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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER VII. A GUIDE TO THE PYRENEES.
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 I have said, for the first two months of Cecile's life in the country she was a happy and light-hearted child. Her purse of money was safe for the present. Her promise lay in abeyance. Even her dead step-mother, anxious as she was to have Lovedy found, had counseled Cecile to delay her search until she was older. Cecile, therefore, might be happy. She might be indeed what she was—a child of ten. This happiness was not to last. Clouds were to darken the life of this little one; but before the clouds and darkness came, she was to possess a more solid happiness—a happiness that, once it found entrance into such a heart as hers, could never go away again.  
The first beginning of this happiness was to come to Cecile through an unexpected source—even through the ministrations of an old, partly blind, and half-simple woman.
Mrs. Bell from the first took a fancy to Cecile, and liked to have her about her. She called her Mercy, and Cecile grew accustomed to the name and answered to it. This delusion on the part of poor old Mrs. Bell was great torture to Lydia Purcell, and when the child and the old woman were together she always left them alone.
One afternoon Mrs. Bell said abruptly:
"Mercy, I thought—or was it a dream?—I thought you were safe away with Jesus for the last few years."
"No, Mistress Bell," answered Cecile in her slow and grave tones, "I've only been in London these last few years."
"Now you're puzzling me," said Mrs. Bell in a querulous voice, "and you know I hate being puzzled. Lydia Purcell, too, often puzzles me lately, but you, Mercy, never used to. Sit down, child, and stitch at your sampler, and I'll get accustomed to the sight of you, and not believe that you've been away with my blessed Master, as I used to dream."
"Is your blessed Master the same as Jesus that you thought I had gone to live with?" asked Cecile, as she pulled out the faded sampler and tried to work the stitches.
"Yes, my darling, He's my light and my stay, the sure guide of a poor old woman to a better country, blessed be His holy Name!"
"A guide!" said Cecile. This name attracted her—a guide would be so useful by and by when she went into a foreign land to look for Lovedy. "Do you think as He'd guide me too, Mistress Bell?"
"For sure, deary, for sure. Don't He call a little thing like you one of His lambs? 'Tis said of Him that He carries the lambs in His arms. That's a very safe way of being guided, ain't it, Mercy?"
"Yes, ma'am. Only I hope as He'll take you in His arms too, Mistress Bell, for you don't look as though you could walk far. And will He come soon, Mistress?"
"I don't say as 'twill be long, Mercy. I'm very old and very feeble, and He don't ever leave the very old and feeble long down here."
"And is the better country that the blessed Master has to guide you to, away in France, away in the south of France, in the Pyrenees?" asked Cecile with great excitement and eagerness.
But Mrs. Bell had never even heard of the Pyrenees. She shook her old head and frowned.
"Tis called the Celestial City by some," she said, "and by some again the New Jerusalem, but I never yet heard anyone speak of it by that other outlandish name. Now you're beginning your old game of puzzling, Mercy Bell."
Cecile bent over her work, and old Mrs. Bell dozed off to sleep.
But the words the old woman had spoken were with Cecile when later in the day she went out to play with Maurice and Toby; were with her when she lay down to sleep that night. What a pity Jesus only guided people to the Celestial City and to the New Jerusalem! What a pity that, as He was so very good, He did not do more! What a pity that He could not be induced to take a little girl who was very young, and very ignorant, but who had a great care and anxiety on her mind, into France, even as far as, if necessary, to the south of France! Cecile wondered if He could be induced to do it. Perhaps old Mrs. Bell, who knew Him so well, would ask Him. Cecile guessed that Jesus must have a very kind heart. For what did that girl say who once sat upon a doorstep, and sang about him?
"I am so glad Jesus loves even me."
That girl was as poor as Cecile herself. Nay, indeed, she was much poorer. How white was her thin face, how ragged her shabby gown! But then, again, how triumphant was her voice as she sang! What a happy light filled her sunken eyes!
There was no doubt at all that Jesus loved this poor girl; and if He loved her, why might He not love Cecile too? Yes, He surely had a great and loving heart, capable of taking in everybody; for Cecile's stepmother, though she was not very nice, had smiled when that little story of the poor girl on the doorstep had been told to her; had smiled and seemed comforted, and had repeated the words, "Jesus loves even me," softly over to herself when she was dying.
Cecile, too, now looking back over many things, remembered her own father. Cecile's father, Maurice D'Albert, was a Roman Catholic by birth. He was a man, however, out of whose life religion had slipped.
During his wife's lifetime, and while he lived on his little farm in the Pyrenees, he had done as his neighbors did, gone to confession, and professed himself a good Catholic; but when trouble came to him, and he found his home in the bleaker land of England, there was found to be no heart in his worship. He was an amiable, kind-hearted man, but he forgot the religious part of life. He went neither to church nor chapel, and he brought up his children like himself, practically little heathens. Cecile, therefore, at ten years old was more ignorant than it would be possible to find a respectable English child. God, and heaven, and the blessed hope of a future life were things practically unknown to her.
What fragmentary ideas she had gleaned in her wanderings about the great city with her little brother were vague and unformed. But even Cecile, thinking now of her father's deathbed, remembered words which she had little thought of at the time.
Just before he breathed his last, he had raised two feeble hands, and placed one on her head, and one on Maurice's, and said in a faltering, failing voice:
"If the blessed and adorable Jesus be God, may He guide you, my children."
These were his last words, and Cecile, lying on her little bed to-night, remembered them vividly.
Who was this Jesus who was so loving, and who was so willing to guide people? She must learn more about Him, for if He only promised to go with her into France, then her heart might be light, her fears as to the success of her great mission might be laid to rest.
Cecile resolved to find out all she could about Jesus from old Mrs. Bell.
The next morning, immediately after breakfast, Aunt Lydia called the little girl aside, and gave her as usual a basket of broken provisions.
"There is a good piece of apple-tart in the basket this morning, Cecile, and a bottle of fresh milk. Don't any of you three come worriting me again before nightfall; there, run away quickly, child, for I'm dreadful busy and put out to-day."
For a brief moment Cecile looked eagerly and pityingly into the hard face. There was love in her gentle eyes, and, as they filled with love, they grew so like Mercy's eyes that Lydia Purcell almost loathed her. She gave her a little push away, and said sharply:
"Get away, get away, do," and turned her back, pretending to busy herself over some cold meat.
Cecile went slowly and sought Maurice. She knew there would be no dinner in store for her that day. But what was dinner compared to the knowledge she hoped to gain!
"Maurice, dear," she said, as she put the basket into his hand, "this is a real lovely day, and you and Toby are to spend it in the woods, and I'll come presently if I can. And you might leave a little bit of dinner if you're not very hungry, Maurice. There's lovely apple-pie in the basket, and there's milk, but a bit of bread will do for me. Try and leave a little bit of bread for me when I come." Maurice nodded, his face beaming at the thought of the apple-pie and the milk. But Toby's brown eyes said intelligently:
"We'll keep a little bit of everything for you, Cecile, and I'll take care of Maurice." And Cecile, comforted that Toby would take excellent care of Maurice, ran away into old Mrs. Bell's room.
"May I sit with you, and may I do a little bit more of Mercy's sampler, please, Mistress Bell?" she asked.
The old lady, who was propped up in the armchair in the sunshine, received her in her usual half-puzzled half-pleased way.
"There, Mercy, child, you've grown so queer in your talk that I sometimes fancy you're half a changeling. May you sit with your grandam? What next? There, there, bring yer bit of a stool, and get the sampler out, and do a portion of the feather-stitch. Mind ye're careful, Mercy, and see as you count as you work."
Cecile sat down willingly, drew out the faded sampler, and made valiant efforts to follow in the dead Mercy's finger marks. After a moment or two of careful industry, she laid down her work and spoke:
"Mistress Bell, when 'ull you be likely to see Jesus next, do you think?"
"Lawk a mercy, child! ain't you near enough to take one's breath away. Do you want to kill your old grandam, Mercy? Why, in course I can't see my blessed Saviour, the Lord Jesus, till I'm dead."
"Oh!" said Cecile, with a heavy sigh, "I did think as He lived down yere, and that He came in and out to see you sometimes, seeing as you love Him so. You said as He was a guide. How can He be a guide when He's dead?"
"A guide to the New Jerusalem and the Celestial City," murmured old Mrs. Bell, beginning to wander a little. "Yes, yes, my blessed Lord and faithful and sure guide."
"But how can He be a guide when He's dead?" questioned Cecile.
"Mercy, child, put in another feather in yer sampler, and don't worry an old woman. The Lord Jesus ain't dead—no, no; He died once, but He rose—He's alive for evermore. Don't you ask no strange questions, Mercy, child."
"Oh! but I must—I must," answered Cecile, now grown desperate. She threw her sampler on the floor, rose to her feet, and confronted the old woman with her eyes full of tears. "Whether I'm Mercy or not don't matter, but I'm a very, very careworn little girl—I'm a little girl with a deal, a great deal of care on my mind—and I want Jesus most terrible bad to help me. Mistress Bell, dear Mistress Bell, when you die and see Jesus, won't you ask Him, won't you be certain sure to ask Him to guide me too?"
"Why, my darling, He's sure to guide you. There ain't no fear, my dear life. He's sure, sure to take my Mercy, too, to the Celestial City when the right time comes."
"But I don't want Him to take me to the Celestial City. I haven't got to look for nobody in the Celestial City. 'Tis away to France, down into the south of France I've got to go. Will you ask Jesus to come and guide me down into the Pyrenees in the south of France, please, Mistress Bell?"
"I don't know nothing of no such outlandish place," said old Mrs. Bell, once more irritated and thrown off her bearings, and just at this moment, to Cecile's serious detriment, Lydia Purcell entered.
Lydia was in one of her worst tempers, and old Mrs. Bell, rendered cross for the moment, spoke unadvisedly:
"Lydia, I do think you're bringing up the child Mercy like a regular heathen. She asks me questions as 'ud break her poor father, my son Robert's heart ef he was to hear. She's a good child, but she's that puzzling. You bid her mind her sampler, and not worry an old woman, Lydia Purcell."
Lydia's eyes gazed stormily at Cecile.
"I'll bid her see and do what she's told," she said, going up to the little girl and giving her a shake. "You go out of the house this minute, miss, and don't let me never see you slinking into this yere room again without my leave." She took the child to the door and shut it on her.
Mrs. Bell began to remonstrate feebly. "Lydia, don't be harsh on my little Mercy," she began. "I like to have her along o' me. I'm mostly alone, and the child makes company."
"Yes, but you have no time for her this morning, for, as I've told you a score of times already to-day, Mr. Preston is coming," replied Lydia.
Now Mr. Preston was Mrs. Bell's attorney, and next to her religion, which was most truly real and abiding in her poor old heart, she loved her attorney.

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