“I have blotted out her name from my Bible, where her mother’s name is written and mine. She has wrought confusion, I have no daughter. But I loved her, she never knew how I loved her, for her mother would be looking at me from her eyes,” said Lachlan Campbell as he sits in silence in the shadow in church. “It is known to me that a young woman who has been a member of this church has left her home and gone into the far country. There will be no use in summoning her to appear before the session, for she will never be seen again in this parish. I move that she be cut off from the roll, and her name is—“ Lachlan’s voice broke, but in an instant, he recovered. “Her name is Flora Campbell.”
The minister took the old man’s arm, led him into the minister’s home, and set him in the big chair by the study fire. “With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.”
Lachlan took a letter from his pocket with a trembling hand:
When this reaches you I will be in London and not worthy to cross your door. Do not be always angry with me, and try to forgive me, for you will not be troubled any more by my dancing or dress. Do not think that I will be blaming you, for you have been a good father to me, and said what you would be considering right, but it is not easy for a man to understand a girl. Oh, if I had my mother, then she would have understood me and I would not have crossed you.
Forget my foolishness, but don’t forget me, and maybe you will still pray for me. Take care of the geraniums for my sake, and give milk to the lamb that you called after me. I will never see you again, in this world or the next, nor my mother….
Your unworthy daughter,
“This is a fiery trial, Lachlan, and I cannot even imagine what you are suffering,” said the minister. “But do not despair, for that is not the letter of a bad girl. Perhaps she was impatient and has been led astray. But Flora is good at heart, and you must not think she is gone forever.”
The minister walked with Lachlan to the foot of the hill on which his cottage stood. After they had shaken hands in silence, the minister watched the old man’s figure in the cold moonlight till he disappeared into the forsaken home, where the fire had gone out on the hearth, and neither love nor hope was waiting for a broken heart.
Everyone knew the tragedy of Flora Campbell and never opened their lips. They refused to pry into this secret. No one even looked as he sat alone in his pew or came down on a Saturday afternoon to the village shop for his week’s provisions. His hair has turned white in a month, and he’s away to nothing in his clothes. Anybody can see his heart is breaking. Everyone was helpless.
Mrs. Marget Howe met Lachlan in the shop and read his sorrow in a glance. She went home in great distress. “It was woesome to see the old man gathering his bit things with a shaking hand, and speaking to me about the weather, and all the time his eyes were saying, ‘Flora, Flora.’” So Mrs. Howe came round the corner of Lachlan’s cottage, and she found Flora’s plants laid out in the sun and her father watering them on his knees. One was ready to die.
“Lachlan, we both have been afflicted. I had a son, and he is gone. You had a daughter, and she is gone. I know where my son is, and am satisfied. But your sorrow is deeper than mine.”
Lachlan answered, “I will not speak of her. She isn’t anything to me this day. She has been a shame to her name.” So he opened the Bible, and there was Flora’s name scored with wavering strokes, but the ink had run as if it had been mingled with tears.
Mrs. Howe’s heart burned within her at the sight. “This is what you have done. You are an old man, and in sore travail, but you, Lachlan, have the greater shame. Just twenty years of age this spring, and her mother dead. No woman to watch over her, and she wandered from the fold, and all you can do is to take her out of your Bible. Woe is me if our Father had blotted out our names from the Book of Life when we left His house. But He sent His Son to seek us, and a weary road He came. I tell you, a man would not leave a sheep to perish as you have cast off your own child. You’re worse than Simon the Pharisee! Poor Flora, to have such a father!”
Lachlan sunk into a chair and cried. “God will have smitten the pride of my heart, for I was hard on my child, and I was hard on the minister, and there was none like me. The Lord has laid my name in the dust, and I will be angry with her. But she is the scapegoat for my sins and has gone into the desert. God be merciful to me, a sinner!”
So Mrs. Howe knew there and then it would be well with Lachlan again, and she wrote Flora a letter, beckoning her home to her father. Meanwhile, Lachlan cleaned and trimmed a lamp that was kept for show and had never been used; and set it in the window. And every night its light shone down the steep path ascending to Flora’s home.
Flora got the letter. Flora set her journey back home. A turn of the path brought her within sight of the cottage, and she saw the kitchen window was ablaze with light. She understood; and in the greatness of her joy, she ran the rest of the way. The dogs, who never forget nor cast off, were bidding her welcome with short, joyous yelps of delight. Her father, who had never even kissed her all the days of her youth, clasped her in his arms and sobbed out blessings over her head. Lachlan was carried with joy but was sadly dashed when he saw the signs of sore sickness on Flora’s face.
Later that night he went to his place of prayer and lay on the ground and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, and spare her for Thy Servant’s sake. Take her not till she has seen that I love her. Give me time to do her kindness for the past wherein I oppressed her. Turn away Thy judgment on my harness, and let not the child suffer for her father’s sins.”
On her sickbed, Flora told Mrs. Howe the history of her letter. “It is weary to be in London and no one to speak a kind word to you, and I will be looking at the crowd that is always passing, and I will not see one kind face, and when I looked in at the lighted windows, the people were all sitting around the table, but there was no place for me. I was like a wounded deer and tried to hide, and I crept into the shadow of a church and wept. There was a service in the church, and this was the hymn: There is a fountain filled with blood. So I went in and sat down at the door. The sermon was on the prodigal son, but there is only one word I remember: ‘You are not forgotten or cast off,’ the preacher said. ‘You are missed.’ Then he said, ‘If you had a plant, and you had taken great care of it, and it was stolen, would you not miss it? Or if a shepherd was counting his sheep, and there was one short, does he not go out to the hill and seek for it? Or if a father had a child, and she left her home and lost herself in the wicked city, she will still be remembered in the old house, and her chair will be there.’ This word was ever in my ear, ‘missed,’ and I was wondering if God was thinking of me. Perhaps there may be a sign, and I went back to my room and saw the letter there. It was not long before I was on the train.”
Lachlan brought over the family Bible and opened it to the family register where his daughter’s name had been marked out. Then he laid it down before Flora and bowed his head on the bed. “Will you ever be able to forgive your father?”
“Give me the pen,” Flora said, and wrote the following:
Missed April 1873
Found September 1873
Ons het ‘n Goeie Herder aan ons kant.
Psalm 139:7-12 is my gunsteling psalm wat ek graag bid wanneer ek my dogters aan die Here opdra.
Waarnatoe kan hulle gaan waar U nie is nie?
Waarnatoe kan hulle wegvlug van U?
As hulle opklim na die hemel, dan sal U daar wees.
As hulle in die doderyk hul slaapmat oopgooi en gaan lê, dan sal U daar ook wees.
As hulle ver na die ooste vlieg of as hulle ver in die weste gaan woon, dan sal U ook daar vir hulle lei en hulle vashou.
As hulle sê die donker moet hulle toemaak, die lig rondom hulle moet donker word, dan is dit nie donker vir U nie. Vir U is die nag so lig soos die dag en donker is vir U soos lig.