9: HELP FROM AN ENEMY
"Emily" Carter Davidson knelt by his wife's bedside "Emily, please listen to me. God has not forsaken us."
She turned a pale, tear-streaked face to his. "Then why, oh why, did He let Mr. Tomlinson steal our money? We're ruined, completely ruined, and you can't even find work."
Carter bowed his head. For a while he couldn't answer. Why, indeed? And yet should he not trust a heavenly Father's hand? "He'll never leave us, Emily, flow can I say why He let these things come upon us? I'm the one who foolishly signed the note for Aaron Tomlinson. How can I expect God to work a miracle to protect me from the results of my own mistake? And yet I believe He'll have mercy on us and provide for our needs. Surely I'll find work soon."
His wife, too weak to answer, squeezed his hand. But looking into her eyes, he saw his own faith reflected there. Quickly he turned away so that she wouldn't notice the tears that rose unbidden.
He couldn't tell her that money was by no means his greatest worry. For several weeks she had been battling a fever which no one understood. Several times it went down, and she seemed on the way to recovery, but it only returned with greater force. Now he feared her weakened body would not survive another attack.
After a time she appeared to sleep. Rising, he slipped from the room. Outside, Jane and little Johnnie waited.
"How's Mommy?" Johnnie's eyes were large with concern. His father put a protective arm around them both. "Not very well, my son. Only God can make her well."
The children clung to their father, drawing reassurance from his strong arms. Jane looked up at him. "Papa, did you know that the wood's all gone? And the candles too. Whatever will we do tonight?' How'll we take care of Mommy?
Carter sagged from the weight of the new blow. "I don't know what we'll do, Jane." He looked at the older child. Her face showed the strain of burdens far too heavy for her years. "I don't know what we'll do, but I'll pray about it. Surely God will work it out somehow."
As quickly as possible he went out into the winter snow. The sun shone bright and warm, glistening like jewels on every snow-laden branch. But Carter had no eyes for the morning beauty. He crunched through the crusted snow to a little shed. Inside, a pile of hay lay loosely spread on the floor. Here he sank to his knees.
For days he had struggled to remain strong for his family's sake. Now the dam crumbled, allowing the pent-up fear and frustration to pour forth. In his refuge he could be a frightened child, coming to his heavenly Father for help and comfort. Helpless, yet hoping in God's mercy, he clung by faith to that hand that holds the worlds on their courses, but above the other things that burdened his heart loomed his pressing, immediate need for wood and candles. Again and again he pleaded with tears for the vital items.
As he prayed he felt the deep peace of God flowing into his soul. The aching fear and longing vanished. In its place welled up the sweet assurance that God heard and would care for his needs. Outside once more, a brighter world greeted him. The weight of centuries seemed lifted from his shoulders. He drew deep breaths of cold air and stood for a moment, enjoying the brightness of the day and the peace in his soul. But the thought of his anxious, fearful children recalled him to present duty. He would share with them the comfort God had poured into his own heart.
"Now you mustn't worry about the wood and candles," he reassured Jane. "God will provide them somehow. I think I'll find work today. If I can't find permanent employment, Mr. Turner may have some work I could do for a day or two to earn a little. At any rate I'm sure we'll have the necessities by tonight. Pray while I'm gone, and take care of Mother. She must not be left alone."
So he set forth with hopeful step to look for any kind of work that he could find. But the day passed in fruitless search. Even a temporary job did not materialize. The hours wore by, and his burden returned. How could he face his children with empty hands? But night was coming. They would need him. He must be there to help them care for Emily. The weight of today's failure fell the more crushingly because of the morning's hopes.
At last his weary footsteps neared his own front gate. He paused just down the road, gazing into the deep blue sky of dusk. The sunset was fading, and one bright star peered down. Drawing a deep breath, he prayed for strength enough to face the night—strength for himself and for his family. A few steps brought him to the gate. Lifting the latch, he pushed it open. Then he stopped, dazed and uncomprehending. A large pile of wood lay beside the front door.
Clapping his hands in glee, Johnnie burst from the house to greet his father with a glad cry. "Oh, Papa, we have wood and candles! We have wood and candles!"
"Whatever do you mean? Where did they come from?"
"A man came and brought 'em to us."
"Are you sure there's no mistake? Whoever could have sent them?"
Jane broke in, her eyes aglow with excitement. "There's no mistake, Papa. A man knocked on the door with a whip. When I opened it, he asked if you lived here. He said he had some candles and a load of wood for you. I asked him if you had sent 'em, but he said, 'I rather guess he doesn't know anything about it.' When I asked him who did send 'em then, he just laughed. 'I mustn't tell,' he said. 'But you may tell your father they're a present.' "
Carter Davidson was surprised, to say the least, since he hadn't told any human being of his family's urgent need. He had confided only in his heavenly Father. Could the visitor have been. an angel? Or had God communicated his need to some human agent? It was a puzzle he very much wanted to solve.
"What did the man look like?" he questioned the children.
"He had a black beard," Johnnie volunteered. "Oh, no," Jane argued. "His beard was brown, not black, and he was just about as big as you, Papa." But Johnnie shook his head. "He was much bigger than Papa."
Carter could see that he was getting nowhere. "What about his
horse, or did he have a team?"
Jane nodded. "And the wagon had red wheels. They looked fresh painted."
"Are you sure?" Carter frowned. Only one horse and wagon in the valley answered that description. It belonged to his old enemy, Hubert Graff.
But the children agreed on the horse's and wagon's description. There was no doubt; it had been Mr. Graff's horse.
"But he hasn't even spoken to you for years, has he, Papa? Jane puzzled.
"Why doesn't he like you, Papa?" Johnnie wanted to know.
"He makes liquor, and he knows how active I've been in temperance activities, trying to persuade people to give up drinking. So he's never forgiven me. If Mr. Graff really did this, then surely the finger of God has touched his heart."
"Weren't you friends before, Papa?" Jane queried.
"Yes, but he wouldn't believe that I've nothing personal against him. I've tried and tried to be friendly, but he won't even speak to me. Something remarkable must've happened to soften his heart. I think I'll just pay him a little visit."
So that night for the first time in years, Carter entered the distillery of his old friend. Something indeed had happened, for its proprietor looked up with a nod of recognition.
"Did you send some wood and candles to my house today?"
"Yes, sir, I sent them."
"I surely do appreciate them, but how did you happen to do it?"
"I'll tell you all about it, but first would you tell me something? Did you need them?" Hubert Graff looked intently into Carter's eyes.
"I can never tell you how much!"
Mr. Graff got up and walked around the bench. He pulled up a chair for his guest. "Well, I really did feel rather foolish about the whole thing. This morning about ten o'clock I was working as usual when a voice seemed to say to me, 'Send some wood to Carter Davidson.' I tried to banish the thought and concentrate on my work. I couldn't believe you really needed it, and I didn't want to do you a favor anyway.
"But the voice wouldn't leave me alone. The more I fought the impression, the more vivid it seemed. 'Send some wood to Carter Davidson; he needs it.' It haunted me every moment. Finally to purchase a little peace, I ordered Hal to fill the wagon with wood and leave it at your door.
"For a moment I was at rest—but only for a moment. Then the voice bade me, 'Send some candles.' That was really too much. I determined I wouldn't yield to the ridiculous impression. So I went back to my work. But I was in torment. I couldn't have a moment of peace. At last I handed Hal a package of candles.
"I have been worrying about this experience all day, and I wondered if I weren't losing my mind. And then, again, when I remembered the suddenness and intensity of this unexpected impression and the wonderful peace I got from obeying it, I began to conclude that it might be `supernatural after all."
"This is, indeed, the wonderful works of God," Carter exclaimed. "At ten o'clock I was pleading with God for the very articles you sent, and the conviction filled me that God had heard my prayer."
Hubert Graff held out his hand to his old friend. "Will you forgive me for the way I've treated you? I'd really like to be friends again."
They shook hands with the old warmth, and Carter took his leave. He started home singing. He still had many more problems to meet, true. But the God who had provided in such a remarkable way would surely see him through.