own glory and their good in some way. I remember once that
Here a general rustle at the table announced that I was not the only listener, and that a story was expected as the result of this remark. Nor were we disappointed, for the stranger, after a slight bow in recognition of the rustle, went on to say:
"I remember once that being thus snowed-in as we are to-day was the means of saving an aged and unprotected couple's property, if not their lives. I was very cross at delay, and gave way to some hasty speeches, for which I afterwards humbly asked pardon both of God and man."
"Oh, please go on, sir!" we exclaimed with one voice, as the gentleman who was to "mar our comfort" paused to tap his snuff-box.
"Ah, my friends, I stop from shame; yes, simply from shame, to think of all the selfish thoughts which would have brought a different termination to a day's pleasure had they been allowed to have their own wilful way-how different I tremble even to think! One day, then, to begin my story afresh, some twenty years ago, I was snowed-in, just as we are now, not, however, in a comfortable wayside inn, but in a rude hut on the moor, the only 'house of defence' that presented itself. Its inhabitants, an old peat-gatherer and his wife, opened their door to me with great urbanity, and, in spite of the mischievous character which gossip fastened on this very hut, I never experienced a warmer welcome. The man was a thorough old king in his bearing; and when he turned to me and said, "Now, maister, here you be, and here you bides,' it never entered my mind to gainsay his decision.
"Along with the blinding drift Providence had blown me hither, and here, snow-blockaded, I must remain. I as quietly yielded to having my drenched cloak and clogged boots removed as though the command were imperial, and I a slave bound to obedience. The dear, silver-haired old lady won at once my heart and confidence, and before roosting for the night I found myself talking to her of a subject very near my heart, the love of Christ—and what sweeter or more fitting subject for New Year's Day could be found, eh, my friends?"
Here the old gentleman paused and looked round, as though he would have us say yes to a topic so very near his heart. We all bowed assent, and ere I knew what I was about I had said:
"The love of Christ, how sweet the theme!
We find it ever new;
Unlike the fancies of a dream
We find it also true!"
With a bright smile he nodded approval, and went on to say, "Well, my friends, when her husband bade us good night and climbed up to the loft which formed their bedroom, she caught my hand and said with trembling earnestness, 'Sir, we won't go to bed to-night; I don't believe in 'sentiments' (she meant pre-sentiments), 'but there's been a voice nigh to me all day whispering, Betsy Tancock, don't fear; the Lord will send some one to take care of you. I've not told my old man, for at the best he's but an aspen leaf; but when I saw you come in I said to myself, "That's he as has been sent of the Lord to help us!"' 'Why, what are you afraid of?' I asked. 'That's what I don't know myself, sir; but there's a dreadful bad lot just let out from the prison, they say; but I'm not afeard for aught but my old man.'
"We then knelt and committed ourselves and the humble snowed-in dwelling to the Lord of the universe; and on arising the old lady crawled up the ladder, and I rolled myself up, soldier-fashion, in my cloak and such other wrappers as I could find, and lay down for the night, but not to sleep.
"It may have been two hours after, or it may have been more, that I was suddenly aroused by a ponderous sledge-hammer crash at the hut-not at the door, but at its weaker part, the window; and in a moment I knew the blow was successful by the rush of icy air that followed and almost stopped my breath with its intense cold. A rough voice bellowed in through the aperture, 'Come now, 'tisn't the least use for you, old lady, nor the old gent either, to resist, for we mean to come in; and it is either life or death to you, whichever you please!' Dear me !" exclaimed the gentleman; "how stupid! I forgot to say that I had brought my dog with me, and it, though a ferocious-looking mastiff, had been as warmly welcomed as its milder-looking master. The noble creature at once started to its feet, but obeyed the hand I laid on his collar with a peculiar touch, a motion that he well understood as enforcing silence and stillness;
then, speaking in my loudest tone, I said, 'Enter! But be quick, for the air is cruel cold! Quick! do you hear?'
"There was a pause of what seemed to be some minutes, when I repeated my order in a yet more authoritative voice. "Who are you?' demanded a muffled voice outside.
"That you shall soon know!' I shouted; and loosing Caino, with a pat and 'At him, old boy!' I started to my feet, but only to hear loud cries for 'Mercy, oh, mercy, for heaven's sake!'
"And it is just for that sake that I will show you what mercy I can,' I said, jumping through the broken window and letting the bull's-eye of the lamp I had now lighted fall on the face of as miserable-looking a fellow as I ever beheld. 'Just for His sake I spare you; for with one word that dog that now has you down would tear open your throat. Stop, Caino; lie still.' And a deep-drawn groan told me how terrible was the victim's suspense. 'Tell me,' I said, 'as perhaps a dying man, why you came here to-night.'
"Then, with many curses against his own folly (not a word of his sin) he confessed that he had intended to rob, and if needs be, murder the helpless couple. 'And,' he added, with a fearful imprecation, 'I should have done it but for this'
"Snowing-in,' I interposed, which brought one too many to this place.'
"But little remains to be told, except that what Satan had devised as a scene of bloodshed and cruelty, the Lord turned into a scene of praise and happiness such as falls not to the lot of many to witness. The old couple knew nothing of their danger till the morning, they being deaf, and the snow favouring secrecy; then their reverent gratitude was beyond description.
Ah, sir,' wept the old woman, 'you wasn't sent here to be snowed-in for nothing!'
"And I think, my friends, you will agree with her ?" said
the gentleman, again looking round for our assent, which, I need not say, was given heartily, and with many congratulations that the snow had brought us in contact with so appropriate a story for the New Year
X. Y. Z.
"We have not Passed this Way heretofore."
THOUGHTS FOR THE NEW YEAR.
HEN this little paper reaches the hands of my readers, the old year, with its lights and shadows, will have passed away, and once again we shall be treading the threshold of a new year.
Standing thus, with the unknown months before us, a feeling of solemnity cannot but steal over us, for the old year had grown familiar; and buried with it must lie many joys and sorrows, which can be nothing more than memories to us henceforth.
The friends with whom we commenced the past yearwhere are they now? In how many cases have the ranks been thinned? How many saints gathered home to glory? How much poorer the Church on earth? How much richer the Church of the Firstborn above? The lessons of the year that is gone-shall we re-learn them this year? The joys-will these be ones for the future? God only knows. The sorrows of the past. Well, even of the sorrows we have grown to think tenderly, and would, perhaps, be glad to retain them rather than exchange them for those unknown griefs which the coming days may, nay, must, disclose. For, if we are the children of God, we can testify