Ethel Turner, Seven Little Australians (1894)
A curlew’s note broke the silence, wild, mournful, unearthly. Meg shivered, and sat up straight. Judy’s brow, grew damp, her eyes dilated, her lips trembled.
“Meg!” she said, in a whisper that cut the air. “Oh, Meg, I’m frightened! MEG, I’m so frightened!”
Meg’s lips moved, but her tongue uttered no word.
“Meg, I’m so frightened! I can’t think of anything but `For what we are about to receive,’ and that’s grace, isn’t it? And there’s nothing in Our Father that would do either. Meg, I wish we’d gone to Sunday-school and learnt things. Look at the dark, Meg! Oh, Meg, hold my hands!”
“Heaven won’t—be—dark,” Meg’s lips said. Even when speech came, it was only a halting, stereotyped phrase that fell from them.
“If it’s all gold and diamonds, I don’t want to go!” The child was crying now. “Oh, Meg, I want to be alive! How’d you like to die, Meg, when you’re only thirteen? Think how lonely I’ll be without you all. Oh, Meg! Oh, Pip, Pip! Oh, Baby! Nell!”
The tears streamed down her cheeks; her chest rose and fell.
“Oh, say something, Meg!—hymns!—anything!”
Half the book of “Hymns Ancient and Modern” danced across Meg’s brain. Which one could she think of that would bring quiet into those feverish eyes that were fastened on her face with such a frightening, imploring look?
Then she opened her lips:
“Come unto Me, ye weary,
And I will give you rest,
“I’m not weary, I don’t WANT to rest,” Judy said, in a fretful tone.
Again Meg tried:
“My God, my Father, while I stray
Far from my home on life’s rough way,
Oh, teach me from my heart to say
———————— Thy will be done!”
“That’s for old people,” said the little tired voice. “He won’t expect ME to say it.”
Then Meg remembered the most beautiful hymn in the world, and said the first and last verses without a break in her voice:
“Abide with me, fast falls the eventide,
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!
Hold Thou Thy Cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!
“Oh! and Judy, dear, we are forgetting; there’s Mother, Judy, dear—you won’t be lonely! Can’t you remember Mother’s eyes, little Judy?”
Judy grew quiet, and still more quiet. She shut her eyes so she could not see the gathering shadows. Meg’s arms were round her, Meg’s cheek was on her brow, Nell was holding her hands, Baby her feet, Bunty’s lips were on her hair. Like that they went with her right to the Great Valley, where there are no lights even for stumbling, childish feet.
The shadows were cold, and smote upon their hearts; they could feel the wind from the strange waters on their brows; but only she who was about to cross heard the low lapping of the waves.
Then the wind blew over them all, and, with a little shudder, she slipped away.
Posted: 22nd July 2019Categories: Literature