On Picket Duty and Other Tales
The Cross On The Old Church Tower
UP the dark stairs that led to his poor home strode a gloomy-faced young man with
despair in his heart and these words on his lips:--
"I will struggle and suffer no longer; my last hope has failed, and life, become a burden, I
will rid myself of at once."
As he muttered his stern purpose, he flung wide the door and was about to enter, but
paused upon the threshold; for a glance told him that he had unconsciously passed his
own apartment and come up higher, till he found himself in a room poorer but more
cheerful than his own.
Sunshine streamed in through the one small window, where a caged bird was blithely
singing, and a few flowers blossomed in the light. But blither than the bird's song,
sweeter than the flowers, was the little voice and wan face of a child, who lay upon a bed
placed where the warmest sunbeams fell.
The face turned smiling on the pillow, and the voice said pleasantly,--
"Come in, sir, Bess will soon be back if you will wait."
"I want nothing of Bess. Who is she and who are you?" asked the intruder pausing as he
was about to go.
"She is my sister, sir, and I'm 'poor Jamie' as they call me. But indeed, I am not to be
pitied, for I am a happy child, though it may not seem so."
"Why do you lie there? are you sick?"
"No, I am not sick, though I shall never leave my bed again. See, this is why;" and,
folding back the covering, the child showed his little withered limbs.
"How long have you lain here, my poor boy?" asked the stranger, touched and interested
in spite of himself.
"Three years, sir."
"And yet you are happy! What in Heaven's name have you to render you contented,
"Come sit beside me, and I'll tell you, sir; that is, if you please I should love to talk with
you, for it's lonely here when Bess is gone."