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The Cross on the Old Church Tower
by [?]

UP the dark stairs that led to his poor home strode a gloomy-faced young man with despair in his heart and these words on his lips:–

“I will struggle and suffer no longer; my last hope has failed, and life, become a burden, I will rid myself of at once.”

As he muttered his stern purpose, he flung wide the door and was about to enter, but paused upon the threshold; for a glance told him that he had unconsciously passed his own apartment and come up higher, till he found himself in a room poorer but more cheerful than his own.

Sunshine streamed in through the one small window, where a caged bird was blithely singing, and a few flowers blossomed in the light. But blither than the bird’s song, sweeter than the flowers, was the little voice and wan face of a child, who lay upon a bed placed where the warmest sunbeams fell.

The face turned smiling on the pillow, and the voice said pleasantly,–

“Come in, sir, Bess will soon be back if you will wait.”

“I want nothing of Bess. Who is she and who are you?” asked the intruder pausing as he was about to go.

“She is my sister, sir, and I’m ‘poor Jamie’ as they call me. But indeed, I am not to be pitied, for I am a happy child, though it may not seem so.”

“Why do you lie there? are you sick?”

“No, I am not sick, though I shall never leave my bed again. See, this is why;” and, folding back the covering, the child showed his little withered limbs.

“How long have you lain here, my poor boy?” asked the stranger, touched and interested in spite of himself.

“Three years, sir.”

“And yet you are happy! What in Heaven’s name have you to render you contented, child?”

“Come sit beside me, and I’ll tell you, sir; that is, if you please I should love to talk with you, for it’s lonely here when Bess is gone.”

Something in the child’s winning voice, and the influence of the cheerful room, calmed the young man’s troubled spirit and seemed to lighten his despair. He sat down at the bedside looking gloomily upon the child, who lay smiling placidly as with skilful hands he carved small figures from the bits of wood scattered round him on the coverlid.

“What have you to make you happy, Jamie? Tell me your secret, for I need the knowledge very much,” said his new friend earnestly.

“First of all I have dear Bess,” and the child’s voice lingered lovingly upon the name; “she is so good, so very good to me, no one can tell how much we love each other. All day, she sits beside my bed singing to ease my pain, or reading while I work; she gives me flowers and birds, and all the sunshine that comes in to us, and sits there in the shadow that I may be warm and glad. She waits on me all day; but when I wake at night, I always see her sewing busily, and know it is for me,–my good kind Bess!

“Then I have my work, sir, to amuse me; and it helps a little too, for kind children always buy my toys, when Bess tells them of the little boy who carved them lying here at home while they play out among the grass and flowers where he can never be.”

“What else, Jamie?” and the listener’s face grew softer as the cheerful voice went on.

“I have my bird, sir, and my roses, I have books, and best of all, I have the cross on the old church tower. I can see it from my pillow and it shines there all day long, so bright and beautiful, while the white doves coo upon the roof below. I love it dearly.”

The young man looked out through the narrow window and saw, rising high above the house-tops, like a finger pointing heavenward, the old gray tower and the gleaming cross. The city’s din was far below, and through the summer air the faint coo of the doves and the flutter of their wings came down, like peaceful country sounds.