Chapter 9: The Net Spread

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
WE were as a household early risers; but when I went downstairs on the morning following the visit of our loved friend and pastor, I found that he, with my father, having breakfasted long before daylight, had already left the house. My mother was busy with household cares, and I went as usual to feed the poultry. It was nothing unusual for my father when a heavy day's work lay before him to leave home at an early hour, and in his absence my mother always read and prayed with us.
How well do I remember our reading that morning! We read verse by verse the eighth chapter of the Gospel by Mark, and when we came to the last verse, "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man he ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." I can never forget how earnestly and tenderly mother begged us not to be ashamed of confessing the Lord Jesus as our own trusted Savior. She knew, she said, that the warm friendship that had grown up between Greta and myself might have placed me in circumstances of temptation to deny the Lord.
Madame Johns had, she continued, promised her that if we were allowed to visit “Verney" our faith should not be interfered with, but she could not help seeing that Greta had acquired an influence over me of which she could not approve.
I felt thoroughly miserable. I longed to tell mother everything, but pride held me back; she had trusted me, and I was not willing to confess myself unworthy of her confidence. How I wished Greta had not asked me to go to the Roman Catholic Church on Christmas morning. I would tell her I could not, would not go. Yes, I would be as brave and true as John Huss had been.
My good resolutions seemed to give me hope and courage. Alas! how little I knew my own utter want of strength to keep them. It was baking day, and for some hours mother and I were very busy; I always enjoyed seeing how deftly she molded the dough into various shapes, and the house was fragrant with the pleasant smell of newly-baked bread. It was quite late in the afternoon before I had an opportunity of going to seek my friend. I had quite made up my mind to tell her I would not enter her church on Christmas-day, and began to fancy I should be doing something quite brave and praiseworthy.
When it was over I would tell my parents, and how pleased and proud of me they would be.
With my mind filled with such foolish thoughts I crossed the low wall, but on going to the room where at that hour Greta and her mother were often busy with their embroidery I found it empty. The large open grate was fireless, and it did not appear to have been used during the day. I went in search of Julie, and learned from her that Madame and Greta had gone to Prague at an early hour. A novice was to take the veil in the convent where Lucille was a boarder, and they had received an invitation to be present at the ceremony. They would spend the night at the house of a relation, and as Madame wanted to do some shopping might not return for a day or two. I felt surprised and almost hurt that Greta had not left any message for me, but Julie told me that they had only had a few hours' notice; she had had to prepare for their journey in great haste; her young lady had, she thought, forgotten everything and everybody in the pleasure and excitement of being invited to witness a real profession.
There was nothing left for me but to return home, and it was nearly a week before I saw Greta again, and then she had so much to say to me that I did not seem able to get a word in. She had greatly enjoyed her visit to Prague, and was loud in her praises of the beauty of the young lady whose profession, or taking the veil, she had just witnessed. She was, Greta said, a fair, gentle girl of nineteen, the only child of one of the richest men in Prague. Her mother had been for several years an invalid, with no hope of cure.
MANY YEARS OF CONVENT LIFE
might lay before her. How I wondered if they would be happy ones. Would her parents miss her very much? She would not be allowed to visit them, and they could only see her once or twice a year, and even then could only speak to her through a grating.
As several guests were expected to spend the holiday season at "Verney," I did not see much of Greta, who seemed to have grown much older during the time I had known her. She spent much of her time practicing on the harp, as her father wished her to be a good musician, and more than once she accompanied her mother on shopping expeditions, often remaining in town two or three days. She had not in any way alluded to her wish that I should be present at the Christmas morning service, and I began to hope that she had forgotten all about it. Her manner when we met seemed less affectionate than it had been, and I sometimes thought that perhaps she was beginning to tire of her village friend.
It only wanted three days to Christmas. Our fire of pine logs burned brightly; for more than half an hour supper had been ready. I was busy helping Casper with his sums, while mother tried to occupy herself with her spinning-wheel; yet I noticed how often she rose, opened the door, and stood for a few moments on the threshold, not seeming to feel how cold the wind was. At last she said, "Your father is very late to-night. He was far from well when he left home this morning, indeed, I believe that he took a chill three days ago. All last night he was feverish, and complained of pains in his head and back, but when I tried to persuade him not to go out to-day he only smiled and said he had quite a number of patients who were far worse than he was, and he believed he should have strength given to visit and do what he could to relieve them, but would try to get home in good time, and so relieve me from all anxiety on his account.”
She had hardly finished speaking when the low, thrice-repeated knock I have before mentioned was heard at our door.
I opened it, and the firelight fell full and bright on the face of our loved friend and pastor, Felix Gosmer. Even in that gleam I saw it was a sad, anxious face, and felt he was the bearer of sorrowful tidings. Mother hastened forward, her voice was calm, but every trace of color seemed to have faded from her lips and cheeks. She said, "You bring tidings of my husband. Do not fear to tell me the worst. I can bear sorrow better than suspense. Has he been arrested on a charge of heresy, or is he sick?”
“He is sick, but I trust not sick unto death," our pastor replied very gently, and then told us that on that afternoon he had met my father by the bedside of a sick man. He appeared very ill, and said he would return to his home at once and not attempt to visit his other patients. They set out together, but after having walked about half a mile my father became too ill to continue his journey, so as they were quite near the home of a very poor brother, his friend took him there. It was a poor place, little better than a hut, but it was a shelter, and he had been made welcome to the best accommodation they could offer. Knowing how anxious we should be, Pastor Gosmer undertook to bring the sad tidings and return with the proper medicines.
Mother longed to go to him at once, and said so, but it was already late, the night was wild and stormy, and the roads bad. So when our friend told her that her returning with him would delay his journey quite two hours, perhaps longer, that he intended to watch by my father all night, and that it would not be kind or right to leave us alone, she saw the wisdom of his advice, and consented to wait till the morning.
Nothing could exceed the kindness of Madame Johns on hearing of our trouble. She insisted upon ordering the carriage so that mother could be driven to the cottage where her husband was, and begged that Casper and I might be allowed to stay at "Verney" until her return. The offer of the carriage was accepted gladly, as it would enable her to take food, bedding and other comforts that might, she felt, be sorely needed; but I saw the old anxious look in her face as she said, "Your promise, Madame, if I leave my children in your care; can you assure me that it will not be broken?”
A shade seemed to cross the face of the lady as she replied, "I have always been considered a woman of my word, and as far as lies in my power I intend to remain so." Greta joined in urging my mother to consent, saying she would help me feed the chickens, and on her return she would be pleased to see what good care we had taken of the poultry yard.
And so at last it was arranged, and an hour later mother was with my father, and Casper and I were guests at "Verney.”