No,” said the lawyer, “I shan’t press your claim against that man. You can get someone else to take the case, or you can withdraw it — do as you please. There may be some money in it, but it would come from the sale of the little house the man occupies and calls home. I want nothing to do with this case.”
“I suppose the old fellow begged to be let off?”
“Well — yes, he did.”
“I didn’t speak a word to him.”
“Oh, he did all the talking, did he? What did you do?”
“I believe I shed a few tears; he didn’t speak a word to me.”
“Well, may I respectfully inquire whom he did address in your hearing?”
“Almighty God. But not for my benefit in the least. You see” — the lawyer crossed his right foot over his left knee, and began stroking his lower leg, as if to help state his case concisely — “you see, I found the little house easily enough, and knocked on the outer door, which stood ajar, but nobody heard me; so I stepped into the little hall, and saw through the crack of another door just as cozy a sitting room as there ever was.
“There on the bed, with her silver head resting high on the pillows, was an old lady. I was on the point of knocking when she said, “Come, Father, now begin; I’m all ready.” Beside her, on his knees, was an old, white-haired man. He began to pray. First, he reminded God that they were still his submissive children, Mother and he, and no matter what he saw fit to bring upon them, they wouldn’t rebel at his will. Of course, it was going to be very hard for them to go out homeless in their old age, with poor Mother so sick and helpless, but they’d been through hard times before. He reminded God how different it might have been if only one of their boys had been spared them; then his voice kind of broke, and a thin white hand stole from under the coverlet and gently stroked his snowy hair. He went on to repeat that nothing could be so sharp again as parting with those three sons — unless Mother and he should be separated. But at last he began to comfort himself with the fact that the dear Lord knew it was through no fault of his own that Mother and he were threatened with the loss of their little home, which meant beggary and the poorhouse, a place they prayed to be delivered from entering if it would be consistent with God’s will. Then he quoted a multitude of promises concerning the safety of those who put their trust in the Lord. Yes, I should say he begged hard; in fact, it was the most thrilling plea I ever heard! At last, he prayed for God’s blessing on those who were about to demand justice.” The lawyer stroked his lower limb in silence for a moment or two, then continued, more slowly than before:
“And I believe I’d rather go to the poorhouse myself, tonight, than to stain my heart and hands with the blood of such a prosecution as that.”
“You are afraid to defeat the old man’s prayer?” queried the client.
“Bless your soul, man, you couldn’t defeat it!” said the lawyer. “It doesn’t admit of defeat! He left it all subject to the will of God; but he left no doubt as to his own wishes in the matter. He claimed that we were told to make known our desires unto God. You know, I was taught that kind of thing in my childhood; and why I was sent to hear that prayer, I’m sure I don’t know; but I hand the case over.”
“I wish,” said the client, twisting uneasily, “you hadn’t told me about the old fellow’s prayer, because I want the money the place will bring. But I was taught the Bible all straight enough when I was a youngster, and I’d hate to oppose such an appeal as that one. I wish you hadn’t heard a word of it, and perhaps you shouldn’t listen to petitions not intended for your own ears.”
“My dear fellow,” he said, “you’re wrong again; it was intended for my ears, and yours too, and God Almighty intended it. My mother used to sing about God’s moving in a mysterious way, I remember.”
“Well, my mother used to sing it, too,” said the claimant, as he twisted his claim papers in his hands. “You can call in the morning, and tell them the claim has been met.”
“In a mysterious way,” added the lawyer, smiling.