The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright
Chapter XXX. Sammy Graduates.
The next day when young Stewart came, the books were all back on the shelf in the main room of the cabin, and Sammy, dressed in a fresh gown of simple goods and fashion, with her hair arranged carefully, as she had worn it the last two months before Ollie's coming, sat at the window reading.
The man was surprised and a little embarrassed. "Why, what have you been doing to yourself?" he exclaimed.
"I have not been doing anything to myself. I have only done some things to my clothes and hair," returned the girl.
Then he saw the books. "Why, where did these come from?" He crossed the room to examine the volumes. "Do you--do you read all these?"
"The shepherd has been helping me," she explained.
"Oh, yes. I understood that you were studying with him." He looked at her curiously, as though they were meeting for the first time. Then, as she talked of her studies, his embarrassment deepened, for he found himself foundering hopelessly before this clear-eyed, clear-brained backwoods girl.
"Come," said Sammy at last. "Let us go for a walk." She led the way to her favorite spot, high up on the shoulder of Dewey, and there, with Mutton Hollow at their feet and the big hills about them, with the long blue ridges in the distance beyond which lay Ollie's world, she told him what he feared to learn. The man refused to believe that he heard aright. "You do not understand," he protested, and he tried to tell her of the place in life that would be hers as his wife. In his shallowness, he talked even of jewels, and dresses, and such things.
"But can all this add one thing to life itself?" she asked. "Is not life really independent of all these things? Do they not indeed cover up the real life, and rob one of freedom? It seems to me that it must be so."
He could only answer, "But you know nothing about it. How can you? You have never been out of these woods."
"No," she returned, "that is true; I have never been out of these woods, and you can never, now, get away from the world into which you have gone." She pointed to the distant hills. "It is very, very far over there to where you live. I might, indeed, find many things in your world that would be delightful; but I fear that I should lose the things that after all are, to me, the really big things. I do not feel that the things that are greatest in your life could bring happiness without that which I find here. And there is something here that can bring happiness without what you call the advantages of the world to which you belong."
"What do you know of the world?" he said roughly.
"Nothing," she said. "But I know a little of life. And I have learned some things that I fear you have not. Beside, I know now that I do not love you. I have been slow to find the truth, but I have found it. And this is the one thing that matters, that I found it in time."
"Did you reach this conclusion at the mill yesterday?" he asked with a sneer.
"No. It came to me here on the rock last evening after you were gone. I heard a strange story; the story of a weak man, a strong man, and a God who was very kind."
Ollie saw that further persuasion was of no avail, and as he left her, she watched him out of sight for the last time--along the trail that is nobody knows how old. When he was gone, in obedience to an impulse she did not try to understand, she ran down the mountain to the cabin in the Hollow--Young Matt's cabin. And when the shepherd came in from the hills with his flock he found the house in such order as only a woman's hand can bring. The table was set, and his supper cooking on the stove.
"Dad," she asked, "Do you think I know enough now to live in the city?"
The old man's heart sank. It had come then. Bravely he concealed his feelings, as he assured her in the strongest terms, that she knew enough, and was good enough to live anywhere.
"Then," said Sammy; "I know enough, even if I am not good enough, to live in the hills."
The brown eyes, deep under their shaggy brows, were aglow with gladness, and there was a note of triumph in the scholar's voice as he said, "Then you do not regret learning the things I have tried to teach you? You are sure you have no sorrow for the things you are losing."
"Regret? Dad. Regret?" The young woman drew herself up and lifted her arms. "Oh, Dad, I see it all, now; all that you have been trying in a thousand ways to teach me. You have led me into a new world, the real world, the world that has always been and must always be, and in that world man is king; king because he is a man. And the treasure of his kingdom is the wealth of his manhood."
"And the woman, Sammy, the woman?"
"'And they twain shall be one flesh.'"
Then the master knew that his teaching had not been in vain. "I can lead you no farther, my child," he said with a smile. "You have passed the final test."
She came close to him, "Then I want my diploma," she said, for he had told her about the schools.
Reverently the old scholar kissed her brow. "This is the only diploma I am authorized to give--the love and homage of your teacher."
"And my degree?" She waited with that wide, questioning look in her eyes.
"The most honorable in all the world--a sure enough lady."