Heaven asks no
surplice round the heart that feels,
And all is holy where
Edwin's distress of mind
and his confusion of thought were greatly increased when, a
few days after the vision in the field, there was another
strange occurrence. The stones had not all been gathered into
piles, but the work was progressing well, and when Edwin
occasionally stopped in his work to note the appearance of the
large field, he was pleased with what he had accomplished. The
burden of his thought, however, was not the work nor the
neatness of the place. Neither was it the beautiful scenery of
slightly rolling country, the Christmas stories and legends
connected with Blue Mountain, nor the ghost-stories and
horrors in the home of the witch. Even the vision of eternity
was a thing of the past.
"If only I knew! If only I
could tell, before I die, on which of the roads I am traveling
to eternity!" was the constant cry of his troubled soul. Once
when these words had just escaped his lips, he suddenly heard
a strange and rumbling sound that seemed to come from the very
heart of the earth, and he felt the ground beneath his feet
begin to shake. Unable to understand what had happened, Edwin
hastened to the house, but the people there were as mystified
as he himself, except that they said, "Surely it must have
been an earthquake!" and some suggested that the end of the
world might be near. With this bit of knowledge, Edwin
returned to his work, but oh, how heavy was his heart!
"Why is it so hard," he
cried, "to discover the secret that is causing me all this
worry and trouble?" But the words had no sooner escaped his
lips than he added, "There is and there must be some way to
find out, and I'll keep on trying until I know that it is of
no use to try."
Across the fields on a
pretty knoll stood the humble little dwelling of Frank
Kauffman and his wife, and as Edwin glanced occasionally in
that direction, he wondered if his friend would be able to
enlighten him about the earthquake, and he planned to visit
him that very evening after supper.
Frank's home, although
small, was always cozy and inviting; for Amanda, long before
Frank married her, had been taught by her energetic,
systematic mother, Mrs. Miller, the principles of good
housekeeping. And Frank, although not a Christian, had been
reared by a pious and devoted mother, who in all her ways
endeavored to set before her children an example that she
would not be ashamed to have them follow, and she was a woman
who knew the value of prayer. For this reason Frank could
easily talk on a few of the principles of religion; but when
it came to the actual experiences, he was at a loss to know
what to say.
But although Frank's
mother was so noble and true, his father's goodness was only
from a moral standpoint, and regardless of the evil effect
that his smoking might have upon his three growing boys, he
very much enjoyed his pipe. As a result of the father's
indulgence, Frank and his two brothers, when scattered out in
homes of their own, said, "Father smoked and seems none the
worse for it, and I guess a little tobacco will not hurt us."
But the fact that some of
her family smoked at all never ceased to be a great worry to
Mrs. Kauffman, and whenever there was an opportunity she
reminded them of their fault. And as Frank's home was but a
short distance from his mother's, Edwin's visits were noticed
by the anxious woman, and when she found that he too was a
tobacco-user, she was much worried about the influence he
might have over her son.
After she had expressed
her fears concerning Edwin, one day to Frank, her son
answered, "Mother, you are doing Edwin a great injustice; for
instead of his being an evil associate, he is not only noble
and good, but a pattern of good works, for even in the use of
tobacco he is moderate and neat. More than this," Frank
continued, "Edwin is very much interested in religion, and
many times I am unable to answer his questions because they
are so deep."
Could Mrs. Kauffman have
known Edwin at this time, she would certainly have been of a
different opinion, and she might have helped him through some
of his difficulties; but she knew nothing of the perplexities
of his mind, and Edwin did not know of her anxieties
concerning his influence over her son.
When Edwin saw the evening
shades beginning to gather, he was glad, and as soon as his
supper and evening duties were over, he made his way across
meadow and fields to the home of his friend, and he did not
forget to carry with him a generous supply of dried
tobacco-leaves, which he had tied up in a large red
handkerchief. The leaves were for his friend and him to smoke
while they talked.
As he passed the place in
the field where he had felt the shock of the earthquake, he
remembered, that he had not told Frank about the vision of
eternity and hell that was still fresh in his memory, and then
so rapidly were the things suggested to his mind that he would
like to say, that he began to wonder if he would be able to
unburden his heart in so short a time.
When he approached the
house, he saw his friend Frank seated upon the porch. Frank
was resting after a hard day's work in the field, but he gave
Edwin a hearty welcome and bade him be seated beside him.
Edwin took the chair, and the two were soon loading their
pipes from the dried tobacco-leaves contained in the red
handkerchief. Then as the circles of blue smoke began to arise
in the air, Frank asked:
"Did you feel or hear over
at your place anything of the earthquake?"
"Yes, and I should like to
know more about it," Edwin answered.
"It shook the windows and
doors in our house so hard that my wife couldn't imagine for a
time what was happening," Frank continued, "and my horse in
the field came very near getting away from me."
"It seemed to me," Edwin
remarked, "that the whole field where I was working was going
to pieces and that I was going right down into eternity."
Then, as they smoked,
Edwin told his friend all about his vision and explained how
dreadful he felt it would be to land in such an awful place
when he came to leave this world.
"I guess you felt like
saying a prayer about the time you found yourself in hell,
didn't you?" Frank asked as Edwin finished relating the
The awful picture of the
future world that had been painted in words had caused Frank
to shudder, for he was not prepared to die. It might have been
Frank's manner and it might have been the tone in which the
word "prayer" was spoken that caused Edwin to exclaim:
"Prayer! what is prayer?"
"Prayer," Frank replied,
"is man's way of talking with God. When anybody tells God what
he wants, he prays; and God has promised to hear his words and
to help him out of his troubles. But the person who prays must
speak from his heart and not try to say a lot of words that he
has learned from some one else or from a book. A prayer from
the heart is the only kind that God will hear."
"What do you mean by
talking with God?" Edwin asked in a still more mystified tone,
for he had never thought of man while still on the earth or in
fact anywhere else, as speaking with God in heaven.
After Frank had explained
that such a thing was possible, Edwin exclaimed:
"Who can make such a
prayer? Do you know of any one who can?"
The twilight shades had
all disappeared from the sky above, and it was already dark
where Frank and Edwin were sitting, but inside the cozy
living-room Amanda, seated beside a table, upon which a
kerosene-lamp was burning, was quietly knitting. Pointing in
her direction, Frank said, confidently:
"There's one who can pray.
And she prays from the heart."
Although Edwin had been in
the home a number of times and had noticed Frank's wife, he
had never talked with her, and as he gazed through the open
window, he wondered what kind of person she could be. Turning
suddenly to his friend, he said:
"By what means does a
person become able to pray such a prayer?" "Converted!" Edwin exclaimed
with even more wonder shining in his large brown eyes, for he
seemed to realize instantly that another great and important
subject had been introduced.
In answer to Edwin's
question as to how it was possible to be converted, Frank
explained that one was converted through prayer or by praying;
but this answer was more confusing than any other had been,
and Edwin exclaimed:
"Why, Frank, how is this?
You say that the only kind of prayer that will amount to
anything is that prayer that comes right out of the heart, and
that to pray such a prayer one must be converted. And now you
say that one is converted through prayer. Now tell me, if this
is true, how and where does a person get his start?"
Not being a Christian
himself, or ever having had the experience of salvation, Frank
did not know how to unravel the tangle of thought that he had
woven within Edwin's mind, and he was at a loss to know what
How easy it would have
been for Mrs. Kauffman to help Edwin out of his difficulty had
she known, but she was in her own home a short distance away
burdened and sad. She had watched Edwin as he crossed the
fields on his way to the home of her son and knew that they
were smoking upon the porch.
When the subject of prayer
was dropped, Edwin told his friend that the farmer for whom he
was working would soon be caught up with his work and that it
would be necessary for him to look for a new place to work,
and he asked Frank if he knew of any farmers who were needing
help. As Edwin had expressed a desire to get into another
neighborhood, if possible, for the experience, Frank said that
his father-in-law, Mr. Miller, would be in need of hired men
during harvest, and added, "If you wish, I will speak a good
word in your behalf."
Edwin expressed his
gratitude for his friend's interest, and then after a few
other remarks he arose to go. Before leaving, however, he
emptied the contents of the red handkerchief out upon a piece
of paper. Then, putting the handkerchief in his pocket, he
bade his friend goodnight.
It was a beautiful
evening, but Edwin paid no attention to the stars as they
gazed down upon him from above. He was thinking of his
friend's words, and he said aloud: "To be converted must be
the very thing for me and just what I need. But how am I to
get converted, since I must pray and since I can not pray
until I get converted?" The words taught him at the poorhouse
came quickly to his mind, but he said sadly: "No, they won't
do! Frank said that a prayer is words, but that the words must
not be any that have been learned from any person or book.
They must come right out of one's heart. What can it all
mean?" And that night, for the first time in many years, the
little prayer failed to bring him comfort before he closed his
eyes in sleep.
"O thou that hearest
prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come" (Psa. 65: 2).