Very tiny and pale the little girl looked as she stood before those three grave and dignified gentlemen. She had been ushered into Brother Gordon's study, where he was holding counsel with two of his deacons, and now, upon inquiry into the nature of her errand a little shyly she stated that she desired to be baptized.
|You are quite too young to be baptized,| said one of the deacons, |you had better run home, and let us talk to your mother.|
She showed no sign of running however, as her wistful blue eyes traveled from one face to another of the three gentlemen sitting in their comfortable chairs; she only drew a step nearer to Brother Gordon. He arose, and with gentle courtesy that ever marked him, placed her in a small chair close beside himself.
|Now, my child, tell me your name, and where you live.|
|Winnie Lewis sir, and I live on -- -- Street. I go to Sunday school.|
|You do; and who is your teacher?|
|Miss -- -- . She is very good to me.|
|And you want to be baptized.|
The child's face glowed as she leaned eagerly toward him, clasping her hands, but all she said was, |Yes, sir.|
|She cannot be more than six years old,| said one of the deacons, disapp rovingly.
Brother Gordon said nothing, but quietly regarded the small, earnest face, now becoming a little downcast. |I am nine years old; older than I look,| she said.
|It is unusual for anyone to be baptized so young,| he said, thoughtfully, |We might pray for you though.|
The brother did not seem to hear as he asked, |You know what being baptized means, Winnie?|
|Yes sir|; and she answered a few questions that proved she comprehended the meaning of the step she wished to take. She had slipped off her chair, and now stood close to Brother Gordon's knee.
|I want to obey all of God's Word. You said last Sunday, sir, that the lambs should be in the fold.|
|I did,| he answered, with one of his own lovely smiles. |It is surely not for us to keep them out. Go home now, my child. I will see about it.|
The cloud lifted from the child's face, and her expression, as she passed through the door he opened for her, was one of entire peace.
The next week Winnie's desire was granted. Except for occasional information from Miss -- -- that she was doing well, Brother Gordon heard no more of her for six months.
Then he was summoned to her funeral.
It was one of June's hottest days. As the minister made his way along the narrow street where Winnie had lived, he wished for a moment that he had asked his assistant to come in his place; but as he neared the house, the crowd filled him with wonder; progress was hindered, and as perforce he paused for a moment, his eye fell on a crippled lad crying bitterly as he sat on a low door-step.
|Did you know Winnie Lewis, my lad?| he asked.
|Know her, is it sir? Never a week passed but what she came twice or thrice with a picture or book, mayhaps an apple for me, an' it's owing to her an' no clargy at all that I'll ever follow her blessed footsteps to heaven. She'd read me from her own Bible whenever she came, an' now she's gone there'll be none at all to help me, for mother's dead an' dad's drunk, an' the sunshine's gone from Mike's sky intirely with Winnie, sir.|
A burst of sobs choked the boy; Brother Gordon passed on, after promising him a visit very soon, and made his way through the crowd of tear-stained, sorrowful faces. The Brother came to a stop on the narrow passageway of the little house. A woman stood beside him drying her fast falling tears while a wee child hid his face in her skirts and wept.
|Was Winnie a relative of yours?| the brother asked.
|No, sir; but the blessed child was at our house constantly, and when Bob here was sick she nursed and tended him and her hymns quieted him when nothing else seemed to do it. It was just the same with all the neighbors. She took tracts to them all and has prayed with them ever since she was converted, which was three years ago, when she was but six years of age, sir. What she's been to us all no one but the Lord will ever know and now she lies there.|
Recognized at last, Brother Gordon was led to the room where the child lay at rest, looking almost younger than when he had seen her in his study six months before. An old bent woman was crying aloud by the coffin.
|I never thought she'd go afore I did. She used regular to read an' sing to me every evening, an' it was her talk an' prayers that made a Christian of me: you could a'most go to heaven on one of her prayers.|
|Mother, mother come away,| said a young man putting his arm around her to lead her back. |You'll see her again.|
|I know, I know: she said she'd wait for me at the gate,| she sobbed as she followed him; |but I miss her sore now.|
|It's the old lady as Mrs. Lewis lived with sir,| said a young lad standing next to Brother Gordon, as one and another still pressed up towards the little casket for a last look at the beloved face. |She was a Unitarian, and she could not hold out against Winnie's prayers and pleadings to love Jesus, and she's been trusting in Him now for quite awhile. A mighty good thing it is, too.|
|You are right, my lad,| replied the minister. |Do you trust Him, too?|
|Winnie taught me, sir,| the lad made answer, and sudden tears filled his eyes.
[Illustration: |Mother, mother, come away.| said a young man, putting his arm around her to lead her back. |You'll see her again.|]
A silence fell on those assembled, and, marveling at such testimony, Brother Gordon proceeded with the service feeling as if there was little more he could say of one whose deeds thus spoke for her. Loving hands had laid flowers all around the child who had led them. One tiny lassie placed a dandelion in the small waxen fingers and now stood, abandoned to grief beside the still form that bore the impress of absolute purity. The service over, again and again was the coffin lid waved back by some one longing for another look, and they seemed as if they could not let her go.
The next day a good-looking man came to Brother Gordon's house and was admitted into his study.
|I am Winnie's uncle, sir,| he said simply. |She never rested till she made me promise to get saved, and I've come.|
|Will you tell me about it, my friend?| said Brother Gordon.
|Well, you see, sir, it was this way. Winnie always had been uncommonly fond of me; and so was I of her,| -- his voice broke a little -- |and I'd never been saved, never felt, as I believed, quite right. Yet I knew her religion was true enough, and a half hour before she died she had the whole family with her, telling them she was going to Jesus, and she took my hand between her little ones and said, 'Uncle John, you will love Jesus and meet me in Heaven, won't you?' What could I do? It broke me all up, and I've come to ask you, sir; what to do so's to keep my promise to Winnie, for she was an angel if there ever was one. Why, sir, we were all sitting with her in the dark, and there was a light about that child as though it shone from Heaven. We all noticed it, every one of us, and when she drew her last breath and left us, the radiance went, too; it was gone, quite gone.|
The man wept like a child, and for a minute Brother Gordon did not speak. Within a month the uncle was thoroughly converted, baptized, and a sincere follower of Christ. In the evening after this baptism, Brother Gordon sat reading in his study, thinking of his little child. |It is truly a wonderful record! Would we had more like her. Why do we not help the children to get saved, letting them feel that they are really one with us? We need their help fully as much as they need ours. 'Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.'|
-- L. C. W. Copyright by B. Wood, 1895.