Ester Ried Part 9
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"I know that is pleasant; but there are very serious drawbacks. Now, there's our Ralph, it is very pleasant to have him for company; and yet--Well, Ester, he isn't a Christian, and it seems all the time to me that he is walking on quicksands. I am in one continual tremble for him, and I wish so often that he was just a little boy, no older than your brother Alfred; then I could learn his tastes, and indeed mold them in a measure by having him with me a great deal, and it does seem to me that I could make religion appear such a pleasant thing to him, that he couldn't help seeking Jesus for himself. Don't you enjoy teaching Alfred?"
Poor, puzzled Ester! With what a matter-of-course air her cousin asked this question. Could she possibly tell her that she sometimes never gave Alfred a thought from one week's end to another, and that she never in her life thought of teaching him a single thing.
"I am not his teacher," she said at length "I have no time for any such thing; he goes to school, you know, and mother helps him."
"Well," said Abbie, with a thoughtful air, "I don't quite mean teaching, either; at least not lessons and things of that sort, though I think I should enjoy having him depend on me in all his needs; but I was thinking more especially of winning him to Jesus; it seems so much easier to do it while one is young. Perhaps he is a Christian now; is he?"
Ester merely shook her head in answer. She could not look in those earnest blue eyes and say that she had never, by word or act, asked him to come to Jesus.
"Well, that is what I mean; you have so much more chance than I, it seems to me. Oh, my heart is so heavy for Ralph! I am all alone. Ester, do you know that neither my mother nor my father are Christians, and our home influence is--; well, is not what a young man needs. He is very--gay they call it. There are his friends here in the city, and his friends in college,--none of them the style of people that _I_ like him to be with,--and only poor little me to stem the tide of worldliness all around him. There is one thing in particular that troubles me--he is, or rather he is not--," and here poor Abbie stopped, and a little silence followed. After a moment she spoke again: "Oh, Ester, you will learn what I mean without my telling you; it is something in which I greatly need your help. I depend upon you; I have looked forward to your coming, on his account as well as on my own. I know it will be better for him."
Ester longed to ask what the "something" was, and what was expected of her; but the pained look on Abbie's face deterred her, and she contented herself by saying:
"Where is he now?"
"In college; coming next week. I long, on his account, to have a home of my own. I believe I can show him a style of life which will appear better to him than the one he is leading now."
This led to a long talk on the coming wedding.
"Mother is very much disturbed that it should occur in August," Abbie said; "and of course it is not pleasant as it would be later; but the trouble is, Mr. Foster is obliged to go abroad in September."
"Who is Mr. Foster? Can't you be married if he isn't here?"
"Not very well," Abbie said, with a bright little laugh. "You see he is the one who has asked me to marry him."
"Why! is he?" and Ester laughed at her former question; then, as a sudden thought occurred to her, she asked: "Is he a minister?"
"Oh dear no, he is only a merchant."
"Is he a--a Christian?" was her next query, and so utterly unused was she to conversation on this subject, that she actually stammered over the simple sentence.
Such a bright, earnest face as was turned toward her at this question!
"Ester," said Abbie quickly, "I couldn't marry a man who was not a Christian."
"Why," Ester asked, startled a little at the energy of her tone, "do you think it is wrong?"
"Perhaps not for every one. I think one's own carefully enlightened conscience should prayerfully decide the question; but it would be wrong for me. I am too weak; it would hinder my own growth in grace. I feel that I need all the human helps I can get. Yes, Mr. Foster is an earnest Christian."
"Do you suppose," said Ester, growing metaphysical, "that if Mr.
Foster were not a Christian you would marry him?"
A little s.h.i.+ver quivered through Abbie's frame as she answered:
"I hope I should have strength to do what I thought right; and I believe I should."
"Yes, you think so now," persisted Ester, "because there is no danger of any such trial; but I tell you I don't believe, if you were brought to the test, that you would do any such thing."
Abbie's tone in reply was very humble.
"Perhaps not--I might miserably fail; and yet, Ester, _He_ has said, 'My grace is sufficient for thee.'"
Then, after a little silence, the bright look returned to her face as she added:
"I am very glad that I am not to be tried in that furnace; and do you know, Ester, I never believed in making myself a martyr to what might have been, or even what _may_ be in the future; 'sufficient unto the day' is my motto. If it should ever be my duty to burn at the stake, I believe I should go to my Savior and plead for the 'sufficient grace;'
but as long as I have no such known trial before me, I don't know why I should be asking for what I do not need, or grow unhappy over improbabilities, though I _do_ pray every day to be prepared for whatever the future has for me."
Then the talk drifted back again to the various details connected with the wedding, until suddenly Abbie came to her feet with a spring.
"Why, Ester!" she exclaimed penitently, "What a thoughtless wretch I am! Here have I been chattering you fairly into midnight, without a thought of your tired body and brain. This session must adjourn immediately. Shall you and I have prayers together to-night? Will it seem homelike to you? Can you play I am Sadie for just a little while?"
"I should like it," Ester answered faintly.
"Shall I read, as you are so weary?" and, without waiting for a reply, she unclasped the lids of her little Bible. "Are you reading the Bible by course? Where do you like best to read, for devotional reading I mean?"
"I don't know that I have any choice?" Ester's voice was fainter still.
"Haven't you? I have my special verses that I turn to in my various needs. Where are you and Sadie reading?"
"No where," said Ester desperately.
Abbie's face expressed only innocent surprise
"Don't you read together? You are roommates, aren't you? Now I always thought it would be so delightful to have a nice little time, like family wors.h.i.+p, in one's own room."
"Sadie doesn't care anything about these things, she isn't a Christian," Ester said at length.
"Oh, dear! isn't she?" What a very sad and troubled tone it was in which Abbie spoke. "Then you know something of my anxiety; and yet it is different. She is younger than you, and you can have her so much under your influence. At least it seems different to me. How p.r.o.ne we are to consider our own anxieties peculiarly trying."
Ester never remembered giving a half hour's anxious thought to this which was supposed to be an anxiety with her in all her life; but she did not say so, and Abbie continued: "Who is your particular Christian friend, then?"
What an exceedingly trying and troublesome talk this was to Ester!
What _was_ she to say?
Clearly nothing but the truth.
"Abbie, I haven't a friend in the world."
"You poor, dear child; then we are situated very much alike after all--though I have dear friends outside of my own family; but what a heavy responsibility you must feel in your large household, and you the only Christian. Do you shrink from responsibility of that kind, Ester? Does it seem, sometimes, as if it would almost rush you?"
"Oh, there are some Christians in the family," Ester answered, preferring to avoid the last part of the sentence; "but then--"
"They are half way Christians, perhaps. I understand how that is; it really seems sadder to me than even thoughtless neglect."
Be it recorded that Ester's conscience p.r.i.c.ked her. This supposition on Abbie's part was not true. Dr. Van Anden, for instance, always had seemed to her most horribly and fanatically in earnest. But in what rank should she place this young, and beautiful, and wealthy city lady? Surely, she could not be a fanatic?
Ester was troubled.
"Well," said Abbie, "suppose I read you some of my sweet verses. Do you know I always feel a temptation to read in John? There is so much in that book about Jesus, and John seemed to love him so."
Ester Ried Part 9
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Ester Ried Part 9 summary
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