The Road to Joy - Chapter III
When I woke up, I felt sick. I sat up in bed, realizing I was already late for work. Then suddenly the memories of the previous night flooded into my recollection and I fell back onto my bed.
My sister was dead, and I would never get to see her get married and become a mother, which was always her wish. But it would never be. My anger again was aroused, and I spoke aloud to God, saying, "Why, Lord, have you taken my sister's life? Do you not have any consideration for human kind?"
Then, for a moment, I wished I could die and go to my sister. Quickly dismissing the thought from my mind, I felt ashamed. I thought on Sarah, and how I was being so selfish with my thoughts. Then suddenly I began to quake and feel fear. "What have I said to my Lord?" I thought, "Truly I should be struck down for my words." I wept again. I wept for my sister, I wept for my selfishness, and I wept for my response to God. Yet I still harbored an anger deep inside. Telling myself it wasn't against God, I then ignored it.
I turned my mind to Sarah. Oh how I now wished she had not left! In my great sorrow I wished I could be in her presence, to hear her comforting words. She seemed the only bright star in the dark night of my despair. She was a flower reaching out of the mist of the morning. If only I could reach her, talk with her, be with her.
I stood up resolutely. I would not let this sorrow conquer me. I would dry my tears and go to work. But first I composed a short letter to be sent by special post to Richmond:
I write to you to inform you of my sister's death. Matilda's fever came back violently and she could not fight it. She died last night. I am stricken with grief. As you know I dearly loved my sister and find it hard to accept her death. I can only find happiness in thinking of you. I eagerly and impatiently await your return to Boston. I love you, Sarah.
Charles A. Douglas"
I stepped outside and waved down a cab. I never took a cab to work, but today I did not want to walk. I did not wish to have anymore time to myself, to think. Thinking was a sorrowful thing, so I resolved to busy myself with work.
When I arrived, I headed straight to my partner's office. Mr. Andrew Greene was his name. He, like me, was a younger man than most for the position he held, being only four years my superior. Mr. Greene was a jolly and cheerful man. He was a fine Christian man who gave much to his church. Though he was not exactly a humble man, he was not arrogant. He seemed to know how to make anyone laugh, and I knew no one who did not like him.
As I was coming close to his office, I heard him talking to an accountant. Suddenly I stopped short as I heard the words, "They have forgotten they have paid, made an error in their books. Therefore, we shall claim they haven't. They'll be none the wiser. Bill them again for the full one hundred thirteen dollars and eighty-five cents."
One hundred thirteen and eighty-five. That was the exact amount I received from a customer for a shipment made the other day. Now Mr. Greene was taking advantage of them for some mistake on their end. I stood there, not knowing what to do. I knew I must confront my partner, but how could I? And if I did, what would happen? Surely he would be angry at me. Would he even listen? And what would happen to our partnership?
My thoughts were interrupted by the end of the conversation within. "Yes, Mr. Jackson! And that's why good accountants like you are what this company needs. That way we will not make the same mistake." I heard Jackson stand up and go to open the door.
I rushed to think what to do. I quickly opened the door to act as if I had just walked up. In my rush I slammed the door into the exiting accountant knocking him off balance.
"I'm so very sorry," I blundered out, feeling just a bit awkward.
Andrew Greene just laughed. And his laugh was a big boisterous laugh that would make you smile no matter what mood you were in. "Oh, Douglas," he said in a humored tone. Then suddenly his face changed and he looked very concerned. I was sure he knew that I had overheard. But all that melted away when he opened his mouth, "Douglas," genuine concern flowed from his lips, "what are you doing here? You look terrible, and it's no surprise. I cannot imagine how you feel right now. I wasn't expecting to see you around for the next couple of days." He paused for a second, "I was going to swing by your house and give you this. Please understand my deepest sympathies are with you."
I took the small brown package tied up in string he held toward me and thanked him. "I just wanted to apologize for being late."
"There's no need," he interrupted, "no need at all. You should go home and take the day off. Go mourn, and let the Lord comfort you."
"I can work today; it's better this way." I said, trying to mask my sorrowful heart.
"Are you sure, Douglas? I don't mind at all if you leave for the weekend." Again he spoke lovingly, and it cut to my heart.
I thanked him again, assured him I could work, and headed to my own office. I sat down at my desk and my mind went to work. I couldn't help it. I must think, though it hurt much; but now I had a new struggle. Should I confront my friend? He was so loving and concerned for me. It cut my heart to think I would go against him after the love and concern he had just shown me.
Just at that moment when my heart was in so much turmoil a clerk entered. I looked up and tried to erase all emotions from my face. The clerk was Edward Hampton, a youth from a poor family that went to my church I had taken on as a clerk. He had proved his worth with hard work and a willingness to learn.
As Edward stood there I could see the sorrow on his face. I wondered what was wrong. "Mr. Douglas," he sounded as if he could hardly keep from weeping, "I heard about your sister's death." His words cut me to the heart. The reminder flooded me with the picture of my sister, pale and cold, lying lifeless on her bed. It was like I had a wound that was healing torn open, made worse by the tear. "I wanted to let you know my family sends their deepest sympathies. We'll all be praying for you and your family that you might be comforted."
I looked down and mumbled a thank you. He saw I was in great mental distress and quietly excused himself. And he was right, I was in great mental distress. My mind was fogged in a swirl of emotions.