“Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining” written by Charlotte Maria Tucker (A.L.O.E.) is about not always seeing the good in the events of our lives.
“Please, Mr. Mate, has that cloud a silver lining?”
The question was asked by little Kate Vale, the daughter of an emigrant, who, with her mother, was following her father, who had gone before to New York. Katie was a quiet, gentle little child, who gave trouble to no one. She had borne the suffering of sea-sickness at the beginning of the voyage so patiently, and now took the rough sea-fare so thankfully, that she had made a fast friend of Tom Bolton, the mate. Bolton had a warm, kindly heart, and one of the children whom he had left in England was just the age of Katie; this inclined him all the more to show her kindness. Katie often had a piece of Bolton’s sea-biscuit; he told her tales which he called “long yarns;” and sometimes in rough weather he would wrap his thick jacket around her, to keep the chill from her thinly-clad form. Katie was not at all afraid of Bolton, or “Mr. Mate,” as she called him; and she took hold of his hard brown hand as she asked the question, “Has that cloud a silver lining?”
Bolton glanced up at a very black lowering cloud which seemed to blot the sun quite out of that part of the sky.
“Why do you ask me, Kate?” said the sailor.
“Because mother often says that every cloud has a silver lining, and that one looks as if it had none.”
Tom Bolton gave a short laugh “None that we can see,” he replied; “for the cloud is right between us and the sun. If we could look at the upper part, where the bright beams fall, we should see yon black cloud like a great mass of silvery mother-o’-pearl, just like those that you yesterday called shining mountains of snow.”
Katie turned round, and raising her eyes, watched for some minutes the gloomy cloud. It was slowly moving towards the west, and as it did so the sun behind it began to edge all its dark outline with brightness.
“See, see!” exclaimed Katie, “it is turning out the edge of its silver lining! If I were up there in the sky, I suppose that all would look beautiful then. But I don’t know why mother should take comfort from talking of the clouds and their linings.”
The mother, Mrs. Vale, who was standing near, leaning against the bulwarks, heard the last words of her child, and made reply: “Because we have many clouds of sorrow here to darken our lives, and our hearts would often fail us, but for the thought, ‘There is a bright side to every trial sent to the humble believer.’” And Mrs. Vale repeated the beautiful lines,—
“Yon clouds, a mass of sable shade
To mortals gazing from below,
By angels from above surveyed
With universal brightness glow.”
Katie did not quite understand the verse, but she knew how patiently and meekly her mother had borne sudden poverty, the sale of her goods, and the bitter parting from her beloved husband. Bolton also had been struck by the pious courage of one who had had a large share of earthly trials.
“Your clouds at least seem to be edged with silver,” he observed, with a smile; and as he spoke, the glorious beams of the sun burst from behind the black mass of cloud, making widening streams of light up the sky, which, as Katie remarked, looked like paths up to heaven.
The vessel arrived at New York after a rather rough voyage, and Mrs. Vale, to her great delight, found her husband ready at the port to receive her. He brought her good tidings also. A fortnight before her landing he had procured a good situation, and he was now able to take her and their child to a comfortable home. Past sorrows now seemed to be almost forgotten; the Vales realized the truth of what the poet has said,—
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head!”
Bolton, who during a trying voyage had shown much kindness to Mrs. Vale as well as to Katie, was invited during his stay at New York to make their house his home. He had much business to do as long as he remained in the great city, so saw little of the Vales except in the evenings, when he shared their cheerful supper, and then knelt down with them at family prayers. The mate learned much of the peace and happiness which piety brings, while he dwelt under the emigrants’ roof.
But ere long the day arrived when Bolton’s vessel, the Albion, was to start for England. She was to weigh anchor at One, and at mid-day the mate bade good-bye to his emigrant friends.
“A pleasant journey to you, and a speedy return; we’ll be glad to see you back here,” said Henry Vale, as be shook the mate by the hand.
Bolton’s journey was to be much shorter and his return much more speedy than he wished, or his friends expected. He was hastening down to the port to join his vessel, when he saw hanging up in a shop window a curious basket, made of some of the various nuts of the country prettily strung together.
“That’s just the thing to take my Mary’s fancy,” said the mate to himself. “I’ve a present for every one at home but for her; it won’t take two minutes to buy that basket.”
Great events often hang upon very small hooks. If Bolton had not turned back to buy the basket, he would not have been passing a house on which masons were working, at the very moment when a ladder, carelessly placed against it, happened to fall with a crash. The ladder struck Bolton, and he fell on the pavement so much stunned by the shock, that he had to be carried in a senseless state into the shop of a chemist.
Happily no bones were broken, but it was nearly an hour before the mate recovered the use of his senses. He then opened his eyes, raised his head, and stared wildly around him, as if wondering to find himself in a strange place, and trying to think how he came to be there. Bolton pressed his aching forehead, seeking to recall to his memory what had happened, for he felt like one in a dream. Soon his glance fell on the clock in the chemist’s shop, and at the same instant the clock struck One! Bolton started to his feet, as if the chime of the little bell had been the roar of a cannon.
“The Albion starts at One!” cried the mate; and without so much as stopping to look for his oilskin cap, with bandaged brow and bareheaded, Bolton rushed forth into the street, and, dizzy as he felt, staggered on towards the port from which the vessel was to sail.
It was not to be expected that the sailor’s course should be a very straight one, or that with all his haste he should manage to make good speed. The streets of New York seemed to be more full of traffic than usual, and twice the mate narrowly escaped being knocked down again by some vehicle rapidly driven along the road. At last, breathless and faint, and scarcely able to keep his feet, poor Bolton arrived at the wharf to which his ship had been moored but an hour before. But the Albion was there no longer—the vessel had started without the mate—he could see her white sails in the distance; she was already on her way back to Old England, and she had left him behind!
This was a greater shock to poor Bolton than the blow from the falling ladder had been. He stood for several minutes gazing after the ship with a look of despair, then slowly and sadly the sailor returned to the house of the Vales.
“Nothing more unlucky could possibly have happened,” muttered the mate to himself. “Here’s a pretty scrape that I shall get into with my employers; the mate of their vessel absent just at the time when he ought to have been at his post! Then I’ve nothing with me—nothing, save the clothes that I stand in! All my luggage is now on the waves, and a precious long time it will be before I shall see it again. But I don’t care so much for the luggage; what I can’t bear to think of is my wife and my children looking out eagerly for the arrival of the good ship Albion, and then, when she reaches port, finding that no Tom Bolton is in her! I wish that that stupid basket had been at the bottom of the sea before ever I set eyes on it!”
Pale, haggard, and looking—as he was—greatly troubled, poor Bolton entered the house of the Vales, which he so lately had quitted. The family were just finishing their dinner; and not a little astonished were they to see one whom they had believed to be on the wide, wide sea.
“Here I am again, like a bad half penny,” said the poor sailor; and sitting down wearily on a chair which Katie placed for him directly, Bolton gave a short account of what he called the most unlucky mischance that had ever happened to him in the course of his life.
The Vales felt much for his trouble, and begged him to remain with them until he could get a passage in some other vessel bound for England.
“And don’t take your accident so much to heart,” softly whispered little Katie; “you know mother’s favorite proverb —‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’”
“Sometimes, even in this life, we can see the silver edge round the border,” observed Mrs. Vale.
Bolton had too brave a heart and too sensible a mind to give way long to fretting, though he did not see how so black a cloud as that which hung over his sky could possibly have anything to brighten its gloom. He tried to make the best of that which he could not prevent, and retired to rest that night with a tolerably cheerful face, though with a violent headache, and a heartache which troubled him more.
Bolton slept very little that night, nor indeed did any one else in the house; for with the close of day there came on a violent storm, which raged fiercely until the morning. Katie trembled in her little cot to hear how the gale roared and shrieked in the chimneys, and rattled the window-frames, and threatened to burst open the doors. The child raised her head from her pillow, and thanked the Lord that her sailor friend was not tossing then on the waves.
But far more thankful was Katie when tidings reached New York of what the storm had done on that terrible night. Bolton was sitting at breakfast with his friends on the third day after the tempest, when Vale, who was reading the newspaper, turned to the part headed “Shipping Intelligence.”
“Any news?” inquired Tom Bolton, struck by the expression on the face of his friend.
Instead of replying, Vale exclaimed, “How little we can tell in this life what is really for our evil or our good! You called that accident which prevented your sailing in the Albion an ‘unlucky mischance!’”
“Of course I did. My wife and children are impatient to see me—”
“Had you sailed in that ship,” interrupted Vale, “they would never have seen you again. The Albion went down in that storm!”
What was the regret of Tom Bolton on hearing of the disaster, and what was his thankfulness for his own preservation, I leave the reader to guess. Often in after-days did the little American basket remind him in his own home of what others might have called the chance that led him to turn back on his way to the ship, and so caused the accident which vexed him so much at the time. If God’s children carefully watch, the events of their own lives, they will often be able, even here below, to trace the silvery edge of the cloud; but when they are called up higher, to dwell above with the angels, then they will see what they now believe—that the love of their Lord makes all things, even the darkest, to work for good to them that fear Him.