It was evening, and Chandy stood under the old jack-fruit tree in the courtyard, and watched his two brothers at their play. His elder sister was helping his mother, inside the picturesque house which was one typical to the West Coast, with low walls and high ceiling which ensured the maximum of shade and coolness in the hot days.
A long verandah bordered the courtyard, and at the moment when this story opens Chandy’s father was sitting on the edge of this verandah, also seemingly watching the boys at play. His face was kindly but lined with care. Illnesses and a big family had heavily drained his slender resources. A few acres of paddy land, a pair of bullocks, three cows, and a few goats and hens were the sum total of his worldly wealth, but brought in sufficient for daily needs if there were no extra demands as there had been lately.
To make matters worse the property was in danger. The creditors of a long-standing family debt, were clamouring for payment, and as nothing was forthcoming for payment, and as nothing was forthcoming to satisfy their demands, the case had been put into the local court. The expense of lawyers was beyond Chandy’s father, so the hearing was undefended. Now, unless he could find the money within a few days, they would have to leave their little home.
Chandy was old enough to understand something of what such a change of fortune would mean. He was now ten years of age, and wise for his years.
His mother came into the courtyard, and he could tell by her eyes that she had been weeping. He could not bear to see his mother weep, and his loyal boyish heart longed to help her.
‘What is the matter, mother?’ he asked but she shook her head sadly, and held out a long official-looking envelope towards her husband.
The man’s face contracted with pain as he read its contents, and for a long time afterwards he sat staring at the reflections in the shallow river that ran by the end of his home.
The blow had fallen! The court had given the property to his creditors and next week they must find a new home.
Chandy slipped away. He wanted to be alone. He wanted to think. Till now his world had been so stable. Nothing ever happened to disturb the even tenor of daily life. Now everything was to be changed.
He sat down on the river bank and dipped his feet in the cool water. He liked the pull of the current against his ankles. Life was like that, he thought, something always pulling irresistibly, always changing. A stab of pain shot through his young heart. Must he leave this beautiful river? How oftern he had splashed in its quiet pools, and shouted to his brothers, while the cows lapped lazily at the edges, and myriads of tiny minnows slipped under and between his limbs…
He looked across now at the pretty picture of his homestead under the coco-nut palms. The moon was rising, and wrapped the whole in an atmosphere of mystery and peace. This was his home! It had always been like this, and surely nothing could change it now…
He slipped into the water, as he had so often done before, and swam down the river to the spot where it passed the end of his home. Slowly he pulled himself up on to the end of the verandah, and shivered a little as the night air struck across his wet limbs.
He heard the sound of prayer in the adjoining room, and recognised the voice to be his mother’s. How often she had prayed like this, but God had not answered. God was not omnipotent, she had said-then why did He not help them now? Surely God also did not change? ….
What was that his mother was saying: “Lord, Thou changest not! Thou hast never failed us hitherto, and wilt not fail us now. Help us to bow humbly to Thy Will. Thy will be done.”
Chandy entered the room. The tiny deepak flickered dimly in its little hole in the wall. The mud chulas burned brightly in a row against the further wall, and a cast warm glow over the room. His bay brother was asleep in the bamboo basket-cradle, and Thomas and Jacob were having their evening meal on the rush mat by the wall. Mariam was stirring the dhal over the fire, and Father was leaning heavily against the opposite wall, but his eyes still staring listlessly into space.
His mother seemed to be the only cheerful person in the room. She was quiet and thoughtful, but a radiant glow overspread her otherwise dark and homely features. Chandy slipped over to her side. “Mother’, he said, “Will God pay the debt for us, so that we can keep our home?”
His mother smiled. “I don’t think so2, she said softly, “but He will provide something else. He will never forget fail us!” Down the long years, Chandy would never forget that scene. The quiet radiance of his mother’s face, and the deep peace in her eyes, filling the room with the stillness and triumph of faith,-the security of the knowledge that God would never fail them nor forsake them. Chandy felt the impact of his mother’s living faith, and his first vital realization of God was as ever-living, ever-faithful, never-changing One.
It was evening once more, some five years later. Chandy was slowly mixing his curd curry with the plateful of tapioca mush. All day his heart had been burning with the intense feeling of youth. It had been a day of great decisions, and once again a tremendous change was to come into the lad’s life.
The surroundings were very different now. The living room was smaller, and led out on to an even smaller courtyard, where the solitary cow, and two young goats, lazily chewed the cud. The hens were roasting on the grain sacks in the corner, and one, which was nesting in a basket behind the sacks, squawked angrily when baby Sosamma ventured an inquisitive hand as she crawled around the floor.
“Eat your mush, my son!” said the mother gently, as the lad continued to mix in spite of the fact that most of the other members of the family had nearly finished their meal. “I don’t feel hungry, mother,” he replied in a choking voice. “I know, my boy,” said his mother, with a similar choke in her own, “but try and eat a little”.
“I wouldn’t be sad if I was going to Bombay”, said Thomas a little vexed at his elder brother’s heavy mood. “I would love to go that long journey in the train and to see the shops, and the ships, and the great sea. I would love to be a sailor. Just fancy, you may go to England one day!”
Home-loving Chandy snorted in reply. He did not want to leave his home and his mother, but he would not have been a boy of the sense of adventure had not been strong upon him. The two emotions battled hard within him. To-morrow he was to leave the home-nest, and sent out for Bombay, where he was to join the Navy. The family was fast growing up, there were school fees to be paid, and the acre or two of rented paddy land yielded scarcely enough to cover the family’s own needs. Living was a struggle, and to Chandy, as the eldest son, early fell the duty of sharing the financial responsibilities. The little rural town offered no prospects, so Chandy had decided to serve his nation as well as family, by joining the Navy. Deep in his heart was a strange but strong feeling of compulsion that this was God’s will for him, and that His hand was leading him out by this path into the dark and uncertain future. He had not made the decision lightly, but once it was made he would not turn back.
The third day saw Chandy in the great metropolis of India, in a queue at the Naval Recruiting office. With the natural resilience of human emotions his depression had already vanished and though, when thought of his home and loved ones his heart was still a little heavy the buoyancy of his loved ones his heart was still a little heavy, the buoyancy of his youthful spirits was reflected in his light step and merry smile. Already he had struck up a friendship with the tall well-built young man who stood next to him in the queue. Little could either of them guess the future course of that friendship, or what it would lead to.
Daljit Singh was also the first-born of his father’s house,- a high-class Hindu family who, after the custom of their particular group, had dedicated their eldest son to be a disciple of the Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. After the manner of Sikhs Daljit Singh wore his hair long, and tied his curly beard in a strip of net. He had a most fascinating personality, one moment grave and thoughtful, the next gay and seemingly irresponsible, but in his deepest dark eyes there seemed to lurk a hidden sadness, an un-satisfied heart-hunger, which revealed itself in the far-away look which came into those eyes from time to time, making them appear even darker and more deeply set.
Chandy caught this lock as he watched his new friend and wondered at its cause. But presently his name was called and the two were parted, each to go their different ways.
It was two years later, and Chandy found himself one of a number of Indian naval lads who had been selected to go to England for further training. As the great troop-ship which was to take them to England, drew out of Bombay harbour, and the shores of his beloved India faded into the distance, a wave of home sickness engulfed Chandy, and he was glad that the fast-falling twilight hid the hot tears that his fiery boyish pride forbade to fall. Soon, however, the roll-call sounded, and in the quick interplay of orders and the prompt obedience they demanded, the wave of nostalgia disappeared as quickly as it came.
That evening as they went to bed, Chandy looked down the long row of bunks and hammocks in search of a possible familiar face but in vain. Suddenly he felt terribly lonely, and in his loneliness his heart reached towards the God of his youth – the Unchangeable, the Never-Failing.
“O God!” he prayed, “I have no one but Thee. Thou art my God, – my guide. Forsake me not!” For a moment he looked back over the years and again there came to him that sense of Divine compulsion, – that God had a plan for His life, and was leading him on to the fulfilment of that plan.
Quietness enfolded his spirit, and he was lonely no longer. He turned on his bunk and viewed the rows on the other side. Slowly his eyes travelled up the deck till they reached the row of bunks next to his own. A quick glance of recognition held him for a moment. He looked into the friendly eyes of Daljit Singh, and the two reached over and clasped hands.
The moon was gleaming fitfully in an overcast sky, and the night when no one would venture abroad who could possibly avoid doing so, and from houses of rich and poor alike smoke curled in comforting defiance of the inclemency of the weather.
It certainly was no night for a young girl to be out alone, and a casual passer might have wondered what necessity could have compelled Asha to face the wildness of the night. She was standing half-submerged in the deep shadows of the orchard, her “odhni” drawn round her head and shoulders, one end being used to partly obscure the light of a small torch in her right hand, the unshaded rays of which fell across the page of a slim volume in her left hand. The rays of the moon accented both the fragile beauty of her fair, north-Indian features, and also the glow that betrayed a deep emotion and secret spring of joy.
So intense was her preoccupation that she did not hear a light footstep drawign near. Presently it ceased beside her and for a few moments the would-be passer watched her quizzically, and not without considerable amusement. Suddenly his hand shot swiftly though the shadows, and seized upon the volume, playfully drawing it from her grasp.
Asha drew back startled, and as her eyes met the laughing eyes of her elder brother, her face became whiter than the moonlight itself.
“Caught you at last!” laughed her brother. “I knew there was some lover in the backgroung, to compel you out night after night, – you once could never be persuaded to leave the fire….”
Suddelnly Kumar Singh noticed how white was his sister’s face, and he went on more gently: “Don’t look so scared, little one; I’m not going to eat you! Tell me alll about it,” he cajoled. “I’ve beeeen terribly curious for a long time, as I have watched you creep away from the family. What is his name? I won’t tell the old folk if you don’t want me to. Is his letter in this book? May I read it? We’ve always shared secrets haven’t we? – you and I. Won’t you share this one also with me?” As he spoke he placed his arm protectingly round her shoulders, and was alrmed to find her trembling violently. “Don’t be so frightened, Asha,” he assured her again, who is he, child? Only tell me his name.”
“The Lord Jesus Christ!” Asha breathed the Name in a voice low but firm in spite of her trembling. The effect was electric! Kumar’s arm dropped to his side, and he stepped backwards two paces. The atmosphere was tense, and neither spoke for a few moments. Presently he picked up the torch which she had dropped, and turned it upon the book in his hand. It was the little New Testament which she had won as the scripture prize in the Christian school to which she had been going for some years.
* * * * * * * * * *
Asha’s family had moved to the town about eight years before this story begins. Her father was a broad-minded man, who was interested in Western thought and philosophy and wanted his children to have the advantages of an English education. He had accordingly sent them to the best English schools and colleges in the city. From the first Asha had taken a keen interest in the scripture class, which was not compulsary, but her father had readily granted his permission for her to attent. The religious text books did not appear to him to differ from any other, and he only took care to warn his young daughter from time to time to allow no other faith to win her from her own. This she had readily and often assured him was an utter impossibility and she had always been only too ready to accompany the rest of the family on their occassional visites to the temple with an offering of fruit and flowers.
One day, however, Mrs. Darwood the headmistress, had spoken in the Scripture-class on Cain and Abel. She had pointed out the beauty and desirability of Cain’s offering, and had told of the loving care with which for long months he had tended and watered the fruit and vegetables and flowes which he had planted. Then she told how the desire came to Cain to give the best to God as an offering. Cain knew that God was grieved with man because of his sin, and thought that he might be able to win the favour of God if he brought such a gift. So he cut the best and biggest bunch of grapes, the largest and ripest melon, the longest and plumpest gourd, and the best of all the fruit and flowers in his garden. These he laid upon a heap of stones that served as an altar, and waited for God to reward him with the sign of His acceptance. As Mrs. Darwood spoke the whole scenebecame alive to Asha, and her eyes never for a moment left the speaker’s face.
“ A little distance from him,” Mrs Darwood had continued, “Cain’s brother, Abel had tied a little white lamb, which was bleating piteously as Abel laid wood upon his heap of stones. Presently Abel took a long knife, which he plunged into the unresisting and innocent little creature. As the red blood flowed out over the white fleece, Cain turned away in disgust. He wondered that Abel shoud think that God would prefer an offering that caused suffering and death to an innocent victim, to his own offering of beauty and fragrance. He watched again, however, as Abel laid the offering upon wood, and set the latter alight. Presently the acrid smell of burning skin and flesh cancelled out the sweet fragrance of the flowers, and Cain’s disgust deepened into annoyance. Then suddenly God gave His sign of acceptance,- to Abel, and not to cain. Jealeously and anger flamed in his heart, and he did not seek to put away the wicked thoughts that surged against his brother. One day when they were alone together in the field, his jealousy and hatred stirred him to murder….”
That night Asha lived again the story of the brothers and their sacrifices. Somehow the temple offerings seemed something like the offering of Cain, and it was first doubt that had ever entered her mind that her religion might not be acceptable with God. Till then all religions had seemed the same to her,- just the different ways that people of different customs approached the same God, and she was as interested to know what different people thought in the matters of religion, as she was to know the difference in theor habits of dressing or eating.
Now it seemed that some might be approaching God in the right way, and some in the wrong way. If the way of fruit and flowers was wrong, then what was right? Did God still expects us to kill little lambs? If so, no one seemed to do so nowadays, not even the Christians, who believed in the Bible from which the story of Cain and Abel was taken.
The next day Asha took her perplexity to Mrs. Darwood, and the latter explained to her how the sacrifice of the lamb had pointed forward to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, who alone is able to take away the sin of the world. She explained how man’s sin had seperated man from God, and because of this man has to be punished by death and eternal banishment from the presence of God. The only way by which man can now be reconciled to God is by an innocent and sinless victim bearing the punishment of his sin in his place. Mrs Darwood pointed out that a sinner could not bear the punishment for another sinner, so God’s own Son beacme a man to bear the punishment of sin for all men. As she spoke Asha found the answer to something that had always puzzled her. She had never understood why it was necessary for so kind and good and holy a man as Jesus Christ to die such a cruel death. Now she saw the reason, and as Mrs. Darwood went on to tell how the salvation, he thus bought for men can only become ours as we accept it for ourselves and thank Him for it, Asha’s young heart opened joyfully to the saviour of men, and bowed at His feet in acceptance of His gift. What happened at that moment she could never tell,- she only knew that a sudden joy filled her heart, and changed her whole life and desires. Almost immediately also came the realization that her parents would be angry if they knew about it. This partly clouded her joy, and she confided again in Mrs Darwood. The latter took her to her room, and there in the quietness Asha experienced another joy, – the wonder and talking intimately with this same Lord Jesus Christ, of telling Him all her doubts and perplexieties, and of trusting to Him to provide a solution ot her problem.
She did not dare to mention her new-found joy at home, but every day found an opportunity to steal away to some quiet spot where she could read her little testament and enjoy communion with her Heavelnly Lover and Friend.
It was here at last that her brother discovered her secret.
Har Prasad Singh stood awaiting the entrance of his daughter. Veins stood out on his proud forehead, and these and the crimson flush on his handsome face betrayed the anger that the otherwise placid features sought to conceal. His interview with his son had left him strangely shaken.
After the discovery of his sister in the orchard, Kumar had spent a sleepless night, torn between loyalty to her, and a strong sense of duty both towards his father, and also with regard to the house-hold deities, to whom great dishonour would be shewn if one of their family were to forsake the faith of their fathers. By morning the sense of duty prevailed, and he had sought an opportunity to speak to his father alone. The old man listened quietly, but it was evident that he was deeply moved, and it was difficult to say whether anger or grief was predominant. He had believed strongly in the subtle reasonings of his own philosophies, and in the power of his own mental control over the minds of his family, and had always sought to inculcate in them his own intense hatred for any so fickle as to turn from the religion in which he was nurtured to another, however more attractive or persuasive might be its theories. Now he was angered and dismayed to find that his confidence had been disappointed, and that, too, by his only daughter, the pride and darling of his heart. Seeking to restrain his rising wrath, the old man finally ordered his son to command Asha herself to appear before him.
Queen Esther in all her modesty and beauty could not have appeared more appealingly lovely than Asha as she opened the door, and with submissive attitude of a true woman, but also with all the dignity of a queen, stood alone before her irate sire. She, too, had spent a sleepless night, and the dark shadows round her eyes told of much weeping. Har Prasad Singh looked at her with pity. How he loved that girl, and how proud he was of her talents and successes at school. For a moment he watched her, and her eyes fell humbly before the fire in his. Presently he spoke, obviously under great restraint.
“Beti!” he said, “what is this I hear about you? Have you indeed forsaken the faith of your fathers? Tell me it is not true and I will forgive you all.” He led her before a picture of his favourite deity. “Make namaskar”, he pleaded, “and I will know that you are still my true daughter,”
In that moment Asha prayed for wisdom according to the wonderful promise she once read in Mark 13.11. “Father!” she cried, “I am indeed your true daughter, and nothing will ever change my love for you! Please do not think otherwise,” – and the quick warm tears filled her eyes, for she was hurt by the pleading in her father’s approach, where she had expected sternness and anger. “Father, you once told me that these pictures are only symbols; that the true God is but only One, and that all men are seeking after Him. Until they know Him they seek to remember Him by pictures and images, but when they find that true God is great and living,-too great and wonderful to portray. Father, “she added, and her face lighted up, and her eyes glowed as she leaned forward in her earnestness, “Father, I have found God, so I do not need to honour these pictures any more.”
The old man’s lip curled slightly, but he still kept himself under a marvellous restraint. “That may be true, daughter, though I do not believe it. However that may be, it should not hinder you from honouring the picture that represents the god of your people.”
Asha’s knowledge of the scriptures was limited to the New Testament only, so she did not know how greatly God abhorred idolatry. However she remembered that the Thessalonians had “turned to God from idols;” that believers had been warned against food offered to idols, and against eating in an idol’s temple. She also remembered how Paul on Mars’ Hill had said that “the Lord of Heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, seeing that He giveth to all life and breath and all things”, and that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art or man’ device.” As she remembered these things she knew that she must not make namaskar to the picture.
“Father!” she pleaded again, “when you leave home, I kiss your photograph at night, but when you are at home I do not need to kiss your picture!”
The old man stiffened. Never before had any child of his dared to argue with him, and now his orders were being defied by this young girl. However, he spoke suavely still but craftly: “Then merely look at it and say; I love you my lord Krishna!”
Asha’s faced paled. She knew she could parry no longer. “The God I have found is not Krishna,” she said faintly. “He is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The old man’s anger flamed at last. “Don’t defy me, daughter,” he blazed, “Make namaskar, or……” He drew his dagger,-a deadly little weapon, but of fascinating beauty of workmanship. How often in her childhood Asha had admired the beautifully jewelled hilt. Startled at the menace in his gesture, she drew back for a moment.
“Father, my God is alive, and I know Him. I cannot deny Him.”
Her father’s eye flashed. With a deft movement he turned the blade, and raised the jewelled hilt. Twice he struck,-hard- and the red rubies cut deeply into the soft flesh of her head. Warm red blood flowed down over her eyes. For a moment she staggered, then fell to the floor.
* * *
It was late afternoon before Asha opened her eyes. She was now in her own room, and in a chair near her bed sat her mother, weeping. Asha watched for a time, – her throbbed cruelly, but she could not think about that now. “Mother!” she called, “don’t weep. Please don’t weep.”
Her mother looked up and burst into loud wailing. “Oh, my pyari, what is this I hear? Have you dishonoured your father’s god? Have you believed what foreign people have told you of that strange foreign God, – Jesus Christ?”
“Mother, I have not simply believed what I have heard only. I have found Him for myself. He is alive. He is not foreign. He was born in the East, and has been worshipped in our land for more than 2000 years…….”
Her mother took the girl’s hands in her own. “Pyari,” she said, “you know I cannot argue. I have none of your western schooling. I believe what I have been taught.” She held the slim young hands to her breast, and then to her lips. “My pyari, you know how much I love you. It will break my heart if you disgrace our family. Worship your Lord Jesus if you wish, but do not refuse to worship our gods also.”
“Mother, beloved mother!” cried Asha with tears. “You make it so hard for me, for I cannot bear to give you pain. I love you with all my heart, but I love my Lord Jesus more, and He has said: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him Only shalt thou serve.”
* * *
It was night once more, and the moon kindly hid her light behind thick clouds as a slim girlish form, hurrying along the deserted streets, hugged the shadows. Only when at last Asha was on the broad verandah of Mrs. Darwood’s house she dare to breathe more freely. Timidly she rang the bell. The trusted old house-servant opened it, and wondered at so youthful a visitor at so late an hour, but he was a wise old man and knew how to keep his peace.
Mrs Darwood was not in bed, nor did she seem surprised to see Asha. She led the trembling girl to her own room. “I knew you were in trouble, dear,” she said, glancing at the bandaged head, “and I was just praying for you. Now, tell me all about it.”
Asha poured out her story into sympathetic ears, and together she and Mrs. Darwood “went and told Jesus”, “Oh, the wonderful comfort of prayer,” thought Asha, as she slipped at last into a dreamless sleep.
* * *
Kumar was nothing if not thorough. He did not intend to disclose his sister’s secret beyond the family limits, but there was one other who, he decided, must be told. Daljit Singh was his closest friend, and onve confided to him that he loved Asha with a deep strong love that burned like fire within him, and that he was trying to persuade his parents to ask Kumar’s parents to consent to their marriage. Kumar wondered now whether his sister’s defection would change Daljit’s opinion about her. At any rate he felt he should know.
To his surprise Daljit only laughed. “Fair enough!” he said tolerantly, “Why should she not please herself? Christians make good wives, too! They are faithful, and have high ideals.”
But when Kumar told him that Asha had been beaten unconscious by her father, and how she had fled from home, Daljit looked as though he has turned to stone. For a long time he sat staring into space, then suddenly he rose, and went out into the night……
The next day he told his parents that he was going to Bombay to join the Navy, and nothing they could say or do would deter him.
* More chapters coming soon.
Mrs. Darwood lives in a little bungalow in a quiet suburb of London. The entrance was almost hidden by the profusion of rambler roses and honey suckle which draped the trellis on the front of the house, and overhung the bower leading from the little white gate to the front door. At the back of the house a low French window led out on to a perfectly-cut lawn fringed with lilac bushes. At one side the low branches of an old pear tree overhung a picturesque red-brickwall, and shaded a seat which, had it but lips, could told a thousand stories of human loves and hates, joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. At the foot of the lawn an old sundial stood guard over a short flight of steps leading into a beautiful old-world English rose garden.
It seemed but natural but that this little echo of Eden should form the back-ground to the young lovers who now stood silhouetted against the glowing west of late summer evening. Mrs. Darwood, from the shadows of the living room, watched them with motherly tenderness as she busied herself with preparations for tea.
Daljit Singh was telling Asha the story of the years of heartache and loneliness that, for him, had followed her disappearance from her father’s home; of the little Testament that had so strangely come into his possession; and how at last he had found true joy and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ, when he opened his heart to Him at the little Meeting Room near the Naval Barracks.
Asha’s face glowed with a strangely beautiful light as she watched him, and her lips were parted in a smile of tender satisfaction and joy as she looked back over the months and years of sorrowing and anguished prayers. She remembered how often how often she and Mrs Darwood had prayed for the dear ones left behind, and how the latter, sensing a tragedy behind the often tear-filled eyes and quiet brooding, had drawn out of her the story of her love for Daljit Singh, She remembered too how often Mrs Darwood had pleaded with her to put this love out of her heart as part of the sacrifice so many are called upon to make when leave all at the bidding of the Master. How often indeed she had tried to do so, but some insistent voice within had seemed constantly to assure her that God would somehow bring Daljit Singh into the joy of the salvation which was hers in Christ.
Now her faith was abundantly rewarded, and her cup of joy seemed full to overflowing as she heard from his own lips the answer to her prayers.
The sunset glow was deepening into dusk when at last the exchange of exercises and experiences was over, and Daljit Singh Singh led Asha down the stone-steps and towards the little summer-house in the rose-garden. There was still something else to be said, and a solemn renewal of the vows of their love. Mrs Darwood, going in search of them half an hour later, found them kneeling in prayer, and pledging themselves anew to the Lord and to each other in such a depth of tenderness and wondering praise that her eyes filled with tears, and her loving heart added its tribute of praise to God, and invoked His blessing on the two young lives who had so cruelly been torn asunder, and had now found each other again in so strange and wonderful a way.
Another had also been watching the idyllic scene! From his study window adjoining the living room, Marcus Darwood could see without being seen. For a few minutes he had watched the lovers in the transparency of their joy, and the shadow of a cruel pain over spreading his face, had gathered under his eyes, and round his quivering nostrils and tightly compressed mouth. Presently his head fell forward on his arms and a deep groan escaped his lips, for he too loved Asha, and he knew now that she could never be his.
* * * * *
Marcus was the only son of his widowed mother, and the pride of her heart. Many years before she had gone out to India as a missionary. During those early years she had met a young India missionary of remarkable fire and zeal in the work of the Lord, and after a time he had asked her to marry him. Her missionary friends had strongly advised her against such a step, but after much prayer she had felt that it was of the Lord, and they were married quietly. For two years her cup of happiness was full, and her inspiration to her husband was of great blessing to him in his work for God. Then a little son was born to them, and together they dedicated him to God for India.
But that Golden chalice of happiness which she held so joyfully to her lips and his was suddenly dashed to the ground. She could never forget the day when they carried in the noble form of her young husband pale and still in death. The chill of shock came upon her whenever she thought of that time, – the stillness of an agony that could not find relief even in tears. How cruel and unnecessary it had seemed! – the carelessness of an owner who had failed to secure a horse when loosened from the shafts; the carelessness of a motor-driver who had unnecessarily blown his horn and startle the animal as he passes; the carelessness of a mother who has who had allowed her little one to wander alone in a busy street. Onlookers had reported that Mr. Darwood had been preaching at the street corner when the startled beast had bolted down the road. Then suddenly he had seen the child and had sprung forward and lifted it. Unfortunately he had stumbled and fallen, and threw the child clear as he did so, and almost at once the horse was on him, kicking and crushing in a vital part as he passed over. Death was instantaneous, and as Mrs. Darwood looked at the still face, cold in death, she knew that though she might blame carelessness on the part of this one and that, the coincidence of events was in the hands of God and not man. In the agony of her heart she had demanded of Him how He could permit such a thing to come into her life, but after the first numbness of shock was over she ceased to question him. The God she had known and loved for so many years could not make a mistake, nor would he willingly grieve or afflict. Even after years the mystery of that tragedy still remained unexplained, but she knew that she would “know here-after”. Meanwhile she praised the God who had never failed her down long lonely years of widowhood.
For years now Mrs. Darwood had held a post, first as English teacher, and later as Principal, in the Mission School where Asha was one of the pupils, and her testimony among the girls was greatly blessed of God.
Marcus had been a joy and comfort to her in those early years, but later she had sent him to school and college in England. Now he was in his second year of medical studies. For a long time it had greatly grieved her that, though she and her husband had dedicated him to the work of God, and though her prayer for his salvation had followed him daily for many years, yet he had never evidenced much interest in spiritual things.
Then came her visit to England with Asha. Marcus was strangely moved when he heard the girl’s testimony, and it was not long before he too took a bold stand on the Lord’s side. So complete was the change in his character and outlook, and so enthusiastic was he in personal witnessing and street-preaching that Mrs Darwood was often reminded of the fearless young husband of her youth.
It was not to be wondered at, the heart of youth being what it is, that Marcus soon felt a strange and complete attraction to Asha, and one day he confined this to his Mother. The latter felt compelled to tell his of Asha’s love for Daljit Singh, and so acutely had her joys and sorrows become his own that Marcus also began to pray for Daljit Singh’s salvation. When he knew that he might be in England it was his daily prayer and hope that he might meet him somewhere. It was because of this that he recognized him so readily in the London restaurant, and sent him to Kew, in the altruistic satisfaction that he was bringing a great joy into Asha’s life.
But he was young yet, and had not learned to suffer, so when he actually witnessed the joy that lighted up Asha’s face, the grief of his own loss could not but overwhelm him for a time.
(From Balance of Truth)