Authors: Gilbert Morris
© 1998 by Gilbert Morris
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ebook edition created 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owners. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
Cover illustrations by Dan Thornberg
Cover design by Josh Madison
To Leon and Joanne Case
When I think of the faithful servants of God I have known—
you two always come to my mind.
I remember so vividly how in the early days you oft refreshed Johnnie and me—
and helped us along the way.
A Glass of Ale
Cara Lanier, her long, rich brown hair pulled back with a ribbon, the sleeves of her pale blue dressing gown rolled up to her elbows, leaned forward, intent on the canvas before her. Carefully she made one more stroke with her brush, then leaned back to examine her work.
Her small movement was enough to wake the tiny spaniel lying at her feet. He had been stretched out on his side, enjoying the morning sunshine pouring through the tall, mullioned window behind them, his creamy white-and-chestnut coat glistening warmly in the light. Now, however, he thought he saw an opportunity for some attention and leaped into Cara’s lap, pushing his way up to lick her face.
“Charley, stop that! You’re going to get paint on both of us!”
As Cara’s arm moved to protect her paint and the canvas before her, Charley hopped down, but the furry companion was not the least bit repentant. He bent down and gave a sharp bark, begging to play. Then he bounced forward, rump wagging as quickly as it could, dark eyes soulfully pleading.
Cara laughed. “Oh, poor Charley! You get as tired as I do being cooped up in this room, don’t you? I just wish I could take you for a walk.”
Cara gazed around the room that had become her prison. It was indeed beautiful. At the second-floor front of her family’s impressive nineteenth-century townhouse, it was large and high-ceilinged and decorated for lightness and femininity.
Two large windows draped in lace-trimmed chintz flooded the room with sunshine on days like today. Cheerful landscapes were placed strategically about the cream-colored walls, and colorful area rugs decorated the highly polished oak floor. A thoughtful hominess was provided by the hand-crocheted spread her mother had made for her four-poster bed and the family pictures, framed in silver, arranged on her dressing table and the fireplace mantel.
This room had once been a place of joy and pleasant retreat. Now, however, after ten years as an invalid, she felt something close to despair as she thought about yet another day within these walls. Her large gray-green eyes filled momentarily with tears. “Oh yes, Charley, I
wish I could take you outdoors.” Brushing away a tear and giving a deep sigh, Cara scooped Charley back up to snuggle him against her and turned to the window.
The scene she gazed upon was a cheerful one. The spring of 1907 had come suddenly, bringing with it warm breezes. Outside her window she could see children playing in the street. She heard their cries and their laughter and watched for a while, wondering if they were children from the neighborhood. She had lived in New York all of her life in this same house, which had been built in a sparsely populated suburb years ago. Now, however, because of expansion, it was a part of the city itself.
Cara was glad the house had been set back from the road, which now was a busy thoroughfare. She took great pleasure in the small front yard beneath her window. Carefully planned and tended by Henry, the gardener, it offered a season-long treat for the eye—and living models for her paintings. On this bright day, drifts of white, lavender, and purple were accented with bright splashes of yellow and red as tulips, English daisies, and pansies turned their gentle faces to the spring sunshine. Cara glanced back at her painting to see if she had caught this springtime palette of color correctly.
She delighted in painting the flowers, although she loved the flowers themselves better than her paintings of them.
Now she watched as a delivery van passed by, a neighbor lady set out in her carriage, and various neighbors strolled down the sidewalk, some walking their dogs. From time to time a passerby would look up and wave at her. She was a familiar fixture in the window, and as the iceman pulled his wagon up to the curb, he called out, “Good morning, Miss Cara! How are you today?”
Cara did not try to answer. She simply smiled and waved back. Her voice was far too weak to carry out to the street. She watched until he had gone around to the back of his wagon, used his heavy hook to hoist a block of ice to his shoulder, and walked back toward the side entrance, bent beneath the weight of the ice. She could hear their cook, Retta, greeting him at the kitchen door.
Then hearing a tap at her bedroom door, she turned quickly, nudging Charley off her lap. “Come in,” she said and was not surprised to see Dr. Geoffrey McKenzie enter. She knew the doctor had stopped in the downstairs parlor first for his usual visit with her father—and to enjoy a cup of coffee and one of Retta’s fresh-baked cinnamon rolls before beginning his morning rounds.
“Good morning, Doctor,” Cara said and advanced to shake hands with him.
“Weel now, you’re looking a little tired today,” McKenzie said without preamble. He was a short, thin man with the burr of old Scotland in his speech. Not more than thirty-five, he had a full thatch of rich chestnut hair, and the color was repeated in his short beard and mustache. He looked like a terrier with his busy eyebrows beetling out over his bright gray eyes. Still holding her hand, he took her wrist with his other and grew still while he listened to the pulse. “Not so bad,” he murmured, “but you look tired, Cara. How long have you been up?”
“Not too long,” Cara said defensively.
“Come now. Tell me how long.”
“Well, I did wake up early this morning. I wanted to finish this painting while the morning light was still bright.” She reclaimed her hand, then waved it at the canvas. “Do you like it?” she asked eagerly.
McKenzie moved over to the canvas and stood in front of it. He clawed his beard thoughtfully and turned his head to one side for a moment, then nodded. “I don’t see how you do it,” he said. “It’s vurry gud indeed! I think a gift like that has to be born in a person.” He sighed and shook his head woefully. “I tried to paint once. It was the awfullest mess you ever saw! But every man to his trade. Now then, let’s see how you’re doing.”
His examination was quickly performed, for Dr. McKenzie had been Cara Lanier’s personal physician for the last ten years. He had come from the old country as a young man, and she had grown fond of him, though she was tediously sick of all the medicines and treatments she had endured under his care. Finally when he stepped back and stroked his beard again, giving her a thoughtful stare, she asked, “Well, am I going to live, Doctor Mac?”
“Don’t be so frivolous,” McKenzie frowned. “No man knows the day nor hour of his death—nor no woman, either.”
“Well, if you’re right,” Cara said, a gleam of humor in her eyes, “it’s already settled, so it doesn’t matter much. I’ll die whether I take your medicines or not.” She enjoyed teasing the physician about his strict Calvinist theology. She knew there was not a more thoughtful physician in New York City, and since she saw so few people, apart from her own family, it was always a treat when he stopped in to see her.
“Weel, someday I’ll get your theology all straightened out, but for now I’m going to get your body in gud shape.”
A cloud passed over Cara’s face, and she dropped her head for a moment. “I don’t think you’ll ever do that, Doctor. Sometimes I think I’ll never get out of this room again.”
“Now, now, don’t talk like that!” McKenzie said quickly.
He was very fond of Cara and spent a few moments trying to encourage her. Finally he asked, “Have you been drinking the German ale your father suggested?”
“No, I hate the taste of the stuff!” she said, grimacing.
“I think you should take it. It’s going to do you gud.”
“How can anything that tastes so awful be good? And whatever you put in it makes it even worse, I think.”
McKenzie was taken aback, surprised that Cara had so quickly figured out he was adding medicine to the ale her father had imported from Germany especially for her.
She’s a bright woman. Too sharp for any man, I think,
he thought, then defended himself by saying, “We’ll try it for another month. Weel you do that, Cara?”
“No, I won’t drink another drop of it! It’s foul stuff, and it’s not going to help me anyway!”
Her voice was flat and determined, and her attitude surprised McKenzie, who was accustomed to a more docile Cara.
“Why, I’m ashamed to hear you talk like that!”
“Did you ever taste that awful ale, Doctor Mac?” She saw his face as he struggled to find an answer. She knew he would not lie, and she also surmised that he
tasted it and found it as horrible as she did. “There, you see! You couldn’t drink it yourself!”