"Thou has 'hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes,'" murmured Tom; "'even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.'"
"Tom, I don't believe, — I can't believe, — I've got the habit of doubting," said St. Clare. "I want to believe this Bible, — and I can't."
"Dear Mas'r, pray to the good Lord, — 'Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.'"
"Who knows anything about anything?" said St. Clare, his eyes wandering dreamily, and speaking to himself. "Was all that beautiful love and faith only one of the ever-shifting phases of human feeling, having nothing real to rest on, passing away with the little breath? And is there no more Eva, — no heaven, — no Christ, — nothing?"
"O, dear Mas'r, there is! I know it; I'm sure of it," said Tom, falling on his knees. "Do, do, dear Mas'r, believe it!"
"How do you know there's any Christ, Tom! You never saw the Lord."
"Felt Him in my soul, Mas'r, — feel Him now! O, Mas'r, when I was sold away from my old woman and the children, I was jest a'most broke up. I felt as if there warn't nothin' left; and then the good Lord, he stood by me, and he says, 'Fear not, Tom;' and he brings light and joy in a poor feller's soul, — makes all peace; and I 's so happy, and loves everybody, and feels willin' jest to be the Lord's, and have the Lord's will done, and be put jest where the Lord wants to put me. I know it couldn't come from me, cause I 's a poor, complainin' cretur; it comes from the Lord; and I know He's willin' to do for Mas'r."
Tom spoke with fast-running tears and choking voice. St. Clare leaned his head on his shoulder, and wrung the hard, faithful, black hand.
"Tom, you love me," he said.
"I 's willin' to lay down my life, this blessed day, to see Mas'r a Christian."
"Poor, foolish boy!" said St. Clare, half-raising himself. "I'm not worth the love of one good, honest heart, like yours."
"O, Mas'r, dere's more than me loves you, — the blessed Lord Jesus loves you."
"How do you know that Tom?" said St. Clare.
"Feels it in my soul. O, Mas'r! 'the love of Christ, that passeth knowledge.'"
"Singular!" said St. Clare, turning away, "that the story of a man that lived and died eighteen hundred years ago can affect people so yet. But he was no man," he added, suddenly. "No man ever had such long and living power! O, that I could believe what my mother taught me, and pray as I did when I was a boy!"
"If Mas'r pleases," said Tom, "Miss Eva used to read this so beautifully. I wish Mas'r'd be so good as read it. Don't get no readin', hardly, now Miss Eva's gone."
The chapter was the eleventh of John, — the touching account of the raising of Lazarus, St. Clare read it aloud, often pausing to wrestle down feelings which were roused by the pathos of the story. Tom knelt before him, with clasped hands, and with an absorbed expression of love, trust, adoration, on his quiet face.
"Tom," said his Master, "this is all real to you!"
"I can jest fairly see it Mas'r," said Tom.
"I wish I had your eyes, Tom."
"I wish, to the dear Lord, Mas'r had!"
"But, Tom, you know that I have a great deal more knowledge than you; what if I should tell you that I don't believe this Bible?"
"O, Mas'r!" said Tom, holding up his hands, with a deprecating gesture.
"Wouldn't it shake your faith some, Tom?"
"Not a grain," said Tom.
"Why, Tom, you must know I know the most."
"O, Mas'r, haven't you jest read how he hides from the wise and prudent, and reveals unto babes? But Mas'r wasn't in earnest, for sartin, now?" said Tom, anxiously.
"No, Tom, I was not. I don't disbelieve, and I think there is reason to believe; and still I don't. It's a troublesome bad habit I've got, Tom."
"If Mas'r would only pray!"
"How do you know I don't, Tom?"
"I would, Tom, if there was anybody there when I pray; but it's all speaking unto nothing, when I do. But come, Tom, you pray now, and show me how."
Tom's heart was full; he poured it out In prayer, like waters that have been long suppressed. One thing was plain enough; Tom thought there was somebody to hear, whether there were or not. In fact, St. Clare felt himself borne, on the tide of his faith and feeling, almost to the gates of that heaven he seemed so vividly to conceive. It seemed to bring him nearer to Eva.
"Thank you, my boy," said St. Clare, when Tom rose. "I like to hear you, Tom; but go, now, and leave me alone; some other time, I'll talk more."
Tom silently left the room.