Puslapio vaizdai

«All that I want is a little love for my mother's sake. So I will go and see her. She will at least be civil for the sake of the dead.>>

«Nothing will come of the visit. It is not to be hoped Matilda will behave well to you when she behaves ill to every one else.»>

« Well, then, I sent not for you.>>
«Yet I thought you would wish to see me.»
«I do not.»>

«Liot Borson is dead.»

«If all the Borsons were dead it would be a pleasure to me. I have ever hated themHowever, after he had eaten, David went bringers of bad luck to all who know them. to see his kinswoman. Her house was the I have nothing to say to you, and I have nothlargest in Lerwick, and was easily found. Its ing to give you. My will is made. I have left unusual splendor interested but in no way my third cousin Nicol Sinclair five hundred abashed David; for the dominant idea in his pounds because he also hates the Borsons. mind was that of kindred, and the soft All else I have will go to make free the slaves carpets, the pictures, the velvet-covered in Africa. Freedom! freedom!» she almost furniture, were only the accessories to the shrieked. «Nothing is cruel but slavery!» condition. The woman herself sat in a large, It was the old Norse passion for freedom, uncushioned chair of black oak, the chair of strong and vital when all other loves were her fore-elder Olaf, who had made it in Ice- ashes. It was a passion, also, to which David land, and brought it with his other household instantly responded. The slumbering senti

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goods to Shetland six generations past. Never before had David seen a face so expressionless. It was like a scroll made unreadable by the wear and dust of years. Life seemed to have retreated entirely to her eyes, which were fierce and darkly glowing. And the weight and coldness of her great age communicated itself; David was chilled by her simple presence.

"What is your business?» she asked. "I am the son of your niece Karen.»>

ment awoke like a giant in his heart, and he comprehended it by a racial instinct as passionate as her own.

«You have done well, aunt,» he said. «Hunger and cold, pain and poverty, are nothing if one has freedom. It is a grand thing indeed. to set a man or a woman free!»

«And yet you catch haddock and herring! Bah! we have nothing to do with each other.>> Then she was stolidly silent, and David felt the magnetic force of her torpor to be insur

mountable. He said, «Farewell,» but she heeded him not; and he went away slowly, dulled and inert, and quite unable for some time to cast off the depression of her icy influence.

Yet his dismissal satisfied that new passion of freedom which had sprung into life at his aunt's words. He was now entirely without claims but those his love or liking voluntarily assumed. No one older than himself had now the right to reprove or direct him. He had at last come to his majority. He was master of himself and his fate.

The first sign of it was a dignified reticence with Barbara Traill. She felt that her lodger was not to be questioned like a child any more, and there was a tone of authority in his refusal to discuss his aunt Sabiston which Barbara respected. It was no longer possible to speak of Miss Sabiston as Miss Sabiston deserved to be spoken of. David said: «She is my aunt. When one is ninety years old it is a good excuse for many faults.»>

After this event he set himself to his business with all his heart, and then he found out quickly that if a man wishes friends he must show himself friendly. For as soon as he went among the fishers and said, «My name is Borson, and I am the son of your old mate Liot Borson,» he found himself in a circle of outstretched hands. He had brought his nets and lines with him, and he had no difficulty in getting men who were glad to help him with his fishing, and to instruct him in the peculiarities of the coast and the set of its currents.

Gradually he became a great favorite. The minister respected his integrity and his earnest piety; the older fishers knew that he was to be relied on for any help or kindness in his power; the school children made an idol of him, for he was always ready to give them a sail, or lend them his fowling-piece, or help them rig their toy boats. As for the young maidens, the prettiest ones in Lerwick had ever a smile for David. But his heart was loyal to his cousins Nanna and Vala, and they were his constant care, though an instinct as pure as it was conventional taught him a scrupulous delicacy with regard to this friendship. People said, "It is a good thing for Nanna Sinclair that her cousin has come to Shetland »; but the blood tie was regarded as strong enough to account for all David's attentions. It did not enter their hearts to imagine an evil motive for kind deeds when there was one so natural and so obligatory.

So Shetland became dear and pleasant to him. He began to think of taking a wife, and

of building a house which should be his home until he fared away to the land which is very far off.» One Saturday night Nanna was talking with him on this subject. «There is Christina Hey,» she said. «Speak to her. Christina is good, and will make you a good wife. And the money she has is nothing against her; it will be a help.» And David answered, «Yes; you speak the truth.» But he was suddenly silent, and more glum, Nanna thought, than a man ought to be about a pretty girl whom he might marry. And by and by he got to his feet and said, «I will go now; for to-morrow is the Sabbath, and we shall meet at the kirk, and I will carry Vala home for you-if you say so, Nanna.»

« Well, then,» she answered, «to-morrow is not here, David; but it will come, by God's leave. I dreamed a dream last night, and I look for a change, cousin. But, this or that, my will is that God choose for me.»

«That also is my great desire,» said David, solemnly.

«As for me, I have fallen into a great strait; only God can help me.»>

She was standing on the hearth looking down at Vala. Tears were in her eyes, and a divine pity and sorrow made tender and gentle her majestic beauty. David looked steadily at her, and something, he knew not what, seemed to pierce his very soul-a sweet, aching pain never felt before, inexplicable, ineffable, and as innocent as the first holy adoration of a little child. Then he went out into the cold, starry night, and tried to think of Christina Hey. But she constantly slipped away from his consciousness like a dream that has no message.


NANNA awoke next morning while it was still dark. A dim sense of fear and sorrow was with her, though the vision itself had escaped her memory. But everything frightens one when night, the unknown, takes the light away,» she thought, and she rose and lighted a lamp and looked at Vala. The child was in a deep and healthy slumber, and the sight of its face calmed and satisfied her. So she lay down again, and between her sleeping and waking the hours wore on, and she rose at last from her shivery dozing even later than usual.

Then she hurried their breakfast a little, and as the light grew over land and sea she tidied her room, and dressed Vala and herself for the service. As the sound of the first kirk bell traveled solemnly over the moor she was ready to leave the house. Her last duty was



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to put a peat or two on the fire, and as she was doing this she heard a hand upon the sneck, and the door was pushed open. «It is David to carry Vala,» she thought; «how good he is!» But when she turned she saw that it was not David. It was Nicol Sinclair. He walked straight to the fireside, and sat down without a word. Nanna's heart sank to its lowest depths, and a cold despair made her feet and hands as heavy as lead. But she slowly spread the cloth on the table, and, bit by bit, managed to recollect the cup and saucer, the barley cake, the smoked goose, and the tea. There was terrible account between the man sitting on the hearth and herself, and words of passionate reproach burned at her lips; but she held her peace. Long ago she had left her cause with God. He would plead it thoroughly; even now, when her enemy was before her, she had no thought of any other advocate.

Her pallor, her slow movements, her absolute dumbness, roused in Sinclair an angry discomfort; and when the child made a movement he lifted it roughly and said, "A nice plaything you will be on board for me!» Nanna shivered at the words, for she comprehended in a moment the torture this man had probably come to inflict upon her. Already the child had been crippled by his brutal hands, and what neglect, what cruelties, what terrors, might he not impose in the hell of his own ship, far out at sea, where Vala's tears or cries would bring her no friend or helper?

«Fly with the child!» The words were struck upon her heart like blows. But how and where? Far or near, the law would find her out, and would give Vala to her father's authority. And she had no friend strong enough to protect her. Only by death could she defy separation. Thus, while she was pouring the water on the tea-leaves she was revolving a question more agonizing than words have power to picture.

At length the food was on the table, and, save for those few threatening words, the silence was still unbroken. Sinclair sat down with a speechless bravado very near to cursing, and at that moment the kirk bells began to ring again. To Nanna they were like a voice from heaven. Quick as a thought, she lifted her child and fled from the house.

Oh, what stress of life and death was in her footsteps! Only to reach the kirk! If she could do that, she would cling to the altar and die there rather than surrender Vala to unknown miseries. Love and terror gave her wings; she did not turn her head; she did not feel

the frozen earth or the cutting east wind; she saw nothing but Vala's small white face on her breast, and she heard nothing but the echo in her heart of those terrible words. threatening her with the loss of her child.

When she reached the kirk the service had begun. The minister was praying. She went into the nearest pew, and, though all were standing, she laid Vala on the seat, and slipped to her knees beside her. She could not cry out as she longed to do, and sob her fright and anguish away at God's feet. «Folk would wonder at me, and I would disturb the congregation,» she thought. For the pressure of her flight was over; and the solemn voice of the minister praying, the strength of numbers, the holy influence of the time and place, cooled her passionate sense of wrong and danger, and she was even a little troubled at her abandonment of what was usual and Sabbath-like.

The altar now looked a long way off; only Sinclair at touch could have forced her down that guarded aisle to its shelter. Heaven itself was nearer, and God needed no explanations; he knew all. What was the law of men to him? And he feared not their disapproval. Thus in her great strait she overleaped her creed, and cast herself on him who is «a God of the afflicted, an helper of the oppressed, an upholder of the weak, a protector of the forlorn, a saviour of them that are without hope.»

When the preaching was over David and Barbara came to her, and David knit his brows when he saw her face. For it was the face of a woman who had seen something dreadful; her eyes were yet full of fear and anguish, and she was white and trembling with the exertion of her hard flight.

«Nanna,» he said, "what has happened?» «My husband has come back.» «I heard last night that his ship was in harbor.»>

<«He has come for Vala. He will take her from me. She will die of neglect and hard usage; he may give her to some stranger who will be cross to her. O David! David!»

«He shall not touch her. Put her in my arms now.»

«Do you mean this? Can I trust you, David?»

«You may put that to any proof.>>

«Pass your word to me, cousin.»> «As the Lord lives, I will put my life between her and Nicol Sinclair. I will take her to sea if it be necessary, for my boat can go where few will dare to follow.»

Then he turned to Barbara and said: «Nicol

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