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When The Cows Come Home
by [?]

I can see them now as they come, very slowly and in single file, down the winding old lane. The declining sun is shining through the tops of the poplars, the zest of daytime begins to soften into the hush and cool of evening, when they come leisurely sauntering through the grass that grows luxuriously beside the road. One after another they come quietly along–Cherry and Brindle, Blossom and Darkie, Beauty and Crinkle, Daisy and Pearl. A stranger watching them as they appear round the bend of the pretty old lane fancies each of them to be the last, and has just abandoned all hope of seeing another, when the next pair of horns makes its unexpected appearance. They never hurry home; they just come. A particularly tempting wisp in the long sweet grass under the hedge will induce an instant halt. The least thing passing along the road stops the whole procession; and they stare fixedly at the intruder till he is well on his way. And then, with no attempt to make up for lost time, they jog along at the same old pace once more. It is good to watch them. When the whirl of life is too much for me; when my brain reels and my temples throb; when the hurry around me distracts my spirit and disturbs my peace; when I get caught in the tumult and the bustle and the rush–then I like to throw myself back in my chair for a moment and close my eyes. I am back once more in the dear old lane among the haws and the filberts. I catch once more the smell of the brier. I see again the squirrel up there in the oak and the rabbit under the hedge. I listen as of old to the chirp of the grasshopper in the stubble, to the hum of the bees among the foxgloves, to the song of the blackbird on the hawthorn, and, best of all–yes, best of all for brain unsteadied and nerve unstrung–I see the cows coming home.

It is a great thing to be able to believe the whole day long that, when evening comes, the cows will all come home. That is the faith of the milkmaid. As the day drags on she looks through the lattice window and catches occasional glimpses of Cherry and Brindle, Blossom and Darkie, Beauty and Crinkle, Daisy and Pearl. They are always wandering farther and farther away across the fields; but she keeps a quiet heart. In her deepest soul she cherishes a lovely secret. She knows that, when the sunbeams slant through the tall poplar spires, the cows will all come home. She does not pretend to understand the mysterious instinct that will later on turn the faces of Cherry and Brindle towards her. She cannot explain the wondrous force that will direct Blossom and Darkie into the old lane, and guide them along its folds to the white gate down by the byre. But where she cannot trace she trusts. And all day long she clings to her sunny faith without wavering. She never doubts for a moment that the cows will all come home.

Is there anything in the wide world more beautiful than the confidence of a good woman in the salvation of her children? For years they cluster round her knee; she reads with them; prays with them; welcomes their childish confidences. Then, one by one, away they go! The heat of the day may bring waywardness, and even shame; but, like the milkmaid watching the cows through the lattice, she is sure they will all come home. Think of Susanna Wesley with her great family of nineteen children around her. What a wonderful story it is, the tale of her personal care and individual solicitude for the spiritual welfare of each of them! And what a picture it is that Sir A. T. Quiller-Couch has painted of the holy woman’s deathbed! John arrives and is welcomed at the door by poor Hetty, the prodigal daughter.