Beth stood in the very center of her dainty room looking dubiously at a fat envelope she held. With a gloved hand she creased the top edge over and over as a dainty slipper tapped the floor. With a wavering motion she started to open the flap, but at the sound of the horn outside the window, shrugged her shoulders, thrust the letter into her bag, and drew her fur closer around her white throat.
“Oh, bother! It’s too long. It’s probably just a lot of gossip anyway, and I can read it when I get back. I wonder what mother would say if she knew where I’m going tonight—probably wouldn’t like it. She’s a dear, though, even if she is just a wee bit old-fashioned.”
With another shrug of her graceful shoulders, she laughed merrily and started down the hall, swinging her hat in her hand.
“Yes, Jack, don’t be in such a rush,” she said as he met her at the door. “One would think we had only five minutes ahead of us instead of a whole evening. But honestly, my conscience pricks me for spending all of Friday evening with you at nothing more elevating than a hockey game. I know it’s breaking the Sabbath, but—‘Oh, well!’”
“Oh, my dear! You and your nonsense make me tired. All this Friday night business and starting a new day in the middle of the afternoon! I don’t mind your keeping Sabbath on the wrong day, but I do like my Friday nights with you. And you can suggest nothing more interesting to go to than a dry old Missionary Volunteer Meeting.”
“I’m sorry, Beth, but it’s true. I almost never see you, and you always have your religion on your mind. Can’t you forget it for just tonight? Please think of me for a while. It’s our only time together for days. My night off would be your Sabbath.”
“All right, Jack,” Beth answered in a small voice, “for tonight I’ll try to forget.”
But her face was sober as she slowly descended the boarding house steps, and walked to the car. Reaching in her purse for her handkerchief, she saw her mother’s letter still unopened, and a guilty look flashed across her face. With an effort however, she turned to her companion, and soon he had captured all of her attention.
When the long gray roadster had pulled up at the huge building in the heart of the city, Beth’s spirits were soaring and all thoughts of the letter were gone.
“My, what a crowd!” she exclaimed in surprise. “I had no idea hockey was so popular. Who did you say was playing? How long does the game last? I’m beginning to be glad I came. Why didn’t you tell me it was like this?”
“Come on, question box!” was the laughing response. Let’s go in and attend to your education. Where have you spent all your life?”
“Well not at hockey games, that’s one sure thing!”
Laughing and pushing, the two, arm in arm, made their way through the throng and took their seats in the crowded auditorium. With each moment the noise and excitement increased until it was almost necessary to shout in order to hear one another. Beth watched, with breathless interest and shining eyes, the scrambled mass of human beings on the ice. Even after the game was over and the crowd had thinned, Jack could hardly persuade her excited self to leave the scene.
“Well, little miss, how did you like it?” he inquired when they were back in the car.
“It was grand. That’s all I can say! Simply wonderful! Such excitement and so many people. Oh, I loved it.”
“There, I told you so. I knew you’d like it as well as I do. Come on, lets make a night of it. There’s no use in stopping now. The fun has just begun.”
So saying, he stepped on the starter, and off they went roaring down the road. Half an hour later they stopped, with a screeching of brakes, at a little tearoom, cozily set in a grove of evergreens.
Entering, the two chose a table in the corner by a small radio, and ordered their lunch.
“This is what I call fun,” declared Jack. “Let’s have some music.”
With a murmur of contentment Beth turned the dial, but stopped short at the phrase which caught her ears:
“Oh, I love the dear silver that shines in your hair----“
As if paralyzed, her fingers clutched the switch, her heart sank within her. It was Sabbath! What if mother knew?
“The brow that’s all furrowed and wrinkled with care----“
With tender meaning, the words came over the air to the stricken heart of the listening girl. In a moment, her bright and shining world had been shorn of its glitter.
“I kiss the dear fingers so toil worn for me;
“Oh, God bless you and keep you, Mother Machree.”
Mother bending over the ironing board on a hot summer’s day. Mother’s hands so worn and knotted in their honest labor for those she loved. Mother up with the sun and about the house so that all might be ready for daughter’s guests! Mother wearing a shabby dress, that daughter might have a warm fur about her neck. Mother’s hopes and longings that her daughter might become a strong earnest worker for her Master. She was mother’s investment. What was she doing here?
With a pale face she turned her attention to the food before her and to the conversation of her partner.
“S’ matter Beth? Excitement too much for you? I guess you’re not used to the big city.”
With a warm smile she replied, “Listen Jack, I must tell you something. I have forgotten all else but what you wanted me to do for this one evening, but now it is over. You’re right, hockey is exciting, extremely so, but I know such excitement is not for me! I have no place in such surroundings at any time, but tonight—I have broken God’s sacred command to keep His Sabbath holy. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
“Beth, what on earth.”
“No, Jack. Let’s not argue. I’ve decided. In spite of anything you may think to the contrary, I do have a high Christian ideal in life. I have not been very faithful in living up to it of late, but I’m turning over a new leaf. You don’t understand me, Jack, I know you don’t. Perhaps it’s because of my inconsistent action. I’ve been so weak and so ready to do the things I have wanted to do, without too much thought as to whether they were things a Seventh-day Adventist girl ought to do. I realize now, that, as the Bible says, it’s best not to be unequally yoked together. I’m sorry.”
“But Beth, you’re being ridiculous. You’re fanatical. What possible harm is there in what we have done tonight? You and your saintly ideas!”
“I knew you wouldn’t understand, Jack. I’ve explained my reasons to you before. Shall we go now?”
The trip home was made in stony silence. All Beth’s attempts at conversation were brusquely and firmly repulsed, until she also subsided into a miserable heap in the corner of the car. With her mind in a turmoil she asked herself over and over again whether she had been right in saying what she had. But deep down in her heart there was the growing conviction that she was on her way back to the close communion with God which she had once known and enjoyed.
With a curt good night Jack left her, after escorting her to the door, and drove off in a rush. Leaning her aching head against the doorway, Beth wiped away a tear and murmured earnestly, “Bless him, Father, and somehow bring him to a knowledge of Thy love and Thy truth in spite of my inconsistent influence.”
Wearily she climbed the stairs, opened her door, and threw herself sobbing upon her bed. A torrent of confession poured from her lips until she lay quiet, exhausted from the storm, but peaceful at last in the knowledge of her new hope.
As she rose to put away her scattered belongings, she noticed her bag, and immediately thought of her unread letter. Eagerly she reached for it and tore open the flap. With a contented sigh she sat down upon the bed and devoured the home news. She laughed at Mrs. Murphy’s worry over her sick puppy, sighed with the discouragements and mortgages of old Aunt Hannah, and her heart quivered at the love and sacrifice of the home folks. With a start she realized that it was all interesting, this home news that she had once scorned. It told of her people of her kind. Here were her joys and her sorrows as well as theirs.
With a tired body but a comforted heart she went to sleep at last, a wiser and happier girl.
Several years passed, with no word from Jack. Beth had become a successful teacher and was happy in serving her Saviour, when one day she received a letter written in a familiar hand. With quickened heartbeat she tore it open and read:
You will, no doubt, be surprised to hear from me after our long separation, but I feel that I must tell you what it is that is burdening my heart. When I left you after our evening together three years ago, I was very angry. I called you stubborn, obstinate, and a fanatic. I determined never to see you again. Since then, however, I have seen some of the seamy side of life, and I have found that you were right. I shall not tell you of the experiences I have lived through in the past three years, but I do want you to know how much your example has done for me. Always, I could see before me your noble character and high ideals. I fought with all my might against the calling of the small voice within me but, at last I surrendered, and now your Saviour is my Saviour too. I have come to enjoy a friendship with Him such as I never thought possible. And now I want to go back—back to the place where our friendship was broken off so abruptly. May I? I shall be anxiously awaiting your reply.
The golden sun made long shadows upon the wall of her pretty room as Beth sat with bowed head. At last she raised her eyes to the fading glory in the heavens, and with a heart full of gratitude, murmured, “Father, I thank Thee.”
--Mayfred R. Rose, Youth’s Instructor, August 28, 1935