Prisoners of Conscience by Amelia E. Barr
Book Second. David Borson
IX. A Sacrifice Accepted
After this the winter came on rapidly and severely. The seas were dangerous, and the fishing precarious and poor, and the fever still lingered, many cases being found as far north as Yell. Thus suffering and hard poverty and death filled the short days and made twice as long the stretched-out nights of the dark season. The old cloud gathered round David, and when the minister preached of "the will and purposes of God," it seemed to David that they were altogether penal. The unfathomable inner side of his life was all gloom and doubt; how, then, could the material side be cheerful and confident?
The new minister, however, had conceived a strong liking for the young man; they were nearly of the same age; and he saw that David was troubled about spiritual matters, and took every opportunity to discuss them with him. But he had too much of the schools, he was too untried, and had been, in the main, too happily situated to comprehend David's views. The very piety of the two men was different. David's was lively, personal, and tender; it sat in the center. The minister's was official, intellectually accepted, conscientiously practised. It was not strange, then, that any dissent David ventured to make was not conceived of as a soul-query, but rather as a challenge against impregnable truths. He was always ready to defend Calvinism, though David did not consciously attack it. To be sure, he said strange and daring things--things which came from his heart, and which often staggered his opponent; but all the more Minister Campbell put on his armor to defend his creed.
"It is a hard religion for men and for women," said David, as they talked a stormy afternoon away on Barbara's hearthstone; "and why God gave it, I can't tell; for, after all, minister, the blessedness of heaven is an eternity older than the damnation of hell."
"Men called it unto themselves, and it is not hard, David. It is a grand creed; it is a strong anchor for a weak soul; it won't let a man drift into the deep waters of infidelity or the miserable shoals of 'perhaps' and 'suppose.' Neither will it let him float on waves of feeling like Arminianism, and be content with 'ahs' and 'ohs,' and shrink from 'therefores.' Calvinism makes strong men before the Lord, David, and strong men are not laid on rose-leaves and fed on pap and cream."
"That is true, minister; for it seems to me that whenever men are to be fishers, and fight the winds and waves, or to make a living out of bare moor or rocks, or to do any other of the hard work of life, they are born Calvinists."
"Just so, David. Arminians can weave a piece of broadcloth, and Episcopals can till the rich, juicy fields of England; but God's hard work--yes, David, and his hard fighting--has to be done by his Calvinists. They were the only fighting Protestants. But for Calvinists, Puritans, Huguenots, there would have been no Reformation. Philip and the Pope would have had their way, and we should all have been papists or atheists."
"I know not. You say so, minister, and it is doubtless true."
"It is true. You have been born to a noble creed; accept it with thankfulness and without demur. You are not called upon to understand it or to reason about it. It is faith that conquers."
And after such an oration the young minister would go away with a proud sense of duty well performed, burning with his own evangel, and liking David well for being the invoker of his enthusiasm. But David, after his departure, was always silent and depressed; his intellect may have been quickened, but he was not comforted.
The sunshine that had brightened his life during the past year was gone, for he had found out that all his happiness was bound up in Nanna, and Nanna was on the verge of despair. Day by day she grew thinner and whiter, more melancholy and more silent. She did only work enough to supply the barest needs of life, and for the most part sat hour after hour with dropped hands and closed eyes; or she was seized with a restlessness that drove her to motion, and then she walked the small bounds of her room until physical exhaustion threw her into deep sleep.
David watched her with a sad patience. He had felt severely the loss of Vala, and he did not presume to measure Nanna's sorrow by his own. He knew it was natural that for some weeks she should weep for a child so dear, whose little life had been so pitifully wronged, so bound to suffering, so cruelly cut short. But when this natural sorrow was not healed by time, when Nanna nursed her grief to despair and dwelt with it in the valley of the shadow of death, he thought it time to reason with her.
"You will kill yourself, Nanna," he said.
"Well, then, David, I hate life."
"Do you wish to die?"
"No; I am afraid to die. I know that I am sinning every day in weeping for my poor lost bairn, and yet I am that way made that I cannot help but weep for her. For it is my fault, David, all my fault. Why, then, did He pursue the child with His anger from the first hour of her sorrowful life to the last? And where is she now? O David, where is she? If God would only let me go to her!"
"Whist, Nanna! You know not what you are saying. You might be asking yourself away from His presence."
"I would rather be with Vala. If that be sinful, let me thole the wages of my sin. Where is my dear bairn?"
"I heard Elder Kennoch say we may have a hope that God will eventually take pity on those babes who have done no actual sin."
"But when will he take pity? And until he does, how can the wee souls endure his anger? O David, my heart will break! My heart will break!"
"Nanna, listen to this: when Elga Wick's child died, the minister said there was a benign interpretation of the doctrines which taught us that none but elect infants died. It would be unjust, Nanna, unless the child was elect, not to give it the offer of salvation."
"What good would eighty years of 'offers' do, if there was no election to eternal life?"
"Nanna, your father was a child of God, and you have loved him from your youth upward."
"Can that help Vala?"
"Even so. He keeps his mercy for children's children, to the third and fourth generation of them that fear him. Vala was in the direct succession of faith."
"You know what her father and his folk have been?"
"Yes, I know."
"Oh, why did my father let me marry the man? He should rather have tied me hands and feet, and cast me into the depths of the sea. He should have said to me, 'Nanna, you may have a bairn, and it may be a child of sin, and thus foreordained to hell-fire.' Do you think then I would have wed Nicol Sinclair?"
"Ay, I think you would."
"Do you believe that I was born for that end?"
"I think you had set your heart on Nicol at all risks."
"At that time Nicol was in good favor with all folk."
"You have told me that your father liked him not, and that he said many things to you against a marriage with him; so, then, if your heart had not been fully set on its own way, his 'no' would have been sufficient. If we heed not fathers and mothers and teachers, we should not heed, Nanna, no, not if one came from the dead to warn us."
"That is an awful truth, David."
"And one must speak truth to heal a wounded soul. If there be a canker in the body, you know well the doctor must not spare the sharp knife. But I would not put away hope for Vala--no, indeed!"
"Why, David? Oh, why?"
"Has she not kindred in His presence? Will He not remember His promise to them? Will they forget to remind Him of it? I think not so hardly of the dead."
"David, I will tell you the last awful truth. I never could get the poor little one baptized,--things ay went so against it,--and she died without being signed and sealed to His mercy; that is the dreadful part of her death. I was ashamed--I was afraid to tell you before. O David, if you had stayed by Vala instead of going to that man, you might perhaps have won her this saving grace; but it was not to be."
David almost fainted with the shock of this intelligence. He understood now the anguish which was driving Nanna into the grave; and he had no comfort to offer her, for Nanna seemed to make out a terribly clear case of rejection and of foreordained refusal.
"I was feared to ask Nicol to stand with the child when it ought to have been presented in the kirk," she said.
"But your father?" asked David.
"I was feared to ask my father to stand in Nicol's place, lest it should make Nicol harder to me than he was. And," she continued, weeping bitterly as she spoke, "I thought not of Vala dying, and hoped that in the future there might be a way opened. If father had lived he would have seen to the child's right, but he was taken just when he was moving in the matter; and then Nicol grew harder and harder, and as for the kirk, he would not go there at all, and I had no kin left to take his place. Then the child was hurt, and I was long ill, and Nicol went away, and my friends grew cold, fearing lest I might want a little help, and even the minister was shy and far off. So I came out here with my sorrow, and waited and watched for some friend or some opportunity. 'To-morrow, perhaps to-morrow,' I said; but it was not to be."
"Nanna, you should have told me this before. I would have made the promises for Vala; I would have done so gladly. Surely you should have spoken to me."
"Every day I thought about it, and then I was feared for what would happen when Nicol found it out. And do you not think that Matilda Sabiston would have sent him word that I had set you to do his duty? She would have twitted him about it until he would have raged like a roaring lion, and blackened my good name, and yours also, and most likely made it a cause for the knife he was ever so ready to use. And then, David, there are folks--kirk folks, and plenty of them--who would have said, 'There must be something wrong to set Nicol Sinclair to blood-spilling.' And Matilda Sabiston would have spoken out plainly and said, 'There is something wrong'--and this and that, and more to it."
"And well, then?"
"Well, then, being Matilda, no one would have thought of contradicting her; for she gives much money to the kirk and the societies, and has left all she has to free slaves. No; there was nothing to be done but to thole and be quiet."
"There might be some excuse for being quiet when Vala was not in danger, but when her life was going, why did you not send for the minister?"
"This is what happened; for, David, God's will must be done. No one came here but the doctor. On the second day he said, 'She is not very sick.' At his next visit he said, 'She will die.' Then I told him the child was not baptized, and prayed him to go for the minister. And he said he would certainly do so. But he was called here and there, and he forgot that day; and the next morning very early he went to the manse, and the minister had gone away; and the great storm kept him away for three days; so when he got back the message had been overlaid by many others."
"O Nanna! Nanna!"
"Yes, it was so. After the storm the doctor came again, and Vala was dying. And then he rode like a man riding for his life, and spoke very angrily to the minister, who was not to blame at all, and the minister was hurt at his words; but he came that afternoon, and it was too late."
"O Nanna! O Vala! Vala! Vala!"
"So the minister was angry with me for my delays, and he spoke the hard truth to me, and every word went to my soul like a sword. I thought I should die that night, and I longed to die. There was no friend to say to me one word of comfort, and I did not dare to pray. I was feared God would ask me, 'Where is your child?' O David, what for at all did God make us? For this life is full of sorrow, and it is little comfort to be told that there is a worse one after it."
David took her hand, and a tear dropped upon her slender brown fingers; but he did not answer her question. Indeed, he could not. The same bewildering inquiry had haunted his own sad life. So much sorrow and pain, and at the end perhaps to be "hardly saved," while all around innumerable souls were going down, without hope or helper, to eternal wrath! What for at all had God made man for such a fate?
For that he had not made man for such ends was a fact outside their understandings, even as a possibility; and its very suggestion at this hour would have appeared to both an impiety of the worst kind. So they consoled each other in the only way possible to souls at once so miserable and so submissive. With clasped hands they wept together over the inscrutable fate which had set them so hard a lesson to learn as life, with so little light to learn it by.
Natural events deepened the gloom of this spiritual thraldom. Storms of unusual severity swept over the bare, brown land, and the fishing was not only dangerous, but often impossible. But David regarded frost and snow, stormy winds and raging seas, poverty, pestilence, and death, as part of the eternal necessity pursuing its never-ending work through discord and imperfection. When there was a possibility of casting the fifty fathoms of ling-lines, David and his helpers were sure to venture out; when it was clearly impossible, he went to Nanna's and sat with her.
To the ordinary observer there did not seem to be pleasure enough in these visits to reward him for the stormy walk over the moor. His clothing was often wet or stiff with frost, or he was breathless with fighting the strong wind, and not infrequently he lost himself in the bewildering snow; but with some trifle in his pocket for Nanna, he always managed to reach her. It might be only a fish, or a loaf of bread which Barbara had baked for her, or a little fresh milk in a bottle; but it was an offering made rich by that true affection which counted weariness rest for her sake.
He generally found her sitting brooding by her peat fire. Now, peat is cheap in Shetland, and Nanna had no stint of the fuel, but it does not make a cheerful fire. Its want of flame and its dull-red glow stimulate sorrowful musing; and as there is little radiation of heat from it, those whom it warms must sit close to its embers. Thus David and Nanna passed many hours of that sad winter. The snow often veiled what light of day there was, and the great sea-winds shrieked around the hut and blew the peat smoke down the chimney into their faces; and there was little warmth or comfort, and none of the pretty accessories that love generally delights in.
But David's love was not dependent upon accidentals. He had seen Nanna when he thought her very finely dressed; he had watched her when she was happy with her child and contented with his friendship; but she was not then more beautiful than she was now, when her eyes were haunted by despairing thoughts, and her face white and sad, and her noble form was shrouded rather than dressed in the black gown of her loss and woe.
To David she was ever Nanna. It was the woman beneath the outward form he desired--the woman whose tears and fears and wounded love were part of his own sufferings, whose despair was his despair, whose personality, even, affected something far deeper and chaster than that physical emotion too often misnamed love. He knew that he could live for her, however sorrowful life might be; he knew that he could gladly die for her, if his death could bring her spiritual peace or hope.
Thus, in the red light of the glowing peats, with the stormy world around them, to David and Nanna the winter months wore away. When Nanna was able to weep she was then at her best--the most companionable, the most grateful, and the most affectionate. And few would think such circumstances favorable to the growth of love; but that is a great mistake. Love is not perfect love until it has been watered again and again with tears.
Of the growth of this affection it is not likely either was quite unaware; but there is an instinctive dislike in a pure heart to investigate the beginnings of love. It is like laying bare the roots of a flower to see how it grows. And in Nanna's case there was even a fear of such a condition. Love had brought her only heartbreak and despair. Without deliberate intention, she yet grew a little more shy of David; she began to restrain spiritual confidence and to weep alone. He was not slow to feel the change, and it depressed him, and made Barbara wonder at Nanna's ingratitude and womanish unreason.
"A good man fretting for her love, when there are hearts and hearts full waiting for his asking," she said to her neighbor Sally Groat.
And Sally answered: "Well, well, there is a fool in every one's sleeve sometimes; and David Borson is that daft about blood-kin, there is no talking to him. But this is what I say: for all your kindred, make much of your friends--and a friend you have been to him, Barbara."
"Well, then, I have done my best; and friends are to be taken with their faults. To-day I shall talk to David; for the spring comes on so quickly, and I heard that my son's ship had been spoke in the Iceland seas."
"It is long now since Nanna's baby died, and she still weeps without end for her. She ought to try and forget. It was but a sickly child, and never like to be world-wise or world-useful."
"I wouldn't say such words, Sally," answered Barbara, with some warmth. "No one can tell a mother, 'Thy heart shall not remember.' I have laid in earth five children, and do you think I ever slunk away from heartache by forgetting them? No, indeed! I would have counted that treason against my own soul."
"God's blessing! there is none wants to contradict you, Barbara. Don't be so hasty, woman. But you know there has been death and weeping in many houses besides Nanna's this winter."
"To be sure," acknowledged Barbara. "Death has asked no man's leave to enter; he has gone into the rich man's house as well as into poor Nanna's hut."
"Every door is wide enough for a coffin."
"Yes; and the minister said last Sabbath that it was this which dissatisfied us with these habitations of clay, and made us lift our eyes to those eternal in the heavens."
"Well, then, to come back to David," said Sally, "he is good, and able to marry. He has saved money, no doubt. Some young men spend their last bawbee, and just live between ebb and flow. That isn't David Borson. Besides, Barbara, you ought to tell him how people are talking."
"I may do that. David is imprudent, and Nanna is too miserable to care. Well, then, those who kindle the fire must put up with the smoke; yet, for all that, I shall have a word or two for him, and that very soon."
David had been at sea all night, and while this conversation was going on he was sleeping; but in the afternoon, as Barbara saw him preparing to go to Nanna's, she said:
"Stay a minute, David Borson. I want to speak to you. I had good news early this morning. My son's ship was met not so far away, and he may get home at any time, and me not thinking of it."
"I am glad to hear it, Barbara. Then, also, you will want my room. I must look for a new place, and that is bad for me."
"I was thinking of Nanna Sinclair," said Barbara, in a musing manner. "People do talk about you and her. I have heard say--"
"'I have heard say' is half a lie," answered David.
"I think that too; but Nanna's good name is to be thought of, and a man does not go every day to see a woman for nothing."
Then David leaped to his feet with a face like a flame. "The shortest and best answer is doing the thing," he muttered; and he walked straight to Nanna's house, telling himself as he went, "I have been too long about it; I must speak now, and she must answer me."
He was in his fishing-garb, for he intended going to sea with the tide then rising; but he thought no more of dressing for the interview than he thought of preparing his speeches. Hitherto he had in a manner drifted with the current of his great affection, never consciously asking himself where it was bearing him; but if people were talking about Nanna, then he must take away all occasion for suspicion--he must at once ask Nanna to be his wife. And as soon as he took the first step toward her he felt how close and dear she had become to him. He knew then that if Nanna was lost all the world would be nothing. She had grown into his life as the sea and the stars had grown, and he shrank from any thought that could imply separation. He walked with rapid steps across the moor, feeling dimly the beauty of the spring afternoon, with its haze of gold and purple on the horizon, where the gray clouds opened out in wistful stretches of daffodil skies.
The door of Nanna's house stood open, and the wind, full of the sharp salt savor of the sea, blew life into the little room. Nanna was busy with her knitting, and the soft, lace-like shawl lay upon her knee. David shut the door and went to her side. His heart was too full to hesitate or to choose words; the simplest were the best.
"Nanna, I have found out that I love you," he said. "Nanna, dearest woman, do you hear me?"
Then her cheeks burned rosy, and she looked at David, and her hands trembled, and the work fell from them.
"Love me a little, my dear! Love me, Nanna!"
"I do love you, David. Who in all the world have I but you?" And the beautiful woman stood up, and he took her within his arms and kissed her.
For a moment or two David was happy. His large, fair face shone; he laughed softly as he drew Nanna to his breast. He was really as intoxicated with joy as some men are with wine.
"We will be married next week, Nanna," he said; "this week--to-morrow, if you will. It has come to this: I must leave Barbara, and there is a house empty close to the quay, and it shall be our home, Nanna; for I have sixty pounds, my dear woman, and at last, at last--"
Before he reached this point he was sensible of some chill or dissent, but he was not prepared for Nanna's answer:
"David, why do you talk of marrying? It is ever that. I will not marry."
"Not yet, Nanna? Is it too soon? But why for a dead man will you keep me waiting?"
"I think not of any dead man."
"Is it Vala? Vala would rejoice in our happiness."
"I will not marry--no, not any man living."
"Why did you say that you loved me?"
"I do love you."
"No; you do not."
He put her gently away from him, and looked at her with a somber sternness. "You do not love me," he continued. "If you did, you would put me first; you would say, 'I will be your wife.' You would delight to make me happy--I, who have never been happy but in sharing your joys and sorrows."
"O David, I do love you!"
"Then be my wife."
"I cannot! I cannot!"
"Then you love me as light, vain women love: to make slaves of men, and bring them back and back to be hurt. It is not to be so with me. No, indeed! Farewell, Nanna."
His voice failed him. He turned toward the door, and for a moment Nanna could not realize that he was actually bidding her a final farewell. When she did she flew to his side, and arrested his hand as he was opening the door.
"Come back! Come back, David!" she entreated. "You are all wrong; you are very cruel to me. If you leave me it will break my heart! It will be the last blow, David. It is the very truth."
He hesitated enough to make Nanna weep with passionate distress, and this emotion he was not able to bear. He took her within his arm again, led her to a chair, and sat down at her side, and as he kissed the tears from her face said:
"If indeed you do love me, Nanna--"
"If I do love you!" she interrupted. "I love none but you. You are heart of my heart and soul of my soul. I hear you coming when you are half a mile away. I have no joy but when you are beside me. I shall die of grief if you leave me in anger. I would count it heaven and earth to be your wife, but I dare not! I dare not!"
She was sobbing piteously when she ended this protestation, and David comforted her with caresses and tender words. "What fears you, Nanna?" he asked. "Oh, my dear, what fears you?"
"This is what I fear," she answered, freeing herself from his embrace, and looking steadily at him. "This is what I fear, David. If we were married I might have another child--I might have many children."
Then he clasped her hand tightly, for he began to see where Nanna was leading him, as she continued with slow solemnity:
"Can you, can the minister, can any human being, give me assurance they will be elect children? If you can, I will be your wife to-morrow. If you cannot, as the God of my father lives, I will not bring sons and daughters into life for sin and sorrow here, and for perdition hereafter. The devil shall not so use my body! To people hell? No; I will not--not even for your love, David!"
Her words, so passionate and positive, moved him deeply. He was the old David again--the light, the gladness, all but the tender, mournful love of the past, gone from his face. He held both her hands, and he looked down at them lying in his own as he answered:
"Both of us are His children, Nanna. We are His by generations and by covenant. He has promised mercy to such. Well, then, we may have a reasonable hope--"
"Hope! No, no, David! I must have something better than hope. I hoped for Vala, and my hope has been my hell. And as for the child--my God! where is the child?"
"We love God, Nanna, and the children of the righteous--"
"Are no safer than the children of the wicked, David. I have thought of this continually. There was John Beaton's son; he killed a man, and died on the gallows-tree, to the shame and the heartbreak of his good father and mother. The lad had been baptized, too,--given to God when he drew his first breath,--and God must have rejected him. Minister Stuart's son forged a note, and was sent with felons across the sea. His father and mother had prayed for him all the days of his life; he was brought to the kirk and given to God in baptism; and God must have rejected him also. Think of good Stephen and Anna Blair's children. Their daughter's name cannot be spoken any more, and their sons are bringing down their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave--with sorrow and shame too. Go through the whole kirk, the whole town, the islands themselves, and you will be forced to say, David, that it is the children of the righteous that go to the devil."
"It is the truth, David. How the good God can treat his bairns so, I know not; but you and I may also deserve his wrath in like manner. I am feared to hope different. O David, I am feared to be a mother again!"
"Nanna! Nanna! what can I say?"
"There is nothing to say. If I should meet Vala in that place where infants 'earnestly desire to see and love God, and yet are not able to do so,' I should cover my face before the child. If she blamed me, I should shiver in speechless agony; if she did not blame me, it would be still harder to bear. Were we only sure--but we are not sure."
"We are not sure." David repeated the words with a sad significance. Nanna's argument, evolved from her own misery and illustrated by that misery, had been before David's eyes for months. He could not escape from such reasoning and from such proof, and his whole life, education, and experience went to enforce the pitiful dilemma in which their love had placed them.
"It is His will, and we must bear it to the uttermost," continued Nanna, with a sorrowful resignation.
"I am very wretched, Nanna."
"So am I, David, very wretched indeed. I used to think monks and nuns, and such as made a merit of not marrying, were all wrong; maybe they are nearer right than we think for. Doubtless they have a tender conscience toward God, and a tender conscience is what he loves."
Then David rose from Nanna's side and walked rapidly to and fro in the room. Motion helped him to no solution of the tremendous difficulty. And Nanna's patient face, her fixed outward gaze, the spiritual light of resolute decision in her eyes, gave to her appearance an austere beauty that made him feel as if this offering up of their love and all its earthly sweetness was a sacrifice already tied to the horns of the altar, and fully accepted.
Now, the law of duty lay very close to David's thoughts; it was an ever-present consciousness, haunting his very being; but the sensual nature always shrinks away from it. David sat down and covered his face with his hands, and began to weep--to sob as strong men sob when their sorrow is greater than they can bear; as they never sob until the last drop, the bitterest drop of all, is added--the belief that God has forsaken them. This was the agony which tore David's great, fond heart in two. It forced from him the first pitiful words of reproach against his God:
"I was sure at last that I was going to be happy, and God is not willing. From my youth up he has ay laid upon me the rod of correction. I wish that I had never been born!"
"My poor lad! but you are not meaning it." And Nanna put her arms around his neck and wept with him. For some minutes he let her do so, for he was comforted by her sympathy; but at last he stood up, passed his hand across his eyes, and said as bravely as he could:
"You are right, Nanna. If you feel in this way, I dare not force your conscience. But I must go away until I get over the sore disappointment."
"Where will you go to, David?"
"Who can tell? The countries in which I may have to earn and eat my bread I know not. But if I was seeing you every day, I might get to feel hard at God."
"No, no! He fashioned us, David, and he knows what falls and sore hurts we must get before we learn to step sure and safe."
"In the end it may all be right. I know not. But this I know: pain and cold and hunger and weariness and loneliness I have borne with a prayer and a tight mouth, and I have never said before that I thought him cruel hard."
"His ways are not cruel, my dear love; they are only past our finding out. The eternal which makes for righteousness cannot be cruel. And if we could see God with our eyes, and hear him with our ears, and understand him with our reason, what grace would there be in believing in him? Did not the minister say last Sabbath that our life was hid with Christ in God, and that therefore God must first be pierced ere we could be hurt or prejudiced? Then let us take what comfort we can in each other's affection, David, and just try and believe that God's ways are the very best of all ways for us."
"And don't leave me, David. I can bear all things if you are near to help and comfort me."
"Ay, ay; but women are different. I cannot fight the temptation when I am in it; I must run away from it. Farewell! Oh, dear, dear Nanna, farewell!"
He kissed the words upon her lips, and went hastily out of the house; but when he had walked about one hundred yards he returned. Nanna had thrown herself despairingly upon the rude couch made for Vala, and on which the child had spent most of her life. There Nanna lay like one dead. David knelt down by her; he took her within his arms, kissed her closed eyes, and murmured again upon her lips his last words of love and sorrow. Her patient acceptance of her hard lot made him quiver with pain, but he knew well that for a time, at least, they must each bear their grief alone.
Nanna's confession of her love for him had made everything different. In her presence now he had not the power to control his longing for reciprocal affection. He felt already a blind resentment and rebellion against fate--a sense of wrong, which it was hard to submit to. But how could he fight circumstances whose foundations were in eternity? At this hour, at least, he had come to the limit of his reason and his endurance. Again and again he kissed Nanna farewell, and it was like tearing his life asunder when he put away her clinging arms and left her alone with the terrible problem that separated their lives.
There is something worse than the pang of keenest suffering--the passive state of a subjugated heart. A dismal, sullen stillness succeeded to David's angry sorrow. He avoided Barbara and shut himself in his room. And his strong and awful prepossession in favor of the Bible led him, first of all, to go to the book. But he found no help there. His soul was tossed from top to bottom, and he was vanquished by the war in his own bosom. For in our wrestling alone angels do not always come. And David brought his dogmas over and over to the Scriptures, and was crushed spiritually between them, so that at last, worn out with the mental and heart struggle, he submitted to the fatality he could not alter.
"I will go the right road," he said, "however cruel that road may be. Then death may give me back to God a miserable man, but not a guilty one."
And he did not comprehend that, in thus preferring an unseen duty because it was right to a seen pleasure because it was pleasant, he was consummating that sublime act of faith whose cry of victory is, "Thy will be done."
Nanna did not suffer so much. In the first place, the pale, sad, almost despairing woman was glad and dared, in her despair, because the man she loved durst not sin, even for her. In the second, her battle was practically over. She had been in the van of it for months, and had come gradually to that state of submission which fears to resist, lest resistance might be found to be fighting against God. While David was yet in an agony of struggle with his love and his desires, his tender conscience and his dread of offending the Deity, Nanna had washed away her tears, and was strengthening her heart by saying continually, as the glancing needles glided to and fro:
My God and Father, while I stray Far from my home, on life's rough way, Oh, teach me from my heart to say, "Thy will be done!"
For some dauntless, primitive confidence in the love of the Maker of men is older than any creed. And there were yet hours when Nanna's soul outleaped its mortal shadow and had mystic flashes, native and sweet, beyond the reach of will and endeavor--intimations of serenities and compensations which would be neither small nor long delayed.