Puslapio vaizdai

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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Sinclair has indeed come back. He has come also his cousin Matilda Sabiston, that wicked for Vala.»>

<< Then the devil has led him here,» answered Barbara, flashing into anger. «As for Vala, let her stay with me. She has a good guard at my house. There is Groat and his four sons on one side, and Jeppe Madson and his big brother Har on the other side; and there is David Borson, who is worth a whole ship's crew, to back them in anything for Vala's safety. Stay with me to-day, Nanna, and we will talk this thing out.»>

But Nanna shook her head in reply. As she understood it, duty was no peradventure; it was an absolute thing from which there was no turning away. She put Vala's hand into David's hand, and looked at the young man with eyes full of anxiety. He answered the look with one strong word, «Yes,» and she knew he would redeem it with his life if necessary.

Then she turned away, and walked to her home with a direct and rapid energy. She put away thought; she formed no plan; she said no prayer. Her petition had been made in the kirk; she thought there would be a want of faith in repeating a request already promised. She felt even the modesty of a suppliant, and would not continually press into the presence of the Highest, for to the reverent there is ever the veil before the Shechinah.

And this conscious putting aside of all emotion strengthened her. When she saw her home she had no need to slacken her speed or to encourage herself; she walked directly to the door and opened it. There was no one there. The place was empty. The food on the table was untouched. Nothing but a soiled and crumpled kerchief remained of the dreadful visitor. She lifted it with the tongs and cast it into the fire, and then she cleared away every trace of the rejected meal.

Afterward she made some inquiries in the adjoining huts. One woman only had seen his departure. «I could not go to kirk this morning," she said with an air of apology, «for my bairn is very sick, and I saw Nicol Sinclair go away near the noon hour. Drunk he was, and worse drunk than most men can be. His face was red as a hot peat, and he swayed to and fro like a boat on the Gruting Voe. There was something no' just right about the man.>>

That was all she could learn, and she was very unhappy, for she could imagine no good reason for his departure. In some way or other he was preparing the blow he meant to deal her, and, though it was the Sabbath, there would be no difficulty in finding men whom he could influence. Besides, there was VOL. LII.-87.

old woman who had outlived all family passions but hatred. Against this man, and the money and ill will that would back him, she could do nothing; but she «trusted in God that he would deliver her.>>

So she said to herself, «Patience,» and she sat down to wait, shutting her eyes to the outside world, and drawing to a focus all the strength that was in her. The closed Bible lay upon a table at her side, and occasionally she touched it with her hand. She had not been able to read its promises, but there was comfort in putting herself in contact with them. They seemed more real. And as she sat hour after hour, psalms learned years before, and read many and many a time without apprehension of their meaning, began to speak to her. She saw the words with her spiritual sight, and they shone with their own glory. When midnight struck she looked at the clock and thanked God. Surely she was safe for that night, and she turned the key in her door and went to sleep. And her sleep was that which God giveth to his beloved when they are to be strengthened for many daysa deep, dreamless suspense of all thought and feeling.

Yet, heavenly as the sleep had been, the awakening was a shock. And as the day grew toward noon she was as much troubled by the silence of events as her husband had been by the silence of her lips. She felt the suspense to be unendurable, and she resolved to go to Barbara's and see Vala, and hear whatever there was to hear. But as she was putting on her cloak she saw David coming across the moor, and he was carrying Vala in his arms. «Now," she said, "I see that I will not need to run after my fate. It will come to me, and there will be no use striving against it. For what must be is sure to happen.»>

Then she turned back into the house, and David followed with unusual solemnity, and laid Vala down on the bed. «She is sleeping,» he said, «and there is something to tell you, Nanna.»>

« About my husband?»

«Yes. He was carried to his own ship last night,» and David's face was grave almost to sternness.

«Carried! Have you, then, hurt him, David?» «No. He is a self-hurter. But this is what I know. He went from here to Matilda Sabiston's house. She had gone to kirk with two of her servants, and when she came back she found him delirious on her sofa. The doctor was sent for, and when he said the word typhus) Matilda screamed with passion, and


demanded that he should instantly be taken Sinclair. Three of them are yet well men, away.»

«But no! Surely not!»>

«Yes, it was so; both the minister and the doctor thought it best he should go to his own ship. The town-yes, indeed, and the whole island-was in danger. And when they took him on board the Sea Rover they found that two of the sailors were also very ill with the fever. They had been ill for a week, and Sinclair knew it; yet he came among the boats and went through the town, speaking to many people. It was a wicked thing to do.»

«And where is the Sea Rover lying?»

"She has been taken to the South Voe. The fishing-boats will watch lest the men are landed, and the doctor will go to the ship every day if the sea will let him go.»>

« David, is it my duty->>

and three can care for the sick and the ship. On the deck of the Sea Rover a woman should not put her foot.>>

«But a ship with typhus on board!»

«Is a hell indeed, Nanna. In this case it is a hell of their own making. They got the fever in a dance-house on the quay at Rotterdam. Sinclair knew of its presence, and laughed it to scorn. It was his mate who told the doctor so. Also, Nanna, there is Vala.»

She went swiftly to the side of the sleeping child, and she was sure there was a change in her. David would not see it, but in forty-eight hours the fatal signs were unmistakable. Then Nanna's house was marked and isolated, and she sat down alone with her dying child. For there was no hope at all; from the very first the symptoms were malignant, and the speechless little patient moaned

«No, it is not. There are five men with away her life in a delirious agony.

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F course not. I understand why you do about it. It has been a bad year on the crops, and you don't feel that you can afford to spend money on books; but » -and here the agent bent confidentially forward-« this is a work that you must have. I took special pains to come to see you about it. I came because I had read your letters in the county paper-letters that are attracting attention outside of this county. I knew from them that you were a man of intelligence who could appreciate a great work, and so I came, and I am glad I came. As I walked up the lane I saw a handsome young man for whom I predict a great future-your son, if I am not much mistaken.»>

«My boy Abner,» said Daniel Green.

«I knew it, asserted the agent, with victorious emphasis. «I knew it-the son of his father, a regular chip off the old block. That boy is going to be a great man. Mark you! I say he will be a great man. It is stamped on his face.»

«Abner is a good boy,» said the old gentleman, "and a good son. He has not had the advantages that I had hoped to give him. He was at school less than a year; he ought to have been there several years, but the farm had to be attended to, and I could n't spare him. But he has studied some, and when he gets his chance he will make his mark.»>

son said that biography was the best guide declared that biography was the only true history. Why, sir, our biggest millionaires owed their rise to fortune to what they read, and what would have become of our Presidents if they had missed the books that launched them on the tide which, taken at its flood, leads on to fortune?» This came forth with all the happy eloquence of a man unfettered by fact or the ethics of quotation.

«You want this book. You must have it. It's the last copy, and as I feel an interest in the success of your son, I'm going to let you have it for only three dollars, although every other copy of the edition sold for four. Take it, sir, and you will see the day when you will thank me for having brought it to you.»>

Poor Daniel Green! Fortune had cut out great things for him, but he had not measured up to his destiny. It might have been different if circumstances had been less hostile; but monopolies were so insolent, taxation was so unequal, politics were so corrupt, and the world was so utterly out of joint, that he grew tired of striving, and let the farm run down, and his debts run up, while he railed at fate and wasted his time and substance in letters to the county paper. He dreamed of what he could do if he had the power; but while government and national development and iridescent possibilities of high offices seeking good men claimed his thoughts and his speculations, the whitewash faded from his house, the gates dropped from their hinges, and the fences began to fall away, as if in sympathy with his own discouragement.

"Then I'm doubly glad I came,» the agent said, with a tone of real interest. «I'm in time to do you a very great service. You want that boy of yours to succeed in life; you want to help him. That's natural. You can do it. This great work is your chance. It's The trouble, too, was that his apathy in the practical education of the century con- material things had affected his son Abner. densed in one volume. Nothing succeeds like Mrs. Green had died when the boy was ten success, and this book tells all about success. years old. This good woman, when in health, Put it in the hands of your son, and he will kept order on the farm by the force of her catch the spirit of success just as quick as practical common sense. But when she was he would catch the smallpox or the measles. gone Mr. Green's few energies drooped into Allow me to show you,» and he moved still those fine intentions which see much and accloser. «Right here in these pages are the complish nothing. Abner was now twentylives of the successful men of America. Not two, a man in age without a man's education a few, mind you, but all,-every one, -with and experience. He had been to school only portraits from photographs taken specially ten months. There his ambition began to take for this great work. Did you know, sir,»-and wings, and he wished to do something; but he he drew himself up as if for the communica- could not leave his father, and that was the tion of some all-important message, «that of end of it. Even John, who as a waif had come all these men more than two thirds had the to the farm, and had grown to the dignity course of their lives changed by the influence of the only hired man on the place, shared of books-books, sir, of people and about the common restraint; but it must be said, in people who had succeeded? Our great Emer- justice to him, that he was the most useful

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