Book Second. David Borson
VIII. The Justification of Death
 

During the awful days of Vala's dying no one came near Nanna. She watched her child night and day, and saw it go out into the darkness that girds our life around, in unutterable desolation of soul. From the first Vala was unconscious, and she went away without a word or token of comfort to the despairing mother. There was unspeakable suffering and decay, and then the little breathing-house in which Vala had sojourned a short space was suddenly vacant. For a moment Nanna stood on the border-lands of being, where life hardly draws breath. A little more, and she would have pushed apart the curtains that divide us from that spiritual world which lies so close and which may claim us at any moment. A little more, and she would, in her loving agony, have pressed beyond manifestations to that which is ineffable and nameless.

But at the last moment the flesh-and-blood conductor of spirit failed; a great weakness and weariness made her passive under the storm of sorrow that drove like rain to the roots of her life. When she was able to move, Vala lay sad and still. All was over, and Nanna stood astonished, smitten, dismayed, on a threshold she could not pass. The Eternal had given, and it was a gift; he had taken away, and it was an immeasurable loss, and she could not say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." She was utterly desolate; and when she washed for the last time the little feet that had never trod the moor or street or house, she thought her heart would break. Who had led them through the vast spaces of the constellations? Whither had they been led? There was no answer to her moaning question. She looked from her dead Vala to God, and all was darkness. She could not see him.

It was a hurried burial in a driving storm. The sea rolled in fateful billows, the winds whistled loud and shrill, the rain soaked Nanna through and through. Two or three of her neighbors followed afar off; they wished her to see they were not oblivious of her grief and loss, but they dared not break the ordinance of town and kirk and voluntarily and without urgent reason come in contact with the contagion; for the island not many years previously had been almost decimated by the same scourge, and every man and woman was the guardian, not only of his or her own life, but of the lives of the community.

Nanna understood this. She saw the dark, cloaked figures of her friends standing in the storm at a distance, and she knew the meaning of their upraised hands; but she had no heart to answer the signal of sympathy. Alone, she stood by the small open grave and saw it filled. The rain beat on it, and she was glad that it beat on her. It was with difficulty, and only with some affected anger, the two men who had buried the child got her to return to her home.

How vacant it was! How unspeakably lonely! The stormy dreariness outside the cot, the atmosphere of sorrow and loss within it, were depressing beyond words. And what can be said of the loneliness and sorrow within the soul? But in every bitter cup there is one drop bitterest of all; and in Nanna's case this was David's neglect and apparent desertion. She had received no message from him, nor had he come near her in all her trouble. Truly, he must have broken the law to do so; but Nanna was sure no town ordinance would have kept her from David's side in such an hour, and she despised that obedience to law which could teach him such cowardly neglect.

Day after day passed, and he came not. The fever was by this time in all the cottages around her, and the little hamlet was a plague-spot that every one avoided. But, for all that, Nanna's heart condemned her cousin. She tried him by her own feelings, and found him guilty of unpardonable selfishness and neglect. And oh, how dreary are those waste places left by the loved who have deserted us! With what bitter tears we water them! Vala and David had been her last tie to love and happiness. "Thank God," she cried out in her misery, "it can only be broken once!"

Vala had been in her grave a week--a week of days that turned the mother's heart gray--before Nanna heard a word of comfort. Then once more David lifted the latch of the cot and entered her presence. She was sitting still and empty-handed, and her white face and the quivering of her lips pierced him to the heart.

"Nanna! Nanna!" he said.

Then she rose, and looked round the lonely room, and David understood what she meant.

"Nanna! Nanna!" was still all that he could say. He could find no words fit for such sorrow; but there was the truth to speak, and that might have some comfort in it. So he took her hands in his, and said gently:

"Nanna! dear Nanna! your husband is dead."

"I am glad of it!" she answered. "He killed Vala twice over." Her voice was low and weary, and she asked no question about the matter.

"Did you think I had forgotten you, Nanna?"

"Well, then, yes."

"Forgotten you and Vala?"

"It looked most like it. I thought you were either feared for yourself or the law."

"No wonder men think ill of God, whom they do not know, when they are so ready to think ill of men, whom they do know."

"O David! how could you desert me? Can you think of all that I have suffered alone? God nor man has helped me."

"Poor, poor Nanna!"

"If you had been ill to death, neither the words of men nor the power of the law could have kept me from your sick-bed. No, indeed! I would have risked everything to help you. Where were you at all, David?"

"I was on the Sea Rover."

"The Sea Rover! That is Nicol's ship. What did he do to you? What were you there for?"

"I was on the Sea Rover nursing your husband."

"My God!"

"That is the truth, Nanna. I have just finished my task."

"Who sent you?"

"The minister came to me with the order, and I could not win by it and face God and man again."

"What said he? O David! David!"

"He said, 'David Borson, there are four men ill with typhus this morning on the Sea Rover. The one man yet unstricken is quite broken down with fright and fatigue. The doctor says some one ought to go there. What do you think?' And I said, 'Minister, do you mean me?' And he smiled a bit and answered, 'I thought you would know your duty, David.'"

"But why your duty, David? Surely Vala was dearer and nearer."

"The minister said, 'You are a lone man, David, and you fear God; so, then, you need not fear the fever.'"

"And he knew that you hated Sinclair! Knew that Sinclair had come to my house with the fever on him--knew that he had lifted my poor bairn, only that he might give her the death-kiss!"

"No, no! How could any father, any man, be as bad as that, Nanna?"

"You know not how bad the devil can make a man when he enters into him. And how could the minister send you such a hard road?"

"It was made easy to me; it was indeed, Nanna. The sensible presence of God, and the shining of his face on me, though only for a moment, made me willing to give up all my anger and all my revenge, and wait on my enemy, and do what I could for him to the last moment."

"And Vala? How could you forget her?"

"I did not forget her. I was feared for the child, though I would not say that to you. Barbara told me she had fret all night, and when I said it would be for her mother, the woman shook her head in a way that made me tremble. I was on my way to see her and you when I met the minister, and he sent me the other way."

"Why did you not tell him that you feared for Vala?"

"I said that, and he said, 'Nanna will be able to care for the little one; but there is a strong man needed to care for her husband; Nicol Sinclair will be hard to manage.' And then he minded me of the man's sinful life, and he said peradventure it might be the purpose of God even yet to give him another opportunity for repentance through me."

"If he had known Nicol Sinclair as I--"

"Yes, Nanna, but it is an awful thing to die eternally. If I could help to save any one from such a fate, even my worst enemy,--even your enemy and Vala's,--what should I have done? Tell me."

"Just what you did. You have done right. Yes; though the man killed Vala, you have done right! You have done right!"

"I knew that would be your last word."

"Did he have one good thought, one prayer, to meet death with?"

"He did not. It was a wild night when he was in the dead thraws--a wild night for the flitting; and he went out in storm and darkness, and the sea carried him away."

"God have mercy upon him! I have not a tear left for Nicol Sinclair."

"It was an awful death; but on the same night there was a very good death after a very good life. You have heard, Nanna?"

"I have heard nothing. For many days all has been still and tidingless. The fever is in every house, and no one comes near but the doctor, and he speaks only to the sick."

"Well, then, the good minister has gone home. He was taken with the fever while giving the sacrament to Elder Somerlid. And he knew that he would die, for he said, 'John Somerlid, we shall very soon drink this cup together in the house of our Father in heaven.' So when he got back to the manse he sent for Elder Peterson, and gave him his last words."

"And I know well that they would be good words."

"They were like himself, full of hope. He spoke about his books, and the money in his desk to pay all his debts, and then he said:

"'The days of my life are ended, but I have met the hand of God, Peter, and it is strong to lead and to comfort me. A word was brought to me even as I held the blessed cup in my hand. Read to me from the Book while I can listen to it.' And Peterson asked, 'What shall I read?' And the minister said, 'Take the Psalms. There is everything in the Psalms.' So Peterson read the ones he called for, and after a little the minister said:

"'That will do, Peter. I turn now from the sorrow and pain and darkness of earth to the celestial city, to infinite serenities, to love without limit, to perfect joy. And when I am dead, see you to my burying, Peter. Lay me in the grave with my face to the east, and put above me Jesus Christ's own watchword, "Thy kingdom come."' After that he asked only for water, and so he died."

"Blessed are such dead. There is no need to weep for them."

"That is one thing sure; but I have seen this, Nanna: that the wicked is unbefriended in his death-pang."

"And after it, David? O David, after it?"

"There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the worker of iniquity may hide," he answered with an awful solemnity.

"O David, we come into the world weeping, and we go out fearing. It is a hard travail, both for body and soul."

And David walked to the little table on which the Book lay, and he turned the leaves until he found the words he wanted. And Nanna watched him with eyes purified by that mysterious withdrawal into the life of the soul which comes through a great sorrow.

"It was not always so, Nanna," he said. "Listen!

"For their sakes I made the world, and when Adam transgressed my statutes, then was decreed that now is done.

"Then were the entrances of this world made narrow, full of sorrow and travail; they are but few and evil, full of perils and very painful.

"For the entrances of the elder world were wide and sure, and brought immortal fruit.

But yet there is to be a restoration, Nanna."

"I know not," she answered wearily. "It is so far off--so far away."

"But it is promised. It is sure.

"The world shall be turned into the old silence seven days, like as in former judgments, so that no man shall remain.

"And after seven days, the world, that yet awaketh not, shall be raised up; and that shall die that is corrupt.

"And the earth shall restore those that are asleep in her; and the dust, those that dwell in silence; and the secret places shall deliver those souls that were committed unto them.

"And the Most High shall appear upon the seat of judgment, and misery shall pass away, and the long suffering shall have an end.

"But judgment shall remain; truth shall stand; and faith shall wax strong."

"I know nothing of these things, David; I cannot think of them. What I want is some word of comfort about Vala--a little word from beyond would make all the difference. Why is it not given? Why is there no answering voice from the other side? There is none on this. Why does God pursue a poor, broken-hearted woman so hardly? Even now, when I have wept my heart cold and dumb, I do not please him. One thing only is sure--my misery. Oh, why, why, David?"

And David could only drop his eyes before the sad, inquiring gaze of Nanna's. He murmured something about Adam and the cross, and told her sorrowfully that He who hung upon it, forsaken, in the dark, also asked, "Why?" The austerity and profound mystery of his creed gave him no more comforting answer to the pathetic inquiry.

He spent the day in the little hamlet, and, the weather being dry and not very cold, he persuaded Nanna to take a walk upon the cliff-top with him. She agreed because she had not the strength to oppose his desire; but if David had had any experience with suffering women, he would have seen at once how ineffectual his effort would be. The gray, icy, indifferent sea had nothing hopeful to say to her. The gray gulls, with their stern, cold eyes, watchful and hungry, filled her ears with nothing but painful clamoring. There was no voice in nature to cry, "Comfort," to a bruised soul.

She said the wind hurt her, that she was tired, that she would rather sit still in the house and shut her eyes and think of Vala. She leaned so heavily on him that David was suddenly afraid, and he looked with more scrutiny into her face. If his eyes had been opened he would have seen over its youth and beauty signs of a hand that writes but once; for when despair assumes the dignity of patience it carries with it the warrant of death.

They went slowly and silently back to the house, and as they approached it David said, "Some one has called, for the door is open." And they walked a little faster, so that Nanna's cheeks flushed with the movement and the wind.

Matilda Sabiston sat on the hearthstone grumbling at the cold, while the man-servant who had brought her so far was piling the peats upon the fire to warm her feet and hands. When David and Nanna entered she did not move, but she turned her eyes upon them with a malignant anger that roused in both a temper very different from that in which their hopeless walk had been taken. It was immediately noticeable in Nanna. She dropped David's hand and walked forward to her visitor, and they looked steadily at each other for a few moments. Then Matilda said:

"Think shame of yourself, to be so soon at the courting again, and, above all, with him!"

Nanna took no notice of the remark, but asked, "Why are you here? I wish to have no dealings with you, for no good can come of them."

"Would I come here for good? There is no good in any of your kind. I came here to tell you that I was glad that there is one Borson less."

"There has been death among your own kin, mistress," said David, "and such death as should make the living fear to bring it to remembrance."

"I know it. You ought to fear. Did you slay Nicol, as your father slew Bele Trenby, by water? or did you poison him with drugs? or is your hand red with his life-blood? And now, before the fish have had time to pick his bones, you are wooing his wife."

"Will you let Nanna alone? She is ill."

"Ill? Babble! Look at her rosy cheeks! She has been listening to your love-words. Who sent you to the Sea Rover? What were you doing there? A great plot! A wicked plot against poor Nicol!"

"I went to the Sea Rover because--"

"Very ready you were to go to Nicol's ship and to do your will there! Oh, it was a great opportunity! None to see! none to tell tales! But I know you! I know you! The black drop of murder is in every Borson's veins."

"Mistress, you are an old woman, and you may say your say. If you were a man it would be different. I would cut out your lying tongue, or make it eat its own words."

With railing and insolence she defied him to the act, and David stood looking at her with his hands in his pockets. As for Nanna, she had thrown off her cloak and seated herself on Vala's couch. She was trying to control her temper; but the little room was already impregnated with Matilda's personality, and Nanna could not escape from those indirect but powerful influences that distil from an actively evil life.

"I wish, Matilda Sabiston, that you would leave my house," she said. "I think that you have brought the devil in with you."

Then Matilda turned in her chair and looked at Nanna. Her face, handsomely prominent in youth, had become with sin and age like that of a bird of prey; it was all nose and two fierce, gleaming eyes.

"Do you talk of the devil?" she screamed. "You, who drove your husband to sin, and sent your baby to hell!"

Then Nanna, with a pitiful cry, buried her face in Vala's pillow; and David, full of anger, said:

"I will take you from this house, mistress. You were not asked to come here, and you cannot stay here."

"I will stay until I have said what you shall listen to. The child of this woman has been taken for your father's sin. The mother will go next. Then you will bite the last morsel of Kol's curse. I am living only to see this."

"I fear not the curse of any man," said David, in a passion. "There is no power in any mortal's curse that prayer cannot wither. Keep it to yourself--you, who believe in it. As for me--"

"As for you, I will give you some advice. When the new minister is placed, go and tell him what Liot Borson told you at his death-hour. For I know well he did not die without boasting of his revenge on Bele Trenby. Death couldn't shut Liot's mouth till the words were out of it. Make the confession your father ought to have made, and let me hear it. I have said it, and fools have laughed at me, and wise men have hid the words in their hearts; and I will not die till my words are made true. And if you will not make them true, then the dead will have their satisfaction, and love will go to the grave and not to the bridal. Now, then, do what is before you. I have set you your task."

She spoke with a rapid passion that would not be interrupted, and then, still muttering threats and accusations, tottered out of the cot on her servant's arm. David was speechless. The truth bound him. What powers of divination this evil woman had, he knew not, but she at least had driven home the unacknowledged fear in his heart. He sat down by Nanna and tried to comfort her, but she could not listen to him. "Leave me alone to-day," she pleaded. "I have had all I can bear."

So he went back to Lerwick, feeling with every step he took that the task Matilda had set him would have to be accomplished. The humiliation would indeed be great, but if by confession he could ward off punishment from Nanna he must accept the alternative. Himself he took not into consideration. No threat and no fear of personal suffering could have forced him to speak; but if, peradventure, silence was sin, and sin brought sorrow, then his duty to others demanded from him the long-delayed acknowledgment. However, he was not yet certain of the right, and the new minister had not yet come, and there is always some satisfaction in putting off what is dubious and questionable.

The new minister was not finally settled until Christmas. He proved to be a young man with the air of theological schools still around him. David was afraid of him. He thought of the tender, mellowed temper of the old man whose place he was to fill, and wished that his acknowledgment had been made while he was alive. He feared to bring his father's spiritual case before one who had never known him, who had grown up "southward" under very different influences, who would likely be quite unable to go a step beyond the letter of the law.

He talked to Nanna frequently about the matter, and she was more than inclined to silence. "Let well alone, David," she said. "What good can come of calling back old sins and sorrows? Who has set you this task? One who has always hated you. If God had sent, would he have sent by her? No; but when the devil wants a cruel, wicked messenger, he can get none so fit for his purpose as a bad old woman."

However, while David hesitated Matilda went to the new minister. She prefaced her story by a gift of ten pounds for the replenishing of the manse, and then told it according to her own wishes and imagination.

"The minister dead and gone would not listen to me," she said. "He was a poor creature, and Liot Borson was one of his pets. The man could do no wrong in his eyes. So I have been sin-bearer for more than twenty years. Now, then, I look to you to clear this matter to the bottom, and let the talk about it come to an end once for all."

"It is a grave matter," said Minister Campbell, "and I am astonished that my predecessor let it rest so long--though doubtless he did it for the best, for there will be two sides to this, as to all other disputes."

"There is not," answered Matilda, angrily. "All is as I have told you."

"But, according to your testimony, Liot Borson's guilt rests on your dreams. That is a poor foundation."

"I have always been a foresighted woman--a great dreamer--and I dream true."

"But I know not how to call a kirk meeting on a dream."

"Was the Bible written for yesterday or for to-day?"

"It was written for every day, unto the end of time."

"Then look to it. Ask it how many of its great events hang upon dreams. Take the dream life out of the Bible, minister, and where are you?"

"Mistress Sabiston, I am not used to arguing with women, but I will remind you that the dream life of the Bible does not rest on female authority. It was the men of the Bible that saw visions and dreamed dreams. As I remember, only one woman--a pagan, Pilate's wife--is recorded as being in this way instructed. I should not be inclined to discipline the memory of Liot Borson on the strength of your dream."

"There is, or there was, other evidence; for much of it has now gone away through the door of death. What I want is Liot's own confession. He made it to his son before he gave up the ghost. Now, then, let David speak for his father."

"That is a different thing. If David has a message to deliver, he must deliver it, or he is recreant to his trust."

"See to it, then. It is all I ask, but I have a right to ask it."

"What right?"

"Bele was my adopted son. I loved him. He was my heir. I was a lone-living woman, and he was all I had. As I have told you, Liot wished to marry my niece Karen, that he might heir my property. He had every reason to get Bele out of his way, and he did it. Ask his son."

"I will."

With these words he became silent, and Matilda saw that there was an end of the conversation for that time. But she was now more eager and passionate for the impeachment of Liot's good name than she had ever been, and she vowed to herself that if Minister Campbell did not give her satisfaction he should have all the petty misery and trouble her money and influence could give him.

The young minister, however, did not hesitate. It was a most unpleasant legacy to his charge, and he was straitened until he had done his duty concerning it. He went to see David at once, and heard from his lips the whole truth. And he was greatly impressed with the story, for the young man told it with such truth and tenderness that every word went heartwise. He could think of nothing better than to call a meeting in the kirk, and summon David to tell the congregation just what he had told him. And as it had been Liot's intention to do this very thing himself, the minister could not see that David would be guilty of any unkindness to his father's memory. Quite the contrary. He would be fulfilling his desire and doing for him the duty he had been unable personally to perform.

David had nothing to say against the proposal. It turned him faint, and he wondered if it would be possible for him to stand up in the presence of his fellows, and in the sight of all the women who admired and respected him, and do what was required. A cold sweat covered his face; his large hands felt powerless; he looked at the minister appealingly, but could not utter a word.

"You must speak for your father, David. Perhaps you ought to have spoken before this. We can do so little for the dead that any wish of theirs that is positive ought to be sacredly granted. What do you say?"

"It is hard, minister. But what you say is right, that I will do."

"We will not touch the Sabbath day, David. I will ask the people to come to the kirk next Wednesday afternoon. The men will not be at sea, and the women will be at leisure then. What do you think?"

"As you think, minister."

"Tell them just what you have told me. I believe every word you have said, and I will stand by you--I and all good men and women, I am sure."

"Thank you, minister."

But he could scarcely utter the words. He had often thought of this ordeal; now that it was really to face, his heart utterly failed him. He went straight to Nanna, and she forgot her own sorrow in his, and so comforted and strengthened him that he went away feeling that all things would be possible if she was always as kind and sympathetic.

It was then Friday, and Wednesday came inexorably and swiftly. David tried in every way to prepare himself, but no strength came from his efforts. Prayer, nor meditation, nor long memories of the past, nor hopes for the future, had any potency. He was stupefied by the thing demanded of him, and the simple, vivid cry which always brings help had not yet been forced from his lips. But at the last moment it came. Then the coldness and dumbness and wretched inertness that had bound him, body and soul, were gone. When he saw Matilda Sabiston enter the kirk, her eyes gleaming and her face eager with evil expectations, he felt the wondrous words of David burning in his heart and on his lips, and he was no longer afraid. Psalm after psalm went singing through his soul, and he said joyfully to himself, "Sometimes God is long in coming, but he is never too late."

The minister did not ascend the pulpit. He stood at the table, and after a prayer and a hymn he said:

"We have come together this afternoon to hear what David Borson has to say in regard to the charge which Matilda Sabiston has made for twenty-six years against his father Liot Borson."

"That question was decided long ago," said an old man, rising slowly. "I heard Minister Ridlon give verdict concerning it at the funeral of Liot's wife."

"It was not decided," cried Matilda, standing up, and turning her face to the congregation. "Liot Borson found it easy to lie at his wife's coffin-side, but when it came to his own death-hour he did not dare to die without telling the truth. Ask his son David."

"David Borson," said the minister, "at your father's death-hour did he indeed confess to the slaying of Bele Trenby?"

Then David stood up. All fear had gone, he knew not where. He looked even taller than his wont. And the light of God's presence was so close to him that his large, fair face really had a kind of luminosity.

"Minister," he answered with a solemn confidence, "minister and friends, my father at his death-hour expressly said that he did not slay Bele Trenby. He said that he laid no finger on him, that he fell into his own snare. This is what happened: He met my father on the moss, and said, 'Good evening, Liot.' And my father said, 'It is dark,' and spoke no more. You know--all of you know--they were ill friends and rivals; so, then, silence was the best. And if Bele had been content to be silent and tread slowly in my father's steps he had reached his ship in safety. But he must talk and he must hurry; and the first was not wanted, and the second was dangerous. And after a little my father's shoe-strings came undone, and he stooped to tie them--who wouldn't, where a false step or a fall might be death? And Bele went on, and called back to him, 'Is this the crossing?' And father had not finished fastening his shoes, and did not answer. So then Bele called again, and it is likely father would not be hurried by him, and he did not answer that time, either. And Bele said he was in the devil's temper, and went on at his own risk. And the next moment there was a cry, and my father lifted his head hastily, and the man had walked into the moss, and then who could help him? But well I know, if help had been possible, my father would have given his own life to save life, even though the man was ten times his enemy. Over and over I have seen Liot Borson bring from the sea men who hated him, and whom no one else would venture life for. Never mortal man walked closer with God than Liot Borson. I, who have lived alone with him for twenty years, I know this; and I will dare to say that in the matter of Bele Trenby he did no worse, and perhaps a great deal better, than any other man would have done. Why was Bele on the moss? He was a sailor and a stranger. A man must have life-knowledge of the moss to walk it in the night-time. When my father was willing to guide him across it, was it too much that he should be silent, and that he should let his guide do a thing so necessary as to secure tightly his shoes on the soft, unstable ground? Was his guide to let go this safe precaution because Bele was in a hurry to reach his ship? Was Liot Borson to blame if the man's foolhardiness and insolent presumption led him into danger and death? As for me, I say this: I wish to be a man after my father's heart. For he was a righteous man in all his ways, and kind-hearted to every creature in trouble; and he was a life-saver, and not a murderer. And this I, his loving son, will maintain to my last breath. And if, after these words, any man says, 'Liot Borson was a murderer,' I will call him a cowardly liar and slanderer at Lerwick Market Cross, and follow the words to the end they deserve. And God knows I speak the truth, and the whole truth."

Then David sat down, and there was an audible stir and movement of sympathy and approbation. And the minister said: "I believe every word you have spoken, David. If any present has a word to say, now is the time to speak."

Then Elder Hay rose and said: "Of what use is talk? Liot Borson is dead and judged. How shall we, sinful men ourselves, dare to meddle with the verdict of the Lord God Almighty? If we in our ignorance or spite reverse it, what a presumption it will be! And if we confirm it, is God's decree made stronger by our 'yea, yeas'? What at all does Mistress Sabiston want?"

"I want Liot Borson's name taken off the roll," she answered vehemently. "It has no right in the kirk's books. Cross it out! Blot it out! It is a shame to the white pages."

"Is there here any man or woman who will do Mistress Sabiston's will, and cross out Liot Borson's name for her?" asked the minister.

There was a deep, emphatic "No!" And the minister continued: "I would myself rather cut off my right hand than cross out the name of one who has passed far beyond our jurisdiction. Suppose--and we have a right to suppose--that the name of Liot Borson is written in the shining letters of the book of life, and we have crossed it off our kirk book! What then? I think this question is settled. I never want to hear it named again. I will enter into no conversations about it. It has been taken out of our hands by God himself. We will not dare to discuss in any way what he has already decided. We will now sing together the Forty-third Psalm."

And, amid the rustle of the opening leaves, the minister himself started the psalmody. There was a little air of hurry in his movements, as if he hasted to drown all contention in singing; but he had reached his usual grave composure before the end of the verses, and the benediction fell like the final satisfying chords of the melody.

Matilda was dumfounded by such a cutting short of the case, but even she dared not interrupt functions so holy as praise and prayer. In the kirk she was compelled to restrain her indignation, but when she found that the resolution of Minister Campbell not to discuss the matter or enter into any conversation about it was universally adopted by the townspeople, her anger found words such as are not to be met with in books; and she did not spare them.

David was singularly happy and satisfied. He had been grandly supported both by God and man, and he was grateful for the pronounced kindness of his friends, for their hand-shakings and greetings and loving words and wishes. But when both the enthusiasm and the pang of conflict were over, oh, how good it was to clasp Nanna's hand, and in this perfect but silent companionship to walk home with her! Then Nanna made a cup of tea, and they drank it together, and talked over what had been said and done, finally drifting, as they always did, to that invincible necessity that whatever is could not but so have been. And though their words were, as all human words about God must be, terribly inadequate, yet their longing, their love, and their fears were all understood. And He who is so vast and strange when

      With intellect we gaze,
    Close to their hearts stole in,
      In a thousand tender ways.