Chapter XIV. She Will Not Forget
 

If Mrs. Murray was not surprised to see Macdonald Dubh and Yankee walk in on Sabbath evening and sit down in the back seat, her class were. Indeed the appearance of these two men at the class was considered an event so extraordinary as to give a decided shock to those who regularly attended, and their presence lent to the meeting an unusual interest, and an undertone of excitement. To see Macdonald Dubh, whose attendance at the regular Sabbath services was something unusual, present at a religious meeting which no one would consider it a duty to attend, was enough in itself to excite surprise, but when Yankee came in and sat beside him, the surprise was considerably intensified. For Yankee was considered to be quite outside the pale, and indeed, in a way, incapable of religious impression. No one expected Yankee to be religious. He was not a Presbyterian, knew nothing of the Shorter Catechism, not to speak of the Confession of Faith, and consequently was woefully ignorant of the elements of Christian knowledge that were deemed necessary to any true religious experience.

It was rumored that upon Yankee's first appearance in the country, some few years before, he had, in an unguarded moment, acknowledged that his people had belonged to the Methodists, and that he himself "leaned toward" that peculiar sect. Such a confession was in itself enough to stamp him, in the eyes of the community, as one whose religious history must always be attended with more or less uncertainty. Few of them had ever seen a Methodist in the flesh. There were said to be some at Moose Creek (Mooscrick, as it was called), but they were known only by report. The younger and more untraveled portion of the community thought of them with a certain amount of awe and fear.

It was no wonder, then, that Yankee's appearance in Bible class produced a sensation. It was an evening of sensations, for not only were Macdonald Dubh and Yankee present, but Aleck McRae had driven up a load of people from below the Sixteenth. Ranald regarded his presence with considerable contempt.

"It is not much he cares for the Bible class, whatever," he confided to Don, who was sitting beside him.

But more remarkable and disturbing to Ranald than the presence of Aleck McRae, was that of a young man sitting between Hughie and Maimie in the minister's pew. He was evidently from the city. One could see that from his fine clothes and his white shirt and collar. Ranald looked at him with deepening contempt. "Pride" was written all over him. Not only did he wear fine clothes, and a white shirt and collar, but he wore them without any sign of awkwardness or apology in his manner, and indeed as if he enjoyed them. But the crowning proof of his "pride," Don noted with unutterable scorn.

"Look at him," he said, "splits his head in the middle."

Ranald found himself wondering how the young fop would look sitting in a pool of muddy water. How insufferable the young fellow's manners were! He sat quite close to Maimie, now and then whispering to her, evidently quite ignorant of how to behave in church. And Maimie, who ought to know better, was acting most disgracefully as well, whispering back and smiling right into his face. Ranald was thoroughly ashamed of her. He could not deny that the young fellow was handsome, hatefully so, but he was evidently stuck full of conceit, and as he let his eyes wander over the congregation assembled, with a bold and critical stare, making remarks to Maimie in an undertone which could be heard over the church, Ranald felt his fingers twitching. The young man was older than Ranald, but Ranald would have given a good deal for an opportunity to "take him with one hand."

At this point Ranald's reflections were interrupted by Mrs. Murray rising to open the class.

"Will some one suggest a Psalm?" she asked, her cheek, usually pale, showing a slight color. It was always an ordeal for her to face her class, ever since the men had been allowed to come, and the first moments were full of trial to her. Only her conscience and her fine courage kept her from turning back from this, her path of duty.

At once, from two or three came responses to her invitation, and a Psalm was chosen.

The singing was a distinct feature of the Bible class. There was nothing like it, not only in the other services of the congregation, but in any congregation in the whole county. The young people that formed that Bible class have long since grown into old men and women, but the echoes of that singing still reverberate through the chambers of their hearts when they stand up to sing certain tunes or certain Psalms. Once a week, through the long winter, they used to meet and sing to John "Aleck's" sounding beat for two or three hours. They learned to sing, not only the old psalm tunes but psalm tunes never heard in the congregation before, as also hymns and anthems. The anthems and hymns were, of course, never used in public worship. They were reserved for the sacred concert which John "Aleck" gave once a year. It was in the Bible class that he and his fellow enthusiasts found opportunity to sing their new Psalm tunes, with now and then a hymn. When John "Aleck," a handsome, broad-shouldered, six-footer, stood up and bit his tuning-fork to catch the pitch, the people straightened up in their seats and prepared to follow his lead. And after his great resonant voice had rolled out the first few notes of the tune, they caught him up with a vigor and enthusiasm that carried him along, and inspired him to his mightiest efforts. Wonderful singing it was, full toned, rhythmical and well balanced.

With characteristic courage, the minister's wife had chosen Paul's Epistle to the Romans for the subject of study, and to-night the lesson was the redoubtable ninth chapter, that arsenal for Calvinistic champions. First the verses were repeated by the class in concert, and the members vied with each other in making this a perfect exercise, then the teaching of the chapter was set forth in simple, lucid speech. The last half hour was devoted to the discussion of questions, raised either by the teacher or by any member of the class. To-night the class was slow in asking questions. They were face to face with the tremendous Pauline Doctrine of Sovereignty. It was significant that by Macdonald Dubh, his brother, and the other older and more experienced members of the class, the doctrine was regarded as absolutely inevitable and was accepted without question, while by Yankee and Ranald and all the younger members of the class, it was rejected with fierce resentment. The older men had been taught by the experience of long and bitter years, that above all their strength, however mighty, a power, resistless and often inscrutable, determined their lives. The younger men, their hearts beating with conscious power and freedom, resented this control, or accepting it, refused to assume the responsibility for the outcome of their lives. It was the old, old strife, the insoluble mystery; and the minister's wife, far from making light of it, allowed its full weight to press in upon the members of her class, and wisely left the question as the apostle leaves it, with a statement of the two great truths of Sovereignty and Free Will without attempting the impossible task of harmonizing these into a perfect system. After a half-hour of discussion, she brought the lesson to a close with a very short and very simple presentation of the practical bearing of the great doctrine. And while the mystery remained unsolved, the limpid clearness of her thought, the humble attitude of mind, the sympathy with doubt, and above all, the sweet and tender pathos that filled her voice, sent the class away humbled, subdued, comforted, and willing to wait the day of clearer light. Not that they were done with Pharaoh and his untoward fate; that occupied them for many a day.

The class was closed with prayer and singing. As a kind of treat, the last singing was a hymn and they stood up to sing it. It was Perronet's great hymn sung to old Coronation, and when they came to the refrain, "Crown him Lord of all," the very rafters of the little church rang with the mighty volume of sound. The Bible class always closed with a great outburst of singing, and as a rule, Ranald went out tingling and thrilling through and through. But tonight, so deeply was he exercised with the unhappy doom of the unfortunate king of Egypt, from which, apparently, there was no escape, fixed as it was by the Divine decree, and oppressed with the feeling that the same decree would determine the course of his life, he missed his usual thrill. He was walking off by himself in a perplexed and downcast mood, avoiding every one, even Don, and was nearly past the minister's gate when Hughie, excited and breathless, caught up to him and exclaimed: "Oh, Ranald, was not that splendid? Man, I like to hear John 'Aleck' sing 'Crown him' that way. And I say," he continued, "mother wants you to come in."

Then all at once Ranald remembered the young man who had behaved so disgracefully in church.

"No," he said, firmly, "I must be hurrying home. The cows will be to milk yet."

"Oh, pshaw! you must come," pleaded Hughie. "We will have some singing. I want you to sing bass. Perhaps John 'Aleck' will come in." This was sheer guessing, but it was good bait. But the young man with "his head split in the middle" would be there, and perhaps Maimie would be "going on," with him as she did in the Bible class.

"You will tell your mother I could not come," he said. "Yankee and father are both out, and there will be no one at home."

"Well, I think you are pretty mean," said Hughie, grievously disappointed. "I wanted you to come in, and mother wanted Cousin Harry to see you."

"Cousin Harry?"

"Yes; Maimie's brother came last night, you know, and Maimie is going back with him in two weeks."

"Maimie's brother. Well, well, is that the nice-looking fellow that sat by you?"

"Huh-huh, he is awful nice, and mother wanted--"

"Indeed he looks it, I am sure," Ranald said, with sudden enthusiasm; "I would just like to know him. If I thought Yankee would--"

"Oh, pshaw! Of course Yankee will milk the cows," exclaimed Hughie. "Come on, come on in. And Ranald went to meet one of the great nights of his life.

"Here is Ranald!" called Hughie at the top of his voice, as he entered the room where the family were gathered.

"You don't say so, Hughie?" answered his cousin, coming forward. "You ought to make that fact known. We all want to hear it."

Ranald liked him from the first. He was not a bit "proud" in spite of his fine clothes and his head being "split in the middle."

"You're the chap," he said, stretching out his hand to Ranald, "that snatched Maimie from the fire. Mighty clever thing to do. We have heard a lot about you at our house. Why, every week--"

"Let some one else talk, Harry," interrupted Maimie, with cheeks flaming. "We are going to have some singing now. Here is auntie. Mayn't we use the piano?"

"Why, yes, I suppose so," said Mrs. Murray. "I was glad to see your father there to-night," she said to Ranald.

"And Yankee, mother."

"Hush, Hughie; you must call people by their right names. Now let us have some singing. I hear Ranald is singing bass these days."

"And bully good bass, too," cried Hughie. "John 'Aleck' says that it's the finest bass in the whole singing school."

"Well, Hughie," said his mother, quietly, "I don't think it is necessary to shout even such pleasant information as that. Now go to your singing, and I shall listen."

She lay back in the big chair, looking so pale and weary that Harry hardly believed it was the same woman that had just been keeping a hundred and fifty people keenly alert for an hour and a half, and leading them with such intellectual and emotional power.

"That class is too hard for you, auntie," he said. "If I were your husband I would not let you keep it on."

"But you see my husband is not here. He is twelve miles away."

"Then I would lock you up, or take you with me."

"Oh!" cried Hughie, "I would much rather teach the Bible class than listen to another sermon."

"Something in that," said his cousin, "especially if I were the preacher, eh?" at which they all laughed.

It was a happy hour for Ranald. He had been too shy to join the singing school, and had never heard any part singing till he began to attend the Bible class. There he made the delightful discovery that, without any instruction, he could join in the bass, and had made, also, the further discovery that his voice, which he had thought rough and coarse, and for a year past, worse than ever, could reach to extraordinary depths. One Sabbath evening, it chanced that John "Aleck," who always had an ear open for a good voice, heard him rolling out his deep bass, and seizing him on the spot, had made him promise to join the singing school. There he discovered a talent and developed a taste for singing that delighted his leader's heart, and opened out to himself a new world. The piano, too, was a new and rare treat to Ranald. In all the country there was no other, and even in the manse it was seldom heard, for Mrs. Murray found little time, amid the multitude of household and congregational duties, to keep up her piano practice. That part of her life, with others of like kind, she had been forced to lose.

But since Maimie's coming, the piano had been in daily use, and even on the Sabbath days, though not without danger to the sensibilities of the neighbors, she had used it to accompany the hymns with which the day always closed.

"Let us have the parts," cried Hughie. "Maimie and I will take the air, and Ranald will take the bass. Cousin Harry, can you sing?"

"Oh, I'll hum."

"Nonsense," said Maimie, "he sings tenor splendidly."

"Oh, that's fine!" cried Hughie, with delight. He himself was full of music. "Come on, Ranald, you stand up behind Maimie, you will need to see the notes; and I will sit here," planting himself beside his mother.

So Hughie arranged it all, and for an hour the singing went on, the favorite hymns of each being sung in turn. For the most part, Mrs. Murray sat silent, but now and then she would join with the others, singing alto when she did so, by Hughie's special direction. Her voice was not strong, but it was true, mellow, and full of music. Hughie loved to hear her sing alto, and more especially because he liked to join in with her, which he was too shy to do alone, even in his home, and which he would never think of doing in the Bible class, or in the presence of any of the boys who might, for this reason, think him "proud." When they came to Hughie's turn, he chose the hymn by Bliss, recently published, "Whosoever will," the words seem to strike him tonight.

"Mother," he said, after singing it through, "does that mean everybody that likes?"

"Yes, my dear, any one that wishes."

"Pharaoh, mother?"

"Yes, Pharaoh, too."

"But, mother, you said he could not possibly."

"Only because he did not want to."

"But he could not, even if he did want to."

"I hope I did not say that," said his mother, smiling at the eager and earnest young face.

"No, auntie," said Harry, taking up Hughie's cause, "not exactly, but something very like it. You said that Pharaoh could not possibly have acted in any other way than he did."

"Yes, I said that."

"Not even if he wanted to?" asked Hughie.

"Oh, I did not say that."

"The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart," quoted Ranald, who knew his Bible better than Harry.

"Yes, that is it," said Harry, "and so that made it impossible for Pharaoh to do anything else. He could not help following after those people."

"Why not?" said Mrs. Murray. "What made him follow? Now just think, what made him follow after those people?"

"Why, he wanted to get them back," said Hughie.

"Quite true," said his mother. "So you see, he did exactly as he wanted to."

"Then you mean the Lord had nothing to do with it?" asked Ranald.

"No, I could not say that."

"Then," said Harry, "Pharaoh could not help himself. Now, could he?"

"He did what he wished to do," said his aunt.

"Yes," said Ranald, quickly, "but could he help wishing to do what he did?"

"If he had been a different man, more humble minded, and more willing to be taught, he would not have wished to do what he did."

"Mother," said Hughie, changing his ground a little, and lowering his voice, "do you think Pharaoh is lost, and all his soldiers, and--and all the people who were bad?"

Mrs. Murray looked at him in silence for a few moments, then said, very sadly, "I can't answer that question, Hughie. I do not know."

"But, mother," persisted Hughie, "are not wicked people lost?"

"Yes, Hughie," replied his mother, "all those who do not repent of their sins and cry to God for mercy."

"Oh, mother," cried Hughie, "forever?"

His mother did not reply.

"Will He never let them out, mother?" continued Hughie, in piteous appeal.

"Listen to me, Hughie," said his mother, very gently. "We know very little about this. Would you be very sorry, even for very bad men?"

"Oh, mother," cried Hughie, his tender little heart moved with a great compassion, "think of a whole year, all summer long, and all winter long. I think I would let anybody out."

"Then, Hughie, dear," said his mother, "remember that God is much kinder than you are, and has a heart far more tender, and while He will be just and must punish sin, He will do nothing unjust or unkind, you may be quite sure of that. Do not forget how He gave up His own dear son for us."

Poor Hughie could bear it no longer. He put his head in his mother's lap and sobbed out, "Oh, mother, I hope he will let them out."

As he uttered this pitiful little cry, his cousin Harry got up from his chair, and moved across to the window, while Maimie openly wiped her eyes, but Ranald sat with his face set hard, and his eyes gleaming, waiting eagerly for Mrs. Murray's answer.

The mother stroked Hughie's head softly, and while her tears fell on the brown curls, said to him, "You would not be afraid to trust your mother, Hughie, and our Father in heaven loves us all much more than I love you."

And with that Hughie was content.

"Now let us sing one more hymn," said his mother. "It's my choice." And she chose one of the new hymns which they had just learned in the singing school, and of which Hughie was very fond, the children's hymn, "Come to the Saviour." While they were singing they heard Mr. Murray drive into the yard.

"There's papa," said Mrs. Murray. "He will be tired and hungry," and she hurried out to meet her husband, followed by Harry and Hughie, leaving Ranald and Maimie in the room together. Ranald had never been alone with her before, nor indeed had he ever spent five minutes of his life alone with any girl before now. But he did not feel awkward or shy; he was thinking now, as he had been thinking now and then through the whole evening, of only one thing, that Maimie was going away. That would make a great difference to him, so great that he was conscious of a heart-sinking at the mere thought of it. During the last weeks, his life had come to move about a center, and that center was Maimie; and now that she was going away, there would be nothing left. Nothing, that is, that really mattered. But the question he was revolving in his mind was, would she forget all about him. He knew he would never forget her, that was, of course, impossible, for so many things would remind him of her. He would never see the moonlight falling through the trees as it fell that night of the sugaring-off, without thinking of her. He would never see the shadows in the evening, or hear the wind in the leaves, without thinking of her. The church and the minister's pew, the manse and all belonging to it would remind him of Maimie. He would recall how she looked at different times and places, the turn of her head, the way her hair fell on her neck, her laugh, the little toss of her chin, and the curve in her lips. He would remember everything about her. Would she remember him, or would she forget him? That was the question burning in his heart; and that question he must have settled, and this was the time.

But though these thoughts and emotions were rushing through his brain and blood, he felt strangely quiet and self-controlled as he walked over to her where she stood beside the piano, and looking into her eyes with an intensity of gaze she could not meet, said, in a low, quick voice: "You are going away?"

"Yes," she replied, so startled that the easy smile with which she had greeted him faded out of her face. "In two weeks I shall be gone."

"Gone!" echoed Ranald. "Yes, you will be gone. Will you forget me?" His tone was almost stern.

"Why, no," she said, in a surprised voice. "Of course not. Did not you save my life? You will be far more likely to forget me."

"No," he said, simply, as if that possibility need not be considered. "I will never forget you. I will always be thinking of you. Will you think of me?" he persisted.

"Why, certainly. Wouldn't I be a very ungrateful girl if I did not?"

"Ungrateful!" exclaimed Ranald, impatiently. "What I did was nothing. Forget that. Do you not understand me? I will be thinking of you every day, in the morning and at night, and I never thought of any one else before for a day. Will you be thinking of me?"

There was a movement in the kitchen, and they could hear the minister talking to Harry; and some one was moving toward the door.

"Tell me, Maimie, quick," said Ranald, and though his voice was intense and stern, there was appeal in it as well.

She took a step nearer him, and looking up into his face, said, in a whisper, "Yes, Ranald, I will always remember you, and think of you."

Swiftly, almost fiercely, he threw his arms about her, and kissed her lips, then he stood back looking at her.

"I could not help it," he said, boldly. "You made me."

"Made you?" exclaimed Maimie, her face hot with blushes.

"Yes, you made me. I could not help it," he repeated. "And I do not care if you are angry. I am glad I did it."

"Glad?" echoed Maimie again, not knowing what to say.

"Yes, glad," he said, exultantly. "Are you?"

She made no reply. The door opened behind them. She sank down upon the piano-stool and let her hands fall upon the keys.

"Are you?" he demanded, ignoring the interruption.

With her head low down, while she struck the chords of the hymn they had just sung, she said, hesitatingly, "I am not sorry."

"Sorry for what?" said Harry.

"Oh, nothing," said Maimie, lightly.

"Nobody is, if he has got any sense."

Then Mrs. Murray came in. "Won't you stay for supper, Ranald? You must be hungry."

"No, thank you," said Ranald. "I must go now."

He shook hands with an ease and freedom that the minister had never seen in him, and went out.

"That young man is coming on," said the minister. "I never saw any one change and develop as he has in the last few months. Let me see. He is only eighteen, isn't he, and he might be twenty-one." The minister spoke as if he were not too well pleased with this precocity in Ranald.

But little did Ranald care. That young man was striding homeward through the night, his head striking the stars. His path lay through the woods, and when he came to the "sugar camp" road, he stood still, and let the memories of the night when he had snatched Maimie from the fire troop through his mind. Suddenly he thought of Aleck McRae, and laughed aloud.

"Poor Aleck," he said. Aleck seemed so harmless to him now. And then he stood silent, motionless, looking straight toward the stars, but seeing them not. He was remembering Maimie's face when she said, "Yes, Ranald, I will always remember you and think of you"; and then the thought of what followed, sent the blood jumping through his veins.

"She will not forget," he said aloud, and went on his way. It was his happy night, the happiest of his life thus far, and he would always be happy. What difference could anything make?