About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Seventh Hour
By Grace Livingston Hill
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Grace Livingston Hill
All rights reserved.
Dana Barron settled himself in his Pullman chair, tossed his hat up into the rack overhead, and closed his eyes wearily. The day was the culmination of a fortnight of anxiety and pain and sorrow, and the errand on which he was bound promised anything but pleasure.
He was two years out of college and supposed to be working hard in a publisher's office, learning the business. But it was not business that was absorbing his thoughts as he sat with closed eyes being whirled away from the environment that had been his since childhood. He was thinking of the quiet safety and strong kind guidance of the past years, in spite of all the hard work and discipline in self-control, patience, unselfishness, that had been a part of every day. It was all changed now. A new era of life had begun for him, and old things were swept away. He was thinking most of all of those last days of his father's life. How close they had come to each other, making up for all the reticence of the years! That last talk they had had together, in which they were no longer father and young son, but equals with a common interest.
"Son, I haven't ever talked with you much about the circumstances of your life. Somehow I couldn't. I hoped you'd understand someday. And I tried to make up in every way I knew how for what you've lacked in having no mother."
"You have, Father!"
He felt the throb of deep love and pity in his own heart again as he remembered he had said those words. He was glad he had spoken so. The light that came into his father's eyes when he said it was something to remember! Poor Dad! How he must have suffered! And always so patient, so strong, so tender! Such a good sport! So young and companionable, even amid the hardest of his work! Even with uncertainty and loneliness around him, death menacing in the future. Even when he knew he had come to the end and had but a few more weeks to stay!
Some people were coming through the train from the direction of the diner. One sat down across the aisle, but most of them drifted up to the other end of the car and found seats.
Dana did not look up. He wasn't interested in his fellow-passengers.
Then suddenly a familiar voice boomed out joyously. The man across the aisle stood before him and was clapping him boisterously on the shoulder, patting his knee.
"My word! If it isn't Dana Barron! What are you doing here? Oh, boy! But I'm glad to see you! Isn't this great!"
Dana came to life at once, his own eyes filled with a glad light.
"Bruce Carbury, is it really you? I thought you were on your way to South Africa or China or some end of the earth somewhere. How does it happen you are here?"
Dana moved over and made room for him, and Bruce dropped down delightedly as if it were two years ago.
"Well, I didn't go, you see! I couldn't seem to make my plans work. You know how they do, plans, sometimes? It was like that. They didn't, so I didn't. And so I'm here. But where are you going? Just a few miles up the road, or have we time to talk?"
"All the time there is," said Dana with a half sigh. "At least all the way across the continent. New York, if you're going that far."
"Oh boy! Tell the glad news again! I am! That's just where I'm going. I'm on my way to be tried out for a job that I've heard of. If it works out I hope to be on easy street someday, or at least in the next block to it. I've got a pull with a pretty high-up man and it almost looks as if I might make it, unless he takes a dislike to my red hair, or my frankness of speech. But you, Dana, what are you going there for? The same errand? Say, how about a partnership? If they dislike my red hair I'll tell them I have a humdinger of a fella with hair like a morning sunrise. How's that? They pays their money and they takes their choice. But I thought you had a swell job. Weren't you training in a publisher's outfit? Didn't that pan out all right?"
"Oh, yes. It's all right. I'm hard at work right now for them. Only I'm off for a few days. I'm not hunting a job."
"Just going for your health?" questioned his friend, studying him quizzically. "But you look fairly healthy."
A shadow crossed Dana's face. His gaze fell for an instant, thoughtfully, his straight brows drew in a troubled line.
Then he lifted his eyes to his friend's face again, and there was a kind of appeal in them, as if he dreaded putting into words what he was about to say.
"I'm going to see my mother, Bruce!" He tried to make his voice sound natural, as if it were a simple statement he was making.
But the other looked his utter astonishment.
"Your--mother!" he said staring in bewilderment. "Why, but I thought your mother was dead. I thought she died long ago when you were a little chap, only a baby."
Dana's face was very grave and tired-looking as he answered.
"Did I ever tell you that, Bruce?"
Carbury summoned a dazed thoughtfulness.
"Why, I don't know whether you ever did or not, kid. Maybe I just assumed it. But I'm sure you never denied it. I guess maybe we weren't talking much about mothers just then. I know mine was terribly ill when I came to college and I didn't know whether I should ever see her again. As a matter of fact she died early in my first college year, just before I got to know you well. I don't suppose I said much about her when I got back from the funeral. My loss was too new. I couldn't bear to talk about it. I just dropped back into the old life and tried to forget."
"I remember!" said Dana, and pressed his lips together as if the memory brought back something of pain of his own.
"Well, but I don't understand, old man. Did she die, and did your father marry again? Or what?"
"No, he didn't marry again," said Dana. "It was just what."
"Do you mean--" Carbury was perplexed. "Were they divorced--or--! Listen, Dana, tell me about it if you want to. If you'd rather not, just shut up. I won't ever say another thing about it. It won't change our relations, no matter what it is."
A brilliant smile broke over Dana's face, lighting up his eyes and bringing out the gold in his close-cropped curly hair.
"I know, Bruce. Of course. Thank you! I've always known you were like that. Of course I want to tell you. Though there isn't much to tell. My mother just went off and left us, that's all. When I was a little kid. I haven't seen her since. I guess I was ashamed, that's why I never told you."
"But that's nothing for you to be ashamed of. The shame is hers, I should say."
"But she was my mother, you know, and other fellows had mothers who stayed. No matter what, they stayed. And I guess I was ashamed for my father, too. My wonderful father! To leave such a father as that! He was a prince, Bruce! I couldn't bear to have him shamed--my dad! The finest and most honorable I'll ever meet."
"I remember him. He came to commencement. He had hair and eyes just like yours. I remember thinking he seemed more like your elder brother than your father."
"He was," said Dana gravely. "He was both. And mother, too! My mother went away when I was two and a half, so I scarcely remember anything connected with her. She went away when my sister was born. She went away from the hospital and took the baby with her. I have never seen my sister!"
Bruce listened in growing wonder.
"And yet you are going to see your mother?" he asked, amazed. "I shouldn't think you would want to see her."
"I don't!" said Dana. "It would not be my pleasure ever to look upon her. But it was my father's wish that I should go. He wanted me to see her once at least. He wanted me to judge for myself. It seemed as if, at the last, he wanted to make sure that I would find out if in any way he had been unjust in his judgment of her. If there was anything else that he might have done. I think perhaps he wanted me to make sure she had not suffered in any way. Perhaps he hoped that through the years she might have come to be sorry for what she did, and yet was too self-willed to say so."
"Then there was no divorce?"
"Yes, there was a divorce a few years ago. Father would not ask for it. He did not believe in divorces. But he did not oppose her asking. He made it as easy as he could for her."
"And she has married again, I suppose?"
"Yes, she married again, but it did not last long. The man departed for he soon discovered that practically all the money he was evidently after, automatically transferred itself to my sister when her mother married again. Father put it into a trust fund for her till her coming of age."
"But, Dana, isn't it going to be a terribly hard thing for you to do, to go and see them under the circumstances?"
"It is. The hardest thing I ever did."
"Then why do you go? Surely you could make your father understand how you feel."
"He knew how I would feel when he asked me to go. It was my father's dying request, and I promised, Bruce."
"Your father has gone? Oh, Dana, I didn't know. Excuse me!"
"Yes, he died about two weeks ago, after an extended illness. I feel it was the culmination of all he had suffered."
"Man! I'm terribly sorry for you. I know what your father was to you in college. I remember him as one of the finest gentlemen I ever met. In fact I remember wishing I could have had a father like him. You know, I never knew my own father. I was only an infant when he died. But, Dana, I dread this experience for you. Why do you go right away when you must be feeling so sad? Won't it only make your grief the greater?"
"Perhaps," said Dana with a sad little smile. "But it is something my father left for me to do. It is something that he could not very well do for himself. Something that could not, in the nature of the case, be done while he was alive. It was something that had to be wholly impersonal, yet done by one who was a part of the whole thing."
Bruce gave him a puzzled look.
"I don't know that I fully understand just what it is that you have to do. I'm afraid my blind instinct would be to keep just as far away from this thing as possible."
"So would mine," said Dana with a faraway look. "If I consulted my feelings only, I would never go near them. But you see this is a matter that affects more than this earthly life. It has to do in a way with eternity. It was a responsibility that was laid upon my father's heart, and he could not get away from it until he had told me about it, and I promised to do it for him."
"You mean?" asked his friend with kindling eyes that glowed even through the perplexity in his face.
"I mean that Dad came to know the Lord in a rather wonderful way in the last few years, and he felt that somehow he had failed in not knowing Him sooner. He felt greatly burdened for my mother and sister. And yet, because of the peculiar circumstances, he could not go to them and present the matter, for it would be so greatly misunderstood that it would practically undo all he would want to do. Especially if the other husband was still involved in the picture. I do not know that he is. I have to find that out. Gossip has not been busy our way."
"But say, my friend, wouldn't this be a case where a friend might help? I'd be glad to do anything in my power. Would you like me to make some investigations for you? I could do that through--well, through someone--and you wouldn't need to appear in the matter at all. And then if the circumstances are going to be uncomfortable you could give it all up--at least for the present."
Dana shook his head.
"Thank you, no," he said gratefully. "I must go. You know, I shall not be going alone. God will be with me. If it hadn't been for that I couldn't have gone. If my father hadn't known that God was real to me, and that I would feel His presence and guidance, he would not have asked me to go. It is just something that has to be done, and it is my job. I thank you from my heart for your offer of help, but at present I don't see anything that you can do. I'll ask you when there is."
"I only thought it might make things easier for you if you just knew all the circumstances before you went."
"It doesn't have to be made easier for me, does it?" Dana gave his friend a bewildering smile. "And I'm not sure it would if I knew any more circumstances than I do now. I'm afraid I should lose my nerve and run away to hide. I already know too much for my own comfort."
"But, Dana, just what is it you are going to do? Go and preach the Gospel to your reluctant family?"
"Not preach," said Dana decidedly. "Practice, perhaps. Just go and see, and let the Lord open the way if He will. If not, I can go back home again."
Bruce winked the mist away from his eyes.
"You're being rather wonderful about this, Dana, do you know it? I always thought you were wonderful, but now I know it."
"Oh, no," said Dana decidedly. "I've just been finding out what a coward I am. But I'm finding out, too, what a wonderful God I have."
"Yes, that's true, too," said Bruce with fervor. "Well, suppose you tell me what your plans are. Are you going to your mother's house to live while you are in the East? Is she expecting you? Or would there be a chance for us to bunk together for a time?"
Dana's brilliant smile beamed out.
"That would be great!" he said. "No, I'm not going to force myself on them, and my mother does not know I am coming. I would rather have some habitation to hail from, even if it is only a fourth floor hall bedroom. That's about all I can afford just now anyway."
"Then we'll bunk together!" said Bruce delightedly. "I have a room engaged in a fairly decent neighborhood. Nothing grand, of course, and you'll share it with me, as my guest! Yes. That's understood, for I had the room before I knew you were in this part of the world, and you know that any spot on earth is brighter for me if you are in it. It was that way for four years in college and it'll stay that way with me all my life."
"Look out there, brother, that's a pretty big proposition you're taking on, for life!"
"I mean it!" said Bruce. "It's not a new resolve. It's a vow I made in college when I saw you deliberately step back from honors you might have had and let a younger fellow who was struggling hard take them. I've remembered it a number of times since when I've seen you do other things as selflessly, with a look in your face as if you'd been crowned. I didn't know what it all meant at first, but afterward when you led me to know your Lord I understood. I know. You would disclaim it. You're too modest to take praise. Just call it love if that will make you more comfortable. But I know, yes, I understand, it isn't you yourself, it's your Lord who is living in you, shining through the flesh. But it's very notable, and it was through that look in your face that I first understood the Christ who was willing to be my Savior."
The look on Dana's face grew beautiful with love for his friend.
"I appreciate that, Bruce. That's the best thing you could have said, that you saw Him in me!"
"Well, it's true!" said the other with emphasis. "And now, fella, you've got to let me help all I can. I suspect you've got some hard days coming if you go through with this thing. You've got to understand that we're one in this. Whenever there's anything I can do, you'll tell me. And when there isn't I can always pray!"
"All right, old man! I'll remember that. I'm sure it wasn't just for nothing that you happened in on this journey."
They were silent awhile watching the changing tints of a marvelous sunset that had spread across the sky. Then presently Bruce spoke again out of the query of his thoughts.
"Are you planning to stay east for a while, Dana? And if so, what's to become of your business? You were getting on pretty well, weren't you?"
"Yes," said Dana, "and I liked it. But I'm holding all that in abeyance. I had a little talk with my firm. I told them I had business to transact for my father and I didn't know how long it would take me. Would they let me go that way and return later if I found I could come back in a reasonable time? They were grand. They told me to stay as long as I needed to, and then they gave me a letter to friends of theirs in the East in the same business. I may possibly get a temporary job with them if I find I must stay long enough to make it worthwhile."
"That's wise. And what about your girl? Margery, wasn't that her name? Or is there a girl?"
"There isn't!" said Dana with a wry smile.
"A thousand pardons, old man!" said Bruce. "But when I left your parts it looked to me pretty well settled."
Excerpted from The Seventh Hour by Grace Livingston Hill. Copyright © 2016 Grace Livingston Hill. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.