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´╗┐Title: The Reign of Law; a tale of the Kentucky hemp fields
Author: Allen, James Lane, 1849-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Reign of Law; a tale of the Kentucky hemp fields" ***


THE REIGN OF LAW

A TALE OF THE KENTUCKY HEMP FIELDS


BY

JAMES LANE ALLEN



  DEDICATION

  TO THE MEMORY OF A FATHER AND MOTHER WHOSE SELF-SACRIFICE, HIGH
  SYMPATHY, AND DEVOTION THE WRITING OF THIS STORY HAS CAUSED TO LIVE
  AFRESH IN THE EVER-GROWING, NEVER-AGING, GRATITUDE OF THEIR SON


JTABLE 5 23 1

THE REIGN OF LAW


HEMP


The Anglo-Saxon farmers had scarce conquered foothold, stronghold,
freehold in the Western wilderness before they became sowers of
hemp--with remembrance of Virginia, with remembrance of dear ancestral
Britain. Away back in the days when they lived with wife, child, flock
in frontier wooden fortresses and hardly ventured forth for water,
salt, game, tillage--in the very summer of that wild daylight ride of
Tomlinson and Bell, by comparison with which, my children, the midnight
ride of Paul Revere, was as tame as the pitching of a rocking-horse in
a boy's nursery--on that history-making twelfth of August, of the year
1782, when these two backwoods riflemen, during that same Revolution
the Kentuckians then fighting a branch of that same British army,
rushed out of Bryan's Station for the rousing of the settlements and
the saving of the West--hemp was growing tall and thick near the walls
of the fort.

Hemp in Kentucky in 1782--early landmark in the history of the soil, of
the people. Cultivated first for the needs of cabin and clearing
solely; for twine and rope, towel and table, sheet and shirt. By and by
not for cabin and clearing only; not for tow-homespun, fur-clad
Kentucky alone. To the north had begun the building of ships, American
ships for American commerce, for American arms, for a nation which
Nature had herself created and had distinguished as a sea-faring race.
To the south had begun the raising of cotton. As the great period of
shipbuilding went on--greatest during the twenty years or more ending
in 1860; as the great period of cotton-raising and cotton-baling went
on--never so great before as that in that same year--the two parts of
the nation looked equally to the one border plateau lying between them,
to several counties of Kentucky, for most of the nation's hemp. It was
in those days of the North that the CONSTITUTION was rigged with
Russian hemp on one side, with American hemp on the other, for a
patriotic test of the superiority of home-grown, home-prepared fibre;
and thanks to the latter, before those days ended with the outbreak of
the Civil War, the country had become second to Great Britain alone in
her ocean craft, and but little behind that mistress of the seas. So
that in response to this double demand for hemp on the American ship
and hemp on the southern plantation, at the close of that period of
national history on land and sea, from those few counties of Kentucky,
in the year 1859, were taken well-nigh forty thousand tons of the
well-cleaned bast.

What history it wrought in those years, directly for the republic,
indirectly for the world! What ineffaceable marks it left on Kentucky
itself, land, land-owners! To make way for it, a forest the like of
which no human eye will ever see again was felled; and with the forest
went its pastures, its waters. The roads of Kentucky, those long
limestone turnpikes connecting the towns and villages with the
farms--they were early made necessary by the hauling of the hemp. For
the sake of it slaves were perpetually being trained, hired, bartered;
lands perpetually rented and sold; fortunes made or lost. The advancing
price of farms, the westward movement of poor families and consequent
dispersion of the Kentuckians over cheaper territory, whither they
carried the same passion for the cultivation of the same plant,--thus
making Missouri the second hemp-producing state in the Union,--the
regulation of the hours in the Kentucky cabin, in the house, at the
rope-walk, in the factory,--what phase of life went unaffected by the
pursuit and fascination of it. Thought, care, hope of the farmer
oftentimes throughout the entire year! Upon it depending, it may be,
the college of his son, the accomplishments of his daughter, the
luxuries of his wife, the house he would build, the stock he could own.
His own pleasures also: his deer hunting in the South, his fox hunting
at home, his fishing on the great lakes, his excursions on the old
floating palaces of the Mississippi down to New Orleans--all these
depending in large measure upon his hemp, that thickest gold-dust of
his golden acres.

With the Civil War began the long decline, lasting still. The record
stands that throughout the one hundred and twenty-five odd years
elapsing from the entrance of the Anglo-Saxon farmers into the
wilderness down to the present time, a few counties of Kentucky have
furnished army and navy, the entire country, with all but a small part
of the native hemp consumed. Little comparatively is cultivated in
Kentucky now. The traveller may still see it here and there, crowning
those ever-renewing, self-renewing inexhaustible fields. But the time
cannot be far distant when the industry there will have become extinct.
Its place in the nation's markets will be still further taken by
metals, by other fibres, by finer varieties of the same fibre, by the
same variety cultivated in soils less valuable. The history of it in
Kentucky will be ended, and, being ended, lost.

Some morning when the roar of March winds is no more heard in the
tossing woods, but along still brown boughs a faint, veil-like
greenness runs; when every spring, welling out of the soaked earth,
trickles through banks of sod unbarred by ice; before a bee is abroad
under the calling sky; before the red of apple-buds becomes a sign in
the low orchards, or the high song of the thrush is pouring forth far
away at wet pale-green sunsets, the sower, the earliest sower of the
hemp, goes forth into the fields.

Warm they must be, soft and warm, those fields, its chosen birthplace.
Up-turned by the plough, crossed and recrossed by the harrow, clodless,
levelled, deep, fine, fertile--some extinct river-bottom, some valley
threaded by streams, some table-land of mild rays, moist airs, alluvial
or limestone soils--such is the favorite cradle of the hemp in Nature.
Back and forth with measured tread, with measured distance, broadcast
the sower sows, scattering with plenteous hand those small oval-shaped
fruits, gray-green, black-striped, heavily packed with living marrow.

Lightly covered over by drag or harrow, under the rolled earth now they
lie, those mighty, those inert seeds. Down into the darkness about them
the sun rays penetrate day by day, stroking them with the brushes of
light, prodding them with spears of flame. Drops of nightly dews, drops
from the coursing clouds, trickle down to them, moistening the dryness,
closing up the little hollows of the ground, drawing the particles of
maternal earth more closely. Suddenly--as an insect that has been
feigning death cautiously unrolls itself and starts into action--in
each seed the great miracle of life begins. Each awakens as from a
sleep, as from pretended death. It starts, it moves, it bursts its
ashen woody shell, it takes two opposite courses, the white,
fibril-tapered root hurrying away from the sun; the tiny stem, bearing
its lance-like leaves, ascending graceful, brave like a palm.

Some morning, not many days later, the farmer, walking out into his
barn lot and casting a look in the direction of his field, sees--or
does he not see?--the surface of it less dark. What is that uncertain
flush low on the ground, that irresistible rush of multitudinous green?
A fortnight, and the field is brown no longer. Overflowing it, burying
it out of sight, is the shallow tidal sea of the hemp, ever rippling.
Green are the woods now with their varied greenness. Green are the
pastures. Green here and there are the fields: with the bluish green of
young oats and wheat; with the gray green of young barley and rye: with
orderly dots of dull dark green in vast array--the hills of Indian
maize. But as the eye sweeps the whole landscape undulating far and
near, from the hues of tree, pasture, and corn of every kind, it turns
to the color of the hemp. With that in view, all other shades in nature
seem dead and count for nothing. Far reflected, conspicuous, brilliant,
strange; masses of living emerald, saturated with blazing sunlight.

Darker, always darker turns the hemp as it rushes upward: scarce darker
as to the stemless stalks which are hidden now; but darker in the tops.
Yet here two shades of greenness: the male plants paler, smaller,
maturing earlier, dying first; the females darker, taller, living
longer, more luxuriant of foliage and flowering heads.

A hundred days from the sowing, and those flowering heads have come
forth with their mass of leaves and bloom and earliest fruits, elastic,
swaying six, ten, twelve feet from the ground and ripe for cutting. A
hundred days reckoning from the last of March or the last of April, so
that it is July, it is August. And now, borne far through the steaming
air floats an odor, balsamic, startling: the odor of those plumes and
stalks and blossoms from which is exuding freely the narcotic resin of
the great nettle. The nostril expands quickly, the lungs swell out
deeply to draw it in: fragrance once known in childhood, ever in the
memory afterward and able to bring back to the wanderer homesick
thoughts of midsummer days in the shadowy, many-toned woods, over into
which is blown the smell of the hemp-fields.

Who apparently could number the acres of these in the days gone by? A
land of hemp, ready for the cutting! The oats heavy-headed, rustling,
have turned to gold and been stacked in the stubble or stored in the
lofts of white, bursting barns. The heavy-headed, rustling wheat has
turned to gold and been stacked in the stubble or sent through the
whirling thresher. The barley and the rye are garnered and gone, the
landscape has many bare and open spaces. But separating these
everywhere, rise the fields of Indian corn now in blade and tassel;
and--more valuable than all else that has been sown and harvested or
remains to be--everywhere the impenetrable thickets of the hemp.

Impenetrable! For close together stand the stalks, making common cause
for soil and light, each but one of many, the fibre being better when
so grown--as is also the fibre of men. Impenetrable and therefore
weedless; for no plant life can flourish there, nor animal nor bird.
Scarce a beetle runs bewilderingly through those forbidding colossal
solitudes. The field-sparrow will flutter away from pollen-bearing to
pollen-receiving top, trying to beguile you from its nest hidden near
the edge. The crow and the blackbird will seem to love it, having a
keen eye for the cutworm, its only enemy. The quail does love it, not
for itself, but for its protection, leading her brood into its
labyrinths out of the dusty road when danger draws near. Best of all
winged creatures it is loved by the iris-eyed, burnish-breasted,
murmuring doves, already beginning to gather in the deadened tree-tops
with crops eager for the seed. Well remembered also by the long-flight
passenger pigeon, coming into the land for the mast. Best of all wild
things whose safety lies not in the wing but in the foot, it is loved
by the hare for its young, for refuge. Those lithe, velvety,
summer-thin bodies! Observe carefully the tops of the still hemp: are
they slightly shaken? Among the bases of those stalks a cotton-tail is
threading its way inward beyond reach of its pursuer. Are they shaken
violently, parted clean and wide to right and left? It is the path of
the dog following the hot scent--ever baffled.

A hundred days to lift out of those tiny seed these powerful stalks,
hollow, hairy, covered with their tough fibre,--that strength of cables
when the big ships are tugged at by the joined fury of wind and ocean.
And now some morning at the corner of the field stand the black men
with hooks and whetstones. The hook, a keen, straight blade, bent at
right angles to the handle two feet from the hand. Let these men be the
strongest; no weakling can handle the hemp from seed to seed again. A
heart, the doors and walls of which are in perfect order, through which
flows freely the full stream of a healthy man's red blood; lungs deep,
clear, easily filled, easily emptied; a body that can bend and twist
and be straightened again in ceaseless rhythmical movement; limbs
tireless; the very spirit of primeval man conquering primeval
nature--all these go into the cutting of the hemp. The leader strides
to the edge, and throwing forward his left arm, along which the muscles
play, he grasps as much as it will embrace, bends the stalks over, and
with his right hand draws the blade through them an inch or more from
the ground. When he has gathered his armful, he turns and flings it
down behind him, so that it lies spread out, covering when fallen the
same space it filled while standing. And so he crosses the broad acres,
and so each of the big black followers, stepping one by one to a place
behind him, until the long, wavering, whitish green swaths of the
prostrate hemp lie shimmering across the fields. Strongest now is the
smell of it, impregnating the clothing of the men, spreading far
throughout the air.

So it lies a week or more drying, dying, till the sap is out of the
stalks, till leaves and blossoms and earliest ripened or un-ripened
fruits wither and drop off, giving back to the soil the nourishment
they have drawn from it; the whole top being thus otherwise
wasted--that part of the hemp which every year the dreamy millions of
the Orient still consume in quantities beyond human computation, and
for the love of which the very history of this plant is lost in the
antiquity of India and Persia, its home--land of narcotics and desires
and dreams.

Then the rakers with enormous wooden rakes; they draw the stalks into
bundles, tying each with the hemp itself. Following the binders, move
the wagon-beds or slides, gathering the bundles and carrying them to
where, huge, flat, and round, the stacks begin to rise. At last these
are well built; the gates of the field are closed or the bars put up;
wagons and laborers are gone; the brown fields stand deserted.

One day something is gone from earth and sky: Autumn has come, season
of scales and balances, when the Earth, brought to judgment for its
fruits, says, "I have done what I could--now let me rest!"

Fall!--and everywhere the sights and sounds of falling. In the woods,
through the cool silvery air, the leaves, so indispensable once, so
useless now. Bright day after bright day, dripping night after dripping
night, the never-ending filtering or gusty fall of leaves. The fall of
walnuts, dropping from bare boughs with muffled boom into the deep
grass. The fall of the hickory-nut, rattling noisily down through the
scaly limbs and scattering its hulls among the stones of the brook
below.

The fall of buckeyes, rolling like balls of mahogany into the little
dust paths made by sheep in the hot months when they had sought those
roofs of leaves. The fall of acorns, leaping out of their matted, green
cups as they strike the rooty earth. The fall of red haw, persimmon,
and pawpaw, and the odorous wild plum in its valley thickets. The fall
of all seeds whatsoever of the forest, now made ripe in their high
places and sent back to the ground, there to be folded in against the
time when they shall arise again as the living generations; the homing,
downward flight of the seeds in the many-colored woods all over the
quiet land.

In the fields, too, the sights and sounds of falling, the fall of the
standing fatness. The silent fall of the tobacco, to be hung head
downward in fragrant sheds and barns. The felling whack of the
corn-knife and the rustling of the blades, as the workman gathers
within his arm the top-heavy stalks and presses them into the bulging
shock. The fall of pumpkins into the slow-drawn wagons, the shaded side
of them still white with the morning rime. In the orchards, the fall of
apples shaken thunderously down, and the piling of these in sprawling
heaps near the cider mills. In the vineyards the fall of sugaring
grapes into the baskets and the bearing of them to the winepress in the
cool sunshine, where there is the late droning of bees about the sweet
pomace.

But of all that the earth has yielded with or without the farmer's
help, of all that he can call his own within the limits of his land,
nothing pleases him better than those still, brown fields where the
shapely stacks stand amid the deadened trees. Two months have passed,
the workmen are at it again. The stacks are torn down, the bundles
scattered, the hemp spread out as once before. There to lie till it
shall be dew-retted or rotted; there to suffer freeze and thaw, chill
rains, locking frosts and loosening snows--all the action of the
elements--until the gums holding together the filaments of the fibre
rot out and dissolve, until the bast be separated from the woody
portion of the stalk, and the stalk itself be decayed and easily broken.

Some day you walk across the spread hemp, your foot goes through at
each step, you stoop and taking several stalks, snap them readily in
your fingers. The ends stick out clean apart; and lo! hanging between
them, there it is at last--a festoon of wet, coarse, dark gray riband,
wealth of the hemp, sail of the wild Scythian centuries before Horace
ever sang of him, sail of the Roman, dress of the Saxon and Celt, dress
of the Kentucky pioneer.

The rakers reappear at intervals of dry weather, and draw the hemp into
armfuls and set it up in shocks of convenient size, wide flared at the
bottom, well pressed in and bound at the top, so that the slanting
sides may catch the drying sun and the sturdy base resist the strong
winds. And now the fields are as the dark brown camps of armies--each
shock a soldier's tent. Yet not dark always; at times snow-covered; and
then the white tents gleam for miles in the winter sunshine--the
snow-white tents of the camping hemp.

Throughout the winter and on into early spring, as days may be warm or
the hemp dry, the breaking continues. At each nightfall, cleaned and
baled, it is hauled on wagon-beds or slides to the barns or the
hemphouses, where it is weighed for the work and wages of the day.

Last of all, the brakes having been taken from the field, some
night--dear sport for the lads!--takes place the burning of the
"hempherds," thus returning their elements to the soil. To kindle a
handful of tow and fling it as a firebrand into one of those masses of
tinder; to see the flames spread and the sparks rush like swarms of red
bees skyward through the smoke into the awful abysses of the night; to
run from gray heap to gray heap, igniting the long line of signal
fires, until the whole earth seems a conflagration and the heavens are
as rosy as at morn; to look far away and descry on the horizon an array
of answering lights; not in one direction only, but leagues away, to
see the fainter ever fainter glow of burning hempherds--this, too, is
one of the experiences, one of the memories.

And now along the turnpikes the great loaded creaking wagons pass
slowly to the towns, bearing the hemp to the factories, thence to be
scattered over land and sea. Some day, when the winds of March are
dying down, the sower enters the field and begins where he began twelve
months before.

A round year of the earth's changes enters into the creation of the
hemp. The planet has described its vast orbit ere it be grown and
finished. All seasons are its servitors; all contradictions and
extremes of nature meet in its making. The vernal patience of the
warming soil; the long, fierce arrows of the summer heat, the long,
silvery arrows of the summer rain; autumn's dead skies and sobbing
winds; winter's sternest, all-tightening frosts. Of none but strong
virtues is it the sum. Sickness or infirmity it knows not. It will have
a mother young and vigorous, or none; an old or weak or exhausted soil
cannot produce it. It will endure no roof of shade, basking only in the
eye of the fatherly sun, and demanding the whole sky for the walls of
its nursery.

Ah! type, too, of our life, which also is earth-sown, earth-rooted;
which must struggle upward, be cut down, rotted and broken, ere the
separation take place between our dross and our worth--poor perishable
shard and immortal fibre. Oh, the mystery, the mystery of that growth
from the casting of the soul as a seed into the dark earth, until the
time when, led through all natural changes and cleansed of weakness, it
is borne from the fields of its nativity for the long service.



I


The century just past had not begun the race of its many-footed years
when a neighborhood of Kentucky pioneers, settled throughout the green
valleys of the silvery Elkhorn, built a church in the wilderness, and
constituted themselves a worshipping association. For some time peace
of one sort prevailed among them, if no peace of any other sort was
procurable around. But by and by there arose sectarian quarrels with
other backwoods folk who also wished to worship God in Kentucky, and
hot personal disputes among the members--as is the eternal law. So that
the church grew as grow infusorians and certain worms,--by fissure, by
periodical splittings and breakings to pieces, each spontaneous
division becoming a new organism. The first church, however, for all
that it split off and cast off, seemed to lose nothing of its vitality
or fighting qualities spiritual and physical (the strenuous life in
those days!); and there came a time when it took offence at one
particular man in its membership on account of the liberality of his
religious opinions. This settler, an old Indian fighter whose vast
estate lay about halfway between the church and the nearest village,
had built himself a good brick house in the Virginian style; and it was
his pleasure and his custom to ask travelling preachers to rest under
his roof as they rode hither and thither throughout the
wilderness--Zion's weather-beaten, solitary scouts.

While giving entertainment to man and beast, if a Sunday came round, he
would further invite his guest, no matter what kind of faith the vessel
held, if it only held any faith, to ride with him through the woods and
preach to his brethren. This was the front of his offending. For since
he seemed brother to men of every creed, they charged that he was no
longer of THEIR faith (the only true one). They considered his case,
and notified him that it was their duty under God to expel him.

After the sermon one Sunday morning of summer the scene took place.
They had asked what he had to say, and silence had followed. Not far
from the church doors the bright Elkhorn (now nearly dry) swept past in
its stately shimmering flood. The rush of the water over the stopped
mill-wheel, that earliest woodland music of civilization, sounded loud
amid the suspense and the stillness.

He rose slowly from his seat on the bench in front of the pulpit--for
he was a deacon--and turned squarely at them; speechless just then, for
he was choking with rage.

"My brethren," he said at length slowly, for he would not speak until
he had himself under control, "I think we all remember what it is to be
persecuted for religion's sake. Long before we came together in
Spottsylvania County, Virginia, and organized ourselves into a church
and travelled as a church over the mountains into this wilderness,
worshipping by the way, we knew what it was to be persecuted. Some of
us were sent to jail for preaching the Gospel and kept there; we
preached to the people through the bars of our dungeons. Mobs were
collected outside to drown our voices; we preached the louder and some
jeered, but some felt sorry and began to serve God. They burned matches
and pods of red pepper to choke us; they hired strolls to beat drums
that we might not be heard for the din. Some of us knew what it was to
have live snakes thrown into our assemblages while at worship; or nests
of live hornets. Or to have a crowd rush into the church with farming
tools and whips and clubs. Or to see a gun levelled at one of us in the
pulpit, and to be dispersed with firearms. Harder than any of these
things to stand, we have known what it is to be slandered. But no
single man of us, thank God, ever stopped for these things or for
anything. Thirty years and more this lasted, until we and all such as
we found a friend in Patrick Henry. Now, we hear that by statute all
religious believers in Virginia have been made equal as respects the
rights and favors of the law.

"But you know it was partly to escape intolerable tyranny that we left
our mother country and travelled a path paved with suffering and lined
with death into this wilderness. For in this virgin land we thought we
should be free to worship God according to our consciences."

"Since we arrived you know what our life has been,--how we have fought
and toiled and suffered all things together. You recall how lately it
was that when we met in the woods for worship,--having no church and no
seats,--we men listened and sang and prayed with our rifles on our
shoulders."

He paused, for the memories hurt him cruelly.

"And now you notify me that you intend to expel me from this church as
a man no longer fit to worship my Maker in your company. Do you bring
any charge against my life, my conduct? None. Nothing but that, as a
believer in the living God--whom honestly I try to serve according to
my erring light--I can no longer have a seat among you--not believing
as you believe. But this is the same tyranny that you found unendurable
in Spottsylvania. You have begun it in Kentucky. You have been at it
already how long? Well, my brethren, I'll soon end your tyranny over
me. You need not TURN me out. And I need not change my religious
opinions. I will GO out. But--"

He wheeled round to the rough pulpit on which lay the copy of the Bible
that they had brought with them from Virginia, their Ark of the
Covenant on the way, seized it, and faced them again. He strode toward
the congregation as far as the benches would allow--not seeing clearly,
for he was sightless with his tears.

"But," he roared, and as he spoke he struck the Bible repeatedly with
his clenched fist, "by the Almighty, I will build a church of my own to
Him! To Him! do you hear? not to your opinions of Him nor mine nor any
man's! I will cut off a parcel of my farm and make a perpetual deed of
it in the courts, to be held in trust forever. And while the earth
stands, it shall stand, free to all Christian believers. I will build a
school-house and a meeting-house, where any child may be free to learn
and any man or woman free to worship."

He put the Bible back with shaking arms and turned on them again.

"As for you, my brethren," he said, his face purple and distorted with
passion, "you may be saved in your crooked, narrow way, if the mercy of
God is able to do it. But you are close to the jaws of Hell this day!"

He went over into a corner for his hat, took his wife by the hand and
held it tightly, gathered the flock of his children before him, and
drove them out of the church. He mounted his horse, lifted his wife to
her seat behind him, saw his children loaded on two other horses, and,
leading the way across the creek, disappeared in the wilderness.



II


Some sixty-five years later, one hot day of midsummer in 1865--one
Saturday afternoon--a lad was cutting weeds in a woodland pasture; a
big, raw-boned, demure boy of near eighteen.

He had on heavy shoes, the toes green with grass stain; the leather so
seasoned by morning dews as to be like wood for hardness. These were to
keep his feet protected from briers or from the bees scattered upon the
wild white clover or from the terrible hidden thorns of the
honey-locust. No socks. A pair of scant homespun trousers, long
outgrown. A coarse clean shirt. His big shock-head thatched with yellow
straw, a dilapidated sun-and-rain shed.

The lanky young giant cut and cut and cut: great purple-bodied poke,
strung with crimson-juiced seed; great burdock, its green burrs a
plague; great milkweed, its creamy sap gushing at every gash; great
thistles, thousand-nettled; great ironweed, plumed with royal purple;
now and then a straggling bramble prone with velvety berries--the
outpost of a patch behind him; now and then--more carefully, lest he
notch his blade--low sprouts of wild cane, survivals of the
impenetrable brakes of pioneer days. All these and more, the rank,
mighty measure of the soil's fertility--low down.

Measure of its fertility aloft, the tops of the trees, from which the
call of the red-headed woodpecker sounded as faint as the memory of a
sound and the bark of the squirrels was elfin-thin. A hot crowded land,
crammed with undergrowth and overgrowth wherever a woodland stood; and
around every woodland dense cornfields; or, denser still, the leagues
of swaying hemp. The smell of this now lay heavy on the air, seeming to
be dragged hither and thither like a slow scum on the breeze, like a
moss on a sluggish pond. A deep robust land; and among its growths
he--this lad, in his way a self-unconscious human weed, the seed of his
kind borne in from far some generations back, but springing out of the
soil naturally now, sap of its sap, strength of its strength.

He paused by and by and passed his forefinger across his forehead,
brushing the sweat away from above his quiet eyes. He moistened the tip
of his thumb and slid it along the blade of his hemp hook--he was using
that for lack of a scythe. Turning, he walked back to the edge of the
brier thicket, sat down in the shade of a black walnut, threw off his
tattered head-gear, and, reaching for his bucket of water covered with
poke leaves, lifted it to his lips and drank deeply, gratefully. Then
he drew a whetstone from his pocket, spat on it, and fell to sharpening
his blade.

The heat of his work, the stifling air, the many-toned woods, the sense
of the vast summering land--these things were not in his thoughts. Some
days before, despatched from homestead to homestead, rumors had reached
him away off here at work on his father's farm, of a great university
to be opened the following autumn at Lexington. The like of it with its
many colleges Kentucky, the South, the Mississippi valley had never
seen. It had been the talk among the farming people in their harvest
fields, at the cross-roads, on their porches--the one deep sensation
among them since the war.

For solemn, heart-stirring as such tidings would have been at any other
time, more so at this. Here, on the tableland of this unique border
state, Kentucky--between the halves of the nation lately at
strife--scene of their advancing and retreating armies--pit of a
frenzied commonwealth--here was to arise this calm university, pledge
of the new times, plea for the peace and amity of learning, fresh
chance for study of the revelation of the Lord of Hosts and God of
battles. The animosities were over, the humanities re-begun.

Can you remember your youth well enough to be able to recall the time
when the great things happened for which you seemed to be waiting? The
boy who is to be a soldier--one day he hears a distant bugle: at once
HE knows. A second glimpses a bellying sail: straightway the ocean path
beckons to him. A third discovers a college, and toward its kindly
lamps of learning turns young eyes that have been kindled and will stay
kindled to the end.

For some years this particular lad, this obscure item in Nature's plan
which always passes understanding, had been growing more unhappy in his
place in creation. By temperament he was of a type the most joyous and
self-reliant--those sure signs of health; and discontent now was due to
the fact that he had outgrown his place. Parentage--a farm and its
tasks--a country neighborhood and its narrowness--what more are these
sometimes than a starting-point for a young life; as a flowerpot might
serve to sprout an oak, and as the oak would inevitably reach the hour
when it would either die or burst out, root and branch, into the whole
heavens and the earth; as the shell and yolk of an egg are the
starting-point for the wing and eye of the eagle. One thing only he had
not outgrown, in one thing only he was not unhappy: his religious
nature. This had always been in him as breath was in him, as blood was
in him: it was his life. Dissatisfied now with his position in the
world, it was this alone that kept him contented in himself. Often the
religious are the weary; and perhaps nowhere else does a perpetual
vision of Heaven so disclose itself to the weary as above lonely
toiling fields. The lad had long been lifting his inner eye to this
vision.

When, therefore, the tidings of the university with its Bible College
reached him, whose outward mould was hardship, whose inner bliss was
piety, at once they fitted his ear as the right sound, as the gladness
of long awaited intelligence. It was bugle to the soldier, sail to the
sailor, lamp of learning to the innate student At once he knew that he
was going to the university--sometime, somehow--and from that moment
felt no more discontent, void, restlessness, nor longing.

It was of this university, then, that he was happily day-dreaming as he
whetted his hemp hook in the depths of the woods that Saturday
afternoon. Sitting low amid heat and weeds and thorns, he was already
as one who had climbed above the earth's eternal snow-line and sees
only white peaks and pinnacles--the last sublimities.

He felt impatient for to-morrow. One of the professors of the
university, of the faculty of the Bible College, had been travelling
over the state during the summer, pleading its cause before the people.
He had come into that neighborhood to preach and to plead. The lad
would be there to hear.

The church in which the professor was to plead for learning and
religion was the one first set up in the Kentucky wilderness as a house
of religious liberty; and the lad was a great-grandchild of the founder
of that church, here emerging mysteriously from the deeps of life four
generations down the line.



III


The church which David's grim old Indian-fighting great-grandfather had
dedicated to freedom of belief in the wilderness, cutting off a parcel
of his lands as he had hotly sworn and building on it a schoolhouse
also, stood some miles distant across the country. The vast estate of
the pioneer had been cut to pieces for his many sons. With the next
generation the law of partible inheritance had further subdivided each
of these; so that in David's time a single small farm was all that had
fallen to his father; and his father had never increased it. The church
was situated on what had been the opposite boundary of the original
grant. But he with most of the other boys in the neighborhood had
received his simple education in that school; and he had always gone to
worship under that broad-minded roof, whatsoever the doctrines and
dogmas haply preached.

These doctrines and dogmas of a truth were varied and conflicting
enough; for the different flocks and herds of Protestant believers with
their parti-colored guides had for over fifty years found the place a
very convenient strip of spiritual pasture: one congregation now
grazing there jealously and exclusively; afterwards another.

On this quiet bright Sunday morning in the summer of 1865, the building
(a better than the original one, which had long before been destroyed
by accidental burning) was overcrowded with farming folk, husbands and
wives, of all denominations in the neighborhood, eager to hear the new
plea, the new pleader. David's father and mother, intense sectarians
and dully pious souls, sat among them. He himself, on a rearmost bench,
was wedged fast between two other lads of about his own age--they dumb
with dread lest they should be sent away to this university. The
minister soon turned the course of his sermon to the one topic that was
uppermost and bottommost in the minds of all.

He bade them understand now, if they had never realized it before, that
from the entrance of educated men and women into the western
wilderness, those real founders and builders of the great commonwealth,
the dream of the Kentuckians had been the establishment of a broad,
free institution of learning for their sons. He gave the history of the
efforts and the failures to found such an institution, from the year
1780 to the beginning of the Civil War; next he showed how, during
those few awful years, the slow precious accumulations of that
preceding time had been scattered; books lost, apparatus ruined, the
furniture of lecture rooms destroyed, one college building burned,
another seized and held as a hospital by the federal government; and he
concluded with painting for them a vision of the real university which
was now to arise at last, oldest, best passion of the people, measure
of the height and breadth of the better times: knowing no North, no
South, no latitude, creed, bias, or political end. In speaking of its
magnificent new endowments, he dwelt upon the share contributed by the
liberal-minded farmers of the state, to some of whom he was speaking:
showing how, forgetful of the disappointments and failures of their
fathers, they had poured out money by the thousands and tens of
thousands, as soon as the idea was presented to them again--the rearing
of a great institution by the people and for the people in their own
land for the training of their sons, that they might not be sent away
to New England or to Europe.

His closing words were solemn indeed; they related to the college of
the Bible, where his own labors were to be performed. For this, he
declared, he pleaded not in the name of the new State, the new nation,
but in the name of the Father. The work of this college was to be the
preparation of young men for the Christian ministry, that they might go
into all the world and preach the Gospel. One truth he bade them bear
in mind: that this training was to be given without sectarian theology;
that his brethren themselves represented a revolution among believers,
having cast aside the dogmas of modern teachers, and taken, as the one
infallible guide of their faith and practice, the Bible simply; so
making it their sole work to bring all modern believers together into
one church, and that one church the church of the apostles.

For this university, for this college of the Bible especially, he
asked, then, the gift and consecration of their sons.

Toward dusk that day David's father and mother were sitting side by
side on the steps of their front porch. Some neighbors who had spent
the afternoon with them were just gone. The two were talking over in
low, confidential tones certain subjects discussed less frankly with
their guests. These related to the sermon of the morning, to the
university, to what boys in the neighborhood would probably be entered
as students. Their neighbors had asked whether David would go. The
father and mother had exchanged quick glances and made no reply.
Something in the father's mind now lay like worm-wood on the lips.

He sat leaning his head on his hand, his eyes on the ground, brooding,
embittered.

"If I had only had a son to have been proud of!" he muttered. "It's of
no use; he wouldn't go. It isn't in him to take an education."

"No," said the mother, comforting him resignedly, after a pause in
which she seemed to be surveying the boy's whole life; "it's of no use;
there never was much in David."

"Then he shall work!" cried the father, striking his knee with clenched
fist. "I'll see that he is kept at work."

Just then the lad came round from behind the house, walking rapidly.
Since dinner he had been off somewhere, alone, having it out with
himself, perhaps shrinking, most of all, from this first exposure to
his parents. Such an ordeal is it for us to reveal what we really are
to those who have known us longest and have never discovered us.

He walked quickly around and stood before them, pallid and shaking from
head to foot.

"Father!"--

There was filial dutifulness in the voice, but what they had never
heard from those lips--authority.

"I am going to the university, to the Bible College. It will be hard
for you to spare me, I know, and I don't expect to go at once. But I
shall begin my preparations, and as soon as it is possible I am going.
I have felt that you and mother ought to know my decision at once."

As he stood before them in the dusk and saw on their countenances an
incredible change of expression, he naturally mistook it, and spoke
again with more authority.

"Don't say anything to me now, father! And don't oppose me when the
time comes; it would be useless. Try to learn while I am getting ready
to give your consent and to obtain mother's. That is all I have to say."

He turned quickly away and passed out of the yard gate toward the barn,
for the evening feeding.

The father and mother followed his figure with their eyes, forgetting
each other, as long as it remained in sight. If the flesh of their son
had parted and dissolved away into nothingness, disclosing a hidden
light within him like the evening star, shining close to their faces,
they could scarce have been struck more speechless. But after a few
moments they had adjusted themselves to this lofty annunciation. The
mother, unmindful of what she had just said, began to recall little
incidents of the lad's life to show that this was what he was always
meant to be. She loosened from her throat the breast-pin containing the
hair of the three heads braided together, and drew her husband's
attention to it with a smile. He, too, disregarding his disparagement
of the few minutes previous, now began to admit with warmth how good a
mind David had always had. He prophesied that at college he would
outstrip the other boys from that neighborhood. This, in its way, was
also fresh happiness to him; for, smarting under his poverty among rich
neighbors, and fallen from the social rank to which he was actually
entitled, he now welcomed the secondary joy which originates in the
revenge men take upon each other through the superiority of their
children.

One thing both agreed in: that this explained their son. He had
certainly always needed an explanation. But no wonder; he was to be a
minister. And who had a right to understand a minister? He was entitled
to be peculiar.

When David came in to supper that night and took his seat, shame-faced,
frowning and blinking at the candle-light, his father began to talk to
him as he had never believed possible; and his mother, placing his
coffee before him, let her hand rest on his shoulder.

He, long ahungered for their affection and finding it now when least
expected, filled to the brim, choked at every morsel, got away as soon
as he could into the sacred joy of the night Ah, those thrilling hours
when the young disciple, having for the first time confessed openly his
love of the Divine, feels that the Divine returns his love and accepts
his service!



IV


Autumn came, the university opened wide its harmonious doors, welcoming
Youth and Peace.

All that day a lad, alone at his field work away off on the edge of the
bluegrass lands, toiled as one listening to a sublime sound in the
distance--the tramping, tramping, tramping of the students as they
assembled from the farms of the state and from other states. Some boys
out of his own neighborhood had started that morning, old
schoolfellows. He had gone to say good-by; had sat on the bed and
watched them pack their fine new trunks--cramming these with fond
maternal gifts and the thoughtless affluence of necessary and
unnecessary things; had heard all the wonderful talk about classes and
professors and societies; had wrung their hands at last with eyes
turned away, that none might see the look in them--the immortal hunger.

How empty now the whole land without those two or three boys! Not far
away across the fields, soft-white in the clear sunshine, stood the
home of one of them--the green shutters of a single upper room tightly
closed. His heart-strings were twisted tight and wrung sore this day;
and more than once he stopped short in his work (the cutting of briers
along a fence), arrested by the temptation to throw down his hook and
go. The sacred arguments were on his side. Without choice or search of
his they clamored and battered at his inner ear--those commands of the
Gospels, the long reverberations of that absolute Voice, bidding
irresolute workaday disciples leave the plough in the furrow, leave
whatsoever task was impending or duty uppermost to the living or the
dead, and follow,--"Follow Me!"

Arguments, verily, had he in plenty; but raiment--no; nor scrip. And
knew he ever so little of the world, sure he felt of this: that for
young Elijahs at the university there were no ravens; nor wild honey
for St. John; nor Galilean basketfuls left over by hungry fisherfolk,
fishers of men.

So back to his briers. And back to the autumn soil, days of hard
drudging, days of hard thinking. The chief problem for the nigh future
being, how soonest to provide the raiment, fill the scrip; and so with
time enough to find out what, on its first appearance, is so terrible a
discovery to the young, straining against restraint: that just the lack
of a coarse garment or two--of a little money for a little plain
food--of a few candles and a few coverlets for light and warmth with a
book or two thrown in--that a need so poor, paltry as this, may keep
mind and heart back for years. Ah, happy ye! with whom this last not
too long--or for always!

Yet happy ye, whether the waiting be for short time or long time, if
only it bring on meanwhile, as it brought on with him, the struggle!
One sure reward ye have, then, as he had, though there may be none
other--just the struggle: the marshalling to the front of rightful
forces--will, effort, endurance, devotion; the putting resolutely back
of forces wrongful; the hardening of all that is soft within, the
softening of all that is hard: until out of the hardening and the
softening results the better tempering of the soul's metal, and higher
development of those two qualities which are best in man and best in
his ideal of his Maker--strength and kindness, power and mercy. With an
added reward also, if the struggle lead you to perceive (what he did
not perceive), as the light of your darkness, the sweet of bitter, that
real struggling is itself real living, and that no ennobling thing of
this earth is ever to be had by man on any other terms: so teaching
him, none too soon, that any divine end is to be reached but through
divine means, that a great work requires a great preparation.

Of the lad's desperate experience henceforth in mere outward matters
the recital may be suppressed: the struggle of the earth's poor has
grown too common to make fresh reading. He toiled direfully, economized
direfully, to get to his college, but in this showed only the heroism
too ordinary among American boys to be marvelled at more. One fact may
be set down, as limning some true figure of him on the landscape of
those years in that peculiar country.

The war had just closed. The farmers, recollecting the fortunes made in
hemp before, had hurried to the fields. All the more as the long
interruption of agriculture in the South had resulted in scarcity of
cotton; so that the earnest cry came to Kentucky for hemp at once to
take many of its places. But meantime the slaves had been set free:
where before ordered, they must now be hired. A difficult agreement to
effect at all times, because will and word and bond were of no account.
Most difficult when the breaking of hemp was to be bargained for; since
the laborer is kept all day in the winter fields, away from the
fireside, and must toil solitary at his brake, cut off from the talk
and laughter which lighten work among that race. So that wages rose
steadily, and the cost of hemp with them.

The lad saw in this demand for the lowest work at the highest prices
his golden opportunity--and seized it. When the hemp-breaking season
opened that winter, he made his appearance on the farm of a rich farmer
near by, taking his place with the negroes.

There is little art in breaking hemp. He soon had the knack of that:
his muscles were toughened already. He learned what it was sometimes to
eat his dinner in the fields, warming it, maybe, on the coals of a
stump set on fire near his brake; to bale his hemp at nightfall and
follow the slide or wagon to the barn; there to wait with the negroes
till it was weighed on the steelyards; and at last, with muscles stiff
and sore, throat husky with dust, to stride away rapidly over the
bitter darkening land to other work awaiting him at home.

Had there been call to do this before the war, it might not have been
done. But now men young and old, who had never known what work was,
were replacing their former slaves. The preexisting order had indeed
rolled away like a scroll; and there was the strange fresh universal
stir of humanity over the land like the stir of nature in a boundless
wood under a new spring firmament He was one of a multitude of new
toilers; but the first in his neighborhood, and alone in his grim
choice of work.

So dragged that winter through. When spring returned, he did better.
With his father's approval, he put in some acres for himself--sowed it,
watched it, prayed for it; in summer cut it; with hired help stacked it
in autumn; broke it himself the winter following; sold it the next
spring; and so found in his pocket the sorely coveted money.

This was increased that summer from the sale of cord wood, through
driblets saved by his father and mother; and when, autumn once more
advanced with her days of shadow and thoughtfulness--two years having
now passed--he was in possession of his meagre fortune, wrung out of
earth, out of sweat and strength and devotion.

Only a few days remained now before his leaving for the
university--very solemn tender days about the house with his father and
mother.

And now for the lad's own sake, as for the clearer guidance of those
who may care to understand what so incredibly befell him afterward, an
attempt must be made to reveal somewhat of his spiritual life during
those two years. It was this, not hard work, that writ his history.

As soon as he had made up his mind to study for the ministry, he had
begun to read his Bible absorbingly, sweeping through that primitive
dawn of life among the Hebrews and that second, brilliant one of the
Christian era. He had few other books, none important; he knew nothing
of modern theology or modern science. Thus he was brought wholly under
the influence of that view of Man's place in Nature which was held by
the earliest Biblical writers, has imposed itself upon countless
millions of minds since then, and will continue to impose itself--how
much longer?

As regarded, then, his place in Nature, this boy became a contemporary
of the Psalmist; looked out upon the physical universe with the eye of
Job; placed himself back beside that simple, audacious, sublime
child--Man but awakening from his cradle of faith in the morning of
civilization. The meaning of all which to him was this: that the most
important among the worlds swung in space was the Earth, on account of
a single inhabitant--Man. Its shape had been moulded, its surface
fitted up, as the dwelling-place of Man. Land, ocean, mountain-range,
desert, valley--these were designed alike for Man. The sun--it was for
him; and the moon; and the stars, hung about the earth as its
lights--guides to the mariner, reminders to the landsman of the Eye
that never slumbered. The clouds--shade and shower--they were
mercifully for Man. Nothing had meaning, possessed value, save as it
derived meaning and value from him. The great laws of Nature--they,
too, were ordered for Man's service, like the ox and the ass; and as he
drove his ox and his ass whither he would, caused them to move forward
or to stop at the word of command, so Man had only to speak properly
(in prayer) and these laws would move faster or less fast, stop still,
turn to the right or the left side of the road that he desired to
travel. Always Man, Man, Man, nothing but Man! To himself measure of
the universe as to himself a little boy is sole reason for the food and
furnishings of his nursery.

This conception of Man's place in Nature has perhaps furnished a very
large part of the history of the world. Even at this close of the
nineteenth century, it is still, in all probability, the most important
fact in the faith and conduct of the race, running with endless
applications throughout the spheres of practical life and vibrating
away to the extremities of the imagination. In the case of this poor,
devout, high-minded Kentucky boy, at work on a farm in the years 1866
and 1867, saving his earnings and reading his Bible as the twofold
preparation for his entrance into the Christian ministry, this belief
took on one of its purest shapes and wrought out in him some of its
loftiest results.

Let it be remembered that he lived in a temperate, beautiful, bountiful
country; that his work was done mostly in the fields, with the aspects
of land and sky ever before him; that he was much alone; that his
thinking was nearly always of his Bible and his Bible college. Let it
be remembered that he had an eye which was not merely an opening and
closing but a seeing eye--full of health and of enjoyment of the
pageantry of things; and that behind this eye, looking through it as
through its window, stood the dim soul of the lad, itself in a temple
of perpetual worship: these are some of the conditions which yielded
him during these two years the intense, exalted realities of his inner
life.

When of morning he stepped out of the plain farm-house with its rotting
doors and leaking roof and started off joyously to his day's work, at
the sight of the great sun just rising above the low dew-wet hills, his
soul would go soaring away to heaven's gate. Sometimes he would be
abroad late at night, summoning the doctor for his father or returning
from a visit to another neighborhood. In every farmhouse that he passed
on the country road the people were asleep--over all the shadowy land
they were asleep. And everywhere, guardian in the darkness, watched the
moon, pouring its searching beams upon every roof, around every
entrance, on kennel and fold, sty and barn--with light not enough to
awaken but enough to protect: how he worshipped toward that lamp tended
by the Sleepless! There were summer noons when he would be lying under
a solitary tree in a field--in the edge of its shade, resting; his face
turned toward the sky. This would be one over-bending vault of serenest
blue, save for a distant flight of snow-white clouds, making him think
of some earthward-wandering company of angels. He would lie motionless,
scarce breathing, in that peace of the earth, that smile of the Father.
Or if this same vault remained serene too long; if the soil of the
fields became dusty to his boots and his young grain began to wither,
when at last, in response to his prayer, the clouds were brought
directly over them and emptied down, as he stepped forth into the
cooled, dripping, soaking green, how his heart blessed the Power that
reigned above and did all things well!

It was always praise, gratitude, thanks-giving, whatever happened. If
he prayed for rain for his crops and none was sent, then he thought his
prayer lacked faith or was unwise, he knew not how; if too much rain
fell, so that his grain rotted, this again was from some fault of his
or for his good; or perhaps it was the evil work of the prince of the
powers of the air--by permission of the Omnipotent. In the case of one
crop all the labor of nearly a year went for nothing: he explained this
as a reminder that he must be chastened.

Come good, come ill, then, crops or no crops, increase or decrease, it
was all the same to him: he traced the cause of all plenty as of all
disappointment and disaster reaching him through the laws of nature to
some benevolent purpose of the Ruler. And ever before his eyes also he
kept that spotless Figure which once walked among men on earth--that
Saviour of the world whose service he was soon to enter, whose words of
everlasting life he was to preach: his father's farm became as the
vineyard of the parables in the Gospels, he a laborer in it.

Thus this lad was nearer the first century and yet earlier ages than
the nineteenth. He knew more of prophets and apostles than modern
doctors of divinity. When the long-looked-for day arrived for him to
throw his arms around his father and mother and bid them good-by, he
should have mounted a camel, like a youth of the Holy Land of old, and
taken his solemn, tender way across the country toward Jerusalem.



V


One crisp, autumn morning, then, of that year 1867, a big, raw-boned,
bashful lad, having passed at the turnstile into the twenty-acre
campus, stood reverently still before the majestical front of Morrison
College. Browned by heat and wind, rain and sun; straight of spine,
fine of nerve, tough of muscle. In one hand he carried an enormous,
faded valise, made of Brussels carpet copiously sprinkled with small,
pink roses; in the other, held like a horizontal javelin, a family
umbrella. A broken rib escaped his fingers.

It was no time and place for observation or emotion. The turnstile
behind him was kept in a whirl by students pushing through and hurrying
toward the college a few hundred yards distant; others, who had just
left it, came tramping toward him and passing out. In a retired part of
the campus, he could see several pacing slowly to and fro in the grass,
holding text-books before their faces. Some were grouped at the bases
of the big Doric columns, at work together. From behind the college on
the right, two or three appeared running and disappeared through a
basement entrance. Out of the grass somewhere came the sound of a
whistle as clear and happy as of a quail in the wheat; from another
direction, the shouts and wrangling of a playground. Once, barely
audible, through the air surged and died away the last bars of a
glorious hymn, sung by a chorus of fresh male voices. The whole scene
was one of bustle, work, sport, worship.

A few moments the lad remained where he had halted, drinking through
every thirsting pore; but most of all with his eyes satisfied by the
sight of that venerable building which, morning and night, for over two
years had shaped itself to his imagination--that seat of the
university--that entrance into his future.

Three students came strolling along the path toward him on their way
down town. One was slapping his book against his thigh; one was blowing
a ditty through his nose, like music on a comb; one, in the middle, had
his arms thrown over the shoulders of the others, and was at intervals
using them as crutches. As they were about to pass the lad, who had
stepped a few feet to one side of the path, they wheeled and laughed at
him.

"Hello, preachy!" cried one. His face was round, red, and soft, like
the full moon; the disk was now broken up by smiling creases.

"Can you tell me," inquired the lad, coloring and wondering how it was
already known that he was to be a preacher, "Can you tell me just the
way to the Bible College?"

The one of the three on the right turned to the middle man and repeated
the question gravely:--

"Can you tell me just the way to the Bible College?"

The middle man turned and repeated it gravely to the one on the left:--

"Can you tell me just the way to the Bible College?"

The one on the left seized a passing student:--

"Can you tell us all just the way to the Bible College?"

"Ministers of grace!" he said, "without the angels!" Then turning to
the lad, he continued: "You see this path? Take it! Those steps? Go
straight up those steps. Those doors? Enter! Then, if you don't see the
Bible College, maybe you'll see the janitor--if he is there. But don't
you fear! You may get lost, but you'll never get away!"

The lad knew he was being guyed, but he didn't mind: what hurt him was
that his Bible College should be treated with such levity.

"Thank you," he said pleasantly but proudly.

"Have you matriculated?" one of the three called after him as he
started forward.

David had never heard that word; but he entertained such a respect for
knowledge that he hated to appear unnecessarily ignorant.

"I don't think--I have," he observed vaguely.

The small eyes of the full moon disappeared altogether this time.

"Well, you've got to matriculate, you know," he said. "You'd better do
that sometime. But don't speak of it to your professors, or to anybody
connected with the college. It must be kept secret."

"Will I be too late for the first recitations?"

The eager question was on the lad's lips but never uttered. The trio
had wheeled carelessly away.

There passed them, coming toward David, a tall, gaunt, rough-whiskered
man, wearing a paper collar without a cravat, and a shiny, long-tailed,
black cloth coat. He held a Bible opened at Genesis.

"Good morning, brother," he said frankly, speaking in the simple
kindness which comes from being a husband and father. "You are going to
enter the Bible College, I see."

"Yes, sir," replied the lad. "Are you one of the professors?"

The middle-aged man laughed painfully.

"I am one of the students."

David felt that he had inflicted a wound. "How many students are here?"
he asked quickly.

"About a thousand."

The two walked side by side toward the college.

"Have you matriculated?" inquired the lad's companion. There was that
awful word again!

"I don't know HOW to matriculate. How DO you matriculate? What is
matriculating?"

"I'LL go with you. I'LL show you," said the simple fatherly guide.

"Thank you, if you will," breathed the lad, gratefully.

After a brief silence his companion spoke again.

"I'm late in life in entering college. I've got a son half as big as
you and a baby; and my wife's here. But, you see, I've had a hard time.
I've preached for years. But I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to understand
the Bible better. And this is the place to do that." Now that he had
explained himself, he looked relieved.

"Well," said David, fervently, entering at once into a brotherhood with
this kindly soul, "that's what I've come for, too. I want to understand
the Bible better--and if I am ever worthy--I want to preach it. And you
have baptized people already?"

"Hundreds of them. Here we are," said his companion, as they passed
under a low doorway, on one side of the pillared steps.

"Here I am at last," repeated the lad to himself with solemn joy, "And
now God be with me!"

By the end of that week he had the run of things; had met his
professors, one of whom had preached that sermon two summers before,
and now, on being told who the lad was, welcomed him as a sheaf out of
that sowing; had been assigned to his classes; had gone down town to
the little packed and crowded book-store and bought the needful
student's supplies--so making the first draught on his money; been
assigned to a poor room in the austere dormitory behind the college;
made his first failures in recitations, standing before his professor
with no more articulate voice and no more courage than a sheep; and had
awakened to a new sense--the brotherhood of young souls about him, the
men of his college.

A revelation they were! Nearly all poor like himself; nearly all having
worked their way to the university: some from farms, some by teaching
distant country or mountain schools; some by the peddling of books--out
of unknown byways, from the hedges and ditches of life, they had
assembled: Calvary's regulars.

One scene in his new life struck upon the lad's imagination like a
vision out of the New Testament,--his first supper in the bare dining
room of that dormitory: the single long, rough table; the coarse,
frugal food; the shadows of the evening hour; at every chair a form
reverently standing; the saying of the brief grace--ah, that first
supper with the disciples!

Among the things he had to describe in his letter to his father and
mother, this scene came last; and his final words to them were a
blessing that they had made him one of this company of young men.



VI


The lad could not study eternally. The change from a toiling body and
idle mind to an idle body and toiling mind requires time to make the
latter condition unirksome. Happily there was small need to delve at
learning. His brain was like that of a healthy wild animal freshly
captured from nature. And as such an animal learns to snap at flung
bits of food, springing to meet them and sinking back on his haunches
keen-eyed for more; so mentally he caught at the lessons prepared for
him by his professors: every faculty asked only to be fed--and remained
hungry after the feeding.

Of afternoons, therefore, when recitations were over and his muscles
ached for exercise, he donned his old farm hat and went, stepping in
his high, awkward, investigating way around the town--unaware of
himself, unaware of the light-minded who often turned to smile at that
great gawk in grotesque garments, with his face full of beatitudes and
his pockets full of apples. For apples were beginning to come in from
the frosty orchards; and the fruit dealers along the streets piled them
into pyramids of temptation. It seemed a hardship to him to have to
spend priceless money for a thing like apples, which had always been as
cheap and plentiful as spring water. But those evening suppers in the
dormitory with the disciples! Even when he was filled (which was not
often) he was never comforted; and one day happening upon one of those
pomological pyramids, he paused, yearned, and bought the apex. It was
harder not to buy than to buy. After that he fell into this fruitful
vice almost diurnally; and with mortifying worldly-mindedness he would
sometimes find his thoughts straying apple-wards while his professors
were personally conducting him through Canaan or leading him dry-shod
across the Red Sea. The little dealer soon learned to anticipate his
approach; and as he drew up would have the requisite number ready and
slide them into his pockets without a word--and without the chance of
inspection. A man's candy famine attacked him also. He usually bought
some intractable, resisting medium: it left him rather tired of
pleasure.

So during those crude days he went strolling solemnly about the town,
eating, exploring, filling with sweetmeats and filled with wonder. It
was the first city he had ever seen, the chief interior city of the
state. From childhood he had longed to visit it. The thronged streets,
the curious stores, the splendid residences, the flashing
equipages--what a new world it was to him! But the first place he
inquired his way to was the factory where he had sold his hemp. Awhile
he watched the men at work, wondering whether they might not then be
handling some that he had broken.

At an early date also he went to look up his dear old neighborhood
schoolfellows who two years before had left him, to enter another
college of the University. By inquiry he found out where they lived--in
a big, handsome boarding-house on a fashionable street. He thought he
had never even dreamed of anything so fine as was this house--nor had
he. As he sat in the rich parlors, waiting to learn whether his friends
were at home, he glanced uneasily at his shoes to see whether they
might not be soiling the carpet; and he vigorously dusted himself with
his breath and hands--thus depositing on the furniture whatever dust
there was to transfer.

Having been invited to come up to his friends' room, he mounted and
found one of them waiting at the head of the stairs in his shirt
sleeves, smoking. His greeting was hearty in its way yet betokened some
surprise, a little uneasiness, condescension. David followed his host
into a magnificent room with enormous windows, now raised and opening
upon a veranda. Below was a garden full of old vines black with grapes
and pear trees bent down with pears and beds bright with cool autumn
flowers. (The lad made a note of how much money he would save on apples
if he could only live in reach of those pear trees.) There was a big
rumpled bed in the room; and stretched across this bed on his stomach
lay a student studying and waving his heels slowly in the air. A table
stood in the middle of the room: the books and papers had been scraped
off to the floor; four students were seated at it playing cards and
smoking. Among them his other friend, who rose and gave him a hearty
grip and resuming his seat asked what was trumps. A voice he had heard
before called out to him from the table:--

"Hello, preachy! Did you find your way to the Bible College?"

Whereupon the student on the bed rolled heavily over, sat up
dejectedly, and ogled him with red eyes and a sagging jaw.

"Have you matriculated?" he asked.

David did not think of the cards, and he liked the greeting of the two
strangers who guyed him better than the welcome of his old friends.
That hurt: he had never supposed there was anything just like it in the
nature of man. But during the years since he had seen them, old times
were gone, old manners changed. And was it not in the hemp fields of
the father of one of them that he had meantime worked with the negroes?
And is there any other country in the world where the clean laborer is
so theoretically honored and so practically despised as by the American
snob of each sex?

One afternoon he went over to the courthouse and got the county clerk
to show him the entry where his great-grandfather had had the deed to
his church recorded. There it all was!--all written down to hold good
while the world lasted: that perpetual grant of part and parcel of his
land, for the use of a free school and a free church. The lad went
reverently over the plain, rough speech of the mighty old pioneer, as
he spoke out his purpose.

During those early days also he sought out the different churches,
scrutinizing respectfully their exteriors. How many they were, and how
grand nearly all! Beyond anything he had imagined. He reasoned that if
the buildings were so fine, how fine must be the singing and the
sermons! The unconscious assumption, the false logic here, was
creditable to his heart at least--to that green trust of the young in
things as they should be which becomes in time the best seasoned staff
of age. He hunted out especially the Catholic Church. His
great-grandfather had founded his as free for Catholics as Protestants,
but he recalled the fact that no priest had ever preached there. He
felt very curious to see a priest. A synagogue in the town he could not
find. He was sorry. He had a great desire to lay eyes on a
synagogue--temple of that ancient faith which had flowed on its deep
way across the centuries without a ripple of disturbance from the
Christ. He had made up his mind that when he began to preach he would
often preach especially to the Jews: the time perhaps had come when the
Father, their Father, would reveal his Son to them also. Thus he
promptly fixed in mind the sites of all the churches, because he
intended in time to go to them all.

Meantime he attended his own, the size and elegance of which were a
marvel; and in it especially the red velvet pulpit and the vast
chandelier (he had never seen a chandelier before), blazing with stars
(he had never seen illuminating gas). It was under this chandelier that
he himself soon found a seat. All the Bible students sat there who
could get there, that being the choir of male voices; and before a
month passed he had been taken into this choir: for a storm-like bass
rolled out of him as easily as thunder out of a June cloud. Thus
uneventful flowed the tenor of his student life during those several
initiatory weeks: then something occurred that began to make grave
history for him.

The pastor announced at service one morning that he would that day
begin a series of sermons on errors in the faith and practice of the
different Protestant sects; though he would also consider in time the
cases of the Catholics and Jews: it would scarcely be necessary to
speak of the Mohammedans and such others. He was driven to do this, he
declared, and was anxious to do it, as part of the work of his brethren
all over the country; which was the restoration of Apostolic
Christianity to the world. He asked the especial attention of the Bible
students of the University to these sermons: the first of which he then
proceeded to preach.

That night the lad was absent from his place: he was seated in the
church which had been riddled with logic in the morning. Just why it
would be hard to say. Perhaps his motive resembled that which prompts
us to visit a battle-field and count the slain. Only, not a soul of
those people seemed even to have been wounded. They sang, prayed,
preached, demeaned themselves generally as those who believed that THEY
were the express chosen of the Lord, and greatly enjoyed the notorious
fact.

The series of sermons went on: every night the lad was missing from his
place--gone to see for himself and to learn more about those worldly
churches which had departed from the faith once delivered to the
saints, and if saved at all, then by the mercy of God and much of it.

In the history of any human soul it is impossible to grasp the first
event that starts up a revolution. But perhaps the troubles of the lad
began here. His absences from Sunday night service of course attracted
notice under the chandelier. His bass was missed. Another student was
glad to take his place. His roommate and the several other dormitory
students who had become his acquaintances, discussed with him the
impropriety of these absences: they agreed that he would better stick
to his own church. He gave reasons why he should follow up the pastor's
demonstrations with actual visits to the others: he contended that the
pastor established the fact of the errors; but that the best way to
understand any error was to study the erring. This was all new to him,
however. He had not supposed that in educating himself to preach the
simple Gospel, to the end that the world might believe in Christ, he
must also preach against those who believed in Christ already. Besides,
no one seemed to be convinced by the pastor but those who agreed with
him in advance: the other churches flourished quite the same.

He cited a sermon he had heard in one, which, to the satisfaction of
all present, had riddled his own church, every word of the proof being
based on Scripture: so there you were!

A little cloud came that instant between David and the students to whom
he expressed these views. Some rejoined hotly at once; some maintained
the cold silence which intends to speak in its own time. The next thing
the lad knew was that a professor requested him to remain after class
one day; and speaking with grave kindness, advised him to go regularly
to his own church thereafter. The lad entered ardently into the reasons
why he had gone to the others. The professor heard him through and
without comment repeated his grave, kind advice.

Thereafter the lad was regularly in his own seat there--but with a
certain mysterious, beautiful feeling gone. He could not have said what
this feeling was, did not himself know. Only, a slight film seemed to
pass before his eyes when he looked at his professor, so that he saw
him less clearly and as more remote.

One morning there was a sermon on the Catholics. David went dutifully
to his professor. He said he had never been to a Catholic Church and
would like to go. His professor assented cordially, evincing his
pleasure in the lad's frankness. But the next Sunday morning he was in
the Catholic Church again, thus for the first time missing the
communion in his own. Of all the congregations of Christian believers
that the lad had now visited, the Catholic impressed him as being the
most solemn, reverent, and best mannered. In his own church the place
did not seem to become the house of God till services began; and one
morning in particular, two old farmers in the pew behind him talked in
smothered tones of stock and crops, till it fairly made him homesick.
The sermon of the priest, too, filled him with amazement. It weighed
the claims of various Protestant sects to be reckoned as parts of the
one true historic church of God. In passing, he barely referred to the
most modern of these self-constituted Protestant bodies--David's own
church--and dismissed it with one blast of scorn, which seemed to
strike the lad's face like a hot wind: it left it burning. But to the
Episcopal Church the priest dispensed the most vitriolic criticism. And
that night, carried away by the old impulse, which had grown now almost
into a habit, David went to the Episcopal Church: went to number the
slain. The Bishop of the diocese, as it happened, was preaching that
night--preaching on the union of Christian believers. He showed how
ready the Episcopal Church was for such a union if the rest would only
consent: but no other church, he averred, must expect the Episcopal
Church ever to surrender one article of its creed, namely: that it
alone was descended not by historical continuity simply, but by Divine
succession from the Apostles themselves. The lad walked slowly back to
the dormitory that night with knit brows and a heavy heart.

A great change was coming over him. His old religious peace had been
unexpectedly disturbed. He found himself in the thick of the wars of
dogmatic theology. At that time and in that part of the United States
these were impassioned and rancorous to a degree which even now, less
than half a century later, can scarce be understood; so rapidly has
developed meantime that modern spirit which is for us the tolerant
transition to a yet broader future. Had Kentucky been peopled by her
same people several generations earlier, the land would have run red
with the blood of religious persecutions, as never were England and
Scotland at their worst. So that this lad, brought in from his solemn,
cloistered fields and introduced to wrangling, sarcastic, envious
creeds, had already begun to feel doubtful and distressed, not knowing
what to believe nor whom to follow. He had commenced by being so
plastic a medium for faith, that he had tried to believe them all. Now
he was in the intermediate state of trying to ascertain which. From
that state there are two and two only final ones to emerge: "I shall
among them believe this one only;" or, "I shall among them
believe--none." The constant discussion of some dogma and disproof of
some dogma inevitably begets in a certain order of mind the temper to
discuss and distrust ALL dogma.

Not over their theologies alone were the churches wrangling before the
lad's distracted thoughts. If the theologies were rending religion,
politics was rending the theologies. The war just ended had not
brought, as the summer sermon of the Bible College professor had
stated, breadth of mind for narrowness, calm for passion. Not while men
are fighting their wars of conscience do they hate most, but after they
have fought; and Southern and Union now hated to the bottom and nowhere
else as at their prayers. David found a Presbyterian Church on one
street called "Southern" and one a few blocks away called "Northern":
how those brethren dwelt together. The Methodists were similarly
divided. Of Baptists, the lad ascertained there had been so many kinds
and parts of kinds since the settlement of Kentucky, that apparently
any large-sized family anywhere could reasonably have constituted
itself a church, if the parents and children had only been fortunate
enough to agree.

Where politics did not cleave, other issues did. The Episcopal Church
was cleft into a reform movement (and one unreformable). In his own
denomination internal discord raged over such questions as diabolic
pleasures and Apostolic music. He saw young people haled before the
pulpit as before a tribunal of exact statutes and expelled for moving
their feet in certain ways. If in dancing they whirled like a top
instead of being shot straight back and forth like a bobbin in a
weaver's shuttle, their moral conduct was aggravated. A church organ
was ridiculed as a sort of musical Behemoth--as a dark chamber of
howling, roaring Belial.

These controversies overflowed from the congregation to the Bible
College. The lad in his room at the dormitory one Sunday afternoon
heard a debate on whether a tuning fork is a violation of the word of
God. The debaters turned to him excited and angry:--

"What do you think?" they asked.

"I don't think it is worth talking about," he replied quietly.

They soon became reconciled to each other; they never forgave him.

Meantime as for his Biblical studies, they enlarged enormously his
knowledge of the Bible; but they added enormously to the questions that
may be asked about the Bible--questions he had never thought of before.
And in adding to the questions that may be asked, they multiplied those
that cannot be answered. The lad began to ask these questions, began to
get no answers. The ground of his interest in the great Book shifted.
Out on the farm alone with it for two years, reading it never with a
critical but always with a worshipping mind, it had been to him simply
the summons to a great and good life, earthly and immortal. As he sat
in the lecture rooms, studying it book by book, paragraph by paragraph,
writing chalk notes about it on the blackboard, hearing the students
recite it as they recited arithmetic or rhetoric, a little homesickness
overcame him for the hours when he had read it at the end of a furrow
in the fields, or by his candle the last thing at night before he
kneeled to say his prayers, or of Sunday afternoons off by himself in
the sacred leafy woods. The mysterious untouched Christ-feeling was in
him so strong, that he shrank from these critical analyses as he would
from dissecting the body of the crucified Redeemer.

A significant occurrence took place one afternoon some seven months
after he had entered the University.

On that day, recitations over, the lad left the college alone and with
a most thoughtful air crossed the campus and took his course into the
city. Reaching a great central street, he turned to the left and
proceeded until he stood opposite a large brick church. Passing along
the outside of this, he descended a few steps, traversed an alley,
knocked timidly at a door, and by a voice within was bidden to enter.
He did so, and stood in his pastor's study. He had told his pastor that
he would like to have a little talk with him, and the pastor was there
to have the little talk.

During those seven months the lad had been attracting notice more and
more. The Bible students had cast up his reckoning unfavorably: he was
not of their kind--they moved through their studies as one flock of
sheep through a valley, drinking the same water, nipping the same
grass, and finding it what they wanted. His professors had singled him
out as a case needing peculiar guidance. Not in his decorum as a
student: he was the very soul of discipline. Not in slackness of study:
his mind consumed knowledge as a flame tinder. Not in any
irregularities of private life: his morals were as snow for whiteness.
Yet none other caused such concern.

All this the pastor knew; he had himself long had his eye on this lad.
During his sermons, among the rows of heads and brows and eyes upturned
to him, oftenest he felt himself looking at that big shock-head, at
those grave brows, into those eager, troubled eyes. His persistent
demonstrations that he and his brethren alone were right and all other
churches Scripturally wrong--they always seemed to take the light out
of that countenance. There was silence in the study now as the lad
modestly seated himself in a chair which the pastor had pointed out.

After fidgeting a few moments, he addressed the logician with a
stupefying premise:--

"My great-grandfather," he said, "once built a church simply to God,
not to any man's opinions of Him."

He broke off abruptly.

"So did Voltaire," remarked the pastor dryly, coming to the rescue.
"Voltaire built a church to God: 'Erexit deo Voltaire' Your
great-grandfather and Voltaire must have been kin to each other."

The lad had never heard of Voltaire. The information was rather
prepossessing.

"I think I should admire Voltaire," he observed reflectively.

"So did the Devil," remarked the pastor. Then he added pleasantly, for
he had a Scotch relish for a theological jest:--

"You may meet Voltaire some day."

"I should like to. Is he coming here?" asked the lad.

"Not immediately. He is in hell--or will be after the Resurrection of
the Dead."

The silence in the study grew intense.

"I understand you now," said the lad, speaking composedly all at once.
"You think that perhaps I will go to the Devil also."

"Oh, no!" exclaimed the pastor, hiding his smile and stroking his beard
with syllogistic self-respect. "My dear young brother, did you want to
see me on any--BUSINESS?"

"I did. I was trying to tell you. My great-grandfather--"

"Couldn't you begin with more modern times?"

"The story begins back there," insisted the lad, firmly. "The part of
it, at least, that affects me. My great-grandfather founded a church
free to all Christian believers. It stands in our neighborhood. I have
always gone there. I joined the church there. All the different
denominations in our part of the country have held services there.
Sometimes they have all had services together. I grew up to think they
were all equally good Christians in their different ways."

"Did you?" inquired the pastor. "You and your grandfather and Voltaire
must ALL be kin to each other."

His visage was not pleasant.

"My trouble since coming to College," said the lad, pressing across the
interruption, "has been to know which IS the right church--"

"Are you a member of THIS church?" inquired the pastor sharply, calling
a halt to this folly.

"I am."

"Then don't you know that it is the only right one?"

"I do not. All the others declare it a wrong one. They stand ready to
prove this by the Scriptures and do prove it to their satisfaction.
They declare that if I become a preacher of what my church believes, I
shall become a false teacher of men and be responsible to God for the
souls I may lead astray. They honestly believe this."

"Don't you know that when Satan has entered into a man, he can make him
honestly believe anything?"

"And you think it is Satan that keeps the other churches from seeing
this is the only right one?"

"I do! And beware, young man, that Satan does not get into YOU!"

"He must be in me already." There was silence again, then the lad
continued.

"All this is becoming a great trouble to me. It interferes with my
studies--takes my interest out of my future. I come to you then. You
are my pastor. Where is the truth--the reason--the proof--the
authority? Where is the guiding LAW in all this? I must find THE LAW
and that quickly."

There was no gainsaying his trouble: it expressed itself in his eyes,
voice, entire demeanor. The pastor was not seeing any of these things.
Here was a plain, ignorant country lad who had rejected his logic and
who apparently had not tact enough at this moment to appreciate his own
effrontery. In the whole sensitiveness of man there is no spot so
touchy as the theological.

"Have you a copy of the New Testament?"

It was the tone in which the school-master of old times said, "Bring me
that switch."

"I have,"

"You can read it?"

"I can."

"You find in it the inspired account of the faith of the original
church--the earliest history of Apostolic Christianity?"

"I do."

"Then, can you not compare the teachings of the Apostles, THEIR faith
and THEIR practice, with the teachings of this church? ITS faith and
ITS practice?"

"I have tried to do that."

"Then there is the truth. And the reason. And the proof. And the
authority. And the LAW. We have no creed but the creed of the Apostolic
churches; no practice but their practice; no teaching but their
teaching in letter and in spirit."

"That is what was told me before I came to college. It was told me that
young men were to be prepared to preach the simple Gospel of Christ to
all the world. There was to be no sectarian theology."

"Well? Has any one taught you sectarian theology?"

"Not consciously, not intentionally. Inevitably--perhaps. That is my
trouble now--ONE of my troubles."

"Well?"

"May I ask you some questions?"

"You may ask me some questions if they are not silly questions. You
don't seem to have any creed, but you DO seem to have a catechism!
Well, on with the catechism! I hope it will be better than those I have
read."

So bidden, the lad began;--

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to declare that infants should not be
baptized?"

"It is!" The reply came like a flash of lightning.

"And those who teach to the contrary violate the word of God?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to affirm that only immersion is
Christian baptism?"

"It is!"

"And those who use any other form violate the word of God?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to celebrate the Lord's Supper once every
seven days?"

"It is!"

"And all who observe a different custom violate the word of God?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to have no such officer in the church as
an Episcopal bishop?"

"It is!"

"The office of Bishop, then, is a violation of Apostolic Christianity?"

"It is!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to make every congregation, no matter how
small or influenced by passion, an absolute court of trial and
punishment of his members?"

"It is!"

"To give every such body control over the religious standing of its
members, so it may turn them out into the world, banish them from the
church of Christ forever, if it sees fit?"

"It is!"

"And those who frame any other system of church government violate
the--"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to teach that faith precedes repentance?"

"It is!"

"Those who teach that sorrow for sin is itself the great reason why we
believe in Christ--do they violate--?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to turn people out of the church for
dancing?"

"It is!"

"The use of an organ in worship--is that a violation of Apostolic--?"

"It is!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to require that the believer in it shall
likewise believe everything in the old Bible?"

"It is."

"Did Christ and the Apostles themselves teach that everything contained
in what we call the old Bible must be believed?"

"They did!"

The pastor was grasping the arms of his chair, his body bent toward the
lad, his head thrown back, his face livid with sacred rage. He was a
good man, tried and true: God-fearing, God-serving. No fault lay in him
unless it may be imputed for unrighteousness that he was a stanch,
trenchant sectary in his place and generation. As he sat there in the
basement study of his church, his pulpit of authority and his baptismal
pool of regeneration directly over his head, all round him in the city
the solid hundreds of his followers, he forgot himself as a man and a
minister and remembered only that as a servant of the Most High he was
being interrogated and dishonored. His soul shook and thundered within
him to repel these attacks upon his Lord and Master. As those
unexpected random questions had poured in upon him thick and fast, all
emerging, as it seemed to him, like disembodied evil spirits from the
black pit of Satan and the damned, it was joy to him to deal to each
that same straight, God-directed spear-thrust of a reply--killing them
as they rose. His soul exulted in that blessed carnage.

But the questions ceased. They had hurried out as though there were a
myriad pressing behind--a few issuing bees of an aroused swarm. But
they ceased. The pastor leaned back in his chair and drew a quivering
breath through his white lips.

"Ask some more!"

On his side, the lad had lost divine passion as the pastor had gained
it. His interest waned while the pastor's waxed. His last questions
were put so falteringly, almost so inaudibly, that the pastor might
well believe his questioner beaten, brought back to modesty and
silence. To a deeper-seeing eye, however, the truth would have been
plain that the lad was not seeing his pastor at all, but seeing THROUGH
him into his own future: into his life, his great chosen life-work. His
young feet had come in their travels nigh to the limits of his Promised
Land: he was looking over into it.

"Ask some more! The last of them! Out with them ALL! Make an end of
this now and here!"

The lad reached for his hat, which he had laid on the floor, and stood
up. He was as pale as the dead.

"I shall never be able to preach Apostolic Christianity," he said, and
turned to the door.

But reaching it, he wheeled and came back.

"I am in trouble!" he cried, sitting down again. "I don't know what to
believe. I don't know what I do believe. My God!" he cried again,
burying his face in his hands. "I believe I am beginning to doubt the
Bible. Great God, what am I coming to! what is my life coming to! ME
doubt the Bible!". . .

The interview of that day was one of the signs of two storms which were
approaching: one appointed to reach the University, one to reach the
lad.

The storm now gathering in many quarters and destined in a few years to
burst upon the University was like its other storms that had gone
before: only, this last one left it a ruin which will stay a ruin.

That oldest, best passion of the Kentucky people for the establishment
in their own land of a broad institution of learning for their own
sons, though revived in David's time on a greater scale than ever
before, was not to be realized. The new University, bearing the name of
the commonwealth and opening at the close of the Civil War as a sign of
the new peace of the new nation, having begun so fairly and risen in a
few years to fourth or fifth place in patronage among all those in the
land, was already entering upon its decline. The reasons of this were
the same that had successively ruined each of its predecessors: the
same old sectarian quarrels, enmities, revenges; the same old political
oppositions and hatreds; the same personal ambitions, jealousies,
strifes.

Away back in 1780, while every man, woman, and child in the western
wilderness ness was in dire struggle for life itself, those far-seeing
people had induced the General Assembly of Virginia to confiscate and
sell in Kentucky the lands of British Tories, to found a public
seminary for Kentucky boys--not a sectarian school. These same
broad-minded pioneers had later persuaded her to give twenty thousand
acres of her land to the same cause and to exempt officers and students
of the institution from military service. Still later, intent upon this
great work, they had induced Virginia to take from her own beloved
William and Mary one-sixth of all surveyors' fees in the district and
contribute them. The early Kentuckians, for their part, planned and
sold out a lottery--to help along the incorruptible work. For such an
institution Washington and Adams and Aaron Burr and Thomas Marshall and
many another opened their purses. For it thousands and thousands of
dollars were raised among friends scattered throughout the Atlantic
states, these responding to a petition addressed to all religious
sects, to all political parties. A library and philosophical apparatus
were wagoned over the Alleghanies. A committee was sent to England to
choose further equipments. When Kentucky came to have a legislature of
its own, it decreed that each of the counties in the state should
receive six thousand acres of land wherewith to start a seminary; and
that all these county seminaries were to train students for this
long-dreamed-of central institution. That they might not be sent
away--to the North or to Europe. When, at the end of the Civil War, a
fresh attempt (and the last) was made to found in reality and in
perpetuity a home institution to be as good as the best in the
republic, the people rallied as though they had never known defeat. The
idea resounded like a great trumpet throughout the land. Individual,
legislative, congressional aid--all were poured out lavishly for that
one devoted cause.

Sad chapter in the history of the Kentuckians! Perhaps the saddest
among the many sad ones.

For such an institution must in time have taught what all its
court-houses and all its pulpits--laws human and divine--have not been
able to teach: it must have taught the noble commonwealth to cease
murdering. Standing there in the heart of the people's land, it must
have grown to stand in the heart of their affections: and so standing,
to stand for peace. For true learning always stands for peace. Letters
always stand for peace. And it is the scholar of the world who has ever
come into it as Christ came: to teach that human life is worth saving
and must be saved.



VII


The storm approaching David was vaster and came faster.

Several days had passed since his anxious and abruptly terminated
interview with his pastor. During the interval he had addressed no
further inquiries to any man touching his religious doubts. A serious
sign: for when we cease to carry such burdens to those who wait near by
as our recognized counsellors and appointed guides, the inference is
that succor for our peculiar need has there been sought in vain. This
succor, if existent at all, will be found elsewhere in one of two
places: either farther away from home in greater minds whose teaching
has not yet reached us; or still nearer home in what remains as the
last court of inquiry and decision: in the mind itself. With greater
intellects more remote the lad had not yet been put in touch; he had
therefore grown reflective, and for nearly a week had been spending the
best powers of his unaided thought in self-examination.

He was sitting one morning at his student's table with his Bible and
note-book opened before him, wrestling with his problems still. The
dormitory was very quiet. A few students remained indoors at work, but
most were absent: some gone into the country to preach trial sermons to
trying congregations; some down in the town; some at the college,
practising hymns, or rehearsing for society exhibitions; some scattered
over the campus, preparing Monday lessons on a spring morning when
animal sap stirs intelligently at its sources and sends up its mingled
currents of new energy and new lassitude.

David had thrown his window wide open, to let in the fine air; his eyes
strayed outward. A few yards away stood a stunted transplanted
locust--one of those uncomplaining asses of the vegetable kingdom whose
mission in life is to carry whatever man imposes. Year after year this
particular tree had remained patiently backed up behind the dormitory,
for the bearing of garments to be dusted or dried. More than once
during the winter, the lad had gazed out of his snow-crusted panes at
this dwarfed donkey of the woods, its feet buried deep in ashes, its
body covered with kitchen wash-rags and Bible students' frozen
underwear. He had reasoned that such soil and such servitude had killed
it.

But as he looked out of his window now, his eyes caught sight of the
early faltering green in which this exile of the forest was still
struggling to clothe itself--its own life vestments. Its enforced and
artificial function as a human clothes-horse had indeed nearly
destroyed it; but wherever a bud survived, there its true office in
nature was asserted, its ancient kind declared, its growth stubbornly
resumed.

The moment for the lad may have been one of those in the development of
the young when they suddenly behold familiar objects as with eyes more
clearly opened; when the neutral becomes the decisive; when the sermon
is found in the stone. As he now took curious cognizance of the budding
wood which he, seeing it only in winter, had supposed could not bud
again, he fell to marvelling how constant each separate thing in nature
is to its own life and how sole is its obligation to live that life
only. All that a locust had to do in the world was to be a locust; and
be a locust it would though it perished in the attempt. It drew back
with no hesitation, was racked with no doubt, puzzled with no necessity
of preference. It knew absolutely the law of its own being and knew
absolutely nothing else; found under that law its liberty, found under
that liberty its life.

"But I," he reflected, "am that which was never sown and never grown
before. All the ages of time, all the generations of men, have not
fixed any type of life for me. What I am to become I must myself each
instant choose; and having chosen, I can never know that I have chosen
best. Often I do know that what I have selected I must discard. And yet
no one choice can ever be replaced by its rejected fellow; the better
chance lost once, is lost eternally. Within the limits of a locust, how
little may the individual wander; within the limits of the wide and
erring human, what may not a man become! What now am I becoming? What
shall I now choose--as my second choice?"

A certain homely parallel between the tree and himself began to shape
itself before his thought: how he, too, had been dug up far away--had,
in a sense, voluntarily dug himself up--and been transplanted in the
college campus; how, ever since being placed there, the different
sectarian churches of the town had, without exception, begun to pin on
the branches of his mind the many-shaped garments of their dogmas,
until by this time he appeared to himself as completely draped as the
little locust after a heavy dormitory washing. There was this terrible
difference, however: that the garments hung on the tree were anon
removed; but these doctrines and dogmas were fastened to his mind to
stay--as the very foliage of his thought--as the living leaves of
Divine Truth. He was forbidden to strip off one of those sacred leaves.
He was told to live and to breathe his religious life through them, and
to grow only where they hung.

The lad declared finally to himself this morning, that realize his
religious life through those dogmas he never could; that it was useless
any longer to try. Little by little they would as certainly kill him in
growth and spirit as the rags had killed the locust in sap and bud.
Whatever they might be to others--and he judged no man--for him with
his peculiar nature they could never be life-vestments; they would
become his spiritual grave-clothes.

The parallel went a little way further: that scant faltering green!
that unconquerable effort of the tree to assert despite all deadening
experiences its old wildwood state! Could he do the like, could he go
back to his? Yearning, sad, immeasurable filled him as he now recalled
the simple faith of what had already seemed to him his childhood.
Through the mist blinding his vision, through the doubts blinding his
brain, still could he see it lying there clear in the near distance!
"No," he cried, "into whatsoever future I may be driven to enter,
closed against me is the peace of my past. Return thither my eyes ever
will, my feet never!"

"But as I was true to myself then, let me be true now. If I cannot
believe what I formerly believed, let me determine quickly what I CAN
believe. The Truth, the Law--I must find these and quickly!"

From all of which, though thus obscurely set forth, it will be divined
that the lad had now reached, indeed for some days had stood halting,
at one of the great partings of the ways: when the whole of Life's road
can be walked in by us no longer; when we must elect the half we shall
henceforth follow, and having taken it, ever afterward perhaps look
yearningly back upon the other as a lost trail of the mind.

The parting of the ways where he had thus faltered, summing up his
bewilderment, and crying aloud for fresh directions, was one
immemorially old in the history of man: the splitting of Life's single
road into the by-paths of Doubt and Faith. Until within less than a
year, his entire youth had been passed in the possession of what he
esteemed true religion. Brought from the country into the town, where
each of the many churches was proclaiming itself the sole incarnation
of this and all others the embodiment of something false, he had, after
months of distracted wandering among their contradictory clamors,
passed as so many have passed before him into that state of mind which
rejects them all and asks whether such a thing as true religion
anywhere exists.

The parting of Life's road at Doubt and Faith! How many pilgrim feet
throughout the ages, toiling devoutly thus far, have shrunk back before
that unexpected and appalling sign! Disciples of the living Lord,
saints, philosophers, scholars, priests, knights, statesmen--what a
throng! What thoughts there born, prayers there ended, vows there
broken, light there breaking, hearts there torn in twain! Mighty
mountain rock! rising full in the road of journeying humanity. Around
its base the tides of the generations dividing as part the long racing
billows of the sea about some awful cliff.

The lad closed his note-book, and taking his chair to the window,
folded his arms on the sill and looked out. Soon he noticed what had
escaped him before. Beyond the tree, at the foot of the ash-heap, a
single dandelion had opened. It burned like a steadfast yellow lamp,
low in the edge of the young grass. These two simple things--the locust
leaves, touched by the sun, shaken by the south wind; the dandelion
shining in the grass--awoke in him the whole vision of the spring now
rising anew out of the Earth, all over the land: great Nature! And the
vision of this caused him to think of something else.

On the Sunday following his talk with the lad, the pastor had preached
the most arousing sermon that the lad had heard: it had grown out of
that interview: it was on modern infidelity--the new infidelity as
contrasted with the old.

In this sermon he had arraigned certain books as largely responsible.
He called them by their titles. He warned his people against them. Here
recommenced the old story: the lad was at once seized with a desire to
read those books, thus exhibiting again the identical trait that had
already caused him so much trouble. But this trait was perhaps
himself--his core; the demand of his nature to hear both sides, to
judge evidence, test things by his own reason, get at the deepest root
of a matter: to see Truth, and to see Truth whole.

Curiously enough, these books, and some others, had been much heard of
by the lad since coming to college: once; then several times; then
apparently everywhere and all the time. For, intellectually, they had
become atmospheric: they had to be breathed, as a newly introduced
vital element of the air, whether liked or not liked by the breathers.
They were the early works of the great Darwin, together with some of
that related illustrious group of scientific investigators and
thinkers, who, emerging like promontories, islands, entire new
countries, above the level of the world's knowledge, sent their waves
of influence rushing away to every shore. It was in those years that
they were flowing over the United States, over Kentucky. And as some
volcanic upheaval under mid-ocean will in time rock the tiny boat of a
sailor boy in some little sheltered bay on the other side of the
planet, so the sublime disturbance in the thought of the civilized
world in the second half of the nineteenth century had reached David.

Sitting at his window, looking out blindly for help and helpers amid
his doubts, seeing the young green of the locust, the yellow of the
dandelion, he recalled the names of those anathematized books, which
were described as dealing so strangely with nature and with man's place
in it. The idea dominated him at last to go immediately and get those
books.

A little later he might have been seen quitting the dormitory and
taking his way with a dubious step across the campus into the town.

Saturday forenoons of spring were busy times for the town in those
days. Farmers were in, streets were crowded with their horses and
buggies and rockaways, with live stock, with wagons hauling cord-wood,
oats, hay, and hemp. Once, at a crossing, David waited while a wagon
loaded with soft, creamy, gray hemp creaked past toward a factory. He
sniffed with relish the tar of the mud-packed wheels; he put out a hand
and stroked the heads drawn close in familiar bales.

Crowded, too, of Saturdays was the book-shop to which the students
usually resorted for their supplies. Besides town customers and country
customers, the pastor of the church often dropped in and sat near the
stove, discoursing, perhaps, to some of his elders, or to reverent
Bible students, or old acquaintances. A small, tight, hot,
metal-smelling stove--why is it so enjoyable by a dogmatist?

As David made his way to the rear of the long bookshelves, which
extended back toward the stove, the pastor rose and held out his hand
with hearty warmth--and a glance of secret solicitude. The lad looked
sheepish with embarrassment; not until accosted had he himself realized
what a stray he had become from his pastor's flock and fold. And he
felt that he ought instantly to tell the pastor this was the case. But
the pastor had reseated himself and regripped his masterful monologue.
The lad was more than embarrassed; he felt conscious of a new
remorseful tenderness for this grim, righteous man, now that he had
emancipated mind and conscience from his teaching: so true it often is
that affection is possible only where obedience is not demanded. He
turned off sorrowfully to the counter, and a few moments later, getting
the attention of the clerk, asked in a low conscience-stricken tone for
"The Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man"; conscience-stricken
at the sight of the money in his palm to pay for them.

"What are you going to do with these?" inquired a Bible student who had
joined him at the counter and fingered the books.

"Read them," said the lad, joyously, "and understand them if I can."

He pinned them against his heart with his elbow and all but ran back to
the dormitory. Having reached there, he altered his purpose and instead
of mounting to his room, went away off to a quiet spot on the campus
and, lying down in the grass under the wide open sky, opened his wide
Darwin.

It was the first time in his life that he had ever encountered outside
of the Bible a mind of the highest order, or listened to it, as it
delivered over to mankind the astounding treasures of its knowledge and
wisdom in accents of appealing, almost plaintive modesty.

That day the lad changed his teachers.

Of the session more than two months yet remained. Every few days he
might have been seen at the store, examining books, drawing money
reluctantly from his pocket, hurrying away with another volume.
Sometimes he would deliver to the clerk the title of a work written on
a slip of paper: an unheard-of book; to be ordered--perhaps from the
Old World. For one great book inevitably leads to another. They have
their parentage, kinship, generations. They are watch-towers in sight
of each other on the same human highway. They are strands in a single
cable belting the globe. Link by link David's investigating hands were
slipping eagerly along a mighty chain of truths, forged separately by
the giants of his time and now welded together in the glowing thought
of the world.

Not all of these were scientific works. Some were works which followed
in the wake of the new science, with rapid applications of its methods
and results to other subjects, scarce conterminous or not even germane.
For in the light of the great central idea of Evolution, all
departments of human knowledge had to be reviewed, reconsidered,
reconceived, rearranged, rewritten. Every foremost scholar of the
world, kindling his own personal lamp at that central sunlike radiance,
retired straightway into his laboratory of whatsoever kind and found it
truly illuminated for the first time. His lamp seemed to be of two
flames enwrapped as one; a baleful and a benign. Whenever it shone upon
anything that was true, it made this stand out the more clear,
valuable, resplendent. But wherever it uncovered the false, it darted
thereat a swift tongue of flame, consuming without mercy the ancient
rubbish of the mind. Vast purification of the world by the fire of
truth! There have been such purifications before; but never perhaps in
the history of the race was so much burned out of the intellectual path
of man as during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

There is a sort of land which receives in autumn, year by year, the
deposit of its own dead leaves and weeds and grasses without either the
winds and waters to clear these away or the soil to reabsorb and
reconvert them into the materials of reproduction. Thus year by year
the land tends farther toward sterility by the very accumulation of
what was once its life. But send a forest fire across those smothering
strata of vegetable decay; give once more a chance for every root below
to meet the sun above; for every seed above to reach the ground below;
soon again the barren will be the fertile, the desert blossom as the
rose. It is so with the human mind. It is ever putting forth a thousand
things which are the expression of its life for a brief season. These
myriads of things mature, ripen, bear their fruit, fall back dead upon
the soil of the mind itself. That mind may be the mind of an
individual; it may be the mind of a century, a race, a civilization. To
the individual, then, to a race, a civilization, a century, arrives the
hour when it must either consume its own dead or surrender its own
life. These hours are the moral, the intellectual revolutions of
history.

The new science must not only clear the stagnant ground for the growth
of new ideas, it must go deeper. Not enough that rubbish should be
burned: old structures of knowledge and faith, dangerous, tottering,
unfit to be inhabited longer, must be shaken to their foundations. It
brought on therefore a period of intellectual upheaval and of drift,
such as was once passed through by the planet itself. What had long
stood locked and immovable began to move; what had been high sank out
of sight; what had been low was lifted. The mental hearing, listening
as an ear placed amid still mountains, could gather into itself from
afar the slip and fall of avalanches. Whole systems of belief which had
chilled the soul for centuries, dropped off like icebergs into the
warming sea and drifted away, melting into nothingness.

The minds of many men, witnessing this double ruin by flame and
earthquake, are at such times filled with consternation: to them it
seems that nothing will survive, that beyond these cataclysms there
will never again be stability and peace--a new and better age, safer
footing, wider horizons, clearer skies.

It was so now. The literature of the New Science was followed by a
literature of new Doubt and Despair. But both of these were followed by
yet another literature which rejected alike the New Science and the New
Doubt, and stood by all that was included under the old beliefs. The
voices of these three literatures filled the world: they were the
characteristic notes of that half-century, heard sounding together: the
Old Faith, the New Science, the New Doubt. And they met at a single
point; they met at man's place in Nature, at the idea of God, and in
that system of thought and creed which is Christianity.

It was at this sublime meeting-place of the Great Three that this
untrained and simple lad soon arrived--searching for the truth. Here he
began to listen to them, one after another: reading a little in science
(he was not prepared for that), a little in the old faith, but most in
the new doubt. For this he was ready; toward this he had been driven.

Its earliest effects were soon exhibited in him as a student. He
performed all required work, slighted no class, shirked no rule,
transgressed no restriction. But he asked no questions of any man now,
no longer roved distractedly among the sects, took no share in the
discussions rife in his own church. There were changes more
significant: he ceased to attend the Bible students' prayer-meeting at
the college or the prayer-meeting of the congregation in the town; he
would not say grace at those evening suppers of the Disciples; he
declined the Lord's Supper; his voice was not heard in the choir. He
was, singularly enough, in regular attendance at morning and night
services of the church; but he entered timidly, apologetically, sat as
near as possible to the door, and slipped out a little before the
people were dismissed: his eyes had been fixed respectfully on his
pastor throughout the sermon, but his thoughts were in other temples.



VIII


The session reached its close. The students were scattered far among
the villages, farms, cities of many states. Some never to return,
having passed from the life of a school into the school of life; some,
before vacation ended, gone with their laughter and vigor into the
silence of the better Teacher.

Over at the dormitory the annual breaking-up of the little band of
Bible students had, as always, been affecting. Calm, cool, bright day
of June! when the entire poor tenement house was fragrant with flowers
brought from commencement; when a south wind sent ripples over the
campus grass; and outside the campus, across the street, the yards were
glowing with roses. Oh, the roses of those young days, how sweet, how
sweet they were! How much sweeter now after the long, cruel, evil
suffering years which have passed and gone since they faded!

The students were dispersed, and David sat at his table by his open
window, writing to his father and mother.

After telling them he had stood well in his classes, and giving some
descriptions of the closing days and ceremonies of the college, for he
knew how interested they would be in reading about these things, he
announced that he was not coming home. He enclosed a part of the funds
still on hand, and requested his father to hire a man in his place to
work on the farm during the summer. He said nothing of his doubts and
troubles, but gave as the reason of his remaining away what indeed the
reason was: that he wished to study during the vacation; it was the
best chance he had ever had, perhaps would ever have; and it was of the
utmost importance to him to settle a great many questions before the
next session of the Bible College opened. His expenses would be small.
He had made arrangements with the wife of the janitor to take charge of
his room and his washing and to give him his meals: his room itself
would not cost him anything, and he did not need any more clothes.

It was hard to stay away from them. Not until separated, had he
realized how dear they were to him. He could not bear even to write
about all that. And he was homesick for the sight of the farm,--the
horses and cows and sheep,--for the sight of Captain. But he must
remain where he was; what he had to do must be done quickly--a great
duty was involved. And they must write to him oftener because he would
need their letters, their love, more than ever now. And so God keep
them in health and bless them. And he was their grateful son, who too
often had been a care to them, who could never forget the sacrifices
they had made to send him to college, and whose only wish was that he
might not cause them any disappointment in the future.

This letter drew a quick reply from his father. He returned the money,
saying that he had done better on the farm than he had expected and did
not need it, and that he had a man employed, his former slave. Sorry as
they were not to see him that summer, still they were glad of his
desire to study through vacation. His own life had not been very
successful; he had tried hard, but had failed. For a longtime now he
had been accepting the failure as best he could. But compensation for
all this were the new interests, hopes, ambitions, which centred in the
life of his son. To see him a minister, a religious leader among
men--that would be happiness enough for him. His family had always been
a religious people. One thing he was already looking forward to: he
wanted his son to preach his first sermon in the neighborhood church
founded by the lad's great-grandfather--that would be the proudest hour
of his life and in the lad's mother's. There were times in the past
when perhaps he had been hard on him, not understanding him; this only
made his wish the greater to aid him now in every way, at any cost.
When they were not talking of him at home, they were thinking of him.
And they blessed God that He had given them such a son. Let him not be
troubled about the future; they knew that he would never disappoint
them.

David sat long immovable before that letter.

One other Bible student remained. On the campus, not far from the
dormitory, stood a building of a single story, of several rooms. In one
of these rooms there lived, with his family, that tall, gaunt, shaggy,
middle-aged man, in his shiny black coat and paper collars, without any
cravats, who had been the lad's gentle monitor on the morning of his
entering college. He, too, was to spend the summer there, having no
means of getting away with his wife and children. Though he sometimes
went off himself, to hold meetings where he could and for what might be
paid him; now preaching and baptizing in the mountains; now back again,
laboring in his shirt-sleeves at the Pentateuch and the elementary
structure of the English language. Such troubles as David's were not
for him; nor science nor doubt. His own age contained him as a green
field might hold a rock. Not that this kind, faithful, helpful soul was
a lifeless stone; but that he was as unresponsive to the movements of
his time as a boulder is to the energies of a field. Alive in his own
sublime way he was, and inextricably rooted in one ever-living book
alone--the Bible.

This middle-aged, childlike man, settled near David as his neighbor,
was forever a reminder to him of the faith he once had had--the faith
of his earliest youth, the faith of his father and mother. Sometimes
when the day's work was done and the sober, still twilights came on,
this reverent soul, sitting with his family gathered about him near the
threshold of his single homeless room,--his oldest boy standing beside
his chair, his wife holding in her lap the sleeping babe she had just
nursed,--would begin to sing. The son's voice joined the father's; the
wife's followed the son's, in their usual hymn:--

    "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
    Is laid for your faith in His excellent word."

Up in his room, a few hundred yards away, the lad that moment might be
trimming his lamp for a little more reading. More than once he waited,
listening in the darkness, to the reliant music of the stalwart, stern
old poem. How devotedly he too had been used to sing it!

That summer through, then, he kept on at the work of trying to settle
things before college reopened--things which involved a great duty.
Where the new thought of the age attacked dogma, Revelation,
Christianity most, there most he read. He was not the only reader. He
was one of a multitude which no man could know or number; for many read
in secret. Ministers of the Gospel read in secret in their libraries,
and locked the books away when their church officers called
unexpectedly. On Sunday, mounting their pulpits, they preached
impassioned sermons concerning faith--addressed to the doubts, ravaging
their own convictions and consciences.

Elders and deacons read and kept the matter hid from their pastors.
Physicians and lawyers read and spoke not a word to their wives and
children. In the church, from highest ecclesiastic and layman, wherever
in the professions a religious, scientific, scholarly mind, there was
felt the central intellectual commotion of those years--the Battle of
the Great Three.

And now summer was gone, the students flocking in, the session
beginning. David reentered his classes. Inwardly he drew back from this
step; yet take any other, throw up the whole matter,--that he could not
do. With all his lifelong religious sense he held on to the former
realities, even while his grasp was loosening.

But this could not endure. University life as a Bible student and
candidate for the ministry, every day and many times every day,
required of him duties which he could not longer conscientiously
discharge; they forced from him expressions regarding his faith which
made it only too plain both to himself and to others how much out of
place he now was.

So the crisis came, as come it must.

Autumn had given place to winter, to the first snows, thawing during
the day, freezing at night. The roofs of the town were partly brown,
partly white; icicles hung lengthening from the eaves. It was the date
on which the university closed for the Christmas holidays--Friday
afternoon preceding. All day through the college corridors, or along
the snow-paths leading to the town, there had been the glad noises of
that wild riotous time: whistle and song and shout and hurrying feet,
gripping hands, good wishes, and good-bys. One by one the sounds had
grown fewer, fainter, and had ceased; the college was left in emptiness
and silence, except in a single lecture room in one corner of the
building, from the windows of which you looked out across the town and
toward the west; there the scene took place.

It was at the door of this room that the lad, having paused a moment
outside to draw a deep, quivering breath, knocked, and being told to
come in, entered, closed the door behind him, and sat down white and
trembling in the nearest chair. About the middle of the room were
seated the professors of the Bible College and his pastor. They rose,
and calling him forward shook hands with him kindly, sorrowfully, and
pointed to a seat before them, resuming their own.

Before them, then, sat the lad, facing the wintry light; and there was
a long silence. Every one knew beforehand what the result would be. It
was the best part of a year since that first interview in the pastor's
study; there had been other interviews--with the pastor, with the
professors. They had done what they could to check him, to bring him
back. They had long been counsellors; now in duty they were
authorities, sitting to hear him finally to the end, that they might
pronounce sentence: that would be the severance of his connection with
the university and his expulsion from the church.

Old, old scene in the history of Man--the trial of his Doubt by his
Faith: strange day of judgment, when one half of the human spirit
arraigns and condemns the other half. Only five persons sat in that
room--four men and a boy. The room was of four bare walls and a
blackboard, with perhaps a map or two of Palestine, Egypt, and the
Roman Empire in the time of Paul. The era was the winter of the year
1868, the place was an old town of the Anglo-Saxon backwoodsmen, on the
blue-grass highlands of Kentucky. But in how many other places has that
scene been enacted, before what other audiences of the accusing and the
accused, under what laws of trial, with what degrees and rigors of
judgment! Behind David, sitting solitary there in the flesh, the
imagination beheld a throng so countless as to have been summoned and
controlled by the deep arraigning eye of Dante alone. Unawares, he
stood at the head of an invisible host, which stretched backward
through time till it could be traced no farther. Witnesses all to that
sublime, indispensable part of man which is his Doubt--Doubt respecting
his origin, his meaning, his Maker, and his destiny. That perpetual
half-night of his planet-mind--that shadowed side of his
orbit-life--forever attracted and held in place by the force of Deity,
but destined never to receive its light. Yet from that chill, bleak
side what things have not reached round and caught the sun! And as of
the earth's plants, some grow best and are sweetest in darkness, what
strange blossoms of faith open and are fragrant in that eternal umbra!
Sacred, sacred Doubt of Man. His agony, his searching! which has led
him always onward from more ignorance to less ignorance, from less
truth to more truth; which is the inspiration of his mind, the sorrow
of his heart; which has spoken everywhere in his science, philosophy,
literature, art--in his religion itself; which keeps him humble not
vain, changing not immutable, charitable not bigoted; which attempts to
solve the universe and knows that it does not solve it, but ever seeks
to trace law, to clarify reason, and so to find whatever truth it can.

As David sat before his professors and his pastor, it was one of the
moments that sum up civilization.

Across the room, behind them also, what a throng! Over on that side was
Faith, that radiant part of the soul which directly basks in the light
of God, the sun. There, visible to the eye of imagination, were those
of all times, places, and races, who have sat in judgment on doubters,
actual or suspected. In whatsoever else differing, united in this: that
they have always held themselves to be divinely appointed agents of the
Judge of all the earth: His creatures chosen to punish His creatures.
And so behind those professors, away back in history, were ranged
Catholic popes and Protestant archbishops, and kings and queens,
Protestant and Catholic, and great mediaeval jurists, and mailed
knights and palm-bearing soldiers of the cross, and holy inquisitors
drowning poor old bewildered women, tearing living flesh from flesh as
paper, crushing bones like glass, burning the shrieking human body to
cinders: this in the name of a Christ whose Gospel was mercy, and by
the authority of a God whose law was love. They were all there, tier
after tier, row above row, a vast shadowy colosseum of intent judicial
faces--Defenders of the Faith.

But no inquisitor was in this room now, nor punitive intention, nor
unkind thought. Slowly throughout the emerging life of man this
identical trial has gained steadily in charity and mildness. Looking
backward over his long pathway through bordering mysteries, man himself
has been brought to see, time and again, that what was his doubt was
his ignorance; what was his faith was his error; that things rejected
have become believed, and that things believed have become rejected;
that both his doubt and his faith are the temporary condition of his
knowledge, which is ever growing; and that rend him faith and doubt
ever will, but destroy him, never.

No Smithfield fire, then, no Jesuitical rack, no cup of hemlock, no
thumb-screw, no torture of any kind for David. Still, here was a duty
to be done, an awful responsibility to be discharged in sorrow and with
prayer; and grave good men they were. Blameless was this lad in all
their eyes save in his doubt. But to doubt--was not that the greatest
of sins?

The lad soon grew composed. These judges were still his friends, not
his masters. His masters were the writers of the books in which he
believed, and he spoke for them, for what he believed to be the truth,
so far as man had learned it. The conference lasted through that short
winter afternoon. In all that he said the lad showed that he was full
of many confusing voices: the voices of the new science, the voices of
the new doubt. One voice only had fallen silent in him: the voice of
the old faith.

It had grown late. Twilight was descending on the white campus, on the
snow-capped town. Away in the west, beyond the clustered house-tops,
there had formed itself the solemn picture of a red winter sunset. The
light entered the windows and fell on the lad's face. One last question
had just been asked him by the most venerable and beloved of his
professors--in tones awe-stricken, and tremulous with his own humility,
and with compassion for the erring boy before him,--

"Do you not even believe in God?"

Ah, that question! which shuts the gates of consciousness upon us when
we enter sleep, and sits close outside our eyelids as we waken; which
was framed in us ere we were born, which comes fullest to life in us as
life itself ebbs fastest. That question which exacts of the finite to
affirm whether it apprehends the Infinite, that prodding of the evening
midge for its opinion of the polar star.

"Do you not even believe in God?"

The lad stood up, he whose life until these months had been a prayer,
whose very slumbers had been worship. He stood up, from some
impulse--perhaps the respectful habit of rising when addressed in class
by this professor. At first he made no reply, but remained looking over
the still heads of his elders into that low red sunset sky. How often
had he beheld it, when feeding the stock at frozen twilights. One
vision rose before him now of his boyhood life at home--his hopes of
the ministry--the hemp fields where he had toiled--his father and
mother waiting before the embers this moment, mindful of him. He
recalled how often, in the last year, he had sat upon his bedside at
midnight when all were asleep, asking himself that question:--

"Do I believe in God?"

And now he was required to lay bare what his young soul had been able
to do with that eternal mystery.

He thrust his big coarse hand into his breast-pocket and drew out a
little red morocco Testament which had been given him when he was
received into the congregation. He opened it at a place where it seemed
used to lie apart. He held it before his face, but could not read. At
last, controlling himself, he said to them with dignity, and with the
common honesty which was the life of him:--

"I read you a line which is the best answer I can give just now to your
last question."

And so he read:--

"Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!"

A few moments later he turned to another page and said to them:--

"These lines also I desire to read to you who believe in Christ and
believe that Christ and God are one. I may not understand them, but I
have thought of them a great deal:--"

"'And if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not: for I
came not to judge the world but to save the world.'"

"'He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words, hath one that
judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in
the last day.'"

He shut his Testament and put it back into his pocket and looked at his
judges.

"I understand this declaration of Christ to mean," he said, "that
whether I believe in Him or do not believe in Him, I am not to be
judged till God's Day of Judgment."



IX


A few days later David was walking across the fields on his way home:
it was past the middle of the afternoon.

At early candle-light that morning, the huge red stage-coach, leaving
town for his distant part of the country, had rolled, creaking and
rattling, to the dormitory entrance, the same stage that had conveyed
him thither. Throwing up his window he had looked out at the curling
white breath of the horses and at the driver, who, buried in coats and
rugs, and holding the lash of his whip in his mittened fist, peered up
and called out with no uncertain temper.

The lad was ready. He hastily carried down the family umbrella and the
Brussels carpet valise with its copious pink roses, looking strangely
out of season amid all that hoar frost. Then he leaped back upstairs
for something which had been added to his worldly goods since he
entered college--a small, cheap trunk, containing a few garments and
the priceless books. These things the driver stored in the boot of the
stage, bespattered with mud now frozen. Then, running back once more,
the lad seized his coat and hat, cast one troubled glance around the
meaningless room which had been the theatre of such a drama in his
life, went over to the little table, and blew out his Bible Student's
lamp forever; and hurrying down with a cordial "all ready," climbed to
the seat beside the driver and was whirled away.

He turned as he passed from the campus to take a last look at Morrison
College, standing back there on the hill, venerable, majestical,
tight-closed, its fires put out. As he crossed the city (for there were
passengers to be picked up and the mail-bag to be gotten), he took
unspoken leave of many other places: of the bookstore where he had
bought the masterpieces of his masters; of the little Italian
apple-man--who would never again have so simple a customer for his
slightly damaged fruit; of several tall, proud, well-frosted church
spires now turning rosy in the sunrise; of a big, handsome house
standing in a fashionable street, with black coal smoke pouring out of
the chimneys. There the friends of his boyhood "boarded"; there they
were now, asleep in luxurious beds, or gone away for the holidays, he
knew not which: all he did know was that they were gone far away from
him along life's other pathways.

Soon the shops on each side were succeeded by homesteads; gradually
these stood farther apart as farm-houses set back from the highroad;
the street had become a turnpike, they were in open country and the lad
was on his way to his father and mother.

In the afternoon, at one of the stops for watering horses, he had his
traps and trappings put out. From this place a mud road wound across
the country to his neighborhood; and at a point some two miles distant,
a pair of bars tapped it as an outlet and inlet for the travel on his
father's land.

Leaving his things at the roadside farmhouse with the promise that he
would return for them, the lad struck out--not by the lane, but
straight across country.

It was a mild winter day without wind, without character--one of the
days on which Nature seems to take no interest in herself and creates
no interest in others. The sky was overcrowded with low, ragged clouds,
without discernible order or direction. Nowhere a yellow sunbeam
glinting on any object, but vast jets of misty radiance shot downward
in far-diverging lines toward the world: as though above the clouds
were piled the waters of light and this were scant escaping spray.

He walked on, climbing the fences, coming on the familiar sights of
winter woods and fields. Having been away from them for the first time
and that during more than a year, with what feelings he now beheld them!

Crows about the corn shocks, flying leisurely to the stake-and-ridered
fence: there alighting with their tails pointing toward him and their
heads turned sideways over one shoulder; but soon presenting their
breasts seeing he did not hunt. The solitary caw of one of them--that
thin, indifferent comment of their sentinel, perched on the silver-gray
twig of a sycamore. In another field the startled flutter of field
larks from pale-yellow bushes of ground-apple. Some boys out
rabbit-hunting in the holidays, with red cheeks and gay woollen
comforters around their hot necks and jeans jackets full of Spanish
needles: one shouldering a gun, one carrying a game-bag, one eating an
apple: a pack of dogs and no rabbit. The winter brooks, trickling
through banks of frozen grass and broken reeds; their clear brown water
sometimes open, sometimes covered with figured ice.

Red cattle in one distant wood, moving tender-footed around the edge of
a pond. The fall of a forest tree sounding distinct amid the reigning
stillness--felled for cord wood. And in one field--right there before
him!--the chopping sound of busy hemp brakes and the sight of negroes,
one singing a hymn. Oh, the memories, the memories!

By and by he reached the edge of his father's land, climbed to the
topmost rail of the boundary fence and sat there, his eyes glued to the
whole scene. It lay outspread before him, the entirety of that farm. He
had never realized before how little there was of it, how little! He
could see all around it, except where the woods hid the division fence
on one side. And the house, standing in the still air of the winter
afternoon, with its rotting roof and low red chimneys partly obscured
by scraggy cedars--how small it had become! How poor, how wretched
everything--the woodpile, the cabin, the hen-house, the ice-house, the
barn! Was this any part of the great world? It was one picture of
desolation, the creeping paralysis of a house and farm. Did anything
even move?

Something did move. A column of blue smoke moved straight and thin from
the chimney of his father's and mother's room. In a far corner of the
stable lot, pawing and nozzling some remnants of fodder, were the old
horses. By the hay-rick he discovered one of the sheep, the rest being
on the farther side. The cows by and by filed slowly around from behind
the barn and entered the doorless milking stalls. Suddenly his dog
emerged from one of those stalls, trotting cautiously, then with a
playful burst of speed went in a streak across the lot toward the
kitchen. A negro man issued from the cabin, picked out a log, knocked
the ashes out of his pipe in the palm of his hand, and began to cut the
firewood for the night.

All this did not occur at once: he had been sitting there a long
time--heart-sick with the thought of the tragedy he was bringing home.
How could he ever meet them, ever tell them? How would they ever
understand? If he could only say to his father: "I have sinned and I
have broken your heart: but forgive me." But he could not say this: he
did not believe that he had done wrong. Yet all that he would now have
to show in their eyes would be the year of his wasted life, and a trunk
full of the books that had ruined him.

Ah, those two years before he had started to college, during which they
had lived happily together! Their pride in him! their self-denial,
affection--all because he was to be a scholar and a minister!

He fancied he could see them as they sat in the house this moment, not
dreaming he was anywhere near. One on each side of the fireplace; his
mother wearing her black dress and purple shawl: a ball of yarn and
perhaps a tea-cake in her lap; some knitting on her needles; she knit,
she never mended. But his father would be mending--leather perhaps, and
sewing, as he liked to sew, with hog bristles--the beeswax and the awls
lying in the bottom of a chair drawn to his side. There would be no
noises in the room otherwise: he could hear the stewing of the sap in
the end of a fagot, the ticking of one clock, the fainter ticking of
another in the adjoining room, like a disordered echo. They would not
be talking; they would be thinking of him. He shut his eyes, compressed
his lips, shook his head resolutely, and leaped down.

He had gone about twenty yards, when he heard a quick, incredulous bark
down by the house and his dog appeared in full view, looking up that
way, motionless. Then he came on running and barking resentfully, and a
short distance off stopped again.

"Captain," he called with a quivering voice.

With ears laid back and one cry of joy the dog was on him. The lad
stooped and drew him close. Neither at that moment had any articulate
speech nor needed it. As soon as he was released, the dog, after
several leaps toward his face, was off in despair either of expressing
or of containing his joy, to tell the news at the house. David
laggingly followed.

As he stepped upon the porch, piled against the wall beside the door
were fagots as he used to see them. When he reached the door itself, he
stopped, gazing foolishly at those fagots, at the little gray lichens
on them: he could not knock, he could not turn the knob without
knocking. But his step had been heard. His mother opened the door and
peered curiously out.

"Why, it's Davy!" she cried. "Davy! Davy!"

She dropped her knitting and threw her arms around him.

"David! David!" exclaimed his father, with a glad proud voice inside.
"Why, my son, my son!"

"Ah, he's sick--he's come home sick!" cried the mother, holding him a
little way off to look at his face. "Ah! the poor fellow's sick! Come
in, come in. And this is why we had no letter! And to think yesterday
was Christmas Day! And we had the pies and the turkey!"

"My son, are you unwell--have you been unwell? Sit here, lie here."

The lad's face was overspread with ghastly pallor; he had lost control
of himself.

"I have not been sick. I am perfectly well," he said at length, looking
from one to the other with forlorn, remorseful affection. They had
drawn a chair close, one on each side of him. "How are you, mother? How
are you, father?"

The change in HIM!--that was all they saw. As soon as he spoke, they
knew he was in good health. Then the trouble was something else, more
terrible. The mother took refuge in silence as a woman instinctively
does at such times; the father sought relief in speech.

"What is the matter? What happened?"

After a moment of horrible silence, David spoke:--

"Ah, father! How can I ever tell you!"

"How can you ever tell me?"

The rising anger mingled with distrust and fear in those words! How
many a father knows!

"Oh, what is it!" cried his mother, wringing her hands, and bursting
into tears. She rose and went to her seat under the mantelpiece.

"What have you done?" said his father, also rising and going back to
his seat.

There was a new sternness in his voice; but the look which returned
suddenly to his eyes was the old life-long look.

The lad sat watching his father, dazed by the tragedy he was facing.

"It is my duty to tell you as soon as possible--I suppose I ought to
tell you now."

"Then speak--why do you sit there--"

The words choked him.

"Oh! oh!--"

"Mother, don't!--"

"What is it?"

"Father, I have been put out of college and expelled from the church."

How loud sounded the minute noises of the fire--the clocks--the blows
of an axe at the woodpile--the lowing of a cow at the barn.

"FOR WHAT?"

The question was put at length in a voice flat and dead. It summed up a
lifetime of failure and admitted it. After an interval it was put
again:--

"FOR WHAT?"

"I do not believe the Bible any longer. I do not believe in
Christianity."

"Oh, don't do THAT!"

The cry proceeded from David's mother, who crossed quickly and sat
beside her husband, holding his hand, perhaps not knowing her own
motive.

This, then, was the end of hope and pride, the reward of years of
self-denial, the insult to all this poverty. For the time, even the
awful nature of his avowal made no impression.

After a long silence, the father asked feebly:--

"WHY HAVE YOU COME BACK HERE?"

Suddenly he rose, and striding across to his son, struck him one blow
with his mind:--

"OH, I ALWAYS KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING IN YOU!"

It was a kick of the foot.



X


More than two months had passed. Twilight of closing February was
falling over the frozen fields. The last crow had flapped low and
straight toward the black wood beyond the southern horizon. No sunset
radiance streamed across the wide land, for all day a solitude of cloud
had stretched around the earth, bringing on the darkness now before its
time.

In a small hemp field on an edge of the vast Kentucky table-land, a
solitary breaker kept on at his work. The splintered shards were piled
high against his brake: he had not paused to clear them out of his way
except around his bootlegs. Near by, the remnant of the shock had
fallen over, clods of mingled frost and soil still sticking to the
level butt-ends. Several yards to windward, where the dust and refuse
might not settle on it, lay the pile of gray-tailed hemp,--the coarsest
of man's work, but finished as conscientiously as an art. From the
warming depths of this, rose the head and neck of a common shepherd
dog, his face turned uneasily but patiently toward the worker. Whatever
that master should do, whether understood or not, was right to him; he
did not ask to understand, but to love and to serve. Farther away in
another direction leaned the charred rind of a rotting stump. At
intervals the rising wind blew the ashes away, exposing live
coals--that fireside of the laborer, wandering with him from spot to
spot over the bitter lonely spaces.

The hemp breaker had just gone to the shock and torn away another
armful, dragging the rest down. Exhausting to the picked and powerful,
the work seemed easy to him; for he was a young man of the greatest
size and strength, moulded in the proportions which Nature often
chooses for her children of the soil among that people. Striding
rapidly back to his brake, the clumsy five-slatted device of the
pioneer Kentuckians, he raised the handle and threw the armful of
stalks crosswise between the upper and the lower blades. Then swinging
the handle high, with his body wrenched violently forward and the
strength of his good right arm put forth, he brought it down. The
CRASH, CRASH, CRASH could have been heard far through the still air;
for it is the office of those dull blades to hack their way as through
a bundle of dead rods.

A little later he stopped abruptly, with silent inquiry turning his
face to the sky: a raindrop had fallen on his hand. Two or three drops
struck his face as he waited. It had been very cold that morning, too
cold for him to come out to work. Though by noon it had moderated, it
was cold still; but out of the warmer currents of the upper atmosphere,
which was now the noiseless theatre of great changes going forward
unshared as yet by the strata below, sank these icy globules of the
winter rain. Their usual law is to freeze during descent into the
crystals of snow; rarely they harden after they fall, covering the
earth with sleet.

David, by a few quick circular motions of the wrist, freed his left
hand from the half-broken hemp, leaving the bundle trailing across the
brake. Then he hurried to the heap of well-cleaned fibre: that must not
be allowed to get wet. The dog leaped out and stood to one side,
welcoming the end of the afternoon labor and the idea of returning
home. Not many minutes were required for the hasty baling, and David
soon rested a moment beside his hemp, ready to lift it to his
shoulders. But he felt disappointed. There lay the remnant of the
shock. He had worked hard to finish it before sunset Would there not
still be time?

The field occupied one of the swelling knolls of the landscape; his
brake was set this day on the very crown of a hill. As he asked himself
that question, he lifted his eyes and far away through the twilight,
lower down, he saw the flash of a candle already being carried about in
the kitchen. At the opposite end of the house the glow of firelight
fell on the window panes of his father's and mother's room. Even while
he observed this, it was intercepted: his mother thus early was closing
the shutters for the night.

Too late! He gave up the thought of finishing his shock, recollecting
other duties. But he remained in his attitude a few moments; for the
workman has a curious unconscious habit of taking a final survey of the
scene of his labor before quitting it. David now glanced first up at
the sky, with dubious forethought of to-morrow's weather. The raindrops
had ceased to fall, but he was too good a countryman not to foresee
unsettled conditions. The dog standing before him and watching his
face, uttered an uneasy whine as he noted that question addressed to
the clouds: at intervals during the afternoon he had been asking his
question also. Then those live coals in the rind of the stump and the
danger of sparks blown to the hemp herds or brake, or fence farther
away: David walked over and stamped them out. As he returned, he
fondled the dog's head in his big, roughened hand.

"Captain," he said, "are you hungry?"

All at once he was attracted by a spectacle and forgot everything else.
For as he stood there beside his bale of hemp in the dead fields, his
throat and eyes filled with dust, the dust all over him, low on the
dark red horizon there had formed itself the solemn picture of a winter
sunset. Amid the gathering darkness the workman remained gazing toward
that great light--into the stillness of it--the loneliness--the eternal
peace. On his rugged face an answering light was kindled, the glory of
a spiritual passion, the flame of immortal things alive in his soul.
More akin to him seemed that beacon fire of the sky--more nearly his
real pathway home appeared that distant road and gateway to the
Infinite--than the flickering, near house-taper in the valley below.
Once before, on the most memorable day of his life, David had beheld a
winter sunset like that; but then across the roofs of a town--roofs
half white, half brown with melting snow, and with lengthening icicles
dripping in the twilight.

Suddenly, as if to shut out troubled thoughts, he stooped and, throwing
his big, long arms about the hemp, lifted it to his shoulder. "Come,
Captain," he called to his companion, and stalked heavily away. As he
went, he began to hum an ancient, sturdy hymn:--

    "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
    Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.
    The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."

He had once been used to love those words and to feel the rocklike
basis of them as fixed unshakably beneath the rolling sea of the music;
now he sang the melody only. A little later, as though he had no right
to indulge himself even in this, it died on the air; and only the noise
of his thick, stiffened boots could have been heard crushing the frozen
stubble, as he went staggering under his load toward the barn.



XI


When he reached the worm fence of the hemp field, he threw his load
from his shoulder upon the topmost rail, and, holding it there with one
hand, climbed over. He had now to cross the stable lot. Midway of this,
he passed a rick of hay. Huddled under the sheltered side were the
sheep of the farm, several in number and of the common sort. At the
sight of him, they always bleated familiarly, but this evening their
long, quavering, gray notes were more penetrating, more insistent than
usual. These sensitive, gentle creatures, whose instincts represent the
accumulating and inherited experiences of age upon age of direct
contact with nature, run far ahead of us in our forecasting wisdom; and
many a time they utter their disquietude and warning in language that
is understood only by themselves. The scant flock now fell into the
wake of David, their voices blending in a chorus of meek elegiacs,
their fore feet crowding close upon his heels. The dog, yielding his
place, fell into their wake, as though covering the rear; and so this
little procession of friends moved in a close body toward the barn.

David put his hemp in the saddle-house; a separate hemp-house they were
not rich enough to own. He had chosen this particular part of the barn
because it was dryest in roof and floor. Several bales of hemp were
already piled against the logs on one side; and besides these, the room
contained the harness, the cart and the wagon gear, the box of tar, his
maul and wedges, his saddle and bridle, and sundry implements used in
the garden or on the farm. It was almost dark in there now, and he
groped his way.

The small estate of his father, comprising only some fifty or sixty
acres, supported little live stock: the sheep just mentioned, a few
horses, several head of cattle, a sow and pigs. Every soul of these
inside or outside the barn that evening had been waiting for David.
They had begun to think of him and call for him long before he had quit
work in the field. Now, although it was not much later than usual, the
heavy cloud made it appear so; and all these creatures, like ourselves,
are deceived by appearances and suffer greatly from imagination. They
now believed that it was far past the customary time for him to appear,
that they were nearing the verge of starvation; and so they were
bewailing in a dejected way his unaccountable absence and their
miserable lot--with no one to listen.

Scarcely had the rattling of the iron latch of the saddle-house
apprised them of his arrival before every dumb brute--dumb, as dumb men
say--experienced a cheerful change of mind, and began to pour into his
ears the eager, earnest, gratifying tale of its rights and its wrongs.
What honest voices as compared with the human--sometimes. No question
of sincerity could have been raised by any one who heard THEM speak. It
may not have been music; but every note of it was God's truth.

The man laughed heartily as he paused a moment and listened to that
rejoicing uproar. But he was touched, also. To them he was the answerer
of prayer. Not one believed that he ever refused to succor in time of
need, or turned a deaf ear to supplication. If he made poor provision
for them sometimes, though they might not feel satisfied, they never
turned against him. The barn was very old. The chemical action of the
elements had first rotted away the shingles at the points where the
nails pinned them to the roof; and, thus loosened, the winds of many
years had dislodged and scattered them. Through these holes, rain could
penetrate to the stalls of the horses, so that often they would get up
mired and stiff and shivering; but they never reproached him. On the
northern side of the barn the weather-boarding was quite gone in
places, and the wind blew freely in. Of winter mornings the backs of
the cows would sometimes be flecked with snow, or this being stubbornly
melted by their own heat, their hides would be hung with dew-drops:
they never attributed that fact to him as a cruelty. In the whole
stable there was not one critic of his providence: all were of the
household of faith: the members being in good standing and full
fellowship.

Remembrance of this lay much in his mind whenever, as often, he
contrasted his association with his poor animals, and the troublous
problem of faith in his own soul. It weighed with especial heaviness
upon his heart, this nightfall in the barn, over which hung that
threatening sky. Do what he could for their comfort, it must be
insufficient in a rotting, windswept shelter like that. And here came
the pinch of conscience, the wrench of remorse: the small sums of money
which his father and mother had saved up at such a sacrifice on the
farm,--the money which he had spent lavishly on himself in preparation,
as he had supposed, for his high calling in life,--if but a small part
of that had been applied to the roof and weather-boarding of the
stable, the stock this night might have been housed in warmth and
safety.

The feeding and bedding attended to, with a basket of cobs in his hand
for his mother, he hurried away to the woodpile. This was in the yard
near the negro cabin and a hundred yards or more from the house. There
he began to cut and split the wood for the fires that night and for
next morning. Three lengths of this: first, for the grate in his
father's and mother's room--the best to be found among the logs of the
woodpile: good dry hickory for its ready blaze and rousing heat; to be
mixed with seasoned oak, lest it burn out too quickly--an expensive
wood; and perhaps also with some white ash from a tree he had felled in
the autumn. Then sundry back-logs and knots of black walnut for the
cabin of the two negro women (there being no sense of the value of this
wood in the land in those days, nearly all of it going to the cabins,
to the kitchens, to cord-wood, or to the fences of the farm; while the
stumps were often grubbed up and burned on the spot). Then fuel of this
same sort for the kitchen stove. Next, two or three big armfuls of very
short sticks for the small grate in his own small room above stairs--a
little more than usual, with the idea that he might wish to sit up late.

There was scarce light enough to go by. He picked his logs from the
general pile by the feel of the bark; and having set his foot on each,
to hold it in place while he chopped, he struck rather by habit than by
sight. Loud and rapid the strokes resounded; for he went at it with a
youthful will, and with hunger gnawing him; and though his arms were
stiff and tired, the axe to him was always a plaything--a plaything
that he loved. At last, from under the henhouse near by he drew out and
split some pieces of kindling, and then stored his axe in that dry
place with fresh concern about soft weather: for more raindrops were
falling and the wind was rising.

Stooping down now, he piled the fagots in the hollow of his arm, till
the wood rose cold and damp against his hot neck, against his ear, and
carried first some to the kitchen; and then some to the side porch of
the house, where he arranged it carefully against the wall, close to
the door, and conveniently for a hand reaching outward from within. As
he was heaping up the last of it, having taken three turns to the
woodpile, the door was opened slowly, and a slight, slender woman
peered around at him.

"What makes you so late?"

Her tone betrayed minute curiosity rather than any large concern.

"I wanted to finish a shock, mother. But it isn't much later than
usual; it's the clouds. Here's some good kindling for you in the
morning and a basket of cobs," he added tenderly.

She received in silence the feed basket he held out to her, and watched
him as he kneeled, busily piling up the last of the fagots.

"I hope you haven't cut any more of that green oak; your father
couldn't keep warm."

"This is hickory, dead hickory, with some seasoned oak. Father'll have
to take his coat off and you'll have to get a fan."

There was a moment of silence.

"Supper's over," she said simply.

She held in one hand a partly eaten biscuit.

"I'll be in soon now. I've nothing to do but kindle my fire."

After another short interval she asked:

"Is it going, to snow?"

"It's going to do something."

She stepped slowly back into the warm room and closed the door.

David hurried to the woodpile and carried the sticks for his own grate
upstairs, making two trips of it. The stairway was dark; his room dark
and damp, and filled with the smell of farm boots and working clothes
left wet in the closets. Groping his way to the mantelpiece, he struck
a sulphur match, lighted a half-burned candle, and kneeling down, began
to kindle his fire.

As it started and spread, little by little it brought out of the
cheerless darkness all the features of the rough, homely, kind face,
bent over and watching it so impatiently and yet half absently. It gave
definition to the shapeless black hat, around the brim of which still
hung filaments of tow, in the folds of which lay white splinters of
hemp stalk. There was the dust of field and barn on the edges of the
thick hair about the ears; dust around the eyes and the nostrils. He
was resting on one knee; over the other his hands were
crossed--enormous, powerful, coarsened hands, the skin so frayed and
chapped that around the finger-nails and along the cracks here and
there a little blood had oozed out and dried.



XII


When David came down to his supper, all traces of the day's labor that
were removable had disappeared. He was clean; and his working clothes
had been laid aside for the cheap black-cloth suit, which he had been
used to wear on Sundays while he was a student. Grave, gentle, looking
tired but looking happy, with his big shock head of hair and a face
rugged and majestical like a youthful Beethoven. A kind mouth, most of
all, and an eye of wonderfully deep intelligence.

The narrow, uncarpeted stairway down which he had noisily twisted his
enormous figure, with some amusement, as always, had brought him to the
dining room. This was situated between the kitchen and his father's and
mother's bedroom. The door of each of these stood ajar, and some of the
warmth of the stove on one side and of the grate on the other dried and
tempered the atmosphere.

His mother sat in her place at the head of the table, quietly waiting
for him, and still holding in one hand the partially eaten biscuit As
he took his seat, she rose, and, walking listlessly to the kitchen
door, made a listless request of one of the two negro women. When the
coffee had been brought in, standing, she poured out a cup, sweetened,
stirred, and tasted it, and putting the spoon into it, placed it before
him. Then she resumed her seat (and the biscuit) and looked on,
occasionally scrutinizing his face, with an expression perhaps the most
tragic that can ever be worn by maternal eyes: the expression of a
lowly mother who has given birth to a lofty son, and who has neither
the power to understand him, nor the grace to realize her own
inferiority.

She wore, as usual, a dress of plain mourning, although she had not the
slightest occasion to mourn--at least, from the matter of death. In the
throat of this was caught a large, thin, oval-shaped breastpin,
containing a plait of her own and her husband's hair, braided together;
and through these there ran a silky strand cut from David's head when
an infant, and long before the parents discovered how unlike their
child was to themselves. This breastpin, with the hair of the three
heads of the house intertwined, was the only symbol in all the world of
their harmony or union.

Around her shoulders she had thrown, according to her wont, a home-knit
crewel shawl of black and purple. Her hair, thick and straight and
pasted down over the temples of her small head, looked like a long-used
wig. Her contracted face seemed to have accumulated the wrinkles of the
most drawn-out, careworn life. Yet she was not old; and these were not
the lines of care; for her years had been singularly uneventful
and--for her--happy. The markings were, perhaps, inherited from the
generations of her weather-beaten, toiling, plain ancestors--with the
added creases of her own personal habits. For she lived in her house
with the regularity and contentment of an insect in a dead log. And few
causes age the body faster than such wilful indolence and monotony of
mind as hers--the mind, that very principle of physical youthfulness.
Save only that it can also kill the body ere it age it; either by too
great rankness breaking down at once the framework on which it has been
reared, or afterward causing this to give way slowly under the fruitage
of thoughts, too heavy any longer to be borne.

That from so dark a receptacle as this mother there should have emerged
such a child of light, was one of those mysteries that are the
perpetual delight of Nature and the despair of Science. This did not
seem one of those instances--also a secret of the great Creatress--in
which she produces upon the stem of a common rose a bud of alien
splendor. It was as if potter's clay had conceived marble. The
explanation of David did not lie in the fact that such a mother had
produced him.

One of the truest marks of her small, cold mind was the rigid tyranny
exercised over it by its own worthless ideas. Had she not sat beside
her son while he ate, had she not denied herself the comfort of the
fireside in the adjoining room, in order that she might pour out for
him the coffee that was unfit to be drunk, she would have charged
herself with being an unfaithful, undutiful mother. But this done, she
saw no further, beheld nothing of the neglect, the carelessness, the
cruelty, of all the rest, part of which this very moment was outspread
beneath her eyes.

For at the foot of the table, where David's father had sat, were two
partly eaten dishes: one of spare-rib, one of sausage. The gravy in
each had begun to whiten into lard. Plates heaped with cornbread and
with biscuit, poorly baked and now cold, were placed on each side. In
front of him had been set a pitcher of milk; this rattled, as he poured
it, with its own bluish ice. On all that homely, neglected board one
thing only put everything else to shame. A single candle, in a low,
brass candlestick in the middle of the table, scarce threw enough light
to reveal the scene; but its flame shot deep into the golden,
crystalline depths of a jar of honey standing close beside it--honey
from the bees in the garden--a scathing but unnoticed rebuke from the
food and housekeeping of the bee to the food and housekeeping of the
woman.

Work in the hemp fields leaves a man's body calling in every tissue for
restoration of its waste. David had hardly taken his seat before his
eye swept the prospect before him with savage hope. In him was the
hunger, not of toil alone, but of youth still growing to manhood, of
absolute health. Whether he felt any mortification at his mother's
indifference is doubtful. Assuredly life-long experience had taught him
that nothing better was to be expected from her. How far he had
unconsciously grown callous to things as they were at home, there is no
telling. Ordinarily we become in such matters what we must; but it is
likewise true that the first and last proof of high personal
superiority is the native, irrepressible power of the mind to create
standards which rise above all experience and surroundings; to carry
everywhere with itself, whether it will or not, a blazing, scorching
censorship of the facts that offend it. Regarding the household
management of his mother, David at least never murmured; what he
secretly felt he alone knew, perhaps not even he, since he was no
self-examiner. As to those shortcomings of hers which he could not fail
to see, for them he unconsciously showed tenderest compassion.

She had indulged so long her sloth even in the operation of thinking,
that few ideas now rose from the inner void to disturb the apathetic
surface; and she did not hesitate to recur to any one of these any
number of times in a conversation with the same person.

"What makes you so late?"

"I wanted to finish a shock. Then there was the feeding, and the wood
to cut. And I had to warm my room up a little before I could wash."

"Is it going to snow?"

"It's hard to say. The weather looks very unsettled and threatening.
That's one reason why I wanted to finish my shock."

There was silence for a while. David was too ravenous to talk; and his
mother's habit was to utter one sentence at a time.

"I got three fresh eggs to-day; one had dropped from the roost and
frozen; it was cracked, but it will do for the coffee in the morning."

"Winter must be nearly over if the hens are beginning to lay: THEY
know. They must have some fresh nests."

"The cook wants to kill one of the old ones for soup to-morrow."

"What an evil-minded cook!"

It was with his mother only that David showed the new cheerfulness that
had begun to manifest itself in him since his return from college. She,
however, did not understand the reasons of this and viewed it
unfavorably.

"We opened a hole in the last hill of turnips to-day."

She spoke with uneasiness.

"There'll be enough to last, I reckon, mother."

"You needn't pack any more chips to the smoke-house: the last meat's
smoked enough."

"Very well, then. You shall have every basketful of them for your own
fire."

"If you can keep them from the negroes: negroes love chips."

"I'll save them while I chop. You shall have them, if I have to catch
them as they fly."

His hunger had been satisfied: his spirits began to rise.

"Mother, are you going to eat that piece of biscuit? If not, just hand
it over to me, please."

She looked dryly down at the bread in her fingers: humor was denied
her--that playfulness of purest reason.

David had commenced to collect a plateful of scraps--the most
appetizing of the morsels that he himself had not devoured. He rose and
went out into the porch to the dog.

"Now, mother," he said, reentering; and with quiet dignity he preceded
her into the room adjoining.

His father sat on one side of the fireplace, watching the open door for
the entrance of his son. He appeared slightly bent over in his chair.
Plainly the days of rough farm-work and exposure were over for him,
prematurely aged and housed. There was about him--about the shape and
carriage of the head--in the expression of the eye most of all,
perhaps,--the not wholly obliterated markings of a thoughtful and
powerful breed of men. His appearance suggested that some explanation
of David might be traceable in this quarter. For while we know nothing
of these deep things, nor ever shall, in the sense that we can supply
the proofs of what we conjecture; while Nature goes ever about her
ancient work, and we cannot declare that we have ever watched the
operations of her fingers, think on we will, and reason we must, amid
her otherwise intolerable mysteries. Though we accomplish no more in
our philosophy than the poor insect, which momentarily illumines its
wandering through the illimitable night by a flash from its own body.

Lost in obscurity, then, as was David's relation to his mother, there
seemed some gleams of light discernible in that between father and son.
For there are men whom nature seems to make use of to connect their own
offspring not with themselves but with earlier sires. They are like
sluggish canals running between far-separated oceans--from the deeps of
life to the deeps of life, allowing the freighted ships to pass. And no
more does the stream understand what moves across its surface than do
such commonplace agents comprehend the sons who have sprung from their
own loins. Here, too, is one of Nature's greatest cruelties to the
parent.

As David's father would not have recognized his remote ancestors if
brought face to face, so he did not discover in David the image of
them--the reappearance in the world, under different conditions, of
certain elements of character found of old in the stock and line. He
could not have understood how it was possible for him to transmit to
the boy a nature which he himself did not actively possess. And,
therefore, instead of beholding here one of Nature's mysterious
returns, after a long period of quiescence, to her suspended activities
and the perpetuation of an interrupted type, so that his son was but
another strong link of descent joined to himself, a weak one; instead
of this, he saw only with constant secret resentment that David was at
once unlike him and his superior.

These two had worked side by side year after year on the farm; such
comradeship in labor usually brings into consciousness again the
primeval bond of Man against Nature--the brotherhood, at least, of the
merely human. But while they had mingled their toil, sweat, hopes, and
disappointments, their minds had never met. The father had never felt
at home with his son; David, without knowing why--and many a sorrowful
hour it had cost him--had never accepted as father the man who had
brought him into the world. Each soon perceived that a distance
separated them which neither could cross, though vainly both should
try, and often both did try, to cross it.

As he sat in the chimney-corner to-night, his very look as he watched
the door made it clear that he dreaded the entrance of his son; and to
this feeling had lately been added deeper estrangement.

When David walked in, he took a seat in front of the fire. His mother
followed, bringing the sugar-bowl and the honey, which she locked in a
closet in the wall: the iron in her blood was parsimony. Then she
seated herself under the mantelpiece on the opposite side and looked
silently across at the face of her husband. (She was his second wife.
His offspring by his first wife had died young. David was the only
child of mature parents.) She looked across at him with the complacent
expression of the wife who feels that she and her husband are one, even
though their offspring may not be of them. The father looked at David;
David looked into the fire. There was embarrassment all round.

"How are you feeling to-night, father?" he asked affectionately, a
moment later, without lifting his eyes.

"I've been suffering a good deal. I think it's the weather."

"I'm sorry."

"Do you think it's going to snow?"

The husband had lived so long and closely with his wife, that the
mechanism of their minds moved much like the two wall-clocks in
adjoining rooms of the house; which ticked and struck, year after year,
never quite together and never far apart. When David was first with one
and then with another, he was often obliged to answer the same
questions twice--sometimes thrice, since his mother alone required two
identical responses. He replied now with his invariable and patient
courtesy--yet scarcely patient, inasmuch as this did not try him.

"What made you so late?"

David explained again.

"How much hemp did you break?"

"I didn't weigh it, father. Fifty or sixty pounds, perhaps."

"How many more shocks are there in the field?"

"Twelve or fifteen. I wish there were a hundred."

"I wish so, too," said David's mother, smiling plaintively at her
husband.

"John Bailey was here after dinner," remarked David's father. "He has
sold his crop of twenty-seven acres for four thousand dollars. Ten
dollars a hundred."

"That's fine," said David with enthusiasm, thinking regretfully of
their two or three acres.

"Good hemp lands are going to rent for twenty or twenty-five dollars an
acre in the spring," continued his father, watching the effect of his
words.

David got up, and going to the door, reached around against the wall
for two or three sticks of the wood he had piled there. He replenished
the fire, which was going down, and resumed his seat.

For a while father and son discussed in a reserved way matters
pertaining to the farm: the amount of feed in the barn and the chances
of its lasting; crops to be sown in the spring, and in what fields; the
help they should hire--a new trouble at that time. For the negroes,
recently emancipated, were wandering hither and thither over the farms,
or flocking to the towns, unused to freedom, unused to the very wages
they now demanded, and nearly everywhere seeking employment from any
one in preference to their former masters as part of the proof that
they were no longer in slavery. David's father had owned but a single
small family of slaves: the women remained, the man had sought work on
one of the far richer estates in the neighborhood.

They threshed over once more the straw of these familiar topics and
then fell into embarrassed silence. The father broke this with an
abrupt, energetic exclamation and a sharp glance:--

"If hemp keeps up to what it is now, I am going to put in more."

"Where?" asked the son, quietly. "I don't see that we have any ground
to spare."

"I'll take the woods."

"FATHER!" cried David, wheeling on him.

"I'll take the woods!" repeated his father, with a flash of anger, of
bitterness. "And if I'm not able to hire the hands to clear it, then
I'll rent it. Bailey wants it. He offered twenty-five dollars an acre.
Or I'll sell it," he continued with more anger, more bitterness. "He'd
rather buy it than rent."

"How could we do without the woods?" inquired the son, looking like one
dazed,--"without the timber and the grazing?"

"What will we do without the woods?" cried his father, catching up the
words excitedly. "What will we do without the FARM?"

"What do you mean by all this, father? What is back of it?" cried
David, suddenly aroused by vague fears.

"I mean," exclaimed the father, with a species of satisfaction in his
now plain words, "I mean that Bailey wants to buy the farm. I mean that
he urges me to sell out for my own good! tells me I must sell out! must
move! leave Kentucky! go to Missouri--like other men when they fail."

"Go to Missouri," echoed the wife with dismal resignation, smiling at
her husband.

"Have you sold it?" asked David, with flushed, angry face.

"No."

"Nor promised?"

"No!"

"Then, father, don't! Bailey is trying again to get the farm away from
you. You and mother shall never sell your home and move to Missouri on
my account."

The son sat looking into the fire, controlling his feelings. The father
sat looking at the son, making a greater effort to control his. Both of
them realized the poverty of the place and the need of money.

The hour was already past the father's early bed-time. He straightened
himself up now, and turning his back, took off his coat, hung it on the
back of his chair, and began to unbutton his waistcoat, and rub his
arms. The mother rose, and going to the high-posted bed in a corner of
the room, arranged the pillows, turned down the covers, and returning,
sat provisionally on the edge of her chair and released her breastpin.
David started up.

"Mother, give me a candle, will you?"

He went over with her to the closet, waited while she unlocked it and,
thrusting her arm deep into its disordered depths, searched till she
drew out a candle. No good-night was spoken; and David, with a look at
his father and mother which neither of them saw, opened and closed the
door of their warm room, and found himself in the darkness outside at
the foot of the cold staircase.



XIII


A bed of crimson coals in the bottom of the grate was all that survived
of his own fire.

He sat down before it, not seeing it, his candle unlighted in his hand,
a tragedy in his eyes.

A comfortless room. Rag carpeting on the floor. No rug softening the
hearth-stones. The sashes of the windows loose in the frames and shaken
to-night by twisty gusts. A pane of glass in one had been broken and
the opening pasted over with a sheet of letter paper. This had been
burst by an indolent hand, thrust through to close the shutters
outside; and a current of cold air now swept across the small room. The
man felt it, shook himself free of depressing thoughts, rose
resolutely. He took from a closet one of his most worthless coats, and
rolling it into a wad, stopped the hole. Going back to the grate, he
piled on the wood, watching the blaze as it rushed up over the logs,
devouring the dried lichens on the bark; then sinking back to the
bottom rounds, where it must slowly rise again, reducing the wood to
ashes. Beside him as he sat in his rush-bottomed chair stood a small
square table and on this a low brass candlestick, the companion of the
one in the dining room. A half-burnt candle rose out of the socket. As
David now lighted it and laid the long fresh candle alongside the
snuffers, he measured with his eye the length of his luminaries and the
amount of his wood--two friends. The little grate had commenced to roar
at him bravely, affectionately; and the candle sputtered to him and
threw sparks into the air--the rockets of its welcoming flame.

It was not yet ten o'clock: two hours of the long winter evening
remained. He turned to his treasury.

This was a trunk in a corner, the trunk he had bought while at college,
small and cheap in itself, not in what it held. For here were David's
books--the great grave books which had been the making of him, or the
undoing of him, according as one may have enough of God's wisdom and
mercy to decide whether it were the one or the other.

As the man now moved his chair over, lifted the lid, and sat gazing
down at the backs of them, arranged in a beautiful order of his own,
there was in the lofty, solemn look of him some further evidence of
their power over him. The coarse toil of the day was forgotten; his
loved dependent animals in the wind-swept barn forgotten; the evening
with his father and mother, the unalterable emptiness of it, the
unkindness, the threatening tragedy, forgotten. Not that desolate room
with firelight and candle; not the poor farmhouse; not the meagre farm,
nor the whole broad Kentucky plateau of fields and woods, heavy with
winter wealth, heavy with comfortable homesteads--any longer held him
as domicile, or native region: he was gone far away into the company of
his high-minded masters, the writers of those books. Choosing one, he
closed the lid of the trunk reluctantly over the rest, and with the
book in one hand and the chair in the other, went back to the fire.

An hour passed, during which, one elbow on the table, the shaded side
of his face supported in the palm of his hand, he read, scarce moving
except to snuff the wick or to lay on a fresh fagot. At the end of this
time other laws than those which the writer was tracing began to assert
their supremacy over David--the laws of strength and health, warmth and
weariness. Sleep was descending on him, relaxing his limbs, spreading a
quiet mist through his brain, caressing his eyelids. He closed the
pages and turned to his dying fire. The book caused him to wrestle; he
wanted rest.

And now, floating to him through that mist in his brain, as softly as a
nearing melody, as radiantly as dawning light, came the image of
Gabriella: after David had pursued Knowledge awhile he was ready for
Love. But knowledge, truth, wisdom before every other earthly
passion--that was the very soul of him. His heart yearned for her now
in this closing hour, when everything else out of his way, field-work,
stable-work, wood-cutting, filial duties, study, he was alone with the
thought of her, the newest influence in his life, taking heed of her
solely, hearkening only to his heart's need of her. In all his rude
existence she was the only being he had ever known who seemed to him
worthy of a place in the company of his great books. Had the summons
come to pack his effects to-morrow and, saying good-by to everything
else, start on a journey to the congenial places where his mighty
masters lived and wrought, he would have wished her alone to go with
him, sharer of life's loftiness. Her companionship wherever he might
be--to have just that; to feel that she was always with him, and always
one with him; to be able to turn his eyes to hers before some vanishing
firelight at an hour like this, with deep rest near them side by side!

He lingered over the first time he had ever seen her; that memorable
twilight in the town, the roofs and chimneys of the houses, half-white,
half-brown with melting snow, outlined against the low red sunset sky.
He had not long before left the room in the university where his trial
had taken place, and where he had learned that it was all over with
him. He was passing along one of the narrow cross streets, when at a
certain point his course was barred by a heap of fresh cedar boughs,
just thrown out of a wagon. Some children were gay and busy, carrying
them through the side doors, the sexton aiding. Other children inside
the lighted church were practising a carol to organ music; the choir of
their voices swelled out through the open doors, and some of the little
ones, tugging at the cedar, took up the strain.

She was standing on the low steps of the church, in charge of the
children. In one hand she held an unfinished wreath, and she was
binding the dark, shining leaves with the other. A swarm of snowflakes,
scarce more than glittering crystals, danced merrily about her head and
flecked her black fur on one shoulder. As David, not very mindful just
then of whither he was going, stepped forward across the light and
paused before the pile of cedar boughs, she glanced at him with a
smile, seeing how his path was barred. Then she said to them:--

"Hurry, children! The night comes when we cannot work!"

It was an hour of such good-will on earth to men that no one could seem
a stranger to her. He instantly became a human brother, next of kin to
her--that was all; she was wholly under the influence of the innocence
and purity within and without.

As he made no reply and for a moment did not move, she glanced quickly
at him, regretting the smile. When she saw his face, he saw the joy go
down out of hers; and he felt, as he turned off, that she went with him
along the black street: alone, he seemed not alone any more.

Though he had been with her many times since, no later impression had
effaced one line of that first picture. There she stood ever to him,
and would stand: on the step of the church, smiling in her mourning,
binding her wreath, the jets of the chandelier streaming out on her
snow-sprinkled shoulder, the children carolling among the fragrant
cedar boughs scattered at her feet; she there, decorating the church,
happy to be of pious service. Ah, to have her there in the room with
him now; to be able to turn his eyes to hers in the vanishing
firelight, near sleep awaiting them, side by side.

There was the sound of a scratching on David's window shutters, as
though a stiff brush were being moved up and down across the slats. He
became aware that this sound had reached him at intervals several times
already, but as often happens, had been disregarded by him owing to his
preoccupation. Now it was so loud as to force itself positively upon
his attention.

He listened, puzzled, wondering. His window stood high from the ground
and clear of any object. In a few moments, the sound made itself
audible again. He sprang up, wide awake now, and raising the sash,
pushed open the shutters--one of them easily; against the other there
was resistance from outside. This yielded before his pressure; and as
the shutter was forced wide open and David peered out, there swung
heavily against his cheek what felt like an enormous brush of thorns,
covered with ice. It was the end of one of the limbs of the cedar tree
which stood several feet from his window on one side, and close to the
wall of the house. Before David was born, it had been growing there, a
little higher, more far-reaching laterally, every year, until several
topmost boughs had long since risen above the level of the eaves and
dropped their dry needles on the rotting shingles. Now one of the
limbs, bent over sidewise under its ice-freighted berries and twigs,
hung as low as his window, and the wind was tossing it.

Sleet! This, then, was the nature of the threatening storm, which all
day had made man and beast foreboding and distressed. David held out
his hand: rain was falling steadily, each drop freezing on whatsoever
it fell, adding ice to ice. The moon rode high by this time; and its
radiance pouring from above on the roof of riftless cloud, diffused
enough light below to render large objects near at hand visible in bulk
and outline. A row of old cedars stretched across the yard. Their
shapes, so familiar to him, were already disordered. The sleet must
have been falling for hours to have weighed them down this way and
that. A peculiarity of the night was the wind, which increased
constantly, but with fitful violence, giving no warning of its high
swoop, seizure, and wrench.

Sleet! Scarce a winter but he had seen some little: once, in his
childhood, a great one. He had often heard his father talk of others
which HE remembered--with comment on the destruction they had wrought
far and wide, on the suffering of all stock and of the wild creatures.
The ravage had been more terrible in the forests, his father had
thought, than what the cyclones cause when they rush upon the trees,
heavy in their full summer-leaves, and sweep them down as easily as
umbrellas set up on the ground. So much of the finest forests of
Kentucky had been lost through its annual summer tempests and its rarer
but more awful wintry sleets.

No work for him in the hemp fields to-morrow, nor for days. No school
for Gabriella; the more distant children would be unable to ride; the
nearest unable to foot it through the mirrored woods; unless the
weather should moderate before morning and melt the ice away as quickly
as it had formed--as sometimes was the case. A good sign of this, he
took it, was the ever rising wind: for a rising wind and a falling
temperature seldom appeared together. As he bent his ear listening, he
could hear the wild roar of the surges of air breaking through the
forest, the edge of which was not fifty yards away.

David sprang from his chair; there was a loud crack, and the great limb
of the cedar swept rattling down across his shutters, twisted, snapped
off at the trunk, rolled over in the air, and striking the ground on
its back, lay like a huge animal knocked lifeless.

He forgot bed and sleep and replenished his fire. His ear, trained to
catch and to distinguish sounds of country life, was now becoming alive
to the commencement of one of those vast appalling catastrophes in
Nature, for which man sees no reason and can detect the furtherance of
no plan--law being turned with seeming blindness, and in the spirit of
sheer wastage, upon what it has itself achieved, and spending its
sublime forces in a work of self-desolation.

Of the two windows in his room, one opened upon the back yard, one upon
the front. Both back yard and front contained, according to the custom
of the country, much shrubbery, with aged fruit trees, mostly cherry
and peach. There were locusts also at the rear of the house, the
old-time yard favorite of the people; other forest trees stood around.
Through both his windows there began to reach him a succession of
fragile sounds; the snapping of rotten, weakest, most overburdened
twigs. On fruit tree and forest tree these went down first--as is also
the law of storm and trial of strength among men. The ground was now as
one flooring of glass; and as some of these small branches dropped from
the tree-tops, they were broken into fragments, like icicles, and slid
rattling away into the nearest depressions of the ground. Starting far
up in the air sometimes, they struck sheer upon other lower branches,
bringing them along also; this gathering weight in turn descended upon
others lower yet, until, so augmented, the entire mass swept downward
and fell, shivered against crystal flooring.

But soon these more trivial facts held his attention no longer: they
were the mere reconnaissance of the elements--the first light attack of
Nature upon her own weakness. By and by from the surging, roaring
depths of the woods, there suddenly reverberated to him a deep boom as
of a cannon: one of the great trees--two-forked at the mighty summit
and already burdened in each half by its tons of timber, split in twain
at the fork as though cleft by lightning; and now only the pointed
trunk stood like a funeral shaft above its own ruins. For hours this
went on: the light incessant rattling, closest around; the creaking,
straining, tearing apart as of suffering flesh, less near; the sad,
sublime booming of the forest.

Now the man would walk the floor; now drop into his chair before the
fire. His last bit of candle flickered blue, deep in the socket, and
sent up its smoke. His wood was soon burnt out: only red coals in the
bottom of the grate then, and these fast whitening. More than once he
strode across and stood over his trunk in the shadowy corner--looking
down at his books--those books that had guided him thus far, or
misguided him, who can say?

When his candle gave out and later his fire, he jerked off his clothes
and getting into bed, rolled himself in the bedclothes and lay
listening to the mournful sublimity of the storm.

Toward three o'clock the weather grew colder, the wind died down, the
booming ceased; and David, turning wearily, over, with an impulse to
prayer, but with no prayer, went to sleep.



XIV


When David awoke late and drowsily the next morning after the storm, he
lay awhile, listening. No rending, crashing, booming in the woods now,
nor rattling of his window-frames. No contemplative twitter of winter
birds about the cedars in the yard, nor caw of crow, crossing the house
chimneys toward the corn shocks. All things hushed, silent, immovable.

Following so quickly upon the sublime roar and ravage of the night
before, the stillness was disturbing. He sprang up and dressed
quickly--admonished by the coldness of his room--before hurrying to his
window to look out. When he tried the sash, it could not be raised. He
thrust his hand through the broken pane and tugged at the shutters;
they could not be shaken. Running downstairs to the kitchen and
returning with hot water, he melted away the ice embedding the bolts
and hinges.

A marvel of nature, terrible, beautiful, met his eyes: ice-rain and a
great frost Cloud, heavy still, but thinner than on the day before,
enwrapped the earth. The sun, descending through this translucent roof
of gray, filled the air beneath with a radiance as of molten pearl; and
in this under-atmosphere of pearl all earthly things were tipped and
hung in silver. Tree, bush, and shrub in the yard below, the rose
clambering the pillars of the porch under his window, the scant ivy
lower down on the house wall, the stiff little junipers, every blade of
grass--all encased in silver. The ruined cedars trailed from sparlike
tops their sweeping sails of incrusted emerald and silver. Along the
eaves, like a row of inverted spears of unequal lengths, hung the
argent icicles. No; not spun silver all this, but glass; all things
buried, not under a tide of liquid silver, but of flowing and then
cooling glass: Nature for once turned into a glass house, fixed in a
brittle mass, nowhere bending or swaying; but if handled roughly, sure
to be shivered.

The ground under every tree in the yard was strewn with boughs; what
must be the ruin of the woods whence the noises had reached him in the
night? Looking out of his window now, he could see enough to let him
understand the havoc, the wreckage.

He went at once to the stable for the feeding and found everything
strangely quiet--the stilling influence of a great frost on animal
life. There had been excitement and uneasiness enough during the night;
now ensued the reaction, for man is but one of the many animals with
nerves and moods. A catastrophe like this which covers with ice the
earth--grass, winter edible twig and leaf, roots and nuts for the brute
kind that turns the soil with the nose, such putting of all food
whatsoever out of reach of mouth or hoof or snout--brings these
creatures face to face with the possibility of starving: they know it
and are silent with apprehension of their peril; know it perhaps by the
survival of prehistoric memories reverberating as instinct still. And
there is another possible prong of truth to this repression of their
characteristic cries at such times of frost: then it was in ages past
that the species which preyed on them grew most ravenous and far
ranging. The silence of the modern stable in a way takes the place of
that primeval silence which was a law of safety in the bleak
fastnesses, hunted over by flesh eating prowlers. It is the prudent
noiselessness of many a species to-day, as the deer and the moose.

The sheep, having enjoyed little shelter beside the hayrick, had
encountered the worst of the storm. When David appeared in the stable
lot, they beheld him at once; for their faces were bunched expectantly
toward the yard gate through which he must emerge. But they spoke not a
word to one another or to him as they hurried slipping forward. The man
looked them over pityingly, yet with humor; for they wore many
undesirable pendants of glass and silver dangling under their bellies
and down their tails.

"You shall come into the barn this night," he vowed within himself.
"I'll make a place for you this day."

Little did he foresee what awful significance to him lay wrapped in
those simple words. Breakfast was ready when, carrying his customary
basket of cobs for his mother, he returned to the house. One good
result at least the storm had wrought for the time: it drew the members
of the household more closely together, as any unusual event--danger,
disaster--generally does. So that his father, despite his outburst of
anger the night previous, forgot this morning his wrongs and
disappointments and relaxed his severity. During the meal he had much
to recount of other sleets and their consequences. He inferred similar
consequences now if snow should follow, or a cold snap set in: no work
in the fields, therefore no hemp-breaking, and therefore delay in
selling the crop; the difficulty of feeding and watering the stock; no
hauling along the mud roads, and little travel of any sort between
country and town; the making of much cord wood out of the fallen
timber, with plenty of stuff for woodpiles; the stopping of mill wheels
on the frozen creeks, and scarcity of flour and meal.

"The meal is nearly out now," said David's mother. "The negroes waste
it."

"We might shell some corn to-day," suggested David's father,
hesitatingly. It was the first time since his son's return from college
that he had ever proposed their working together.

"I'll take a look at the woods first," said David; "and then I want to
make a place in the stable for the sheep, father. They must come under
shelter to-night I'll fix new stalls for the horses inside where we
used to have the corn crib. The cows can go where the horses have been,
and the sheep can have the shed of the cows: it's better than nothing.
I've been wanting to do this ever since I came home from college."

A thoughtless, unfortunate remark, as connected with that shabby,
desperate idea of finding shelter for the stock--fresh reminder of the
creeping, spreading poverty. His father made no rejoinder; and having
finished his breakfast in silence, left the table.

His mother, looking across her coffeecup and biscuit at David, without
change of expression inquired,--

"Will you get that hen?"

"WHAT hen, mother?"

"I told you last night the cook wanted one of the old hens for soup
to-day. Will you get it?"

"No, mother; I will not get the hen for the cook; the cook will
probably get the hen for me."

"She doesn't know the right one."

"But neither do I."

"I want the blue dorking."

"I have a bad eye for color; I might catch something gray."

"I want the dorking; she's stopped laying."

"Is that your motive for taking her life? It would be a terrible
principle to apply indiscriminately!"

"The cook wants to know how she is to get the vegetables out of the
holes in the garden to-day--under all this ice."

"How would she get the vegetables out of the garden under all this ice
if there were no one on the place but herself? I warrant you she'd have
every variety."

"It's a pity we are not able to hire a man. If we could hire a man to
help her, I wouldn't ask you. It's hard on the cook, to make her suffer
for our poverty."

"A little suffering in that way will do her a world of good," said
David, cheerily.

His mother did not hesitate, provocation or no provocation, to sting
and reproach him in this way.

She had never thought very highly of her son; her disappointment,
therefore, over his failure at college had not been keen. Besides,
tragical suffering is the sublime privilege of deep natures: she
escaped by smallness. Nothing would have made her very miserable but
hunger and bodily pains. Against hunger she exercised ceaseless
precautions; bodily pains she had none. The one other thing that could
have agitated her profoundly was the idea that she would be compelled
to leave Kentucky. It was hard for her to move about her house, much
less move to Missouri. Not in months perhaps did she even go upstairs
to bestow care upon, the closets, the bed, the comforts of her son. As
might be expected, she considered herself the superior person of the
family; and as often happens, she imposed this estimate of herself upon
her husband. The terrifying vanity and self-sufficiency of the
little-minded! Nature must set great store upon this type of human
being, since it is regularly allowed to rule its betters.

But his father! David had been at home two months now, for this was the
last of February, and not once during that long ordeal of daily living
together had his father opened his lips either to reproach or question
him.

Letters had been received from the faculty, from the pastor; of that
David was aware; but any conversation as to these or as to the events
of which they were the sad consummation, his father would not have. The
gulf between them had been wide before; now it was fathomless.

Yet David well foreknew that the hour of reckoning had to come, when
all that was being held back would be uttered. He realized that both
were silently making preparations for that crisis, and that each day
brought it palpably nearer. Sometimes he could even see it threatening
in his father's eye, hear it in his voice. It had reached the verge of
explosion the night previous, with that prediction of coming
bankruptcy, the selling of the farm of his Kentucky ancestors, the
removal to Missouri in his enfeebled health. Not until his return had
David realized how literally his father had begun to build life anew on
the hopes of him. And now feel with him in his disappointment as deeply
as he might, sympathy he could not openly offer, explanation he could
not possibly give. His life-problem was not his father's problem; his
father was simply not in a position to understand. Doubt anything in
the Bible--doubt so-called orthodox Christianity--be expelled from the
church and from college for such a reason--where could his father find
patience or mercy for wilful folly and impiety like that?

Meantime he had gone to work; on the very day after his return he had
gone to work. Two sentences of his father's, on the afternoon of his
coming home, had rung in David's ears loud and ceaselessly ever since:
"WHY HAVE YOU COME BACK HERE?" And "I ALWAYS KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING IN
YOU?" The first assured him of the new footing on which he stood: he
was no longer desired under that roof. The second summed up the
life-long estimate which had been formed of his character before he had
gone away.

Therefore he had worked as never even in the old preparatory days. So
long as he remained there, he must at least earn daily bread. More than
that, he must make good, as soon as possible, the money spent at
college. So he sent away the hired negro man; he undertook the work
done by him and more: the care of the stock, the wood cutting,
everything that a man can be required to do on a farm in winter. Of
bright days he broke hemp. Nothing had touched David so deeply as the
discovery in one corner of the farm of that field of hemp: his father
had secretly raised it to be a surprise to him, to help him through his
ministerial studies. This David had learned from his mother; his father
had avoided mention of it: it might rot in the field! In equal silence
David had set about breaking it; and sometimes at night his father
would show enough interest merely to ask some questions regarding the
day's work.

Yet, notwithstanding this impending tragedy with his father, and
distress at their reduced circumstances caused by his expenses at
college, David, during these two months, had entered into much new
happiness.

The doubts which had racked him for many months were ended. He had
reached a decision not to enter the ministry; had stripped his mind
clean and clear of dogmas. The theologies of his day, vast, tangled
thickets of thorns overspreading the simple footpath of the pious
pilgrim mind, interfered with him no more. It was not now necessary for
him to think or preach that any particular church with which he might
identify himself was right, the rest of the human race wrong. He did
not now have to believe that any soul was in danger of eternal
damnation for disagreeing with him. Release from these things left his
religious spirit more lofty and alive than ever.

For, moreover, David had set his feet a brief space on the wide plains
of living-knowledge; he had encountered through their works many of the
great minds of his century, been reached by the sublime
thought-movements of his time, heard the deep roar of the spirit's
ocean. Amid coarse, daily labor once more, amid the penury and discord
in that ruined farmhouse, one true secret of happiness with David was
the recollection of all the noble things of human life which he had
discovered, and to which he meant to work his way again as soon as
possible. And what so helps one to believe in God as knowledge of the
greatness of man?

Meantime, also, his mind was kept freshly and powerfully exercised. He
had discarded his old way of looking at Nature and man's place in it;
and of this fundamental change in him, no better proof could be given
than the way in which he regarded the storm, as he left the
breakfast-table this morning and went to the woods.

The damage was unreckonable. The trees had not been prepared against an
event like that. For centuries some of them had developed strength in
root and trunk and branch to resist the winds of the region when clad
in all their leaves; or to carry the load of these leaves weighted with
raindrops; or to bear the winter snows. Wise self-physicians of the
forest! Removing a weak or useless limb, healing their own wounds and
fractures! But to be buried under ice and then wrenched and twisted by
the blast--for this they had received no training: and thus, like so
many of the great prudent ones who look hourly to their well-being,
they had been stricken down at last by the unexpected.

"Once," said David reverently to himself, beholding it all, "once I
should have seen in this storm some direct intention of the Creator
toward man, even toward me. It would have been a reminder of His power;
perhaps been a chastisement for some good end which I must believe in,
but could not discover. Men certainly once interpreted storms as
communications from the Almighty, as they did pestilence and famine.
There still may be in this neighborhood people who will derive some
such lesson from this. My father may in his heart believe it a judgment
sent on us and on our neighbors for my impiety. Have not cities been
afflicted on account of the presence of one sinner? Thankful I am not
to think in this way now of physical law--not so to misconceive man's
place in Nature. I know that this sleet, so important to us, is but one
small incident in the long history of the planet's atmosphere and
changing surface. It is the action of natural laws, operating without
regard to man, though man himself may have had a share in producing it.
It will bring death to many a creature; indirectly, it may bring death
to me; but that would be among the results, not in the intention."

He set his face to cross the wood--sliding, skating, steadying himself
against the trunks, driving his heels through the ice crust The
exercise was heating; his breath rose as a steam before his face.
Beyond the woods he crossed a field; then a forest of many acres and
magnificent timber, on the far edge of which, under the forest trees
and fronting a country lane, stood the schoolhouse of the district.
David looked anxiously, as he drew near, for any signs of injury that
the storm might have done. One enormous tree-top had fallen on the
fence. A limb had dropped sheer on the steps. The entire yard was
little better than a brush heap. He soon turned away home relieved: he
would be able to tell Gabriella to-night that none of the windows had
been broken nor the roof; only a new woods scholar, with little feet
and a big hard head and a bunch of mistletoe in one hand, was standing
on the steps, waiting for her to open the door.

David's college experience had effected the first great change in him
as he passed from youth to manhood; Gabriella had wrought the second.
The former was a fragment of the drama of man's soul with God; the
latter was the drama of his heart with woman.

It had begun the day the former ended--in the gloom of that winter
twilight day, when he had quit the college after his final interview
with the faculty, and had wandered forlorn and dazed into the happy
town, just commencing to celebrate its season of peace on earth and
good will to man. He had found her given up heart and soul to the work
of decorating the church of her faith, the church of her fathers.

When David met her the second time, it was a few days after his return
home. He was at work in the smoke-house. The meat had been salted down
long enough after the killing: it must be hung, and he was engaged in
hanging it. Several pieces lay piled inside the door suitably for the
hand. He stood with his back to these beside the meat bench, scraping
the saltpetre off a large middling and rubbing it with red pepper.
Suddenly the light of the small doorway failed; and turning he beheld
his mother, and a few feet behind her--David said that he did not
believe in miracles--but a few feet behind his mother there now stood a
divine presence. Believe it or not, there she was, the miracle! All the
bashfulness of his lifetime--it had often made existence well-nigh
insupportable--came crowding into that one moment. The feeblest little
bleat of a spring lamb too weak to stand up for the first time would
have been a deafening roar in comparison with the silence which now
penetrated to the marrow of his bones. He faced the two women at bay,
with one hand resting on the middling.

"This is my son," said his mother neutrally, turning to the young lady.
This information did not help David at all. He knew who HE was. He took
it for granted that every one present knew. The visitor at once
relieved the situation.

"This is the school-teacher," she said, coloring and smiling. "I have
been teaching here ever since you went away. And I am now an old
resident of this neighborhood."

Not a thing moved about David except a little smoke in the chimney of
his throat. But the young lady did not wait for more silence to render
things more tense. She stepped forward into the doorway beside his
mother and peered curiously in, looking up at the smoke-blackened
joists, at the black cross sticks on which the links of sausages were
hung, at the little heap of gray ashes in the ground underneath with a
ring of half-burnt chips around them, at the huge meat bench piled with
salted joints.

"And this is the way you make middlings?" she inquired, smiling at him
encouragingly.

The idea of that archangel knowing anything about middlings! David's
mind executed a rudimentary movement, and his tongue and lips responded
feebly:--

"This is the way."

"And this is the way you make hams, sugar-cured hams?"

"This is the way."

"And this is the way you make--shoulders?"

"This is the way."

David had found an answer, and he was going to abide by it while
strength and daylight lasted.

The young lady seemed to perceive that this was his intention.

"Let me see you HANG one," she said desperately. "I have never seen
bacon hanged--or hung. I suppose as I teach grammar, I must use both
participles."

David caught up the huge middling by the string and swung it around in
front of him, whereupon it slipped out of his nerveless fingers and
fell over in the ashes. It did not break the middling, but it broke the
ice.

"Can I help you?"

Those torturing, blistering words! David's face got as red as though it
had been rubbed with red pepper and saltpetre both. The flame of it
seemed to kindle some faint spark of spirit in him. He picked up the
middling, and as he looked her squarely in the eye, with a humorous
light in his, he nodded at the pieces of bacon by the entrance.

"Hang one of those," he said, "if you've a mind."

As he lifted the middling high, Gabriella noticed above his big red
hands a pair of arms like marble for lustre and whiteness (for he had
his sleeves rolled far back)--as massive a pair of man's arms as ever
were formed by life-long health and a life-long labor and life-long
right living.

"Thank you," she said, retreating through the door. "It's all very
interesting. I have never lived in the country before. Your mother told
me you were working here, and I asked her to let me come and look on.
While I have been living in your neighborhood, you have been living in
my town. I hope you will come to see me, and tell me a great deal."

As she said this, David perceived that she, standing behind his mother,
looked at him with the veiled intention of saying far more. He had such
an instinct for truth himself, that truth in others was bare to him.
Those gentle, sympathetic eyes seemed to declare: "I know about your
troubles. I am the person for whom, without knowing it, you have been
looking. With me you can break silence about the great things. We can
meet far above the level of such poor scenes as this. I have sought you
to tell you this. Come."

"Mother," said David that evening, after his father had left the table,
dropping his knife and fork and forgetting to eat, "who was that?"

He drew out all that could be drawn: that she had come to take charge
of the school the autumn he had gone away; that she was liked as a
teacher, liked by the old people. She had taken great interest in HIM,
his mother said reproachfully, and the idea of his studying for the
ministry. She had often visited the house, had been good to his father
and to her. This was her first visit since she had gotten back; she had
been in town spending the holidays.

David had begun to go to see Gabriella within a week. At first he went
once a week--on Saturday nights. Soon he went twice a week--Wednesdays
and Saturdays invariably. On that last day at college, when he had
spoken out for himself, he had ended the student and the youth; when he
met her, it was the beginning of the man: and the new reason of the
man's happiness.

As he now returned home across the mile or more of country, having
satisfied himself as to the uninjured condition of the schoolhouse,
which had a great deal to do with Gabriella's remaining in that
neighborhood, he renewed his resolve to go to see her to-night, though
it was only Friday. Had not the storm upset all regular laws and
customs?

Happily, then, on reaching the stable, he fell to work upon his plan of
providing a shelter for the sheep.

David felt much more at home in the barn than at the house. For the
stock saw no change in him. Believer or unbeliever, rationalist,
evolutionist, he was still the same to them. Upon them, in reality,
fell the ill consequences of his misspent or well-spent college life;
for the money which might have gone for shingles and joists and more
provender, had in part been spent on books describing the fauna of the
earth and the distribution of species on its surface. Some had gone for
treatises on animals under domestication, while his own animals under
domestication were allowed to go poorly fed and worse housed. He had
had the theory; they had had the practice. But they apprehended nothing
of all this. How many tragedies of evil passion brutes escape by not
understanding their owners! We of the human species so often regret
that individuals read each other's natures so dimly: let us be
thankful! David was glad, then, that this little aggregation of
dependent creatures, his congregation of the faithful, neither
perceived the change in him, nor were kept in suspense by the tragedy
growing at the house.

They had been glad to see him on his return. Captain, who had met him
first, was gladdest, perhaps. Then the horses, the same old ones. One
of them, he fancied, had backed up to him, offering a ride. And the
cows were friendly. They were the same; their calves were different.
The sheep about maintained their number, their increase by nature
nearly balancing their decrease by table use.

One member of the flock David looked for in vain: the boldest,
gentlest--there usually is one such. Later on he found it represented
by a saddle blanket. After his departure for college, his mother had
conceived of this fine young wether in terms of sweetbreads, tallow for
chapped noses, and a soft seat for the spine of her husband. Even the
larded dame of the snow-white sucklings had remembered him well, and
had touched her snout against his boots; so that hardly had he in the
old way begun to stroke her bristles, before she spoke comfortably of
her joy, and rolled heavily over in what looked like a grateful swoon.

No: his animals had not changed in their feelings toward him; but how
altered he in his understanding of them! He had formerly believed that
these creatures were created for the use of man--that old conceited
notion that the entire earth was a planet of provisions for human
consumption. It had never even occurred to him to think that the horses
were made but to ride and to work. Cows of course gave milk for the
sake of the dairy; cream rose on milk for ease in skimming; when
churned, it turned sour, that the family might have fresh buttermilk.
Hides were for shoes. The skin on sheep, it was put there for Man's
woollens.

Now David declared that these beings were no more made for Man than Man
was made for them. Man might capture them, keep them in captivity,
break, train, use, devour them, occasionally exterminate them by
benevolent assimilation. But this was not the reason of their being
created: what that reason was in the Creator's mind, no one knew or
would ever know.

"Man seizes and uses you," said David, working that day in his barn;
"but you are no more his than he is yours. He calls you dependent
creatures: who has made you dependent? In a state of wild nature, there
is not one of you that Man would dare meet: not the wild stallion, not
the wild bull, not the wild boar, not even an angry ram. The argument
that Man's whole physical constitution--structure and function-shows
that he was intended to live on beef and mutton, is no better than the
argument that the tiger finds man perfectly adapted to his system as a
food, and desires none better. Every man-eating creature thinks the
same: the wolf believes Man to be his prey; the crocodile believes him
to be his; an old lion is probably sure that a man's young wife is
designed for his maw alone. So she is, if he manages to catch her."

As David said this rather unexpectedly to himself, he fell into a novel
revery, forgetting philosophy and brute kind. It was late when David
finished his work that day. Toward nightfall the cloud had parted in
the west; the sun had gone down with dark curtains closing heavily over
it. Later, the cloud had parted in the east, and the moon had arisen
amid white fleeces and floated above banks of pearl. Shining upon all
splendid things else, it illumined one poor scene which must not be
forgotten: the rear of an old barn, a sagging roof of rotting shingles;
a few common sheep passing in, driven by a shepherd dog; and a big
thoughtful boy holding the door open.

He had shifted the stock to make way for these additional pensioners,
putting the horses into the new stalls, the cows where the horses had
been, and the sheep under the shed of the cows. (It is the horse that
always gets the best of everything in a stable.) He reproached himself
that he did least for the creatures that demanded least.

"That's the nature of man," he said disapprovingly, "topmost of all
brutes."

When he stepped out of doors after supper that night, the clouds had
hidden the moon. But there was light enough for him to see his way
across the ice fields to Gabriella. The Star of Love shone about his
feet.



XV


When Gabriella awoke on that same morning after the storm, she too
ascertained that her shutters could not be opened. But Gabriella did
not go down into the kitchen for hot water to melt the ice from the
bolts and hinges. She fled back across the cold matting to the
high-posted big bed and cuddled down solitary into its warmth again,
tucking the counterpane under her chin and looking out from the pillows
with eyes as fresh as flowers. Flowers in truth Gabriella's eyes
were--the closing and disclosing blossoms of a sweet nature. Somehow
they made you think of earliest spring, of young leaves, of the
flutings of birds deep within a glade sifted with golden light,
fragrant with white fragrance. They had their other seasons: their
summer hours of angry flash and swift downpour; their autumn days of
still depths and soberness, and autumn nights of long, quiet rainfalls
when no one knew. One season they lacked: Gabriella's eyes had no
winter.

Brave spirit! Had nature not inclined her to spring rather than autumn,
had she not inherited joyousness and the temperamental gayety of the
well-born, she must long ago have failed, broken down. Behind her were
generations of fathers and mothers who had laughed heartily all their
days. The simple gift of wholesome laughter, often the best as often
the only remedy for so many discomforts and absurdities in life--this
was perhaps to be accounted among her best psychological heirlooms.

Her first thought on awaking late this morning (for she too had been
kept awake by the storm) was that there could be no school. And this
was only Friday, with Saturday and Sunday to follow--three whole
consecutive days of holiday! Gabriella's spirits invariably rose in a
storm; her darkest days were her brightest. The weather that tried her
soul was the weather which was disagreeable, but not disagreeable
enough to break up school. When she taught, she taught with all her
powers and did it well; when not teaching, she hated it with every
faculty and capacity of her being. And to discharge patiently and
thoroughly a daily hated work--that takes noble blood.

Nothing in the household stirred below. The members of the family had
remained up far into the night. As for the negroes, they understand how
to get a certain profit for themselves out of all disturbances of the
weather. Gabriella was glad of the chance to wait for the house-girl to
come up and kindle her fire--grateful for the luxury of lying in bed on
Friday morning, instead of getting up to a farmer's early breakfast,
when sometimes there were candles on the table to reveal the localities
of the food! How she hated those candles, flaring in her eyes so early!
How she loved the mellow flicker of them at night, and how she hated
them in the morning--those early-breakfast candles!

In high spirits, then, with the certainty of a late breakfast and no
school, she now lay on the pillows, looking across with sparkling eyes
at last night's little gray ridge of ashes under the bars of her small
grate. Those hearthstones!--when her bare soles accidentally touched
one on winter mornings, Gabriella was of the opinion that they were the
coldest bricks that ever came from a fiery furnace. There was one thing
in the room still colder: the little cherrywood washstand away over on
the other side of the big room between the windows,--placed there at
the greatest possible distance from the fire! Sometimes when she peeped
down into her wash-pitcher of mornings, the ice bulged up at her like a
white cannon-ball that had gotten lodged on the way out. She jabbed at
it with the handle of her toothbrush; or, if her temper got the best of
her (or the worst), with the poker. Often her last act at night was to
dry her toothbrush over the embers so that the hair in it would not be
frozen in the morning.

Gabriella raised her head from the pillows and peeped over at the
counterpane covering her. It consisted of stripes of different colors,
starting from a point at the middle of the structure and widening
toward the four sides. Her feet were tucked away under a bank of plum
color sprinkled with salt; up her back ran a sort of comet's tail of
puddled green. Over her shoulder and descending toward her chin, flowed
a broadening delta of well-beaten egg.

She was thankful for these colors. The favorite hue of the farmer's
wife was lead. Those hearthstones--lead! The strip of oilcloth covering
the washstand--lead! The closet in the wall containing her
things--lead! The stair-steps outside--lead! The porches down
below--lead! Gabriella sometimes wondered whether this woman might not
have had lead-colored ancestors.

A pair of recalcitrant feet were now heard mounting the stair: the
flowers on the pillow closed their petals. When the negro girl knelt
down before the grate, with her back to the bed and the soles of her
shoes set up straight side by side like two gray bricks, the eyes were
softly opened again, Gabriella had never seen a head like this negro
girl's, that is, never until the autumn before last, when she had come
out into this neighborhood of plain farming people to teach a district
school. Whenever she was awake early enough to see this curiosity, she
never failed to renew her study of it with unflagging zest. It was such
a mysterious, careful arrangement of knots, and pine cones, and the
strangest-looking little black sticks wrapped with white packing
thread, and the whole system of coils seemingly connected with a
central mental battery, or idea, or plan, within. She studied it now,
as the fire was being kindled, and the kindler, with inflammatory blows
of the poker on the bars of the grate, told her troubles over audibly
to herself: "Set free, and still making fires of winter mornings; how
was THAT? Where was any freedom in THAT? Her wages? Didn't she work for
her wages? Didn't she EARN her wages? Then where did freedom come in?"

One must look low for high truth sometimes, as we gather necessary
fruit on nethermost boughs and dig the dirt for treasure. The
Anglo-Saxon girl lying in the bed and the young African girl kindling
her fire--these two, the highest and the humblest types of womanhood in
the American republic--were inseparably connected in that room that
morning as children of the same Revolution. It had cost the war of the
Union, to enable this African girl to cast away the cloth enveloping
her head--that detested sign of her slavery--and to arrange her hair
with ancestral taste, the true African beauty sense. As long as she had
been a slave, she had been compelled by her Anglo-Saxon mistress to
wear her head-handkerchief; as soon as she was set free, she, with all
the women of her race in the South, tore the head-handkerchief
indignantly off. In the same way, it cost the war of the Union to
enable Gabriella to teach school. She had been set free also, and the
bandage removed from her liberties. The negress had been empowered to
demand wages for her toil; the Anglo-Saxon girl had been empowered to
accept without reproach the wages for hers.

Gabriella's memoirs might be writ large in four parts that would really
be the history of the United States, just as a slender seam of gold can
only be explained through the geology of the earth. But they can also
be writ so small that each volume may be dropped, like certain
minute-books of bygone fashions, into a waistcoat pocket, or even read,
as through a magnifying glass, entire on a single page.

The first volume was the childhood book, covering the period from
Gabriella's birth to the beginning of the Civil War, by which time she
was fourteen years old: it was fairy tale. These earliest recollections
went back to herself as a very tiny child living with her mother and
grandmother in a big white house with green window-shutters, in
Lexington--so big that she knew only the two or three rooms in one ell.
Her mother wore mourning for her father, and was always drawing her to
her bosom and leaving tears on her face or lilylike hands. One day--she
could not remember very well--but the house had been darkened and the
servants never for a moment ceased amusing her--one day the house was
all opened again and Gabriella could not find her mother; and her
grandmother, everybody else, was kinder to her than ever. She did not
think what kindness was then, but years afterward she learned perfectly.

Very slowly Gabriella's knowledge began to extend over the house and
outside it. There were enormous, high-ceiled halls and parlors, and
bedrooms and bedrooms and bedrooms. There were verandas front and back,
so long that it took her breath away to run the length of one and
return. Upstairs, front and back, verandas again, balustraded so that
little girls could not forget themselves and fall off. The pillars of
these verandas at the rear of the house were connected by a network of
wires, and trained up the pillars and branching over the wires were
coiling twisting vines of wisteria as large as Gabriella's neck. This
was the sunny southern side; and when the wisteria was blooming,
Gabriella moved her establishment of playthings out behind those sunlit
cascades of purple and green, musical sometimes with goldfinches.

The front of the house faced a yard of stately evergreens and great
tubs of flowers, oleander, crepe myrtle, and pomegranate. Beyond the
yard, a gravelled carriage drive wound out of sight behind cedars,
catalpa, and forest trees, shadowing a turfy lawn. At the end of the
lawn was the great entrance gate and the street of the town, Gabriella
long knew this approach only by her drives with her grandmother. At the
rear of the house was enough for her: a large yard, green grazing lots
for the stable of horses, and best of all a high-fenced garden
containing everything the heart could desire: vegetables, and flowers;
summer-houses, and arbors with seats; pumps of cold water, and
hot-houses of plants and grapes, and fruit trees, and a swing, and
gooseberry bushes--everything.

In one corner, the ground was too shaded by an old apple tree to be of
use: they gave this to Gabriella for her garden. She had attached
particularly to her person a little negress of about the same age--her
Milly, the color of a ripe gourd. So when in spring the gardener began
to make his garden, with her grandmother sometimes standing over him,
directing, Gabriella, taking her little chair to the apple tree,--with
some pretended needle-work and a real switch,--would set Milly to work
making hers. Nothing that they put into the earth ever was heard of
again, though they would sometimes make the same garden over every day
for a week. So that more than once, forsaking seed, they pulled off the
tops of green things near by, planted these, and so had a perfect
garden in an hour.

Then Gabriella, seated under the apple tree, would order Milly to water
the flowers from the pump; and taking her switch and calling Milly
close, she would give her a sharp rap or two around the bare legs (for
that was expected), and tell her that if she didn't stop being so
trifling, she would sell her South to the plantations. Whereupon Milly,
injured more in heart than legs, and dropping the watering-pot, would
begin to bore her dirty fists into her eyes. Then Gabriella would say
repentantly:--

"No, I won't, Milly! And you needn't work any more to-day. And you can
have part of my garden if you want it."

Milly, smiling across the mud on her cheeks, would murmur:--

"You ain' goin' sell yo' Milly down South, is you, Miss Gabriella?"

"_I_ won't. But I'm not so sure about grandmother, Milly. You know she
WILL do it sometimes. Our cotton's got to be picked by SOMEBODY, and
who's to do it but you lazy negroes?"

In those days the apple tree would be blooming, and the petals would
sift down on Gabriella. Looking up at the marriage bell of blossoms,
and speaking in the language of her grandmother, she would say:--

"Milly, when I grow up and get married, I am going to be married out of
doors in spring under an apple tree."

"I don' know whah _I_ gwine be married," Milly would say with a hoarse,
careless cackle. "I 'spec' in a brier-patch."

Gabriella's first discovery of what meanness human nature can exhibit
was connected with this garden. So long as everything was sour and
green, she could play there by the hour; but as soon as anything got
ripe and delicious, the gate with the high latch was shut and she could
never enter it unguarded. What tears she shed outside the fence as she
peeped through! When they did take her in, they always held her by the
hand.

"DON'T hold my hand, Sam," pleadingly to the negro gardener. "It's so
HOT!"

"You fall down and hurt yourself."

"How absurd, Sam! The idea of my falling down when I am walking along
slowly!"

"You get lost."

"How can you say anything so amusing as that, Sam! Did I ever get lost
in here?"

"Snakes bite you."

"Why do you think they'd bite ME, Sam? They have never been known to
bite anybody else."

"You scratch yourself."

"How can I scratch myself, Sam, when I'm not doing anything?"

"Caterpillars crawl on you."

"They crawl on me when I'm not in the garden, Sam. So why do you harp
on THAT?"

Slowly they walked on--past the temptations of Eden.

"Please, let me try just once, Sam!"

"Try what, Miss Gabriella?"

"To see whether the snakes will bite me."

"I couldn't!"

"Then take me to see the grapes," she would say wearily.

There they were, hanging under the glass: bunches of black and of
purple Hamburgs, and of translucent Malagas, big enough to have been an
armful!

"Just one, Sam, please."

"Make you sick."

"They never make me sick when I eat them in the house. They are good
for me! One COULDN'T make me sick. I'm sick because you DON'T give it
to me. Don't I LOOK sick, Sam?"

The time came when Gabriella began to extend her knowledge to the
country, as she drove out beside her grandmother in the balmy spring
and early summer afternoons.

"What is that, grandmother?" she would say, pointing with her small
forefinger to a field by the turnpike.

"That is corn."

"And what is that?"

"That is wheat."

"And what is that?"

"Oats, Gabriella."

"Oh, grandmother, what is THAT?"

"Tut, tut, child! Don't you know what that is? That's hemp. That is
what bales all our cotton."

"Oh, grandmother, smell it!"

After this sometimes Gabriella would order the driver to turn off into
some green lane about sunset and press on till they found a field by
the way. As soon as they began to pass it, over into their faces would
be wafted the clean, cooling, velvet-soft, balsam breath of the hemp.
The carriage would stop, and Gabriella, standing up and facing the
field, would fill her lungs again and again, smiling at her grandmother
for approval. Then she would take her seat and say quietly:--

"Turn round, Tom, and drive back. I have smelt it enough."

These drives alone with her grandmother were for spring and early
summer only. Full summer brought up from their plantations in
Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, her uncles and the wives and
children of some of them. All the bedrooms in the big house were
filled, and Gabriella was nearly lost in the multitude, she being the
only child of the only daughter of her grandmother. And now what happy
times there were. The silks, and satins, and laces! The plate, the
gold, the cut glass! The dinners, the music, the laughter, the wines!

Later, some of her uncles' families might travel on with their servants
to watering places farther north. But in September all were back again
under the one broad Kentucky roof, stopping for the beautiful Lexington
fair, then celebrated all over the land; and for the races--those days
of the thoroughbred only; and until frost fall should make it safe to
return to the swamps and bayous, loved by the yellow fever.

When all were departed, sometimes her grandmother, closing the house
for the winter, would follow one of her sons to his plantation; thence
later proceeding to New Orleans, at that time the most brilliant of
American capitals; and so Gabriella would see the Father of Waters, and
the things that happened in the floating palaces of the Mississippi;
see the social life of the ancient French and Spanish city.

All that could be most luxurious and splendid in Kentucky during those
last deep, rich years of the old social order, was Gabriella's: the
extravagance, the gayety, the pride, the lovely manners, the
selfishness and cruelty in its terrible, unconscious, and narrow way,
the false ideals, the aristocratic virtues. Then it was that,
overspreading land and people, lay the full autumn of that sowing,
which had moved silently on its way toward its fateful fruits for over
fifty years. Everything was ripe, sweet, mellow, dropping, turning
rotten.

O ye who have young children, if possible give them happy memories!
Fill their earliest years with bright pictures! A great historian many
centuries ago wrote it down that the first thing conquered in battle
are the eyes: the soldier flees from what he sees before him. But so
often in the world's fight we are defeated by what we look back upon;
we are whipped in the end by the things we saw in the beginning of
life. The time arrived for Gabriella when the gorgeous fairy tale of
her childhood was all that she had to sustain her: when it meant
consolation, courage, fortitude, victory.

A war volume, black, fiery, furious, awful--this comprised the second
part of her history: it contained the overthrow of half the American
people, and the downfall of the child princess Gabriella. An idea--how
negative, nerveless, it looks printed! A little group of four
ideas--how should they have power of life and death over millions of
human beings! But say that one is the idea of the right of
self-government--much loved and fought for all round the earth by the
Anglo-Saxon race. Say that a second is the idea that with his own
property a man has a right to do as he pleases: another notion that has
been warred over, world without end. Let these two ideas run in the
blood and passions of the Southern people. Say that a third idea is
that of national greatness (the preservation of the Union), another
idol of this nation-building race. Say that the fourth idea is that of
evolving humanity, or, at least, that slave-holding societies must be
made non-slave-holding--if not peaceably, then by force of arms. Let
these two ideas be running in the blood and passions of the Northern
people. Bring the first set of ideas and the second set together in a
struggle for supremacy. By all mankind it is now known what the result
was for the nation. What these ideas did for one little girl, living in
Lexington, Kentucky, was part of that same sad, sublime history.

They ordered the grandmother across the lines, as a wealthy sympathizer
and political agent of the Southern cause; they seized her house,
confiscated it, used it as officers' headquarters: in the end they
killed her with grief and care; they sent her sons, every man of them,
into the Southern armies, ravaged their plantations, liberated their
slaves, left them dead on the fields of battle, or wrecked in health,
hope, fortune. Gabriella, placed in a boarding-school in Lexington at
that last hurried parting with her grandmother, stayed there a year.
Then the funds left to her account in bank were gone; she went to live
with near relatives; and during the remaining years of the war was
first in one household, then another, of kindred or friends all of whom
contended for the privilege of finding her a home. But at the close of
the war, Gabriella, issuing from the temporary shelters given her
during the storm, might have been seen as a snow-white pigeon flying
lost and bewildered across a black cloud covering half the sky.

The third volume--the Peace Book in which there was no Peace: this was
the beginning of Gabriella, child of the Revolution. She did not now
own a human being except herself; could give orders to none but
herself; could train for this work, whip up to that duty, only herself;
and if, she was still minded to play the mistress--firm, kind,
efficient, capable--must be such a mistress solely to Gabriella.

By that social evolution of the race which in one country after another
had wrought the overthrow of slavery, she had now been placed with a
generation unique in history: a generation of young Southern girls, of
gentle birth and breeding, of the most delicate nature, who, heiresses
in slaves and lands at the beginning of the war, were penniless and
unrecognized wards of the federal government at its close, their slaves
having been made citizens and their plantations laid waste. On these
unprepared and innocent girls thus fell most heavily not only the
mistakes and misdeeds of their own fathers and mothers but the common
guilt of the whole nation, and particularly of New England, as respects
the original traffic in human souls. The change in the lives of these
girls was as sudden and terrible as if one had entered a brilliant
ballroom and in the voice of an overseer ordered the dancers to go as
they were to the factories.

To the factories many of them went, in a sense: to hard work of some
sort--to wage-earning and wage-taking: sometimes becoming the mainstay
of aged or infirm parents, the dependence of younger brothers and
sisters. If the history of it all is ever written, it will make
pitiful, heroic, noble reading.

The last volume of Gabriella's memoirs showed her in this field of
struggle--of new growth to suit the newer day. It was so unlike the
first volume as to seem no continuation of her own life. It began one
summer morning about two years after the close of the war--an interval
which she had spent in various efforts at self-help, at self-training.

On that morning, pale and trembling, but resolute, her face heavily
veiled, she might have been seen on her way to Water Street in
Lexington--a street she had heard of all her life and had been careful
never to enter except to take or to alight from a train at the station.
Passing quickly along until she reached a certain ill-smelling little
stairway which opened on the foul sidewalk, she mounted it, knocked at
a low black-painted plank door, and entered a room which was a
curiosity shop. There she was greeted by an elderly gentleman, who
united in himself the offices of superintendent of schools,
experimental astronomer, and manufacturer of a high grade of mustard.
She had presented herself to be examined for a teacher's certificate.

Fortunately for Gabriella this kindly old sage remembered well her
grandmother and her uncles: they had been connoisseurs; they had for
years bought liberally of his mustard. Her uncles had used it first on
their dinner tables as a condiment and afterward on their foreheads and
stomachs as a plaster. They had never failed to praise it to his
face--both for its power to draw an appetite and for its power to
withdraw an ache. In turn he now praised them and asked the easiest
questions. Gabriella, whose knowledge of arithmetic was as a grain of
mustard seed, and who spoke beautiful English, but could not have
parsed, "John, come here!"--received a first-class certificate for the
sake of the future and a box of mustard in memory of the past.

Early in that autumn she climbed, one morning, into an old yellow-red,
ever muddied stage-coach (the same that David had ridden in) and set
out to a remote neighborhood, where, after many failures otherwise, she
had secured a position to teach a small country school. She was glad
that it was distant; she had a feeling that the farther away it was
from Lexington, the easier it would be to teach.

Nearly all that interminable day, the mechanism of the stage and the
condition of the pike (much fresh-cracked limestone on it) administered
to Gabriella's body such a massage as is not now known to medical
science. But even this was as nothing in comparison to the rack on
which she stretched every muscle of her mind. What did she know about
teaching? What kind of people would they be?

Late that mild September afternoon she began to find out The stage
stopped at the mouth of a lane; and looking out with deathly faintness,
Gabriella saw, standing beside a narrow, no-top buggy, a big, hearty,
sunburned farmer with his waist-coat half unbuttoned, wearing a suit of
butternut jeans and a yellow straw hat with the wide brim turned up
like a cow's horns.

"Have you got my school-teacher in there?" he called out in a voice
that carried like a heavy, sweet-sounding bell. "And did you bring me
them things I told you to get?"

"Which is she?" he asked as he came over to the stage window and peered
in at the several travellers.

"How do you do, Miss Gabriella?" he said, taking his hat clear off his
big, honest, hairy, brown head and putting in a hand that would have
held several of Gabriella's. "I'm glad to see you; and the children
have been crying for you. Now, if you will just let me help you to a
seat in the buggy, and hold the lines for a minute while I get some
things Joe's brought me, we'll jog along home. I'm glad to see you. I
been hearing a heap about you from the superintendent."

Gabriella already loved him! When they were seated in the buggy, he
took up six-sevenths of the space. She was so close to him that it
scared her--so close that when he turned his head on his short, thick
neck to look at her, he could hardly see her.

"He has a little slip of a wife," explained Gabriella to herself. "I'm
in her seat: that's why he's used to it."

So SHE got used to it; and soon felt a frank comfort in being able to
nestle freely against him--to cling to him like a bat to a warm wall.
For cling sometimes she must. He was driving a sorrel fresh from
pasture, with long, ragged hoofs, burrs in mane and tail, and a wild
desire to get home to her foal; so that she fled across the
country--bridges, ditches, everything, frantic with maternal passion.
One circumstance made for Gabriella's security: the buggy tilted over
toward him so low, that she could not conveniently roll out: instead
she felt as though she were being whirled around a steep hillside.

Meantime, how he talked to her! Told her the school was all made up:
what families were going to send, and how many children from each. They
had all heard from the superintendent what a fine teacher she was (not
for nothing is it said that things are handed along kindly in Kentucky)!

"Oh," murmured Gabriella to herself, "if the family are only like HIM!"
The mere way in which he called her by her first name, as though she
were an old friend--a sort of old sweetheart of his whom for some
reason he had failed to marry--filled her with perfect trust.

"That's my house!" he said at last, pointing with extended arm and whip
(which latter he had no occasion to use) across the open country.

Gabriella followed his gesture with apprehensive eyes and beheld away
off a big comfortable-looking two-story brick dwelling with
white-washed fences around it and all sorts of white-washed houses on
one side or the other--a plain, sweet, country, Kentucky home, God
bless it! The whiteness won Gabriella at once; and with the whiteness
went other things just as good: the assurance everywhere of thrift,
comfort. Not a weed in sight, but September bluegrass, deep flowing, or
fresh-ploughed fields or clean stubble. Every rail in its place on
every fence; every gate well swung. Everything in sight in the way of
live stock seemed to Gabriella either young or just old enough. The
very stumps they passed looked healthy.

Her conjecture had been correct: the slender slip of a woman met her at
the side porch a little diffidently, with a modest smile; then kissed
her on the mouth and invited her in. The supper table was already set
in the middle of the room; and over in one corner was a big white
bed--with a trundle bed (not visible) under it. Gabriella "took off her
things" and laid them on the snowy counterpane; and the housewife told
her she would let the children entertain her for a few minutes while
she saw about supper.

The children accepted the agreement. They swarmed about her as about a
new cake. Two or three of the youngest began to climb over her as they
climbed over the ice-house, to sit on her as they sat on the stiles.
The oldest produced their geographies and arithmetics and showed her
how far they had gone. (They had gone a great deal farther than
Gabriella!) No one paid the least attention to any one else, or stood
in awe of anything or anybody: Fear had never come to that Jungle!

But trouble must enter into the affairs of this world, and it entered
that night into Gabriella.

At supper the farmer, having picked out for her the best piece of the
breast of the fried chicken, inquired in a voice which implied how
cordially superfluous the question was:--

"Miss Gabriella, will you have cream gravy?"

"No, thank you."

The shock to that family! Not take cream gravy! What kind of a teacher
was that, now? Every small hand, old enough to use a knife or fork,
held it suspended. At the foot of the table, the farmer, dropping his
head a little, helped the children, calling their names one by one,
more softly and in a tone meant to restore cheerfulness if possible.
The little wife at the head of the table had just put sugar into
Gabriella's cup and was in the act of pouring the coffee. She hastily
emptied the sugar back into the sugar-dish and asked with look of
dismay:--

"Will you have sugar in your coffee?"

The situation grew worse at breakfast. In a voice to which confidence
had been mysteriously restored during the night--a voice that seemed to
issue from a honey-comb and to drip sweetness all the way across the
table, that big fellow at the foot again inquired:--

"Miss Gabriella, will you have cream gravy--THIS MORNING?"

"No, thank you!"

The oldest boy cocked his eye sideways at his mother, openly announcing
that he had won a secret wager. The mother hastily remarked:--

"I thought you might like a little for your breakfast."

The baby, noticing the stillness and trouble everywhere, and feeling
itself deeply wounded because perfectly innocent, burst into frantic
crying.

Gabriella could have outcried the baby! She resolved that if they had
it for dinner, she would take it though it were the dessert. A moment
later she did better. Lifting her plate in both hands, she held it out,
knife, fork, and all.

"I believe I'll change my mind. It looks SO tempting."

"I think you'll find it nice," remarked the housewife, conciliated, but
resentful. But every child now determined to watch and see what else
she didn't take. They watched in vain: she took everything. So that in
a few days they recovered their faith in her and resumed their
crawling. Gabriella had never herself realized how many different
routes and stations she had in her own body until it had been thus
travelled over: feet and ankles; knees; upper joints; trunk line;
eastern and western divisions; head terminal.

There was never any more trouble for her in that household. They made
only two demands: that she eat whatever was put on the table and love
them. Whatever was put on the table was good; and they were all
lovable. They were one live, disorderly menagerie of nothing but love.
But love is not the only essential of life; and its phenomena can be
trying.

Here, then, in this remote neighborhood of plain farmers, in a little
district school situated on a mud road, Gabriella began alone and
without training her new life,--attempt of the Southern girl to make
herself self-supporting in some one of the professions,--sign of a vast
national movement among the women of her people. In her surroundings
and ensuing struggles she had much use for that saving sense of humor
which had been poured into her veins out of the deep clear wells of her
ancestors; need also of that radiant, bountiful light which still fell
upon her from the skies of the past; but more than these as staff to
her young hands, cup to her lips, lamp to her feet, oil to her daily
bruises, rest to her weary pillow, was reliance on Higher Help. For the
years--and they seemed to her many and wide--had already driven
Gabriella, as they have driven countless others of her sex, out of the
cold, windy world into the church: she had become a Protestant devotee.
Had she been a Romanist, she would long ere this have been a nun. She
was now fitted for any of those merciful and heroic services which keep
fresh on earth the records of devoted women. The inner supporting stem
of her nature had never been snapped; but it had been bruised enough to
give off life-fragrance. Adversity had ennobled her. In truth, she had
so weathered the years of a Revolution which had left her as destitute
as it had left her free, that she was like Perdita's rosemary: a flower
which keeps seeming and savor all the winter long. The North Wind had
bolted about her in vain his whitest snows; and now the woods were
turning green.

It was merely in keeping with Gabriella's nature, therefore, that as
she grew to know the people among whom she had come to stay, their
homes, their family histories, one household and one story should have
engaged her deep interest: David's parents and David's career. As she
drove about the country, visiting with the farmer's wife, there had
been pointed out a melancholy remnant of a farm, desperately resisting
absorption by some one of three growing estates touching it on three
sides. She had been taken to call on the father and mother; had seen
the poverty within doors, the half-ruined condition of the outhouses;
had heard of their son, now away at the university; of how they had
saved and he had struggled. A proud father it was who now told of his
son's magnificent progress already at college.

"Ah," she exclaimed, thinking it over in her room that night, "this is
something worth hearing! Here is the hero in life! Among these
easy-going people this solitary struggler. I, too, am one now; I can
understand him."

During the first year of her teaching, there had developed in her a
noble desire to see David; but one long to be disappointed. He did not
return home during his vacation; she went away during hers. The autumn
following he was back in college; she at her school. Then the Christmas
holidays and his astounding, terrible home-coming, put out of college
and church. As soon as she heard of that awful downfall, Gabriella felt
a desire to go straight to him. She did not reason or hesitate: she
went.

And now for two months they had been seeing each other every few days.

Thus by the working out of vast forces, the lives of Gabriella and
David had been jostled violently together. They were the children of
two revolutions, separate yet having a common end: she produced by the
social revolution of the New World, which overthrew mediaeval slavery;
he by the intellectual revolution of the Old World, which began to put
forth scientific law, but in doing this brought on one of the greatest
ages of religious doubt. So that both were early vestiges of the same
immeasurable race evolution, proceeding along converging lines. She,
living on the artificial summits of a decaying social order, had
farthest to fall, in its collapse, ere she reached the natural earth;
he, toiling at the bottom, had farthest to rise before he could look
out upon the plains of widening modern thought and man's evolving
destiny. Through her fall and his rise, they had been brought to a
common level. But on that level all that had befallen her had driven
her as out of a blinding storm into the church, the seat and asylum of
religion; all that had befallen him had driven him out of the churches
as the fortifications of theology. She had been drawn to that part of
worship which lasts and is divine; he had been repelled by the part
that passes and is human.



XVI


Although Gabriella had joyously greeted the day, as bringing exemption
from stifling hours in school, her spirits had drooped ere evening with
monotony. There were no books in use among the members of that lovable
household except school-books; they were too busy with the primary joys
of life to notice the secondary resources of literature. She had no
pleasant sewing. To escape the noise of the pent-up children, she must
restrict herself to that part of the house which comprised her room. A
walk out of doors was impracticable, although she ventured once into
the yard to study more closely the marvels of the ice-work; and to the
edge of the orchard, to ascertain how the apple trees were bearing up
under those avalanches of frozen silver slipped from the clouds.

So there were empty hours for her that day; and always the emptiest are
the heaviest--those unfilled baskets of time which strangely become
lightest only after we have heaped them with the best we have to give.
Gabriella filled the hour-baskets this day with thoughts of David,
whose field work she knew would be interrupted by the storm, and whose
movements about the house she vainly tried to follow in imagination.

Two months of close association with him in that dull country
neighborhood had wrought great changes in the simple feeling with which
she had sought him at first. He had then been to her only a Prodigal
who had squandered his substance, tried to feed his soul on the swinish
husks of Doubt, and returning to his father's house unrepentant, had
been admitted yet remained rejected: a Prodigal not of the flesh and
the world but of the spirit and the Lord. But what has ever interested
the heart of woman as a prodigal of some kind?

At other times he was figured by her sympathies as a young Samaritan
gone travelling into a Divine country but fallen among spiritual
thieves, who had stripped him of his seamless robe of Faith and left
him bruised by Life's wayside: a maltreated Christ-neighbor whom it was
her duty to succor if she could. But a woman's nursing of a man's
wound--how often it becomes the nursing of the wounded! Moreover,
Gabriella had now long been aware of what she had become to her
prodigal, her Samaritan; she saw the truth and watched it growing from
day to day; for he was incapable of disguises. But often what effect
has such watching upon the watcher, a watcher who is alone in the
world? So that while she fathomed with many feminine soundings all that
she was to David, Gabriella did not dream what David had become to her.

Shortly after nightfall, when she heard his heavy tread on the porch
below, the tedium of the day instantly vanished. Happiness rose in her
like a clear fountain set suddenly playing--rose to her eyes--bathed
her in refreshing vital emotions.

"I am so glad you came," she said as she entered the parlor, gave him
her hand, and stood looking up into his softened rugged face, at his
majestical head, which overawed her a little always. Large as was the
mould in which nature had cast his body, this seemed to her dwarfed by
the inner largeness of the man, whose development she could note as now
going forward almost visibly from day to day: he had risen so far
already and was still so young.

He did not reply to her greeting except with a look. In matters which
involved his feeling for her, he was habitually hampered and ill at
ease; only on general subjects did she ever see him master of his
resources. Gabriella had fallen into the habit of looking into his eyes
for the best answers: there he always spoke not only with ideas but
emotions: a double speech much cared for by woman.

They seated themselves on opposite sides of the wide deep fire-place: a
grate for soft coal had not yet destroyed that.

"Your schoolhouse is safe," he announced briefly.

"Oh, I've been wanting to know all day but had no one to send! How do
YOU know?" she inquired quickly.

"It's safe. The yard will have to be cleared of brush: that's all."

She looked at him gratefully. "You are always so kind!"

"Well," observed David, with a great forward stride, "aren't you?"

Gabriella, being a woman, did not particularly prize this remark: it
suggested his being kind because she had been kind; and a woman likes
nothing as reward, everything as tribute.

"And now if the apple trees are only not killed!" she exclaimed
joyously, changing the subject.

"Why the apple trees?"

"If you had been here last spring, you would have understood. When they
bloom, they are mine, I take possession." After a moment she added:
"They bring back the recollection of such happy times--springs long
ago. Some time I'll tell you."

"When you were a little girl?"

"Yes."

"I wish I had known you when you were a little girl," said David, in an
undertone, looking into the fire.

Gabriella reflected how impossible this would have been: the thought
caused her sharp pain.

Some time later, David, who had appeared more and more involved in some
inward struggle, suddenly asked a relieving question:--

"Do you know the first time I ever saw you?"

She did not answer at once.

"In the smoke-house," she said with a ripple of laughter. Gabriella,
when she was merry, made one, think of some lovely green April hill,
snow-capped.

David shook his head slowly. His eyes grew soft and mysterious.

"It was the first time _I_ ever saw YOU," she protested.

He continued to shake his head, and she looked puzzled.

"You saw me once before that, and smiled at me."

Gabriella seemed incredulous and not well pleased.

After a little while David began in the manner of one who sets out to
tell a story he is secretly fond of.

"Do you remember standing on the steps of a church the Friday evening
before Christmas--a little after dark?"

Gabriella's eyes began to express remembrance. "A wagon-load of cedar
had just been thrown out on the sidewalk, the sexton was carrying it
into the church, some children were helping, you were making a wreath:
do you remember?"

She knew every word of this.

"A young man--a Bible student--passed, or tried to pass. You smiled at
his difficulty. Not unkindly," he added, smiling not unkindly himself.

"And that was you? This explains why I have always believed I had seen
you before. But it was only for a moment, your face was in the dark;
how should I remember?"

After she said this, she looked grave: his face that night had been far
from a happy one.

"That day," continued David, quickly grave also, "that day I saw my
professors and pastor for the last time; it ended me as a Bible
student. I had left the University and the scene of my trial only a
little while before."

He rose as he concluded and took a turn across the room. Then he faced
her, smiling a little sadly.

"Once I might have thought all that Providential. I mean, seeing the
faces of my professors--my judges--last, as the end of my old life;
then seeing your face next--the beginning of the new."

He had long used frankness like this, making no secret of himself, of
her influence over him. It was embarrassing; it declared so much,
assumed so much, that had never been declared or assumed in any other
way. But her stripped and beaten young Samaritan was no labyrinthine
courtier, bescented and bedraped and bedyed with worldliness and
conventions: he came ever in her presence naked of soul. It was this
that empowered her to take the measure of his feeling for her: it had
its effect.

David returned to his chair and looked across with a mixture of
hesitancy and determination.

"I have never spoken to you about my expulsion--my unbelief."

After a painful pause she answered.

"You must be aware that I have noticed your silence. Perhaps you do not
realize how much I have regretted it."

"You know why I have not?"

She did not answer.

"I have been afraid. It's the only thing in the world I've ever been
afraid of."

"Why should you have been?"

"I dreaded to know how you might feel. It has caused a difficulty with
every one so far. It separated me from my friends among the Bible
students. It separated me from my professors, my pastor. It has
alienated my father and mother. I did not know how you would regard it."

"Have I not known it all the time? Has it made any difference?"

"Ah! but that might be only your toleration! Meantime it has become a
question with me how far your toleration will go--what is back of your
toleration! We tolerate so much in people who are merely
acquaintances--people that we do not care particularly for and that we
are never to have anything to do with in life. But if the tie begins to
be closer, then the things we tolerated at a distance--what becomes of
them then?"

He was looking at her steadily, and she dropped her eyes. This was
another one of the Prodigal's assumptions--but never before put so
pointedly.

"So I have feared that when I myself told you what I believe and what I
do not believe, it might be the end of me. And when you learned my
feelings toward what YOU believe--that might be more troublesome still.
But the time has come when I must know."

He turned his face away from her, and rising, walked several times
across the room.

At last also the moment had arrived for which she had been waiting.
Freely as they had spoken to each other of their pasts--she giving him
glimpses of the world in which she had been reared, he taking her into
his world which was equally unfamiliar--on this subject silence between
them had never been broken. She had often sought to pass the guard he
placed around this tragical episode but had always been turned away.
The only original ground of her interest in him, therefore, still
remained a background, obscure and unexplored. She regretted this for
many reasons. Her belief was that he was merely passing through a phase
of religious life not uncommon with those who were born to go far in
mental travels before they settled in their Holy Land. She believed it
would be over the sooner if he had the chance to live it out in
discussion; and she herself offered the only possibility of this.
Gabriella was in a position to know by experience what it means in
hours of trouble to need the relief of companionship. Ideas, she had
learned, long shut up in the mind tend to germinate and take root.
There had been discords which had ceased sounding in her own ear as
soon as they were poured into another.

"I have always hoped," she repeated, as he seated himself, "that you
would talk with me about these things." And then to divert the
conversation into less difficult channels, she added:--

"As to what you may think of my beliefs, I have no fear; they need not
be discussed and they cannot be attacked."

"You are an Episcopalian," he suggested hesitatingly. "I do not wish to
be rude, but--your church has its dogmas."

"There is not a dogma of my church that I have ever thought of for a
moment: or of any other church," she replied instantly and clearly.

In those simple words she had uttered unaware a long historic truth:
that religion, not theology, forms the spiritual life of women. In the
whole history of the world's opinions, no dogma of any weight has ever
originated with a woman; wherein, as in many other ways, she shows
points of superiority in her intellect. It is a man who tries to
apprehend God through his logic and psychology; a woman understands Him
better through emotions and deeds. It is the men who are concerned
about the cubits, the cedar wood, the Urim and Thummim of the
Tabernacle; woman walks straight into the Holy of Holies. Men
constructed the Cross; women wept for the Crucified. It was a man--a
Jew defending his faith in his own supernatural revelation--who tried
to ram a sponge of vinegar into the mouth of Christ, dying; it was
women who gathered at the sepulchre of Resurrection. If Christ could
have had a few women among his Apostles, there might have been more of
His religion in the world and fewer creeds barnacled on the World's
Ship of Souls.

"How can you remain in your church without either believing or
disbelieving its dogmas?" asked David, squarely.

"My church is the altar of Christ and the house of God," replied
Gabriella, simply. "And so is any other church." That was all the logic
she had and all the faith she needed; beyond that limit she did not
even think.

"And you believe in THEM ALL?" he asked with wondering admiration.

"I believe in them all."

"Once I did also," observed David, reverently and with new reverence
for her.

"What I regret is that you should have thrown away your religion on
account of your difficulties with theology. Nothing more awful could
have befallen you than that."

"It was the churches that made the difficulties," said David, "I did
not. But there is more than theology in it. You do not know what I
think about religions--revelations--inspirations--man's place in
nature."

"What DO you think?" she asked eagerly. "I suppose now I shall hear
something about those great books."

She put herself at ease in her chair like one who prepares to listen
quietly.

"Shall I tell you how the whole argument runs as I have arranged it? I
shall have to begin far away and come down to the subject by degrees."
He looked apologetic.

"Tell me everything; I have been waiting a long time."

David reflected a few moments and then began:--

"The first of my books as I have arranged them, considers what we call
the physical universe as a whole--our heavens--the stars--and discusses
the little that man knows about it. I used to think the earth was the
centre of this universe, the most important world in it, on account of
Man. That is what the ancient Hebrews thought. In this room float
millions of dust-particles too small to be seen by us. To say that the
universe is made for the sake of the earth would be something like
saying that the earth was created for the sake of one of these
particles of its own dust."

He paused to see how she received this.

"That ought to be a great book," she said approvingly. "I should like
to study it."

"The second takes up that small part of the universe which we call our
solar system and sums up the little we have learned regarding it. I
used to think the earth the most important part of the solar system, on
account of Man. So the earliest natural philosophers believed. That is
like believing that the American continent was created for the sake,
say, of my father's farm."

He awaited her comment.

"That should be a great book," she said simply. "Some day let me see
THAT."

"The third detaches for study one small planet of that system--our
earth--and reviews our latest knowledge of that: as to how it has been
evolved into its present stage of existence through other stages
requiring unknown millions and millions and millions of years. Once I
thought it was created in six days. So it is written. Do you believe
that?"

There was silence.

"What is the next book?" she asked.

"The fourth," said David, with a twinkle in his eye at her refusal to
answer his question, "takes up the history of the earth's surface--its
crust--the layers of this--as one might study the skin of an apple as
large as the globe. In the course of an almost infinite time, as we
measure things, it discovers the appearance of Life on this crust, and
then tries to follow the progress of Life from the lowest forms upward,
always upward, to Man: another time infinitely vast, according to our
standards."

He looked over for some comment but she made none, and he continued,
his interest deepening, his face kindling:--

"The fifth takes up the subject of Man, as a single one of the myriads
of forms of Life that have grown on the earth's crust, and gives the
best of what we know of him viewed as a species of animal. Does this
tire you?"

Gabriella made the only gesture of displeasure he had ever seen.

"Now," said David, straightening himself up, "I draw near to the root
of the matter. A sixth book takes up what we call the civilization of
this animal species, Man. It subdivides his civilization into different
civilizations. It analyzes these civilizations, where it is possible,
into their arts, governments, literatures, religions, and other
elements. And the seventh," he resumed after a grave pause,
scrutinizing her face most eagerly, "the seventh takes up just one part
of his civilizations--the religions of the globe--and gives an account
of these. It describes how they have grown and flourished, how some
have passed as absolutely away as the civilizations that produced them.
It teaches that those religions were as natural a part of those
civilizations as their civil laws, their games, their wars, their
philosophy; that the religious books of these races, which they
themselves often thought inspired revelations, were no more inspired
and no more revelations than their secular books; that Buddha's faith
or Brahma's were no more direct from God than Buddhistic or Brahman
temples were from God; that the Koran is no more inspired than Moorish
architecture is inspired; that the ancient religion of the Jewish race
stands on the same footing as the other great religions of the
globe--as to being Supernatural; that the second religion of the
Hebrews, starting out of them, but rejected by them, the Christian
religion, the greatest of all to us, takes its place with the others as
a perfectly natural expression of the same human desire and effort to
find God and to worship Him through all the best that we know in
ourselves and of the universe outside us."

"Ah," said Gabriella, suddenly leaning forward in her chair, "that is
the book that has done all the harm."

"One moment! All these books," continued David, for he was aroused now
and did not pause to consider her passionate protest, "have this in
common: that they try to discover and to trace Law. The universe--it is
the expression of Law. Our solar system--it has been formed by Law, The
sun--the driving force of Law has made it. Our earth--Law has shaped
that; brought Life out of it; evolved Life on it from the lowest to the
highest; lifted primeval Man to modern Man; out of barbarism developed
civilization; out of prehistoric religions, historic religions. And
this one order--method--purpose--ever running and unfolding through the
universe, is all that we know of Him whom we call Creator, God, our
Father. So that His reign is the Reign of Law. He, Himself, is the
author of the Law that we should seek Him. We obey, and our seekings
are our religions."

"If you ask me whether I believe in the God of the Hebrews, I say
'Yes'; just as I believe in the God of the Babylonians, of the
Egyptians, of the Greeks, of the Romans, of all men. But if you ask
whether I believe what the Hebrews wrote of God, or what any other age
or people thought of God, I say 'No.' I believe what the best thought
of my own age thinks of Him in the light of man's whole past and of our
greater present knowledge of the Laws of His universe," said David,
stoutly, speaking for his masters.

"As for the theologies," he resumed hastily, as if not wishing to be
interrupted, "I know of no book that has undertaken to number them.
They, too, are part of Man's nature and civilization, of his never
ceasing search. But they are merely what he thinks of God--never
anything more. They often contain the highest thought of which he is
capable in his time and place; but the awful mistake and cruelty of
them is that they have regularly been put forth as the voice of God
Himself, authoritative, inviolable, and unchanging. An assemblage of
men have a perfect right to turn a man out of their church on
theological grounds; but they have no right to do it in the name of
God. With as much propriety a man might be expelled from a political
party in the name of God. In the long life of any one of the great
religions of the globe, how many brief theologies have grown up under
it like annual plants under a tree! How many has the Christian religion
itself sprouted, nourished, and trampled down as dead weeds! What do we
think now of the Christian theology of the tenth century? of the
twelfth? of the fifteenth? In the nineteenth century alone, how many
systems of theology have there been? In the Protestantism of the United
States, how many are there to-day? Think of the names they bear--older
and newer! According to founders, and places, and sources, and
contents, and methods: Arminian--Augustinian--Calvinistic--Lutheran--
Gallican--Genevan--Mercersburg--New England--Oxford--national--
revealed--Catholic--evangelical--fundamental--historical--
homiletical--moral--mystical--pastoral--practical--dogmatic--
exegetical--polemic--rational--systematic. That sounds a little
like Polonius," said David, stopping suddenly, "but there is no
humor in it! One great lesson in the history of them all is not to be
neglected: that through them also runs the great Law of Evolution, of
the widening thoughts of men; so that now, in civilized countries at
least, the churches persecute to the death no longer. You know what the
Egyptian Priesthood would have done with me at my trial. What the
Mediaeval hierarchy would have done. What the Protestant or the
Catholic theology of two centuries ago might have done. Now mankind is
developing better ideas of these little arrangements of human
psychology on the subject of God, though the churches still try to
enforce them in His name. But the time is coming when the churches will
be deserted by all thinking men, unless they cease trying to uphold, as
the teachings of God, mere creeds of their ecclesiastical founders.
Very few men reject all belief in God; and it is no man's right to
inquire in what any man's belief consists; men do reject and have a
right to reject what some man writes out as the eternal truth of the
matter."

"And now," he said, turning to her sorrowfully, "that is the best or
the worst of what I believe--according as one may like it or not like
it. I see all things as a growth, a sublime unfolding by the Laws of
God. The race ever rises toward Him. The old things which were its best
once die off from it as no longer good. Its charity grows, its justice
grows. All the nobler, finer elements of its spirit come forth more and
more--a continuous advance along the paths of Law. And the better the
world, the larger its knowledge, the easier its faith in Him who made
it and who leads it on. The development of Man is itself the great
Revelation of Him! But I have studied these things ignorantly, only a
little while. I am at the beginning of my life, and hope to grow. Still
I stand where I have placed myself. And now, are you like the others:
do you give me up?"

He faced her with the manner in which he had sat before his professors,
conceiving himself as on trial a second time. He had in him the stuff
of martyrs and was prepared to stand by his faith at the cost of all
things.

The silence in the room lasted. Her feeling for him was so much deeper
than all this--so centred, not in what his faith was to her but in what
HE was to her, that she did not trust herself to speak. He was not on
trial in these matters in the least: without his knowing it, he had
been on trial in many other ways for a long time.

He misunderstood her silence, read wrongly her expression which was
obeying with some severity the need she felt to conceal what she had no
right to show.

"Ah, well! Ah, well!" he cried piteously, rising slowly.

When she saw his face a moment later across the room as he turned, it
was the face she had first seen in the dark street. It had stopped her
singing then; it drew an immediate response from her now. She crossed
over to him and took one of his hands in both of hers. Her cheeks were
flushed, her voice trembled.

"I am not your judge," she said, "and in all this there is only one
thing that is too sad, too awful, for me to accept. I am sorry you
should have been misled into believing that the Christian religion is
nothing more than one of the religions of the world, and Christ merely
one of its religious teachers. I wish with all my strength you believed
as you once believed, that the Bible is a direct Revelation from God,
making known to us, beyond all doubt, the Resurrection of the dead, the
Immortality of the Soul, in a better world than this, and the presence
with us of a Father who knows our wants, pities our weakness, and
answers our prayers. But I believe you will one day regain your faith:
you will come back to the Church."

He shook his head.

"Don't be deceived," he said.

"Men, great men, have said that before and they have come back. I am a
woman, and these questions never trouble us; but is it not a common
occurrence that men who think deeply on such mysteries pass through
their period of doubt?"

"But suppose I never pass through mine! You have not answered my
question," he said determinedly. "Does this make no difference in your
feeling for me? Would it make none?"

"Will you bring me that book on the religions of the world?"

"Ah," he said, "you have not answered."

"I have told you that I am not your judge."

"Ah, but that tells nothing: a woman is never a judge. She is either
with one or against him."

"Which do I look like?"--she laughed evasively--"Mercy or Vengeance?
And have you forgotten that it is late--too late to ask questions?"

He stood, comprehending her doubtfully, with immeasurable joy, and then
went out to get his overcoat.

"Bring your things in here," she said, "it is cold in the hall. And
wrap up warmly! That is more important than all the Genevan and the
homiletical!"

He bade her good night, subdued with happiness that seemed to blot out
the troublous past, to be the beginning of new life. New happiness
brought new awkwardness:--

"This was not my regular night," he said threateningly. "I came
to-night instead of to-morrow night."

Gabriella could answer a remark like that quickly enough.

"Certainly: it is hard to wait even for a slight pleasure, and it is
best to be through with suffering."

He looked as if cold water and hot water had been thrown on him at the
same time: he received shocks of different kinds and was doubtful as to
the result. He shook his head questioningly.

"I may do very well with science, but I am not so sure about women."

"Aren't women science?"

"They are a branch of theology," he said; "they are what a man thinks
about when he begins to probe his Destiny!"



XVII


David slept peacefully that night, like a man who has reached the end
of long suspense. When he threw his shutters open late, he found that
the storm had finished its work and gone and that the weather had
settled stinging cold. The heavens were hyacinth, the ground white with
snow; and the sun, day-lamp of that vast ceiling of blue, made the
earth radiant as for the bridal morn of Winter. So HIS thoughts ran.

"Gabriella! Gabriella!" he cried, as he beheld the beauty, the purity,
the breadth, the clearness. "It is you--except the coldness, the
cruelty."

All day then those three: the hyacinthine sky, the flashing lamp, the
white earth, with not one crystal thawing.

It being Saturday, there was double work for him. He knocked up the
wood for that day and for Sunday also, packed and stored it; cut double
the quantity of oats; threw over twice the usual amount of fodder. The
shocks were buried. He had hard kicking to do before he reached the
rich brown fragrant stalks. Afterwards he made paths through the snow
about the house for his mother; to the dairy, to the hen-house. In the
wooden monotony of her life an interruption in these customary visits
would have been to her a great loss. The snow being over the cook's
shoe-tops, he took a basket and dug the vegetables out of the holes in
the garden.

In the afternoon he had gone to the pond in the woods to cut a drinking
place for the cattle. As he was returning with his axe on his shoulder,
the water on it having instantly frozen, he saw riding away across the
stable lot, the one of their neighbors who was causing him so much
trouble about the buying of the farm. He stopped hot with anger and
watched him.

In those years a westward movement was taking place among the
Kentuckians--a sad exodus. Many families rendered insolvent or bankrupt
by the war and the loss of their slaves, while others interspersed
among them had grown richer by Government contracts, were now being
bought out, forced out, by debt or mortgage, and were seeking new homes
where lay cheaper lands and escape from the suffering of living on,
ruined, amid old prosperous acquaintances. It was a profound historic
disturbance of population, destined later on to affect profoundly many
younger commonwealths. This was the situation now bearing heavily on
David's father, on three sides of whose fragmentary estate lay rich
neighbors, one of whom especially desired it.

The young man threw his axe over his shoulder again and took a line
straight toward the house.

"He shall not take advantage of my father's weakness again," he said,
"nor shall he use to further his purposes what I have done to reduce
him to this want."

He felt sure that this pressure upon his father lay in part back of the
feeling of his parents toward him. His expulsion from college and their
belief that he was a failure; the fact that for three years repairs had
been neglected and improvements allowed to wait, in order that all
possible revenues might be collected for him; even these caused them
less acute distress than the fear that as a consequence they should now
be forced so late in life to make that mournful pilgrimage into strange
regions. David was saddened to think that ever at his father's side sat
his mother, irritating him by dropping all day into his ear the half
idle, half intentional words which are the water that wears out the
rock.

The young man walked in a straight line toward the house, determined to
ascertain the reason of this last visit, and to have out the
long-awaited talk with his father. He reached the yard gate, then
paused and wheeled abruptly toward the barn.

"Not to-day," he said, thinking of Gabriella and of his coming visit to
her now but a few hours off. "To-morrow! Day after to-morrow! Any time
after this! But no quarrels to-day!" and his face softened.

Before the barn door, where the snow had been tramped down by the stock
and seeds of grain lay scattered, he flushed a flock of little birds,
nearly all strangers to each other. Some from the trees about the yard;
some from the thickets, fences, and fields farther away. As he threw
open the barn doors, a few more, shyer still, darted swiftly into
hiding. He heard the quick heavy flap of wings on the joists of the
oats loft overhead, and a hawk swooped out the back door and sailed low
away.

The barn had become a battle-field of hunger and life. This was the
second day of famine--all seeds being buried first under ice and now
under snow; swift hunger sending the littler ones to this granary, the
larger following to prey on them. To-night there would be owls and in
the darkness tragedies. In the morning, perhaps, he would find a
feather which had floated from a breast. A hundred years ago, he
reflected, the wolves would have gathered here also and the cougar and
the wildcat for bigger game.

It was sunset as he left the stable, his work done. Beside the yard
gate there stood a locust tree, and on a bough of this, midway up, for
he never goes to the tree-tops at this season, David saw a cardinal. He
was sitting with his breast toward the clear crimson sky; every twig
around him silver filigree; the whole tree glittering with a million
gems of rose and white, gold and green; and wherever a fork, there a
hanging of snow. The bird's crest was shot up. He had come forth to
look abroad upon this strange wreck of nature and peril to his kind.
David had scarcely stopped before him when with a quick shy movement he
dived down into one of his ruined winter fortresses-a cedar dismembered
and flattened out, never to rise again.

The supper that evening was a very quiet one. David felt that his
father's eyes were often on him reproachfully; and that his mother's
were approvingly on his father's. Time and again during the meal the
impulse well-nigh overcame him to speak to his father then and there;
but he knew it would be a cruel, angry scene; and each time the face of
Gabriella restrained him. It was for peace; and his heart shut out all
discord from around that new tenderer figure of her which had come
forth within him this day.

Soon even the trouble at home was forgotten; he was on his way through
the deep snow toward her.



XVIII


Gabriella had brought with her into this neighborhood of good-natured,
non-reading people the recollections of literature. These became her
library of the mind; and deep joy she drew from its invisible volumes.
She had transported a fine collection of the heroes and heroines of
good fiction (Gabriella, according to the usage of her class and time,
had never read any but standard works). These, when the earlier years
of adversity came on, had been her second refuge from the world:
religion was the first. Now they were the means by which she returned
to the world in imagination. The failure to gather together so durable
a company of friends leaves every mind the more destitute--especially a
woman's, which has greater need to live upon ideals, and cannot always
find these in actual life. Then there were short poems and parts of
long poems, which were as texts out of a high and beautiful Gospel of
Nature. One of these was on the snowstorm; and this same morning her
memory long was busy, fitting the poem within her mind to the scenery
around the farmhouse, as she passed joyously from window to window,
looking out far and near.

There it all was as the great New England poet had described it: that
masonry out of an unseen quarry, that frolic architecture of the snow,
nightwork of the North Wind, fierce artificer. In a few hours he had
mimicked with wild and savage fancy the structures which human art can
scarce rear, stone by stone, in an age: white bastions curved with
projected roof round every windward stake or tree or door; the gateway
overtopped with tapering turrets; coop and kennel hung mockingly with
Parian wreaths; a swanlike form investing the hidden thorn.

From one upper window under the blue sky in the distance she could see
what the poet had never beheld: a field of hemp shocks looking like a
winter camp, dazzlingly white. The scene brought to her mind some
verses written by a minor Kentucky writer on his own soil and people.

    SONG OF THE HEMP

    Ah, gentle are the days when the Year is young
    And rolling fields with rippling hemp are green
    And from old orchards pipes the thrush at morn.
    No land, no land like this is yet unsung
    Where man and maid at twilight meet unseen
    And Love is born.

    Oh, mighty summer days and god of flaming tress
    When in the fields full-headed bends the stalk,
    And blossoms what was sown!
    No land, no land like this for tenderness
    When man and maid as one together walk
    And Love is grown.

    Oh, dim, dim autumn days of sobbing rain
    When on the fields the ripened hemp is spread
    And woods are brown.
    No land, no land like this for mortal pain
    When Love stands weeping by the sweet, sweet bed
    For Love cut down.

    Ah, dark, unfathomably dark, white winter days
    When falls the sun from out the crystal deep
    On muffled farms.
    No land, no land like this for God's sad ways
    When near the tented fields Love's Soldier lies asleep
    With empty arms.

The verses were too sorrowful for this day, with its new, half-awakened
happiness. Had Gabriella been some strong-minded, uncompromising New
England woman, she might have ended her association with David the
night before--taking her place triumphantly beside an Accusing Judge.
Or she might all the more fiercely have set on him an acrid conscience,
and begun battling with him through the evidences of Christianity, that
she might save his soul. But this was a Southern girl of strong, warm,
deep nature, who felt David's life in its simple entirety, and had no
thought of rejecting the whole on account of some peculiarity in one of
its parts; the white flock was more to her than one dark member.
Inexpressibly dear and sacred as was her own church, her own faith, she
had never been taught to estimate a man primarily with reference to
his. What was his family, how he stood in his profession, his honorable
character, his manners, his manhood--these were what Gabriella had
always been taught to look for first in a man.

In many other ways than in his faith and doubt David was a new type of
man to her. He was the most religious, the only religious, one she had
ever known--a new spiritual growth arising out of his people as a young
oak out of the soil. Had she been familiar with the Greek idea, she
might have called him a Kentucky autochthon. It was the first time also
that she had ever encountered in a Kentuckian the type of student
mind--that fitness and taste for scholarship which sometimes moves so
unobtrusively and rises so high among that people, but is usually
unobserved unless discovered pre-eminent and commanding far from the
confines of the state.

Touching his scepticism she looked upon him still as she had thought of
him at first,--as an example of a sincere soul led astray for a time
only. Strange as were his views (and far stranger they seemed in those
years than now), she felt no doubt that when the clouds marshalled
across his clear vision from the minds of others had been withdrawn, he
would once more behold the Sun of Righteousness as she did. Gabriella
as by intuition reasoned that a good life most often leads to a belief
in the Divine Goodness; that as we understand in others only what we
are in ourselves, so it is the highest elements of humanity that must
be relied upon to believe in the Most High: and of David's lofty nature
she possessed the whole history of his life as evidence.

Her last act, then, the night before had been, in her nightgown, on her
knees, to offer up a prayer that he might be saved from the influences
of false teachers and guided back to the only Great One. But when a
girl, with all the feelings which belong to her at that hour, seeks
this pure audience and sends upward the name of a man on her spotless
prayers, he is already a sacred happiness to her as well as a care.

On this day she was radiant with tender happiness. The snow of itself
was exhilarating. It spread around her an enchanted land. It buried out
of sight in the yard and stable lots all mire, all ugly things. This
ennoblement of eternal objects reacted with comic effect on the
interior of the house itself; outside it was a marble palace,
surrounded by statuary; within--alas! It provoked her humor, that
innocent fun-making which many a time had rendered her environment the
more tolerable.

When she went down into the parlor early that evening to await David's
coming, this gayety, this laughter of the generations of men and women
who made up her past, possessed her still. She made a fresh
investigation of the parlor, took a new estimate of its peculiar
furnishings. The hearthstones--lead color. The mohair furniture--cold
at all temperatures of the room and slippery in every position of the
body. The little marble-top table on which rested a glass case holding
a stuffed blue jay clutching a varnished limb: tail and eyes stretched
beyond the reach of muscles. Near the door an enormous shell which, on
summer days, the cook blew as a dinner horn for the hands in the field.
A collection of ambrotypes which, no matter how held, always caused the
sitter to look as though the sun was shining in his eyes. The violence
of the Brussels carpet. But the cheap family portraits in thin wooden
frames--these were Gabriella's delight in a mood like this.

The first time she saw these portraits, she turned and walked rapidly
out of the parlor. She had enough troubles of her own without bearing
the troubles of all these faces. Later on she could confront them with
equanimity--that company of the pallid, the desperately sick, the
unaccountably uncomfortable. All looked, not as though there had been a
death in the family, but a death in the collection: only the same grief
could have so united them as mourners. And whatever else they lacked,
each showed two hands, the full number, placed where they were sure to
be counted.

She was in the midst of this psychological reversion to ancestral
gayety when David arrived. Each looked quickly at the other with
unconscious fear. Within a night and a day each had drawn nearer to the
other; and each secretly inquired whether the other now discovered this
nearness. Gabriella saw at least that he, too, was excited with
happiness.

He appeared to her for the first time handsome. He WAS better looking.
When one approaches the confines of love, one nears the borders of
beauty. Nature sets going a certain work of decoration, of
transformation. Had David about this time been a grouse, he would
probably have displayed a prodigious ruff. Had he been a bulbul and
continued to feel as he did, he would have poured into the ear of night
such roundelays as had never been conceived of by that disciplined
singer. Had he been a master violinist, he would have been unable to
play a note from a wild desire to flourish the bow. He had long stood
rooted passively in the soil of being like a century plant when it is
merely keeping itself in existence. But latterly, feeling in advance
the approach of the Great Blossoming Hour, he had begun to shoot up
rapidly into a lofty life-stalk; there were inches of the rankest
growth on him within the last twenty-four hours. To-night he was not
even serious in his conversation; and therefore he was the more
awkward. His emotions were unmanageable; much more his talk. But she
who witnesses this awkwardness and understands--does she ever fail to
pardon?

"Last night," he said with a droll twinkle, after the evening was about
half spent, "there was one subject I did not speak to you about--Man's
place in Nature. Have you ever thought about that?"

"I've been too busy thinking about my place in the school!" said
Gabriella, laughing--Gabriella who at all times was simplicity and
clearness.

"You see Nature does nothing for Man except what she enables him to do
for himself. In this way she has made a man of him; she has given him
his resources and then thrown him upon them. Beyond that she cares
nothing, does nothing, provides, arranges nothing. I used to think, for
instance, that the greenness of the earth was intended for his
eyes--all the loveliness of spring. On the contrary, she merely gave
him an eye which has adapted itself to get pleasure out of the
greenness. The beauty of spring would have been the same, year after
year, century after century, had he never existed. And the blue of the
sky--I used to think it was hung about the earth for his sake; and the
colors of the clouds, the great sunsets. But the blueness of the sky is
nothing but the dust of the planet floating deep around it, too light
to sink through the atmosphere, but reflecting the rays of the sun.
These rays fall on the clouds and color them. It would all have been
so, had Man never been born. The earth's springs of drinking water,
refreshing showers, the rainbow on the cloud,--they would have been the
same, had no human being ever stood on this planet to claim them for
ages as the signs of providence and of covenant."

Gabriella had her own faith as to the rainbow.

"So, none of the other animals was made for Man," resumed David, who
seemed to have some ulterior purpose in all this. "I used to think the
structure and nature of the ass were given him that he might be adapted
to bear Man's burdens; they were given him that he might bear his own
burdens. Horses were not made for cavalry. And a camel--I never doubted
that he was a wonderful contrivance to enable man to cross the desert;
he is a wonderful contrivance in order that the contrivance itself may
cross the desert."

"I hope I may never have to use one," said Gabriella, "when I commence
to ride again. I prefer horses and carriages--though I suppose you
would say that only the carriage was designed for me and that I had no
right to be drawn in that way."

"Some day a horse may be designed for you, just as the carriage is. We
do not use horses on railroads now; we did use them at first in
Kentucky. Sometime you may not use horses in your carriage. You may
have a horse that was designed for you."

"I think," said Gabriella, "I should prefer a horse that was designed
for itself."

"And so," resumed David, moving straight on toward his concealed
climax, "if I were a poet, I'd never write poems about flowers and
clouds and lakes and mountains and moonbeams and all that; those things
are not for a man. If I were a novelist, I'd never write stories about
a grizzly bear, or a dog, or a red bird. If I were a sculptor, I'd not
carve a lynx or a lion. If I were a painter, I'd never paint sheep. In
all this universe there is only one thing that Nature ever created for
a man. I'd write poems about that one thing! I'd write novels about it!
I'd paint it! I'd carve it! I'd compose music to it!"

"Why, what is that?" said Gabriella, led sadly astray.

"A woman!" said David solemnly, turning red.

Gabriella fled into the uttermost caves of silence.

"And there was only one thing ever made for woman."

"I understand perfectly."

David felt rebuffed. He hardly knew why. But after a moment or two of
silence he went on, still advancing with rough paces toward his goal:--

"Sometimes," he said mournfully, "it's harder for a man to get the only
thing in the world that was ever made for him than anything else! This
difficulty, however, appertains exclusively to the human species."

Gabriella touched her handkerchief quickly to her lips and held it
there.

"But then, many curious things are true of our species," he continued,
with his eyes on the fire and in the manner of a soliloquy, "that never
occur elsewhere. A man, for instance, is the only animal that will
settle comfortably down for the rest of its days to live on the
exertions of the female."

"It shows how a woman likes to be depended on," said Gabriella, with
her deep womanliness.

"Tom-cats of the fireside," said David, "who are proud of what fat mice
their wives feed them on. It may show what you say in the nature of the
woman. But what does it show in the nature of the man?"

"That depends."

"I don't think it depends," replied David. "I think it is either one of
the results of Christianity or a survival of barbarism. As one of the
results of Christianity, it demonstrates what women will endure when
they are imposed upon. As a relic of barbarism--when it happens in our
country--why not regard it as derived from the North American Indians?
The chiefs lounged around the house and smoked the best tobacco and
sent the squaws out to work for them. Occasionally they broke silence
by briefly declaring that they thought themselves immortal."

Gabriella tried to draw the conversation into other channels, but David
was not to be diverted.

"It has been a great fact in the history of your sex," he said, looking
across at her, with a shake of his head, as though she did not
appreciate the subject, "that idea that everything in the universe was
made for Man."

"Why?" inquired Gabriella, resigning herself to the perilous and the
irresistible.

"Well, in old times it led men to think that since everything else
belonged to them, so did woman: therefore when they wanted her they did
not ask for her; they took her."

"It is much better arranged at present, whatever the reason."

"Now a man cannot always get one, even when he asks for her," and David
turned red again and knotted his hands.

"I am so glad the schoolhouse was not damaged by the storm," observed
Gabriella, reflecting.

David fell into a revery but presently awoke.

"There are more men than women in the world. On an average, that is
only a fraction of a woman to every man. Still the men cannot take care
of them. But it ought to be a real pleasure to every man to take care
of an entire woman."

"Did you ever notice the hands in that portrait?"

David glanced at the portrait without noticing it, and went his way.

"Since a man knows nothing else was created for him, he feels his
loneliness without her so much more deeply. They ought to be very good
and true to each other--a man and a woman--since they two are alone in
the universe."

He gulped down his words and stood up, trembling.

"I must be going," he said, without even looking at Gabriella, and went
out into the hall for his coat.

"Bring it in here." she called. "It is cold out there." She watched how
careless he was about making himself snug for his benumbing walk. He
had a woollen comforter which he left loosely tied about his neck.

"Tie it closer," she commanded. "You had a cold last night, and it is
worse tonight. Tuck it in close about your neck."

David made the attempt. He was not thinking.

"This way!" And Gabriella showed him by using her fingers around her
own neck and collar.

He tried again and failed, standing before her with a mingling of
embarrassment and stubborn determination.

"That will never do!" she cried with genuine concern. She took hold of
the comforter by the ends and drew the knot up close to his throat, he
lifting his head to receive it as it came. Then David with his eyes on
the ceiling felt his coat collar turned up and her soft warm fingers
tucking the comforter in around his neck. When he looked down, she was
standing over by the fireplace.

"Good night," she said positively, with a quick gesture of dismissal as
she saw the look in his eyes.

Each of the million million men who made up the past of David, that
moment reached a hand out of the distance and pushed him forward. But
of them all there was none so helpless with modesty,--so in need of
hiding from every eye,--even his own,--the sacred annals of that moment.

He was standing by the table on which burned the candles. He bent down
quickly and blew them out and went over to her by the dim firelight.



XIX


All high happiness has in it some element of love; all love contains a
desire for peace. One immediate effect of new happiness, new love, is
to make us turn toward the past with a wish to straighten out its
difficulties, heal its breaches, forgive its wrongs. We think most
hopefully of distressing things which may still be remedied, most
regretfully of others that have passed beyond our reach and will.

It was between ten and eleven o'clock of the next day--Sunday. David's
cold had become worse. He had turned over necessary work to the negro
man and stayed quietly in his room since the silent breakfast Two or
three books chosen carelessly out of the trunk lay on his table before
the fire: interest had gone out of them this day. With his face red and
swollen, he was sitting beside this table with one hand loosely
covering the forgotten books, his eyes turned to the window, but
looking upon distant inward scenes.

Sunday morning between ten and eleven o'clock! the church-going hour of
his Bible-student life. In imagination he could hear across these wide
leagues of winter land the faint, faint peals of the church bells which
were now ringing. He was back in the town again--up at the college--in
his room at the dormitory; and it was in the days before the times of
his trouble. The students were getting ready for church, with freshly
shaved faces, boots well blacked, best suits on, not always good ones.
He could hear their talk in the rooms around his, hear fragments of
hymns, the opening and shutting of doors along the hallways, and the
running of feet down the stairs. By ones and twos and larger groups
they passed down and out with their hymnals, Testaments, sometimes
blank books for notes on the sermon. Several thrust bright, cordial
faces in at the door, as they passed, to see whether he and his
roommate had started.

The scene changed. He was in the church, which was crowded from pulpit
to walls. He was sitting under the chandelier in the choir, the number
of the first hymn had just been whispered along, and he began to sing,
with hundreds of others, the music which then released the pinions of
his love and faith as the air releases the wings of a bird. The hymn
ceased; he could see the pastor rise from behind the pulpit, advance,
and with a gesture gather that sea of heads to prayer. He could follow
the sermon, most of all the exhortation; around him was such stillness
in the church that his own heart-beats were audible. Then the Supper
and then home to the dormitory again--with a pain of happiness filling
him, the rest and the unrest of consecration.

Many other scenes he lived through in memory this morning--once lived
in reality amid that brotherhood of souls. His tenderest thoughts
perhaps dwelt on the young men's prayer-meetings of Sunday afternoons
at the college. There they drew nearest to the Eternal Strength which
was behind their weakness, and closest to each other as student after
student lifted a faltering, stumbling petition for a common blessing on
their work. The Immortal seemed to be in that bare room, filling their
hearts with holy flame, drawing around them the isolation of a devoted
band. They were one in One. Then had followed the change in him which
produced the change in them: no fellowship, no friendship, with an
unbeliever; and he was left without a comrade.

His heart was yearning and sick this day to be reconciled to them all.
How did they think of him, speak of him, now? Who slept in his bed? Who
sat a little while, after the studies of the night were over, talking
to his room-mate? Who knelt down across the room at his prayers when
the lights were put out? And his professors--what bulwarks of knowledge
and rectitude and kindness they were!--all with him at first, all
against him at last, as in duty bound.

To one man alone among those hundreds could David look back as having
begun to take interest in him toward the close of his college days.
During that vacation which he had spent in reading and study, he had
often refreshed himself by taking his book out to the woodland park
near the city, which in those days was the grounds of one of the
colleges of the University. There he found the green wild country
again, a forest like his pioneer ancestor's. Regularly here he observed
at out-of-door work the professor of Physical Science, who also was
pressing his investigations forward during the leisure of those summer
months. An authority from the north, from a New England university, who
had resigned his chair to come to Kentucky, attracted by the fair
prospects of the new institution. A great gray-bearded, eagle-faced,
square-shouldered, big-footed man: reserved, absorbed, asking to be let
alone, one of the silent masters. But David, desperate with
intellectual loneliness himself, and knowing this man to be a student
of the new science, one day had introduced himself and made inquiry
about entering certain classes in his course the following session.

The professor shook his head. He was going back to New England himself
the next year; and he moved away under the big trees, resuming his work.

As troubles had thickened about David, his case became discussed in
University circles; and he was stopped on the street one day by this
frigid professor and greeted with a man's grasp and a look of fresh
beautiful affection. His apostasy from dogmatism had made him a friend
of that lone thinker whose worship of God was the worship of Him
through the laws of His universe and not through the dogmas of men.

This professor--and Gabriella: they alone, though from different
motives, had been drawn to him by what had repelled all others. It was
his new relation to her beyond anything else that filled David this day
with his deep desire for peace with his past. She had such peace in
herself, such charity of feeling, such simple steadfast faith: she cast
the music of these upon the chords of his own soul. To the influence of
her religion she was now adding the influence of her love; it filled
him, subdued, overwhelmed him. And this morning, also out of his own
happiness he remembered with most poignant suffering the unhappiness of
his father. His own life was unfolding into fulness of affection and
knowledge and strength; his father's was closing amid the weakness and
troubles that had gathered about him; and he, David, had contributed
his share to these. To be reconciled to his father this day--that was
his sole thought.

It was about four o'clock. The house held that quiet which reigns of a
Sunday afternoon when the servants have left the kitchen for the cabin,
when all work is done, and the feeling of Sunday rest takes possession
of our minds. The winter sunshine on the fields seems full of rest; the
brutes rest--even those that are not beasts of burden. The birds appear
to know the day, and to make note of it in quieter twitter and slower
flight.

David rose resolutely and started downstairs. As he entered his
father's room, his mother was passing out She looked at her son with
apprehension, as she closed the door. His father was sitting by a
window, reading, as was his Sunday wont, the Bible. He had once written
to David that his had always been a religious people; it was true. A
grave, stern man--sternest, gravest on Sunday. When it was not possible
to go to church, the greater to him the reason that the house itself
should become churchlike in solemnity, out of respect to the day and
the duty of self-examination. A man of many failings, but on this
subject strong.

David sat down and waited for him to reach the end of the page or
chapter. But his father read on with a slow perceptible movement of his
lips.

"Father."

The gray head was turned slowly toward him in silent resentment of the
interruption.

"I thought it would be better to come down and talk with you."

The eyes resought the page, the lips resumed their movements.

"I am sorry to interrupt you."

The eye still followed the inspired words, from left to right, left to
right, left to right.

"Father, things ought not to go on in this way between us. I have been
at home now for two months. I have waited, hoping that you would give
me the chance to talk about it all. You have declined, and meantime I
have simply been at work, as I used to be. But this must not be put off
longer for several reasons. There are other things in my life now that
I have to think of and care for." The tone in which David spoke these
last words was unusual and significant.

The eyes stopped at a point on the page. The lips were pressed tightly
together.

David rose and walked quietly out of the room. After he had closed the
door behind him and put his foot on the stairs, he stopped and with
fresh determination reopened the door. His father had shut the Bible,
laid it on the floor at the side of his chair, and was standing in the
middle of the room with his eyes on the door through which David had
passed. He pointed to his son to be seated, and resumed his chair. He
drew his penknife from his pocket and slowly trimmed the ravellings
from his shirt-cuffs, blowing them off his wrists. David saw that his
hands were trembling violently. The tragedy in the poor action cut him
to the heart and he threw himself remorsefully into the midst of things.

"Father, I know I have disappointed you! Know it as well as you do; but
I could not have done differently."

"YOU not believe in Christianity! YOU not believe the Bible!"

The suppressed enraged voice summed up again the old contemptuous
opinion.

The young man felt that there was another than himself whom it wounded.

"Sir, you must not speak to me with that feeling! Try to see that I am
as sincere as you are. As to the goodness of my mind, I did not derive
it from myself and am not to blame. I have only made an earnest and an
honest use of what mind was given me. But I have not relied upon it
alone. There are great men, some of the greatest minds of the world,
who have been my teachers and determined my belief."

"All your life you had the word of God as your teacher and you believed
it. Now these men tell you not to believe it and you believe them. And
then you complain that I do not think more highly of you."

"Father," cried David, "there is one man whose name is very dear to us
both. The blood of that man is in me as it is in you. Sir, it is your
grandfather. Do you remember what the church of his day did with him?
Do you forget that, standing across the fields yonder, is the church he
himself built to freedom of opinion in religious matters? I grew up,
not under the shadow of that church, for it casts none, but in the
light of it. I have seen many churches worship there. I have had before
me, from the time I could remember, my great-grandfather's words: they
seemed to me the voice of God by whom all men were created, and the
spirit of Christ by whom, as you believe, men are to be saved."

The younger man stopped and waited in vain for the older one to reply.
But his father also waited, and David went on:--

"I do not expect you to stand against the church in what it has done
with me: that HAD to be done. If you had been an elder of that church,
I know you, too, would have voted to expel me. What I do ask of you is
that you think me as sincere in my belief as I think you in yours. I do
ask for your toleration, your charity. Everything else between us will
be easy, if you can see that I have done only what I could. The faith
of the world grows, changes. Sons cannot always agree with their
fathers; otherwise the world would stand still. You do not believe many
things your own grandfather believed--the man of whose memory you are
so proud. The faith you hold did not even exist among men in his day. I
can no longer agree with you: I do not think the less of you because I
believe differently; do not think the less of me!"

The young man could not enter into any argument with the old one. He
would not have disturbed if he could his father's faith: it was too
late in life for that. Neither could he defend his own views without
attacking his father's: that also would have been cruelty in itself and
would have been accepted as insulting. Still David could not leave his
case without witnesses.

"There are things in the old Bible that no scholar now believes."

"The Almighty declares they are true; you say they are not: I prefer to
believe the Almighty. Perhaps He knows better than you and the
scholars."

David fell into sorrowful silence. "There are some other matters about
which I should like to speak with you, father," he said, changing the
subject. "I recall one thing you said to me the day I came home. You
asked me why I had come back here: do you still feel that way?"

"I do. This is a Christian house. This is a Christian community. You
are out of place under this roof and in this neighborhood. Life was
hard enough for your mother and me before. But we did for you what we
could; you were pleased to make us this return. It will be better for
you to go."

Every word seemed to have been hammered out of iron, once melted in the
forge, but now cold and unchangeably shaped to its heavy purpose. The
young man writhed under the hopelessness of the situation:--

"Sir, is it all on one side? Have I done nothing for you in all these
years? Until I was nearly a man's age, did I not work? For my years of
labor did I receive more than a bare living? Did you ever know a slave
as faithful? Were you ever a harsh master to this slave? Do you owe me
nothing for all those years?--I do not mean money,--I mean kindness,
justice!"

"How many years before you began to work for us did your mother and I
work for you? Did you owe us nothing for all that?"

"I did! I do! I always shall! But do you count it against me that
Nature brought me forth helpless and kept me helpless for so many years
afterwards? If my being born was a fault, whose was it? Is the
dependence of an infant on its parent a debt? Father! father! Be just!
be just! that you may be more kind to me."

"Kind to YOU! Just to YOU!" Hitherto his father had spoken with a
quietude which was terrible, on account of the passion raging beneath.
But now he sprang to his feet, strode across, and, pulling a ragged
shirt-cuff down from under his coat-sleeve, shook it in his son's
eyes--poverty. He went to one of the rotting doors and jerking it open
without turning the knob, rattled it on its loose hinges--poverty. He
turned to the window, and with one gesture depicted ruined outhouses
and ruined barn, now hidden under the snow, and beautiful in the Sunday
evening light--poverty. He turned and faced his son, majestic in
mingled grief and care.

"Kind! just! you who have trifled with your advantages, you who are
sending your mother out of her home--"

David sprang toward him in an agony of trouble and remorse.

"It is not true, it is not necessary! Father, you have been too much
influenced by my mother's fears. This is Bailey's doing. It is about
this I have wanted to talk to you. I shall see Bailey to-morrow."

"I forbid you to see him or to interfere."

"I must see him, whether you wish it or not," and David, to save other
hard words that were coming, turned quickly and left the room.

He did not go down to supper. Toward bedtime, as he sat before his
fire, he heard a slow, unfamiliar step mounting the stair. Not often in
a year did he have the chance to recognize that step. His mother
entered, holding a small iron stewpan, from under the cover of which
steamed a sweet, spicy odor.

"This will do your cold good," she said, tasting the stew out of a
spoon which she brought in her other hand, and setting it down on the
hot hearth. Then she stood looking a little fearfully at her son, who
had not moved. Ah, that is woman's way! She incites men to a
difficulty, and then appears innocently on the battle-field with
bandages for the belligerents. How many of the quarrels of this world
has she caused--and how few ever witnessed!

David was sick in heart and body and kept his chair and made no reply.
His mother suddenly turned, feeling a cold draft on her back, and
observed the broken window-pane and the flapping sheet of paper.

"There's putty and glass in the store-room: why don't you put that pane
of glass in?"

"I will sometime," said David, absently. She went over to his bed and
beat up the bolster and made everything ready for him.

"You ought to have clean sheets and pillow-cases," she remarked
confidently; "the negroes are worthless. Good night," she said, with
her hand on the door, looking back at him timidly.

He sprang up and went over to her. "Oh, mother! mother! mother!" he
cried, and then he checked the useless words that came rushing in a
flood.

"Good night! and thank you for coming. Good night! Be careful, I'll
bring the candle, the stairway is dark. Good night!"

"Oh, Gabriella! Gabriella!" he murmured as he went back to his table.
He buried his head on his arms a moment, then, starting up, threw off
his clothes, drank the mixture, and got into bed.



XX


At dead of night out in a lonely country, what sound freezes the blood
like the quick cry of an animal seized and being killed? The fright,
the pain, the despair: whosoever has heard these notes has listened to
the wild death-music of Nature, ages old.

On the still frozen air near two or three o'clock of next morning, such
a cry rang out from inside the barn. There were the short rushes to and
fro, round and round; then violent leapings against the door, the
troughs, and sides of the stable; then mad plunging, struggling,
panting; then a long, terrified, weakened wail, which told everything
beyond the clearness of words.

Up in his room, perfectly dark, for the coals in the grate were now
sparkless, David was lying on his back, sleeping heavily and bathed in
perspiration. Overheated, he had pushed the bed covers off from his
throat; he had hollowed the pillow away from his face. So deep was the
stillness of the house and of the night air outside, that almost the
first sounds had reached his ear and sunk down into his brain: he
stirred slightly. As the tumult grew louder, he tossed his head from
side to side uneasily, and muttered a question in his broken dreams.
And now the barn was in an uproar; and the dog, chained at his kennel
behind the house, was howling, roaring to get loose. Would he never
waken? Would the tragedy which he himself had unwittingly planned and
staged be played to its end without his hearing a word? (So often it is
that way in life.) At last, as one who has long tugged at his own
sleep, striving to rend it as a smothering blanket and burst through
into free air, he sat up in bed, confused, listening.

"Dogs!" he exclaimed, grinding his teeth.

He was out of bed in an instant, groping for his clothes. It seemed he
would never find them. As he dressed, he muttered remorsefully to
himself:--"I simply put them into a trap."

When he had drawn on socks, boots, and trousers, he slipped into his
overcoat, felt for his hat, and hurried down. He released the dog,
which instantly was off in a noiseless run, and followed, buttoning the
coat about him as he went: the air was like ice against his bare, hot
throat. Another moment and he could hear the dogs fighting. When he
reached the door of the shed and threw it open, the flock of sheep
bounded out past him in a wild rush for the open. He stepped inside,
searching around with his foot as he groped. Presently it struck
against something large and soft close to the wall in a corner. He
reached down and taking it by the legs, pulled the sheep out into the
moonlight, several yards across the snow: a red track followed, as
though made with a broad dripping brush.

David stood looking down at it and kicked it two or three times.

"Did it make any difference to you whether your life were taken by dog
or man? The dog killing you from instinct and famine; a man killing you
as a luxury and with a fine calculation? And who is to blame now for
your death, if blame there be? I who went to college instead of
building a stable? Or the storm which deprived these prowlers of nearer
food and started them on a far hunt, desperate with hunger? Or man who
took you from wild Nature and made you more defenceless under his
keeping? Or Nature herself who edged the tooth and the mind of the
dog-wolf in the beginning that he might lengthen his life by shortening
yours? Where and with what purpose began on this planet the taking of
life that there might be life? Poor questions that never troubled you,
poor sheep! But that follow, as his shadow, pondering Man, who no more
knows the reason of it all than you did."

The fighting of the dogs had for the first few moments sounded farther
and farther away, retreating through the barn and thence into the lot;
and by and by the shepherd ran around and stood before David, awaiting
orders. David seized the sheep by the feet and dragged it into the
saddle-house; sent the dog to watch the rest of the flock; and ran back
to the house, drawing his overcoat more tightly about him. As quickly
as possible he got into bed and covered up warmly. Something caused him
to recollect just then the case of one of the Bible students.

"Now I am in for it," he said.

And this made him think of his great masters and of Gabriella; and he
lay there very anxious in the night.



XXI


Twilight had three times descended on the drear land. Three times
Gabriella, standing at her windows and looking out upon the snow and
ice, had seen everything disappear. How softly white were the
snow-covered trees; how soft the black that thickened about them till
they were effaced. Gabriella thought of them as still perfectly white
out there in the darkness. Three evenings with her face against the
pane she had watched for a familiar figure to stalk towering up the
yard path, and no familiar figure had come. Three evenings she had
returned to her firelight, and sat before it with an ear on guard for
the sound of a familiar step on the porch below; but no step had been
heard.

On the first night she had all but hoped that he would not seek her;
the avowal of their love for each other had well-nigh left it an
unendurable joy. But the second night she had begun to expect him
confidently; and when the hour had passed and he had not come,
Gabriella sat long before her fire with a new wound--she who had felt
so many. By the third day she had reviewed all that she had ever heard
of him or known of him: gathered it all afresh as a beautiful thing for
receiving him with when he should come to her that night. Going early
to her room she had taken her chair to the window and with her face
close to the pane had watched again--watched that white yard; and again
nothing moved in that white yard but the darkness.

She sprang up and began to walk to and fro.

"If he does not come to-night, something has happened. I know, I know,
I know! Something is wrong. My heart is not mistaken. Oh, if anything
were to happen to HIM! I must not think of it! I have borne many
things; but THAT! I must not think of it!"

She sank into her chair with her ear strained toward the porch below.
For a long time there was no sound. Then she heard the noise of heavy
boots--a tapping of the toes against the pillars, to knock off the
snow, and then the slow creaking of soles across the frozen boards. She
started up. "It is some one else," she cried, wringing her hands.
"Something has happened to him."

She stopped still in the middle of the room, her arms dropped at her
sides, her eyes stretched wide.

The house girl's steps were heard running upstairs. Gabriella jerked
the door open in her face.

"What is the matter?" she cried.

A negro man had come with a message for her. The girl looked frightened.

Gabriella ran past her down into the hall. "What is the matter?" she
asked.

His Marse David had sent for her and wanted her to come at once. He had
brought a horse for her.

"Is he ill--seriously ill?" He had had a bad cold and was worse.

"The doctor--has he sent for the doctor?"

The negro said that he was to take her back first and then go for the
doctor.

"Go at once."

It was very dark, he urged, and slippery.

"Go on for the doctor! Where have you left the horse?"

The horse was at the stiles. The negro insisted that it would be better
for him to go back with her.

"Don't lose time," she said, "and don't keep me waiting. Go! as quickly
as you can!"

The negro cautioned her to dismount at the frozen creek.

When Gabriella, perhaps an hour later, knocked at the side door of
David's home,--his father's and mother's room,--there was no summons to
enter. She turned the knob and walked in. The room was empty; the fire
had burned low; a cat lay on the hearthstones. It raised its head
halfway and looked at her through the narrow slits of its yellow eyes
and curled the tip of its tail--the cat which is never inconvenienced,
which shares all comforts and no troubles. She sat down in a chair,
overcome with excitement and hesitating what to do. In a moment she
noticed that the door opening on the foot of the staircase stood ajar.
It led to his room. Not a sound reached her from above. She summoned
all her self-control, mounted the stairway, and entered.

The two negro women were standing inside with their backs to the door.
On one side of the bed sat David's mother, on the other his father.
Both were looking at David. He lay in the middle of the bed, his eyes
fixed restlessly on the door. As soon as he saw her, he lifted himself
with an effort and stretched out his arms and shook them at her with
hoarse little cries. "Oh! oh! oh! oh!"

The next moment he locked his arms about her.

"Oh, it has been so long!" he said, drawing her close, "so long!"

"Ah, why did you not send for me? I have waited and waited."

He released her and fell back upon the pillows; then with a slight
gesture he said to his father and mother:--

"Will you leave us alone?"

When they had gone out, he took one of her hands and pressed it against
his cheek and lay looking at her piteously.

Gabriella saw the change in him: his anxious expression, his cheeks
flushed with a red spot, his restlessness, his hand burning. She could
feel the big veins throbbing too fast, too crowded. But a woman smiles
while her heart breaks.

He propped himself a little higher on the pillows and turned on his
side, clutching at his lung.

"Don't be frightened," he said, searching her face, "I've got something
to tell you. Promise."

"I promise."

"I am going to have pneumonia, or I have it now. You are not
frightened?"

Her eyes answered for her.

"I had a cold. I had taken something to throw me into a sweat--that was
the night after I saw you."

At the thought of their last interview, he took her hand again and
pressed it to his lips, looking tenderly at it.

"The dogs were killing the sheep, and I got up and went out while I was
in a perspiration. I know it's pneumonia. I have had a long, hard
chill. My head feels like it would burst, and there are other symptoms.
This lung! It's pneumonia. One of the Bible college students had it. I
helped to nurse him. Oh, he got well," he said, shaking his head at her
with a smile, "and so will I!"

"I know it," she murmured, "I'm sure of it."

"What I want to ask is, Will you stay with me?"

"Ah, nothing could take me from you."

"I don't want you to leave me. I want to feel that you are right here
by me through it all. I have to tell you something else: I may be
delirious and not know what is going on. I have sent for the doctor.
But there is a better one in Lexington. You try to get him to come. I
know that he goes wherever he is called and stays till the danger is
past or--or--till it is settled. Don't spare anything that can be done
for me. I am in danger, and I must live. I must not lose all the
greatness of life and lose you."

"Ah," she implored, seeing how ill he was. "Everything that can be done
shall be done. Now oughtn't you to be quiet and let me make you
comfortable till the doctor comes?"

"I must say something else while I can, and am sure. I might not get
over this--"

"Ah--"

"Let me say this: I MIGHT not! If I should not, have no fear about the
future; I have none; it will all be well with ME in Eternity."

He lay quiet a moment, his face turned off. She had buried hers on the
bed. The flood of tears would come. He turned over, and seeing it laid
his hand on it very lightly.

"If it be so, Gabriella, I hope all the rest of your life you will be
happy. I hope no more trouble will ever come to you."

Suddenly he sat up, lifted her head, and threw his arms around her
again. "Oh, Gabriella!" he cried, "you have been all there is to me."

"Some day," he continued a moment later, "if it turns out that way,
come over here to see my father and mother. And tell them I left word
that perhaps they had never quite understood me and so had never been
able to do me justice. Now, will you call my mother?"

"Mother," he said, taking her by the hand and placing it in
Gabriella's, "this is my wife, as I hope she will be, and your
daughter; and I have asked her to stay and help you to nurse me through
this cold."

Three twilights more and there was a scene in the little upper room of
the farmhouse: David drawn up on the bed; at one side of it, the poor
distracted mother, rocking herself and loudly weeping; for though
mothers may not greatly have loved their grown sons, when the big men
lie stricken and the mothers once more take their hands to wash them,
bathe their faces with a cloth, put a spoon to their lips, memory
brings back the days when those huge erring bodies lay across their
breasts. They weep for the infant, now an infant again and perhaps
falling into a long sleep.

On the other side of the bed sat David's father, bending over toward,
trying now, as he had so often tried, to reach his son; thinking at
swift turns of the different will he would have to make and of who
would write it; of his own harshness; and also not free from the awful
dread that this was the summons to his son to enter Eternity with his
soul unprepared. At the foot of the bed were the two doctors, watchful,
whispering to each other, one of whom led the mother out of the room;
over by the door the two negro women and the negro man. Gabriella was
not there.

Gabriella had gone once more to where she had been many times: gone to
pour out in secret the prayer of her church, and of her own soul for
the sick--with faith that her prayer would be answered.

A dark hour: a dog howling on the porch below; at the stable the cries
of hungry, neglected animals; the winter hush settling over the great
evening land.



XXII


When one sets out to walk daily across a wood or field in a fresh
direction, starting always at the same point and arriving always at the
same, without intention one makes a path; it may be long first, but in
time the path will come. It commences at the home gate or bars and
reaches forward by degrees; it commences at the opposite goal and
lengthens backward thence: some day the ends meet and we discover with
surprise how slightly we have deviated in all those crossings and
recrossings. The mind has unconsciously marked a path long before the
feet have traced it.

When Gabriella had begun teaching, she passed daily out of the yard
into an apple orchard and thence across a large woodland pasture, in
the remote corner of which the schoolhouse was situated. Through this
woods the children had made their path: the straight instinctive path
of childhood. But Gabriella, leaving this at the woods-gate, had begun
to make one for herself. She followed her will from day to day; now led
in this direction by some better vista; now drawn aside toward a group
of finer trees; or seeing, farther on, some little nooklike place. In
time, she had out of short disjointed threads sown a continuous path;
it was made up of her loves, and she loved it. Of mornings a brisk walk
along this braced her mind for the day; in the evening it quieted
jangled nerves and revived a worn-out spirit: shedding her toil at the
schoolhouse door as a heavy suffocating garment, she stepped gratefully
out into its largeness, its woodland odors, and twilight peace.

On the night of the sleet tons of timber altogether had descended
across this by-way. When the snow fell the next night, it brought down
more. But the snow melted, leaving the ice; the ice melted, leaving the
dripping boughs and bark. In time these were warmed and dried by sun
and wind. New edges of greenness appeared running along the path. The
tree-tops above were tossing and roaring in the wild gales of March,
Under loose autumn leaves the earliest violets were dim with blue. But
Gabriella had never once been there to realize how her path had been
ruined, or to note the birth of spring.

It was perhaps a month afterward that one morning at the usual school
hour her tall lithe figure, clad in gray hood and cloak, appeared at
last walking along this path, stepping over or passing around the
fallen boughs. She was pale and thin, but the sweet warm womanliness of
her, if possible, lovelier. There was a look of religious gratitude in
the eyes, but about her mouth new happiness.

Her duties were done earlier than usual that afternoon, for not much
could be accomplished on this first day of reassembling the children.
They were gone; and she stood on the steps of the school-house, facing
toward a gray field on a distant hillside, which caught the faint
sunshine. It drew her irresistibly in heart and foot, and she set out
toward it.

The day was one of those on which the seasons meet. Strips of snow
ermined the field; but on the stumps, wandering and warbling before
Gabriella as she advanced, were bluebirds, those wings of the sky,
those breasts of earth. She reached the spot she was seeking, and
paused. There it was--the whole pitiful scene! His hemp brake; the
charred rind of a stump where he had kindled a fire to warm his hands;
the remnant of the shock fallen over and left unfinished that last
afternoon; trailing across his brake a handful of hemp partly broken
out.

She surveyed it all with wistful tenderness. Then she looked away to
the house. She could see the window of his room at which she had sat
how many days, gazing out toward this field! On his bed in that room he
was now stretched weak and white, but struggling back into health.

She came closer and gazed down at his frozen boot prints. How near his
feet had drawn to that long colder path which would have carried him
away from her. How nearly had his young life been left, like the hand
of hemp he last had handled--half broken out, not yet ready for strong
use and good service. At that moment one scene rose before her memory:
a day at Bethlehem nigh Jerusalem; a young Hebrew girl issuing from her
stricken house and hastening to meet Him who was the Resurrection and
the Life; then in her despair uttering her one cry:--"Lord, if Thou
hadst been here, my brother had not died."

The mist of tears blinded Gabriella, whose love and faith were as
Martha's. She knelt down and laid her cheek against the coarse hemp
where it had been wrapped about his wrist.

"Lord," she said, "hadst Thou not been here, hadst Thou not heard my
prayer for him, he would have died!"



XXIII


Spring, who breaks all promises in the beginning to keep them in the
end, had ceased from chilling caprice and withdrawals: the whole land
was now the frank revelation of her loveliness. Autumn--the hours of
falling and of departing; spring--season of rise and of return. The
rise of sap from root to summit; the rise of plant from soil to sun;
the rise of bud from bark to bloom; the rise of song from heart to
hearing: vital days. And days when things that went away come back,
when woods, fields, thickets, and streams are full of returns.

Gabriella was not disappointed. Those provident old tree-mothers on the
orchard slope, whose red-cheeked children are autumn apples, had not
let themselves be fatally surprised by the great February frost: their
bark-cradled bud-infants had only been wrapped away the more warmly
till danger was over. For many days now the hillside had been a grove
of pink and white domes under each of which hung faint fragrance: the
great silent marriage-bells of the trees.

After the early family supper, Gabriella, if there had been no shower,
would take her shawl to sit on and some bit of work for companionship.
She would go out to the edge of this orchard away from the tumult of
the house. The hill sloped down into a wide green valley winding away
toward the forest below. Through this valley a stream of white spring
water, drunk by the stock, ran within banks of mint and over a bed of
rocks and moss. On the hillside opposite was a field of young hemp
stretching westward--soon to be a low sea of rippling green. Beyond
this field was the sunset; over it flashed the evening star; and for
the past few days beside the star had hung the inconstant, the
constant, crescent of ages.

She liked to spread her shawl on the edge of the orchard overlooking
the valley--a deep carpet of grass sprinkled with wind-blown petals; to
watch the sky kindle and burn out; see the recluse Evening come forth
before the Night and walk softly down the valley toward the woods; feel
as an elixir about her the air, sweet from the trees, sweet with earth
odors, sweet with all the lingering history of the day. Nearer, ever
nearer would swing the stars into her view. The moon, late a bow of
thinnest, mistiest silver, now of broadening, brightening gold, would
begin to drive the darkness downward from the white domes of the trees
till it lay as a faint shadow beneath them. These were hours fraught
with peace and rest to her tired mind and tired body.

One day she was sitting thus, absently knitting herself some bleaching
gloves, (Gabriella's hands were as if stained by all the mixed petals
of the boughs.) The sun was going down beyond the low hills, In the
orchard behind her she could hear the flutter of wings and the last
calls of quieting birds.

She had dropped the threads of her handiwork into her lap, and with
folded hands was knitting memories.

At twilights such as this in years gone by, she, a little girl, had
been used to drive out into the country with her grandmother--often
choosing the routes herself and ordering the carriage to be stopped on
the road as her fancy pleased. For in those aristocratic days, Southern
children, like those of royal families, were encouraged early in life
to learn how to give orders and to exact obedience and to rule: when
they grew up they would have many under them: and not to reign was to
be ruined. So that the infantile autocrat Gabriella was being
instructed in this way and in that way by the powerful, strong-minded,
efficient grandmother as a tender old lioness might train a cub for the
mastering of its dangerous world. She recalled these twilight drives
when the fields along the turnpikes were turning green with the young
grain; the homeward return through the lamp-lit town to the big iron
entrance-gate, the parklike lawn; the brilliant supper in the great
house, the noiseless movements, the perfect manners of the many
servants; later in the evening the music, the dancing, the wild
joy--fairyland once more. But how far, far away now! And how the forces
of life had tossed things since then like straws on the eddies of a
tempest: her grandmother killed, thousands of miles away, with sorrow;
her uncles with their oldest sons, mere boys, fighting and falling
together; tears, poverty, ruin everywhere: and she, after years of
struggle, cast completely out of the only world she had ever known into
another that she had never imagined.

Gabriella felt this evening what often came to her at times: a deep
yearning for her own people of the past, for their voices, their ways
of looking at life; for the gentleness and courtesy, and the thousand
unconscious moods and acts that rendered them distinguished and
delightful. She would have liked to slip back into the old elegance, to
have been surrounded by the old rich and beautiful things. The
child-princess who was once her sole self was destined to live within
Gabriella always.

But she knew that the society in which she had moved was lost to her
finally. Not alone through the vicissitudes of the war; for after the
war, despite the overthrow, the almost complete disappearance, of many
families, it had come together, it had reconstituted itself, it
flourished still. It was lost to her because she had become penniless
and because she had gone to work. When it transpired that she had
declined all aid, thrown off all disguises, and taken her future into
her own hands, to work and to receive wages for her work, in the social
world where she was known and where the generations of her family had
been leaders, there were kind offers of aid, secret condolences,
whispered regrets, visible distress: her resolve was a new thing for a
girl in those years. She could, indeed, in a way, have kept her place;
but she could not have endured the sympathy, the change, with which she
would have been welcomed--and discarded. She made trial of this a few
times and was convinced: up to the day of the cruel discovery of that,
Gabriella had never dreamed what her social world could be to one who
had dropped out of it.

Her church and the new life--these two had been left her. She no longer
had a pew, but she had her faith and this was enough; for it always
gave her, wherever she was, some secret place in which to kneel and
from which to rise strengthened and comforted. As for the fearful
fields of work into which she had come, a strange and solitary learner,
these had turned into the abiding, the living landscapes of life now.
Here she had found independence--sweet, wholesome crust; found another
self within herself; and here found her mission for the future--David.
So that looking upon the disordered and planless years, during which it
had often seemed that she was struggling unwatched, Gabriella now
believed that through them she had most been guided, When many hands
had let hers go, One had taken it; when old pathways were closed, a new
one was opened; and she had been led along it--home.

David's illness had deepened beyond any other experience her faith in
an overruling Providence. His return to health was to her a return from
death: it was an answer to her prayers: it was a resurrection.
Henceforth his life was a gift for the second time to himself, to her,
to the world for which he must work with all his powers and work
aright. And her pledge, her compact with the Divine, was to help him,
to guide him back into the faith from which he had wandered. Outside of
prayer, days and nights at his bedside had made him hers: vigils,
nursing, suffering, helplessness, dependence--all these had been as
purest oil to that alabaster lamp of love which burned within her
chaste soul.

The sun had gone down. The hush of twilight was descending from the
clear sky, in the depths of which the brightest stars began to appear
as points of silvery flame. The air had the balm of early summer, the
ground was dry and warm.

Gabriella began to watch. The last time she had gone to see him, as he
walked part of the way back with her, he had said:--

"I am well now; the next time _I_ am coming to see YOU."

Soon, along the edge of the orchard from the direction of the house,
she saw him walking slowly toward her, thin, gaunt; he was leaning on a
rough, stout hickory, as long as himself, in the manner of an old man.

She rose quickly and hastened to him. "Did you walk?"

"I rode. But I am walking now--barely. This young tree is escorting me."

They went back to her shawl, which she opened and spread, making a
place for him. She moved it back a little, for safety, so that it was
under the boughs of one of the trees.

How quiet the land was, how beautiful the evening light, how sweet the
air!

Now and then a petal from some finished blossom sifted down on
Gabriella.

They were at such peace: their talk was interrupted by the long
silences which are peace.

"Gabriella, you saved my life."

"It is not I who have power over life and death."

"It was your nursing."

"It was my prayers," murmured Gabriella.

"And you gave me the will to get well: that also was a great help:
without you I should not have had that same will to live."

"It was a higher Will than yours or mine."

"And the doctor from town who stayed with me."

"And a Greater Physician who stayed also."

He made no reply for a while, but then asked, turning his face toward
her uneasily:--

"Our different ways of looking at things--will they never make any
difference with you?"

"Some day there will be no difference."

"You will agree with me?" he exclaimed joyfully.

"You will agree with me."

"Do not expect that! Do not expect that I shall ever again believe in
the old things."

"I expect you to believe in God, in the New Testament, in the
Resurrection, in the answer to prayer."

"If I do not?"

"Then you will in the Life to come."

"But will this separate us?"

"You will need me all the more."

The light was fading: they could no longer see the green of the valley.
A late bird fluttered into the boughs overhead and more petals came
down.

"It is a nest," said David, softly, "a good thing to go home to, a
night like this."

"And now," he continued, "there are matters about which I must consult
you. You will be glad to know that things are pleasanter at home. Since
my illness my father and mother have changed toward me. Sickness,
nearness to death, is a great reconciler. Your being in the house had
much to do with this--especially your influence over my mother. My
father was talked to by the doctor from town. During the days and
nights he stayed with me, he got into my trunk of books, for he is a
great reader; and--as he told me before leaving--a believer in the New
Science, an evolutionist. He knew of my expulsion, of course, and of
the reasons. I think he explained a great deal to my father, who said
to me one day simply that the doctor had talked to him."

"He talked to me, also," said Gabriella. "And did not persuade you?"

"He said I almost persuaded him!"

"And then, too, my father and I have arranged the money trouble. It is
not the best, but the best possible. When I came home from college, I
brought with me almost half the money I had accumulated. I turned this
over to my father, of course. It will go toward making necessary
repairs. But it was not enough, and the woods has had to go. The farm
shall not be sold, but the woods is rented for a term of years as hemp
land, the trees must be deadened and cut down. I am sorry; it is the
last of the forest of my great-grandfather. But with the proceeds, the
place can be put into fairly good condition, and this is the greatest
relief to my father and mother--and to me."

"It is a good arrangement."

After a pause, he continued in a changed tone:--

"And now while everything is pleasant at home, it is the time for me to
go away. My father was right: this is no place for me. I must be where
people think as I do--must live where I shall not be alone. There will
soon be plenty of companions everywhere. The whole world will believe
in Evolution before I am an old man."

"I think you are right," she said quietly. "It is best for you to go
and to go at once."

When he spoke again, plainly he was inspired with fresh confidence by
her support of his plans.

"And now, Gabriella, I must tell you what I have determined to do in
life: I want your approval of that, and then I am perfectly happy."

"Ah," she said quickly, "that is what I have been wanting to know. It
is very important. Your whole future depends on a wise choice."

"I am going to some college--to some northern university, as soon as
possible. I shall have to work my way through, sometimes by teaching,
in whatever way I can. I want to study physical science. I want to
teach some branch of it. It draws me, draws all that is in me. That is
to be my life-work. And now?"

He waited for her answer: it did not come at once.

"You have chosen wisely. I am so glad!"

"Oh, Gabriella!" he cried, "if you had failed me in that, I do not know
what I should have done! Science! Science! There is the fresh path for
the faith of the race! For the race henceforth must get its idea of
God, and build its religion to Him, from its knowledge of the laws of
His universe. A million years from now! Where will our dark theological
dogmas be in that radiant time? The Creator of all life, in all life He
must be studied! And in the study of science there is least wrangling,
least tyranny, least bigotry, no persecution. It teaches charity, it
teaches a well-ordered life, it teaches the world to be more kind. It
is the great new path of knowledge into the future. All things must
follow whither it leads. Our religion will more and more be what our
science is, and some day they will be the same."

She had no controversy to raise with him about this. She was too
intently thinking of troublous problems nearer heart and home.

And these rose before him also: he fell into silence.

"But, oh, Gabriella! how long, how long the years will be that separate
me from you!"

"No!" she exclaimed, her whole nature starting up, terrified. "What do
you mean? No!"

"I mean while I am going through college; while I am preparing a place
for you."

"Preparing a place FOR ME! You have prepared a place for me and I have
taken it. My place is with you."

"Gabriella, do you know I have not a dollar in the world?"

"_I_ have!"

"But--"

"Ah, don't! don't! That would be the first time you had ever wounded
me!"

"How can I--"

"How can you go away and leave me
here--here--anywhere--alone--struggling in the world alone? And you
somewhere else alone? Lose those years of being together? Can you even
bear the thought of it? Ah, I did not think this!"

"It was only because--"

"But it shall never be! I will not be separated from you!"

David remembered a middle-aged man at the University, working his way
through college with his wife beside him. His heart melted in joy and
tenderness--before the possibility of life with her so near. He could
not speak.

"I will never be separated from you!"

And then, feeling her victory won, she added joyously: "And what I have
shall never be separated from me! We three--I, thou, it--go together.
My two years' salary--do you think I love it so little as to leave it
behind when I go away with you?"

"Oh, Gabriella!"--

The domes of the trees were white with blossoms now and with moonlight.
How warm and sweet the air! How sacred the words and the silences! Two
children of vast and distant revolutions guided together into one
life--a young pair facing toward a future of wider, better things for
mankind.

"Gabriella, when a man has heard the great things calling to him, how
they call and call, day and night, day and night!"

"When a woman hears them once, it is enough."

Even in this hour Gabriella was receiving the wound which is so often
the pathos and the happiness of a woman's love. For even in these
moments he could not forget Truth for her. And so, she said to herself
with a hidden tear, it would be always. She would give him her all, she
could never be all to him. Her life would be enfolded completely in
his; but he would hold out his arms also toward a cold Spirit who would
forever elude him--Wisdom.

The golden crescent dropped behind the dark green hills of the silent
land. Where were they? Gone? or still under the trees?

"Ah, Gabriella, it is love that makes a man believe in a God of Love!"

"David! David!"--

The south wind, warm with the first thrill of summer, blew from across
the valley, from across the mighty rushing sea of the young hemp.

O Mystery Immortal! which is in the hemp and in our souls, in its bloom
and in our passions; by which our poor brief lives are led upward out
of the earth for a season, then cut down, rotted and broken--for Thy
long service!





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