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Duck Lake
Chapter III. The Gall of Bitterness

THE teacher opened his Bible as he was requested, and read the seventh chapter of Romans. Old Dave seemed to be in an agony of thought, and did not appear to drink in much of the truth of the chapter. But Paul’s dramatic ending, so descriptive of the power of sin, indulged, over the body, and the threatened consummation of sin, death, roused the hearer. ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ he repeated over and over. It seemed to be the phrase that suited his mental and moral condition, and he lashed himself with it; for he was, indeed, in the gall of bitterness and the bondage of iniquity, and, at the time, did not know that such a spirit of contrition presaged a way of liberty.

The teacher had ceased reading at the end of the chapter, and, perceiving Dodge’s face covered with perspiration and hearing his groans, which now became audible, he turned to see if he could relieve him, for he thought his sufferings were physical.

‘What can I do for you, Mr. Dodge?’ he inquired.

‘Read on,’ said Dodge.

The teacher, to his own astonishment, for he had never seen the Spirit working in this wise in a strong-willed man, now realized that the wrestling and pain in Dodge were less physical than mental and spiritual. He wished that the preacher were present, for he was sure that he would not only most truly appreciate such a wrestling of the Spirit, but he would also know what words of direction and encouragement to give the man.

While better educated than Dodge, the teacher had neither Dodge’s strength of mind or will, nor his long record of defiant sinfulness. The teacher belonged to that goodly class of people who have a desire to do right, and whose lives are morally correct, but who for a long time have lived in the moonlight of their own consciences and the starlight of the world’s literature. When the teacher came into the clearer light of Christ, it was like the breaking of a calm, beautiful summer’s day, in the easy, joyful coming of the morning twilight and then the sunlight.

But with Dodge the experience was vastly different. With him it was the bursting of the sun at noonday upon the land, where the morning had known only the darkness and devastation of a cyclone.

The blaze of the light of Christ, streaming into his heart, revealed to him the terrible havoc of sin, his soul in open rebellion to its Maker and the harbourer of iniquity; and his body, under such rebellion, sold to sin: the end of which was death, eternal death. In this light, the man reeled, dazzled, and seeing his soul ladened with the seeds of eternal death rather than the means of salvation offered, he cried in his agony: ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?’

The teacher had taken up the Bible to read on; but the man’s visible anguish disturbed him, and he persistently thought of physical relief.

‘Read on, I say.' said Dodge, somewhat imperiously; ‘read on! Let’s hear the end of it, even if it lands me in hell!

The teacher felt shocked at the man’s words, then he wanted to smile, but remembering Dodge’s recent actions under liquor, he became fearful that Dodge’s mind was again giving way. Dodge looked at him with blazing eyes.

‘Read on, young man.’

The teacher sat down again and quietly read the next chapter, the wonderful eighth chapter of Romans. Dodge drank in the truth as a thirsty man. Then there was freedom offered from sin and death, freedom in Christ Jesus, freedom through the Spirit, life by being led by the Spirit, a son of God, the witness of the Spirit, the justification and glorification of God’s elect!

Long ere Mr. Green had finished the chapter Dodge’s wrestling had ceased, the perspiration had dried from his brow, and he was very still and quiet.

‘Thank you,’ he said to Mr. Green, when he had finished. It was the first time he had said ‘Thank you’ to any one for years. ‘Come and read the last chapter to me again tomorrow.’

'Here, Mr. Green!’ called Mrs. Miller; 'come and get some broth for Dave.’

The teacher hastened to the hall, and found Mrs. Miller at the foot of the stairs with a tray, the chief thing upon which was a large bowl of steaming chicken broth. Taking the tray, the teacher came back to Dodge, and after fixing him with great care of his wounds, in his bed, he placed the tray in front of him. The first few spoonfuls nearly choked him, because his thoughts seemed to place a lump in his throat, but his appetite was much better after he had swallowed some of the broth. Then followed the bread and butter and the jam and a cup of tea.

Dodge then felt so refreshed that he wanted to get up.

‘No,’ said the teacher. 'You can’t do that, for two reasons. You have many bruises and burns, and are still a weak man. You will have to await doctor’s orders. And then, you know, you have no clothes. Yours were all burned in the hotel!’

‘Well, what a fix!’ exclaimed Dodge, with a smile and without an oath, which caused him to be somewhat surprised at himself. He was truly beginning to be a new man.

‘Send some one to Sandy Bay—Thompson, the storekeeper, knows my size—and get a whole rig out. He owes me money, and can turn it over to my account.

'You won’t need it for three or four days anyway.'

‘I’ll be ready to get into it as soon as it comes,’ said Dodge, emphatically.

While Dodge was thus making good progress towards recovery, John Miller was suffering intense pain and slowly getting weaker. The doctor arrived, and pronounced the injuries to the backbone and other parts of the most serious nature.

This report did not cause a word of complaint to escape the good old man. With infinite patience he submitted to the treatment, and assisted by the medicines given to relieve his pain he went peacefully to sleep. Mrs. Miller was not made fully aware of the danger of her husband; but when Mr. Green had the whole truth wrung out of him by his imperious patient, Dodge was overwhelmed in agony and remorse.

‘Hurry up those clothes, Green, for I must be up, and see if I can’t save that man’s life. I’m a worthless wretch compared to him. I hope that my wife is helping all that she can.’

‘Yes, she is a bit unsteady yet, but she is rendering Mrs. Miller good help in the kitchen.’

‘Why doesn’t she come to see me?’ said Dodge, a little peevishly.

‘Perhaps she awaits the request of her lord,’ replied the teacher, with a smile.

‘That’s so, Green. I was forgetting what a brute I have been to her. Go and tell her I want to see her.’

With pleasure Green hastened to the kitchen and told Mrs. Dodge that her husband was anxious to see her.

A sudden pallor sprang into the woman’s face, and she looked appealingly at Mrs. Miller.

‘Go, dear,’ said the motherly body. ‘He’ll only do you good now.’

Thus relieved, but with much fear and trembling, she entered Dodge’s chamber. After showing her in, the teacher closed the door and went back, to see if he could not aid Mrs. Miller in rearranging her household and look after the farm.

Mrs. Miller told him that Mrs. Dodge had thrown herself heart and soul into the kitchen work, and that she was all right there. Green then went outside, and was surprised and delighted to see that all the stock had been carefully put in, fed and bedded. To whom belonged the credit he did not know until the next morning, when he found Lanky carrying two brimming pails of milk to the kitchen.

‘How’s Mr. Miller?’ was his first question, which was quickly followed by, ‘And how’s Dave?’

‘Mr. Miller is very quiet, but will have a hard time, if he ever gets well,’ said Mr. Green, with a sad face. ‘But Dodge is much better, and wants a whole outfit of clothes. Will you be so good as to go to Sandy Bay to Thompson’s for him?’

‘Sure,’ said Lanky; ‘when I put the stock to pasture I’ll go.'

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