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Charles M. Sheldon
are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth."
Dr. Bruce and the Bishop entered the Sterling mansion everything
in the usually well appointed household was in the greatest
confusion and terror. The great rooms downstairs were empty,
but overhead were hurried footsteps and confused noises.
One of the servants ran down the grand staircase with a
look of horror on her face just as the Bishop and Dr. Bruce
were starting to go up.
Felicia is with Mrs. Sterling," the servant stammered in
answer to a question, and then burst into a hysterical cry
and ran through the drawing-room and out of doors.
At the top of the staircase the two men were met by Felicia.
She walked up to Dr. Bruce at once and put both hands in
his. The Bishop then laid his hand on her head and the three
stood there a moment in perfect silence. The Bishop had
known Felicia since she was a little child. He was the first
to break the silence.
God of all mercy be with you, Felicia, in this dark hour.
The Bishop hesitated. Out of the buried past he had, during
his hurried passage from his friend's to this house of death,
irresistibly drawn the one tender romance of his young manhood.
Not even Bruce knew that. But there had been a time when
the Bishop had offered the incense of a singularly undivided
affection upon the altar of his youth to the beautiful Camilla
Rolfe, and she had chosen between him and the millionaire.
The Bishop carried no bitterness with his memory; but it
was still a memory.
For answer to the Bishop's unfinished query, Felicia turned
and went back into her mother's room. She had not said a
word yet, but both men were struck with her wonderful calm.
She returned to the hall door and beckoned to them, and
the two ministers, with a feeling that they were about to
behold something very unusual, entered.
Rose lay with her arms outstretched upon the bed. Clara,
the nurse, sat with her head covered, sobbing in spasms
of terror. And Mrs. Sterling with "the light that never
was on sea or land" luminous on her face, lay there so still
that even the Bishop was deceived at first. Then, as the
great truth broke upon him and Dr. Bruce, he staggered,
and the sharp agony of the old wound shot through him. It
passed, and left him standing there in that chamber of death
with the eternal calmness and strength that the children
of God have a right to possess. And right well he used that
calmness and strength in the days that followed.
The next moment the house below was in a tumult. Almost
at the same time the doctor who had been sent for at once,
but lived some distance away, came in, together with police
officers, who had been summoned by frightened servants.
With them were four or five newspaper correspondents and
several neighbors. Dr. Bruce and the Bishop met this miscellaneous
crowd at the head of the stairs and succeeded in excluding
all except those whose presence was necessary. With these
the two friends learned all the facts ever known about the
"Sterling tragedy," as the papers in their sensational accounts
next day called it.
Mr. Sterling had gone into his room that evening about nine
o'clock and that was the last seen of him until, in half
an hour, a shot was heard in the room, and a servant who
was in the hall ran into the room and found him dead on
the floor, killed by his own hand. Felicia at the time was
sitting by her mother. Rose was reading in the library.
She ran upstairs, saw her father as he was being lifted
upon the couch by the servants, and then ran screaming into
her mother's room, where she flung herself down at the foot
of the bed in a swoon. Mrs. Sterling had at first fainted
at the shock, then rallied with a wonderful swiftness and
sent for Dr. Bruce. She had then insisted on seeing her
husband. In spite of Felicia's efforts, she had compelled
Clara to support her while she crossed the hall and entered
the room where her husband lay. She had looked upon him
with a tearless face, had gone back to her own room, was
laid on her bed, and as Dr. Bruce and the Bishop entered
the house she, with a prayer of forgiveness for herself
and for her husband on her quivering lips, had died, with
Felicia bending over her and Rose still lying senseless
at her feet.
So great and swift had been the entrance of grim Death into
that palace of luxury that Sunday night! But the full cause
of his coming was not learned until the facts in regard
to Mr. Sterling's business affairs were finally disclosed.
Then it was learned that for some time he had been facing
financial ruin owing to certain speculations that had in
a month's time swept his supposed wealth into complete destruction.
With the cunning and desperation of a man who battles for
his very life when he saw his money, which was all the life
he ever valued, slipping from him, he had put off the evil
day to the last moment. Sunday afternoon, however, he had
received news that proved to him beyond a doubt the fact
of his utter ruin. The very house that he called his, the
chairs in which he sat, his carriage, the dishes from which
he ate, had all been bought with money for which he himself
had never really done an honest stroke of pure labor.
It had all rested on a tissue of deceit and speculation
that had no foundation in real values. He knew that fact
better than any one else, but he had hoped, with the hope
such men always have, that the same methods that brought
him the money would also prevent the loss. He had been deceived
in this as many others have been. As soon as the truth that
he was practically a beggar had dawned upon him, he saw
no escape from suicide. It was the irresistible result of
such a life as he had lived. He had made money his god.
As soon as that god was gone out of his little world there
was nothing more to worship; and when a man's object of
worship is gone he has no more to live for. Thus died the
great millionaire, Charles R. Sterling. And, verily, he
died as the fool dieth, for what is the gain or the loss
of money compared with the unsearchable riches of eternal
life which are beyond the reach of speculation, loss or
Mrs. Sterling's death was the result of the shock. She had
not been taken into her husband's confidence for years,
but she knew that the source of his wealth was precarious.
Her life for several years had been a death in life. The
Rolfes always gave an impression that they could endure
more disaster unmoved than any one else. Mrs. Sterling illustrated
the old family tradition when she was carried into the room
where her husband lay. But the feeble tenement could not
hold the spirit and it gave up the ghost, torn and weakened
by long years of suffering and disappointment.
The effect of this triple blow, the death of father and
mother, and the loss of property, was instantly apparent
in the sisters. The horror of events stupefied Rose for
weeks. She lay unmoved by sympathy or any effort to rally.
She did not seem yet to realize that the money which had
been so large a part of her very existence was gone. Even
when she was told that she and Felicia must leave the house
and be dependent on relatives and friends, she did not seem
to understand what it meant.
Felicia, however, was fully conscious of the facts. She
knew just what had happened and why. She was talking over
her future plans with her cousin Rachel a few days after
the funerals. Mrs. Winslow and Rachel had left Raymond and
come to Chicago at once as soon as the terrible news had
reached them, and with other friends of the family were
planning for the future of Rose and Felicia.
you and Rose must come to Raymond with us. That is settled.
Mother will not hear to any other plan at present," Rachel
had said, while her beautiful face glowed with love for
her cousin, a love that had deepened day by day, and was
intensified by the knowledge that they both belonged to
the new discipleship.
I can find something to do here," answered Felicia. She
looked wistfully at Rachel, and Rachel said gently:
could you do, dear?"
I was never taught to do anything except a little music,
and I do not know enough about it to teach it or earn my
living at it. I have learned to cook a little," Felicia
added with a slight smile.
you can cook for us. Mother is always having trouble with
her kitchen," said Rachel, understanding well enough she
was now dependent for her very food and shelter upon the
kindness of family friends. It is true the girls received
a little something out of the wreck of their father's fortune,
but with a speculator's mad folly he had managed to involve
both his wife's and his children's portion in the common
I? Can I?" Felicia responded to Rachel's proposition as
if it were to be considered seriously. "I am ready to do
anything honorable to make my living and that of Rose. Poor
Rose! She will never be able to get over the shock of our
will arrange the details when we get to Raymond," Rachel
said, smiling through her tears at Felicia's eager willingness
to care for herself.
So in a few weeks Rose and Felicia found themselves a part
of the Winslow family in Raymond. It was a bitter experience
for Rose, but there was nothing else for her to do and she
accepted the inevitable, brooding over the great change
in her life and in many ways adding to the burden of Felicia
and her cousin Rachel.
Felicia at once found herself in an atmosphere of discipleship
that was like heaven to her in its revelation of companionship.
It is true that Mrs. Winslow was not in sympathy with the
course that Rachel was taking, but the remarkable events
in Raymond since the pledge was taken were too powerful
in their results not to impress even such a woman as Mrs.
Winslow. With Rachel, Felicia found a perfect fellowship.
She at once found a part to take in the new work at the
Rectangle. In the spirit of her new life she insisted upon
helping in the housework at her aunt's, and in a short time
demonstrated her ability as a cook so clearly that Virginia
suggested that she take charge of the cooking at the Rectangle.
Felicia entered upon this work with the keenest pleasure.
For the first time in her life she had the delight of doing
something of value for the happiness of others. Her resolve
to do everything after asking, "What would Jesus do?" touched
her deepest nature. She began to develop and strengthen
wonderfully. Even Mrs. Winslow was obliged to acknowledge
the great usefulness and beauty of Felicia's character.
The aunt looked with astonishment upon her niece, this city-bred
girl, reared in the greatest luxury, the daughter of a millionaire,
now walking around in her kitchen, her arms covered with
flour and occasionally a streak of it on her nose, for Felicia
at first had a habit of rubbing her nose forgetfully when
she was trying to remember some recipe, mixing various dishes
with the greatest interest in their results, washing up
pans and kettles and doing the ordinary work of a servant
in the Winslow kitchen and at the rooms at the Rectangle
Settlement. At first Mrs. Winslow remonstrated.
it is not your place to be out here doing this common work.
I cannot allow it."
Aunt? Don't you like the muffins I made this morning?" Felicia
would ask meekly, but with a hidden smile, knowing her aunt's
weakness for that kind of muffin.
were beautiful, Felicia. But it does not seem right for
you to be doing such work for us."
not? What else can I do?"
Her aunt looked at her thoughtfully, noting her remarkable
beauty of face and expression.
do not always intend to do this kind of work, Felicia?"
I shall. I have had a dream of opening an ideal cook shop
in Chicago or some large city and going around to the poor
families in some slum district like the Rectangle, teaching
the mothers how to prepare food properly. I remember hearing
Dr. Bruce say once that he believed one of the great miseries
of comparative poverty consisted in poor food. He even went
so far as to say that he thought some kinds of crime could
be traced to soggy biscuit and tough beefsteak. I'm sure
I would be able to make a living for Rose and myself and
at the same time help others."
Felicia brooded over this dream until it became a reality.
Meanwhile she grew into the affections of the Raymond people
and the Rectangle folks, among whom she was known as the
"angel cook." Underneath the structure of the beautiful
character she was growing, always rested her promise made
in Nazareth Avenue Church, "What would Jesus do?" She prayed
and hoped and worked and regulated her life by the answer
to that question. It was the inspiration of her conduct
and the answer to all her ambition.