Puslapio vaizdai

between us-no, not to be the son of a king!' My native land is a poor land, but I have thought of her green and purple moors among gardens full of roses. Shetland is my home, and home is sweet and fair and dear.»>

<< Traveling Zionward, David, we have often to walk in the wilderness. You have dwelt in Skye and in Shetland; what other lands have you seen?»>

<<I have been east as far as Smyrna. I sat there, and read the message of the first and the last to its church. And I went to Athens, and stood where St. Paul had once stood. And I have seen Rome and Naples and Genoa and Marseilles, and many of the Spanish and French ports. I have pulled oranges from the trees, and great purple grapes, and even while I eat them longed for the oat-cakes and the fresh fish of Shetland.»

«Rome and Naples and Athens! Well, David, thee has been in the fairest cities on earth.>>

"And yet, Friend John, what hells I saw in them! I was taken through great buildings where men and women die of dreadful pain. I saw other buildings where men and women could eat and sleep, and could not think or love or know. I saw drinking-hells and gambling-hells. I saw men in dark and awful prisons, men living in poverty and filth and blasphemy, without hope for this world or the next. I saw men die on the scaffold; and, John, I often wondered if this world were hell. Are we put here in low, or lower, or lowest hell, to work out our salvation, and so at last win our weary way back to heaven?» John Priestly was silent for some moments ere he answered. «If that were so, there is still comfort, David. For if we make our bed in such hells,-mind, we make it,-even there we are not beyond the love and pity of the Infinite One. For when the sorrows of hell compassed David of old, he cried unto his God, and he delivered him from his strong enemy, and brought him forth into a large place. So, then, David, though good men may get into hell, they do not need to stay there.»

"I know that, John. Have I not been in (the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps, in that lowest hell of the soul where I had no God to pray to? For how could I pray to a God so cruel that I did not dare to become a father lest he should elect my children to damnation? A God so unjust that he loved without foresight of faith or good works, and hated because it was his pleasure to hate, and to ordain the hated to dishonor and wrath? »1 1 Confession of Faith, 3, secs. v-vii. Chap. 16, sec. vii.

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A WEEK after this conversation David was near Lerwick. It was very early in the morning, and the sky was gray, and the sea was gray, and through the vapory veiling the little town looked gray and silent as a city in a dream. During the voyage he had thought of himself always as hastening at once to Nanna's house; but as soon as his feet touched the quay he hesitated. The town appeared to be asleep; there was only here and there a thin column of peat smoke from the chimneys, and the few people going about their simple business in the misty morning were not known to him. Probably, also, he had had some unreasonable expectation, for he looked sadly around, and, sighing, said:

«To be sure, such a thing would never happen, except in a dream.>>

After all, it seemed best that he should go first to Barbara Traill's. She would give him a cup of tea, and while he drank it he could send one of Glumm's little lads with a message to Nanna. There was nothing of cowardice in this determination; it was rather that access of reverential love which, as it draws nearer, puts its own desire and will at the feet of the beloved one.

Barbara's door stood open, and she was putting fresh fuel under the hanging teakettle. The smell of the peat smoke was homely and pleasant to David; he sniffed it eagerly as he called out:

"Well, then, mother, good morning!»

She raised herself quickly, and turned her broad, kind face to him. A strange shadow crossed it when she saw David, but she answered affectionately:

<< Well, then, David, here we meet again!>> And as she hastened the morning meal she asked question after question about his own welfare and adventures, until David said:

<«<There is enough of this talk, mother. Speak to me now of Nanna Sinclair. Is she well? »

«Your aunt Sabiston is dead. There was a great funeral, I can tell you, for much money she has left to the kirk and the societies; and a white stone as high as two men has come from Aberdeen for her grave. Well, so it is! And you must know, also, that my son




VOL. LII.-109.

has married, and not to my liking, and so he is gone from me, and your room is empty and ready, if you wish it so; and—»

«Yes. Barbara, keep your room for me, and I will pay you the price of it.»

«I will do that gladly, and we shall have no words about the price.>>

«The room is well enough; but, mother! mother! what is there to hide from me? Speak with a straight tongue. Where is Nanna?» Then Barbara said plainly, «Nanna is dead!»

With a cry of amazed anguish, David leaped to his feet, instinctively covering his ears with his hands, for he could not bear such words to enter them. «Dead!» he whispered; and Barbara saw him reeling and swaying like a tottering pillar. She pushed a chair toward him, and was thankful that he had strength left to take its support. But she made no outcry, and called in none of the neighbors. Quietly she stood a little way off, while David, in a death-like silence, fought away the swooning, drowning wave which was making his heart stand still, and his limbs fail him. For she knew the nature of the suffering man-knew that when he came to himself there would be none but God could intermeddle in his heart's bitterness and loss.

After a sharp struggle, David opened his eyes, and Barbara gave him a draught of cold water; but she offered neither advice nor consolation; only when David said, "I am sick, mother, and I will go to my room and lie down on my bed,» she answered, «My dear lad, that is the right way. Sleep, if sleep you can.» About sunsetting David asked Barbara for food, and as she prepared it he sat by the open window, silent and stupefied, dominated by the somber inertia of hopeless sorrow. When he began to eat, Barbara took from a china jar two papers, and gave them to him. "I promised Nanna to put them in your hands,» she said.

« When did she die? »


«Last December, the fourteenth day. went to her early in the morning, for I saw that there was snow to fall. She was dead at the noon hour.»

«And you saw her go?»

«No; I was afraid of the storm. I left her about ten o'clock. She could not then speak, but she gave me the papers. We had talked of them before. I went into the next cottage, and told Christina Yell that it was the last hour for Nanna, and she said, I will go to her. Already the snow was falling, so I hasted across the moor, as there was good reason to do.»

Then David went out, and Barbara watched him take the road that led to Nanna's empty cottage. The door opened readily to the lifted latch, and he entered the forsaken room. The peat fire had long ago burned itself to ashes, and the rose-plant which had been Nanna's delight had withered away on its little shelf by the window; but the neighbors had swept the floor, and put the simple furniture in order. David drew the bolt across the door, and opened the papers which Nanna had left for him. The first was a simple bequest to him of the cottage and all within it; the second was but a little slip on which the dying woman had written her last sad messages to him.

Oh, my love! my love! Farewell forever! I am come to the end of my life. I am going away, and I know not where to. All is dark. But I have cast myself at His feet, and said, "Thy will be done!>>

I am still alive, David. I have been alone all night, and every breath has been a death pang. How can His eternal purpose need my suffering? Oh, that God would pity me! His will be done!

My love, it is nearly over. I have seen Vala! At last it is peace! peace! His will be done-mercy mercy

These pitiful despairs and farewells were written in a large, childish hand, and on a poor sheet of paper. David spread this paper upon Vala's couch, and, kneeling down, covered it with tears and kisses; but anon he lifted it up toward heaven, and prayed as men pray when they feel prayer to be an immediate and veritable thing; when they detain God, and clasp his feet, and cling to his robe, and will not let him go until he bless them.

Christina Yell had seen David enter the cottage, and after an hour had passed she went to the door, intending to speak to him. But she heard the solemn, mysterious voice of the man praying, and she went away and called her neighbors, Margaret Jarl and Elga Fae, and Thora Thorson and her father-in-law, Magnus Thorson, and they talked of David a little; and then Magnus, being a very old man, went alone to see him. And after a while the women were called, and Christina took with her a plate of fish and bread which she had prepared, and David was glad of their sympathy.

They sat down outside the door. The tender touch of the gray gloaming softened the bleak cliffs and the brown moorland, and the heavens were filled with stars. Then softly and solemnly Christina spoke of Nanna's long

suffering, and of the spiritual despair which be happy, even in the very presence of God, if intensified it.

«It was in season and out of season she was at Vala's grave,» said Christina, «and kneeling and lying on the cold ground above her; and the end was a cough and fever and the slow consumption that wasted her away. For it is true the child was never baptized, and there was no comfort for her. And then she began to think God had never loved her.

their sons and daughters were wandering in the awful outer darkness. And the minister did not think of her pain and her woman's heart,-what men do?-and he was angry with her, as he thought he ought to be; and Nanna said she wished they would all leave her alone with her sorrow, and so they did.»

Then, suddenly and swiftly as a flash of light, a word came to David. His heart

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He had let her meet and marry Nicol Sinclair, and by this and that prevented the baptism of her child. She lost all hope, and was too ill to go to the ordinances, and too feared to open her Bible, lest she should see her own condemnation in it. And folk wearied of her complaining, I think. The elders stopped coming to see her, for they could not answer the questions she put to them, and she angered the minister by the same thing. He said women had no call to speir after the "why" of God's purposes, and she told him plainly one day-for she was fretful with pain and trouble-that she was (not thankful to go to hell for the glory and honor of God's justice; and, moreover, she said she did not wish to go to heaven if Vala was not there; and she wondered how fathers and mothers could

burned, and his tongue was loosened, and he then and there preached to the old man and the three women the unsearchable riches of the cross of Christ. He glorified God because Nanna had learned Christ at the radiant feet of Christ, in the joy and love of the redeemed. He took his Bible from his pocket, and repeated all the blessed words he had marked and learned. Until the midnight moon climbed cold and still into the zenith he spoke, and old Magnus Thorson stood up, leaning on his staff, full of holy wonder, and the women softly sobbed and prayed at his feet. And when they parted there was in every heart a confident acceptance of David's closing words:

"Whoever rests, however feebly, on the eternal mercy shall live forever.>>

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