I am not old--though
time has set
His signet on my brow,
And some faint
furrows there have met,
Which care may deepen now--
in my heart a fountain flows,
And round it pleasant
And sympathies and feelings high
like the stars on evening sky.
It was evening in the late
summer, and Edwin was sitting upon the porch. He had been
reading, but the paper had fallen carelessly by his side. In
the western sky the beautiful tints of gold were rapidly
changing to the deeper shades of lavender and crimson, and as
he gazed upward among the drifting clouds he seemed lost to
his earthly surroundings. So enraptured and carried away with
his meditation had he become that he did not notice the
approach of his faithful wife as she came to take her place
"Edwin, your thoughts
tonight seem to be very far away indeed," she said. "I hope
that you are thinking of things that are pleasant"
With a smile and a word of
welcome, Edwin awoke from his reverie and said:
"Yes, Wife, my thoughts
were pleasant. In imagination I was living over again some of
my early experiences."
"If that is the case, my
dear, I greatly fear that a part of your thoughts were not as
cheerful as they might have been," his wife said as her chair
was drawn closer. Taking the hand that was scarred and
disfigured in several places by abuse in his childhood, she
continued: "I fear that many things concerning your childhood
would be very hard indeed if you were forced to live them over
again even in thought."
"Yes, Wife, that is true.
There were many hard and bitter things, which are indeed
painful to recall, especially those pertaining to my mother.
To know that she has left this life without any hope for the
future world, feeling that such was unnecessary, is hard, but
it was not of her nor of her attitude toward me that I was
thinking altogether. I was meditating upon my life as a whole.
You see, more than fifty summers and winters have passed since
I left the poorhouse in my boyhood days, and I have passed
well over the best part of my life. I am now on the downward
slope of life's mountain of years, and it will not be long
until I shall be entering the valley of the shadow of death."
The soft fingers of the
gentle wife closed more tightly over the hand they held, as
"Yes, dear, neither of us
is young any more, for the silvery threads are already in our
hair; but whether our years on earth are few or many, I
believe that we both are ready to enter into the presence of
our Lord at any moment that he should call for us."
"I have no fears on those
lines, Wife," Edwin said, while his eyes were still upon the
beautiful horizon; "for I have the sweet assurance within my
soul that I am a child of God and that I am on the road that
leads to eternal bliss and glory for all who are faithful unto
the end. But this evening as I sat here gazing upon the
beautiful handiwork of God, I wondered what could be awaiting
us in that brighter and better world beyond the grave."
"That is not for us to
know now, Edwin, but some day the curtain will be drawn aside,
and I am sure that the scene will be all the brighter for our
having had to await God's time to reveal to us the mysteries
that he has for a time thought best to veil."
The silence that followed
seemed too sacred to be broken, and the gathering darkness
crept slowly about them. When the last shade of crimson had
left the sky, Edwin said:
"I have been thinking of
the many good things that have come to me in this life, and
the manner in which they have come. It seems that God's hand
has been over me ever since I can remember, and as I look back
now I can see that God has always been my guide ever since I
chose to do the right because it was right to do it, and that
even in my extreme ignorance, when I knew nothing of God's
existence, he guided my steps and enabled me to live a life
that was upright and consistent in the eyes of the world.
Then, when I had no earthly friend who was able to unfold the
mysteries of the future world to my entire satisfaction, he
became my teacher and taught me how to be born into his
heavenly family. Surely it was only through his divine
protection that I have been brought through all my
perplexities to the present time. Then as I was thinking about
my childhood home at the poorhouse, a great desire to visit
the place again crept into my heart. It seems to me that it
would be a comfort to stand once more upon the same ground and
to see the scenes that I beheld at the time when I was a
"Fifty years, Edwin, have
probably made many changes, and nothing would seem the same to
you now. It could not be as it was when you were a child."
"That may all be true,"
Edwin replied, "and yet the more I think about it, the greater
becomes my desire to go and visit the place again. If you
could give your consent, I should be glad to go at once."
"That you certainly have,"
his wife said earnestly, adding, "I will gladly do all in my
power. Edwin, to help you to prepare for the journey."
Three days later Edwin
kissed his wife good-by and with his handbag in his hand
started for the railway station. After boarding the train he
had a long and tiresome journey, but at last it was at an end.
Alighting from the train, he stood for a moment upon the
platform, trying to think which way to go. Noticing a man
standing near, Edwin inquired the way to the poorhouse, and
finding that the distance was not too great to walk, he was
soon wending his way in that direction.
In that section of the
country the land was quite level, and long before Edwin
reached the place, he could see the large brick building that
during his stay there was the quarters of the vicious and
insane. He wondered if it was still used for the same purpose
and if the same sights and sounds could be seen and heard. In
a little while he was in front of the place that was his home
half a century before.
Leaving the highway, he
passed through the open gateway, and a picture of his uncle in
the buggy with the little forlorn poorhouse waif sitting
beside him arose in his mind. Looking about, he wondered if
either Mr. Engler or the chore-boy Jim were in sight; but he
was not long in discovering that a new manager (or "steward"
as he was called) by the name of Blohm had taken Mr. Engler's
place and that no one could tell him the whereabouts of Jim.
He was beginning to realize that what his wife had said
concerning the changes of fifty years was true, but the
greatest surprize was before him.
The room in which he had
been left by his heartless mother was still fresh in his
memory as he had left it to go to his mother's home. When a
moment later he stepped inside the up-to-date office that was
in the main building, he could scarcely believe that the
apartment was the same that he had known years before.
Nothing, not even the couch upon which the cruel-hearted woman
had laid her helpless babe, was there, for all the furniture
was bright and new.
Here he met Mr. Blohm, and
after introducing himself as one who had formerly been an
inmate of the home, and relating some of the Lord's dealings
with him, he told a little about his checkered experiences and
ended the story by telling of his divine commission to preach
the gospel. After all this explanation he was shown every
possible favor and looked upon as an honorable guest. In fact,
he was taken by Mr. Blohm himself all over the establishment.
A few of the inmates whom
Edwin had known in his childhood were still living, and
although they were greatly changed in appearance, he
recognized them as the same persons. When he passed through
the long hall, he thought of the time that he had followed Mr.
Engler on his way to meet his uncle in the office, and he took
a special look at the very spot where he was standing when the
steward gave him the order to come.
Passing outside, he was
told to examine a large marble stone that had been placed in
the side of the building, and he found that all the names of
the different managers, including August Engler's, were there.
In another large building he found the bakery, and in this
busy place the greater part of the cooking was still done. As
he passed through the large double doors that divided the two
apartments, everything seemed for a moment as it had been
fifty years before, for just outside he could see the spot
where he with other children had stood looking down into the
bakery hoping to receive from some one a crust of bread or a
At dinner-time he was
conducted into the large dining-room. There he found many
tables neatly spread with food that was good and wholesome,
and it was plain to be seen that the needs of all had been
taken into consideration. One special table had been assigned
to the management and special workers, and it was there that
Edwin was offered the seat of honor. It is needless to say
that he greatly enjoyed the good, substantial meal, for he was
very hungry after all his exertions.
After dinner he continued
his investigations, and as he went about from place to place,
he seemed to be living over again a part of the past. He
recognized the place in which the old lady had taught him the
words, "Now I lay me down to sleep," and as he remembered the
comfort that he had realized while repeating them, his heart
throbbed with gratitude to the One who knew and understood his
childish desire to live right. At night he was shown to a
clean and comfortable bed, and there he fell asleep with the
past as a sacred dream.
In the morning Edwin arose
feeling greatly refreshed and ready to enjoy another day in
the county poorhouse, but before noon he reentered the main
office and wrote a letter home to his beloved wife. It read:
Greeting in Jesus' name. I
am sure that you will be anxious to hear from me and of my
eventful journey. To me this has been a wonderful experience,
and although it is true that everything is greatly changed,
there are certain associations with every place that bring a
flood of remembrances. The changes are principally in the
people, however, and their manner of living, for very few
buildings have been added or torn away.
"From the window where I
am sitting I can see the old well where we children used to
pump the cold water on our dry bread. I can also see the path
leading down to the large turnip-patch, and as I watch the
waving tops, I can imagine myself a child again eating the
round white balls, dirt and all. I have also taken a stroll
about the yard and stood upon the very spot where I used to
stand when watching the queer actions of the insane and
listening to their horrible sayings. The large brick building
for the insane of which I have told you in the past is still
as I remember it, except that it is no longer needed for the
insane and the gratings from the doors and windows have all
been removed. That part of the work is taken care of by the
State asylum, and this building is now used for the weak and
feeble-minded women. There is also another building where the
men of this class are cared for by special workers.
"When it became known that
a former inmate of the infirmary was a Christian and a
minister of the gospel, it was considered a great honor to the
establishment, and I have been requested to take charge of the
morning service in the chapel next Sunday. I have already had
the privilege of explaining some verses to a few, and some who
knew of my early disadvantages confess with shame their own
lack and wish for an experience like mine.
"Do pray for me that I may
be the greatest blessing possible while I am here, and with
the prayer that God will bless and keep you until we meet
again, I will close."
That Edwin's visit at the
poorhouse was profitable, both to himself and to others, it is
needless to say. On Sunday he preached to a large audience,
and he was privileged also to visit and pray for many who were
unable to meet in the chapel. Thus, he who was once a poor
waif in this institution was enabled to be a help and a
blessing to those who were still unfortunate.
On Edwin's return home, he
and his wife were in the cozy living-room until a late hour
talking over the events of the past few days. Before retiring
he reached for the Bible, and after he had read a chapter,
they knelt together in prayer. In earnest, fervent
supplication and praise he opened his heart to the One to whom
he was so greatly indebted.
"O Lord," he prayed, "thou
hast been so merciful to me all my days! Thy hand of love and
protection hath been over me wherever I have been. Thine eye
hath guided my feet past many pitfalls that I could not see.
In my weakness thou hast been my strength. In my ignorance
thou hast been my wisdom and teacher. When friends forsook me
thou wast mindful of my needs. When others misunderstood thou
hast been my Comforter. To thee, O God, I render thanks for
all thy benefits, for thy saving and keeping grace that hath
reached even to one so unfortunate as I. And now, O Lord,
grant that all the remainder of my days, be they few or many,
may be spent for thee and for others who have not yet learned
to love thee and to know of thy great goodness. To thee we
commit ourselves for the night and place our hands in thine
for future service, knowing that when our work on earth is
ended, thou wilt gather us home to live among the faithful
There is little else to
say of Edwin's life except that his determination is still on
the increase to help men and women to understand their need of
a Savior and to instruct them in the ways of the Lord. As we
draw the curtain over the life of the unfortunate poorhouse
waif, we should not rejoice alone because he has been able to
rise above his difficulties but also because his divine
Teacher will instruct all who will be taught.
"For this cause I
bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom
the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would
grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be
strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man; that
Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being
rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with
all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and
height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth
knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of
God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think, according to the power that
worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus
throughout all ages, world without end.