Percival's picture gallery

Transcriber's note: Unusual and inconsistent spelling is as printed.



The Persian listened with curiosity, and the Afghan
with some attention; but it was on the old Sikh that the holy words
fell like rain from Heaven.




A. L. O. E.

Authoress of "Pearls of Wisdom from the Parables,"
"The Young Pilgrim," "The Shepherd of Bethlehem," &c., &c.



(OFFICE OF "The Christian")


And may be ordered of any Bookseller.


THIS little volume may, I hope, awaken in some minds thoughts of a devotional character. Some of the ideas contained in it came to me in a chamber of sickness, which was at one time expected to be my chamber of death.

The thoughts were pleasant and soothing to myself. May they, by God's blessing, be so also to some of my fellow-pilgrims.

A. L. O. E.



















"NO, Sir, no; the doctor gives no hope that the poor young gentleman will ever walk again; and as for life, the doctor says that it may be a matter of months, or perhaps of years. But Mr. Percival is going down to the grave sure and certain; and he knows that himself."

Such was the sad reply given by his landlady, to my enquiries regarding my old schoolfellow, when I called at his lodging in London. I had been absent on the Continent for six weeks in the long vacation. A painful malady in his knee had prevented Percival's being, as we had both hoped, my travelling companion; and it was no small disappointment to us both when he had to be left behind.

How we had looked forward to a visit to Italy, to luxuriate amongst the treasures of art; which Percival's cultivated taste and knowledge of painting, would enable him so thoroughly to appreciate! I had however felt no serious anxiety regarding my friend; his letters had been cheerful, and contained little allusion to the state of his health. It was therefore with a shock of surprise that I heard that Percival was now a hopeless invalid, unable to rise from the couch on which he had suffered so long.

I held no long parley with the landlady, but hurried up the long narrow staircase to the attic-room, in which Percival expected to pass the remainder of his days under constant medical care. A lonely life his must be, for he had lost every near relative in the world; and, at the season when London is comparatively empty, few acquaintances were likely to find their way to a dull lodging in the neighbourhood of Russell Square.

Slender means; solitude and sickness; confinement to one small room, when others were enjoying fresh breezes on the ocean or the heathery moor—what a combination of trials for one still in the flower of his youth! I had known Percival as the cleverest, handsomest boy in our school; the hero of the cricket-ground; the first in the race; the winner of numerous prizes: I could hardly realize the possibility of such a deep shadow falling on a life so bright.

From early childhood, Percival had had a remarkable talent for drawing, which had occasionally led him into trouble. Before the boy's small fingers could write one word, they had begun to use a pencil; and quaint grotesque figures were scrawled on the nursery door.

At school Percival fell into many a scrape from scribbling faces over the margins of books—not always his own; and from making curious illustrations in dictionaries and grammars. We saw our own likenesses, unmistakable ones, drawn in charcoal on the whitewashed walls. Every Panel of the door served as a canvas: and the young artist was sometimes rewarded for his skill by long impositions of Latin verses, which he learned with the book in one hand and the pencil in the other.

On reaching the landing-place, I did not stop to knock at the door before me; but at once entered the attic-room where Percival lay on his couch, an easel beside him, and a palette bedaubed with many colours, a box of oil-paints, and brushes, on a small table placed within easy reach of his arm. Unframed paintings hanging on the dingy wall somewhat relieved the dull effect of scanty third-rate furniture, and of an old carpet with the pattern well-nigh worn-out of it, which looked as if it had never been new.

Percival's pale face flushed with sudden pleasure as he caught sight of mine. He dropped the brush with which he had been painting, and holding out his thin hand, grasped mine with the joyous exclamation, "Seyton, old boy! who thought of seeing you here!"

Then he added, smiling, "Take a chair—no, not that with the broken back—sit down, and tell me about your travels. I want to see all that you have seen, hear all that you have heard, and enjoy a trip to Italy by proxy."

I seated myself by my suffering friend, and did what I could to divert his mind from his affliction, by describing whatever I thought most likely to interest him. Percival showed keen pleasure in hearing about the works of art which I had seen in foreign galleries: of the principal ones he had already gathered a fair knowledge from books.

When I paused at last, Percival remarked, "Will you think me a Goth or a Vandal, Seyton, if I own to you that there seems to me a good deal of sameness in these subjects chosen by Italian artists: so many 'Madonnas' clad as Mary of Nazareth never was dressed; so many 'Saints' with haloes round their heads; so many 'Holy Families' and pictures of the 'Last Supper,' where none of the accessories convey to the mind a true idea of the actual scene. If I were an artist—"

"You are one," I interrupted; "if artists, like poets, are born—not made. With a little study of the Old Masters you would, I am certain, have made your mark amongst English painters."

"I doubt whether I should ever have earned butter to my bread," observed Percival. "I am too fond of striking out a line of my own. But I do intensely love the art; and am heartily glad that I have lost the use of my knee instead of that of my hand."

"I see that you paint still," said I, glancing at the palette. "Have you no difficulty in procuring models?"

"You think that my good old landlady, Mrs. Bond, in her black lace cap and false front, would hardly serve as one," laughed Percival. "She is the only specimen of the fair sex that I ever see; except, indeed, the red-haired maid of all work, who is only remarkable for the number of cups and glasses which she breaks. I have to do without models, Seyton; or rather to content myself with the forms which I see in my dreams."

"In your dreams?" I repeated enquiringly.

"I mean waking dreams," said my friend. "I often cannot get rest at night; or at least, till—

"'Yon dull steeple's drowsy chime—'

"has struck one or more of the small hours. So, making a virtue of necessity, I lie still, and amuse myself with my thoughts."

"I am so grieved—" I began; but Percival cut me short.

"Grieve not for me, dear friend. Some of the happiest moments which I have ever spent, have been in those still night hours. I have sometimes felt as if admitted to a private interview with the King. He giveth 'songs in the night.' I have thrown that idea into the form of rhyme. Would you care to hear the lines? They are of no value but as the transcript of the experience of a sick man."

On my expressing a wish to hear the little poem, Percival repeated it with a good deal of feeling; warming into joyousness as he recited the concluding verse.

Song in the Night.

O thou, on thy sick-bed kept watchful and waking
     By pain, all the weary night through!
It seems as if God were His servant forsaking,
     His servant—so trustful and true.

Oh no! For He giveth me songs in the darkness
     That never were heard in the day:
"Thine eyes shall behold the King in His beauty,
     The land that is far, far away."

Poor sufferer! The noises of earth must oppress thee,
     That rise through the sullen night air;
The sound of the world's mirth must surely distress thee,
     That mirth which thou never may'st share.

Oh no! For an angel is sitting beside me,
     And warbling so low—yet so clear,
"Thine eyes shall behold the King in His beauty:"
     And this is the song which I hear.

The Angel's Song.

"I come down to cheer thee, O happy immortal!
     From sin's condemnation set free;
 Whilst yet thou art ling'ring beside the high portal,
     Whose door soon will open for thee.

"I bring thee a promise, the sweetest—the surest—
    'Tis sent by the God who is Love,
'Thine eyes shall behold the King in His beauty,'
     When thou art with angels above.

"I saw Him when in His own world, as a stranger,
     Appeared the Omnipotent Lord;
 I hovered in ecstasy over His manger
     With worshipping shepherds adored:
 I the first faint infant cry from the Monarch
     Whose voice bade the universe be;
 Mine eyes then beheld the King in His weakness,
     I saw Him, and marvelled to see.

"I saw Him in manhood, despised and neglected,
     A mourner, 'acquainted with grief,'
 I longed—how I longed!—that when mortals rejected
     The angels might bring Him relief!
 I heard the fierce blasphemies scornfully uttered
     By Scribe and by proud Pharisee;
 Mine eyes then beheld the King in His trials,
     I saw—much perplexed to see.

"I saw—but the tongue of a seraph must falter
     Such myst'ry of love to declare!—
 I saw upon Calvary raised the high Altar,
     A Cross—and the Victim was there!
 There was silence in Heaven—strange wonder in Heaven—
     All gazing on that awful tree;
 Mine eyes then beheld the King in His anguish,
     I saw Him—and trembled to see!

"And thou too shalt see Him—such bliss is before thee—
     But not in His weakness and pain;
 When girded with power, and mantled in glory
     The Victim returneth—to reign:
 Shalt see Him, no stranger, but One whom thou lovest,
     Thy Saviour, Redeemer, and Friend;
'Thine eyes shall behold the King in His beauty,'
     Through ages that never shall end!"



The Passage through the Red Sea.

A PAUSE followed the recital: Percival's deep blue eyes seemed to be full of the light of another world.

After awhile I observed, "Poetry soothes your wakeful hours; but you have not at night the resource of painting."

"It is at night that I form my designs," he replied, "and draw in imagination scenes that look meagre enough when transferred to canvas. My execution falls sadly short of what I see in my waking dreams."

"I suppose that you choose subjects from Scripture," said I.

"Not exactly," answered my friend; "I take subjects rather from what Scripture suggests, than follow in the beaten track of innumerable artists by actually illustrating Scripture."

"I do not quite understand you," said I.

"Well, take for example the subject of the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. You must have seen pictures of that. What impression have they left on your mind?"

"That of a vast multitude of men, women and children, with large flocks and herds, passing through something like a deep valley, with a pillar of light above to guide them on their way."

"Amongst multitudes we are apt to forget the units," Percival observed. "Have you never thought how many episodes of deep interest must have occurred during that hasty flight—incidents which would draw out the characters of individuals? Has your fancy never imagined some single family group separate from the mass of fugitives flying from their oppressors?"

"My fancy is not so lively as yours," I replied.

"You have never pictured to yourself what the Israelites may have seen of the wonders of the deep, hitherto as a locked casket, in—

"'Those profound abysses where
  Was never voice from upper air'?"

"What could the people have seen but sand; and perchance, sea-weed?" said I.

"Would it trouble you, Seyton, to lift yon picture from the nail, and bring it here? MY pictures are guiltless of frames, so they are more easily moved. You will see on the canvas my idea of an episode which may have occurred during the passage through the Red Sea."

I did as desired, and brought the picture to the side of my friend.

Poor Percival! His paintings are framed now; and the one which I am about to describe hangs opposite to the table at which I am writing. He bequeathed to me the sketches which were the children of his brain, his hand, his heart.

To avoid needless repetition of the objectionable "I" in my brief descriptions of Percival's picture gallery, I shall make my recollections take the form of dialogue: except where what my friend called "A Legend" comes in, which I will copy from the MS * left by the author.

* Manuscript

It is impossible, however, to give on paper the charm of Percival's voice; the lighting up of his countenance; his soul-absorption in his subjects. My description looks to me like the colourless photograph of a window of fine stained glass; the beauty lost; the bare outline of the pattern depicted.

But it may be that friendship for the departed "casts a halo" over works on which he so lovingly wrought. Percival did not himself set a high value on his pictures; though their subjects had a fascination for his mind. He often lamented his want of finish, and said that he could not delineate as an artist what he might dream as a poet.

The Passage through the Red Sea.

Seyton. Why, Percival, this strange, weird production of yours must have been the outcome of a nightmare!

Percival. The idea of it came to my mind during a night somewhat more painful and restless than usual.

Seyton. Let me see what I can make out of it. Here, in the centre, the first object to catch the eye is the skeleton of some huge leviathan; some monster unknown to modern science, who might have taken his pastime in the deep waters, or lashed the surface of the sea into foam in the days of Noah. Half of the picture is in light, and half in shadow, for in upper air hangs the pillar of cloud and fire; thus one half of the skeleton reflects the ruddy glare, which gilds the bare ribs, and partly reveals the vast proportions of the sea monster; while darkness on the other hand conceals the length of the leviathan, as he lies on his bed of sea-weed, green and brown, with the glimmering glassy wall of water as a background behind him.

Percival. Is the skeleton the only object seen in the sketch?

Seyton. No, no; let me examine more closely. Here, to the left, I dimly trace the heads and fore-parts of two horses; the animals, with distended nostrils and ears turned back, evidently starting in fear at suddenly coming on such an object of grisly horror lying right in their path.

The horses appear to belong to some Egyptian of rank: they wear the cumbrous trappings with which the antiquities at the Museum make us familiar. Had there been space on your canvas, we should doubtless have traced on it the outline of some gorgeous chariot, perhaps that of Pharaoh himself.

Percival. I have tried, by the tightly-drawn reins, to show that the driver of the chariot has suddenly perceived the ghastly obstacle in his path. By that skeleton, I intended to convey to the mind an image of death—that sudden death which was so close to Pharaoh and his godless hosts, even while they were pressing forward in eager pursuit of spoil and revenge.

Seyton. Now let us turn to the right hand of the picture which your pencil has bathed in mysterious light. I see an Israelite mother. Her mantle, falling back, shows a face of Oriental beauty, full of anxiety and fear.

Percival. Yes, she has heard the tramp and the snorting of the war-horses of Pharaoh; and she knows that she is the last of all the fugitives, the one nearest to the enemy. She has been left behind the rest: for in the confusion she had been separated from her child; and she has wildly sought him, and found him at last almost close to the fierce pursuers.

Seyton. And evidently utterly unconscious of danger. That bare-footed, beautiful little boy, whose face beams with delight, presents an expressive contrast to the anxious mother, who, grasping one of his small hands, is trying to draw him hastily away.

Percival. The child is exulting; for he has found a prize in the leviathan's fleshless jaws. His hand holds a beautiful coral.

Seyton. Percival! is this a picture or a parable?

Percival. Perhaps both. Do you grasp the meaning of the latter?

Seyton. You have given the clue by telling me that the huge skeleton represents death. On the one side, we see it an object of natural horror to those who, unprepared and unforgiven, find it suddenly close at hand, dimly beheld in darkness: while to the children of light, it is no object of terror; and even little ones can pluck the treasure of joy from that which the worldling dreads and shrinks from.



King David's Vision.


SEYTON. The subject of this picture of yours is simple enough. The harp at his feet; the crown by his side; the scroll before him—mark David, the poet-king. He appears to be under the immediate influence of inspiration, there is such intense earnestness in his upward gaze. The reed-pen has dropped from his hand; and one would think that Heaven was opening before his eyes, save for the pained—almost terrified—expression on his countenance, an expression which could come from no vision of bliss. Why have you represented the prophet thus?

Percival. A legend of King David formed itself out of some thoughts which came into my mind, while meditating over the Twenty-second Psalm. To us, with the scene on Calvary as its key, the meaning of the prophecy contained in that Psalm is clear. But what a mystery it must have been to him who wrote it under the inspiration of the Spirit!

Seyton. Had its meaning been clear to the prophet's understanding, his faith could hardly have borne the strain. To us—looking back upon the mystery of the Cross—it appears marvellous indeed; but to one looking forward to it as a future event, such a sacrifice as that of Christ would have appeared impossible.

Percival. You have struck on my vein of thought. I considered what would be the natural emotions raised in the heart of one so impulsive and enthusiastic as David, had the death of his Lord been revealed to him clearly, and not as through a glass, very darkly. My short piece, "King David's Vision," is beside me, if you would care to hear it.

I copy the following from the paper which Percival, at my request, drew from the drawer of his table.

King David's Vision.

The prophet-king sat alone. When the spirit of inspiration came upon him, no human presence was suffered to disturb his solitude. He was left in solemn communion with his God.

Often had glowing words of thanksgiving and praise burst from his lips as he struck his harp of ten strings, and then been noted down on a scroll to be handed down as a precious legacy to the people of Israel, or rather to the whole Church of God. On this day, the harp had had a strange, solemn, and wailing sound; and involuntary tears had started to the poet's eyes as he sang that mysterious ode which we call the Twenty-second Psalm. The hand of King David trembled as he wrote down the words.

"What hath the Spirit dictated to God's slave?" cried the wondering monarch. "This is no transcript of mine own experience. I have known what it is to pass through deep waters of trouble; to struggle for life with the lion; to grapple and wrestle with the foe. I have known what it is to hide in the cave, and to be hunted like the partridge on the mountains. But my God never forsook me. He was never far from me in the time of my trouble. There is nothing in the past which answers to these mysterious words:

"'They pierced My hands and My feet,
 They parted My garments amongst them;
 And on My vesture they cast lots.'

"Is this some awful trial looming before me? Or is it revealed regarding another? Oh that I could penetrate the depth of meaning conveyed in this Psalm! Lord, draw aside the thick curtain, if but for a moment! Let me know who is to be tortured, mocked at, and pierced; who is to be deserted by his friends, and forsaken even by his God."

As the king prayed, a thick mist seemed to fill the royal apartment; and a horror of darkness fell on the prophet's soul. Then slowly before his straining gaze something took shape before him: dimly at first, as if seen through mist; then gradually becoming distinct. David beheld a Cross, and an agonized Victim hanging upon it. The prophet saw all the terrible accessories which his own inspired pen had described. He was so horror-struck that he was scarcely at first aware of the presence of a white-winged angel beside him; though a halo of light shining around the heavenly guest had been the means of revealing the Cross and the sacred Sufferer.

"Oh, Spirit of light," exclaimed the king, "tell me the meaning of this terrible vision!"

"David, son of Jesse, thou art a sinner," was the angel's reply.

"I know it, I own it: I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me!" cried the penitent king.

"And all men are sinners," continued the angel. "The highest and holiest of human works are but as the shrivelling leaves worn by the father of mankind; and they have the slime of the serpent upon them. The sins of mortals are numerous as the hairs of their heads. How then can man stand justified before a pure and holy God?"

"We offer sacrifices, burnt offerings, and oblations," said David, his eyes still fixed on the visionary form on the Cross; for even the angel's presence and words could not draw his rapt attention from the pale face, crowned with thorns, from which slowly trickled the blood-drops.

"All your sacrifices are shadows—types—pictures," said the white-winged messenger of God. "Not the blood of thousands of bullocks, nor that of all the lambs in Judea, could wash out the stain of a single sin. It needs something infinitely more precious to redeem one guilty soul."

"Wouldst thou bid me despair?" cried the king; cold drops of agony starting from his brow—whilst still, he gazed on One on the Cross.

"There is but one means of salvation," said the angel. "The price of a world's redemption must be the blood—the sacrifice of One body, perfect, divine. He of whom thou hast wonderingly written, 'The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son!' He who sitteth at God's right hand—He alone can offer that sacrifice; be that Sacrifice; and become the Saviour of the world. Down on thy knees, O David; lay thy brow in the dust: implore the Son of God to leave His throne in Heaven; to be born a feeble baby; to consent to be scourged and crucified; to become a Victim for thy sake—even as the Form before thee now. Weep and pray; and if the Lord grant thy prayer, thou mayest be justified and accepted."

"Never could lip crave, nor heart desire such a Sacrifice!" exclaimed David with vehemence. "Shall a worm ask thee, O child of light, to exchange thy radiant form for his, and be trampled under foot for his sake? Thou biddest me offer a presumptuous prayer, such as no mortal dare utter, and to which no immortal would listen."

"If the Holy One die not, thou diest—and for ever!" said the pitying angel.

"Oh, is it so? Is there no redemption for me and my people, save by this!" cried David, raising his clasped hands towards the visionary Cross. "Are we then doomed to perdition? Is there no mercy in Heaven? Have I then cried in blind ignorance?—'The Lord is my Shepherd: I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me!'"

For an instant the eyes of Him who was dying on the Cross met those of David with a look of ineffable love; and the lips of the divine Victim in the vision uttered the words: "The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep."

The prophet-king heard no more, saw no more. He lay prostrate and senseless on the marble floor of his palace. There David remained till the shadows of night enwrapped him, and the silvery moon arose. Startled at his absence at the hour when the board was spread for the evening repast; and at the utter silence in the chamber from which the sound of the harp and the song of praise were wont to be heard—the king's attendants ventured at last to intrude on solitude so prolonged. They were alarmed to find their lord in a swoon.

Raising him gently, the attendants placed David on the royal couch, and applied such restoratives as, in those times, were most highly esteemed. Gradually the king's senses returned: he sat up; drained a silver goblet of water; then rose and waved his attendants away. And never, even to his wife, even to his most cherished friend, did David speak of his vision: he locked his secret in his heart.

No one dared to ask the king questions; but it was noticed by those who watched him most closely, that David could never command his voice to sing the Twenty-second Psalm, nor could hear it recited by others, without a burst of silent tears.



The Carpenter's Death.


SCARCELY had Percival finished reading his legend, when we were interrupted by the visit of the medical man. Having other calls to make, I took my leave of Percival, promising to return on the following day, to make myself better acquainted with his little picture gallery.

The next morning, after some conversation on other subjects, we examined together another oil-painting taken down from the wall.

Seyton. This is doubtless a representation of the interior of the humble abode in Nazareth, in which for many years Christ found a home. The youth whose back is turned towards us, so that scarcely any of his face is seen, is doubtless intended for the Saviour Himself. But why should only the outline of the cheek be given; and even that, be half-hidden by the auburn locks that fall downwards as the Lord stoops, as if to catch the faint utterance of the dying man by whose couch He stands?

Percival. Thrice did I begin that picture. In my first attempt, I sketched a full face as that of Christ; but so utterly did I fail in depicting on it Divine power and dignity, blended with human love, that in despair, I began another picture. In that, the position chosen for the chief figure showed the complete profile; and as far as earthly beauty was concerned, I may say that my sketch was not a failure. Every feature was as faultless as my poor skill could make it; but still I was utterly dissatisfied with my work. The beauty was classic and not celestial; nor did the face show any sign of toil.

Percival continued: "Then I felt convinced that imagination could depict the Divine Youth far better than could my weak pencil: so I concentrated my efforts on the face of the dying Joseph, making it reflect, as it were, the brightness of the countenance of Him who bends over His foster-father."

Seyton. Even as artists, unable to give the blaze of the noonday sun, just indicate its presence by lights and shadows thrown on terrestrial objects. Perhaps you did wisely, Percival. One is often pained by the lifeless, soulless countenances given as representations of Christ! Who could depict "the heaven of His eyes," the unearthly sweetness of the lips that spake as never man spake?

Percival. You see the accessories by which I have endeavoured to make the picture tell its own story.

Seyton. There is Mary, dressed in simplest Eastern garb; she has sunk on the floor, exhausted, as it seems, with night after night of watching. Sleep has stolen over her at last. The thin pale countenance shows how much it was needed.

Percival. And her Son will not awaken her.

Seyton. Christ appears to have entered with noiseless step by that open door through which stream the rays of the setting sun on the bed of him whose life-sun is sinking fast. But why should we suppose that Christ had left His mother, even for a little while, to keep her sad watch alone?

Percival. Will you think me too realistic if I point out the small heap of copper coins in that niche in the wall, and the tools on the earthen floor? Christ may have had to take finished work to an employer, and receive the price of His labour; that to the miseries of sickness in that home might not be added that of want.

Seyton. This is being too realistic for me. I can scarcely conceive that He who formed heaven and earth, "without whom nothing was made that was made," actually did common carpenter's work. I can hardly realize that Christ measured, sawed, and planed; that the sound of His hammer was heard; that He actually laboured till He was weary, and then received into a toil-hardened hand, the paltry coins earned by His toil. Can one believe that perhaps He, like poor workmen now, had to call again and again to get even a trifling payment for His work from some purse-proud Jew?

Percival. To gain bread by the sweat of the face was part of the primeval curse; and He who came to bear the more terrible effects of that curse would not be likely to shrink from this. Whatever Christ did, He did as unto God. In His workmanship no flaw could be found. What Christ made, He made to last. And He who was to purchase the redemption of a world, would deem it no disgrace to earn food by His daily toil. In all things, but sin, the Saviour was made like unto us. And this picture is designed to show the shadow of bereavement falling heavily on the Man of Sorrows; probably in the earlier part of His life.

Seyton. We know that Christ wept at the grave of His friend.

Percival. But here the Lord's tears are sacred—those caused by the anguish of bereavement. Christ knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the sleep of death: therefore the Lord's grief must have had a deeper source than that of mere sympathy with mourners, whose sorrow was in a few minutes to be changed into joy. Christ probably saw in the grave of the dead, and the grief of the living, an image of all earth's misery—all the ravages caused by sin.

Seyton. The Lord may have thought of His own mother; so soon to be a mourner for Him. Christ Himself spake comfort to the sisters of Lazarus: but who would speak comfort to Mary in the hour of her great desolation?

Percival. The pang caused by bereavement must have come to the Lord, when He saw the death of Joseph, His foster-father; the guardian of His infancy, the friend of His boyhood. If Christ were at the time conscious of His own supernatural power (held in abeyance only for a time, until the hour appointed by the Father should come), it must have required a greater effort of submission not to have exercised it then, than when the Saviour, faint with hunger, refrained from turning stones into bread.

Seyton. Yes. If the Son of Mary knew that by a word He could still the rapid beating of the pulse; turn pain into ease; and make His mother's heart bound with delight—not to speak that word must have cost Him an agonizing effort indeed. What meaning do you intend to convey by writing at the bottom of your picture, "I have found a ransom"?

Percival. I wished to represent the Saviour as repeating, by a death-bed, those marvellous words from the Book of Job. Joseph, like the patriarch, had been a just man before his fellow-mortals: but how could he be justified before God? Christ, the Lamb of God, was in the world: but He had not yet suffered for sin; He had not yet borne the iniquity of all. Joseph, on the brink of Death's dark river, may have felt some natural fear: he may have reviewed his past life and seen how far his obedience had fallen short of that required by the Law.

Percival continued: "Joseph may—it is not improbable—have felt himself bound by the chain of his iniquities. But, on such a man as Joseph, a hope inspired by the words of an angel would shine like Bethlehem's star. I fancy I hear the dying one exclaiming, 'Oh, Jesus, I am a sinner! But it was told me before Thy birth that Thou, even Thou, wouldst save Thy people from their sins.' I have sought to depict the holy joy awakened by the answer, coming in the familiar words of Scripture, from the lips of the Lamb of God—'I have found a ransom!'"

Seyton. The exclamation of Job, "I know that my Redeemer liveth; and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth," might be changed by Joseph to "He liveth—He standeth beside me: it is His hand that supports my head! Yea, though my heart and flesh faileth, His love shall be my portion for ever!"

Percival. And so with the star-like hope above him, and the peace of God filling his soul, the poor carpenter is sinking to rest. And Christ will weep the natural tears of human love, and will mingle His sorrow with that of the widowed Mary; and He will help her to lay out a cold form for burial, comforting His own sad heart with the inspired Word: "I HAVE FOUND A RANSOM." * "I will ransom thee from the power of the grave; I will redeem thee from death. O death, where are thy plagues? O grave, where is thy destruction?" †

* Job xxxiii. 24       † Hosea xiii. 14. R.V.





"SHALL I go to Percival to-day or not?" was the question which I asked myself as I looked out—not for first or second time that morning—from the window, dimmed by pattering rain.

The day was one of the worse to be seen, even in London; the sky blotted out by dense smoke; the pavement brown and wet, and the road all mud; the rain pouring down incessantly; and the wind howling dismally in the chimneys. Now and then a foot-passenger hurried past, struggling to prevent his dripping umbrella from being turned inside out by the gale.

Sometimes a cab was driven along the miry road, appearing for a few moments, then disappearing in the misty gloom. I had attempted to hail one which was empty; but the driver took no notice. No cab-stand was near: so if I should sally forth it must be on foot, with a river of mud to ford. I was, however, ashamed of my hesitation: on so dreary a day, my invalid friend would specially welcome a visit; so I took my umbrella and sallied forth.

I knocked at the door of Percival's lodging, which was opened, as usual, by the landlady in her mob cap. She cast uneasy glances at the mud-prints left by my boots on the old oil-cloth in her hall. On the narrow staircase I met the maid of all work carrying down an untasted, and by no means tempting-looking, dinner. Dirty and slip-shod the girl always was; but now she looked sulky also.

"He won't eat nothin'," she said, almost angrily, as she pushed past me. And the odour of the meat which she was taking away, quite accounted for the invalid's want of appetite for his meal.

"Of all dreary, miserable places in the world, a lodging in Fog Street must be the worst," I muttered to myself, as I reached the top of the long narrow staircase.

The sight of the room which I entered by no means altered my opinion. A pane of glass had been smashed in the window; and through the aperture swept the cold wind and the driven rain, the latter making tiny rivulets on the damp carpetless floor.

"How is this? How comes that pane to be broken?" I exclaimed. "The window was all right yesterday."

"It is only a bit of Polly's handiwork; or more correctly, elbow-work," answered Percival with a smile. "The girl put her elbow through the glass yesterday evening, when she brought in my supper."

"You don't mean to say that the window has remained in that state all night; with the rain drifting on to your bed, and the wind making the room like an ice-house!"

As I spoke, I was vigorously stopping up the hole with a many-tinted towel, which Percival had been using for his painting.

"I could not get at the window myself. Mrs. Bond was out taking tea with a neighbour; and Polly was in one of her little tempers: so I had just to make the best of my position," said my friend.

"But have you not suffered from this inexcusable carelessness?" I asked, seeing a look of suppressed pain on the pale countenance of the artist.

"Only a touch of neuralgia," was Percival's reply, its cheerful tone contrasting with the appearance of suffering on his pallid features.

I made the invalid as comfortable, or rather as little uncomfortable, as circumstances permitted; and then took a chair by his side.

"Percival, I cannot bear to see you in this depth of discomfort!" I cried.

"One could descend a good deal lower than this," was the playful reply. "I have a roof over my head; a good bed under me; food, when I can eat it; my palette; and my friend: and more, much more besides," Percival added more gravely, as he glanced at the Bible which lay by his side.

Seyton. You are the most long-suffering of men! But is not even your patience strained to the snapping point in a wretched lodging like this?

Percival. Very nearly, sometimes, I confess: at least it was so a little time since. Not great trials, but little ones, made it almost give way. It is not the heavy blow; but constant friction, that wears out the chain. I bore with tolerable fortitude the doctor's verdict which condemned me to a life of helplessness and pain, with no prospect of my sufferings ending on this side the grave; I saw before me a cross, and was given grace to take it up; but—but—

Seyton. But the thousand and one worries of existence in Fog Street; a servant's slatternly habits and sullen temper; bad cooking; loneliness; the absence of anything to give a colour to existence—would make a saint's temper and patience give way.

Percival. I own that I was anything but philosophic in regard to some cornet practice in the room just below this. Every evening, sometimes till late in the night, the horrid discordant blare effectually chased sleep from my eye-lids. Difficult passages were practised over and over with a resolute patience which all but exhausted mine. A hundred times I felt disposed to strike the floor violently with my stick, in hopes of stopping my tormentor below. In fact I did strike more than once: but the trumpeting went on all the same; its noise, perhaps, overpowering that which I made.

Seyton. Why did you not speak to your landlady about the annoyance?

Percival. I did; but was silenced by her reply, "Oh dear, yes: the poor gentleman loves his horn as if it were his child. I think it is the only pleasure he has; for he is hard at work in his office all day, and never goes out of an evening." Then I asked myself whether it would be reasonable or right to tax the kindness of a stranger by asking him to forego his one indulgence; and that a harmless one too. Would it not be better, thought I, to train my own mind to bear the petty annoyance?

Seyton. Not a petty one to an invalid, with a refined taste for music. Did you succeed, my dear fellow, in training your mind?

Percival. Fairly well—after a time. I was most helped by trying to fix my thoughts on the daily trials which were, no doubt, the Master's portion on earth. We are apt to think of the great temptation in the wilderness, and the sufferings in Gethsemane and on Calvary; as though they included almost all that Christ had to endure: but there were doubtless a thousand minor links of pain and annoyance which made Christ's earthly life a net-work of trial.

Seyton. Yes, even His brethren did not believe in Him; and his dull-minded disciples were always mistaking His meaning.

Percival. I was alluding to commoner trials than these. Hunger; thirst; the sense of privation; the extreme weariness, which caused the Lord to sleep on in the midst of a tempest: very often must such trials have oppressed Him, who was "made like unto" us in all things. Our Saviour travelled on foot: how often must He, like ourselves, have felt "the languid pulse, the aching limb;" have longed in the noonday for shade; or, dragging His weary steps along the dusty highway, have wished for some stream in which to lave His burning feet!

Percival proceeded: I pondered on these things till thought took its usual form—on canvas. I made this sketch; and, slight as it is, it has had a wondrous effect in allaying my natural impatience of disposition, and the irritability of nerves caused by my illness.

Seyton. I see that you have depicted the Master walking alone on the side of a hill. The landscape around is dreary and almost devoid of vegetation, save that thorn-bushes overgrow the path: some fluttering fragments of white clothing upon them denote that a way has had to be forced with difficulty through them. The Wanderer's feet look bruised; and there are red traces on His hands.

Percival. Yes, many were earth's thorns which wounded Christ's mortal frame, before they—as a climax—crowned His sacred brow.

Seyton. You have written under your sketch, "The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head;" and the picture forms a comment on the words. The sky above is dark and louring, showing that a storm is about to burst: we see lightning already flashing in the background. The Wanderer has no heavy mantle to wrap around His slightly clad form: every heavy drop will penetrate and chill. Christ's eyes are raised towards the mass of threatening clouds above Him. We see that He would willingly seek shelter; but none is near.

Percival. None for Him, the Lord of Creation. But notice yon small hole in the side of the sandy bank. The little fox of Palestine finds its home there; the fierce storm will not reach it. The wild creature knows more of comfort than does the Master! Seyton, when I had drawn this feeble picture of One who was homeless on the earth which He had made, I felt humbled and ashamed at ever having felt impatient under the slight annoyances which, cheerfully borne, will be found amongst the all things which work together for good to them that love God.

Here the conversation closed; but I may mention that by an arrangement with a kind relative of my own, Percival passed the short remainder of his life in comparative freedom from all trials from which woman's tenderness and considerate kindness could shield him.



Legend of the Self-made Grave.

THE next day Percival was moved to a house in Portland Place, in which my aunt, Lady Mar, resided. Every comfort was provided to make the little journey as easy as possible to one who could not even be carried downstairs without enduring a good deal of pain.

I took upon myself the care of arrangements for the removal of the very little property which my poor friend possessed. A few books, and clothes; a desk; materials for painting; a palette; and some dozen unframed pictures—comprised almost all that Percival owned in the world. He lay on his couch, watching my movements, as I wrapped up his pictures one by one.

"This one does not tell its own story," I observed.

"It illustrates the Legend of a sketch, which I made a short time ago; but I did not think it worth writing down," said my friend.

"I hope that at some leisure time you will repeat it: Lady Mar has a weakness for Legends. But here comes your landlady to bid you a tearful farewell: and Polly too; belikes in hope of a present, which she does not deserve."

Whether merited or not, the present was given; and a kindly good-bye was said to each of the women. Mrs. Bond declared that she had never had such a nice-spoken gentleman for a lodger—never! That she had done all for him that a mother could have done for a son; and that it was hard to have him go away and leave her. Polly was not so eloquent; but I forgave her the broken pane, and her little tempers, when I saw tears of genuine sorrow running down the poor girl's cheeks. Both mistress and servant felt that they would never look again on the pale, patient face of the lodger.

Percival was soon installed in his new, and comparatively luxurious, abode; but its comforts could only alleviate, not remove pain. He sometimes enjoyed conversation with my aunt, who is a very intelligent woman; yet at other times relaxed into greater languor, and did not care to touch his pencil.

Both Lady Mar and I more than once asked Percival to repeat to us his legend of the sketch, but he always evaded doing so.

"The story was too childish; too slight a thing for repetition to any one but a child," he said, a faint colour tinging his cheek. Percival was evidently shy in the presence of a lady.

My aunt, however, is one possessing tact to draw out those under her influence, and make them unconsciously follow her lead. She saw that Percival's spirits were drooping; and that, perhaps from fearing her critical eye, even his inclination to paint was passing away. Lady Mar noticed that her guest could hardly affect cheerfulness, though he manfully struggled to do so.

"My eyes are tired, and the daylight is fading," said my aunt one afternoon, laying down a book with which she had been vainly trying to amuse my poor friend. "The piano cannot be touched till after the visit of the tuner. We will not ring for candles yet; it is so pleasant to chat by twilight."

"Suppose we tell each other stories or legends," I suggested.

"If you begin, I'll try to follow suit," said my aunt; "and I'm sure that Percival—" (for the first time she dropped the "Mr.") "will not refuse his little contribution to the general amusement."

Percival was silent, but I saw that one point was gained: the invalid would try to forget languor and suffering in the attempt to give a few minutes' passing amusement to his friends, if others broke the ice.

I had a short Legend ready, and not being troubled with shyness, began the story which follows. I fear that it is not quite original: certainly its lesson has been often taught; but not perhaps in just the same form as in my little narration.

Legend of a Self-made Grave.

It is said that in olden times, a man very covetous of gain, was tempted to make a compact with a spirit, who was not a spirit of light. In Oriental language, such a mythical being is called a "jin." Some service secretly rendered by the miser to the jin was to be rewarded by the gift of untold wealth.

The jin carried the man to a lonely spot near a dark, weed-overgrown morass, a place seldom visited by men, save some poor basket-makers, who went to gather reeds and rushes. The place was said to be haunted by snakes and other vermin. The miser, according to the jin's directions, had brought with him a heavy spade for digging, and a large sack to contain his gold.

"In this spot," quoth the jin, striking the earth with his foot, "thou shall find inexhaustible treasure. Only one limit is affixed to thy gains. When thou dost cease to dig, thou shalt cease to find." As he thus spake, the jin vanished from sight.

The man took his spade, plied it vigorously, and with wondrous success. First, silver coins; then, heavy gold ones—plentifully rewarded his toil. The miser never raised his eyes from the earth except ever and anon to glance timidly around, while his hand still used the spade, to see if any unwelcome intruder were watching him at his work. But no one interrupted him. The man's work was begun at dawn; he continued to dig at noon when the sun's fiercest rays blazed over his head, drawing up foul exhalations from the marsh. The digger dared not seek for shelter, lest his golden harvest should suddenly come to an end. His muscles ached; his mouth was parched with thirst: but the gold-seeker, though shining heaps lay around him, would not pause even to go for a draught of water.

As the sun sloped towards the west, strong fever came on the digger; but though already possessed of prodigious wealth, still he went on digging. At last, as night closed in, shivering and trembling, the miser felt that he must give over work: deep and long was the hole he had made by his diligent toil; large the golden harvest he had won. Yet was he loth to stay his hand, for the man remembered the words of the jin: "When thou dost cease to dig thou shalt cease to find."

"Just one spadeful more!" cried the miser. And stooping low, with his tool in his hand, over the hole made by his incessant labour, the poor wretch's senses failed him; he swooned, and fell into a self-made grave! The loose earth fell in from the sides and covered the wealthy fool!

The basket-makers who chanced to come in the morning gathered up the heaps of silver and gold which were found near the spot, beneath which lay the corpse of him who had purchased them with his life.



The Three "Bihistis."

"I AM afraid that your miser has many prototypes in real life," observed Percival, when I paused. "Many a man has sold his life for gold."

"And his soul also," said Lady Mar. "How few realize the depth of truth contained in the lines:"

"'The greatest evil we can fear
    Is—to possess our portion here!'"

After a little more conversation on the subject, Lady Mar was called upon for her story, which she thus began:

"I suppose that I need hardly preface my little tale by telling you what bihistis are—Oriental water-carriers, bending beneath the weight of their mushaks (skins filled with water): these have been made so familiar by pictures, even to those who have never been, like myself, in India."

"I knew nothing about mushaks in my boyhood," observed Percival; "so our Lord's words about old and new bottles were to me an insoluble puzzle; until some one in a Bible-class mentioned that Eastern bottles were skins, of which old, worn ones would be liable to burst if filled with new, fermenting wine."

"What does the word bihisti mean?" I enquired. "Probably it is some combination of 'carry' and 'water.'"

"No, the title is a curious one," replied Lady Mar, "and conveys a poetical idea."

"Bihisti means 'one of Paradise,' and is probably given to the humble supplier of one of our first blessings, from water being regarded in the East as emphatically 'the gift of God.' 'Bihisti' is a beautiful name bestowed on an honest, hard-working class, who bear a heavy burden, in order to relieve the thirst of others in a dry and weary land."

"These bihistis are often seen in India filling their mushaks at a well, or pouring water from them at railway stations when the train stops for a few minutes. Bihistis enter even the guarded zenanas to perform their needful task of filling earthen jars; though the appearance of the poor water-carrier sometimes causes a stampede amongst the ladies."

"I was startled once, when showing my album to several bibis,* by their suddenly springing to their feet and running away, leaving me alone to encounter the danger, whatever it might be. Was it a mad dog or a tiger that had entered the zenana? No; only a quiet, sober-looking bihisti, with his eyes on the ground, and his burden on his back, and his hand on the mouth of his mushak, to guide its contents into the jars placed ready to receive them."

* Ladies.

"And now for my story."

"Outside a serai (native inn) sat in the moonlight four men, smoking their hookahs, and having one of those long talks which natives of the East delight in, and sometimes prolong far into the night. One of the most striking figures in the group was that of a venerable Sikh, whose hair and beard, never touched by razor, were now of silvery whiteness. The other men were of various nationalities, but used Urdu as a tongue common to all."

"The first speaker, a Persian, was giving a flowery account of his own country, which none of the others had ever seen. Such horses, such fruits, such cities, he described—that to hear him, one might think that Persia, of all the lands of earth, was the most beautiful and most blest."

"And our men are unmatched for size and strength," pursued the speaker, using a good deal of gesticulation. "I am one of a family of ten sons; and not one of my brothers but is taller and stronger than I am. What would you say to our bihisti? He is some eight feet in height, and carries a mushak made of the hide of an ox, which, when full, five of your ordinary men could not lift!"

"Wah! Wah!" exclaimed the listeners.

The sage old Sikh rather incredulously shook his head, and muttered, "I should like to see such a bihisti."

Then spake a fine tall Afghan. "I could tell you of a bihisti," he said, "compared to whom your bihisti is but an emmet. I know one who can carry a mushak big as a mountain, and white as the snows on the Himalayas. This water-carrier can travel thousands of miles without stopping or feeling weary, sometimes whistling, and sometimes howling as he goes."

"Wah! Wah!" cried those around him.

But the Persian rather angrily said, "I will never believe such a pack of lies!"

"Oh, brother," said the old Sikh smiling, "there is more truth in the Afghan's tale than in thine. Look yonder," he continued, as a white cloud passed over the face of the moon, "and listen to the rushing blast which is shaking the leaves of yon palms. The wind is the mighty bihisti whom the great Creator employs to bear swiftly the huge white mushaks which convey His gift of rain. The words of the Pathan are not the words of folly."

"Thou art wise, O father!" said the youngest man in the group, who had hitherto spoken but little. "Now listen whilst I tell of a third bihisti; not tall like the first, nor strong like the second, but bearing a more wonderful mushak than either. This mushak is small, not longer than my hand; it is very old too, and it is carried by a very feeble man."

"Useless! Good for nothing!" exclaimed the Persian.

"Listen before you say so. In this mushak is water of such wonderful virtue, that if but a few drops fall on good soil, a spring of surpassing sweetness bursts forth, sometimes spreading and spreading: till first a brook; then a wide stream; then a glorious river—appears. The most learned cannot calculate, nor ages on ages limit, the effects of a few living drops from that blessed mushak!"

The Persian and Afghan uttered exclamations of surprise; but a thoughtful inquiring look was on the face of the aged Sikh.

"Where can that mushak be seen?" he enquired.

"Here," replied the Bengali; and he drew a Bible from his vest. "This book contains the Word of God; and its contents, when received with faith, are spirit and life."

"It is the Christian's Scriptures," said the old Sikh, raising his hand to his brow in token of respect.

"Let me pour forth some drops of the living water," said the native evangelist; "as the moonlight is so bright that I can, by it, read a little from the pages which I know and love so well."

No one made any objection: the Persian listened with curiosity, and the Afghan with some attention; but it was on the old Sikh that the holy words fell like the rain from Heaven. This was not the first time that he had drunk from the precious mushak of inspired Truth, and its water became to him as a stream of life which should never fail him till time should be lost in eternity.



The Legend of the Shekel.


"IT is your turn now, Percival," said my aunt.

"Give us the Legend of the Shekel," I rejoined. "It is getting too dark to examine your picture: but I remember it well. It represents a man, apparently a poor one, clad in a common Jewish dress. He is gazing, with wonder and delight, at some silver coin, which he holds in his brown wrinkled palm. I have been trying in vain to recall any incident in Scripture which would correspond with the picture."

"Surely," said my aunt, "Percival must have represented St. Peter with the money found in the mouth of the fish."

"I thought of that at first," I observed. "But the man in the picture, thin and weak in appearance, does not at all suit our idea of a hardy fisherman: he looks more like a worn-out mechanic. Percival, you must tell us what meaning you intended to convey."

Percival. The shekel is meant for that brought by the fish; but the man in the picture is certainly not the Apostle.

Lady Mar. For whom then is this figure intended?

Percival as his reply repeated the following legend. I wrote it down afterwards from memory, as it was not to be found amongst the papers left by my friend.

The Legend of the Shekel.

When St. Peter, in obedience to the Master's command, had cast a hook into the sea, and drawn forth a fish in whose mouth he found a shekel, with which to pay the Temple tribute, his soul was filled with wonder. How had that piece of silver come into the mouth of the quivering, struggling creature, whose habitation had been the deep waters?

That silvery fish had, in some most mysterious manner, obeyed the behest of its Creator; and St. Peter resolved to restore the wounded creature to its native element.

"I will not take the life of the dumb fish that has ministered to the Master's need," thought Peter, as he cast it back into the water. For a moment, the shining scales glittered in the sunlight, then disappeared under the waves.

The shekel was duly paid into the Temple treasury as the tribute-money contributed by the Lord and His apostle.

In that treasury, under the care of the avaricious and worldly priests, the money remained for awhile. They saw in it nothing remarkable; it was merely, to them, a bright, newly-coined piece of silver, resembling, in everything but its freshness, the thousands of shekels that passed through their hands.

At last, for some needful work done in the Temple, the shekel was paid out to a poor artisan, who thought at first that it had been hardly earned by the labour of several days.

Michael, however, took the shekel without a murmur from the hand of a pampered priest, who seemed almost to grudge the workman his well-earned hire. Michael turned from the door of the Temple, which had become a den of thieves; made his way amongst bleating flocks; passed the gate of the money-changers; and would have turned his shekel into smaller coin, had not conscience hindered the pious Jew from doing any worldly business in precincts so holy.

"I will change my shekel elsewhere," said Michael to himself; "though I am a little loth to part with one which looks so unsullied by the touch of man."

Looking down at the money in his hand, Michael was amazed to behold on it in letters distinct as if fresh from a dye, but extremely minute, the first verse of the book of Psalms.

With wonder and delight Michael gazed on the marvellous coin; and as he gazed his wonder increased. The words melted away before his eyes; but no blank remained on the miraculous silver. The second verse of the Psalm had succeeded the first; and this, in a few seconds, was followed by the third: and so on to the end of the Psalm. The shining shekel, won from the sea, was like a roll of the Holy Scriptures—Psalm after Psalm, in regular progression, appearing on the small bright disc.

"Oh, marvellous! Most marvellous and blessed shekel!" exclaimed the enraptured Michael. "Possessed of thee, I am the owner of inestimable wealth! I would not part with thee for a thousand pieces of gold."

Michael saw a learned Scribe advancing towards him; and, eager to know more of the nature of a thing of such miraculous virtue, the artisan ran towards the interpreter of the law, and eagerly showed him the piece of silver.

"What is this wonderful coin?" exclaimed Michael.

The Levite examined it, and a look of contempt came on his face. "Fool, have you never seen a shekel before?" he enquired.

"Never such a one as this!" cried Michael.

"It is like any other shekel," said the Levite scornfully, and he tossed it down in the dust.

It was only the eye of Faith that saw any special value, in that which a miracle had produced.

"Did my eyes deceive me when I read verse after verse of God's Word from that coin?" said Michael to himself, as he raised from the earth his shekel, quite undimmed by the dust. "No, for another Psalm is commenced. Blessed shekel! I desire to keep thee to my dying day, and then have thee buried with me in my grave."

Michael kept to his resolution for some length of time. Each day, when there came any pause in his work, he drank in comfort and instruction from the words visible to him alone on his wonderful piece of silver. They were the first thing which he studied when rising at dawn; and when the sun set, he read till the light faded away. Then, kindling his small earthen lamp, Michael still pursued his blessed study: never did the minute characters engraved on the silver shine more brightly than then.

And yet Michael did break his resolution; did part with his treasure! And this was how it happened.

Partly from prophetic verses seen on his coin, but still more from hearing the Divine Preacher Himself, Michael had become a devout believer in the holy Jesus of Nazareth. One memorable day, Michael met two of the Lord's followers, and heard them conversing together in troubled tones.

"The Master commanded us to provide things needful for the feast," said one; "and we have nothing wherewith to buy them. Judas hath the bag; and we wot not whither he has gone. The day is wearing on, and there is nothing ready for the Master."

"Surely God Himself will provide," said the other disciple.

Michael was a poor man, and knew not how to prepare the usual feast for himself; for he had shrunk from spending his precious shekel. But here the need was the Lord's; and should he not give to the Master of the very best that he had? How could his precious coin be better bestowed? So in lowly faith and love, the poor artisan gave his all to supply the table of the dear Master. Michael little knew that he was paying for the bread and wine which, at the Last Supper, should be distributed as emblems of His own sacred body and blood by the Lamb about to be slain.

Michael was no loser by his free-will offering of love. All the words which had before been engraven on the shekel were now clearly written in his own heart, as if by the pen of an angel. A thousandfold blessed was the man who had given what he most prized to the Lord.

And even of the fish that had unwittingly helped the Master, the legend says that it had been reserved to be used again in His service. When the disciples were gathered together after the Resurrection of Christ, and their Lord appeared amongst them, the broiled fish which formed part of the repast was that which had borne in its mouth to Peter the wonderful shekel.

"I have been thinking," said I, as Percival concluded, "what kind of moral one could draw from your legend, which one could imagine some monk in the dark ages composing in his cell."

"To me it seems to convey the lesson that a blessing may be gained, even by a surrender of some spiritual privileges for the service of the Lord," said Lady Mar.

"The quiet, peaceful Sabbath evening given up for the Sabbath class in some heated, crowded room; the congenial society of God's people surrendered for that of rude, ignorant unbelievers, either at home or abroad—such sacrifices are well-pleasing in His sight. Few earnest followers of Him who left Heaven and its angels to toil amongst wicked men but know something of what it is to surrender the precious shekel, and gain a thousandfold in exchange."



The Night after the Crucifixion.


THERE was no third person present when Percival and I talked over the subject of the picture on which he had bestowed his most loving pains.

It was the only one, as he told me, in which he had ventured to introduce more than two figures. His mind had so pondered over his subject that to him, at least, the scene appeared to be real.

Percival had, as it were, sat on the ground with the mourners for a crucified Master; realized their sense of desolation; with them, bowed his head and wept. What must have been the darkness when the Sun of Righteousness had set! What the appalling stillness, when the sacred body of the murdered Hope of Israel lay cold in the rock-hewn tomb!

The scene depicted was a room on the ground-floor of some Jerusalem home. Scarcely any furniture is seen save a few mats on the earthen floor, and clay lamps burning dimly in niches on the wall.

There is also a low bedstead, on which, in a half-reclining position, appears the principal female figure, with another woman crouching on the ground, in silent unutterable woe, at her feet. A third, standing with clasped hands and upturned gaze, is seen near, but her wan face bears an expression of trustful confidence which has in it something of the sublime. She is not crushed, but exalted by trial.

Seyton. Here we doubtless see the three Maries. The central form is that of the Lord's desolate mother; but she seems rather to be absorbed in deep thought, than overwhelmed by the bitter grief of bereavement.

Percival. I pictured in my mind the three Maries, as types of Memory, Love, and Faith. The mother, in her silent sorrow, is meditating over wondrous recollections of the past; which, like the wall-lamps, cast some light on what would otherwise appear as one chaos of gloom. "Is it possible that He whose coming was foretold to me by a glorious angel; at whose birth seraphs sang and the shepherds were glad—is it possible that He has really passed from earth like a dream! Was it for nothing that holy Elisabeth and Anna prophesied, and the aged Simeon rejoiced? The sword has indeed pierced my soul; aye, drank as it were my very life's blood: but was not this also foretold! Doth God give the bitter, and withhold the sweet? Must not prophecies be fulfilled?"

Seyton. It has struck me that the circumstance of Mary of Nazareth's not being mentioned amongst the women who visited the sepulchre—may have arisen from her stronger faith. She, the Lord's mother, did not, as far as we know, seek the living amongst the dead: at least, her so doing is not recorded by any one of the four Evangelists.

Percival. The things which Mary so long pondered in her heart may, like buried seeds, have sprung to light in the hour of her bitterest anguish. The Lord's mother was a thoughtful woman; and she knew that the Babe whom she had folded in her arms and pressed to her bosom was indeed the Son of God.

Seyton. But there is nothing of hope expressed in the attitude of Mary Magdalene in your picture.

Percival. No; she has loved, and she has lost, her Lord; lost Him, as she thinks, for ever, as regards this mortal life. Mary has kissed the dead feet; has pressed to her lips the wounded hand; and her tears have dropped on the thorn-encircled brow. Even the sight of angels will convey to her no comfort; her grief-dimmed eyes will not recognize the risen Christ Himself, till she hears His own beloved voice pronounce her familiar name.

Seyton. The third Mary presents a contrast to the Magdalene: the sister of Lazarus, with the tears streaming down her cheeks, looks as if on her pale lips could almost dawn a triumphant smile.

Percival. Have you never thought what was probably the subject of the Lord's discourse to Mary of Bethany when, absorbed in listening, she sat at His feet? Is it not likely that Christ was disclosing to her, as He did to less believing disciples, the approaching sacrifice on Calvary, and the glory which was to follow?

Seyton. If such were the subject of Christ's discourse, how Martha's impetuous interruption must have jarred both on the Divine Teacher and the listener who was drinking in such soul-absorbing truths!

Percival. Surely it was not in blind ignorance of the meaning of what she did, that Mary brought her precious ointment to pour on the feet of the Master! He who could read her inmost thoughts said, "She did it for My burial." Were not Mary's thoughts, then, something like this—

"He hath said it—alas! alas!—and all that my Lord says must be true. The holy Jesus will be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. He will be mocked, scourged, and slain. Yes, He who called my brother from the grave must Himself die! And they who murder Him will not, perhaps, suffer due honour to be paid to the holy corpse; I may not be able to approach the sacred form! I will be beforehand with Christ's cruel foes; what I may not be allowed to do after His death, I will do ere the awful moment come when the Lamb of God must be sacrificed for our sins. I will anoint Him for His burial!"

Seyton. And when the sacrifice had been offered, you believe that Mary of Bethany, unlike any of the apostles, had faith to look beyond death to Christ's Resurrection?

Percival. There is nothing in Scripture that I know of to lead us to doubt it. The piety of Mary of Bethany seems to have been of a higher, a more spiritual type, than that of her sister. It was not Mary who exclaimed against the removal of the stone from the sepulchre's mouth. Mary perhaps saw in the resurrection of Lazarus a type and pledge of that of her Lord. If so, her joy must have been yet more intense than that of Martha, even as her gratitude took a more palpable form.

Seyton. It is interesting and refreshing to the spirit thus to meditate over Scripture characters. What to some are merely like ancient statues, when we gaze on them thus, become human beings instinct with life.

Percival. And such meditation makes us realize the tie which binds Christians of to-day to saints of the olden time; at least, it has that effect with me. I feel almost as if those whose forms I have attempted to depict on my canvas had become my familiar friends. I look forward to meeting those three Maries hereafter: perhaps that time may not be far off.

Seyton. There are two male figures in the background of your picture, represented as just about to enter the room. One, the elder, appears to be struggling to retire: he is unwilling to intrude on the sacredness of grief.

Percival. Can you not read sorrow and shame on his half-averted face?

Seyton. His younger companion is using loving persuasion to draw him forward: his arm is thrown around the elder, and his face expresses compassion and love. The two figures must represent John and Peter.

Percival. Such was the idea in my mind. Where would poor broken-hearted Peter hide himself when, pierced by that look of his Lord, he went forth and bitterly wept? Would he not seek the solemn shade of the olives in the Garden of Gethsemane, and prostrate himself on the spot where the Master had knelt in agonized prayer? Would not Peter lay his throbbing brow on the sod where he could trace red signs of the bloody sweat, and try to efface them with his hot tears?

Percival went on: How terrible to Peter must have been the darkness which for three hours covered the earth, a sign that the fearful deed was being done, on which the sun could not look! He who had thrice denied his Lord dared not go near His cross; but the disciple's anguished soul would vividly picture its horrors. Peter must have trembled at the shock of the earthquake which told that all was over. How could he rise from the earth? How endure ever to look again on the face of a fellow-apostle?

Seyton. And you have imagined John, with tender sympathy, seeking out his erring brother in the place where he would be most likely to find him.

Percival. And entreating Peter not to remain apart from all his brethren; not to give way to despair: but to join those who, like himself, were mourning their crucified Lord.

Seyton. No marvel that Peter should shrink from entering the presence of the bereaved mother of Christ!

Percival. Mary would not turn from him; she would utter no word of reproach: she would raise her tearful eyes, and give the penitent Peter a look which would remind him of that which he had last seen on the sacred face of her Son.


The Legend of the Roman Soldier.


I HAD fastened up several of Percival's pictures on the wall of the room which he now occupied; and in which he received frequent visits from my aunt. On one occasion the following conversation was held between them.

Lady Mar. Percival, I cannot take my eyes from that picture of yours hung in the corner: it is so dramatic in composition, so vigorous in execution. Yet I find it so difficult to trace any connexion between it and any narrative contained in the Bible. I understood from my nephew that you only illustrate passages from Scripture.

Percival. Not exactly so, dear Lady Mar. The connection of my poor fancies with the Scriptures is like that of the mistletoe with the oak. The mistletoe is a weak little plant; of a nature different to, and far less noble than, the tree on which it rests: yet from that tree, it derives both nourishment and support.

Lady Mar. And the mistletoe bears delicate white berries, which serve to make winter brighter. But this picture before me has red berries rather than white ones. Despondency and attempted suicide appear to form its subject. A powerfully-made soldier, evidently a Roman, is about to fall on his own sword, his face expressing the despair which is driving him on to self-destruction. Another man, a Jew, has caught hold of his arm, evidently to prevent the warrior from accomplishing his desperate purpose.

Lady Mar continued: "Please tell us on what branch of the oak your parasite grows. You cannot refuse us anything this evening, as my nephew leaves us for college to-morrow; so to one of us, as you see, this will be the last night of meeting for some months to come."

I thought sadly, "Possibly indeed the last meeting. Shall I find Percival here on my return?"

"I happen to have written out my little Legend," was Percival's reply. "If Seyton cares to read it, and you to listen, it is quite at your service."

"Whilst my nephew reads, I will keep my eye on the picture," said Lady Mar. "I feel a sympathy with that stalwart Roman, who seems in such a desperate plight."

The Legend of the Roman Soldier.

A soldier sought the silence and solitude of a forest; for the presence of his fellow-creatures had become hateful to his soul. The moonbeams, piercing like silver lances between the branches, glimmered on the steel breastplate and arms which had been borne in many a fight.

Marcus was a tried warrior, who had distinguished himself from his comrades by feats of strength and deeds of daring. But now all his spirit was gone: he would not have cared to raise his powerful arm to ward off a blow; nay, he would have welcomed the sharp steel which should cut him off from the earth, which had become to him worse than a prison.

"Now let me end my misery!" exclaimed Marcus. "I am a guilty wretch not fit to live! There is only one good deed which I can perform—use this accursed hand to avenge the innocent blood which it shed."

Clenching his teeth with fierce resolution, Marcus fixed the hilt of his sword firmly between the gnarled roots of a tree; hastily unfastened his breastplate, and flung it clanging on the earth; then nerved himself for the desperate act of throwing himself on the point of his sharp weapon.

But at that moment, the muscular arm of the strong soldier was seized by a Jew, who, unseen in the shade, had watched his movements.

"Madman! In Christ's name forbear!" exclaimed the Jew.

Marcus was startled at the word. "What! Are you one of the followers of Him who died on Calvary?" cried the soldier, drawing back, and surveying almost with fear one whom by a slight exertion of his giant strength, he could have dashed to the ground. "If you be a disciple of Christ, far from staying the execution of justice, you will slay me yourself, and trample my blood under your feet! Take yon sword, and strike home!"

"What hast thou done," asked the Christian, "that thou shouldst bid me slay thee?"

"Hear, if thou wilt; for I can no longer endure to bear my burden in silence. Hear and then strike; for I have well-merited death from the hand of a disciple."

So saying, Marcus flung himself down on the gnarled roots, which afforded a rude kind of seat, and signed to the Jew to take his place on a large stone near.

Asahel, such was his name, obeyed the sign, and prepared himself to listen.

But for some minutes only deep groans were heard from the unhappy Roman, who seemed to shrink from beginning his terrible confession. At last, averting his eyes, he thus began:

"Is it not enough to say that I was one of the Prætorian band on that day—not many moons have waxed and waned since then—when there was darkness and an earthquake; and the Temple curtain was rent in twain."

"What! Thou wast one of those Roman soldiers! Thou didst mock the Blessed One, and crown Him with thorns!"

"I did not!" cried Marcus fiercely. "I was not base enough for that. When I looked at that calm majestic Sufferer, I thought Him more kingly in His robe of mockery, than Pontius Pilate in all his state!"

"When I heard the yelling of the savage mob, thirsty for blood, I said to myself, 'Were I in the place of our Governor, those slaves might shout as they pleased, I would never give Him up, innocent as He is, to fanatic priest or frantic people! I would not so play the coward!'"

Asahel winced, as if some acute pain had suddenly struck him.

"But it was my duty, my detestable office, to execute the sentence which I thought unjust as well as cruel. I was accustomed as a soldier to obey orders without question, and without remorse. Hardened as I am by familiarity with executions, without mercy or scruple I crucified one of the wretched thieves. His yell of agony as I did my work did not even awake a feeling of pity in my heart."

"But it was very different with me when I laid my hand—would that lightning had blasted it!—on the hammer, and did what I would now give my life to undo! He uttered no groan—no curse; He submitted like a lamb in the slaughterer's grasp. He but said—I cannot repeat what He said."

The soldier's head sank on his broad breast, and the strong man wept.

"Christ said, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!'" said Asahel, softly.

"I was present through all," continued the soldier, when he had recovered his self-command, "I saw the sudden darkness: it fell over me like a shroud! Every hour of that fearful time convinced me the more that I was helping to torture—to murder—One who was more than man. At last, when I heard the faint words, 'I thirst!' I ran; and putting a sponge filled with vinegar on a reed, I moistened the white, parched lips of the Dying."

"Oh that I had done that!" cried the Christian Jew, bursting into tears. "Blessed man! Thou wert the only one, then, to relieve the Saviour's dying anguish!"

The Roman gazed in astonishment at his companion. "I thought, O follower of Christ!" said he. "That thou wouldst abhor me, even as I abhor mine own self."

"I am a thousandfold more guilty than thou art!" cried Asahel. "I was one of the savage mob. It was as if under the direct influence of Satan that I shouted even as they did. I saw Him suffer—and I did not pity! Thou didst act under compulsion. I—I struck Him; and yet I live!"

Marcus started to his feet with something like an imprecation. "Wretch! Thou art beyond pardon!" he exclaimed.

"I have found pardon!" cried the believer. "And where I found it, so may'st thou."

Then, in a voice trembling with emotion, Asahel recounted the wonders of the Day of Pentecost; and repeated, almost word for word, that address of Peter, on hearing which, three thousand sinners were pricked to the heart and repented.

"I was one of that three thousand," said the converted Jew. "I believed, and I was forgiven. The blood which flowed on the cross was a full, sufficient, atonement even for guilt such as mine."

"And will it avail even for me?" exclaimed Marcus, the first ray of hope glimmering on the midnight of his despair.

"Did Christ not pray for thee, O brother? And art thou not already forgiven?"





I SHALL ever remember that evening: what followed impressed it so deeply on my mind.

Percival seemed unconscious of any one's presence; his lips softly repeated the last word forgiven, and I thought that he smiled.

A brief prayer closed our meeting that night: I now doubt whether Percival heard it.

My aunt, seeing that the invalid was unusually drowsy, hastened the preparation for his nightly rest.

In the morning. I went to Percival's room early, to bid him good-bye ere I started for college. I knocked at his door: there was no reply. I knocked again: still silence within. I opened the door softly; and entering, approached his bed.

My first glance at the countenance, so white—so still—so beautiful, told me that the spirit had fled.

"For death had come in the land of sleep;
    And his lifeless body lay
 Like a worn-out fetter, which the soul
    Had broken and cast away!"

We had anticipated for Percival a long, slow, painful descent to the river of death: but some chord had given way within; he was free, and had cleared the river at a bound. I could not have laid a detaining hand on the freed and rejoicing spirit!

Nothing is now left, in this world, of Henry Percival—but a modest tomb, a fragrant memory, and his little gallery of pictures.