Puslapio vaizdai
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

I have trembled at the dreadful justice of the Holy One. I see now how good it is. To be sure, when God puts his hook into the nose of the wicked, and he is made to go a way he does not want to go, then he has to cease from troubling; but I wish not that he may cease from being troubled. No, indeed; I wish that he may have weeping and wailing. I will stay here. Some day Sinclair will come back. Then he shall pay all he owes.>>

Suddenly David remembered his father's sad confession, and he was silent. The drowning of Bele, and all that followed it, flashed like a fiery thought through his heart, and he went into his room and shut the door, and flung himself face downward upon the floor. Would God count his anger as very murder? Would he enter into judgment with him for it? Oh, how should a sinful man order all his way and words aright! And in a little while Barbara heard him weeping, and she said to

herself: «He is a good man. God loves those who remember him when they are alone and weep. The minister said that.»>

This day had, indeed, been to David a kind of second birth. He had entered into a new life and taken possession of himself. He knew that he was a different being from the youth who had sailed for weeks alone with God upon the great waters; but still he was a riddle to himself, and it was this feeling of utter confusion and weakness and ignorance that had sent him weeping and speechless to the very feet of the Divine.

But if the mind is left quite passive we are often instructed in our sleep. David awakened with a plan of life clearly in his mind. He would remain with Barbara Traill, and follow his occupation of fishing, and do all that he could to make his cousin Nanna happy. The intense strength of his family affection led him to this resolve. He had not fallen in love with Nanna. As a wife she was sacred in his eyes, and it never entered his mind that any amount of ill treatment could lessen Sinclair's claim upon her. But, though far off, she was his cousin; the blood of the Borsons flowed alike through both their hearts; and David, who could feel for all humanity, could feel most for Nanna and Vala.

Nanna herself had acknowledged the strength of this claim. He remembered how gladly she had welcomed him. He could feel yet the warm clasp of her hands, and the shining of her eyes was like nothing he had ever seen before. Even little Vala had been pleased to lie in his strong arms; she had put up her small mouth for his kiss, and had slept an hour upon his breast. As he thought of that kiss he felt it on his lips warm and sweet, for it was the very first kiss that he had ever consciously received. Yes, indeed; there was love in that poor little hut that David Borson could not bear to lose.

So he said to Barbara in the morning: «I will stay with you while it pleases us both. Are there any of my mother's family living?»

«The Sabistons are gone south to Kirkwall. They are handy at money-getting, and the rumor goes abroad that they are rich and masterful, and ill to deal with.»

«Few people are better spoken of than they deserve.»><

«Yet no one in Lerwick is so well hated as your great-aunt Matilda Sabiston. She is the last of the family left here. Go and see her if you will. I have nothing to say against it, but I can give you a piece of advice: lean not for anything on Matilda Sabiston.>>


«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.»>

However, after he had eaten, David went to see his kinswoman. Her house was the largest in Lerwick, and was easily found. Its unusual splendor interested but in no way abashed David; for the dominant idea in his mind was that of kindred, and the soft carpets, the pictures, the velvet-covered furniture, were only the accessories to the condition. The woman herself sat in a large, uncushioned chair of black oak, the chair of her fore-elder Olaf, who had made it in Iceland, and brought it with his other household

"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 thembringers of bad luck to all who know them. I have nothing to say to you, and I have nothing to give you. My will is made. I have left my third cousin Nicol Sinclair five hundred pounds because he also hates the Borsons. All else I have will go to make free the slaves in Africa. Freedom! freedom!» she almost shrieked. «Nothing is cruel but slavery!»> It was the old Norse passion for freedom, strong and vital when all other loves were ashes. It was a passion, also, to which David instantly responded. The slumbering senti

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

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



[graphic][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »