Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Walda - A Novel
Author: Kinkaid, Mary Holland
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 "Walda - A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      https://archive.org/details/waldanovel00kinkiala


Transcriber’s note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).



A Novel

by

MARY HOLLAND KINKAID


[Illustration]



New York and London
Harper & Brothers
Publishers ∴ MCMIII

Copyright, 1903, by Harper & Brothers.

All rights reserved.
Published March, 1903.



                            PUBLISHERS’ NOTE


For obvious reasons, the real name of the community described herein is
withheld; but the scenes are pictured with almost photographic fidelity,
and the life portrayed is the life actually led to-day by a religious
co-operative community in a Western State.



                                 WALDA


“So that is Zanah there at the foot of the hill? It is a pretty village,
Hans Peter. Step more quickly with my bag. You are slow, my boy.
Remember there is a quarter of a dollar for you in my pocket.”

The tall, broad-shouldered man who spoke took a few strides along the
plank walk that led from the railway station to the village of Zanah,
half a mile away. Then he stopped to light a cigar while he waited for
the fat, short-legged figure that was bending under the weight of a
large valise to overtake him. The man was in the early prime of life.
When he took off the soft felt travelling-hat he wore, a strongly
modelled head was silhouetted against the sky. He looked across the
field of purple cabbages to the village that lay in the hush of the
summer evening. The gabled roofs of the houses were half hidden by
trees, but on a rise of ground the porch and belfry of a little church
were plainly visible.

Hans Peter dropped his burden and, imitating the stranger, removed from
a shock of straw-colored hair a cap mended with red yarn. The boy wore
baggy trousers of blue denim buttoned to a blouse of the same material.
The man smiled as he looked at the odd figure.

“Do you hear me, Hans Peter? There is a quarter in my pocket for you. I
will find two quarters if you walk faster. Do you know what I say to
you?”

The boy replaced his cap, nodded his head, and answered, with a German
accent:

“Thou art talking to the simple one, the village fool, sir. But Hans
Peter knows thou wouldst give him silver.”

It was the first time that the boy had spoken since the station agent
had called him by name and told him to show the stranger to the inn in
the village of Zanah, just across the hill. The man gave his guide a
sharp look. Hans Peter had a round face that was as blank as if no human
emotion had ever been written upon it. His pale eyes had a sleepy look,
and yet there was nothing in their expression to indicate lack of
intelligence.

“The village fool—nonsense,” said the stranger. “Here is one piece of
silver. See if it can’t loosen your tongue.”

“Thy money belongs to Zanah, where no man is richer than another,” said
Hans Peter. “I will give it to the Herr Doktor.”

“For a fool you speak well,” said the stranger, casting a glance of
curiosity at the boy. “Why are you called the simple one?”

Hans Peter put his hands in his pockets and answered:

“It may be because I talk too much to strangers.”

The man laughed. He had a clear-cut, clean-shaven face, which was almost
stern in repose, but when he smiled it was plain that the spirit of
youth still dwelt in him.

“Well, Hans Peter, we shall continue our march to Zanah,” he said. “One,
two, three. There! We are off at a better pace.”

He took the valise from Hans Peter, who began to trot along at his side.
The lad was not taller than a twelve-year old boy, but there was
something so strange about him that the man asked him his age.

“One-and-twenty,” replied Hans Peter. “If the Lord had not made me a
fool, thou wouldst know that I have a man’s years.”

There was a little quiver in the voice of the village fool, and it
touched the heart of the stranger. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder
and said, gently:

“Of course, I knew you were not a child. You seemed small beside me; but
I should have noticed that you are a man. I am glad to know you first of
all in Zanah, for I want you to be my guide while I am among the people,
who are said to be different from those I know out there in the world.”

The boy raised his eyes to the western bluffs, which seemed to touch the
crimson sky. Then he nodded his head.

“Hans Peter will do what he can,” he promised, “but the colony elders
forbid us to talk to those who come from the wicked cities, where people
live not according to the ways of God.”

They moved on through the cabbage-field, and the board walk presently
led to a grass-grown lane that widened into the village street. The
street wavered uncertainly between vine-covered fences which shut in
old-fashioned gardens all a tangle of flowers. Back in the gardens were
set stone houses with big chimneys and shut-in porches. On benches
before the largest houses milk-pans and pewter plates were leaning
against the weather-beaten walls. The diamond-paned windows reflected
the gold of the sunset.

Up the street the stranger and the boy walked without meeting any one.
They came to a straggling stone house with many wings that opened upon
trellised verandas. It differed from the other stone buildings in not
being surrounded by a fence. Its hinged windows were thrown open and
white curtains flapped in the gentle breeze. Here the street broadened
into a public square, the centre of which was occupied by a well. Hans
Peter paused before the worn steps leading to the front door.

“Sir, this is the _gasthaus_,” he said.

The man looked up as if in search of a sign, but there was nothing to
indicate that it was an inn.

“Where is the landlord?” he asked. “This seems to be a deserted
village.”

Hans Peter stared at him.

“Where are the people who live in Zanah?” the stranger inquired,
choosing words that the simple one would understand.

“I will go for Diedrich Werther,” the boy said. “It is the sunset hour,
and the men and women of Zanah are busy getting all their work done
before evening prayer.”

Hans Peter’s German accent reminded the stranger to ask whether it was
true that few people in Zanah knew any tongue except the German. He had
to make the question very plain, and then Hans Peter said: “It is only
the fool of Zanah and the great men like the Herr Doktor that know
English.” He appeared to be thinking hard for a moment, and after a
pause he explained: “The English makes the wickedness of the world easy
to learn. It is only the great men, who can put aside temptation, and
the fool, whose soul is accursed, that cannot be harmed by it.”

The man gave the simple one a glance of surprise. He looked into the
boy’s face for a moment.

“I am afraid the people of Zanah are not good Americans,” he said.
“English is the tongue of the United States, and all should speak it,
Hans Peter.”

Hans Peter shook his head.

“Some of our young men have learned the English and they have forsaken
the ways of the colony to go out into the world. They have listened to
Satan, and Zanah hath seen them no more. Two of our girls ran away. The
elders worry much about the people, for it is hard to keep out evil
things with the railway so near. We are forbidden to make images of
anything on earth, but colored pictures are sometimes brought to Zanah.”

“The elders must have a hard task, indeed, if they would keep out sin,
Hans Peter.” The stranger laughed. “I am afraid the great world will
swallow up the colony some day.”

“The elders will be guided, sir. Zanah is waiting for Walda Kellar to
speak with the voice of prophecy. She will be the inspired one who will
guide the people of the colony.”

“Who is Walda Kellar?” asked the stranger. But the simple one was
silent. The question was repeated.

“The fool hath talked too much,” said Hans Peter.

“Go call the landlord of the inn,” commanded the stranger, turning to
seat himself in a splint-bottomed chair that stood in a corner of the
veranda.

Diedrich Werther, the landlord, was slow in answering the summons of his
chance guest. When he made his appearance he walked with deliberation.
He was a short, stout man, with a red face, and he had a wisp of sandy
hair in the middle of his forehead. His trousers, supported by knitted
suspenders, were of such generous size that they reached nearly to his
arm-pits. He wore a blue shirt and carpet slippers. He received his
guest with a lack of hospitality which showed that visitors were of
small importance in his estimation. After making a bow, which included
the scraping of one of his carpet slippers as he bent his head, he
looked at the stranger with unwinking eyes that revealed not the
slightest sign of cordiality.

“Do you permit travellers to stay at your inn?” inquired the guest,
first in English, but he received no response, and he had to resort to
the German picked up in his student days at Heidelberg.

“Ja, ja,” said Werther, and he motioned to Hans Peter to carry the
valise inside the inn.

“And can I have dinner here?” the stranger inquired.

The landlord shook his head. Dinner was at mid-day, but a special supper
would be made ready after evening prayer. The stranger could rest in the
big chair.

The church-bell rang out in solemn tones. It had not sounded twice
before the street became alive. From every door issued men, women, and
children. Gate latches clicked, and soon a silent, solemn line of
villagers passed the inn. From his corner in the porch the stranger
looked on unobserved. All the men were more or less like Diedrich
Werther. They wore the baggy, ill-fitting trousers and the blue shirt
which made the host of the inn of Zanah look like the figures on beer
mugs. The women had on gowns of blue calico, straight and full in the
skirts, and made with plain, gathered waists, over which were folded
three-cornered kerchiefs. Black hoods, with untied strings, covered
their hair. Most of the women of Zanah were stout of body and stolid of
face. They walked on the opposite side of the street from the men. Among
them were many young girls, with the beauty of face that health and
innocence give. The church-bell ceased its ringing. Peering out between
the vines, the stranger saw the meeting-house on the hill beyond a
bridge on the other side of the square where the street began to climb
the hill. One by one the villagers passed through its door.

The bell rang again. Into the little square before the inn came a man
different from the others. He was tall and spare of figure. His oddly
cut clothing fitted his body with snugness. A broad-brimmed, gray felt
hat shaded a sensitive face marked with strong lines. Long hair, which
fell over the wide collar of his coat, gave him the look of one who
belonged to a past generation. Not old, and yet not young, this man of
Zanah had an unusual beauty of countenance that bespoke patience and
gentleness. At his heels trooped a dozen boys who quickly surrounded the
well. Standing on moss-covered stones, they took turns dipping water
from a gourd fastened to the curb.

The man of Zanah stood with his face turned in the direction whence he
had come. Suddenly he doffed the gray felt hat and waited with uncovered
head while three women approached the well. Two were like the many who
had gone by within the quarter-hour. The third was young, and her beauty
was of such rare quality that the stranger stepped out to the edge of
the porch that he might better see her features. She was of more than
medium height, and she walked with a majestic bearing. Her face,
uplifted to the sky, was lighted by the sunset glow. Over her fair hair,
which fell in two long braids below her waist, she wore a cap of white
lawn, and the kerchief crossed upon her bosom was white. She appeared to
be unconscious of the presence of the man of Zanah until her gown
touched him. She turned her head and smiled with such sweetness and such
friendliness that the stranger, watching her, felt a pang of envy. The
man bent his head reverently, and the children stopped their play to
make obeisance to her. When she had passed, the man of Zanah stood
motionless for a moment. He was suddenly startled from his reverie by
the simple one, who ran from the inn and grasped his hand.

For a third time the bell rang. The man of Zanah patted the fool on the
head and turned towards the meeting-house. After he had gone over the
bridge, the stranger hastened across the little square to the place
where Hans Peter was left standing alone.

“Who is the man that has just gone up the street?” he inquired.

The village fool said it was Gerson Brandt, the school-master.

“And who was the girl—the one with the white cap?”

Hans Peter pretended not to hear.

“Was that the one who is to be your prophetess?”

Hans Peter was silent. There was a look of cunning in his eyes.

“Answer my question, Hans Peter,” said the stranger, with some
impatience.

“The elders say wise men ask questions that fools may not answer,”
replied the simple one, and then he ran away across the bridge.



                                   II


The village of Zanah awoke at sunrise. Looking from the front window of
the inn, the stranger, Stephen Everett, saw the quaint folk moving up
and down the little street. In the porches of a near-by kitchen women
were preparing breakfast. There was a strange quiet that at first
oppressed the visitor from the outside world. The men and women were
silent; the children walked with decorous steps; there was no unseemly
laughter.

It was a perfect morning of late summer. Beyond flat breadths of fertile
fields the bluffs rose gently, and hill-side and plain were dotted with
vineyards. Winding roads led through interlocking trees from which birds
were taking flight. The flowers, heavily laden with dew, gave out a
delightful fragrance. In the sky was the pink flush of dawn, and the
morning star still kept watch over the hamlet from which the bustling,
every-day world was shut out.

The stranger in Zanah went in to breakfast, which was served in a long,
low room that had a sanded floor. While he was standing at the table,
upon which the blue-gowned women waited, Adolph Schneider, the head of
the colony, came to him. Adolph Schneider showed that he was a man of
importance. He was stout and bald. A grizzled fringe of beard encircled
his chin, which, on account of his short neck, rested upon his black
cravat. He had small eyes, set close together, and he gave the
impression that shrewdness was the key-note of his character.

“I am president of the Society of Zanah,” he said, in good English, “and
I am come to inquire wherefore thou hast visited the colony in which the
Lord’s people try to do his will in all humbleness and meekness.”

The broad-rimmed straw hat that he wore set well down upon his ears: he
had the appearance of retiring into it and his black cravat for the
purpose of watching the stranger. Everett rose to meet him.

“Chance brought me here,” he said, looking down upon the Herr Doktor. “I
am something of a student, and I want to see the books printed in Zanah.
Perhaps you will sell some of them to me?”

Adolph Schneider leaned on the stout cane he carried to aid him in the
difficult process of walking, for he had gout, which was the result of a
long diet of fat meats, sauerkraut, and hot breads. He glanced at
Everett with a look of suspicion.

“We have many strangers from the outside world,” he said, “but all come
here to buy the blankets and printed cloths of Zanah. We have none who
would look into our books.”

His small eyes rested upon the fine face of the stranger, and there was
much in it to give any man confidence. The dark eyes had a frank
expression, and the lips and chin told that they belonged to one who had
command of himself while he was fitted to rule others.

“I have heard that your German books are good specimens of hand-work,
and I coveted some of them because I am a collector,” said Everett.

Schneider looked puzzled and repeated the word “collector.” Everett
explained about his library, and he was soon talking in the most
friendly manner to the Herr Doktor, whom he persuaded to sit at the
table and to drink coffee with him. When Everett had finished breakfast,
they went into the front room of the inn, where Mother Werther, the
landlord’s wife, sat behind a high counter keeping an eye on the
dog-eared register and the blue china match-safe. Everett offered cigars
to the Herr Doktor, who declined them, but was easily persuaded to try
the tobacco that was produced from the pocket of the stranger’s coat.
After they had smoked together Everett knew more about Zanah than he had
expected to learn, although his direct questions had been parried, and
it had required adroitness to obtain any information concerning the
colony. The prospect of a sale of books melted the heart of the village
president, who explained that he managed the money of the people.

“If thou wouldst see the books, come with me to the school-master,” said
Schneider. “Gerson Brandt was an artist before he came into the colony,
fifteen years ago. He hath a rare gift in the laying on of colors, and
he hath made some of the books of Zanah good to look at.”

They walked along the quiet street, crossed the rustic bridge, and
climbed the little hill to the meeting-house, which was a low stone
building covered with vines. In place of the steeple a modest little
belfry rose above the peaked roof. Beyond the meeting-house, and
separated from it by a stone wall, was the school-house, such a
rambling, weather-beaten wooden building as any artist would delight in.
It was entered from a latticed porch with long seats on either side of
the door. There was a garden in front of it—a well-kept garden, with
trim walks and well-weeded flower-beds. Over the porch a sturdy
rose-bush climbed. The hinged windows were thrown open and the buzz of
children’s voices could be heard. Suddenly all sounds were hushed.
Everett and the Herr Doktor ascended the wide steps, and as they were
about to push open the door a woman’s voice rose in a hymn. It was a
voice clear and sweet, and its minor cadence was sustained with
wonderful power. The words were German, and the tune was monotonous, but
the man from the outside world was strangely moved by the melody.
Everett uncovered his head and listened reverently. Adolph Schneider
leaned against the door-frame, smoking, as if he did not hear. When the
hymn was ended Everett asked, in a low tone:

“Who is the woman that sang?”

“Walda Kellar,” answered the old man. He took several puffs of his pipe
and then he added, “She is one called of God.”

The Herr Doktor lifted the latch and stepped into the long school-room,
while Everett paused on the threshold. It was a strange scene that met
his gaze. Seated in orderly rows, more than one hundred boys faced the
school-master, who stood beside his high desk, but Gerson Brandt’s face
was turned away from his charges; his eyes were fixed upon a figure that
chained Everett’s attention. On the platform stood Walda Kellar. She was
turning the leaves of a big Bible which was held before her by the
village fool. The girl was as tall and straight as a sapling. The ample
folds of her blue print gown did not hide the slender grace of her
figure. The white kerchief crossed over her bosom revealed a rounded
neck, upon which her beautiful head was well set. Her cap was white
instead of black, like the head-coverings worn by the other women, and
beneath it her shining hair curled about a broad, low forehead. The face
was nobly moulded. Everett could not see each feature, but he knew that
a pair of wonderful eyes were the glory of her countenance, which had an
expression of exaltation he had never seen before on any face.

Back of the girl, knitting as if all Zanah were dependent upon her for
winter mittens, sat a woman of sour visage. As her needles moved she
watched the school-master and the girl. When Adolph Schneider entered
the room Walda Kellar looked past him, and her eyes met those of the
stranger with a look that betrayed no consciousness of his presence,
although he blushed like a school-boy. Walda greeted the Herr Doktor
with a slight inclination of her head. Then she whispered to the simple
one, who closed the Bible, gave it to the school-master, and took his
place on a stool near the teacher’s platform.

“Mother Kaufmann, we will go back to the _kinderhaus_,” said Walda
Kellar. She spoke the German so that it seemed the most musical tongue
Everett had ever heard. The elder woman rolled up her knitting and put
it into the capacious pocket of her gingham apron.

“Gerson Brandt, thy boys are truly well behaved; thou hast done much
with them.”

Walda spoke to the school-master, who bestowed upon her a look of
gratitude and tenderness.

“It is thou who tamest all that is unruly in the children of Zanah,” he
said. And then he walked down the narrow aisle between the rows of
tow-headed urchins and flung open the door that she might pass out.

“Come hither, friend Everett,” said Adolph Schneider, advancing to the
platform, where he met the school-master. “I want to make you acquainted
with Brother Brandt. Brother Brandt might have had that bubble men call
fame if he had continued to disobey the law of the Lord, for he made
images of the earth and sky, which is forbidden in the commandments. But
he forsook his idols before he was one-and-twenty and came into the safe
refuge of Zanah.”

“Yet even now I long to behold great pictures,” declared Gerson Brandt,
as if he were confessing some secret vice. “It is a quarter of a century
since I have looked on one.”

“Tut, tut, Brother Brandt,” said Schneider; “if thou wilt talk of
forbidden things, dismiss thy pupils.”

The school-master lifted his hand, and with a benediction sent the
tow-headed boys homeward. The village fool alone of all the school
remained in his place. With his head bent forward he appeared to be
asleep.

“We have come to see thy books,” said Adolph Schneider, when he had
taken the only chair in the room and placed his cane against the
black-board. “Is that thy Bible that thou hast put so much work upon?”
He pointed to the big volume from which Walda had been reading. It had a
linen cover neatly sewn upon it, and might have been the wordbook so
much thumbed by the pupils.

Gerson Brandt went to the desk, and, putting his hand on the book,
answered:

“This is my Bible, and I have been making the letters that begin the
chapters. I learned the secret of the colors long ago from a monk. It is
no sin to make the Holy Book beautiful, for I have put in it no images,
only the letters in colors that are symbolic.”

He spoke as if he were making excuse for some transgression, but the
Herr Doktor laughed leniently.

“Surely Zanah hath no fault to find with thy book,” Adolph Schneider
said. “I want the stranger to see the letters in it.”

Gerson Brandt opened the Bible, and as he turned the pages Everett, who
stood beside him, felt an overwhelming desire to possess the volume. The
old German text was printed upon parchment. The pages had broad margins,
and the letters beginning the chapters were illuminated with designs so
delicate and so minutely worked out that each repaid long study. The
coloring was exquisite, and gold, of a brilliancy equalled in few books
Everett had ever seen, was applied with a generous hand.

“How long have you worked on it?” he asked.

“Five years,” the school-master said, “and it is not finished yet.”
Gerson Brandt loosened the linen that he might display the binding of
calfskin. On the front cover was a monogram, but before Everett could
decipher the letters the linen was replaced.

“This is a beautiful book,” said Everett, taking it in his hand and
turning the pages. “I would give much for it. Will you sell it to me?”

Gerson Brandt’s thin face paled. He stretched out a trembling hand and
seized the Bible as he answered, coldly:

“This book was not made to be bartered to any man. It is mine. If there
is aught in it that commands thy favor it is because the making of the
letters has been a pleasant labor done with all my heart.”

The school-master held the volume close to his breast. The simple one,
who had not left his place on the stool, opened his eyes. The Herr
Doktor glanced from beneath his bushy brows with a look of surprise.

“Brother Brandt, thou speakest without proper forethought,” said
Schneider; “thou knowest that in Zanah all things belong to the Lord and
that thou hast not the right to say ‘my’ or ‘mine.’”

A dull red swept over the face of the school-master, and in his eyes was
a look that told of rebellion in his soul.

“For the good of Zanah we might be persuaded to sell this Bible,” the
Herr Doktor continued. “It is worth a great deal of money, for Brother
Brandt hath spent upon it much of the time that belonged to the colony.
How much wouldst thou give for it?”

“I should not think of buying the Bible if the artist who illuminated it
is unwilling to give it up,” Everett declared. The fear in the
school-master’s face touched his heart. For the moment Gerson Brandt had
lost the look of youth which strangely sat on features that told of
suffering. There was a new dignity in the gaunt figure, clad in its
queer garments. Gerson Brandt’s head was thrown back and his lips were
tightly closed. The habit of repression, learned in the long years of
colony life, was not easily thrown off, and he stood motionless while
Adolph Schneider scowled at him.

“Wouldst thou think one hundred dollars too much for the Bible?” the
village president inquired. He had risen and was leaning on his cane.
“Zanah needs money, for the harvests have been poor. Brother Brandt will
sell the book if thou canst pay the price.”

“One hundred dollars is little enough for the Bible,” said Everett; “but
we shall not discuss its purchase now.”

“Yet thou wilt buy it if it is offered to thee by Brother Brandt?”
Adolph Schneider asked, persistently pressing the subject of the sale.

Everett looked straight at the school-master, and his friendly eyes gave
Gerson Brandt confidence.

“I would buy it if it was cheerfully offered by Mr. Brandt,” he replied.

The village fool aroused himself and stretched lazily. Then, taking from
his pocket a little yellow gourd, he marked upon it with a big
pocket-knife.

As Schneider and Everett left the school-house they saw that something
unusual had happened, for a crowd was moving up the street. Women were
leaning over fences. Children followed the crowd at a distance.

The Herr Doktor stood for a moment as if uncertain what to do. It was
quite impossible for him to hasten, and he was of a phlegmatic nature
not easily excited.

“Some one must be hurt,” Everett remarked. “I think they are carrying a
man.”

In an instant Hans Peter had run down the hill. The school-master, who
had remained in the school-house to put away the precious Bible, came to
the door to look out. The crowd had crossed the rustic bridge.

“They are coming here,” Gerson Brandt exclaimed. “Can it be that aught
hath happened to Wilhelm Kellar?”

He hastened down the street, and Schneider stepped out on the sidewalk.

“Wilhelm Kellar hath charge of our flannel-mill. He liveth with Brother
Brandt,” explained the Herr Doktor. “I trust that no accident hath
befallen him.”

It was plain that Adolph Schneider’s anxiety was twofold, and that he
thought of the loss which might be unavoidable in case the mill
superintendent became incapacitated.

When Everett and the Herr Doktor met the villagers, Gerson Brandt had
stopped the crowd and was bending over the rude stretcher upon which lay
the unconscious form of an old man.

“Wilhelm Kellar hath been stricken with a sudden illness,” said the
school-master. “The apothecary hath worked over him and cannot restore
him. Will not the Herr Doktor send for a physician?”

“The nearest chirurgeon is eight miles away,” replied Adolph Schneider.
“Let the apothecary bleed Brother Kellar as soon as he is taken to his
bed.”

Seeing that the man was emaciated and had no blood to lose, Everett
stepped forward.

“I am a physician,” he said. “I will do what I can.”

He directed the crowd to fall back so that the sick man could have more
air, and helped to carry the stretcher into an upper room of the
school-house.



                                  III


In an upper room of the school-house Wilhelm Kellar lay upon a high-post
bedstead that was screened by chintz curtains drawn back so that the air
could reach him. His thin, wan face looked old and drawn as it rested on
a feather pillow. He was comfortable, he let Everett know, when the
physician went to visit him early in the morning after the seizure. His
tongue refused to frame the words he tried to utter, but his eyes showed
his gratitude. Everett took a seat in the heavy wooden chair at the foot
of the bed, which stood in a little alcove. Beyond the alcove the main
room stretched out beneath the roof, which gave it many queer corners.
Rows of books partially hid one wall. In one corner a high chest of
drawers held a pair of massive silver candlesticks. An old desk with a
sloping top occupied a little nook lighted by a diamond window; here
were quill-pens and bottles of colored ink. This upper room, occupied
jointly by Wilhelm Kellar and Gerson Brandt, bore the impress of the
school-master, who waited now, leaning on the back of an old wooden
arm-chair polished with much use.

“He will be much better,” said Everett. “He may recover from the
paralysis, but it will be a long time before he leaves his room.”

Behind the curtains there was something like a groan. The sick man tried
to say something, but neither Everett nor Brandt could understand him.
Suddenly his eyes looked past them, and there was a smile on his face.
Walda entered the outer room and came to her father, kneeling down
beside him, apparently unaware that there was any one except themselves
present.

“Art thou better, father?” she asked, in the softest tone, and then,
burying her white-capped head in the pillow beside him, she murmured
something in a low voice. Everett and Gerson Brandt left the two
together and went into the larger room, where the physician began to
prepare some medicine. Presently Walda’s voice was heard in prayer. The
two men waited reverently until the last petition, uttered with the
fervency of great faith, had died away.

“The daughter loveth her father; she hath a true heart,” said the
school-master. He turned to the little window and looked out. Everett,
who was distributing powders among a lot of little papers, went on with
his work without making reply. The old hour-glass on the high chest of
drawers had measured several minutes before any word was spoken. Then it
was Mother Kaufmann who broke the silence. She entered the room with a
heavy step, and with a “Good-day, Brother Brandt,” stood for a few
moments studying Everett.

“Where is Walda?” she asked. Gerson Brandt made a little gesture towards
the alcove.

“She hath no right to come here alone,” the woman replied, with a frown.
“She is my care, and she hath done a foolish act. I shall forbid her to
leave the House of the Women without me.”

“Walda was drawn hither by anxiety concerning her father,” said Gerson
Brandt. “Thou wilt not wound her by a reprimand, Sister Kaufmann?”

The woman went near to him and spoke in guttural German some words that
Everett could not catch, but from her furtive looks and glances he knew
she was talking of him.

Walda passed through the room. Everett raised his eyes and they met the
girl’s glance. Then he bent his head in deferential recognition of her
presence. It was only a second that each had gazed at the other, but the
man from the outside world felt a heart-throb. He spilled the powder on
the tablecloth, and after he had brushed it off he hastily took up his
hat. He went down-stairs, Gerson Brandt and Mother Kaufmann following
him to ask about his patient. The three stood in the little porch
talking of Wilhelm Kellar. From the garden, Walda, who stood among the
flowers, watched them as if she would hear every word. Involuntarily she
was drawn to the little group.

“Thou wilt tell me the truth about my father,” she said, addressing
Everett. She spoke in precise English, with a soft accent and full tone.

“He is seriously ill, but he will recover from this attack,” Everett
answered.

The girl folded her hands on her breast in the manner common to Zanah.

“It is my duty to rejoice when death freeth the soul, and yet I cannot
think of my father’s illness with aught but sadness,” she said, as a
tear trickled down her cheek.

“Thou art showing weakness,” admonished Mother Kaufmann.

“Be not so stern,” said Gerson Brandt. “She hath not yet faced the
mystery of death. She is young, and she loveth her father.”

“Always thou dost find excuse for Walda Kellar,” said the woman. “She is
near to the day of inspiration, and the things of this world should not
touch her.”

Walda Kellar appeared not to hear Mother Kaufmann’s words. Her eyes were
fastened upon Everett’s face.

“Thou art not going away from Zanah soon, art thou?” she asked. “Nay,
stay to watch my father until he shall be out of danger.” There was such
pleading in her tone that it touched the heart of the man of the world.
Her beauty cast a spell over him.

“Thou forgettest that the stranger hath much to call him away,”
interposed Gerson Brandt. “Thou wouldst not be selfish?”

“Oh, I would not think first of self, and yet I would pray that the
stranger might find it in his heart to remain in Zanah to aid him whom I
love above all, for, strive as I may, I cannot forget that he is my
father.”

She stepped nearer to Everett; her lips quivered.

“It may be many days before your father is entirely well. It will be a
privilege to be of service to you,” said Everett, remembering how seldom
he had been of any real use in the world. “I will remain until your
father is out of danger.”

Mother Kaufmann took Walda by the arm and led her down the hill towards
the House of the Women. Everett felt a resentment towards the
unsympathetic colony “mother.” For a moment he was angry, and then he
tried to make himself believe that he was a fool to waste a thought upon
Walda Kellar or any of the villagers. Still he could not stifle his
curiosity. A dozen questions rose to his lips, but there was something
in the look of the school-master that forbade any inquiries.

The man who belonged to the outside world walked down to the bridge,
and, turning, followed the turbulent little creek to a place where there
was a deserted windmill beside a broken dam. Here he sat upon a log, for
he suddenly made the discovery that it was a warm day. From the mill he
could look back into the village and out upon the vineyards and the
broad fields that surrounded the picturesque little settlement.

The peaceful scene soothed him. He fell to wondering whether, after all,
the colonists might not be wise to bar out the world, but although his
thoughts travelled far away to the busy scenes in which he usually
moved, they always came back to Walda Kellar.

The novelty of his position rather amused him. He had meant to spend
only a day or two in Zanah, and now he had made a promise that meant a
sojourn of several weeks, perhaps a month or two. He lighted a fresh
cigar and let his thoughts wander back to the friends who were waiting
for him in the Berkshire Hills, where he had intended to spend the
autumn weeks. He knew that they would concern themselves but little
about his absence, for he had always been erratic since, when a
school-boy, he was left, long ago, with an ample fortune and an
indulgent guardian.

His reflections were suddenly interrupted, for he heard a soft footstep
inside the mill. In an instant the fool had darted out, and, running to
a tree that formed a foot-bridge across the little stream, he stooped to
conceal something in the roots. Everett was interested. It was clear
that Hans Peter was executing some commission that would not find favor
with the elders. Lest he might excite suspicion, Everett turned his back
and looked down the dusty road. The simple one ran lightly past him.

Everett was still facing the road when he saw a girl come towards the
mill. She passed the stranger, who was almost hidden by the wild
clematis-vine that covered a bush near him. She was pretty, after the
flaxen-haired, pink-cheeked type. She went to the tree and took
something that looked like a letter from its roots. She opened it, read
it hastily, and concealed it beneath the black kerchief crossed upon her
breast. With quickened steps she turned back towards the village.
Half-way to the bridge she met the fool, who was returning to the mill.
They spoke a few words, and the simple one continued on his way.

“So you are back?” said Everett, handing a coin to Hans Peter, who put
it in one of his bulging pockets.

“What wouldst thou have me do?” asked the simple one.

“I would have you sit there on the grass and answer my questions, Hans
Peter. First, who is the girl?”

“She is Frieda Bergen, a village maid.”

“What was it you put in the tree for her?”

Hans Peter looked aghast. He thrust both hands into his pockets and
appeared to be thinking. He was a strange figure, for there was a
curious blending of shrewdness and foolishness in his expression as he
furtively glanced up at Everett.

“Thou wouldst not tell the elders,” he pleaded, presently, “if I trusted
thee? I fear nothing, but I would not make the maid unhappy.”

“Was it a love-letter that you put there for her?”

Everett could not repress a smile. He was beginning to believe that he
might find some amusement in watching the people of Zanah. When the fool
remained silent he repeated his question.

“I know not what was in the packet, as I carried it for another,” said
Hans Peter. “Thou forgettest that thou art talking to the fool of
Zanah.”

“Your wisdom makes me lose sight of that fact, Hans Peter. Is not love
against the law of the colony?”

“Yea, all except Hans Peter, the fool, hold it a sin to put their
affections on the things of this world. The simple one cannot understand
aught but that which is of the earth; he cannot reach up to heaven, and
so he seeth nothing wrong in love that maketh men and women happy.”

Everett rose and paced up and down the little footpath. “I suppose the
elders are always above temptation?” he remarked, stopping before Hans
Peter.

The simple one looked almost wise, and, apparently forgetting all
prudence, said:

“Karl Weisel, head of the thirteen elders, hath been tempted for many
years. He loveth Gretchen Schneider, the daughter of the Herr Doktor
President, but he would have to give up his high place in Zanah if he
were to marry, and so he preacheth much against the wickedness of
loving.”

“And what of Gretchen Schneider?”

“She hath always a bad temper; she spieth on all the youths and maids.
Frieda Bergen and Joseph Hoff, who loveth her, fear Gretchen Schneider
most of all in Zanah.”

“And what will be the punishment of Frieda Bergen and Joseph Hoff when
it is discovered that they love each other?”

“Marriage,” said the simple one, solemnly. “The elders will rebuke them,
and if still they love not God above themselves they will be put in the
third, or lowest, grade in the colony.”

“And will they ever be forgiven? Will the elders ever restore them to a
high place in Zanah?”

Hans Peter made an awkward little gesture.

“When they have found out each other’s faults they may repent; the
Lord’s hand may be heavy on them. Then, when they see that love bringeth
pain and grief, they may go before the elders, confess that they have
erred, and when they have proved that they can serve God with singleness
of purpose they will be put in the foremost rank.”

Hans Peter spoke as if he were repeating a lesson often conned, and
Everett said:

“You talk not like the simple one, my boy. If I closed my eyes I should
think the Herr Doktor himself were speaking to me. But tell me, Hans
Peter, among all the married people of the village, how many have failed
to repent?”

“Diedrich Werther and Mother Werther alone love much. They are still in
the lowest grade, and it is fifteen years since they were married. Most
of the men and women of Zanah are in the second grade, but the Herr
Doktor and Mother Schneider are among the highest. It is said they hate
each other.”

“This has been a half-hour well spent,” said Everett. “You shall have
another piece of silver, Hans Peter, and to-morrow you will tell me more
about the people of Zanah.”

The simple one rose from his place on the grass, took the coin into his
square, fat hand, and slouched away with it. As he disappeared, Everett
thought of a hundred things he would have liked to ask about Walda
Kellar. Yet, strangely enough, he could not bring himself to speak her
name to the village fool.



                                   IV


After giving his promise to stay in Zanah, Everett found that the day
dragged. Having finished questioning the fool, he went to the inn, where
he ate his noonday dinner in silence. Then he wandered among the lanes
and winding roads until it was time for the evening meal, at which two
taciturn women waited on him. He made an effort to talk to the women,
but they pretended not to understand his German, and insisted upon
offering him hot biscuits and honey. He found that he had no appetite,
and soon left the table. As he passed through the big room which served
as an office, he noticed that Diedrich Werther was not in his usual seat
beside a little, round table where at all hours the innkeeper was to be
seen smoking his pipe and drinking huge cupfuls of black coffee. Hans
Peter occupied his favorite nook on the settle near the fireplace.

Everett went out on the porch, where he took possession of his host’s
arm-chair. Naturally his thoughts wandered to Walda. The girl was a
mystery to him. Although he was slow to acknowledge it, he knew that she
aroused in him an insistent interest. He who cared little for women
suddenly found his attention fixed upon a girl who belonged to a class
different from any other with which he had ever come in contact. He
usually classified all women he met. He found that they were easily
divided into comparatively few types. Here was one whose education and
whose traditions isolated her. He hoped she would pass by the inn.
Impatiently he looked at his watch; the hour for evening prayer was slow
in coming. He had risen with the intention of strolling about the
square, when he heard the meeting-house bell ring. In a moment the long
street again became alive. As the men and women went by on opposite
sides, many of them glanced at him. Even the demure, quiet girls allowed
their eyes to rest upon him for half a second. One, however, was
unconscious of his presence. Frieda Bergen, the village maid who had
taken the letter from the tree-trunk at the mill, looked across the
grass-grown road to a youth who kept his eyes upon her until the blood
mounted to her cheeks and her glance was cast upon the ground.

The school-master walked with his head bowed, as if he were deep in
thought, and behind him followed the boys, who forgot to romp and play.
He stopped on the rustic bridge. When all the villagers had passed,
Walda Kellar came. Her hands were crossed upon her breast, and instead
of keeping her eyes upon the ground she had them fixed on the clouds,
where the crimson light was turning to purple and gray. On either side
of her walked women whom Everett had never seen before. One of them was
stout, and had passed her first youth. As Walda walked by Gerson Brandt
on the bridge, the school-master and his charges doffed their caps to
her. Everett could see that Walda smiled on the man of Zanah, and that
she spoke to him. The school-master waited in reverent attitude until
the future prophetess disappeared within the church porch. Then he
motioned to his pupils to go on, while he turned back towards the inn.
With lagging step he came into the village square.

“Hast thou half an hour to spend with one who would speak to thee?” he
asked, addressing Everett.

The stranger in Zanah hastened to assure the school-master that he
wanted companionship. Without being summoned, Hans Peter appeared with a
chair. Gerson Brandt dropped into it as if he were weary, and Everett
had a chance to notice that the delicate face was worn and haggard.
There was something extraordinarily impressive in the personality of
this man of Zanah. His gaunt form was well knit. Meekness and gentleness
sat upon a face that denoted an intense nature. The curve of the lip
told of unusual will-power, but the eyes revealed the fact that the soul
of a dreamer dwelt within the school-master.

“I would talk to thee about Brother Kellar,” he said. “Walda Kellar is
concerned lest she hath been selfish in asking thee to stay in the
village. The women of Zanah have told her that thou hast much to do in
the world and that thou canst ill afford to waste thy time here in the
colony.”

Everett forgot his reflections of the previous hour and replied:

“I shall be glad to stay here. It is a privilege to be useful once in a
while.”

“Dost thou work much?” asked the school-master. Gerson Brandt folded his
thin hands that bore the marks of toil and turned to scrutinize the
stranger. “It is long since I left the world,” he added. “I know little
of it as it is to-day, but I remember that it was a very busy place.”

Everett could not repress a smile.

“You speak as if the whole world were one great village, and Zanah’s
only rival,” he said.

Gerson Brandt laughed, and for an instant his face was young.

“We colonists live shut up in our little valley so closely that we can
hardly be called a part of the changing life of America,” he said. “Once
I loved the things of the world, and even now I sometimes long for what
were once my idols.”

“Your idols?”

“Once I dreamed of being a great artist,” confessed the school-master.
“That was when I was a youth in Munich. There came to me a
disappointment. Then it was shown to my soul that I must not fix my
hopes on the things of earth. I drifted to America. The world was cruel
to me. Somehow I found Zanah. My art was a help to the people of the
colony. They took me in.”

He spoke simply, but there was a little quaver in his voice, and he
turned his head away.

Everett rose and began to pace up and down the porch. The humble tragedy
in the life of the man of Zanah touched him and made him feel ashamed of
his own paltry aims.

“Do you mean that you illuminated their books?” he asked.

Gerson Brandt shook his head.

“Not at first. I still loved beauty. I yet had ambition, and it was long
before I could trust myself to use the colors. I had a hard discipline.
For years I have made the designs for the blue calicoes that the mills
turn out.”

“By Jove! I don’t know how a man can surrender all his ambitions. I
cannot make it out,” Everett exclaimed, pausing before the gentle
school-master. “How long have you been in Zanah?”

“Fifteen years. I was two-and-twenty when I came. Some day, before I
die, I mean to go out to see what changes have taken place. I know that
men are doing marvellous things, for sometimes I talk to strangers. But
it is better not to know the world, for it gives a man so many interests
he forgets his God.” Gerson Brandt hesitated a moment. “Even under the
protection of Zanah it is hard for a man to subdue all the human forces
within him,” he added.

“All human forces are not wicked. Such a creed as that is not taught in
the New Testament,” said Everett. He felt irresistibly drawn towards the
school-master. All the vigorous manhood in him resented the restrictions
that Zanah placed upon its disciples.

“There are many that seem not so to me,” assented the school-master,
“but Zanah teaches that it is best to fix all one’s thoughts on heaven.
Of course we have our restless hours. We who have been touched by the
world find it hard to forget. Those whose thoughts have been centred
always in Zanah are the happy ones.”

“Walda Kellar is one of the happy ones, is she not?”

Everett felt that the question would be parried, and he hesitated to ask
it; but his impulse to speak of the girl who occupied his thoughts
gained the mastery. Gerson Brandt’s face reddened.

“There is peace and faith in the heart of her whom the Lord hath chosen
to be his instrument,” said the school-master, and, rising, he turned as
if to leave the presence of the stranger. He paused and added:

“I came here to talk with thee of Brother Wilhelm Kellar. He is the
closest to me of all Zanah, and I would ask thee to tell me the truth
concerning him. Hath the Lord called him, or will he be spared to go on
with his work in the colony?”

“If no great shock and no unusual strain of work is put on him he may
live many years,” said Everett. “He appears to have much vitality, and I
expect to see him able to resume his duties within a month.”

“The _Untersuchung_ is but a month off,” said Gerson Brandt, “and it
will be a sore trial to him if he is not able to see his daughter
anointed prophetess of Zanah.”

Gerson Brandt did not listen to Everett’s reply; he rose and stood upon
the steps of the inn with his face turned towards the meeting-house.
Down the street came Mother Werther and Walda. The wife of the host of
the inn walked with the girl’s hand clasped in hers, and, entering the
square, she drew Walda to the place where the school-master stood.

After the manner of the men of Zanah, Gerson Brandt made no sign until
Walda had spoken to him.

“Thou wert missed at prayers, Gerson Brandt,” she said, “and because I
asked thee to do a service for me. Thou hast talked about my father to
the stranger?”

The school-master nodded his head.

“It hath been shown to me that I was selfish in begging thee to stay in
Zanah,” Walda said, addressing Everett. “Thou wilt forgive a girl who
hath not yet subdued her soul?”

In her presence Everett felt abashed. He saw in her a mysterious
mingling of the child, the woman, and the prophetess. As she waited for
him to answer her, he had a chance to notice the noble outlines of her
face and the perfect poise of her lithe body.

“Do not concern yourself about me,” he said. “I assure you I am glad to
stay in Zanah.” As he spoke the rare beauty of the girl again cast a
spell over him, and he meant what he said. Mother Werther put her arm
about Walda’s waist and would have drawn her inside the door of the inn
had not Everett stopped them.

“One moment,” he said. “There is a condition that I should like to make.
Your father needs faithful nursing—the watchfulness that only love can
give him. If you will take care of him I shall feel that I have the
right help and that I shall not have cause to regret that I remained in
Zanah.”

“That is a matter thou shouldst put before the Herr Doktor,” said Mother
Werther. “Brother Schneider is coming now; speak to him.”

“Is it not customary for members of families here in the colony to nurse
one another?” Everett asked the school-master.

“Not unless they are especially appointed to the task,” answered Gerson
Brandt.

Adolph Schneider had reached the inn. He greeted Everett with a show of
cordiality, and, taking possession of the big arm-chair, lighted his
pipe. He began to talk of Wilhelm Kellar’s illness, and to lament the
loss of the elder’s aid in carrying on the business of the colony. Then
Everett found his chance to request Walda’s attendance at the bedside of
her father.

“The _Untersuchung_ is at hand,” said the Herr Doktor, “and it is the
time for prayer and meditation. Thou knowest that we believe she will be
made the instrument of the Lord, and therefore she should live much
alone until the hour when she shall speak with a new tongue.”

Adolph Schneider looked at Everett suspiciously. The man of the world
showed that he could outwit the man of Zanah. With an assumption of
indifference Everett replied:

“Of course it makes little difference to me. I shall do the best I can
to help Wilhelm Kellar back to health, but if you send his daughter to
nurse him he is likely to recover twice as rapidly as he would
otherwise.”

He resumed his promenade on the porch. As he walked back and forth the
president of the colony saw that he was a man of magnificent physique,
erect and athletic. With some misgiving he noticed that the stranger had
more than the ordinary share of physical beauty, and that he had the
indefinable air which belongs to those accustomed to command the best
the world has to give.

“It is important that Wilhelm Kellar should be well as soon as it is
God’s will to restore him,” said Adolph Schneider. “His sickness is a
stroke of Providence we may not question. Still, it behooveth us to aid
in his speedy recovery. Walda Kellar shall be sent to nurse her father.”

Everett put his hands behind him and turned his back as if he had not
heard. When the Herr Doktor repeated his decision the man of the world
said, in a quiet tone:

“Very well. I shall expect to see the new nurse in the sick-room
to-morrow.”



                                   V


When Everett went to see his patient the next morning he had a new
interest in the case. Mother Kaufmann met him at the door and took him
into the queer room under the eaves where, in his little alcove, lay
Wilhelm Kellar. The room was exquisitely neat. The little, hinged window
at the foot of the sick man’s bed was open, and it let in the fragrance
wafted from the garden.

Everett looked around for Walda, but she was not in the room. He was too
wise to make any inquiry for her. He went to the bedside, and while
Mother Kaufmann leaned upon the foot-board he felt the pulse of the sick
man. Wilhelm Kellar cast a questioning look at the physician.

“You are better,” Everett said, in German. “You will be out in a week or
two if nothing unforeseen happens.”

He stepped out of the alcove to prepare his medicines in the larger
apartment. “Are you the nurse?” he inquired of the woman.

“The Herr Doktor told me to help Walda Kellar, who will come after her
hour of prayer,” Mother Kaufmann replied.

Everett left a few directions, and said he would call again. He returned
at sundown. The school-master was out on the little porch poring over a
yellow-paged book. He let Everett pass him without salutation. The
younger man hastened up the narrow stairs. The sick-room appeared quite
changed when he entered it. Flowers were arranged in a great blue bowl
on the table. In a clumsy-looking cage that hung by the window a
chaffinch fluttered back and forth. Plants bloomed in the bow-window at
which sat Walda Kellar. The girl’s long, slender hands were busy with
her knitting. The folds of her blue gown swept the sanded floor. The
kerchief folded on her breast was not whiter than her neck. One of her
braids fell over her bosom. She did not hear Everett, as she was looking
out upon the western bluffs even while her hands kept the needles
flying. He stepped into the room. Walda rose and, putting her finger on
her lips, said:

“My father sleepeth.” In rising she dropped her ball of yarn. Everett
picked it up, and, slowly winding it, advanced until he was very close
to her. As he put the ball in her hand their fingers touched, but the
prophetess of Zanah appeared unconscious of the contact. Motioning him
to a chair she again took her place at the window. There was a long
silence, during which her knitting-needles flashed back and forth. The
girl showed no embarrassment; indeed, she seemed to have forgotten him.
In Zanah small talk was unknown. Walda Kellar, who was to be inspired of
the Lord, had been taught to speak only when she had something to say.

Everett suddenly found himself dumb. He sat opposite Walda, and was as
uneasy as a school-boy who has not the courage to bestow the red apple
in his pocket upon his pretty neighbor across the aisle. As the minutes
went by he began to feel her presence restful. She sat immovable except
for her untiring hands. Once or twice she raised her calm eyes and
caught the stranger’s gaze resting on her. She appeared not to notice
it, and continued her knitting. At last the silence became unendurable,
and Everett said:

“It will be a great help to me to have you here to nurse your father.”
The girl looked up and did not answer.

“Much depends upon you,” he continued. “It is only with your aid that I
can do my best.”

Walda Kellar again raised her eyes. Then, in her soft, deep voice, she
said:

“The Lord hath sent thee to Zanah. Thou shalt have all my help. Thou
hast already won my gratitude.”

Again a silence fell. Everett leaned back in the splint-bottomed chair
and resolved to make the most of his opportunities of being alone with
the prophetess. Upon his perch the chaffinch looked out through the bars
at the quiet room.

Outside the crimson sky was turning to purple, the fields had become a
tender brown, and the bluffs made a dark line to the west. Everett, who
gazed at the distant hills, compared the surging world to which he
belonged with the peaceful colony of Zanah, the dwelling-place of Walda
Kellar. The contrast between his own life and that of the strange girl
impressed itself upon him. Now and then he brought his glance back from
the far bluffs to look at the fair woman who was oblivious of his
presence.

The chaffinch chirped his drowsy notes, and Walda Kellar, looking up at
the bird, said:

“What disturbeth thee, Piepmatz?”

The bird turned his restless head back and forth, and Everett imagined
that the chaffinch might object to his presence.

“Is that your bird?” he asked, relieved at even the paltriest excuse for
again starting a conversation.

Walda stopped her knitting and, smiling, said:

“Piepmatz is my _liebchen_; he hath a voice as clear as that of a lark.
He can whistle tunes; he knows a bar of the doxology.”

Everett went to the cage and whistled softly. The bird chirped his
silvery note, and, thus encouraged, the man whistled the strain of a
love-song. The bird imitated three notes.

“That is a noble hymn thou art whistling,” said Walda Kellar. “I have
heard that there is wonderful music out there in the world, and that
they play on strange instruments.”

“And have you never heard an organ or a violin?” asked Everett.

Walda Kellar shook her head.

“And is even the piano barred out of Zanah?”

“Zanah permits no musical instrument. Gerson Brandt keepeth yet a flute
that he brought with him from the world, but it is always silent here.”

“Perhaps you will let me sing you the tune you seemed to like?” said
Everett. “Some day when I am not afraid of disturbing your father you
shall hear it all.”

Wilhelm Kellar stirred in his bed; Walda was at his side in a moment.
Everett followed her. Wilhelm Kellar would have spoken, but his tongue
still refused to do his bidding. While he was looking up at his daughter
and the physician, Mother Kaufmann bustled in.

“How comes it that thou art here alone with the stranger?” she asked,
casting an ugly look upon Walda.

“I am here to serve my father,” said the girl, with a sweet dignity.
“Dost thou not know that the Herr Doktor hath assigned me here?”

“He is foolish,” snapped Mother Kaufmann.

“What art thou saying, woman?” asked the school-master, who had just
passed through the doorway. “Walda is in her father’s care and in my
care. It is not thy concern to ask questions.”

The woman scowled and drew her thin lips tightly over her hideous teeth.

“And thou art a second father to Walda, I suppose?” she sneered.

“Yea, and more,” said the school-master.

“Gerson Brandt hath spoken the truth. He is more than father to me in
that he is my teacher and my safe counsellor,” said Walda, stepping back
towards him.

The school-master’s pale face flushed.

“Thou art always my sacred charge for whom I pray,” said Gerson Brandt,
in a soft voice. “For thee and for thy happiness I would do all things
in my power.” There was that in his face which told the man of the world
all emotion had not died in the heart beating beneath the queer coat of
the school-master.

“Ah, and I pray for thee every night when I ask a blessing for my
father,” spoke Walda. “I entreat wisdom and strength for thee.”

Gerson Brandt looked into her eyes and a sudden light illumined his
face.

“Thou needest much of divine aid for thy work with little children,” the
girl added.

“Yea, yea,” the school-master said, as he turned away.

“Yea, yea, didst thou say?” repeated the shrill voice of Mother
Kaufmann. “Just remember that thy conversation should be yea, yea and
nay, nay.”

Ignoring the elder woman, Everett gave a few directions to Walda. Then
he passed out into the darkening evening.



                                   VI


There was labor for all in Zanah. Early in the morning the villagers
took their hasty breakfasts in the kitchens and then went out to work in
the mills and fields. The children over six years of age were gathered
into the school-houses, the boys being accorded more privileges in the
way of learning than the girls, who were not permitted to enjoy the
instructions of Gerson Brandt. The future “mothers” of the colony were
kept many hours in a rambling building, where they were taught all the
domestic arts, with but now and then a lesson from the books borrowed
from the school-master. In the very centre of the village stood the
_kinderhaus_, where the babes of the colony were tended during the
working-hours of their mothers. A wide porch surrounded the _kinderhaus_
on four sides, and a tangled garden of bloom divided it from the street.
In a vine-covered arbor, set among the flowers, Walda Kellar was
accustomed to spend her hours of meditation during her last month before
the _Untersuchung_. It was not long before Everett discovered this fact;
and when Mother Kaufmann relieved the girl in the sick-room he often
made excuse to speak to her as she went through the little wicket gate.
Outside the sick-room, however, she was always the prophetess of Zanah,
aloof in manner and difficult to reach by word.

One day as he wandered down the street, after having assured himself
that Walda was poring over a book in the little arbor, he happened to
meet Adolph Schneider. Since the day when the stranger had shown a
willingness to pay a generous price for any book he might wish to buy
from the colony, the Herr Doktor had treated him with a perceptible
deference. Adolph Schneider stopped now, and, leaning on his cane, said:

“If thou hast a mind to buy that Bible shown thee by Gerson Brandt, the
people of Zanah are willing to sell it to thee. Many times have I meant
to speak to thee concerning the barter, but thou knowest that the
sickness of Wilhelm Kellar hath interfered with all the business of the
colony.”

Everett waited half a moment before he replied. He read in the face of
the Herr Doktor craftiness and greed, and he knew he must use tact if he
would spare Gerson Brandt the pang of parting with his precious book.

“The Bible is not what I want,” he said. “Some smaller book will do as
well for me.”

Adolph Schneider was too shrewd to be easily put off.

“We have found that there is no writing for sale in Zanah. Of all our
books there is none that we can part with except the Bible. Zanah is
loath to part with that, but the colony hath need of money.”

Again Everett said that he did not wish to make the purchase.

Adolph Schneider was not to be balked. “I will send to the school-master
for the book,” he said, “and thou shalt examine it at thy leisure. I
will have it taken to the inn.”

Everett walked away towards one of the large vineyards, which was
situated on a sunny slope of a hill just beyond the village. Here men
and women were silently picking the early grapes. Elders and village
mothers kept strict watch of the younger members of the colony. No one
appeared to take any notice of the stranger, and he went over to a place
where a pile of stones offered him a seat. It was a glorious summer day
with a premature promise of the autumn in its golden haziness. Along the
edges of the fences stalks of golden-rod here and there stood out among
the tall grasses. The fields stretched away in patches of brown and
green and yellow. He felt sure that there was no more tranquil spot in
all the earth. As the quiet colonists worked among the vines, Everett
asked himself if they were really reconciled to the barrenness of their
lives. The world, with its delights, its pains, its passions, was barred
out, but he wondered whether the men and women found it possible to
close their hearts to all human emotion. With heads bowed low the women
kept their faithful hands busy, each doing the work allotted to her.
Apparently the chagrins of coquetry, the pangs of aspiration, the
restlessness of unfulfilled ambition did not touch them; yet, now and
then, he caught the girls casting sly glances at the youths who labored
near them.

When the afternoon had advanced until the long shadows began to fall
upon the fields, Mother Werther appeared, carrying two steaming tin
pails fastened to a bar that she balanced deftly. Her appearance was the
signal for every one to stop work. She put the pails down in an open
space, and, smiling kindly on men and maids alike, said:

“Every man and woman here will be glad of a cup of coffee, I am sure,
and this to-day is stronger than any I have boiled for many a week. It
is from the Herr Doktor’s own bag.”

There was a merry twinkle in her eye, and Everett was sure he saw her
wink at one of the village “mothers” who leaned against a near post that
supported a well-stripped vine.

“Didst thou steal from Brother Schneider’s store?” inquired a fat old
man who was leisurely sorting the great bunches of grapes. “Fie, fie,
Sister Werther! I thought thou couldst be trusted, even though thou art
still in the lowest grade of Zanah’s colonists.”

Several of the older women laughed, and Mother Werther made haste to
reply:

“It was right that I should take the coffee, since my stock was gone.
Surely it should not be better than that we all drink, for here in Zanah
no one is entitled to more than another.”

One or two of the men sneered perceptibly.

“Hasten to serve us,” urged an impatient girl.

“There are no cups,” said Joseph Hoff, who had drawn near to where
Frieda Bergen stood.

“Ach! Where is that boy Hans Peter?” asked Mother Werther. “He was to
follow in my very footsteps.” She looked back across the field, and in
the distance the form of the simple one appeared. On his head Hans Peter
carried an immense basket. He walked slowly in his usual listless way,
and appeared unmindful of the numerous urgent calls to him. When he
finally reached Mother Werther he put the basket, which was heaped high
with tin cups, down upon the ground, and stood staring vacantly ahead of
him.

“Thou art tardy, foolish one,” said a man who scowled down upon the boy
and took the topmost cup, which he dipped into one of the buckets of
coffee. Hans Peter made no reply.

“Where is Gerson Brandt?” asked the overseer, who had been too closely
engaged in examining some of the vines to pay attention to anything that
was going on around him. “I need his advice, and he and all his troop of
boys should have been here a quarter-hour ago.”

“The Herr Doktor hath kept him in the school-house. They are speaking
together,” explained the village fool.

“Go tell him that the work cannot go on until he comes,” said the
overseer.

Hans Peter turned and went back with lagging steps. The vineyard workers
paid little attention to him, however, for they were all intent upon
helping themselves to Mother Werther’s clear coffee. Joseph Hoff dipped
a cup into one of the buckets. Calling to Everett, he said:

“Wilt thou not join the men of Zanah in drinking good luck to the
wine-presses?”

Everett rose from his seat to take the proffered cup. He saw that Joseph
Hoff managed to pass by where Frieda Bergen sat upon the ground. They
spoke a word to each other, but no one noticed them. Under the cheering
influence of the coffee, more talking was permitted than the stranger in
Zanah had heard at any other time since he came to the colony. Now and
then the elder men and women exchanged a word. The young girls laughed
in low tones, and there was even something like playfulness among the
youths, some of whom wrestled, and some of whom cuffed one another in
rough play.

“The quarter-hour is past,” said the overseer, and all the cups were
thrown upon the ground in a pile, while men and women, youths and
maidens, turned again to their work. Everett had half a mind to ask for
a knife with which to cut the great clusters of heavy fruit from the
vines. He felt that he would know how to do it quite as expertly as the
men whom he watched; but while he was hesitating about taking upon
himself anything that was like real work his attention was attracted by
the appearance of Hans Peter, accompanied by the school-master, who was
followed by his pupils. As the school-master came near, Everett saw that
he had a troubled look.

“What hath detained thee, Brother Brandt?” inquired the overseer, who
was superintending the loading of the grapes upon heavy wagons.

“I had mislaid a book,” the school-master said, simply. “I spent half an
hour searching for it.”

“Thou wert ever absent in thy mind,” said Mother Werther, with a laugh.
“Thou wilt find it in some odd place where it ought not to be.”

“I was sure I put it safely in my chest of drawers,” said the
school-master. “I recall the very day on which I laid it in the topmost
place.”

“Now recall the day thou didst take it from the drawer,” said the
overseer.

“Nay, I know it hath lain there undisturbed by my hand,” said Gerson
Brandt.

“Was it a book of much worth?” inquired Mother Werther.

“Yea, one most precious to me—the Bible that I have been illuminating
these many months.”

“The Bible that the stranger coveted?” inquired the overseer, pointing
towards Everett, who stood by, listening to the conversation.

The school-master nodded.

It was not five minutes before every one working in the vineyard knew
that Gerson Brandt had lost his Bible, and there were some, Everett
noticed, among both men and women, who muttered to one another as if
they accused the school-master of some sinister design concerning the
book the colony claimed. Everett walked up and down among the rows of
vines, until he noticed that Adolph Schneider had come to the place
where Gerson Brandt had busied himself. He could see that the Herr
Doktor spoke emphatically and waved his cane, and that the school-master
replied with quiet dignity.

“The Bible that thou wouldst buy hath disappeared in a strange manner,”
said Adolph Schneider, addressing Everett. “It will be found in the
space of a day or two, for we have no thieves in Zanah. The overseer and
I both believe Brother Brandt hath forgotten where he put it, and that
he will find it when he maketh a more thorough search.”

There was something like insinuation in his tone, and Gerson Brandt’s
face flushed.

“The book hath been taken from my room,” he said. “It is where I cannot
find it.”

“Thou speakest as if thou wert brother to the simple one,” said Herr
Schneider.

“I speak the truth,” said Gerson Brandt.

“Yea, he telleth the truth,” declared Hans Peter, pulling himself up on
his knees and looking at the Herr Doktor.

“The truth! What dost thou know about it—thou of little mind and less
judgment?” said Adolph Schneider.

“I may know much, and I may know little,” said Hans Peter, swaying
himself back and forth on his knees.

“Surely thou hast not taken my Bible?” said the school-master, with a
look of mingled hope and fear on his face.

“Nay, I have not said that I took it,” replied the fool.

“Yet thou hast knowledge of it, Hans Peter?” asked Gerson Brandt, his
eyes scanning the dull face of the simple one.

“It is said I have knowledge of naught,” said Hans Peter, who rose to
his feet and, folding his arms across his ragged, blue blouse,
confronted the school-master and the Herr Doktor with fearless eyes.

“Why bandy words with a fool?” said the overseer. “There is much to be
done.”

The men and women of Zanah returned to their tasks. Some of the men
piled the grapes into large tubs, which were lifted on wagons drawn by
fat, sleek horses. The women, scattered among the vines, industriously
cut off the bunches of luscious fruit, and the boys who had accompanied
Gerson Brandt into the vineyard were sent back and forth, bearing pails
and baskets on their heads. Mother Werther gave Hans Peter the tin cups
to carry back to the village, and he went away unnoticed except by
Everett, who had the feeling that the simple one might be able to tell
what had become of Gerson Brandt’s treasured volume.

The close of the summer day began to be noticed. The sun sank behind the
bluffs. Everett idly watched the workers in the vineyard prepare to go
home. The women were first to leave their tasks, and, with Mother
Werther at the head of the procession, they walked two and two towards
the road. As they walked they sang a dismal strain. The wagons creaked
as the wheels sank deeply into the soil, and marching beside them went
the men, carrying upon their shoulders scythes and rakes, which they had
used in an adjoining hay-field. The vineyard toilers wound down the
hill-side. All had apparently forgotten Everett, who had found a place
where he could lie upon the ground with his head pillowed upon a smooth
rock. The peace and quiet of the evening soothed him, and again, for the
hundredth time in the day, he thought of Walda Kellar. As if his
thoughts were suggested by her proximity, he saw, coming from the
hay-field, the prophetess of Zanah. She was leading a little child by
the hand, and behind her silently followed several of the “mothers” of
the colony. The women carried upon their heads great bundles of hay,
while back of them moved the harvest wagons, piled high with heavy loads
taken from the great stacks that dotted the broad fields. Walda appeared
not to notice the stranger, who lay quietly watching her. She was
talking in a low, soothing tone to the child, which apparently had been
crying for its mother. When Walda was within a few feet of him, Everett
quickly rose, but he hesitated to address her. With uncovered head, he
waited until she might see him. When she was very near him she raised
her eyes and started, as if surprised to find the stranger in the
vineyard. She would have passed on, but he detained her by seizing upon
the pretext that she must be interested in hearing about her father,
whom he had seen after she left the sick-room. He said:

“Miss Kellar, your father is fast regaining strength. To-day I find that
he will soon be able to leave his bed.”

The girl stopped, and, looking at him, answered:

“Thou hast my prayers and my thanks, thou stranger in Zanah.”

“If I have done anything to deserve your thanks, I am grateful, Miss
Kellar.”

The women had stopped at a little distance from them, and he could see
that they were muttering something among themselves. Presently one of
them spoke:

“Sir, thou art addressing the prophetess of Zanah with the vain title
used in the world outside. If thou must speak to her, thou shouldst call
her Walda Kellar.”

Everett was embarrassed. He stood gazing at the girl, who smiled upon
him quite naturally.

“Yea, thou shouldst call me Walda,” she said. “Thou knowest that in the
Bible the men and women addressed one another by their simple names.”

“Then, if I am to follow the custom of Zanah, you must call me not
stranger, but Stephen,” he said. And she answered:

“Yea, Stephen, already thou seemest scarcely a stranger.”

He felt a sudden quickening of the pulses when the girl spoke to him by
his given name, so seldom used, for he was little burdened by kinsmen
and the intimacies of ordinary companionship. Stephen Everett had always
been a man who forbade those with whom he came in contact to take
liberties with him, yet he had the quiet friendliness that kept for him
the constancy and devotion of all who knew him. His name, spoken by the
prophetess of Zanah, had, however, a sound that suddenly glorified it.
As he stood there he could think of nothing to say, and she passed on,
leaving him to look after her, and to feel in a new and peculiar manner
that the world had changed for him. He saw that she walked with a firm
step and a light freedom of movement that gave her a rare grace. She
moved slowly, so that the little child could keep pace with her, and he
was grateful for the chance duty that gave him a longer glimpse of her.
She passed through the wooden gate which cut off the vineyard. Presently
he saw her disappear among the trees at the end of the village street,
and a sense of loneliness swept over him. He who had always been glad of
the opportunity to enjoy his own society felt something of the
homesickness of the soul.



                                  VII


Gerson Brandt sat alone in his school-room. His elbows were propped on
the worn lid of his black, oaken desk, and his chin was supported in the
palms of his hands. His face had a worried look. The lines about his
mouth had deepened within the last few days, and his heavy brows were
drawn together. He was wondering what could have happened to the
precious Bible. Now that he had become accustomed to the changes brought
about in the routine of his daily life by the illness of Wilhelm Kellar,
he sorely missed the pleasant task of each day making a letter or two
upon the pages of the Sacred Word. It had been his joy and his
recreation, after the long school sessions, to turn to his pens and his
colored inks. Line by line he had wrought the delicate traceries with
many a thought of Walda and many a prayer for her well-being. He had
dwelt so long in the faith that inspired Zanah that he had felt in the
hope of her inspiration a peculiar satisfaction and contentment. He was
a poet and a dreamer, so he found it not hard to believe that this girl
of Zanah would be given a special power not vouchsafed to many souls
that come into the great domain of sin.

It was a week since the loss of the Bible had been discovered. It was
apparent to him, whose nature was sensitive to every suggestion, that
the people of Zanah for some reason distrusted him, and imputed blame to
him because of the mysterious disappearance of the volume that might
have brought the colony the price of many rolls of flannel and many
bottles of wine. The Herr Doktor that very day had been to see him about
devising some means by which more effective search could be made for the
Bible. Notwithstanding Wilhelm Kellar’s illness, the room up-stairs had
been thoroughly searched. With Schneider standing by, he had been
obliged to submit to the humiliation of unlocking each drawer and
turning out upon the floor all his few personal possessions. From his
bed in the alcove Wilhelm Kellar had anxiously watched every movement,
and had shown keen disappointment when the big volume could not be
found. Mother Werther had been present, and had scrutinized each article
as it was put back in its accustomed place in the old-fashioned chest of
drawers. One thing alone she failed to examine, and that was his old
leather portfolio, much worn with long years of constant use. In this
portfolio was concealed his one forbidden possession—the sketch of Walda
made years before, when she was scarcely more than a child. Zanah
permitted not the image of anything on earth to be kept by a faithful
colonist; but he had treasured this, made in a moment of weakness and
loneliness. He had eased his conscience with the thought that he had
drawn not the woman of the future, but the prophetess who would some day
guide his people.

Adolph Schneider had gone on his way but a few moments before. The
school-master still felt the sting of his last words—an injunction to
find the Bible within the next fortnight. Gerson Brandt had spent all
his unemployed waking moments in trying to account for the disappearance
of the big book. He felt sure that there was no boy in the village
mischievous enough to steal it, and no outsider except Everett had been
within the boundaries of Zanah for many a week. Instinctively he knew
that the colonists were judging him unkindly, for even in Zanah
jealousies and rivalries were not unknown. In all his years of colony
life he had escaped criticism, because he had been the one elder
untouched by personal ambition. His gentleness and sweetness of nature
had made even the most selfish and disagreeable person his friend, for
no one in all Zanah had performed the friendly services that belonged to
the record made by the school-master of the colony.

Presently he turned his face towards the window and looked out upon the
summer landscape. The day seemed strangely silent. The late summer
already presaged the coming autumn. The birds had long ceased their
singing. There was not even the hum of a lazy insect. A sense of
loneliness crept over this man, accustomed to the peculiar isolation of
life in Zanah. He half realized that the loss of the Bible meant to him,
in a certain sense, a cutting off of a daily association of thought that
bound him to Walda. His mind had hardly turned towards the girl before
he heard her light footstep as she crossed the threshold. When he saw
her framed in the doorway that opened out on the little porch, he felt
foolishly glad, but although he rose to his feet he did not advance to
meet her.

“Ah, Gerson Brandt, something is troubling thee,” said Walda. “For fully
two minutes I have been watching thee from the porch. What is in thy
mind to rob thee thus of peace?”

“Nay, Walda, my peace is not gone, I trust,” said the school-master; but
he paused, as if the assertion made him cognizant that he might not be
speaking the whole truth. “I have been thinking much about the loss of
my Bible.”

“Yea, that is very strange,” said Walda, standing before his desk, and
looking up into his eyes with an inquiring glance. “I cannot understand
what could befall it.”

“If it cannot be found, my honor is touched,” said Gerson Brandt, and
there was something like a quiver on his sensitive lips. “There are
those in Zanah who will count it against me, because I put overmuch work
upon the book and grew to hold it as my best possession.”

“Nay, nay, Gerson Brandt, the people love thee, and they will remember
the injunction that they must not judge one another.”

Gerson Brandt stepped from the high platform. Motioning towards a bench
in front of the window, he said:

“Sit here near me, Walda; I would speak to thee now alone, since there
may not come another chance before thy day of inspiration.”

The girl took her place on the bench and Gerson Brandt stood before her.
For a moment he was silent. With hands folded across his spare chest,
and with his head bent, he gazed down upon the beautiful girl. He
noticed a change in her face. It had lost something of the childishness
of its expression. It had a graver look. The eyes bespoke a seriousness
he thought foretold the coming spiritual inspiration for which the
colony had waited so many years.

“It is well, Walda, that thou hast reached this time in thy life without
being touched by worldly emotions. Zanah hath watched over thee with a
care that hath kept thee pure for thy consecration to the Lord’s work.”

“To Zanah I owe all my service,” said Walda. “I trust that great things
may be revealed through me.”

She spoke as if she thought of herself from an objective point of view.

“This is an age when men should walk near God. There are strange things
going on in the great world, and every year Zanah’s safety is
jeopardized. Untoward manners and customs are already becoming known
among the young people. There is in my heart much gratitude that thou
hast escaped the temptations to fathom earthly love.”

“Gerson Brandt, is love the greatest of all the sins?” asked Walda,
looking up into the face of the school-master, who bestowed upon her a
look searching and withal tender.

“It is not given to me to judge what is the greatest sin a woman can
commit,” Gerson Brandt answered, slowly. “I have heard that love
bringeth pain and sorrow and disappointment.”

“Yet there are many who do not seem afraid to risk sorrow for love.
Truly there must be some compensation for it,” said Walda.

“There is, there is,” replied the school-master. “At first it
intoxicates; it bringeth fair dreams, high hopes, and a courage strong
enough to face all the ills that earth can bring to men and women.”

“Surely thou speakest with authority, Gerson Brandt.” As Walda spoke
there was a little smile upon her lips. “I might almost think that thou
hadst known the joy and pain of loving.”

“In books I have read of the love of men and women. There is one named
Shakespeare, who long ago wrote much of the history of the human heart.”

“In the Bible are many stories of the love of men and women,” said
Walda, “and sometimes I have wondered why, in this late day, it should
have become so wrong a thing to find on earth a dear companionship.”

Gerson Brandt turned away and walked across the room. When he came back
he spoke in a steady voice.

“When the soul findeth on earth peace and happiness, it is easy to
forget there is a heaven that lasts through eternity, and that these
little years shall be swallowed up in the vast expanse of time. It were
better to deny one’s self joy here in order to be sure of happiness
hereafter.”

“But even to me earth often seems so near and dear, and heaven so far
off, that now and then I can understand why the soul should reach out
towards some one who could share all the little every-day happinesses
and troubles,” said Walda.

“It hath been given to man always to be lonely in the world,” answered
Gerson Brandt. “Each soul must travel like a stray pilgrim who can only
greet other wayfarers and pass on.”

“Nay, Gerson Brandt, we need not be lonely here. In Zanah all are
friends and brothers. So long as thou livest I can never feel that I am
a solitary traveller.”

A crimson flush swept over the face of the school-master, and when the
wave receded he was deathly pale.

“All these years my care hath been over thee, Walda. My prayers have
been for thee; my hopes have been set on thee. When thou hast become,
indeed, the prophetess of Zanah, I shall know that thou art safe
forever. Then shall I find peace indeed.”

“Safe, Gerson Brandt! What dost thou mean? Safe from what? I cannot be
safer than I am now.”

Gerson Brandt made no reply. He walked to the window and looked out upon
the little garden.

Walda was lost in thought for a moment or two. Presently she said:

“Oh, Gerson Brandt, I know that I am like unto Eve, for when thou and
the elders warn me so much about love there comes to me the desire to
understand it.”

“None can understand love, Walda. It is revealed to every man and every
woman in a different form. It is the all-compassing emotion that moveth
the world.”

Walda rose to her feet. Stepping close to the school-master, she said:

“Why, Gerson Brandt, there is that in thy voice that maketh me feel thou
dost know much concerning love, which thou sayest is sinful and
unworthy. Hast thou been tempted?”

“Mayhap I have. Here in Zanah we who keep the precepts of the colony
close to our hearts are safe indeed. By much praying and constant
vigilance we can escape all danger.”

“Surely earthly love could never touch thee or me, and why shouldst we
waste time talking about the pitfalls that will never come in the way of
our footsteps as we traverse the quiet paths of Zanah?”

“It is well to remember, Walda, that even in Zanah, our Garden of Eden,
there is a tree of knowledge; but so long as we taste not the forbidden
fruit we need have no fears.”

“Fears? My heart is so lifted up in these days there falleth upon me not
the smallest shadow of the smallest fear to disturb me. I am full of
gratitude and humility in the knowledge that I have been chosen to be
the prophetess of Zanah, and each day there comes to me a broader faith
and a surer conviction concerning the things revealed to us through the
Great Book.”

Gerson Brandt was again silent for a long time. Once he took a step
towards the girl, who was still standing before the bench from which she
had risen. He hesitated a moment. Then he said, slowly:

“Walda, when thou art given the tongue of the Spirit, thou wilt be
separated from all Zanah. Thou wilt then live close to thy Creator, and,
even though I am an elder, I shall be denied the privilege of speaking
to thee. Lest there be no opportunity to talk again to thee alone, I
will tell thee now that always my thoughts will dwell close to thee. In
my heart the memory of the little girl that I have known so many years
will remain forever.”

The tremor in his voice and the solemnity of his manner cast a feeling
of awe upon Walda. Moved by an irresistible impulse, she dropped on her
knees at his feet.

“Give me thy blessing, Gerson Brandt,” she said; and the man held his
hands high above her bent head as he said, simply:

“God bless thee and keep thee, Walda Kellar.”

The girl rose and slowly passed out of the door.

Gerson Brandt went back to his desk. Again he put his elbows on the worn
lid. Again he rested his chin in his hands. He sat thus for half an
hour. Hans Peter, coming in on tiptoe, walked up a side aisle without
being noticed. He climbed upon the stool, and the school-master roused
himself to ask:

“Dost thou want me?”

“Thou wast thinking about thy lost Bible,” said the simple one, ignoring
the question. “Thou hast no cause to borrow trouble.”

“What dost thou know about it?” demanded the school-master.

“I know that it is where the Herr Doktor seems not to be able to find
it,” said the simple one, twirling his thumbs. “I know that it is lost.
I know thou canst not find it.”

“Hush, hush, Hans Peter. The Bible is not a subject by which thou canst
display thy talent for speaking foolish words.”



                                  VIII


It was the beginning of spinning-time in Zanah. The grape crop had been
gathered, the bare fields had been raked, and nothing remained to be
done outside that could not be accomplished by the men and boys.
Therefore the women of the colony were assigned the task of making the
linen used in the households at Zanah. Although the very latest
machinery had been installed in the mills, it was still the custom among
the women to spin the colony sheets and table napery. The large
dining-room in the inn had been cleared, and twenty wheels had been
distributed here and there for the use of the favored “mothers”
privileged to enjoy what was really an annual week of gossip. Gathered
in the great dining-room were Mother Schneider, Mother Kaufmann, Mother
Werther, and their nearest cronies. It was a bright afternoon, and the
sun came in through the vine-covered windows. The door on the wide porch
was open, and near it, in the choicest place in the room, sat Mother
Schneider busy at her wheel. She paused to put back one of the strings
of her black cap and asked:

“What say they up at the school-house concerning the lost Bible, Sister
Kaufmann?”

“They speak naught of it,” replied the sour-visaged woman, as she broke
her thread. “Many times have I tried to make Brother Brandt tell me what
he really thinks, but thou knowest he hath a way of holding his tongue.”

“Walda Kellar hath made a good nurse,” said Mother Werther, who was busy
sorting the flax. “Anything that she undertaketh she doeth well.”

“She hath too much freedom in that sick-room,” declared Mother
Schneider.

“Yea, she hath,” agreed Mother Kaufmann. “There are many hours that I
cannot be there to watch her.”

“Thou forgettest that Walda Kellar needeth not watching as do other
girls. She who hath been chosen to speak for the Lord surely can be
trusted. And then thou knowest she is with her own father.”

Mother Werther cast an indignant glance at the wife of the Herr Doktor,
who had started the conversation.

“I trust not that physician from the outside world,” said Mother
Kaufmann. “He hath queer ways that are not like those of the men of
Zanah.”

“He is always most kind and thoughtful; he treats women with much
reverence,” said Mother Werther. “I know him best of all persons in
Zanah, for doth he not stay here at the _gasthaus_?”

“Since when didst thou become a good judge of men?” asked Mother
Kaufmann, with a taunting laugh that showed her ugly tusks. “The wife
who after fifteen years hath not discovered the faults of her husband is
not fitted to pass judgment on any man. I do not like that Stephen
Everett.”

“He is helping Wilhelm Kellar to regain his health,” said a meek,
middle-aged woman who sat in a far corner.

“It is a fortnight since Brother Kellar was taken ill, and he is still
in bed,” said Mother Kaufmann.

“Thou forgettest that Brother Kellar hath been nigh unto death,” said
Mother Werther.

“That doctor from the world is a handsome man,” remarked Gretchen
Schneider, who had come in and taken her seat near her mother.

“Tut, tut; I am ashamed of thee,” said Mother Schneider, in a tone of
reproof. “Thou forgettest that the maidens of Zanah must not look upon
men, and must not care whether they be handsome or hideous.”

“Dost thou find him more comely than Karl Weisel, our respected elder?”
inquired Mother Werther; and, despite the scowl of the wife of the Herr
Doktor, smothered laughs were heard from various parts of the room.
Gretchen Schneider’s pale face flushed. Before she could reply her
mother retorted:

“Thy words are unseemly, Sister Werther. I bid thee keep silence.”

“I have the right of free speech,” the innkeeper’s wife answered; “and
there is none in Zanah who doth not know there would have been a wedding
long ago if the head of the thirteen elders had not loved his place of
authority better than the daughter of the Herr Doktor.”

In a moment Mother Schneider flew into a rage, quite inconsistent with
the religious principles of Zanah.

“Hold thou thy clattering tongue,” she commanded; and for the space of
two minutes not a word was spoken in the room. The whirring of the busy
wheels alone disturbed the quiet.

The entrance of Frieda Bergen fortunately relieved the situation of its
tensity. The girl came into the room bearing on her head a bundle of
flax, which she deposited before Mother Werther.

“This I brought from the station, whither I went with Mother Schmidt,”
she said.

“Thou shouldst not have been allowed to go to the railroad,” said Mother
Kaufmann. “But what didst thou see there?”

“A train came by while I stood on the platform. I looked through one of
the windows and saw silken-cushioned seats, and mirrors that showed
gayly dressed men and women. There was also a car in which were
dining-tables. Black men waited on women, who laughed and talked with
men. Some of the women wore on their fingers jewels that looked like
sparkling glass.”

The wheels had all stopped. Every “mother” in the room was listening.

“The sparkling glass that thou sawest was what is called a diamond,”
said Gretchen Schneider. “Jewels are worn by those who have vanity in
their souls.”

“Truly, the rings were very beautiful,” said Frieda Bergen.

“Thou wert ever a foolish maid,” said Mother Schneider, in a tone of
severe reproof. “Put out of thy thoughts what thou hast seen to-day. I
shall have the Herr Doktor forbid thee from going to the station.”

“Nay, Sister Schneider, scold not Frieda. She hath done no harm,” said
Mother Werther. “It should not hurt her to get a glimpse of the vanities
of the world, for she is well grounded in the faith of Zanah. She
knoweth that the costly gauds are but the playthings of sin-ridden
women.”

Standing in the middle of the room, Frieda Bergen shook her head
doubtfully.

“Truly, those worldly ones appeared happy,” she said. “There were some
that read books and leaned back on velvet cushions. They looked as if
they never worked. Some of the women were beautiful. They wore no caps
upon their hair. Their frocks were not all alike, as they are here in
Zanah.”

“See, the daughter of Zanah is touched by the temptations of the world,”
said Mother Schneider. “We have heard enough. Begin thy work, Frieda
Bergen.”

“If what I hear is true, the elders should discipline Frieda,” said
Mother Kaufmann, with a sneer. “It hath come to my ears that she hath
often spoken with Joseph Hoff.”

Frieda Bergen bent her head over her work. A telltale blush overspread
her delicate skin, and her hand trembled as she took up her distaff.

“Frieda Bergen hath the right to love Joseph Hoff if she chooseth,” said
Mother Werther, rising from her chair and walking the length of the room
to the place where the girl sat. “Love may be a foolish thing in the
eyes of Zanah, but it bringeth its reward.”

“Thou art teaching heresy, Sister Werther,” said Mother Schneider. “If
the elders knew of thy heterodoxy thou wouldst have to do penance
through some hard task.”

Mother Werther smiled in a tantalizing way. She drew in a long breath as
she were about to retort, and then, thinking better of it, went back to
her work.

“If Frieda is wise she will follow the example of some of us who have
served God faithfully all unmindful of man,” said Mother Kaufmann. Her
remark was too much for Mother Werther. Dropping her flax, the
innkeeper’s wife put her hands upon her hips and laughed.

“And hast thou always been unmindful of Gerson Brandt?” she inquired.

“Mother, thou shouldst put an end to this unseemly talk,” said Gretchen
Schneider.

“Yea, thou hast something to fear lest it be remembered how narrowly
_thou_ hast escaped love,” said Mother Werther.

“Stop thine unruly tongue,” admonished Mother Schneider.

“Thou forgettest that in Zanah all men and women are equal,” said Mother
Werther. “Thy husband, the Herr Doktor, is enjoying but a brief
authority. Thou art not greater than any other woman in the colony.”

Mother Schneider gasped in anger, but before she could reply a shadow
was cast upon the floor and Walda Kellar entered. Her sweet face wore an
untroubled look. She smiled upon all the women gathered in the room.

“Something brought me here among you,” she said. “I have but just come
from my father’s sick-room, and as I walked long, thinking of the coming
_Untersuchung_, I felt that I wanted once more to spin with the women of
Zanah.”

“Thou bringest peace with thee,” said Mother Werther.

Frieda Bergen rose from her little, low-backed chair, and Walda Kellar
seated herself before the girl’s wheel.

Silence fell upon the room. The girl’s presence commanded reverence. In
her eyes was a peculiar light, and her face was radiant. Slowly she
began to turn her wheel.

“It is very good to be here,” she said, presently. “If the Lord giveth
me the tongue of inspiration there will be other tasks for me, and now
and then, when I am not quite so strong in the faith as I ought to be, I
wonder whether I shall not sometimes be an unworthy instrument of the
Lord, because the little things of life, it seemeth, will always have a
charm for me. While the great, leather-bound books of Zanah have much to
teach me, there are days when my inclinations draw me towards the labors
which belong to the women of the colony.”

No one answered. For a few moments the wheels whirred again, and not a
word disturbed the pleasant hum of industry. Presently Walda’s voice
rose in a minor hymn. The deep, rich cadences swelled above the sound of
the wheels. It was a weird, plaintive tune to which she sang German
words which breathed a prayer for light upon the way that led through
the sin-encompassed world. She paused after the first verse. Appearing
to forget her work, she clasped her hands in her lap and sang again with
such sweetness and such pathos that Mother Werther wiped her eyes. The
singing had brought some one to the porch outside, but Walda appeared
not to hear the footstep. She sang on and on, and when the last verse
died upon her lips she sat very still, as if her soul had gone out with
the strange melody.

Everett, who had come to the window, looking through the blinds, beheld
the prophetess. For the moment the woman was lost, and he felt an
overwhelming sense of her aloofness from him. There came to him a full
realization of the gulf between him and this woman of Zanah, who
belonged so little to the world and so much to heaven. For several
minutes he stood fascinated as he gazed upon her, but, summoning all his
will-power, he turned away lest he should be discovered spying upon the
women of Zanah. As he walked towards the bluffs he met Hans Peter moving
along in a leisurely manner. The witchery of Walda’s song was still upon
him, and he would have passed the simple one without a greeting, but
Hans Peter stepped directly in his path.

“Thou hast made trouble in Zanah,” said the simple one, staring at him
with unblinking eyes and doubling up one fat fist. “The day that thou
goest hence to the wicked world where thou belongest will be a happy
one.”

“You speak with but scant respect for the stranger within your gates,”
said Everett, who was amused by the vehemence of the village fool.

Hans Peter removed his ragged cap. “Thou hast brought sorrow to Gerson
Brandt,” he continued, “for thou wouldst have taken the Bible that he
was making beautiful for Walda Kellar.”

Everett studied the odd little figure before him for a moment. It was
the first time that Hans Peter had betrayed, in manner or countenance,
the least trace of emotion. Even now, as the simple one stood blinking
his eyes, the man of the world could not comprehend his motive in making
the unexpected accusation.

“You seem almost excited, Hans Peter,” said Everett, presently, when the
boy had begun to show that the silence was uncomfortable. “And why are
you concerned about the Bible?”

“The school-master setteth great store on the Sacred Book,” replied the
simple one. “He hath been kind to me, and I like not to see him
troubled.”

“And is not every one kind to you, Hans Peter?”

The simple one thrust his hand into his deep pocket and hung his head.

“The people of Zanah are many times vexed with the fool,” he said. “They
have scant patience with one who believes not as they do. In all the
colony there are only three who seem to forget that Hans Peter is the
village fool.”

“And who are they? Gerson Brandt is one, I know. Who are the others?”

“The prophetess of Zanah and Mother Werther.”

“And do you not believe in the prophetess of Zanah? Have you not faith
that she will be the inspired one?”

“Why do you question the village fool?” asked Hans Peter, suddenly, wary
lest he should tell something that he wished to conceal. “Thou knowest
that to all the colony Walda Kellar is the revered one. Truly, she
walketh near to God.”

“Then perhaps some day she will lead you into the full faith of Zanah?”
said Everett. But the fool shook his head.

“Hans Peter loveth earth, not heaven. He would not be wise as the men of
Zanah are wise, for verily their wisdom bringeth them no joy.”

“Hans Peter, you speak as one who has much knowledge, after all. I am
beginning to think that you are the wisest man in the colony.”

“If there is wisdom in knowing one is a fool and being content in his
own folly, then am I wise. They say that the fool is often given the
power of prophecy; and when I was carving the day of the month upon one
of the gourds I keep to help my memory, there came to me the fear that
something was coming to Zanah through thee. I ran to seek thee that I
might give warning of the trouble thou art bringing to the colony.”

Everett reached into the pocket of his coat, took out a cigar, and
lighted it. “Perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me in just what way
I am to bring more trouble to Zanah,” he said, with a smile. “I had
nothing to do with the loss of the Bible, for I have refused to buy it,
and I give you my word now, Hans Peter, that I will never take it away
from Gerson Brandt.”

“Thy word is not needed now,” answered the fool. “The Bible is where
thou canst not get it.”

“And you know where it is,” said Everett, so quickly that the fool was
taken off his guard.

“And if I do, no one shall find it,” the simple one declared, with a
gesture of his arm and a stamp of his bare foot.

“Don’t you think it would be wise for you to take back the Bible to
Gerson Brandt?” Everett inquired, walking a few steps to his right,
where there was a great tree against which he leaned.

“If the Bible could be found it would not again be put in Gerson
Brandt’s hands. It is better that it should be lost forever than that he
should see it owned by another man.”

“Why is this Bible so precious to the school-master? Can’t you tell me,
Hans Peter? Perhaps I may help you to restore it to him. You see, I
might buy it and give it back to Gerson Brandt.”

“No man in Zanah can own anything. If the Bible should be given to
Gerson Brandt it would still belong to the colony, and it could be sold
again.” The simple one had thrown himself upon the ground, and, with
chin in his hands and elbows dug deeply in the earth, he appeared to be
thinking.

“Tell me about the Bible,” urged Everett, and he waited as impatiently
for the village fool to speak as if some matter of tremendous importance
to him, the man of affairs out in the great world, hung in the balance.
There was something almost absurd in the contrast between the two who
talked there in the summer afternoon. Stephen Everett was a man to be
noticed anywhere. It was not altogether his physical beauty that
invariably commanded attention; he had an unusual charm of personality.

Hans Peter, with his long, straight tow hair tangled upon his big, round
head, kicked his earth-stained feet in the air as he lay at length upon
the ground. His blue cotton shirt, torn down the back, revealed a strip
of white skin, and his baggy trousers were held by the one button which
attached them to a knitted suspender. The pocket in the back of his
trousers bulged with one of the gourds that he carried with him wherever
he went.

“I am waiting for you to tell me about the Bible,” Everett remarked,
when he had smoked half of his cigar.

Hans Peter reached back and removed the gourd from his pocket. Then,
sitting up, he began to examine it carefully.

“It was long ago that it came to Hans Peter one day, as he watched
Gerson Brandt at work with his bright inks, that the school-master’s
thoughts were on Walda Kellar as he made the gay letters in the great
book. Lest the fool might forget, he marked on his gourd some lines to
make him remember. Many times after that he saw that the school-master
was praying for her who would be inspired. Hans Peter knew that the
Bible was for Walda Kellar, and that the school-master meant it for her
to read every day when she should become an instrument of the Lord. That
is why Gerson Brandt loved the Bible. That is why no other man should
have it.”

Everett left his place at the tree, and, pacing back and forth, pondered
for a few moments upon the information that the simple one had given
him.

“Ah, the school-master is a second father to Walda Kellar, I suppose?”
he said, presently, casting a furtive glance at the fool.

“Nay, he hath not years enough to make it right he should love her as a
father,” declared Hans Peter, nodding his head. “The simple one hath
been taught that love is a wicked thing, but there is in Gerson Brandt’s
heart something that may be love, like that with which he worships
angels.”

“Again I tell you, Hans Peter, you are the wisest of all the colonists
in Zanah,” said Everett. “There, go about your errands.”

“But thou wilt promise not to buy the Bible, even if it is ever found?”
said Hans Peter, coming close to Everett and lowering his voice.

“Yes, yes; you have my word for it. I shall not buy it unless it is to
aid Gerson Brandt,” Everett replied. “And, Hans Peter, give me your
hand. I pledge my word.”

The fool hesitatingly put out his fat, work-hardened hand, and Everett
gave it a hearty clasp.



                                   IX


Wilhelm Kellar lay propped up in the four-posted bedstead that stood in
his little alcove. His thin face showed the effect of his illness, and
the hand that played with the flowered coverlet was thin to the point of
translucency. His long, white hair was brushed straight back from his
high forehead; his eyes, which had sunk deep into their sockets,
wandered restlessly.

“Walda, where art thou?” he said, in a thick, indistinct voice. Walda
pushed back the chintz curtains that divided the alcove from the larger
room, and, kneeling beside her father, took one of his hands in hers.

“I have been thinking of the _Untersuchung_, daughter,” said the sick
man, “and I pray that I may be able to be present when the spirit
descends upon thee.”

“Thou wilt be well in another month,” said Walda, soothingly, as she
stroked the white hair. “The physician hath said that thou canst soon
leave thy bed.”

“But the _Untersuchung_ is only two weeks off,” said Wilhelm Kellar. “It
may be that if strength is not vouchsafed me so that I may walk again a
litter can be made for me. I would be carried to the place if I cannot
go there myself.”

“There is some talk that the _Untersuchung_ may be delayed for a month,”
said Walda, “and then thou wilt surely be able to take thy place among
the elders.”

“It would be well, indeed, to postpone the _Untersuchung_, for thou hast
been much distracted from thy meditations by my illness.”

“Nay, nay, father. Strange thoughts have come to me since I have been
sitting here many hours a day in this room. Never hath heaven seemed so
near to me.”

“It is well, indeed, that thou hast never been touched by earthly love,”
said the old man, scanning the face of his daughter. “It was to keep
thee free from it that I brought thee here when thou wast a little
child, for it putteth waywardness and frowardness into the heart of a
woman. Since I have been near to death it hath been shown to me that I
must warn thee again lest thou some time feel its evil influence. Thy
mother forgot all duty. She forfeited her soul for love.”

The old man spoke with intense feeling; he trembled as a long-controlled
emotion swept over him. It was as if he had unlocked the flood-gates of
a passion barred for many years within his heart.

“What dost thou mean, father?” asked Walda, rising to her feet. A
deathly pallor overspread her face, but the habit of repression, taught
so persistently in Zanah, prevented her from showing the terror with
which his words smote her.

“I mean,” said Wilhelm Kellar, drawing a quick breath—“I mean—” But
suddenly his tongue stiffened and refused to frame the words he would
have spoken.

“Thou wilt make thyself more ill,” said Walda. “Think not of the past.”
Taking a pewter cup of water from the table, she moistened his lips. The
old man clinched his fists and closed his eyes. He lay as if he were
dead. The frightened girl ran to the door of the room to summon help.
Stephen Everett was coming up the stairs.

“Oh, hasten to my father!” Walda implored. “I fear greatly for him.”

Everett went to the bedside, felt the old man’s pulse, listened to his
heart, and discovered that his patient had, indeed, some serious
symptoms.

“Has anything happened to disturb your father?” he asked, turning to
Walda, who stood with hands clasped around one of the head-posts of the
bed while she watched him with breathless interest.

“He began to talk to me of the past,” said the girl, with hesitation,
and Everett saw tears in her eyes.

“And he recalled some memory that troubled him?” asked Everett.

“Yea, yea; he would have told me something of my mother,” said the girl,
as she turned to go into the outer room.

Everett administered a soothing-potion, and went out of the alcove to
find that Walda was sitting by the old carven table with her head bowed
upon her hands.

“Do not be alarmed,” he said, “your father will recover from this
temporary relapse.” His voice and manner were so sympathetic that the
girl began to weep.

“Be blind to my weakness, O stranger in Zanah,” she said, presently
lifting her head proudly and biting her trembling lips. “My faith
teacheth me that nothing which belongeth to earth is worth a tear. The
people of Zanah are trained to accept the decrees of God. For an hour I
have been thinking of self. Strength will be given me to put these
rebellious impulses from me.” She went to the window, where the
chaffinch was hanging in his wicker cage.

“Piepmatz, thou hast no foolish tears; thou canst teach me a lesson that
I need; thou art undisturbed by any distrust in thy nature.” Piepmatz,
thrusting his head forward, looked out between the bars of his little
prison. Then he chirped a cheery note. Everett went close to the cage
and whistled to the bird, which paid no attention to him.

“If I can be of service to you, you must command me,” he said to Walda
Kellar. “You must not think of me as the stranger in Zanah. Have I not
earned the right to be called a friend?” He did not look at her as he
spoke lest she might be awakened to the fact that he took more than a
passing interest in her.

“We use not the word friend in Zanah,” said Walda. “Here we are all
brothers and sisters. And what dost thou mean by being a friend?”

Out in the world Everett had the reputation of being ever ready with
words, but when the future prophetess of Zanah looked up at him with
questioning eyes he was abashed.

“I mean,” he began—“I mean that I want you to feel you can trust me even
more than if I were a brother of Zanah,” he replied, rather lamely.

Walda looked puzzled.

“There is none whom I could trust more than the men of Zanah,” she said.
“I have been taught by Adolph Schneider and the elders that there is no
such thing as friendship between men and women. The Bible telleth that
David and Jonathan were friends, but truly I cannot remember that there
were men and women in Holy Writ who called each other by that word thou
wouldst have me give to thee in my thoughts.”

Everett now sought in vain for an argument that he would dare make bold
to use. Suddenly he regretted that he had neglected to study the Bible
since his Sunday-school days had ended. He tried to think of all the
Scripture stories he knew, dimly hoping that somewhere he could recall
one that would be a fit illustration. He felt a disgust with himself
when he discovered how lamentably ignorant he was. If he could only have
commanded a text that would be convincing, he felt that he might be able
to win something more than an impersonal gratitude from the future
prophetess of Zanah, who had almost ignored him during the fortnight
that had passed since he had been serving her father for her sake.

“Out in the world there are many friendships between men and women,” he
declared.

“Then, indeed, must they be sinful,” said Walda, “for I have heard that
there be few who serve the Lord with singleness of purpose out there
beyond the bluffs.”

“Do not condemn the world too severely. Surely you do not think that I
am such a wicked man?” His effort to draw attention to himself failed,
however, for Walda was gazing out upon the bluffs as if she had
forgotten him in thinking of the great world that Zanah barred out.

“Still thou hast not told me the true meaning of a friend,” she said,
presently, and again Everett became aware that somehow he had lost the
gift of speech.

“Perhaps I cannot find words to make the meaning of friendship plain,”
he said, finally, “but I will try to teach you what the word implies.”

“Nay, Stephen Everett, it is not right that thou shouldst teach me
anything, since thou art of the world, to which thou wilt soon return.”

“The world will never be the same to me after I leave Zanah,” said
Everett.

“Hast thine eyes been opened to its wickedness?”

“No. Since I came to the colony I have thought little of the world, but
my eyes have been opened to some things to which they were blind
before—things that do not belong to the every-day world.”

Again he was afraid to let himself look at Walda, and he appeared to be
addressing Piepmatz. Walda did not reply to him. She was thinking again
of the life beyond the bluffs.

“Often have I tried to imagine what life must be outside of Zanah,”
Walda remarked, by-and-by, after a long silence. “Now and then stray
memories come back to me, for thou knowest I was born in the world, and
that I was a little child who brought to the colony recollections of
another existence. It is these memories that compel me oftentimes to
pray that I may be spared temptation which should never assail a woman
of Zanah.”

“Surely no temptation could come to you,” said Everett.

“Thou knowest little of a woman’s heart. The seeds of vanity are here,”
she said, folding her hands upon her breast. “I find pleasure in the
flowers and the pretty things that God hath made.”

“It seems to me a sin for the colonists to deny its members the highest
joys that have been given to men and women,” said Everett. “I have often
wondered whether you had any idea of all that you miss here in Zanah.”

“I miss nothing that is best for my well-being,” said Walda. “Thou
wouldst not plant discontent in my heart, wouldst thou, Stephen
Everett?”

“I would have you enjoy all that is most to be desired in life,” said
Everett; and as he spoke he felt for the hundredth time an overwhelming
impatience with the creed of the colony which denied to the young and
beautiful all that made living worth while.

Walda went to the chest of drawers, and, taking her knitting from a
little basket, sank upon a low chair, from which she could get a glimpse
of her sleeping father. Everett felt that she had dismissed him. He took
up his hat and said:

“You told me I might call you Walda, so I shall say, Good-night, Walda.”

“Good-night,” said the girl.

Everett hesitated.

“Will you not say, ‘Good-night, Stephen’?” he asked.

Walda stopped knitting.

“Why wouldst thou have me say thy name again?” she inquired.

For the twentieth time Everett was embarrassed.

“Because it is the custom of friends to speak one another’s names,” he
explained.

“But we are not friends,” said Walda.

“At least you will repay me for my long stay here in the colony by
speaking my name now and then,” he insisted, hypocritically.

There was the barest shadow of a smile on the lips of the future
prophetess of Zanah. “Good-night, Stephen,” she said; and because he
could find no excuse for lingering longer in the quaint room under the
eaves, he went away.



                                   X


Wilhelm Kellar’s health mended slowly. Some days he felt strong enough
to be lifted out upon the chintz-covered lounge in the large room, but
every attempt to hasten convalescence appeared futile, and after a
morning spent out of bed he always felt a reaction. On one of his best
days he lay on the lounge, which had been pushed into the bay-window.
Above his head hung Piepmatz. When Everett came to make the first call
of the day, the bird was trilling his one bar of the doxology, with long
breaks now and then between the notes. Walda was trimming a plant that
stood on the table near which sat Gerson Brandt. The school-master
watched the future prophetess intently, and at first he did not notice
Everett’s entrance.

“My patient must be better,” said Everett, passing to the window, and
Walda, turning from the table, answered:

“We are happy, indeed, to-day. My father hath already begun to think
about his work in the colony.”

“You must not be too ambitious,” said Everett, drawing a stool to the
foot of the lounge and placing himself where he could study the old
man’s face.

“I have declared a half-holiday that I may celebrate the return of
health to Brother Kellar,” said Gerson Brandt, smiling upon his old
friend, who lay, weak and prostrated, among the pillows. At this point
Piepmatz abandoned the doxology and burst into a flood of song.

“Hush, thou saucy bird,” Walda commanded. She went to the cage and
playfully shook her finger at the chaffinch. “See, he knoweth there is
reason to be glad,” she declared. “Verily he hath much wisdom.”

“Piepmatz is something of a philosopher,” remarked Everett. “He makes
the best of his imprisonment. Like the people of Zanah, he appears to
care little for the great world.”

“He hath taught me many a lesson of submission,” said Walda.

“Still, his tiny heart is easily touched by worldly things,” said the
school-master. “He hath shown a dangerous inclination to take up the
song the stranger hath whistled.”

“Let me see whether you have forgotten the worldly song.” It was Everett
who spoke. Going to the cage he whistled the minor strain of the
love-song. Piepmatz proudly imitated him.

“You see, I might have been a good school-master if fate had not decreed
otherwise,” said Everett, addressing Gerson Brandt.

“What is thy work in the world?” asked Walda. “Since my thoughtless plea
kept thee here I have often wondered about thy daily labors. At first I
thought thou didst tend the sick, but once I heard thee say that thou
hadst not yet begun that labor.”

“So far I have not done any one thing,” Everett confessed, with a
feeling of shame.

“How dost thou spend thy days?” the school-master inquired.

Everett hesitated before answering. In all his life it had never
occurred to him to think how his days were spent.

“Since I left college I have travelled a great deal,” he replied,
evasively.

“And hast thou seen the whole world?” asked Walda. Wonder was written on
her face.

“I have seen much of it.”

Wilhelm Kellar made an inarticulate sound.

“Perhaps it disturbeth Brother Kellar to hear thee speak of the wicked
world which he left long ago,” said Gerson Brandt. “Like thee, he hath
seen it all; he hath wandered over land and sea.”

“Knowing the world, my father hath kept me safe from it.” Walda had
drawn the stool first occupied by Everett close to the head of the
lounge, and, sitting near to the sick man, she clasped one of his hands.

“Thou knowest, dear, that I have put away from me all vain longings to
know aught of life outside of Zanah.”

Wilhelm Kellar closed his eyes with a look of contentment.

“Didst thou mean me to understand that thou art that abomination of the
Lord, an idle and slothful man?” he asked Everett, after a moment of
reflection.

“I confess that I have not done half my duty,” said Everett, humbly;
“but I have spent many years in study; I have dipped into science.”

“Science? Zanah hath naught to do with science,” said Gerson Brandt.
“Science would reveal the mysteries of nature that the Lord hath hidden
from his people.”

“Don’t you think that the man who inquires just how the tiny body of
Piepmatz has had its origin in the egg, how the bones and muscles that
form the wing give him the power of flight, and how his mite of a brain
is made to be the home of at least a fragment of intelligence has a
wider conception of the omnipotence of God than he who knows nothing of
what you call the secrets of nature?” asked Everett.

“I would not place my judgment against the judgment of Zanah,” said
Gerson Brandt. “And yet when I was a boy I learned about the growth of a
flower, and my soul was quickened with a new impulse towards worship.”

“They tell me there is a magic force called electricity that is now
performing what would once have been called miracles,” said Walda.

It seemed incredible to Everett that, notwithstanding all the barriers
placed between Zanah and the outside world, it could be possible so
completely to shut out all that was modern.

“Yes; electricity propels cars; it gives men the power to talk when they
are hundreds of miles apart; it sends words across the continent,
literally, with lightning rapidity. You know the latest achievement of
science is the discovery of the x-ray, by which it is possible to look
through a man’s body so that the bones are visible.”

“How strange it all is!” exclaimed Walda, who was still stroking her
father’s hand.

“The wisdom of the world is so great that no one man can understand more
than the smallest fragment of it,” averred Gerson Brandt.

Walda was lost in thought for another moment or two.

“Thou makest it clear to me that we people of Zanah must seem strange,
indeed, to thee.” She spoke slowly. “According to thy standard, I, who
am thought wise enough to be chosen prophetess of the colony, must be
ignorant and childish. Out in the world they would jeer at me, would
they not?”

“Thou wilt have a wisdom that the world cannot give,” said Gerson
Brandt. “Thou shalt be spared from contact with the mammon of
unrighteousness.”

“Nay, Gerson, it seemeth to me there must be good men in the world.
Stephen Everett, the stranger who hath come to us, belongeth not to
those who are bound to the idols of sin.”

Everett, who had been sitting in one of the splint-bottomed arm-chairs,
was touched by the girl’s artless words. He rose to his feet and
responded quickly:

“According to Zanah’s standard I may not be a good man, but out in the
world I am not singled out as one of the profligates. I hold honor dear.
You people of Zanah may trust me.”

“We have trusted thee,” said Gerson Brandt. “We have prayed much over
thee, and it hath been revealed to us that thou wert sent from the Lord.
We trust thee so much that we have let thee speak to Walda Kellar, who
hath never known any one belonging to the world.”

Gerson Brandt stood up and faced Everett. An intensity in his tone gave
his words strong emphasis. Wilhelm Kellar turned his head on his pillow,
and his sunken eyes stared at Everett as if they would read his
uttermost thoughts. A deep flush overspread Everett’s face, and the
realization swept over him that perhaps he might have it in his power to
disturb all the plans of Zanah by turning Walda Kellar’s thoughts away
from what he regarded as the superstition of the colony. Human nature is
contradictory, and Gerson Brandt’s words presented clearly a temptation
that had but vaguely suggested itself to him. He could appear not to
recognize the insinuation conveyed by the school-master, and therefore
he replied, evasively:

“My intentions are good. It was an unselfish motive that prompted me to
remain in the colony. When Wilhelm Kellar has recovered I shall go away,
and you will all forget that I ever came to Zanah.”

“Nay, we shall not forget thee,” said Walda. “We shall always be
grateful to thee.”

The conversation was interrupted at this point by the appearance of Karl
Weisel. He had scarcely finished his greetings when Mother Kaufmann and
Gretchen Schneider came into the room.

“How is it that the prophetess of Zanah hath time to spend in the
company of men?” asked Mother Kaufmann. “It might be better to pass the
days alone, praying and reading the Bible.”

“How is it that Mother Kaufmann dares to speak thus sharply in the
presence of the woman chosen to guide the colony of Zanah?” retorted
Gerson Brandt.

“I like not this dispensation which permits Walda Kellar to be brought
under the influence of a sinful man of the world.”

Mother Kaufmann spoke in her guttural German. She had advanced close to
Gerson Brandt.

“The colony is not ruled by old women, and thy likes weigh little in
Zanah,” declared Karl Weisel, whose chair had been drawn near to the one
chosen by Gretchen Schneider.

“If Zanah were ruled by old women the head of the thirteen elders would
not be coveting the daughter of the Herr Doktor,” said Mother Kaufmann,
losing all caution in her anger.

Gretchen Schneider’s thin face turned a livid yellow, and Karl Weisel
sprang forward as if he would like to grasp the woman by the throat.

“Peace, children of Zanah,” commanded Walda, rising in majestic
indignation. “Your words are shameful. Put away from you the spirit of
contention.”

Wilhelm Kellar had made an effort to speak, but in the excitement of the
moment his tongue refused to frame the words. Everett, looking at him,
saw that there were beads of perspiration on his brow and that he looked
exhausted.

“Send these people out of the room,” he said to Gerson Brandt. “Wilhelm
Kellar must be kept quiet.” He went to the table, where he began to mix
a soothing draught, while Gerson Brandt dismissed the three visitors.
The school-master preceded them out of the room, leaving Walda and
Everett to soothe the sick man, who showed signs of extreme exhaustion.
When the medicine had been administered, Walda drew together the white
curtains and placed a chintz screen before the window.

“He looketh almost as if death were near,” she whispered to Everett.

“Do not be alarmed,” he replied; “he will soon fall asleep, and when he
awakens he will be as well as he was this morning.”

The girl bent over her father to watch the faint breathing. The old
man’s face was ghastly in its emaciation and pallor.

“Thou wilt not leave me yet?” she said, entreatingly. “Sit here with me
until I am sure he is slumbering peacefully.”

Walda took her place on an old oaken bench above which hung Gerson
Brandt’s book-shelves, and Everett drew one of the chairs close to the
table, near to the place where Walda sat. Instead of taking up her
knitting the girl leaned on the oaken arm of the bench, and with her
chin in her hands she became lost in thought.

“Through thee it hath become plain to me that I am different from the
women out there in the world,” she said, presently. “Sometimes there
hath come over me a great fear lest one day I shall be sorely tempted to
go forth among men and women of the earth. In the days of my rebellion,
when I turned a deaf ear to the calling of the spirit, I dreamed of
going away from Zanah. Since I have known thee I have sometimes
faltered, even as my steps were being led near to the place of peace
which will be revealed to me when the inspiration cometh.” She spoke as
if she were thinking aloud, and Everett made no response, for he dared
not say the words that came to his lips.

“Thou knowest the world,” she continued. “Dost thou think that I could
ever be tempted to forget my duty to the people of Zanah? Shall I be
able always to walk near to God?”

“It is said that there is a supreme temptation for every man and for
every woman,” said Everett, not daring to look at her. “You may be
spared that, or, if it comes to you, you may be strong enough to resist
it.”

“There are strange, earthly impulses in my heart that none but Gerson
Brandt can understand,” she said. “But even he will not let me speak of
them.”

“What are your besetting sins?” Everett asked, gently. “Can’t you
confess them to me? Perhaps I can judge more fairly than any one in
Zanah, because mine must be the broader view.”

Walda cast upon him a look of such trustfulness that his conscience
smote him.

“Stephen, my faith in the devil is not strong. I like not to think of
the power of evil, for truly the world seemeth good to me. When I walk
forth into the fields something in me maketh me to love the beauty of
the sky, the vast stretches of rolling prairie, and the shining water of
the distant lake. The bird-voices seem human to me, and yet the
meadow-lark and the robin, the little creatures that God hath made,
appear not to know of Satan’s rule.”

“Walda, you are not sinning. The Creator of all things is speaking to
you through nature.”

“Dost thou believe that, Stephen?”

“Yes; science teaches that. Have you not been taught that the wood which
burns so brightly on your hearth is giving out the sunshine stored for
years, so that in time man might use it?”

Walda listened with parted lips.

“Ah, that is good,” she said. “Perhaps thou couldst unlock many of the
mysteries that disturb me. Canst thou tell how the grain of wheat
groweth when it is put into the ground? Dost thou know how the egg is
changed into the nestling?”

“Science has probed the secrets of the seed and the egg, and it has
discovered much. If it is permitted, I will send you books when I have
returned to the world.”

“Nay, I am but a child in my ignorance. Canst thou not tell me about the
mysteries when thou comest here to this room?”

“It would be a privilege to teach you,” said Everett. “We might have our
first lesson to-morrow.”

“I have not told thee half my wayward impulses,” Walda declared,
presently. “When strangers have driven to the village I have caught
glimpses of women who wore gay clothes, and I have coveted the gowns of
exquisite color.” She hesitated for a moment, with something like
embarrassment. “And, Stephen,” she added, “I like thy garb better than
that of the men of Zanah. Thou hast a ring on thy finger that I think is
pretty, and when thou takest from thy pocket thy gold watch I have a
curiosity to look at it. This shows how easily I am tempted by earthly
gauds.”

Everett could not repress a little laugh, but seeing how much in earnest
she was, he said, quite solemnly:

“Walda, these are not sins. Your confessions show that you are a woman
with a woman’s impulses. Even a prophetess cannot help being a little
human.”

He took his watch from his pocket and placed it in her lap. Drawing from
his finger a ring of beautifully wrought gold, he put it into her hand.
Walda’s face crimsoned.

“Thou must not persuade me to put it on,” she half pleaded, as she
looked at the ring; and then, as if to prevent herself from succumbing
to temptation, she passed it back to Everett. The watch she examined
carefully. “This will mark the seconds, the moments, and the hours of
all thy life. It should remind one to make good account of his time.”

“It has marked some very pleasant moments since I came to Zanah,” said
Everett, and his tones conveyed to Walda a dim impression that made her
suddenly shy.

Some one knocked twice on the door, lifted the latch, and entered. It
was Hans Peter, who carried in his hand a package of books, letters, and
papers.

“These have I brought from the post-office,” said the simple one, his
pale eyes wandering from Walda to Everett as they sat close together. It
was plain, even to a fool, that their conversation had been of a sort
interesting only to themselves.

“The elders ordered that thy mail be given into thy hands, and I have
followed thee here that I might deliver the chronicles of the wicked
world into thy keeping.”

Everett thanked the simple one, who made no move to leave the room. Hans
Peter still stood playing with his queer cap and balancing himself first
on one foot and then on the other.

“Wouldst thou give me the newspaper when thou hast read it?” he asked,
with something like eagerness in his tone.

“No, no, Hans Peter, I cannot disregard the rules of the colony,”
Everett said, carelessly.

“Dost thou not know that the fool cannot be hurt?” asked the simple one.
“He hath so little knowledge that he knoweth not folly from wisdom. To
him the wicked appear good and the good wicked.”

Everett’s mail was scattered on the table where the simple one had put
it. Among the envelopes the man of the world saw one that enclosed a
photograph.

“This may be a picture that will interest you,” he said. “Will you
pardon me if I open it?” He tore off the envelope, and the photograph of
a young and beautiful girl was disclosed. The hair was dressed in rather
an elaborate fashion, and the gown was slightly décolleté.

“This is my young cousin Beatrice,” he remarked. “She is one of my
favorite relatives. I want you to tell me what you think of her, Walda.”

“It is forbidden in Zanah that we should make the image of anything on
earth,” declared Walda, turning her eyes away when Everett held the
photograph towards her.

“I beg your pardon,” he said.

The fool had come close to Everett’s chair, and he now looked over the
stranger’s shoulder.

“Is she called beautiful?” he asked.

“I believe she is,” said Everett. “Don’t you think she is a pretty
girl?”

“I like her hair and her necklace,” the simple one said. “She hath no
cap or kerchief. Yea, she is like an angel.” He hesitated for a moment,
looking from the picture to Walda, as if he were comparing the two
faces, and he added: “She is not so fair as the prophetess of Zanah.
Dost thou think her more comely than Walda Kellar?”

“Hush, Hans Peter; thou knowest it is a sin to see that a woman is fair
or comely,” warned Walda.

The simple one shook his head of tangled, straw-colored hair, and
answered:

“Thou forgettest the fool knoweth not right from wrong; he is the only
free man in the whole colony.” He threw his cap into the air, but his
stolid face betrayed no sign that he might be exulting over his
emancipation from the laws of Zanah.

“Here, gather up these letters and papers and come with me to the inn,”
said Everett. He thrust the photograph into the outside pocket of his
coat.

“Now, indeed, do I know that I am a daughter of Eve,” said Walda,
rising. “To-day it hath been made plain to me that I am not like unto
the women of the world. I—I—I would have one glimpse of thy cousin. Dost
thou think it would be very sinful if I looked at the image of thy
kinswoman?”

“Sinful! I think it is your right to know something of the women outside
the colony,” Everett declared. He took the picture from his pocket and
put it into her hand.

Walda studied the face for a few moments.

“Thy cousin Beatrice is fair indeed.” As she spoke the faintest sigh
accompanied her words. “Wilt thou not tell me something of her?” she
asked. “Doth she wear this gown and this necklace when she worketh?”

The picture of his cousin Beatrice working was so absurd that Everett
smiled.

“This is the sort of a gown my cousin wears when she goes to a ball,” he
explained.

“A ball! What is a ball?” asked Walda.

“Oh, it is a party—an assembly of men and women where there are music
and flowers and brilliant lights.”

“And what do the people do? Do they sing hymns and pray as we do at our
meetings?”

Again Everett smiled. The spectacle of the guests at a modern ball
joining in hymns and prayers would be entertaining indeed, he thought.

“They talk and dance, Walda.”

“There is dancing spoken of in the Bible,” said Walda; “but the elders
of Zanah have told the people how the rite hath been degraded by the men
and women of the world. I have heard that dancing is no longer a
religious ceremony.”

“That is true, indeed,” said Everett, and the memory of some of the
stage-dancing flashed across his brain.

“What is thy cousin’s work?” Walda inquired, again studying the
photograph.

“Work?” repeated Everett. “Why, she has no work.”

“And doth all thy family belong to the drones?” Walda asked. “How is it
that out in the world some men and women are permitted to be idle while
others labor?”

“Now, Walda, you have hit upon one of the great social problems. Out in
the world the people do not work for the common good. Selfishness rules.
Some men and some women are born to wealth, and some are born to
poverty.”

“Thou meanest that some men are like Solomon and others are like the
beggars that lay outside the gates of Jerusalem?”

“Yes, that is what I mean,” said Everett.

“Art thou like Solomon? Hast thou gold that thou keepest from the poor
and hungry?” Walda placed the picture upon the table and withdrew
several steps from Everett.

“I am not like Solomon, Walda,” Everett replied, with an uncomfortable
feeling that he belonged to a useless class.

“But you have money so that you live without work?”

“Yes,” admitted Everett, with some reluctance.

“He carrieth much silver with him,” said Hans Peter, who had listened
intently to the conversation. “He hath tossed me many a piece when I
have run errands for him.”

“Oh, thou dost give away thy money?” Walda’s tone betrayed her relief at
the thought that, after all, Everett might not be altogether selfish.

“Yes, I give away some of my money,” Stephen answered; “but I have not
done half the good with it that I should. Perhaps I may learn here in
Zanah how to employ my time and my money to better advantage.”

“Now, indeed, I know that the Lord hath sent thee here for thine own
good.”

“Sometimes I am not so sure of it, Walda,” said Everett, and, turning
quickly, he took up his hat. He pushed open the door, motioned to the
simple one to pass out first, hesitated a moment, and then returned to
Walda’s side.

“Don’t think of me as such a bad man,” he said.

“Nay, there is something in my heart that maketh me believe only that
thou art wise and true.”

Quickly he left the room, and as he went down the stairs he reflected
that one of the first steps in wisdom is that which takes a man away
from a great temptation. Walda, standing alone by the table, thought of
many things, and then, strangely enough, Piepmatz, looking from his
little cage, whistled the notes of the love-song that Everett had taught
him.



                                   XI


After leaving Walda, Stephen Everett walked far out into the country. At
first he did not try to analyze his thoughts. He felt an unwonted
buoyancy and hope. Between him and the brilliant sky he saw the face of
the future prophetess of Zanah. He felt her sweet presence, and
gradually he came into a knowledge that the girl was gaining a mastering
power over him. Because he was more or less of a trifler in the great
world of action, he had been willing to stay in the colony long enough
to gain some new impressions. At first the girl had been only a central
figure in a quaint picture that seemed to belong to another time and to
another country. There had been days that had bored him, and a hundred
times he had repented of his rash pledge that held him in Zanah for an
indefinite period. Now he knew that Walda Kellar had become to him more
than a passing acquaintance. As he hastened away from the village, his
first exultation in having gained from her something of a personal
recognition led him to think of his own motives in attempting to win
what he called the friendship of this woman of Zanah.

Beneath all his aimlessness and indifference, Everett held high ideals
of womanhood. He was a man who cherished chivalrous traditions, and when
his footsteps finally brought him back from the foot of the bluff to the
edge of the little lake, that now reflected a purple sky, he threw
himself upon the ground to think seriously of his intentions. It was
plain to him that the prophetess of Zanah never could belong wholly to
his world. The memory of his associations in New York and Newport made
him almost doubt his own identity. Visions of the fashionable and
frivolous women who were part of what is known as American society
presented themselves to him. He saw the gorgeous gowns and flashing
jewels of matrons and maids whom he knew. He recalled their rather
brilliant conversation. In his mind’s eye he pictured an autumn ball at
Tuxedo—he had just received a letter mentioning a great entertainment
that was to take place that very evening—and he tried to imagine how
Walda Kellar would appear as one of those whom the colony condemned.
There were girls belonging to the gayest circles of Eastern cities who
were pleased to call him friend, and yet he valued their favors as
nothing compared with the esteem that he coveted from the woman of
Zanah. In thinking of Walda he soothed his conscience by telling himself
that esteem was the word which described the interest he wished the girl
to feel for him. And then the thought came to him, insistently, that he
was playing the part of a contemptible egotist, and that he was secretly
longing to awaken in the heart of the prophetess of Zanah earthly love
that was forbidden to her.

It is a human trait to desire what is beyond one’s reach, and Everett
acknowledged to himself that part of the charm which the girl of the
colony cast upon him was due to her elusiveness and to her ignorance of
all that pertained to what were the every-day experiences of ordinary
women. She was the one woman that he might claim unsullied and untouched
by love for any other man, and yet with a sudden sensation of shame he
realized that he was presumptuous to feel himself entitled to a love
that would, indeed, be sent from heaven.

Everett took from his pocket some of the letters that he had received
during the week. All of them told of events that formerly had interested
him. The letters took him back to his own place in the broad life of
America. He reasoned with himself that he might leave Zanah within a
week. He would go away without striving further to probe the mysterious
nature of the prophetess of Zanah, and he would remember his sojourn in
the colony as one of the many pleasant incidents in his varied life.
Having settled the question to his own satisfaction, he experienced a
sensation of relief. He strolled back to the village. Entering the inn,
he found Diedrich Werther smoking a pipe behind the dog-eared register,
which had not recorded a name since his own had been written there. He
asked some questions about the hunting, and the innkeeper told him of a
distant pond where ducks were plentiful. Everett announced that he meant
to take his gun out early the next morning, and he asked whether Hans
Peter might accompany him. Incidentally he dropped the remark that he
expected to leave the colony within a few days. Then he borrowed the
old-fashioned ink-horn and a quill-pen, which he took to one of the
tables in a far corner of the main room of the inn. Selecting a dozen
sheets of yellow paper from Diedrich Werther’s store of stationery, he
began to write letters to the friends he had almost forgotten for a
fortnight.

There was a woman in Newport to whom he had meant to send a note. He
thought of her amusement when she would receive a sample of Diedrich
Werther’s yellow stationery. He wrote the date line, and then he found
it difficult to frame a graceful and conventional greeting to one whom
he had quite forgotten for many days. He leaned back in his chair and
tried to imagine how this woman and Walda would appear if he saw them
together. The one was a typical product of American civilization, that
educates its women broadly, giving them the liberty to mingle freely
with the greatest of many lands—a woman born to wealth and station, one
who knew how to value her extraordinary advantages, and how to make the
most of them. She was still young, but she had learned much of the
world, for she had travelled widely and had read books of every class.
She had few illusions. He remembered that her broad grasp of life had
sometimes shocked him. She had studied much of philosophy, and had but
desultory connection with a fashionable church. She was witty,
brilliant, fascinating. She was an aristocrat, in the best sense of the
word. Her gowns were artistic masterpieces. A picture of her as he had
seen her at an Easter ball came back to him. He recalled the shimmering
satin and the frost of lace that set off her imperious beauty. That
night he had been almost persuaded that she was the one woman in the
world. For a moment he quite forgot Zanah. He was impatient to go back
to the gay world that held so much of beauty and brightness. It was a
strange vagary, this sojourn in the colony. He dipped the quill-pen into
the ink-horn again. He drew the ugly sheet of yellow paper towards him,
and then he heard the heavy step of Mother Werther as she hastened
across the great kitchen to the porch.

“Walda, where art thou going?” she said.

Before he knew what he was doing, Everett had dropped his pen and
sauntered out-of-doors into the little square where Walda had paused at
the well. She was giving a cup of water to a child, and at first she did
not see Everett. She was standing so that he could see only her profile,
and its purity of outline made him say to himself that he had never
beheld a face so clear-cut. The delicate line of the lips, which were
always firmly closed, denoted a strength of character that the chin
rather contradicted in its full curve. He went to her, and, taking the
cup from her hand, hung it in its accustomed place.

“I am glad to have met you, Walda,” he said, with a little hesitation as
he spoke her name, “for I am thinking of going away this week—”

The girl gave him a startled look.

“Nay, tell me not that, Stephen Everett,” she answered. “Truly, thou
dost not mean thou wilt leave Zanah before the _Untersuchung_?”

“Surely, you do not care whether I go or stay?” he said.

The prophetess of Zanah knew no arts of coquetry. She did not understand
the significance of his words, and she looked into his face with clear,
untroubled eyes.

“Ah, but I do care,” she exclaimed. “My father needs thee yet; he is not
so strong to-day.”

She turned away from the well and began to walk towards the bridge.
Everett followed her.

“Your father will get on without me,” he declared, with some coldness,
for the girl’s unconscious rebuff irritated him.

“Nay, thou seemest to hold the power which keepeth him alive. I mean,
that although it is the Lord that hath vouchsafed to spare him, thou art
his instrument. My faith is not steadfast. I am weak, indeed; but thou
hast seemed to me a stay, a strong staff upon which I lean.”

“It is good to know that you count me even a little help.” An intonation
in his voice told her that he felt himself aggrieved.

“Thou must count me a selfish woman of Zanah,” she made haste to say.
“Thou hast stayed many days here in the colony, and neglected thine own
work that thou mightst minister to my father.”

“I have but kept my pledge to you.”

“Thou hast my gratitude, Stephen.” She paused on the bridge. “I cannot
estimate what sacrifice thou hast made to keep thy word, but thou hast
caused me to know that all who belong to the great world are not wicked.
Verily, Stephen, thou dost serve the Lord.”

Everett did not reply immediately. He had a guilty sense of misleading
the prophetess of Zanah. He knew that of all his life but the smallest
fragments had been given to service of any sort. A sense of regret for
the futile years he had spent made him turn away, for the girl was
looking at him with a searching gaze that made him uncomfortable.

“The darkness is falling; I must hasten on,” said Walda, but she did not
move.

“Where were you going?” asked Everett. “Let me walk with you?”

“It is not the custom for the men of Zanah to talk with the women, or to
walk with them,” said Walda. “It hath been decreed by the elders that I
shall go alone at this hour every night to pray at the grave of Marta
Bachmann.”

“I am not a man of Zanah. The cemetery is half a mile from here, along a
lonely road. Let me go with you?” he pleaded, and, without waiting for
an answer, he took her permission for granted. It was the hour for the
evening meeting, and the street was quite deserted, so he knew that they
ran little risk of being seen together in the dusk of the late summer
day.

They walked slowly up the hill beyond the bridge. They passed the
school-house, and Walda paused to look up at the little window of her
father’s room, whence shone a candle-beam.

“When I think that through thy help I still have my father, there is so
much of gratitude in my heart that I cannot speak it,” she said.
“Surely, it will not be long before he is again able to mingle with the
colony?”

“Not very long, if all goes well,” said Everett. “I hear that he is much
needed by the elders of Zanah.”

“Bad luck hath come to the mills and the crops. I fear that we have not
looked steadfastly to the Lord for guidance. I pray that it may be
revealed through me what we shall do to increase the prosperity of
Zanah.”

They were on the brow of the hill now, and had entered the wavering
road, arched with oak and maple trees. Everett was silent for a few
minutes while he pondered upon some method by which he could lead the
conversation away from general topics. While the girl betrayed no
uneasiness in his companionship, he knew that he must use the utmost
tact if he would appeal to the woman instead of the prophetess.

“And when you are inspired, will you live apart from the people of
Zanah?” he said. “You will pardon me, but I have often wondered just
what your life will be. Are you never to know the duties and the joys
that belong to other women?”

“I am to walk close to God. I am to forget self. I am to serve Zanah all
my life.”

Walda spoke in a solemn tone, and her absolute resignation to the lot
that appeared to the man of the world a needless and ridiculous
sacrifice awoke a spirit of revolt in Everett’s heart.

“Temptations have assailed me,” she confessed, after a pause. “Now and
then there hath been a restlessness within me. Thou hast sometimes
appeared to me as one sent from Satan, for thou hast painted the great
world most alluringly.”

Walda drew away from Everett, and he could feel that she was looking at
him with fear and distrust.

“You misunderstand me,” said Everett. “I know that you live near to
heaven, that you are better than the women I know. I reverence you,
I—I—”

Although Everett made an effort to speak calmly, the intensity of his
voice and manner disturbed the unfathomed depths of Walda’s soul. After
the manner of Zanah she instinctively folded her hands over her bosom
with a gesture that signified to the colonists the warding off of all
worldly influences.

“Hush!” she said. “Speak not thus to the prophetess of Zanah.”

“I am not speaking to the prophetess now,” said Everett, taking a quick
step in front of her. “Walda, listen to me. Don’t you know that you are
choosing for your life loneliness and isolation? I think of you here in
Zanah in the years that are coming, and I cannot bear to feel that one
day will be just like another until the end.”

“A man thou art who hath set his thoughts on earth. Stephen, dost thou
not know sorrow and trouble cannot touch me when I walk near to God?
Hast thy spirit never been lifted up above all that belongs to self?
Hast thou never been near to heaven in thy thoughts?”

“Never until now,” said Everett.

Into Walda’s face came a new light.

“Dost thou mean that thou hast learned in Zanah to think less of the
world and to long for heaven?”

The man looked down at the girl. She was so near him that the light
breeze blew her gown against him. He stifled a longing to put out his
hand to touch her.

“Yes, Walda, I can say with all truthfulness that the world has become
as nothing to me, and that I long for heaven.”

“Thou hast made me very happy, Stephen. It hath been a sorrow to me to
know that thou wert not numbered with those who strive to earn eternal
life.”

“Then you have been troubled about me?” Everett questioned.

The girl hesitated a moment.

“I have hoped that I might meet thee in the other life, where there are
none of the barriers that divide men and women who would serve the
Lord.”

Everett felt the blood pour out of his heart. The girl had made a
strange admission. For a brief moment he was glad with all the joy of an
unexpected victory. Exultant words came to his lips, but when he looked
at Walda he felt anew the awe that her innocence and her spirituality
cast upon him. She appeared absolutely unconscious of what her admission
meant to the man of the world. She moved onward. They emerged from the
wooded road and came to the shore of the placid little lake. The distant
bluffs beyond the lake were dimly outlined in the evening shadows, and
above them the last lingering purple of the sunset was fading in the
sky. In the trees behind them a bird trilled the fragment of a
dream-song. The beauty of the scene, the quiet of the night, and the
nearness of Walda stirred in Everett warring impulses, yet he was dumb
before the prophetess of Zanah. The girl’s attitude of perfect trust in
him forbade him to take advantage of the opportunity to tell her that
his heaven was not the one for which she lived and worked, and yet he
felt almost cowardly in letting her believe that his sudden aspiration
was a religious experience.

“Stephen, I would have thee know what is in my heart,” she said, fixing
her clear eyes on him. “I would have thee understand that I am but a
weak woman of Zanah, called to do the Lord’s will. There have been times
when Satan tempted me with longing for the things forever denied to the
people of Zanah. There have been days when I begged that I might not be
compelled to be the prophetess. Often have I prayed to escape this work
of the Master, but since thou camest to Zanah there hath been a new
strength in me. Thou hast made me see many things unto which mine eyes
were closed; thou hast helped me to wisdom not vouchsafed to the colony
of Zanah. Since one day, when thou didst teach me to look from the
window of my father’s room, and behold the beauties of earth and sky,
peace hath come to me from the woods and fields whenever there was
unrest in my soul. Now that thou hast aspirations for heaven, I am
assured that thou art one sent from God to help the least of his
children.”

“I am unworthy to be your teacher,” Everett faltered.

They walked on until they came to the high, arched gate of the
graveyard. Everett unlatched the gate and they went in among the sunken
mounds, each of which was marked by a flat stone bearing the simple name
of some colonist who had passed out of the narrow life of Zanah. On a
little knoll, separated from the other graves, was one over which a
willow-tree trailed its low branches. Towards this Walda led the way,
and when they had come to it she said to Everett:

“Thou must leave me now.”

“I was thinking of going away from Zanah,” said Everett, with a sudden
memory of his letters. “When I took the liberty of walking with you
to-night it was my intention to say good-bye to you, Walda.”

The girl turned on him a glance of such frank regret that he asked
again:

“Will you miss me, Walda?”

“Miss thee?” she repeated. “Yea, for I have come to count thee as one
who maketh each day better for me. Thou hast become like unto Gerson
Brandt in thy brotherly care.”

Everett winced.

“But I don’t want you to think of me as your brother,” he said. “I would
have you call me friend.”

“Nay, friendship is denied between men and women in Zanah. Have I not
told thee that before? But surely thou wilt not go away before the
_Untersuchung_?”

There was a tone of pleading in the girl’s voice.

“Since I have to leave Zanah, since I have to go out into the world,
where I shall be lost to you, I may as well go now as at any future
time.”

“Nay, wait in Zanah until after the spirit of strength hath taken
possession of me. When I am, indeed, the instrument of the Lord, then
can I see thee turn again to the world. Then can I know, indeed, it will
be well with me. Stephen, thou hast just said thou art near to heaven,
and I would send thee forth with a firm faith. From now until the day of
the _Untersuchung_ I will pray for thee.”

“Your wishes shall be commands to me, Walda. But if I decide to stay in
Zanah, it will mean much to me. There may be days when I shall repent
that I changed my mind.” He stood looking at her for a moment. “I will
pledge myself to wait in Zanah until the day on which the colonists
expect to recognize you as their prophetess.”

“Thou hast made me glad, Stephen. Since it is for thy good to stay here,
I can no longer feel that I am selfish.”

“Inasmuch as you have accepted my pledge, you must let me take your hand
as a token of my promise,” said Everett. In the intensity of his longing
there was such a compelling force that Walda made no objection when,
without waiting for her permission, he took both her hands in his, and
held them for a moment. A deep flush suffused her pure face, and for the
first time in all their acquaintance her eyes refused to meet his. Her
hands trembled, and with a sudden awakening to something of the
consciousness that first comes to every woman who is loved, she suddenly
freed herself.

“Peace be with thee to-night, Stephen,” she said. She turned quickly,
and took a few slow steps towards the grave of Marta Bachmann. Everett,
looking after her, beheld a strange shape rise above the tomb. He strode
forward to see what it might be, and in the dim light recognized Hans
Peter.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded, in a stern voice.

The fool leisurely seated himself upon the flat stone and answered:

“The simple one doth not have to account to any man concerning himself.
The fool can do no harm. It is the man from the wicked world that should
be under watch among the people of Zanah.”

Hans Peter swung his short legs over the edge of the gravestone; and if
his words had a sinister meaning, his round, immobile face betrayed not
the slightest expression of intelligence. He took from his pocket one of
his treasured gourds, calmly opened his knife, and made a few marks.

“Hans Peter, thou shouldst remember to treat the stranger within our
gates with respect,” said Walda, reprovingly; but the fool seemed not to
hear her.

Everett lingered beside the girl, as if he could not summon courage to
go away.

“Leave me here alone,” Walda commanded, gently. “Hans Peter will take me
back to the village.”

As Everett latched the gate to the cemetery he looked back to see Walda
kneeling at the grave, while Hans Peter, who had withdrawn to a little
distance, lay flat upon a sunken stone.



                                  XII


Gerson Brandt went about his duties with a listless air. The boys who
gathered every morning in the learning-school noticed that he was less
exacting about their lessons, and that often his thoughts appeared far
away. When he ascended to the little platform, after returning from
morning prayers in the meeting-house, he looked down upon them with
compassion in his glance. It was noticed that his thin face was pinched
and that his eyes were sunken. When they opened their word-books for the
spelling-class he showed slight interest. During recess he sat with his
head resting on his hands and his eyes fixed on the old desk. One day,
when he was even more preoccupied than usual, Adolph Schneider and Karl
Weisel visited the school in order to inquire into the progress of the
boys of Zanah. Gerson Brandt called his pupils to order.

“The Herr Doktor would speak with you,” he said.

“Yea, I would know whether you are diligent in your lessons,” announced
Adolph Schneider. He pounded on the floor with his cane, and spoke in a
tone that frightened the more timid of the children.

“Why was Adam cast out of the Garden of Eden?”

There was a moment of silence. All the tow-headed boys, with arms folded
across their breasts, stared straight ahead of them. Karl Weisel, who
had taken the school-master’s chair, tipped it back against the
black-board, twirled his thumbs, and stared at the rows of benches with
something like a sneer on his heavy features. The school-master,
standing on the floor beside the platform, looked out of the nearest
window and waited patiently for the tardy answer.

“Can any one tell me why Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden?”

The Herr Doktor repeated his question in a thundering tone.

“Because he ate an apple,” piped a small voice from a far corner of the
room.

“And art thou taught that it is wicked to eat an apple?”

A dozen tow-heads were shaken emphatically.

“The apple grew on the tree of knowledge.” It was a pale, red-haired
child who spoke.

“It is Johann Werther who knows about the tree of knowledge,” said the
Herr Doktor. “At the _gasthaus_ Johann sometimes hath a glimpse of
forbidden things.”

Scores of round eyes immediately were turned upon Johann with glances of
envy.

“But did man fall through his own sinful desires?” questioned the Herr
Doktor, standing very straight, throwing out his chest, and lifting his
chin out of his big stock.

“It was Eve who did tempt him,” announced a small boy that sat on the
front seat.

“Right. Sin came into the world through a woman, and ever since then the
man who would reach heaven hath to guard against the wiles of the
temptress. If it had not been for a woman, we might now be living in the
Garden of Eden.”

“Nay, Brother Schneider, teach not that women are evil.” Gerson Brandt
placed one thin hand on the desk and turned on the Herr Doktor a face in
which was a determined look. “It is meet that thou shouldst tell the
children how the world was saved through a woman, who was the mother of
Christ.”

“Gerson Brandt, interrupt not this lesson. I have come here to measure
the knowledge of those intrusted to thy care.” Adolph Schneider again
pounded the floor with his cane. “Can the school tell me nothing more
about Eve’s fall?” Adolph Schneider asked.

In the back part of the room rose the fool. He had in his hand one of
the gourds that he always carried with him.

“The Bible teacheth us it was the serpent that did tempt Eve,” he said,
studying the gourd as if he were reading from it.

“Ja, ja,” said the Herr Doktor; “but Eve, being a woman, was full of
curiosity; she inclined her ear to the serpent.”

“And Adam did incline his ear to Eve,” the simple one announced. “It is
said it is always thus. Even in the colony I have noticed that the men
are keen, indeed, to hear what the women would say.”

Something like a smile flitted over Karl Weisel’s face. He brought his
chair forward on its four legs, and listened for what was coming.

“Take thy seat. How darest thou comment on the men and women of Zanah?
Thou art the simple one who cannot separate good from evil.”

The fool still stood in his place with the gourd in his hand.

“The fool hath ears that he can hear; he hath eyes that he can see.”

“But what he seeth and heareth hath not the right meaning to him.”

“The fool hath seen Karl Weisel, head of the thirteen elders, listen to
the words of Gretchen Schneider, the daughter of the leader of Zanah,”
declared the fool, still reading from his gourd.

“Silence!” shouted the Herr Doktor. Turning to Gerson Brandt, he said:
“So the fool hath become a spy. He is more dangerous than a wise man.”

“The truth is not in him,” said Karl Weisel, springing to his feet.
“Hans Peter should be kept in confinement where he cannot speak harmful
things.”

“He meaneth nothing wrong,” said Gerson Brandt. “Be merciful to the
simple one.”

“The main object in coming here to-day was to instruct you concerning
the _Untersuchung_,” said Adolph Schneider, when Karl Weisel had resumed
his seat and the children were once more gazing stolidly in front of
them. “I hope you are all prepared to give an account of your souls when
the elders of Zanah shall inquire into your spiritual condition. From
now until the day when we hope to behold the inspiration of a new
prophetess I want you all to think over your sins. I wonder how many of
you have told a lie this week.” Every boy in the school looked guilty.
“I should like to have all who have spoken only the truth stand up that
I may see them.”

“Nay, ask not that,” said the school-master. “I fear lest the children
be tempted to forget their shortcomings and to act a falsehood because
they desire to appear well before thee.”

“Since the loss of thine illuminated Bible thou art tender-hearted
towards liars,” said Karl Weisel, in an undertone.

“Thy taunt shouldst cost thee dear, Karl Weisel, were it not forbidden
in Zanah that we should resent insult.” In an instant the gentle
school-master was transformed. He stood erect, and the scorn in his tone
made the head of the thirteen elders feel that the contempt of a
righteous man was something not to be easily ignored. The Herr Doktor
gave the boys no opportunity to perjure themselves.

“I want you to prepare for the _Untersuchung_ with prayer and fasting,”
he said, and there was dismay upon every face before him.

“It hath been shown the elders of Zanah that Walda Kellar is to be the
instrument of the Lord. From her lips will fall words of wisdom. You all
know her, for she hath often spoken to you. She hath sung to you hymns
of praise. She will no longer come among you, for she must live apart,
but it will be revealed to her what is best for the colony. You must no
longer run to her as if she were your mother. You must bow before her.
You must no longer speak unto her, for she will be above all the people
of the colony.”

The hand of Johann Werther was raised, and, when he had been given
permission to speak, he asked:

“Are all women daughters of Eve?”

“Yea, yea,” declared the Herr Doktor. “Thou knowest that Eve was the
mother of all.”

“And Walda Kellar is to be the instrument of the Lord?”

“Why ask foolish questions? Thou knowest she is to be the inspired one.”

“I would know why a man was not chosen instead of a daughter of Eve?”
said Johann.

“Thou shouldst use thy silly brain for less mighty questions,” was the
stern reply. Turning to the school-master the Herr Doktor gave the
order:

“Dismiss thy pupils.” Adding: “We would talk with thee.”

Gerson Brandt sent the boys out-of-doors, and then waited for the
president of the colony to speak.

“Brother Weisel and I are dissatisfied about many things in the colony,”
announced Adolph Schneider, taking a seat on the platform. “There is
general discontent. If the _Untersuchung_ were not so near, we should be
alarmed for the peace of Zanah. The loss of the Bible hath cast
suspicion upon thee, Brother Brandt. It is not my desire to say
unpleasant things to thee, but in Zanah we are all truthful. Thou wilt
not again be elected as elder unless thou canst trace the Bible.”

“It would be better for thee to say that Brother Brandt cannot be
elected unless he decides to bring the Bible from the hidden place that
he hath found for it,” broke in Karl Weisel.

“Silence!” commanded the school-master. “Thou shalt not accuse me of
stealing the Bible from the colony of Zanah and then of denying all
knowledge of it. Take back thy cowardly words.”

“It is the custom to speak what we hold to be the truth,” said Karl
Weisel, in a mocking tone. “I believe that thou knowest where that Bible
is secreted.”

“It hath been said that men always suspect other men of being what they
themselves are, and so I make some allowance for thy words; but thou
shalt ask my pardon.” Gerson Brandt spoke calmly, but his tone as well
as his words made the elder cringe.

“I spoke merely for thine own good. It were better that I told thee what
I thought than that I thought these things and turned to thee a
dissembling face.”

“Crave my pardon,” said Gerson Brandt.

“I humiliate myself before no man,” said Karl Weisel. “It is my right to
say what I think.”

“It is not thy right to cast aspersions on mine honor. I give thee one
more chance to retract thy base charges.”

Karl Weisel put his fat hands into his deep pockets, rose from his
chair, and walked back and forth upon the platform.

“This quarrel is most unseemly,” remarked Adolph Schneider, who had been
leaning on his cane and idly listening.

“Speak!” said Gerson Brandt. “Thou shalt not leave this room until thou
hast taken back thy words.”

Karl Weisel laughed, but in an instant the school-master had sprung upon
the platform. He clutched the man by the collar, and, with the strength
born of a tremendous indignation, he shook the heavy body of Karl Weisel
until the elder’s teeth chattered.

“Loose thine hold upon me!” cried Karl Weisel, who had turned pale with
terror.

Gerson Brandt flung him off. He knew he had forgotten all the precepts
of the colony, but again the elder laughed, this time to disguise his
fright.

“I give thee a chance to defend thyself,” said Gerson Brandt. “As man to
man we shall fight this out.”

Adolph Schneider put himself between the two combatants, but Gerson
Brandt, stepping past him, dragged Karl Weisel to the open space beside
the platform, and there, facing him, said:

“I give thee thy last opportunity to beg my pardon.”

Karl Weisel did not open his lips. Instead, he covertly measured the
distance to the door, and with a movement of unusual quickness turned in
flight. He had not gone half a dozen steps before Gerson Brandt had him
by the collar, and, dragging him back to his position, waited an instant
for him to recover himself. Then he struck a blow that felled the elder.

“Help! Help!” shouted Adolph Schneider, who still stood upon the
platform.

At first the prospect of a fight between the two influential men of the
colony had suggested possibilities likely to redound into material good
for himself, and he had been content to play the part of listener and
spectator. Now, as he looked at Gerson Brandt, he no longer saw the
school-master, but a man tall, sinewy, and muscular—a man in whose eye
flashed anger and whose pose revealed an unsuspected strength.

“Help! Help!” he shouted again.

Gerson Brandt assisted his adversary to rise. The elder was stunned; the
school-master pushed him into a chair, where he sat dazed and silent.
Just then Hans Peter came shuffling in at the door. He walked as if he
had heard an ordinary summons.

“Didst thou call?” he asked, addressing the Herr Doktor. His pale eyes
rested on the figure of Karl Weisel, and there was just the faintest
gleam of understanding in them. Before Adolph Schneider had a chance to
answer, a rustle of skirts and a light step was heard on the stair that
led from Wilhelm Kellar’s room.

“Hath anything gone amiss here?” asked Walda, throwing open the door and
standing on the threshold. With a woman’s intuition she saw that there
had been some quarrel.

“Be not alarmed,” said Gerson Brandt, walking down a side aisle at the
end of the long benches. “The elder, Karl Weisel, accused me of stealing
the Bible and of bearing false witness concerning it. The man in me
resented the insult. He refused to apologize, and I struck him. Even now
I am sorry that I should have hurt one of my fellow-colonists.”

“Nay, Gerson Brandt, thou didst forget that the Lord hath said,
‘Vengeance is Mine,’” cried Walda, going near to Gerson Brandt. “It is
not like thee to let human passions triumph.”

“This will cost Gerson Brandt his place as an elder,” declared Karl
Weisel, coming to himself enough to smooth his ruffled hair and settle
his loosened stock.

“This is bad, indeed!” exclaimed Adolph Schneider. “In all my years of
colony life I have never known one man in Zanah to raise his hand
against a brother-colonist.”

“Surely my provocation was great,” said Gerson Brandt, “but I am sorry
that I allowed anger to control me even for a moment.”

“This very night shall I prefer charges against thee,” Karl Weisel said,
rising and waving his hand with a threatening gesture.

“This very night thou shouldst think well over the quarrel,” said Walda,
advancing. “Thou knowest there hath been wrong on both sides. Art thou
willing to confess that thou hast called thy brother a liar?” There was
a simple majesty in the pose of the girl. For the moment she was the
prophetess of Zanah. “Beware lest thou bring disgrace and dishonor to
the people of Zanah. It is best that this hour be forgotten. Blot out
thine enmities.”

“When Gerson Brandt hath explained what became of the Bible the cause of
all the trouble will be removed,” said Karl Weisel, turning away from
the intense gaze of the girl.

“Thou knowest the Good Book is lost. Thou knowest that Gerson Brandt
never told aught but the truth. How darest thou impute evil to him? He
hath been always one of the most faithful men in all Zanah.”

Turning to the school-master, she said:

“Ah, Gerson Brandt, I have prayed much about the Bible. Disturb not
thyself. I have faith that it will be found. I would that it could be
brought to thee to-day.”

In the back of the school-room, Hans Peter, who had been sitting
cross-legged in the doorway, pulled himself to his feet.

“I could find the Bible; it is not far away,” he said.

“What dost thou know of it?” asked the Herr Doktor.

“I know that it lieth in the earth beneath a great stone. It is safe.
Have no fears for it.” Hans Peter balanced himself first on one bare
foot, and then on the other, and in his face was such a stupid look that
Karl Weisel said:

“Look at the fool! He would shield the school-master, to whom he shows a
dog’s devotion.”

“Dost thou really know where the Bible is, Hans Peter?” asked Walda,
laying her hand upon the simple one’s shoulder.

“I have not said I knew. I said I knew I could get it,” answered the
fool.

“Nay, dissemble not,” pleaded Walda. “I know now it was thou that didst
hide the Bible from the elders.”

The boy looked down to the floor.

“Yea, I did take the Bible so that the stranger in Zanah could not buy
it with his silver. It was for thy sake and for Gerson Brandt’s that I
took it.”

“Listen not to the fool,” said Karl Weisel. “I tell thee he would shield
Gerson Brandt.”

“There is a likelihood of truth in his words,” declared the Herr Doktor.
Then, in a thundering tone, he commanded: “Bring the Bible to me.”

“It may not be easily found,” Hans Peter answered, still keeping his
eyes on the floor.

“Dare not try to put me off,” thundered Adolph Schneider, shaking his
cane at the simple one. “Without more ado, fetch it to me.”

All this time Gerson Brandt had been standing silent and sad. He now
waited expectantly for the last answer. He knew that his precious book
was, indeed, in jeopardy.

Hans Peter gently took Walda’s hand from his shoulder, and, backing to
the door, said, rolling his great head from side to side:

“The fool hath no memory. If he would know the thing that happened
yesterday he must mark upon a gourd words that will bring back to his
poor mind what is past.”

“Let him not make terms; let him not trade upon his folly,” interposed
Karl Weisel.

“Thou hast not forgotten where the Bible is hidden?” inquired Walda,
very gently.

“I did bury the gourd that told me where the Bible is, and upon another
gourd I marked where that gourd was hidden.”

“Quick! We care not about thy lunatic pastimes. Bring the Bible!”
shouted the Herr Doktor, overcome with impatience.

“And the second gourd I carried in my pocket until one day, when I was
marking on it something the stranger had told me, the Herr Doktor struck
it out of my hand with his cane and put his heel upon it. The Bible is
safe, but it cannot be found without long search.”

When the simple one had made his tantalizing speech, the school-master
spoke in a quiet tone:

“Hans Peter, thou knowest that the precious book may be spoiled in the
ground. Try to think where it is.”

“Nay, I tell thee it is safe, for it is wrapped in the oil-skin in which
thou didst keep it, and it is nailed in a great box that is covered with
another box. I did work upon the boxes a large part of the night before
I buried the Bible.”

“The village fool is not to be believed,” said Karl Weisel, “but he
ought to be locked up until he can be made to confess that what he is
telling is all a lie.”

The Herr Doktor descended from the platform, and, going to the door,
clutched Hans Peter by the shoulder. “Thou shalt have a chance to
collect thy wits, my boy. Come with me. In a dark room in the cellar of
the _gasthaus_ thou canst stay until thou hast some memory about the
Bible.”

“Before we part it is well that we all agree to forget this
misunderstanding,” said Walda. “I am sure Hans Peter will find the
Bible, and that we can cast out all anxiety concerning it.”

Hans Peter made no reply. He stood with both hands thrust into his
capacious pockets. The Herr Doktor pulled him through the door, and,
followed by Karl Weisel, he went down the street towards the inn.

Gerson Brandt turned a white and troubled face to Walda when they were
left alone together.

“Thou hast seen me in the clutch of an earthly passion,” he said. “Thou
knowest now how unworthy I am to be counted as a counsellor of a
prophetess. I have naught to say in extenuation, except that in man
human impulses often triumph over the divine aspirations. Canst thou
forget that I have thus resented an insult?”

Walda came closer to him.

“Gerson Brandt, it may be wicked of me, but somehow I like thee better
because thou hast demanded that Karl Weisel retract his sinful words. He
hath called his brother a liar, and God will judge him for that.”

“And I should have remembered that I am not the judge,” said Gerson
Brandt. “I should not have let myself take vengeance into mine own hand.
When thou art the prophetess thou wilt become my teacher, and, Walda, I
am half glad I shall need thine aid to overcome sin.”

“Thou hast been my teacher so long it seemeth I could never have any
wisdom greater than thine.”

Gerson Brandt looked into her eyes.

“Being a woman, thou hast wisdom and power of which thou little
dreamest,” he said.

“If I have aught of wisdom, it is because thou hast been my guide ever
since I was a child. Gerson Brandt, thou hast been nearer to me than my
father; thou hast been more to me than all the brothers in the colony.”

“It hath always seemed, Walda, that thou wert sent to reconcile me to
life in Zanah. Thy presence hath helped me to overcome all rebellion.
Having prayed for the time of thine inspiration, it is a struggle for me
to give thee up. It is as if I were losing thee, even though thou wilt
still be in the colony.”

“Nay, Gerson, it seemeth to me that when the light of inspiration cometh
to me thou must share it, for, after all, it is thy knowledge and thy
faith that is in me. There hath come to me lately something of the
illumination thou hast told me to expect, Gerson Brandt. There are days
when it is as if I stood on the threshold of heaven. My heart is lifted
up with a strange joy. I hear harmony in the rustling of the leaves in
the trees and the flowing of the water under the bridge and the faint
night-sounds that come to mine ears when the village hath gone to sleep.
Long after the curfew-bell hath sounded I open my casement and look out
into the sky. It is then I feel the vastness of the universe, and yet
know that God hath not forgotten me.”

As Walda spoke her face was radiant with new joy, and Gerson Brandt knew
she was even then far removed from him.

“Thou lookest from thy casement every night? Dost thou gaze at the
moon?” he asked.

“Yea, Gerson Brandt, I look long at the moon.”

“Walda, that is a habit maidens have when they think not of God but of
man. Thou hast in thy thought no human being?”

“There is often a light in the inn; it shineth from the window of him
whom we not long ago called the stranger in Zanah. It bringeth him into
my mind, and I thank God for his coming to the colony.”

Walda’s words smote the school-master. A faint color came into his thin
cheeks. He steadied himself against the desk.

“It is not thy duty to pray for the stranger. The elders can do that,”
he declared.

“Nay, but he hath helped me much. He hath brought me strength.”

“Beware lest that strength become thy weakness.” There was a tremor in
Gerson Brandt’s voice, and his manner puzzled the girl.

“Thou dost speak in riddles,” she said. “Thou knowest his world could
not touch me. When I gaze from my window I am glad, indeed, that the
bluffs shut me out from all the wickedness of the life beyond the
colony.”

“I beg thy pardon, Walda. It was an unworthy suspicion that crossed my
mind. Surely to-day Satan is close to me. And when thou gazest at the
moon dost thou think of any one else?”

“Of my father, Gerson Brandt, and always of thee.”

“And how do I come to thee in thy thoughts, Walda?”

“Thou comest as one that is ever dear to me. Since thou didst first take
me on thy knee thou hast shared with my father all the earthly love of
my heart. Have I not often told thee so?”

“Thou didst never think of me as nearer to thine own age than thy
father? Do I always appear so old to thee?”

“Truly, thou dost seem like my father.” In her voice was an infinite
tenderness, and the school-master, with a tremor in his voice, answered:

“And yet I am but fifteen years thy senior.”

“But thou lovest me as if I were thy daughter. I have always felt that
thou didst give me something more than the neighborly regard in which
all the people of Zanah hold one another.”

Gerson Brandt made no answer.

“Thou dost love me as if I were thy daughter?” she repeated.

“Thou hast forever a place in the sanctuary of my heart, Walda.”

The school-master and the prophetess of Zanah looked into each other’s
eyes for a brief moment.

“Then I know that thou wilt always pray for me—that thou wilt always
keep me safe from all worldly temptations.”

“Yea, thou wilt always have my care. Thou wilt always command my
services and my prayers. To-day I feel humble, indeed, because I lost my
self-control, but I shall strive always to be worthy to be counted as
one who walketh near to the prophetess of Zanah. Walda, to-day I am weak
indeed. I feel how much I shall need divine strength in the years to
come. My way is a lonely one. It is said that after the inspiration is
vouchsafed to a prophetess her soul withdraws itself from all human
companionship, and that even if it were not the custom to separate the
instrument of the Lord from the colonists of Zanah, there would be
naught in common between her and those who try to serve God in humbler
ways. Lately, Walda, I have looked forward with a feeling that the years
without thee will be weary. When thou art the prophetess there will be
none with whom I can speak of the dreams I have shared with thee.”

“Thy dreams, as thou callest them, first made me feel the mysteries of
life. Gerson Brandt, it was thou who didst awaken my soul; it was thou
who didst turn my heart to God, and now, verily, thou wilt not be
sorrowful when my day of inspiration comes?”

“To-day there is so much of self victorious in me that I know the day of
the _Untersuchung_ will make me sad. It was my intention on that day to
give thee the Bible that is lost. For many months thou knowest I worked
upon it, making the letters beautiful for thine eyes, and it was a
solace to me to feel, every day as I turned the pages upon which I had
worked with many a prayer and blessing for thy welfare, that thou
wouldst take pleasure in its beauty.”

“And was that Bible for me, Gerson? On the last day when thou didst give
it to me to read before the school I did covet it.”

“I did think that I should never tell thee, and it was a sore trouble
when Adolph Schneider demanded that it be sold. I tell thee this
because, as I have said to-day, I am weak, and I would say something in
extenuation of my unseemly conduct towards the head of the thirteen
elders.”

“And I am very human, for I am glad that the book is lost, and that the
elders had no chance to take it from thee.”

“I could not endure the thought that the stranger from the outside world
should possess what I had come to believe belonged to thee.”

Walda turned her head away a moment. Then she answered:

“I want the Bible very much indeed; but, Gerson Brandt, if any stranger
were to have it, it had been better it should go to Stephen Everett than
to any one else.”

A look of pain came into the school-master’s face. His eyes sought the
girl’s with a glance that strove to read her heart.

“And I would rather that the Bible be destroyed, that its pages be
scattered and its letters obliterated, than that Stephen Everett should
call it his own.”

“Why, Gerson Brandt, thou speakest with much stress. Thou art, indeed,
unlike thyself to-day.”

“Perhaps my real self is uppermost, Walda, and the school-master, who
was always so submissive and passive, is not the actual man.”

“Peace to thy heart.” Walda came close to him. “Let me tell thee that I
should have held the Bible as a precious token from thee, and that I am
grateful for the kindly thought with which thou hast wrought it for me.”

Tears were in her eyes. She hesitated a moment, as if waiting for an
answer. Gerson Brandt, with arms folded across his breast, pressed his
lips tightly together lest he might speak with the fervor of one who
covets from God a supreme gift that must be forever beyond reach.



                                  XIII


When Hans Peter was led away from the school-room after his confession
concerning the Bible, Karl Weisel and Adolph Schneider conducted him
towards the inn. The Herr Doktor, thoroughly upset from his usual
phlegmatic tranquillity, held the ear of the simple one in a pinching
grasp. With a speed that caused the colony president to pant, the three
descended the hill on their way to the inn.

“Hans Peter should be locked up until he confesseth that he hath borne
false witness,” said Karl Weisel.

“I believe he knoweth where the Holy Book is hidden,” answered Adolph
Schneider. “We will lock him up where he can have a chance to think over
his transgressions.”

Hans Peter, dragging slowly after the Herr Doktor, who every now and
then jerked his head, appeared not to hear what was said about him.

“Tell us now what thou didst mean by thy foolish lie about the Bible,”
urged the head of the thirteen elders.

“I spoke the truth. But not every one knoweth the truth to understand
it,” answered the simple one.

“He still defieth us,” exclaimed Karl Weisel. Then, giving Hans Peter a
cuff, he added, addressing him:

“Thou shalt spend the night in the cellar of the _gasthaus_, and if thou
dost not speak so as to make it clear that thou dost share all thy
knowledge with the elders and those in authority, thou shalt be put in
the stocks.”

“Threaten not too hastily, Brother Weisel,” said the Herr Doktor. “Thou
knowest the stocks have not been used these ten years, and the
dismembered timbers pertaining to it are stored in the hay-loft of the
_gasthaus_ barn.”

“The stocks can be put together easily enough,” muttered Karl Weisel;
and Hans Peter, turning his head as much as Adolph Schneider’s hold upon
his ear permitted, said:

“The village fool feareth no punishment thou canst devise. Ye men of
Zanah shall never get possession of Gerson Brandt’s Bible.”

“Hear! He defieth us!” cried Karl Weisel; and Adolph Schneider responded
with an angry grunt, that he punctuated with a superfluous pinch
administered to Hans Peter’s ear.

They reached the inn, where Diedrich Werther received them with his
customary imperturbability.

“Hast thou a place in the cellar where thou canst lock up this culprit?”
Karl Weisel inquired. At the same time the Herr Doktor pushed the simple
one into the middle of the room.

“There is a heavy bolt on the potato-bin,” said Werther, taking his pipe
out of his mouth and leaning upon the dog-eared register.

“Conduct Hans Peter to it, and be his jailer until to-morrow morning.
Mind that he hath no supper.”

“What is Hans Peter’s offence?” Mother Werther asked, opening the door
from the kitchen and putting her black-capped head into the room. “Tut,
tut, my boy! I hope thou hast not been exhibiting thy folly in some
hazardous manner.”

Hans Peter put his hands into his deep pockets, hung his head, and made
no reply.

“The simple one is to be locked in your potato-bin until he tells the
truth about the Bible,” announced the Herr Doktor.

“Nay, be not too severe with him. Hans Peter will tell—wilt not thou,
boy?” said Mother Werther, coaxingly.

But the simple one only shook his round head.

“You may have to stay down there in the darkness with the rats for a
week,” said Karl Weisel.

“Yea, thou shalt not baffle the elders of Zanah,” declared the Herr
Doktor. “It will be the cellar or the stocks until thou dost wag thy
stubborn tongue to good purpose.”

“Now thou art speaking wisely, Brother Schneider,” said Karl Weisel.
“Why dost thou not order Diedrich Werther to conduct the fool to his
prison?”

“Take him away,” commanded the Herr Doktor.

“Thou knowest I permit no rats in the _gasthaus_ cellar,” said Mother
Werther, shaking her head indignantly at Karl Weisel; and edging up to
Hans Peter, she bent low to whisper: “Thou shalt have the best supper I
can carry to thee.”

“Verily, even Mother Werther appears to be encouraging sedition in
Zanah,” remarked Karl Weisel, pointing to the innkeeper’s wife with a
backward movement of his thumb.

“If there is sedition in Zanah, it is thou that sowest discontent.”
Mother Werther put her arms on her broad hips, and looked at him for a
moment with such contempt in her kindly face that the head of the
thirteen elders slunk aside to a chair behind the high counter.

“I will take Hans Peter to the potato-bin, and he shall have a clean
straw tick to lie on,” she said. “Come, Hans Peter.”

Mother Werther put a hand on the simple one’s shoulder and walked out
into the kitchen with him. Presently they were heard descending the
stairs, and then their voices sounded from the distant place of
imprisonment.

It was late that night when Everett returned to the inn after a walk far
a-field. At supper-time he had asked about Hans Peter, but he had
learned nothing of the whereabouts of the simple one. He had a faint
idea that he ought to search for the fool, but his thoughts were
absorbed by Walda. He spoke to Diedrich Werther, who dozed in an
arm-chair, and the landlord slowly lighted a tall tallow dip and passed
it to Everett. He lingered to ask whether any message had come from
Wilhelm Kellar. The landlord replied that the school-master had stopped
to ask for the stranger in Zanah, but it was nothing urgent, for Gerson
Brandt had told how fast Wilhelm Kellar was gaining strength.

Everett stumbled along the dark, narrow passage that led to his room. A
draught blew out his candle, which he did not relight. Feeling his way
to his bed, he threw himself down upon it and tried to think what course
was wisest for him to pursue in winning Walda. He was not blind to the
many obstacles between them, but he was a man who was accustomed to
obtain what he coveted, and he admitted no thought of defeat. He wanted
Walda with all the intensity of a strong nature. He knew now that he
loved her, and he felt that she was his by right of that claim. A sense
of his own unworthiness haunted him when he thought of her innocence and
her unworldliness, but there had been born in him a new spirit that
consumed all his old desires. He knew that even if he could make the
prophetess of Zanah love him, it would be impossible for him to persuade
her to leave the colony as long as her father lived. He felt a hot wave
of shame every time he realized that if love came to Walda it would
bring her only dishonor before her people. Whenever this view of the end
of his wooing presented itself, he resolutely refused to face it. He
listened to the cry of his heart. He loved the woman of Zanah; he
coveted her for his wife.

Women are happy to enshrine love in their hearts even when it must burn
in a vestal flame, but men are not content unless they can carry it as a
torch from which to light the fires in the hearts of those whom they
would make their own. Women can kneel before the embers of a great
passion and be grateful, even though it must burn out before it can
reach their own hearth-stones; men would snatch the holy fire at any
cost. Everett had slowly reached the point where he had deliberately
determined to make Walda love him. He had eased his conscience by the
plea that it was a crime for a woman of such rare beauty to be buried in
the colony. He was sure he could make her happy in the world that held
so much for him. He could reason himself into the belief that he was
saving her from a wasted life. Yet, with all his reasoning, he could not
see how he was to obtain her consent to marry him and to go away with
him. Still, he hugged to his heart the belief that fate would befriend
him, and he resolved not to look beyond the one great aim of making
Walda love him.

He could not sleep. The thoughts that had harassed him, since suddenly
he had come to know Walda had all his love, disturbed him as he lay on
the high bed. He stared at the window, which afforded glimpses of a
starlit sky between the leaves and branches of a tree that had become
black in the night. Day was breaking before he began to feel drowsy.
Finally he fell into a deep slumber that was not disturbed until the sun
was high in the heavens. He was awakened by a remittent pounding, the
sound of which came from the front of the inn. He went to the latticed
window, whence he could see that several men were building something in
the village square. He made a hasty toilet in his primitive
dressing-room, where two buckets of water and a wooden wash-tub were
provided for his bath. The cold water refreshed him, but he still had a
sense of depression.

Everett hastened out into the village square. In all the time he had
sojourned in Zanah nothing unusual had happened. It was pleasing to hope
that at last something out of the common might be taking place. Three
middle-aged men and two boys were engaged in putting together a most
extraordinary structure. They had fixed in place several weather-beaten
beams and a number of old planks that led up to the rude platform.

“What are you building?” Everett asked, but the men pretended not to
understand, although he spoke in German. They kept on with their work.

“Cannot you tell me what this is?” Everett asked. The men were still
uncommunicative, but one of the boys said:

“These are the stocks in which Hans Peter must sit until he tells where
the school-master’s Bible is hidden.”

“Where is Hans Peter now?”

The boy had been silenced by the men, and he dared not reply.

During the breakfast-hour Everett could obtain no further information.
He was desirous of seeing the simple one, for he felt in a measure
responsible for poor Hans Peter’s trouble. He made a perfunctory visit
to his patient. Walda Kellar had ceased to be on duty in the sick-room,
and the case had lost much of its interest.

Wilhelm Kellar was sitting up in a big chair. He looked weak and ill,
but he proudly announced, with a tongue slow to respond to his thoughts:

“I shall be able to attend the _Untersuchung_. The Lord hath decreed
that I shall see the day of my daughter’s final victory over earthly
temptations.” The old man’s joy smote Everett, to whom the
_Untersuchung_ might mean the loss of Walda. He turned to whistle to
Piepmatz.

“I owe thee much for thine aid in helping nature to overcome my
illness,” said the old man, speaking slowly. “Thou hast been so kind
that thou hast won my enduring confidence. For the first time in a score
of years my faith in a man of the outside world is almost restored.”

Again Everett’s heart smote him. He who had come to love Wilhelm
Kellar’s daughter knew that he stood ready to tempt Walda away from her
vocation as prophetess. He had always held honor first, and he was ill
at ease. The day had gone by, however, when he could consider the
possibility of renunciation where his heart’s desire was concerned. He
had meant to flee from Zanah, but he had stayed because he loved Walda,
and because he did not mean to be disappointed in the hope of winning
her.

“You are not indebted to me,” he said to Wilhelm Kellar. “The weeks
spent in Zanah have been very pleasant to me.”

“Thou art truly a good man, Stephen Everett, and I am thankful that the
Lord did turn thy steps to Zanah,” the old man replied.

Piepmatz, looking out from his rustic cage, moved his head from side to
side as if he were listening to the conversation. Presently he whistled
the bar of the love-song that Everett had taught him. The first notes
sounded clear and true, and then Piepmatz sang a false note or two. He
began the bar a second time and broke down. Everett heard the song, and
the bird-voice carried with it an accusation against his loyalty.

“You had better go back to your doxology,” he said, snapping his fingers
at the bird.

He said a hasty farewell and went back to the inn. The stocks had been
completed and Hans Peter had just been placed in them. His fat, red
hands and his bare feet were held so firmly that it was plain the
pressure was most uncomfortable. The simple one’s face, however,
betrayed no sign of pain. He kept his eyes shut so that he could not see
the passers-by, who paused to stare at him. His shock of tow hair was
matted on his head, and his blue shirt-sleeves were torn from the
arm-holes by the unusual strain upon the garment, which was too small
for him. When Everett beheld the simple one thus ignominiously punished
his indignation arose. Without speaking to Hans Peter he went into the
inn, where he found Adolph Schneider and Karl Weisel.

“It is only fair to believe you do not know you are inflicting a cruel
penalty upon Hans Peter,” he said, addressing the Herr Doktor. “You must
lessen the pressure on the boy’s wrists and ankles, and you must do it
now.”

“Whence didst thou get thine authority to issue commands to the
president of the colony of Zanah?” asked Karl Weisel.

“I was not addressing you,” answered Everett, and the head of the
thirteen elders, taking account of the athletic build of the man of the
world, deemed discretion the better part of valor. He forbore to pick a
quarrel.

“Speaking as a physician, I must protest against the use of the stocks,”
said Everett. His tone was so cool and determined that Adolph Schneider
adopted a conciliatory manner.

“Hans Peter will not remain long in the stocks,” he said, burying his
heavy chin in his neckcloth. “He will soon tell what he knows about the
Bible. He would have confessed this morning, but Mother Werther made him
so comfortable in the potato-bin that he did not take the trouble to
think over our injunction to lay bare the facts about the Bible.”

“Even though Hans Peter may not remain in the stocks an hour, you must
confine his hands and feet less closely. I dare say he is numb now,”
Everett insisted.

“Well, well, I will call one of the carpenters,” said the Herr Doktor,
but he did not move from his chair.

“I will wait until the carpenter comes,” said Everett; “and he must come
without delay.”

Adolph Schneider sullenly conceded to Everett’s humane demand, and they
went out to the stocks together. A crowd had gathered in the square, and
some of the boys who had escaped from Gerson Brandt’s care were jeering
at the simple one. Hans Peter made no sign until Everett spoke to him.

Everett ascended the three steps to the platform of the stocks and
waited impatiently while Hans Peter’s hands and feet were freed
temporarily. The simple one was quite stiff when he was commanded to
stand up. He straightened his back with some difficulty, although he had
not been an hour in the stocks. Everett stooped to examine the marks
upon the lad’s ankles.

“Can you call yourselves Christians, and torture a boy in this fashion?”
he inquired, in anger, addressing the Herr Doktor.

“Hans Peter is none the worse for a little lesson that will teach him to
obey the commands of Zanah,” Adolph Schneider answered.

“Do you intend to put him back?” Everett asked.

Adolph Schneider showed some signs of hesitation, but Karl Weisel
replied:

“He shall stay there until his contumacious spirit is broken. He must be
punished until he confesseth.”

“Are you sure that you do not wish to tell where the Bible is?” Everett
asked, kindly. But the simple one replied:

“They can keep me in the stocks until I die. I care not. I will not
deliver the Sacred Book into their hands.” His lips were white, and the
perspiration stood upon his forehead, over which his matted hair hung
into his eyes. He tried to raise his hand to his head, but the pain made
the effort futile. Everett took one of the simple one’s swollen hands in
his and began to chafe the arms, which were numb.

The carpenters soon had their work done, and Karl Weisel ordered Hans
Peter back to his place in the stocks.

“Isn’t there something I can do to prevent this outrage?” Everett spoke
in a threatening tone. “How can you stoop to such persecution?”

Involuntarily he clinched his hands and drew himself up to his full
height. Towering above the men of Zanah, he looked from one to the
other, as if undecided which to knock down first.

Karl Weisel took the precaution to leave the platform, and when safe on
the ground he answered, tauntingly:

“Thine interference will not be tolerated in Zanah. Thou shalt not
defeat the ends of justice.”

“Nay, mind not Hans Peter; the village fool doth not fear those who are
called wise in Zanah.” The simple one spoke calmly, and he moved past
Everett to the beam upon which he had been sitting.

It occurred to Everett that any violent measures might only cause
another method of torture to be devised, and he went into the inn to
think about some means by which he could deliver Hans Peter. The day
wore away, and late in the afternoon the simple one was still in the
stocks. An attempt to discuss the matter with the Herr Doktor had proved
fruitless. Everett went to the school-master, and Gerson Brandt told him
that protest was useless.

“I warned them that I would not consent to such a show of vengefulness,”
said Gerson Brandt, “but they laughed at me, and hinted that the simple
one was my accomplice.” He was sitting at his desk, and his attitude
betrayed the deepest despondency.

Everett went back to the inn just as the afternoon bell rang. It was the
signal for the girls’ knitting-school and the boys’ learning-school to
dismiss pupils. At this hour the mill-hands had a brief respite for the
drinking of coffee. Soon the village street was full, and all the men,
women, and children turned their steps towards the square. Here they
stood in groups, talking in low tones, and casting glances up at the
simple one, whose face was not less stolid than usual. Hans Peter had
become deathly pale, but as he sat with bent back and bowed head he
appeared oblivious of the crowd that was gazing at him.

“At last the village fool hath found his right place in the world,”
remarked Mother Kaufmann, taking a seat on the lowest step of the stocks
and beginning to knit.

“I hope he will remember all the impertinent things he hath said to us,
and know that he is receiving his just dues,” said Gretchen Schneider,
who had come into the square with Mother Kaufmann.

“It seemeth to me that Hans Peter is one possessed of a devil,” declared
Karl Weisel, joining Gretchen Schneider, and taking care to stand so
close to her that his coat-sleeve brushed her arm.

On the other side of the stocks Frieda Bergen had stopped to look up at
the prisoner with compassion written on her pretty face. She wiped her
eyes on the corner of her apron, and Joseph Hoff, who saw her grief,
passed by her once or twice, biding his time until he could speak to her
without attracting the attention of the elders or colony mothers, among
whom his attachment for the girl had become common gossip.

“Hans Peter may be free to-morrow,” he said, reassuringly. “Do not feel
bad for him.”

“There is a tenderness in my heart for all God’s creatures, Joseph,” the
girl answered.

“Be sure thou givest me most of thy sympathy,” Joseph Hoff said, and
they smiled into each other’s faces with a look of perfect
understanding.

Many of the children gazed silently at the culprit, and some of them
climbed up the stout beams that supported the stocks. A few venturesome
boys seated themselves upon the heavy plank that held poor Hans Peter’s
hands. Mother Werther, who had been going back and forth all day between
the stocks and the inn, sought a place whence she could speak a cheering
word to the simple one. Several times Adolph Schneider had stepped to
the inn-porch, and, with a flourish of his cane, had admonished the
people of Zanah to preserve order. He had taken occasion to call
attention to the ways that the Lord found by which the wicked were
punished. He had just finished one of his exhortations when it was
whispered that Walda Kellar was coming.

The prophetess of Zanah walked over the bridge with her head bent, as if
she were preoccupied. When she looked up it was plain that the crowd
astonished her. She quickened her steps, and, advancing with her eyes
fixed on the stocks, said, in a clear tone, which was heard by all the
people:

“What meaneth this thing?”

She turned flashing eyes from one to another in the throng, and those
near her fell back.

“Where is some one who will answer me? I would speak to one of the
elders. By what authority is Hans Peter placed in the stocks? Who hath
dared to pass such severe judgment upon one of the most helpless in
Zanah?”

There was no answer. Walda waited for a moment.

“I would speak to Adolph Schneider or Karl Weisel,” she said; but
neither responded to her summons. Adolph Schneider had disappeared into
the _gasthaus_ when he saw her, and Karl Weisel had drifted out of
sight. Walda turned to survey the crowd.

“Why are ye here, looking on calmly? Hath no one raised a voice in
behalf of him who hath harmed none in the colony?” she cried.

She moved towards the stocks, men, women, and children separating to let
her pass. Ascending the steps, she looked down upon the colonists.
Suddenly she became clothed in a strange majesty. Her body swayed with
the strength of her emotion. She opened her lips as if to address the
throng, but some wiser impulse restrained her. She stood as if in
prayer, and presently, raising her hand to command attention, she said:

“Hath it been forgotten that it is written in the Bible, ‘With what
judgment ye judge ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete it
shall be measured to you again’? Are ye so wise that ye can know how
guilty Hans Peter is in seizing the Bible? Can ye see into the heart of
him whom all have called the simple one? Can ye know his motives? Has
none of you, to whom the Lord hath given greater understanding than He
hath vouchsafed to this humble child of Zanah, sinned in larger measure
than Hans Peter? There hath been lost to Zanah a Bible of great value;
but where is your faith? Can ye not believe that if it is best it will
be returned unto you? Liberate Hans Peter, and I say unto you it shall
be made plain that ye have done what is good. Your mercy will be
rewarded twofold.”

After she spoke the last words she paused for a moment. A murmur passed
over the crowd. One of the colonists cried:

“Free him! Free him!”

“Listen not to the voice of a woman’s pity,” warned Karl Weisel, from
his place on the well-curb, which raised him above the heads of the
crowd.

“Nay, hear her. The power may be upon her. She may be foretelling what
will happen if Hans Peter is set free.”

It was Mother Werther who raised her voice. She was standing upon the
steps of the inn, and her words caused a hush to fall upon the people of
Zanah.

“All we in Zanah can learn a lesson to-day from Hans Peter,” said Walda
Kellar, turning towards the simple one, who made no sign that he had
heard her plea for him. “This poor lad hath meant no harm. He hath
followed some strong impulse, born of the belief that he is doing right,
and you put him into the stocks, where he remaineth firm in his
determination not to undo what he hath thought was a noble deed. For
some reason he hath desired to keep the Bible in Zanah, when you would
have bartered it for gold and silver. Can ye say that it was not God’s
will he should hide it so that it could not be sent out into the world,
where it might not be valued at its true worth? How can ye be sure that
it may not be you, instead of Hans Peter, who should be punished? Doth
this structure built by your hands appear to be work that was inspired
by God? Were not the stocks devised by Satan? Is it thus that the Father
in Heaven would have ye deal with those subjects in your power?”

“Verily, she speaketh as if she were listening to the still, small voice
with which the Lord quickeneth the consciences of his people,” said the
meekest of the thirteen elders, a little, bent man, who supported
himself against a fence-rail.

“The time draweth near for the _Untersuchung_, when you will listen to
words of wisdom from me,” continued Walda, her voice softening into a
tone of humility. “Much have I prayed that I may be worthy to be chosen
from among you to be the prophetess of Zanah. In these last few weeks
there hath come to me a new light. It is yet but as a candle-beam of
divine knowledge, but it hath made all things sacred in mine eyes. The
glory of God hath been revealed to me in the smallest ways. Instead of
feeling the majesty of the Ruler of the universe, I have known something
of the meaning of the eternal love which encompasseth the highest and
the lowliest. In the Father’s eyes, when the day of judgment cometh,
this hour in the stocks may be counted so much in outweighing the sins
of the simple one that he will be placed above us all. This day’s record
in the Book of Life may have a great significance.”

Walda, looking down upon the upturned faces before her, read fear
written upon many and compassion upon a few.

“I beseech you, with one voice declare Hans Peter free,” she said,
turning her face first towards one side of the square and then towards
the other, so that all gathered there felt she addressed each
separately. “Hesitate not. Each moment that ye wait adds to the pain
suffered by your prisoner.”

“Dost thou believe the Lord will reward us if we show mercy?” asked the
Herr Doktor, who had come out of the inn to hear what Walda had to say.

“The people of Zanah should not weigh the chance of reward for doing
what is just and right,” answered the prophetess.

Walda stood as if she were listening for some word of pity from the
colonists.

“If ye would show that ye have confidence in me, whom ye look to as the
prophetess of Zanah, permit me to liberate Hans Peter. Can ye deny me
this privilege?” she asked, presently.

“It is meet that we shift the judgment of the simple one to her upon
whom the inspiration is already descending,” said Mother Werther. “Women
of Zanah, pledge her your faith.”

Cries of “Give Walda Kellar the judgment!” “Let her loosen the stocks!”
“The prophetess of Zanah hath spoken!” were heard on every side.

“Nay, the spirit hath not descended on her. Put not such power in a
girl’s hands,” shouted Mother Kaufmann, waving the hand that still
clasped her knitting.

Her words were followed by low hisses, and instantly several of the men
were heard demanding Hans Peter’s release.

“She did say that the value of the Bible might be returned twofold,”
said Diedrich Werther, who had been encouraged to speak by vigorous
nudges from his wife. Mother Werther had pushed him from his place on
the porch, where he had been hidden by the vines.

“Walda Kellar, is it the spirit which prompts thee to say the value of
the Bible will be made good to the colony?” inquired the Herr Doktor.

Again Walda Kellar stood with her head turned, as if she were listening
to the still, small voice of her conscience.

“Nay, Adolph Schneider, I cannot say that it is the spirit; I know not
whether my words are words of prophecy. Yet my faith, looking up to God,
maketh me believe that if thou showest mercy to the foolish one, a
recompense will be given thee.”

Her words came slowly. They fell upon the ears of the people in Zanah
with a distinctness and a fervor that awed them, and again the murmur
was heard in the square.

“Free him! Free him!” shouted Joseph Hoff, and the cry was taken up by
men, women, and children.

A tall, burly farm-hand pushed his way from the stocks to the porch of
the inn, where the Herr Doktor still stood. He was followed by three or
four of those who were known as the keepers of the vineyard.

“Beware how thou dost challenge the curses of Heaven,” said the
farm-hand. “Dost thou intend to obey the prophetess, now that she hath
spoken?”

“We have had bad luck enough already,” said one of the keepers of the
vineyard. “Defy not Heaven now.”

Something like fear showed itself in the face of Adolph Schneider. He
cast his small eyes towards Karl Weisel, who shook his head. The people
had now turned their faces from the stocks, and the crowd gazed upon the
village president, who was plainly hesitating concerning what would be
the best policy.

“The men of Zanah have spoken wisely,” declared the meek elder, from his
place near the fence. “Thou must listen to the voice of the people.”

“Free him! Free him!” the crowd shouted. Amid all the clamor Walda
Kellar stood motionless, with her eyes fixed upon the far bluffs, and
Hans Peter sat with head drooped so that his face could not be seen.
While the crowd was threatening to become a mob, it was not noticed that
the school-master had crossed the fields, pushed his way to the stocks,
and ascended two steps.

“Men and women of Zanah, if ye turn a deaf ear to Walda Kellar, let me
offer myself as the one upon whom to inflict the punishment ye deem
fitting because the Bible upon which I put much patient work hath
disappeared.” Gerson Brandt’s voice was low, but it had a determined
ring in it as he spoke to the colonists. He had removed his hat, and
those who looked upon his face marvelled that the gentle school-master
could be so threatening in mien and gesture.

“Since the Sacred Book disappeared while it was in my custody, I am
responsible for it. If any one is to be put into the stocks, it is I,
that served you all as your elder—I, to whom you have intrusted the
training of your boys. This day’s work shall long be a reproach to
Zanah, for ye have stood by while the simple one hath been made to
suffer. Even though he may have been guilty of the offence imputed to
him, the penalty is greater than his deed hath merited.”

The uproar that followed this speech caused the Herr Doktor to tremble
as he leaned upon his cane.

“Surely no one in all Zanah would see Gerson Brandt put into the
stocks,” said Mother Werther, taking her place beside Adolph Schneider.
“For shame, brethren and sisters of Zanah! Give Hans Peter his liberty.”

“We demand the release of the simple one,” said the vineyard workers.
“Let him go! Let him go!”

“Gerson Brandt, thine offer to take Hans Peter’s place in the stocks is
an insult to thy high office as an elder of Zanah,” said the Herr
Doktor. “I will accede to the wishes of the people. Thou canst liberate
the village fool.”

Adolph Schneider turned to go into the inn, and Stephen Everett, who had
been watching the strange scene from the corner of the porch, went out
into the square to offer aid to Gerson Brandt. The school-master had
acted quickly, and before Everett reached the stocks Hans Peter’s feet
were free. Everett loosed the simple one’s hands and raised him to an
upright position. Hans Peter was so stiff that he fell upon the rude
platform.

“He is exhausted. I will take him into the inn,” said Everett,
addressing Walda, who was leaning over the prostrate form of Hans Peter.

“I know that thou wilt minister to him, and that thou wilt restore his
senses. See, he hath swooned!”

“I will take care of him. You can trust me to see that he is made
comfortable,” Everett promised.

“Yea, I always trust thee, Stephen.”

The man and woman bending over the form of the simple one looked into
each other’s eyes for a second. Then Everett lifted Hans Peter in his
arms, carried him down the steps, and, passing through the crowd,
disappeared within the door of the inn.

Standing upon the platform of the stocks, Walda looked after them until
the inn-door had closed. Turning, she beheld Gerson Brandt staring at
her with terror in his eyes. He was ghastly pale, and his thin nostrils
were widely dilated with the quickness of his breathing.

“Art thou ill, Gerson Brandt?” she asked.

“Nay, I have my usual health. Just now, fear clutcheth at my heart.”

“Fear, Gerson Brandt? Thou wert ever brave. What is it that thou couldst
fear?”

“A shadow was cast over me. It hath passed.”

Gerson Brandt stooped to pick up his hat, and motioned to Walda to pass
down the steps before him. As Walda walked through the square the people
bowed before her, in token of their recognition that she was, indeed,
the prophetess, for it was whispered that the stranger from the outside
world had given his word to Adolph Schneider that he would pay twice the
value of the Bible on condition that Hans Peter should not be further
punished.



                                  XIV


Everett counted the days until the _Untersuchung_. Only ten intervened.
In less than a fortnight Walda would be cut off from all communication
with him. She would have entered into her duties as the leader of the
colony. She would be the prophetess—the inspired one. He tried to
imagine himself looking on during the quaint ceremony of the
_Untersuchung_, and he had to face the knowledge that he could not stand
by while the girl passed forever beyond his reach. Even while he dared
vaguely to plan some way by which he could win her for himself, he had a
few misgivings concerning her unfitness for his world, which he knew she
would find strange and cruel. He told himself that he could protect her,
that he could make her happy, and that he could help her to become
adjusted to a different sphere. With the unreason of the lover he
imagined how they would live for each other, aloof from all the ordinary
demands of every-day existence. He knew that she loved the few books
that had been open to her in Zanah, and he dreamed of the days when he
would guide her into a broader knowledge, when he would help her to
acquire the sort of an education suited to her unusual mind. He was
confident that her artistic nature would develop in a congenial
atmosphere. It would be his pride to cultivate her glorious voice, and
to teach her to understand the painter’s art, which Zanah held sinful.
His thoughts travelled over the same circle again and again, but always
he came back to the idea that he must act quickly if he would save her
from bondage to the colony—if he would awaken her to the meaning of his
love.

He was thankful for the opportunity her daily prayers at the tomb of
Marta Bachmann gave him to meet her, but the next night after he had
walked with her to the little cemetery he had seen her cross the bridge
accompanied by no less a person than Mother Schneider herself. He had
been compelled to pace restlessly back and forth among the trees,
keeping out of sight lest his presence might be discovered.

On the third night he watched for Walda at the point where the road
reached the shore of the lake. It was late, and he had almost given up
hope of seeing her when she came slowly towards him. For an hour he had
been reconnoitring the whole distance between the lake and the cemetery.
And now, when he beheld her, he felt as if he must claim her by the
right of his love for her. His better judgment, however, told him that
he must be circumspect in his wooing. One impetuous word might put her
on her guard. The touch of his hand had given her a prescience of
danger, for, according to her belief, love was the greatest danger that
could beset her path. When Walda saw him she appeared surprised at the
chance encounter. It was evident she had no suspicion that he had
deliberately waylaid her.

“It is good that I should meet thee here, Stephen,” she said, “for my
heart is so full of joy I feel as if I must share my gladness with some
one.”

“What has happened to make you so happy?” Everett asked. He saw that
there was a radiance in her face, and that her eyes shone with an
unusual brilliance.

“There hath been no outward experience different from those that come to
me every day,” she said. “But, Stephen, my heart is lifted up
exceedingly. I feel in me a new strength. My spirit dwelleth in dreams.”

“Dreams, Walda? What are your dreams like?”

“They are misty—formless. It is as if a light were just breaking over
the darkness of my soul. I feel the whisperings of a divine knowledge; a
marvellous power hath been given to me. Stephen, I know the inspiration
is coming to me. All my doubts are vanishing. I feel very near to God.”

She was transfigured with the intensity of her emotions. In her
exaltation of spirit she was so aloof from Everett that he stood dumb
before her.

“Stephen, hast thou nothing to say? Dost thou not rejoice with me?”

“I am glad to know that you are happy, Walda; but being just a man of
the world, I am selfish enough to feel unreconciled to your separation
from me. Walda, I crave a little part of your thoughts. I want to share
your joy. And now I behold you carried so far away from me that I cannot
even comprehend the transformation which is taking place in you. Is it
prayer that is raising your spirit above the earth?”

“It is not prayer alone that hath made me behold new glories, Stephen,
for through all my years spent in Zanah I have prayed unceasingly. Thou
hast helped to open mine eyes; thou hast been the messenger that hath
turned my face to the light. Verily, it is written that the Lord doth
choose mysterious ways by which to work his will.”

For a moment Everett felt he was, indeed, a hypocrite. He was not an
egotist, but his hopes, which a moment before had been cast down by the
girl’s extraordinary rapture, now rose, for he perceived that he had,
indeed, gained an influence over her.

“I want to talk to you, Walda,” Everett said, after he had thought for a
moment. “Come with me down to the shore of the lake, where there is a
log that makes a comfortable seat.”

Walda hesitated.

“Nay, Stephen, I must hasten to Marta Bachmann’s grave.”

“Don’t you think that sometimes it may be better to talk with the living
than to pray with the dead?” Everett asked. “I thought you were
interested in my welfare. Don’t you know that a few words from you may
change my whole life?”

“If I could lead thee towards heaven it would be my duty to speak with
thee.”

“Well, you can lead me to heaven.”

Everett parted the low branches of the trees so that Walda could pass
through, and as she stepped into the little path to the water’s edge one
of her long, fair braids caught upon a twig. She turned her face
backward as she felt the sharp pull, and Everett, thanking his stars for
a lucky fate that appeared to be attending him on this particular
evening, disengaged the shining hair. He pretended to be very clumsy,
and his head was brought close to Walda’s. The slightest trace of
embarrassment showed itself in the manner of the prophetess of Zanah as
she smoothed the braid and adjusted her cap. She walked forward rather
hastily, and Everett pointed out the log, at one end of which the limbs
made a graceful back for the rustic seat.

“Let me help you over these stones,” said Everett, and, taking her hand,
he led her to the log. He placed her comfortably, and, standing beside
her, told her to look at the wavering shadows in the water.

“All is peace here, Stephen,” the girl said, looking up at him. “In
Zanah there is rest for the weary spirit. Couldst thou not be contented
here always?”

“If we could always be together as we are now, Walda, it seems to me I
could never wish for anything more.”

He seated himself upon the log quite close to her, and, leaning with his
elbow on his knee, studied every feature of her beautiful face. In his
heart was a tumultuous longing to make her know that he loved her, but
her presence overcame him with a feeling that she was too holy to be
disturbed by the knowledge of his passion. Walda said, presently:

“It is strange that when I am with thee neither the past nor the future
harasses me. I am satisfied with the present; it is as if thou didst
encompass my soul with the fortress of thy strength. To-night all my
fears about the future are gone. I am happy, Stephen—strangely happy.”

She leaned back against the gnarled limbs of the old tree, and turned
her face towards the lake.

“Walda, has your religion never taught you that only in the union of a
man’s soul and a woman’s soul can there be perfect knowledge of life?”

She thought a moment, and then answered:

“Nay, Stephen, there is naught in the Bible which teacheth that the
prophets needed any but divine aid. In no place in the Bible were two
souls united in receiving the inspiration of God. Yet it hath seemed to
me that thou wert somehow joined to me in my inspiration. Instead of
separating me from thee, the knowledge that is coming to me maketh me
feel dependent upon thee.”

Stephen touched her hand, and she drew it away to hide it in the folds
of her blue cotton gown.

“You don’t mind having me near you, do you, Walda?” he asked.

“Nay, Stephen; it hath seemed lately that I craved thy presence too
much.”

Everett felt his pulses quicken.

“I know that thou hast been sent to me by divine dispensation,” she
continued. “But since the spirit of prophecy hath begun to come to me,
thou dost stir my heart. I know that I must withdraw from association
with thee and with my people. To-night there cometh over me a vague
alarm. I am happy near thee, and yet I fear this peace may vanish.”

“You cannot deny me the privilege of speaking to you in these few days
before the _Untersuchung_,” Everett answered. He gently took the hand
Walda had hidden in her gown, and, holding it in a firm clasp, said:

“I have a mind never to let you go from me, Walda. I need you all my
life. I cannot look forward to the years out there in the world without
you.”

“Dost thou mean, Stephen, that thou wouldst stay here in Zanah serving
the Lord with the men of the colony? Stay for the good of thy soul?”

Everett pictured himself attired in colony garb and meekly accepting the
orders of Adolph Schneider and Karl Weisel; but, holding Walda’s hand,
the absurdity of such a position became every second less apparent to
him. He felt that no sacrifice could be too great if it kept him near to
the prophetess of Zanah.

“Do you want me to stay, Walda?” he asked.

“Yea, Stephen, even if I might not speak to thee, it would cheer me to
look upon thy face. I have thought much of thy going away, and I have
felt that Zanah will be dreary without thee. Sometimes I have feared
lest I might be tempted to carry thine image in my heart. It is
gratitude that maketh thee thus inhabit my thoughts.”

“It is not your gratitude that I want, Walda,” Stephen said. “No, you
cannot take away your hand. I want to hold it while I talk to you. In
these few weeks in Zanah I have come to know that you will be always the
one woman who can command all my reverence, my respect, and my
allegiance. You have taught me that I have lived too much for self; you
have aroused in me an impulse to make more of my opportunities. You have
become my good angel. I cannot go back to the world, and to a lazy,
careless existence. I have forsaken my old idols, Walda.”

“Thou hast builded thee a new altar, Stephen. And now thou wilt not
profane it.”

It was the prophetess, not the woman, who spoke. Walda had forgotten all
the vague alarm. She was looking upon Stephen as a new disciple of Zanah
whom she was glad to welcome into the fold.

“Yes, I have a new altar upon which I am willing to sacrifice all my old
habits, my previous interests,” he confessed. “To it I bring the incense
of love and service and loyalty. Before it I feel my own unworthiness.
Walda, I am but an ordinary man, one who has been content to live for
the day. Since I came to Zanah, my future years have a new meaning.”

“When a man turneth his footsteps towards heaven, then, indeed, the
future is glorified. Henceforth thou wilt press onward towards the gates
of heaven.”

“But, Walda, I may find the gates closed, after all. Don’t you know it
is you who hold the key?”

“Nay, thou art almost blasphemous. I can only point the way.”

They sat there silent for a few minutes. The twilight was gathering. The
shadows of evening closed out Zanah and all the earth. A soft wind
rippled the lake, which broke in tiny waves at their feet.

“Walda, you who are so wise in the knowledge of things that pertain to
heaven are ignorant of many of the fundamental principles of life here
upon earth. Cannot you understand that at this very moment I am like a
wayfarer standing at the gate of paradise?”

Involuntarily he tightened the clasp of his hand, and love, sleeping in
the heart of the woman, was suddenly disturbed.

Walda drew her hand away, and, rising to her feet, looked at Everett
with fear in her face.

“To-night thou dost speak in parables, Stephen,” she said. “To-night
thou dost cause me to tremble before thee. Let me go to the grave of
Marta Bachmann, where I can pray until my spirit is soothed.”

Everett stood before her as if he would block her path. He uncovered her
head, and gazed at her with all the passionate longing of a strong
nature. He would have put out his arms to draw her close to him, but her
sweetness and innocence made him ashamed of the impulse. She was in his
power, but he saw that her momentary fear had passed away, for, with her
eyes raised to the stars that had appeared above the horizon, she was
praying. The man’s mood changed instantly. He could have knelt before
her to kiss the hem of her gown.

“Walda, I ask your forgiveness for showing to-night that I am almost
unworthy of your trust in me,” he said. “Turn your face to me now, and
tell me that you will go away thinking of me as one who would hold you
so sacred that he would sacrifice his heart’s desire if in so doing he
could assure you of the fulfilment of life’s best promises.”

Walda had folded her hands upon her breast. Having thus made the sign of
Zanah, which was believed to ward off all earthly influences, she said:

“Verily, Stephen, thou hast put unrest in my heart, yet even now I feel
an abiding faith in thee.”

“I shall try to be worthy of your faith, Walda.”

While they stood close together the curfew-bell sounded from the village
belfry. It brought back to earth the man and woman who lingered thus
just outside the walls of paradise.

“Good-night, Stephen. God be with thee.”

Walda had again become the prophetess of Zanah. She passed him in the
narrow path from which he had stepped aside, and he let her go without a
word. She walked a few paces only, her face still uplifted to the sky
and her hands still folded across her breast. Then she paused to look
backward at the man whose parables had in them a meaning which she had
never found in the words of Holy Writ.

And being a woman, as well as a prophetess, she saw that Everett was
good to look upon.



                                   XV


It was a rainy day in Zanah. Early in the morning, when Everett looked
out of the diamond-paned window of his bedroom, he saw that the trees
and vines in the garden were dripping. The night-wind had beaten off
many of the leaves, which had grown yellow in the long drought and the
dying summer. The distant bluffs were hidden behind a curtain of mist.
Two village “mothers” passed, their shawls drawn over their heads and
their feet dragging slowly in their clumsy, wooden shoes. Everett
dressed quickly, for his room was dark, and the silence of the village
oppressed him. When he went out to his breakfast in the long, bare
dining-room, Mother Werther served him in silence. He wondered at her
unusual taciturnity, and he tried to start a cheerful conversation. She
replied to him in monosyllables. The entrance of a boy whom he
remembered seeing at the learning-school temporarily diverted Mother
Werther from her unpleasant thoughts.

“This is my son Johann,” she said, pushing the lad forward.

The boy hung his head, and Everett inquired why Johann was never at
home.

“It is not wise that he should be kept at the _gasthaus_,” Mother
Werther explained, as she fixed a place for Johann at the distant end of
the table.

“Does some unusual occurrence bring him here to-day?” Everett inquired,
with a show of interest.

“It is the Day of Warning, and families hold communion before they go to
the meeting-house,” Mother Werther explained. “It is the last Sabbath
before the _Untersuchung_, and we make ready for the annual accounting
of our faults and follies.”

The woman’s words brought uppermost in his mind the thought that had
harassed him in the hours of the night. The time of Walda’s ordination
as prophetess was very near. He rose from the table. He heard the rain
falling upon the slate roof of the side porch upon which the dining-room
opened. Lifting the heavy latch, he pushed the door slightly ajar. The
downpour was steady.

“Does your prophetess take any special part in to-day’s ceremonies?”
Everett asked, because he felt that he must contrive to see Walda.

“Nay, she will be present at the meeting, that is all,” said Mother
Werther, bustling out into the back kitchen.

Everett sauntered into the office, which was occupied by Hans Peter. The
simple one had placed upon the mantel-shelf above the fireplace half a
dozen of his marked gourds, and he was studying them intently. He did
not pay any attention to Everett, who stepped up beside him.

“Are you preparing for the Day of Warning and the _Untersuchung_, Hans
Peter?” Everett asked.

The village fool shook his head.

“Thou forgettest that Hans Peter is one whom the Lord hath forgotten,”
he said. “The Almighty taketh no account of the sayings and doings of
the simple one.”

The simple one took into his hand a gourd which bore but one or two deep
cuts dried into its hardened surface.

“This Hans Peter had in his pocket on the day that he carried the
carpet-bag of the stranger,” he said.

“What do the marks stand for, Hans Peter? I hope they do not mean
anything uncomplimentary.”

The simple one said that he did not understand, and Everett explained.

“This meaneth that the stranger in Zanah bringeth trouble,” the village
fool answered.

Everett paced up and down the sanded floor for a few moments.

“You are not a prophet, Hans Peter,” he said, stopping to pull the
village fool’s ear. “Have I done any harm in Zanah?”

“Thou hast sown some seeds of discord.”

“Cannot you forgive me for the Bible episode? You know I have done my
best to make amends. You will not always blame me for your suffering in
the stocks, I hope.”

The simple one put the gourd he had been examining into one of his deep
pockets.

“Thou knowest the stocks were but the penalty of mine own deed,” he
said. “There are other things that even a fool can see and hear. Thou
hast a soft voice when thou speakest to the prophetess of Zanah. Thine
eyes watch her always when she is near thee.”

Hans Peter folded his arms in imitation of Everett and stared at him
with unblinking eyes.

“You are observant, Hans Peter. As I have often told you, every day I am
more and more convinced you are the wisest man in Zanah.” Everett
flicked the ashes from the cigar he was smoking and smiled down at the
queer little figure. “What conclusions do you draw from your two
discoveries?”

“It seemeth that thine actions are like Joseph Hoff’s, and the people of
Zanah say that he hath earthly love in his heart.”

“If my memory serves me right, it was you who aided Joseph Hoff to send
messages to the one he loves,” said Everett.

“She was not a prophetess,” the fool declared.

Hans Peter had selected a second gourd from the shelf, and had fled from
the room before Everett could sound him on the subject of acting as
errand-boy.

Still the rain poured down. Everett chafed under his enforced
inactivity, for he felt that every hour meant much to him. Presently,
because he had nothing better to do, he took down from its place beside
Hans Peter’s gourds the old tinder-box, and lighted the wood that was
piled in the fireplace. He lounged upon the settle and idly watched the
flames creep along the logs. His thoughts flew out to Walda. He wondered
what she was doing. He felt a disgust for the fanaticism of the colony,
and he tried to think of some way of claiming the woman he loved. He was
ready to carry her off without any ado, but he knew that as long as her
father lived he could not persuade her to go away. Although he had not
yet made her realize she loved him, he would not harbor the thought that
he could lose her—and yet his suit appeared hopeless.

His reflections were disturbed by the voice of Mother Werther raised in
indignant remonstrance. She was in the next room, and he heard her say:

“Diedrich, thou dost vex me much lately. And now thou dost tell me thou
likest to gaze through the car-windows to behold the women of the world
as they pass by Zanah.”

“They are comely,” the innkeeper answered, in his laconic fashion.

“How darest thou tell me that? To-day I am half persuaded to confess to
the elders that at last I have learned the love of man is not to be
trusted. I have a mind to claim promotion to the second rank of the
colony, and who knows but I may soon hate thee enough to serve the Lord
in singleness of purpose!”

“Thy tongue proveth thou mayst yet become like Mother Schneider and
Mother Kaufmann, who have long been in the third rank because they love
not men,” remarked Diedrich Werther.

“Thou speakest hateful words.” Mother Werther’s voice was choked with
anger. “Many times hast thou tried me sorely, but never until to-day
have I seen that thou art indeed a man with sinful impulses. Thy feet
have been turned from the straight and narrow way. Thou hast a liking
for wicked things.”

Everett smiled when he heard what he might take as an object-lesson of
the inevitable experience of even the most faithful of married couples.
He shrugged his shoulders, and thought that, after all, it was only the
few who knew the real meaning of love, the love that blended worship and
lofty aspiration.

Diedrich Werther came into the office. It was plain that the berating he
had received had not disturbed his phlegmatic calm. He shuffled along in
his carpet slippers until he reached the desk, behind which he perched
himself on a high stool. Everett felt irritated at the unpleasant
interruption to his thoughts of Walda. He snatched up his soft felt hat
and went out into the muddy street. He turned his steps towards Wilhelm
Kellar’s room, where he found his patient sitting up in an arm-chair.
Gerson Brandt was with him. The two colonists showed an unusual
restraint in the presence of the stranger in Zanah.

“I have been telling Brother Brandt that I need thy services no longer,”
said Wilhelm Kellar, addressing Everett. “There is nothing to hinder
thee from leaving Zanah to-morrow.”

Everett noticed that Gerson Brandt watched him closely while Wilhelm
Kellar spoke.

“I shall not go away for at least a week,” said Everett, leaning against
the chest of drawers, and assuming an indifferent manner.

“It is strange that thou findest colony life so pleasant,” said Gerson
Brandt.

“It is restful and interesting to me,” Everett replied, carelessly.

As he faced the two elders of Zanah he felt a twinge of remorse, because
his dearest purpose in life was to win from them Walda Kellar. He who
had held honor first experienced a certain amount of self-abasement, but
he quieted his conscience, as he had many times before, by the thought
that love was the ruling power of the world, and that all things should
give way before it.

“The colony of Zanah would recompense thee for thy services in helping
to restore me to health,” said Wilhelm Kellar. “Wilt thou render to me
thine accounting?”

“Whatever aid you have received from me has not been given for money,”
Everett replied, in a voice so decided in its accents that both his
hearers felt there was beneath his words something which they could not
understand.

“The colony never shirks the payment of its debts,” Wilhelm Kellar
declared, proudly.

“If you think you owe me anything, accept the amount as a gift to
Zanah,” said Everett.

A moment of embarrassment followed, and he was glad to take his leave
rather hastily. When he reached the inn, many of the villagers were
assembled in the main room and on the porches. The meeting-house bell
sounded as he went up the steps, and instantly the men and women moved
towards the old building on the hill. The women drew heavy shawls over
their heads to protect them from the rain, and the men, who walked apart
from them, now and then removed their caps to shake off the water which
ran down upon their hair and shoulders. No one spoke. It was evident
that the Day of Warning had its terrors for many of the colonists.
Everett stood on the topmost step watching the little children, who were
miniature reproductions of the men and women, and listening to the click
of the wooden shoes upon the board walk. He looked down the street in
the hope that he might see Walda Kellar, but he was disappointed.

“Would I be admitted to the meeting-house?” he asked Diedrich Werther,
who was putting a long-tailed coat over a faded blue-gingham shirt.

“Ja, ja; if thou desirest to attend a service of much solemnity, come
with me,” the innkeeper answered.

The meeting-house was crowded when they entered. Its interior was as
devoid of ornament as its exterior. The bare, white walls were broken at
regular intervals with small-paned, clear glass windows, which let in
but little light on a gloomy day. A broad middle aisle led straight to a
platform upon which sat the thirteen elders, for Everett was astonished
to see that Wilhelm Kellar had been carried in his arm-chair from his
room in the near-by school-house. The men occupied rude benches on the
right side of the meeting-house, and the women sat on the left. The
children were placed in front, the boys on the men’s side and the girls
on the women’s. On a dais in the middle of the elders’ platform was a
heavy oaken chair.

A few moments after Everett’s entrance a group of colonists, who still
lingered at the door, separated to allow some one to pass in. A hush
fell upon the assemblage, for Walda Kellar was walking up the aisle.
Over her blue gown she wore a long cloak with a pointed hood that she
put back from her head as she moved slowly forward. The damp air had
caused her hair to curl in many unruly ringlets about her forehead, and
her pure skin had the peculiar clearness and transparency that a rainy
day imparts to a delicate complexion. Everett could see only her
profile. There was a majesty in her carriage, a consciousness of power
in her pose, that made her seem far off from him. His heart beat wildly
as he looked at her, and when the villagers knelt in acknowledgment of
her presence, he obeyed the impulse of worship, and bent forward with a
despairing humility in his heart. He, to whom prayer had long ceased to
be a daily habit, breathed his heart’s sincere desire in a petition that
his love might be given its reward.

When Everett raised his eyes again Walda had ascended the platform, and
had taken her place on the steps in front of the chair which it was
plain was the seat reserved for the prophetess. She had thrown aside her
cloak, and she sat with her hands folded in her lap. Adolph Schneider
spoke, in German, the words of a droning invocation. He left the front
of the platform, and Everett was surprised to see Walda come forward as
if she were about to speak. Instead of making an address, she began to
sing a monotonous hymn, to which her rich voice lent a glorious melody.

While Walda sang, the man of the world listened in breathless awe. Her
voice thrilled with the diapason of hope. It rose in triumphant notes,
and then fell with a softened cadence. His soul went out to hers, but in
the tense moment that followed her hymn he felt as if she were far away
from him. Her purity rebuked the passion of love in him, and yet he
could scarcely restrain himself from the impulse to claim her there
before all Zanah. She went back to her place on the steps before the
chair of the prophetess, which she was to occupy before another week had
passed.

Adolph Schneider commanded the colonists to listen with undivided
attention to what he had to say to them. It was the Day of Warning, when
all who felt they were not prepared for the _Untersuchung_ would make
confession. If there was any man or woman who desired to ask for
promotion in the colony, the time had come to show reason for a desire
for advancement.

A tall, large-boned woman rose from her place far back in the
congregation.

“I would seek advancement to the first grade of the colony,” she said.

“What is thy ground for making this request? Why dost thou believe that
thou art worthy?” the Herr Doktor asked.

“It is five years since I refused to listen to the elders of Zanah when
they told me of the trials earthly love would bring,” answered the
woman, turning a sallow, weather-beaten face towards the platform. “Now
have I learned that marriage is a hard discipline. Otto Schmidt hath
vexed me every day for forty months. I have found that the love of man
for woman is fleeting, and now do I know that I can worship God in
singleness of heart.”

On the men’s side a stout mill-worker pulled himself to his feet.

“Christina hath not suffered the smallest tithe of the mortification of
spirit that hath been mine,” he declared, in an emphatic tone. “It was
for her sake that I gave up my place in the first grade of Zanah’s
people, and now do I confess that the elders of Zanah are wise when they
entreat the people to beware of love. Love is but the fire of man’s
vanity kindled to flame by a woman’s wanton eyes.”

“Nay, it is but a woman’s faith which is nourished by man’s false
promises of kindness and constancy,” replied the woman, who was still
standing.

“Let the brother and sister of Zanah be seated,” commanded Adolph
Schneider.

As she obeyed, Christina Schmidt cast a glance of hatred towards her
husband.

The elders spoke together. While they were holding their conference,
Everett noticed that Hans Peter was creeping slowly up the aisle with a
letter in his hand. He passed the envelope up to Adolph Schneider and
tiptoed to a vacant place on the front seat. The elders examined the
letter. The colonists waited without any show of impatience.

“It is my sad duty to announce that one of the colony youths hath looked
with longing eyes on a maid, and that he entreats permission to wed
her,” said the Herr Doktor, standing upon the edge of the platform and
looking down at the people with a stern expression on his face. His
small eyes scanned the women and then the men. “I would have Frieda
Bergen and Joseph Hoff step forward.”

It would not have been in human nature for the people to remain
impassive. More than half of them turned their heads to look for the
culprits. Joseph Hoff made his way towards the elders. He carried his
head high, and had an air of bravado that showed how little he cared
because he was transgressing the laws of the colony. He waited for
Frieda Bergen, who came towards him with her head bent and her cheeks
flaming. “Be of good courage,” he whispered, as they faced Adolph
Schneider.

“You two have made for yourselves idols here on earth,” said the
president of the colony in a thundering tone, which frightened every
youth and maiden in the meeting-house. “Ye have not heeded the behests
of Zanah. How did Satan manage to tempt you when all the safeguards of
Zanah were thrown around you?”

Neither of the lovers spoke.

“It is not permitted here in the colony for men and women who are
unmarried to speak together except on rare occasions, and never are they
allowed to talk when no one is near them; how then did ye two surrender
to the tempter?”

Still there was no answer.

“Speak, Joseph Hoff!” Adolph Schneider shouted, in a tone which showed
that he was filled with indignation.

“Love needeth not words or messengers; love is carried on the winds that
blow across a woman’s cheek,” said Joseph.

“Nay, it is like a prayer that cometh from the heart of man to the heart
of woman,” faltered Frieda, bending in a low courtesy.

“Thou art blaspheming!” Adolph Schneider cried, looking on the maiden
with angry eyes. “It is plain that thou art made mad by what thou
callest love. To you two erring ones shall be given a chance to repent
between now and the _Untersuchung_, but if your eyes are then still
blind to your iniquities ye shall be allowed to marry. Ponder well upon
the testimony given here this day by Otto and Christina Schmidt. Human
love lasteth but a few years, and eternity is not long enough to blot
out the sorrow it can bring to a human soul. Go hence to pray that ye
may be delivered from paying the hard penalties earthly love bringeth to
all.”

Tears were streaming from the girl’s eyes as she walked back to the
women’s side of the building, but in her face was no sign of repentance.

Karl Weisel and the other elders had listened with stolid faces while
Adolph Schneider rebuked the people. After the young lovers had taken
their seats, Wilhelm Kellar pronounced a benediction. The colonists
filed slowly out of the meeting-house. Everett lingered in the hope that
by some happy circumstance he might speak to Walda, but she was detained
by the elders, who gathered around her. He had given up hope of getting
near her when it occurred to him to make Wilhelm Kellar’s imprudence an
excuse by which he might at least go closer to the woman he loved. He
went forward to where Wilhelm Kellar stood at the foot of the platform
steps.

“You have taken a great risk,” he said, to his patient. “You should not
have come here to-day.”

The old man drew himself up with a show of strength and said he was well
enough to make an effort to enter the Lord’s house.

Walda, who had smiled upon Everett when she saw him coming towards her,
put her hand upon her father’s shoulder and persuaded him to be carried
back to his room. Gerson Brandt and another man of Zanah lifted the
invalid’s chair. Everett opened the side door that they might pass out.
Walda, who was anxious for her father’s comfort, would have gone into
the rain ahead of them, but Everett reminded her she had not put on her
cloak. He stepped up to the chair of the prophetess without taking
thought that he might be profaning the place of the elders, and, taking
the long garment, put it around her. Although Karl Weisel and the other
elders stood by, he calmly fastened the clasp at the neck and drew the
hood over the head of the prophetess. Walda, looking up into his face,
beheld in the deep-set eyes as they rested upon her something that sent
the blood to her face. Gerson Brandt, looking back over his shoulder,
saw Everett hold the door open while Walda went through, and he noticed
that the strong face of the man of the world had upon it a look of
tenderness such as he had never seen before.

Everett hesitated a moment as he buttoned his mackintosh. He was
uncertain whether to go out into the woods for a long walk or whether to
return to the dreary inn. He turned his steps towards the inn, and he
had not gone half-way down the hill before he saw Walda coming from the
school-house. The prophetess was with Frieda Bergen, and behind them
walked two of the village “mothers.” Everett let them pass him, but he
noticed with a pang that Walda appeared not to see him as he stood with
uncovered head while she walked by.

“The elders have asked me to entreat thee to overcome this love that
thou hast confessed,” he heard Walda say to Frieda Bergen; but they had
gone beyond ear-shot before the girl replied.

They went into the inn, whither Everett followed them after a time.
Walda drew Frieda Bergen to the settle near the fire which Everett had
kindled.

“Thou seemest so happy in thy sin that I would know what is thy
feeling,” said Walda. “Thou hast the look of one to whom heaven hath
been revealed.”

“A great joy hath come to me, Walda. If it is wicked to love, then would
I continue in my sin,” answered Frieda. “Hast thou never known the
temptation of love? Hast thou never seen one who maketh the world seem
better to thee?”

“Gerson Brandt and Stephen Everett have taught me much,” said Walda,
“but no one hath ever tempted me to forget God and to worship man. Doth
not thy conscience make thee repentant?”

“Nay, I cannot believe that it is wicked to love.”

“How didst thou come to know that thou lovest?”

“One day, as we worked together, Joseph Hoff looked at me through the
trellis of a hop-vine. He was on one side and I was on the other. My
heart trembled, and thenceforth his face was often before me.”

“That is but a small matter. The stranger in Zanah hath sometimes made
my heart leap, but that meaneth naught.”

“After the hour in which Joseph Hoff looked at me, the day was happier
when I could see him. I no longer rebelled against the hard tasks given
me. I had sweet dreams,” declared Frieda.

“I have felt as thou sayest thou feelest, but it was prayer and fasting
that made the earth like the outer courts of heaven. Frieda, Frieda,
thou hast mistaken the spirit of holiness for earthly love.”

Walda Kellar leaned forward, clasping her hands together in a gesture
which betrayed her relief at what she supposed was her discovery of the
true state of her companion’s mind.

“Nay, nay, it was love that made a new life for me,” insisted Frieda,
shaking her black-capped head and speaking in a low voice.

“How couldst thou know?”

“One day Joseph spoke to me sweet words; he touched my hand. Life became
changed again. In my heart thenceforth was a great loneliness except
when I was near Joseph Hoff. I trembled when he touched my hand, and I
would have had him always by my side.”

“Ah, this that thou tellest me is strange indeed. I have known something
of this loneliness, but it was the loneliness of the soul that seeketh
God and feareth to lose the way to heaven. Tell me something more of thy
love.”

“Joseph Hoff sometimes said I was like an angel to him. He spoke softly
of love.”

“Thou wert wrong to listen,” said Walda.

“Thou hast spoken often with the stranger in Zanah.”

“True, but we talked of books, and the woods; of the wonders of the
heavens and the glories of the earth.”

“We spoke few words, but they gave me strange strength. The earth seemed
a pleasanter place after we had talked together. Hast thou never known a
day when suddenly the flowers became more beautiful and the sun shone
brighter?”

“Yea, lately, since the inspiration hath come to me, it is as if Zanah
were bathed in a heavenly radiance. But tell me more, Frieda.”

“The days became pleasant; every one was joyous. There was in my heart a
singing that made me care not for the reproofs of the village mothers.”

“I know what thou meanest. Thy experiences are not different from mine.”
Walda looked into her companion’s face with a smile of sympathy.
“Disturb not thyself any longer. Thou hast the revelation of divinity
that the Lord sendeth to those who serve Him. Why didst thou think this
new glory in thy life was an earthly love? Foolish girl, I am glad that
I did have this chance to probe thy heart to-day.”

“It was not love of God that was in my heart, Walda.” Frieda looked into
the fire and shook her head thoughtfully. “Else why should I look each
day for a glimpse of Joseph Hoff? Why should the simplest word from him
be more to me than the longest prayer of any of the elders? Even if I
had thought in the beginning that the tumult in my heart was due to the
fervor of my religious faith, I found out very soon that it was Joseph
Hoff I loved.”

“How did the revelation come?” Walda whispered.

“One day, when I went back into the hay-field to find a rake I had left,
Joseph Hoff, who was working on the top of the stack, came down to the
field, and, taking both my hands, he kissed me.” Frieda lifted the
corner of her apron and half hid her face as she made this confession.

“Ah, that was sinful, indeed!” exclaimed Walda, her eyes wide with
horror. “We of Zanah have been taught that a kiss is the password that
Satan giveth to weak and foolish men and women. I hope that thou didst
rebuke the bold and sinful youth.”

Frieda raised her apron a little higher and made no reply.

“What didst thou do when he had kissed thee?” Walda asked, after a
moment of silence.

“I—I—waited for him to kiss me again.”

Walda drew away from the girl beside her. “How couldst thou let any man
touch thy lips?” she exclaimed in indignation.

“Because I loved him.”

“And since Joseph Hoff hath kissed thee, hast thou not lost the sense of
holiness that belongeth to the people of Zanah?”

“Nay, every kiss hath added a glory to the earth. I care no longer for
heaven if I may dwell with Joseph Hoff here in Zanah.”

“Truly, thy state of mind doth alarm me, Frieda. Thou hast many of the
emotions that have come to me since the beginning of mine inspiration,
and yet thou hast fallen a victim to the wiles of man. Pray that thine
eyes may be opened to thine errors.”

“Nay, I would not pray that, lest my prayer should be answered. If I
prayed from my heart, I would ask that many years might be given me to
live and love Joseph Hoff here on earth.” Frieda Bergen rose and walked
away, but she turned back to put her hand on Walda Kellar’s shoulder.

“Forgive me if I seem of a stubborn spirit. I know that thou canst not
understand how the love of man can take possession of a woman’s heart.
Thou wilt be satisfied to live aloof from the people of Zanah that thou
mayst be near to God, but I would rather have the love of Joseph Hoff
than the inspiration that cometh to a prophetess of Zanah.”

“It is my duty to reprimand thee for thy sin, but somehow, when thou
speakest of Joseph Hoff, I cannot feel the abhorrence for thy
transgression that should fill my heart. I will pray that the Lord may
show thee the right way.”

Walda leaned her head against the settle and thought about Frieda
Bergen’s state of mind, but her thoughts were confused. Her reflections
were interrupted by Everett, who came into the inn. Drawing near to the
fireplace, he made a great show of drying his hat, which was wet from
the rain. Walda did not seem to notice his presence.

“You appear to be troubled about something,” he said.

“Yea. A matter of much moment hath been laid before me, and I have not
wisdom enough to see it in all its sinfulness.”

“Do you suppose my worldly advice would help you?” Everett asked.

“Nay, thou hast different measures of judgment from those set by the
people of Zanah. Thou dost not hold earthly love a sin.”

“No, I do not, Walda.” Everett smiled. “I hold love—the earthly love you
are taught to try to escape—as the most precious gift the Creator gave
to the children of men.”

His voice was low, and it betrayed an intensity of feeling that caused
Walda to give him a questioning glance. Everett looked at her with so
much tenderness she turned her head away.

“Thou hast in thy tones the same sound that was strange in Frieda’s
voice. Dost thou love? Hast thou the same unreasoning rapture as Joseph
Hoff?”

“Not the same, Walda. I love much more than any man in Zanah.”

Walda’s face became as white as the cap upon her soft hair. She clasped
her hands tightly together and said, with a catch in her voice:

“Stephen, why hast thou never told me of thy love?”

“Because I thought you would not care to hear about it. Because it is
forbidden to speak of love in Zanah,” Everett answered.

He seated himself beside her on the settle. From behind the high desk
Diedrich Werther now and then stared at them with a glimmer of suspicion
in his eyes. His recent contact with the world at the railway station
evidently had made him less trustful than his fellow-colonists. Everett
noticed the innkeeper’s watchfulness, and therefore was careful not to
betray emotion.

“Walda, you are not angry because I have deceived you, are you?” he
said, when she did not answer him.

“Angry with thee, Stephen? Nay, thy love cannot concern the prophetess
of Zanah.” Her lip quivered, but she held her head high, and disdained
to let him know that the heart beneath her kerchief was throbbing so
that her words were almost smothered in her throat. “Thy confession did
cause me to be abashed for a moment. I had never thought that out in the
world some woman loved thee.”

She rose to her feet as she spoke, and she would have gone away without
another word but he boldly caught her hand and pulled her back upon the
settle. Diedrich Werther looked on with jaw dropped and pipe suspended
at elbow-length, but Everett defied him.

“You misunderstand me, Walda. I want to explain to you, but this is not
the place.”

“I—I would not hear what thou hast to say about thy love, Stephen,” she
said, with a faint smile. “Frieda hath told me her story, and it is
enough for me to think of in the watches of the night. Detain me not. I
must pray for Frieda Bergen. I must seek divine light for the
understanding of mortal weaknesses, of which love is said to be the most
dangerous. Verily, to-day I fear the inspiration hath been withdrawn
from me, for I am dull of comprehension.”

Before Everett could reply, Gerson Brandt entered the room. The
school-master came towards them with a stern look upon his face.

“Why dost thou talk here with the prophetess of Zanah?” he said,
addressing Everett. “Thou canst have nothing to say that will be worthy
of her hearing, since she is close to heaven and thou art of the wicked
world.”

His long hair was wet as it lay upon his shoulders, and his thin face
was deeply lined.

“We were talking of love—earthly love,” Walda said, leaving her place
beside Everett. “Gerson Brandt, he hath just told me that he loveth.”

The school-master’s tall, gaunt form swayed beneath the burden of a
great emotion.

“Tell me, sir, thou hast not dared to speak of love to the prophetess of
Zanah?” he cried.

“Yes, I have spoken of love,” said Everett, going to the farther side of
the fireplace. “Yes, I have spoken of love.” He was again the cool,
well-poised man of the world. Carelessly he took up an old pair of
bellows, as he added: “But you need not fear. The prophetess of Zanah
did not care to hear about my love.”

“Walda, thou wouldst not listen to any man who would dare to speak of
love to thee, wouldst thou?” Gerson Brandt asked, in an agony of fear.

“Disturb not thyself, Gerson Brandt,” Walda answered. “What harm can
there be in Stephen Everett’s declaration that he loveth a woman out in
the world?”

An expression of relief passed over the face of the school-master. Beads
of perspiration stood upon his white forehead. He was shaking so that he
had to steady himself against the end of the settle.

“Thy time of inspiration is so near that thou shouldst not speak to the
stranger,” he said, in a softened tone. “Thou art close to heaven, and
it is not wise for thee to commune with any man.”

“Must I speak no more with thee, Gerson Brandt?” Walda looked at him
with all the tenderness of a deep affection shining in her eyes. Everett
watched her as she addressed the school-master. The childish heart and
the unawakened soul associated with the majestic form of a woman had
fascinated him when he first came to Zanah, but he saw that the face,
once as placid as a nun’s, showed the inner disquietude that is the
recompense of those who come into a knowledge of the great emotions of
life.

“Thou wouldst better dwell alone until the great day of the
_Untersuchung_,” Gerson Brandt said to Walda. “Go now to thy closet,
where thou canst pray until thou forgettest what thou hast heard of
earthly love.”

Walda started to obey the counsel of the school-master, but she
hesitated after she had gone to the door. She glanced at Everett. His
tall form was outlined in the fire-light, but she could not see his
face, which was in the shadow.

“I would speak a last word with Stephen Everett,” she said. Gerson
Brandt stood by the door while she went near to Everett.

“Since this may be my last meeting with thee, I would offer thee
gratitude from my heart for all that thou hast done for my father and
for me,” she said. “Thou hast helped me to gain wisdom, Stephen.”

“Do not speak of gratitude, Walda. You cannot say good-bye to me here,
for I shall see you again.”

“Nay, I may not be permitted to see thee again.” She stopped, as if she
were taking care to speak wisely. “It is my prayer, Stephen, that thy
love shall bring happiness to thee and to the woman upon whom thou hast
set thine heart.”

She was gone before she could hear Everett’s reply.



                                  XVI


The evening of the Day of Warning closed in dark and dreary. The rain
stopped and a high wind came up. After tea in the inn, Everett walked up
and down the porch. The village square and the winding street were
deserted. At long intervals lights gleamed from fast-curtained windows.
At first he took it for granted that Walda would not make her nightly
visit to the grave of Marta Bachmann. When he thought over the matter,
however, it occurred to him that it might be well to walk out towards
the cemetery. He knew the fanaticism of the colonists caused them to be
punctilious in the smallest religious observances. He watched for Walda
in vain. After Gerson Brandt’s exhibition of evident unfriendliness to
him he knew that precautions might be taken to prevent Walda from
passing the _gasthaus_. As he had nothing else to do, he decided that a
walk out through the woods to the shore of the lake might possibly be
rewarded by a glimpse of the prophetess. He met no one on the way to the
cemetery, but when he reached the gate he could dimly discern the forms
of two women who were standing by the grave of Marta Bachmann. He
guessed that Mother Kaufmann had been sent with Walda. A tall hedge
surrounded the God’s-acre of Zanah, and he followed this evergreen wall
to the point where it was nearest the grave of the dead prophetess. He
was careful that his presence should not be discovered by the colony
“mother.”

An old oak-tree spread its branches over the little plot of ground in
which the tomb of Marta Bachmann was situated. The wind waved the
branches of this tree and blew a shower of brown leaves upon the two
women. It wound Walda’s cloak about her and tore the shawl from Mother
Kaufmann’s shoulders.

“This is a night to make the spirits of the dead walk about their old
haunts,” said Mother Kaufmann.

“Put superstition away from thee,” Walda answered. “If thou hast fixed
thy faith on God, evil spirits cannot harm thee.”

Mother Kaufmann put her hand to her forehead while she peered about her,
as if to discover some chance ghost.

“Dost thou not hear footsteps among the dried leaves?” she asked Walda.

“Nay, Mother Kaufmann. Why art thou so affrighted?” the girl replied. At
that moment a gust of wind almost swept them from their feet. Mother
Kaufmann uttered a scream of terror and pointed to a far corner of the
graveyard where a white form was moving about among the graves. She did
not wait to find out who or what the unexpected apparition might be.
Gathering her skirts in her hand she fled, leaving Walda alone beside
the grave. Everett stepped through the hedge and spoke gently to Walda.

“Do not be afraid,” he said. “I will find out what sort of a ghost has
frightened Mother Kaufmann.” He walked towards the place, where what
appeared to be a headless form wrapped in a sheet was moving back and
forth. When he came near to it he saw that it was a most substantial
substance, for Hans Peter had borrowed a white rubber blanket, through
which he had thrust his head, and thus improvised a most serviceable
rain-coat.

“What are you doing here?” Everett asked, in an angry tone of voice. “Do
you know that you have scared one of the colony women?”

“Thou hast no concern in what my errand may be,” said the simple one,
gathering his rubber blanket around him and calmly seating himself upon
the nearest gravestone. “If Mother Kaufmann had been scared to death
there is none in Zanah who would have wept upon her bier.”

“You had better go back to the village,” Everett advised, as he with
difficulty restrained a laugh.

“Nay, it is thou who hast no occasion to linger near the cemetery,” the
simple one replied. “I have come to wait for Walda Kellar.”

Another gust of wind, even stronger than the preceding one, carried
Everett’s hat away, and while he searched for it in the dark a tree was
uprooted. It fell with a crash that came from the direction of Marta
Bachmann’s grave, towards which Everett ran in a frenzy of fear lest
Walda had been injured.

“Stephen, Stephen,” he heard her call. She took a few steps towards him,
and in a moment his arms were around her.

“You are not hurt, are you?” he said, putting his right hand upon her
head, and drawing it close to him until it rested on his shoulder. He
felt her tremble, and he said:

“You are quite safe now. I will take you home.”

The simple one had come near. Without glancing towards Stephen and
Walda, he went to Marta Bachmann’s grave, and, climbing over the
branches of the fallen tree, began to search for something. Everett
gently put Walda away from him lest the simple one should notice them.
Then, taking her by the hand, he led her through the hedge and along the
road until they came to the open place by the lake.

“Stephen, I have shown a grievous weakness and lack of faith,” said
Walda, catching her breath, and drawing her hand from his. “The
prophetess of Zanah should not know fear, and yet I felt a strength and
comfort in thine aid that my prayers have never given me.”

Walda raised her face to him, and again he put his arms around her.

“Walda, I mean to take care of you always,” he said. “I shall never let
you go. Cannot you understand that it is meant you should belong to me?”
He kissed her on the lips, and, abashed and trembling, she drew away
from him.

“Stephen, thou dost betray my trust in thee. Why wouldst thou profane
the lips of a prophetess of Zanah?” she cried. She put her hands over
her heart, as if to still its wild beating, and her eyes were wide with
fear and astonishment.

“Walda, I love you. I think I have loved you ever since the first day I
came to Zanah. I have kissed you because my heart claims you from all
the world. Life without you means nothing to me. Can’t you love me,
Walda?”

“I know not what it means to love. I have been warned that it is selfish
and sinful for men and women to fix all their thoughts upon each other.
Oh, Stephen, what have I done that thou shouldst speak thus to me?”

“You have made me centre all my hopes in you. You have won my reverence.
I know I am unworthy to touch your hand, but this love that has come to
me gives me a supreme courage. Walda, surely your heart answers mine.
Words are so clumsy that, now that my tongue should tell you how great
and holy a thing is the love of a man for a woman, I am but a poor
supplicant.” He took both her hands in his and drew her towards him.
Again he kissed her, and, instead of resenting the caress, she hid her
face upon his shoulder. He held her thus for a moment. He pushed back
the white cap and softly touched her hair.

“Walda, do you know, I have often been afraid of the prophetess of
Zanah,” he said, in a low tone, “and if it were not for my great love I
would not have the courage to covet you for my wife. Love is stronger
than reason, and so I dare covet you for my own forever. You are mine,
for I could not love you so if you were not the woman destined to rule
my life. Cannot you find in your heart a little love for me?”

“I know not what is in my heart,” she answered. “Thy kisses make me
ashamed, Stephen, and yet my heart is glad. This night my weakness hath
been revealed to me. Even now I cling to thee when I should bid thee go
away from me.”

“You do love me, Walda. You must love me. It was fate that brought me to
Zanah to find you. I know that all my years I have been waiting for you.
You have been kept for me here in Zanah. Cannot you begin to comprehend
that love is the birthright of every man and woman? Zanah would have
cheated you, but now it cannot separate us.”

“Thy words make me think of my duty, Stephen.” Walda’s voice trembled.
“Since thou hast kissed me, I am no longer fit to be the prophetess of
Zanah.”

“You will be a wife instead of a prophetess, Walda. You can still be an
instrument of the Lord, for you will make the world outside better for
your presence.”

She was very quiet for a moment. It was as if she had not heard him.

“Is it love that maketh my heart beat? Is it love that casteth out fear
while thou hast thine arms around me?” she asked, presently. “What
meaning is there in a kiss that it should make me ashamed and yet happy,
Stephen? Verily, thy kisses are not like the kisses of good-fellowship
that the elders give one another at the _Untersuchung_; they are not
like the kisses the mothers have pressed upon my forehead.”

“Of course they are not,” Everett said, and he laughed aloud in the joy
the knowledge of her love gave him. “Look up, Walda, and let me kiss you
again, and you will learn that the kiss of love is the token that
unlocks the hearts of men and women.”

She looked into his eyes, and their lips met.

“Thou speakest truly, Stephen,” Walda said. “Let us go back to the
village. I would think of thee and of love in solitude and with much
prayer. This hour hath robbed me of the mantle of the prophetess.”

“But it has given you the highest heritage of life. It is better to be a
wife than a prophetess, Walda.”



                                  XVII


Kneeling by the window in her bare little room, Walda tried to pray
after the manner of Zanah, yet no words of penitence came to the lips
that had been touched by a lover’s kiss. The soul that the good elders
had turned towards heaven as a mirror upon which the divine will might
be reflected held an earthly image. A human love was enshrined in the
heart that had been consecrated to God. As the girl prostrated herself,
the discipline of long years of religious training was forgotten. Her
Zanah life fell from her. New emotions swept over her, submerging her
old character and bringing strange, sweet hopes. The soul of the
priestess was consumed by the supreme passion of earth, and in its place
flamed the soul of a woman.

One by one the lowly duties that had occupied her days came up before
her. She recalled the pious fervor that had made them pleasant. Looking
back to the time when Everett’s chance words in the sick-room had
tempted her to enjoy the beauties of sky and field, she realized how far
she had grown away from her former self since the almost imperceptible
beginning of the fuller life which she had unconsciously entered.
Kneeling there in the darkness, for the first time in all her life she
rebelled against the laws of Zanah. Her youth and womanhood demanded the
privilege of accepting human love. Everett’s influence was over her, and
she gave little thought to the future. It was enough to feel the
exaltation of love, to comprehend that she stood at the threshold of the
ultimate mystery of life. She looked out at the stars that shone above
the far horizon. She felt that she had ceased to belong to Zanah. It was
as if she had entered into a larger kinship with all nature. Love had
wrought the miracle that puts away all one’s years and leads the soul
into a new existence independent of the past, expectant of the future.

Long after the village had gone to sleep Everett stayed out in the
starlight, thinking of the weeks he had spent in Zanah, and of the woman
who would henceforth claim his life’s allegiance. He dreamed of the
future that was his and Walda’s. He saw the girl’s stunted life
expanding under its new environments. His thoughts wandered over
imaginary years, and he beheld her clad in the ripened charm of
maturity. He saw the light of happiness in her eyes reflected in the
eyes of their children. Sometimes, perhaps, they would look back to
Zanah and thank God that among the middle-aged mothers with dwarfed
minds and cramped souls there was none that bore the name of Walda
Kellar.

For Walda the next day dawned with mysterious splendor. Zanah had fallen
under a spell of enchantment, yet as the village awoke to life all its
influences once more stole over her. Looking out of her window, she
began to remember that she had been the prophetess of Zanah. She watched
the men and boys walk leisurely towards the factory. Ox-teams creaked up
the narrow street. The children solemnly wandered schoolward. She could
no longer put her father or Gerson Brandt from her thoughts. The
realization that she would give them pain burst upon her.

She tried to think what Everett’s love meant to her, but she found it
impossible to get beyond the one idea that she was to be unfaithful to
the trust that the people of Zanah had put in her. She did not shrink
from facing the change in her position in the colony, but she could not
understand what her future would be. She recalled that Everett had taken
it for granted she would leave Zanah, but she knew she could not desert
her father, even though a greater love than that which she bore for him
might call her away. She was not sad, however, for underneath her new
anxieties there was the consciousness of the revelation of love, the
recognition of divinity that was so different from the one to which she
had looked forward since her childhood. It gradually came over her that
the inspiration she had felt came through a human medium, and not
directly from heaven. She fell upon her knees before the low table that
held her little German Bible. She tried to pray that she might know the
will of God, but she could not bring herself to plead that she would
have power to cast out from her heart the human love which had brought
to her life the holy exaltation she had hoped to obtain through rigid
conformity to the creed of Zanah.

Walda went out of the house of the women and stood in the little street,
in which she felt suddenly that she was a stranger. She turned her steps
towards the hill, for she obeyed the impulse to go to her father.
Wilhelm Kellar was sitting in the window whence Walda had looked so many
times at the far-off bluffs. He was reading his Bible, and as Walda
entered the room he was mildly rebuking Piepmatz, who was singing the
doxology and the love-song, mingled in such a medley as was never before
heard from the throat of any bird.

“Peace be with thee, daughter,” he said, taking off his horn spectacles
and stretching out his thin hand to her.

Walda clasped his hands, and her eyes fell beneath his glance. “Thou art
feeling better, I hope?” she said, sinking upon a stool that was just
beneath Piepmatz’s cage.

“The knowledge that the day of the _Untersuchung_ is so near giveth me
new life,” declared the old man. “To-day I am full of gratitude because
the Lord hath kept thee safe from the wiles of men. I have given thanks
unto the Lord that thou art to be the prophetess.”

Walda’s face flushed and then became pale. Her heart beat so that she
could not answer.

“Come near to me, Walda,” her father said. “I would tell thee that thou
hast crowned my life with happiness, that thou hast atoned for the sin
of the mother who bore thee.”

Walda knelt before him and hid her face upon his knee.

“Nay, nay, father,” she cried, “I am unworthy of thy trust. I am but a
weak woman such as thou sayest my mother was.”

“It is right that thou shouldst feel humble, my daughter,” the old man
replied, putting both hands upon her head. “But thou hast not sinned in
deceiving those that trust thee. Thou hast not known the temptations of
a human love.”

“Father, father!” Walda raised her head and looked up with tearful eyes.

A knock sounded on the door, and Hans Peter, still tapping on the
door-jamb with one of his gourds, crossed the threshold.

“The elders have sent me to tell thee they would consult with thee. They
bade me make ready the ink-horn and the papers, as they have business of
much importance,” he announced.

Walda went away from her father’s room with her confession still
unspoken. She lingered for a moment on the school-house porch, for she
felt uncertain what to do with her day. For the first time in all her
Zanah life she had no inviting task before her. She was already removed
from the calm routine of duty. Ordinarily she would have gone to study
the heavy books kept in the elders’ room which occupied a little wing of
the meeting-house, but as she looked at the door, which stood invitingly
open, she felt that she would no longer need to be familiar with the
annals of former prophetesses and the discourses of the elders long
since sanctified by good works. She had a sense of being outside the
colony. A pang of homesickness made her sink upon the bench and look out
upon the quiet valley.

The years had slipped by so noiselessly that she had come into womanhood
without realizing the changes wrought by time. When she was a child, the
colonists had labored in simple harmony and humble faith, content to
work for the common welfare. Each season their harvests had been more
abundant, their vineyards more fruitful, their lands more extensive. In
the midst of this well-preserved plenty she had been happy, although she
had often vexed the “mothers” by her sudden impulses and hasty actions.
Beneath the kerchief crossed upon her breast now an eager, restless
heart beat, and she comprehended that all the teachings of the good
elders had not altered her intense nature. It seemed to her that Zanah
had been metamorphosed since the coming of the early summer-time when
she had looked forward to the autumn with a large hope for the final
step towards her complete consecration to the service of God and the
colony. She felt that, somehow, mysterious influences were at work.
There was a general discontent. It had been a bad year for both the
mills and the harvest fields, and she had represented hope and wisdom to
the colonists. Tears came to her eyes when she thought that she had
betrayed the trust of Zanah, and yet underneath her remorse was the
consciousness that she was being led by the divine power in which she
had trusted. Love flamed beneath every shifting emotion.

Through her tears Walda gazed down at the quaint village. The low-roofed
stone houses were almost hidden beneath the vines and shrubbery that
were turning to gorgeous color with the magic touch of the first frosts
which had come early. Beyond the village the little valley melted into
the plain, which rolled away to the far-off bluffs. The fields were
brown and gold, as the gleaners had left them after the harvests, except
here and there where the rich, black earth had been turned up by the
plough. Cattle grazed beside the placid river that flowed almost
imperceptibly onward to the Mississippi. The sunlight, mellowed by the
autumn haze, glorified even the commonest every-day things. The scene
had the beauty that gave it unreality. As her eyes rested upon the
familiar landscape Walda felt a vague fear that it might vanish, since
she had forfeited her right to remain in it as one of the faithful
colonists. While she was looking down the wavering street she saw Gerson
Brandt slowly climbing the hill. He had taken off the broad-rimmed hat
that distinguished him from the other men of Zanah, and Walda noticed
with a pang that his face had the stamp of pain upon it. He paused
half-way up the hill to look back upon the village, and the girl, whose
perceptions had been quickened with her recognition of an earthly love,
noticed that the school-master’s tall form was more stooped than usual.
When he resumed his walk towards the school-house Gerson Brandt caught
sight of Walda, and his face took on an expression of gladness.

“Providence is kind to give me yet another chance to speak with thee
before the _Untersuchung_,” he said, pausing before her. He saw that
there were tears in her eyes, which refused to meet his glance. “Thou
hast no sorrow? Surely, I know that nothing can disturb thee, now that
thou art so near to thy Father in heaven. Yet why dost thou weep?”

He pushed the long hair back from his forehead with a trembling hand
while he waited for her reply, but she remained silent, with only her
profile turned to him. The white kerchief on her breast moved with her
quick breathing.

“Canst thou not answer me, Walda?” he asked, in the tender tone that she
remembered from her childhood.

Walda rested her elbows on the back of the porch seat, and, with her
chin in her hands, shook her white-capped head. The tears began to fall
so rapidly that she dared not try to speak. Gerson Brandt sank upon the
seat opposite her.

“It would be foolish for me to offer thee solace for thine aching heart,
for I know that thou, who art the prophetess of Zanah, no longer cravest
human sympathy. Forgive me for forgetting that thou art no longer the
colony maiden over whom I have felt a care all these years. Yet thy
tears are no more sacred to me now than they were in thine earliest
childhood, Walda. Thy griefs were always felt by me.” Gerson Brandt
leaned forward as if he would read what was in Walda’s heart, and he
paled with a formless fear.

“Thy tears distress me,” he said, presently, “and yet I know that it is
but natural thou shouldst feel awe-stricken and oppressed with a weight
of responsibility, now that thou art so near to thy consecration.”

“Speak not so. Thy words smite me,” exclaimed Walda, turning towards him
and blushing scarlet as she met his eyes. “I am not worthy to be the
prophetess. I—I—I am sorely troubled.” She put her face upon her arms
and sobbed.

“To them whom the Lord maketh most strong He revealeth weakness,” the
school-master replied.

“I shall need much strength,” said Walda, controlling herself with an
effort.

“Yea, that is true,” agreed Gerson Brandt. “My prayers will help to
support thee, for thou art always in my mind. Much have I rejoiced to
know that thou hast escaped all danger from earthly love. Ah, now that
thou hast safely passed thy period of probation nothing can befall
thee.”

“Gerson Brandt, tell me what would have happened if I had found an
earthly love?” asked Walda, turning to him with an intensity of interest
that was but lightly disguised.

“Why wouldst thou waste time talking of such an unprofitable subject now
at this holy season? It is a sacrilege to link the name of the
prophetess of Zanah with an earthly love.”

The school-master was looking far away as he answered, and he did not
see that his words caused the girl to clasp her hands tightly and to
bite her full, red lips.

“Tell me, is human love such a wicked thing, after all? Thou didst once
speak to me as if thou hadst known it, and thou canst tell me whether it
hath in it something of the divine quality. If I had loved, wouldst thou
have condemned me as severely as would those of the colonists who live
like the cattle on the fields, feeling none of the mystery and the glory
of life?”

“If thou hadst loved any man I should have sorrowed more than all the
colony, for I have longed to see thee spared the pangs and pains that
love brings.”

“Doth love never bring happiness?”

“The woman who loveth must suffer much,” declared Gerson Brandt.

“But women are glad to suffer for love.”

In Walda’s eyes shone the light of a new-born courage, and Gerson
Brandt, catching some of the spirit that had taken possession of her,
answered:

“Walda, it passeth understanding that thou shouldst speak thus of love
now, when thou hast gone forever beyond the reach of temptation. Thy
mood doth confound me.”

He went near to her, and, standing before her, studied her face.

“In thine eyes I behold a mystery,” he said, presently, with a tremor in
his voice. “Thou hast lost the essence of childhood that lingered with
thee until—was it yesterday or to-day that thou didst lose it?”

“The world hath been different to me since the sun set yesterday.” Walda
spoke the words softly, and Gerson Brandt beheld in her face a radiance
which made him ashamed of the vague suspicions that had sent a chill to
his heart.

“Verily, the spirit of prophecy hath descended upon thee. Thou hast come
into the full possession of the divine gift.” He drew away from her, and
looked at her in awe.

“Nay, nay,” Walda faltered; “thou art deceived.”

Her gaze wandered past him as she spoke, and she saw, ascending the
hill, six of the village mothers. Gerson Brandt, following her glance,
said: “This is the day when thy vigil beginneth. The watchers are coming
for thee.”

Walda’s face paled.

“I had forgotten that the time had come,” she exclaimed. “I am not ready
for it. I am unworthy.”

“It is the hour of our last talk together,” Gerson Brandt announced, in
a solemn tone. “Thy misgivings are only human.” He raised his hands
above her bowed head and gave her his blessing. He could not trust
himself to look at her again. Passing by her he entered the
school-house, closing the door tightly behind him, lest he might be
tempted to look back.

Walda submissively followed the women, who led the way to the little
room that opened out of the bare auditorium of the meeting-house. It was
here that she had spent many hours of study among the elders’ books, but
its appearance was slightly changed. In one corner stood a cot covered
with white blankets of the finest weave that came from the looms of
Zanah. In the centre was a reading-desk, upon which a large Bible lay
open. Six chairs were ranged along the wall just outside the door that
led into the interior of the meeting-house.

“Thou wilt find nothing to distract thy thoughts here,” said Mother
Kaufmann, glancing into the room.

“We will take good care that thou art not disturbed,” asserted Mother
Schneider.

Walda gave no sign that she heard. Crossing the threshold she closed the
door, shutting out the six women. She threw herself upon the bed, and
gave way to a paroxysm of weeping. The realization that she had missed
her opportunity to confess her love for Everett at first frightened her,
for she knew it was now too late to speak before going to the
_Untersuchung_. Zanah guarded a prophetess so carefully that when once
the door of the sanctuary in which Marta Bachmann had fasted and prayed
closed upon one supposed to be inspired, no word could be spoken. She
lay awake far into the night. When the day had faded, a single candle
had been put upon her reading-desk by Mother Kaufmann, who scanned her
face with the inquisitive look of a mischief-maker. Walda, sitting with
folded hands, had appeared oblivious of the woman’s presence. She had
heard the evening prayers of the colony gathered in the meeting-house.
She felt a dull pain when she recalled her father’s face. Underneath
every emotion that she experienced in the dreary watches of the night
she was always conscious of the memory of Everett’s voice as he pleaded
for her love. At first she had a faint hope that he might speak to her
through the window, or that, in some way, he would send her a token of
encouragement, but nothing disturbed the oppressive quiet of the laggard
hours.

Walda was wakened early in the morning, after a brief and troubled
sleep, by the whispers of the women outside her door. She knew that the
watch was being changed, and that soon she would be expected to be
kneeling at her prayers. Rising from the cot she looked out of the one
window—it overlooked the school-house garden, and she saw Gerson Brandt
walking back and forth amid the tangled nasturtiums and late asters. As
he moved to and fro he never once turned his eyes towards the
meeting-house. With difficulty Walda repressed an impulse to call him to
her. Through all her childhood and girlhood he had bent a ready ear when
she told him her troubles, and now it seemed an easy matter to confide
in him. While she was still at the window, Gerson Brandt went up the
worn steps that led to the school-room.

A long, dull day followed for Walda. Her pride enabled her to preserve
an outward calm when, on various pretexts, the women opened the door to
look in upon her. She tried to think what she ought to do. So great is
the power of love that it did not occur to her she might try to put out
of her heart the sacred emotion she had mistaken for religious
inspiration. She accepted it as the divine gift for which she had been
waiting. Although she knew that it was likely her father would forbid
her marriage to Everett, she told herself no one in Zanah could take
away from her the glory of an earthly love. Towards the end of the day
she fell again into the old habit of praying much. Kneeling at the
reading-desk, with her head upon the big Bible, she asked that she might
be given strength to do her duty to her father, and to submit to the
will of Zanah.

For the second time the evening hymns were chanted outside the door.
Walda listened quite calmly, and, long after she knew the meeting-house
was emptied of all except the six watchers, she sat in the fading light
of the evening looking out into the schoolyard, and thinking serenely of
the life she was putting behind her. Presently her thoughts were
disturbed by a man’s voice. With a heart-flutter she recognized
Everett’s low, clear tones. She heard him command one of the women to
open the door. Rising to her feet, she listened breathlessly to the
protracted parley that followed. Without warning, a light knock sounded
on the door.

“Let me in, Walda,” said Everett.

Before she could go to the door, he had lifted the latch and had
entered, followed by the six women, all of whom spoke words of angry
protest.

“So this is where they have hidden you, Walda?” he said, paying no
attention to the colony mothers. “I have searched for you all day, for I
have much that I wish to say to you.”

His manner was quiet and determined. “I wish to be left alone with Walda
Kellar,” he said, turning to the watchers. “I have a message of much
importance to give to her.”

“How darest thou break in upon the vigil of a prophetess of Zanah!”
shrieked Mother Kaufmann. “Dost thou not know that the instrument of the
Lord is not permitted to speak until the last hour of her probation hath
expired?”

“Ja, ja, Mother Kaufmann is right. We will send for the elders if thou
dost not leave here this minute,” chorused the women.

Everett coolly surveyed the group. Putting out his hand he grasped
Walda’s arm, and quickly drew her into the meeting-house assembly-room.
With a quick motion he slammed the door and turned the key, imprisoning
the six women, who immediately began to call for help. Reopening the
door for a little space he ordered them to keep silence, accompanying
his admonition with the remark that if they summoned a crowd they would
prove they were not fit to watch the prophetess. For the second time he
turned the big key. Walda had watched the proceeding with astonishment.
Her face was white and scared when he put his arms around her and drew
her to him.

“There, do not be frightened,” he said, soothingly, as he kissed her on
the forehead. “I have come to take you away.”

“Ah, Stephen; now, indeed, do I know that I was never fitted to be a
prophetess,” said Walda, looking up into his face. “My heart hath
thirsted for thee. With thine arms around me I feel as if I had found a
safe refuge from all my troubles. When thou didst kiss me I forgot for a
moment that I had been untrue to the people who trusted me.”

“I mean never to let you go away from me again,” he said. “But come; we
are wasting time. Let us go now to your father and tell him that you are
to belong to me, and not to Zanah.”

Walda drew away from him. “Nay, Stephen,” she said. “In the nights and
day that I have been alone there in that room, it hath been made plain
to me that I must tell all the people how I have betrayed their faith in
me.”

“You owe the people nothing,” said Everett, with a trace of impatience
in his voice. “Come; there is no time to be lost. I mean to take you
away from Zanah this very night. Your father and Gerson Brandt can
explain to the colony why you are not to be their prophetess.”

Walda shook her head. “Wouldst thou have me show a craven spirit?” she
inquired. “Dost thou think I could go away to be happy with thee and
forget my father, even if I could be unmindful of what I owe the men and
women of Zanah?”

“Do you not think you owe me any duty?” Stephen asked. “Do not let us
stand here discussing what is right and wrong. It is right that you
should be my wife. You have been the victim of the bigotry and
superstition of a clannish, religious sect. Love has made you free.
Doesn’t your heart tell you to answer the call from my heart?” He
stretched out his arms to her, but she stepped beyond his reach.

“Stephen, I have prayed constantly that wisdom might be given me, and my
way hath been made plain before me,” she answered, firmly. “I must go
before the _Untersuchung_, and, for my father’s sake, I must accept
whatever penalty is meted out to me.”

“Do you mean that you would submit to any decree of the colony of Zanah?
That signifies that you do not love me, after all. It means that you are
lost to me forever.”

The strong man’s voice trembled as he spoke. A wave of passion and
longing swept over him. He drew her to him and held her close, pillowing
her head upon his breast, and whispering to her that she was his; it was
not in her power to make the choice since love gave him the right to
her.

“Thou dost affright me. There is something in thy love that terrifies
me,” she said, trying to make him free her.

“I shall not let you go until you have promised that you will marry me,”
he said.

“I cannot promise that, Stephen,” she said, so faintly that he scarcely
heard her. “Thou knowest I cannot leave my father, and surely thou
wouldst not be content to stay here in Zanah.”

“I could live here or anywhere else with you. Promise.”

“Nay, nay, I cannot,” she repeated.

“Will you pledge yourself to marry me when your conscience tells you
that you are free?”

“It is in my heart to promise that to thee, Stephen, but during my vigil
I have come to know that if thou shouldst live away from me out in the
world thou mightst no longer love me. Nay, I will not bind thee. The
only pledge I give thee is the pledge that I will love thee all my
life.”

A furious knocking on the door made them remember the imprisoned
watchers.

“If you refuse to go with me now what do you wish to do?” Stephen asked,
coming back to the subject of his original errand.

“I want to wait until the _Untersuchung_, and I want thee to be patient
until thou hearest what the elders say. I shall pray that I may be given
to thee.”

“There is no danger of your repenting of love, is there, Walda?”

She smiled confidently and answered: “Thy love will dwell in my heart
forever.”

He kissed her farewell, holding both her hands in his.

“I wish I could spare you the ordeal of the _Untersuchung_,” he
exclaimed. “Why need we care for all the world?”

“Hush!” she said. “We care not for Zanah or the whole world, but if we
would keep our love holy, we must be true, Stephen, to all our duties.”

After he had kissed her for the last time, she stood before the elders’
platform and looked up at the chair of the prophetess. Everett unlocked
the door.

“I appreciate the opportunity you have given me of speaking to Walda
Kellar,” he said, with a suavity and courtesy to which the women of the
colony were so unaccustomed they did not know what it meant. They stood
scowling at him until Mother Kaufmann replied:

“Thou wilt be ordered out of the colony for this day’s work.”

“If you are wise—and I am sure you are, or you would not have been
chosen to attend the prophetess of Zanah—you will not make any
complaints.” He bowed deferentially to all of them, and passing Walda,
before whom he stopped to whisper “Farewell, until the _Untersuchung_,”
he went out of the meeting-house.

“It must have been a message of much import that brought the stranger
here,” sneered Mother Kaufmann, as she seated herself on the nearest
chair.

“He hath small respect for the laws of Zanah,” declared a second
watcher.

Without uttering a word, Walda returned to her place of temporary
imprisonment. Kneeling before her reading-desk, she prayed that she
might be given strength and courage to accept whatever penalty the
elders might allot to her.



                                 XVIII


The day of the _Untersuchung_ came at last. A brilliant sun shone upon
Zanah. An early frost had turned the maples yellow and had touched the
oaks with crimson. In the vineyards the last purple grapes hung in the
shrivelled foliage. Along the winding road the golden-rod was blossoming
in the tall, feathery grasses. A hush fell upon the quiet valley in the
morning. The brown fields on lowland and hill-side were deserted. At the
edge of the village the mill-wheels had ceased their busy whir.

Everett had walked out under the autumn sky nearly all night. In the
days that had passed since his interview with Walda at the meeting-house
all the villagers had avoided him. Even the school-master had passed him
by with scarcely a nod of recognition. Time had dragged. Of all the
people of Zanah, Hans Peter alone remained on friendly terms with him.

At dawn Everett arose from a brief sleep, and dressed himself with
unusual care. The thought came to him that before sundown he might be
robbed of Walda. All his strength left him. He dropped upon a chair near
the window. Love had become life to him. Sitting with his elbows on his
knees he looked out upon Zanah. Walda represented hope, worship,
aspiration. The touch of her lips had awakened all that was good in him.
He, who had rarely prayed, petitioned, in an agony of longing, that he
might be given the woman of Zanah.

Some one knocked. Everett jumped to his feet to open the door. Hans
Peter, freshly scoured with soap until his round face shone, stood in
the hall, twirling a cap that had been recently mended.

“The elders have sent me to tell thee that thou art to remain away from
the timber-land where the _Untersuchung_ is to be held,” announced the
simple one.

“And why is my absence desirable?” Everett asked.

“Question not the village fool,” Hans Peter replied. “He knoweth not
what the great men of Zanah think inside their wise heads.”

“What do you think inside your foolish head?” Everett laughed, as if he
made light of the order.

Hans Peter looked down at a pair of copper-toed shoes, which were to him
the insignia of an unusual occasion.

“It seemeth to the simple one of Zanah that it is wise for the stranger
to be far away when the prophetess doth pledge herself to love only God
and the angels.”

“I intend to go to the _Untersuchung_, Hans Peter, and I want you to
find a good place from which I can look on during the hours when the
people give their testimonies concerning the state of their souls.”

“Thou canst not sit among the colonists,” said Hans Peter. “The men and
women of Zanah have turned against thee. They will not permit thee to
mingle with them on the most solemn day of all the year.”

“Whether or not they permit me, I shall go to the _Untersuchung_,”
Everett replied. “Would it not be safe for me to wait behind the line of
poplars not far off from the platform upon which the elders will sit?”

“If thou shouldst go out there early, and stay where the wild hop-vine
might hide thee, there is a chance no one would behold thee,” admitted
the simple one.

“When does the prophetess go before the elders?” Everett inquired. “I
know nothing of to-day’s arrangements, because here at the inn no one
will give me any information. You are my only friend, Hans Peter. I
expect you to tell me all you know.”

“Thou forgettest that the fool hath no memory.”

“Where are your gourds? Is there not one that will help me to find out
when to hide among the poplars?”

Hans Peter twirled his cap.

“Thou wert merciful to me when I was in the stocks,” he said, slowly.
“The fool’s memory hath still a knowledge of that day. The fool doth
know that, last of all Zanah, Walda Kellar will appear before the
elders.”

“That means I need not go to the _Untersuchung_ until this afternoon?”
queried Everett.

“Yea, thou shouldst wait until late in the day.” Hans Peter turned as if
to run away, but Everett caught him by the sleeve of his gingham shirt.

“Have you been to the meeting-house to-day?” Everett asked, looking at
the simple one with such entreaty in his eyes that Hans Peter answered:

“Yea, I have but just come from the place where the prophetess of Zanah
hath been keeping her vigil.”

“You went there on an errand, I suppose?”

“I carried orders from the elders.” At this point Hans Peter closed his
mouth very tightly and stared stupidly. Everett saw that further
questioning would be of no avail.

As soon as he had had breakfast Everett walked out to the timber-land
where the _Untersuchung_ was to be held. The elders had chosen a strip
of woods near the lake as a place for the ceremonies of the inquisition.
The road leading to it was that over which Everett had walked with Walda
the first day she visited the cemetery to pray at the grave of Marta
Bachmann. About two hundred yards from the shore of the lake a large
clearing had been made. A rude platform for the elders had been built
between the lake shore and rough benches, which had been arranged in
orderly rows beneath the intertwining trees. Everett saw that the line
of poplars was beyond the place where the path led into the out-door
chapel. Hidden there he could easily escape detection, and he would be
near enough to hear most of what was said from the platform. He walked
to the farther shore of the little lake, and lay down upon the ground to
wait as patiently as he could for the laggard hours to pass. The quiet
beauty of the day appealed to him, and, thinking of Walda, he was
finally lulled to sleep. It was mid-day when he awoke. He sauntered back
to the scene of the _Untersuchung_. He made a seat for himself at the
foot of one of the poplars where the vines were thick. Through the
screen of leaves he saw the people slowly gathering. The women occupied
the benches nearest him.

By two o’clock all the colonists had assembled. The thirteen elders
formed a solemn row, Adolph Schneider holding the middle place, with
Wilhelm Kellar at one end of the platform and Gerson Brandt at the
other. After a droning hymn and a tedious prayer, those who were
candidates for preferment in the colony went before the elders. The men
first were catechised by Adolph Schneider, who did not rise from his
chair. Everett was astonished to see how few signified ambition for
colony honors. When the women’s turn came the applicants greatly
outnumbered the men. In both cases those who pleaded for advancement
boasted of spiritual conflicts and victories. Their sing-song voices
maddened the impatient lover. At last, when he had begun to fear that
Walda would not be summoned until the next day, Everett noticed that the
people, who had sat stolid and unmoved through the hours of dreary
recitative, stirred with something like interest. Everett pulled himself
to his feet, and, looking down the road, saw a sight that made his heart
beat.

Two by two, a long line of girls approached slowly. All wore the blue
gowns of the colony, but white caps and white kerchiefs were substituted
for those of every-day use. Each carried in her hand a large hymnbook.
When the procession turned into the path of the woodland chapel Everett
caught sight of Walda, walking last of all. As they marched slowly
onward, the girls chanted a hymn. Walda carried her head in the old,
proud way, and her manner reassured the watcher who loved her. She was
clothed in a trailing gown, fashioned of the white flannel from the
colony mills. The clinging folds brought out the noble lines of her
figure. The kerchief crossed upon her bosom was of some thin material of
the same tint as the flannel. The cap, pushed back from her brow,
revealed the waves of her fair hair, which was confined in two long
braids. Her face was pale; her lips were firmly set; her eyes shone with
the light of peace and courage. The little procession passed quite near
Everett, but, although his heart called to her, and his eyes followed
her, she appeared unconscious of his presence. He noticed that her hands
hung at her sides, and he read a meaning in the fact that she no longer
crossed them upon her breast in the old fashion, signifying that she
would keep out the world and all its emotions.

When the procession appeared before the colonists all the people knelt
in their places, none daring to lift curious eyes to her whom they
hailed as the instrument of the Lord. The procession moved back of the
assembly, crossing to the farther side of the clearing, and then
advancing to the front of the platform. Here Walda took the central
position, the girls separating to stand on either side of her. The
chanting ceased, and Walda bowed her head in prayer.

All the elders rose to receive the prophetess of Zanah. Wilhelm Kellar,
still weak from his illness, leaned upon his cane and murmured a
thanksgiving to the Lord. Gerson Brandt, at the other end of the
platform, looked at Walda, and then turned his eyes away, as if the day
and hour held something that brought a severe test to the spirit long
disciplined to self-control.

“Stand not before me, O ye elders,” Walda said, in a clear, steady
voice, lifting up one hand to claim attention. “Bow not, O ye people of
Zanah, for I am unworthy to be your prophetess.”

“Speak not such words of humility,” said Adolph Schneider. “We know that
the inspiration hath come to thee. Thou hast already shown to us that
thou hast received the gift of tongues. To-day thou shalt be anointed
prophetess of Zanah.”

“Amen!” shouted one of the elders, and the word was repeated in a chorus
by the men.

Walda’s face became as white as marble. She stood immovable, with one
hand pressed against her breast as if she would stop the beating of her
heart. She would have spoken, but the Herr Doktor turned to command that
the chair of the prophetess be lifted to the centre of the platform. The
elders moved to give it space, and, when it had been put in position,
Adolph Schneider said:

“Come hither to thy rightful place among the elders.”

“My place is among the lowliest of the colonists,” said Walda. “Let me
stand here while I speak to the people of Zanah.”

The elders shook their heads, and the people murmured that they could
not hear. Walda walked to the end of the platform where the steps
ascended. She moved slowly, pausing for a moment as she passed Gerson
Brandt. She crossed the platform with head bowed, but when she faced the
multitude there shone in her eyes a strange radiance that filled the
colonists with awe.

“To all you of Zanah I have a last message,” she said, turning first to
the elders and then to the people. “From the years of my childhood ye
have led me in the ways of the Lord. Ye have looked upon me as the
instrument chosen to reveal the divine will of Zanah. I have prayed
through the months and years for the day of inspiration. It was not
until this summer that mine eyes were opened to the glory of God. In my
heart suddenly gushed a well-spring of happiness. I read meanings in the
stars, and the smallest things of earth spake to me. It was as if I
walked very near to God.”

Walda, pausing, swept the assembly with her eyes. In the exaltation of
her mood she had become clothed in a majesty that overawed the people.
Some of the women fell to their knees, weeping.

“Behold the prophetess! Behold the prophetess! Blessed be her name!”
shouted one of the elders.

Walda continued, unheeding:

“In my heart I felt a gratitude, for I believed that at last the divine
revelation had come to me. I thought that the love in my heart, which
made all that pertaineth to life sacred, belonged to heaven alone. I
thanked God that the baptism of the Holy Spirit had been given me.”

Cries of joy ascended from the throng.

“In the first days of the inspiration that had come to me I was
impatient for this time, when I could dedicate my whole life to the
service of Zanah. It seemed easy to live always near to God. Voices
spake to me. I believed that I was, indeed, the prophetess of Zanah—the
prophetess who could live untouched by human emotions. But one day there
was given to me a clearer vision. Just before the beginning of my vigil
it was shown to me that mine was not the rapture of the saints”—Walda
paused and caught her breath—“I came into the knowledge that my
inspiration had its origin in human love.”

She pronounced the last words distinctly, with her eyes uplifted. Gerson
Brandt uttered her name in an agonized groan. Wilhelm Kellar strove to
speak, but his voice died in his throat.

“What sayest thou, Walda Kellar?” demanded Adolph Schneider, rising from
his chair. The colonists listened stolidly, as if they did not
comprehend the meaning of Walda’s speech.

“Nay, surely thou hast not been touched by an earthly love?” said Gerson
Brandt, in a tone which told that despair was clutching at his heart.
“Thy words are vague.”

Walda saw the horror in her father’s face. She looked away from him and
the school-master, waiting a moment that she might choose her words so
that they would not give unnecessary pain.

“We believe thou hast not looked with favor on any man,” Adolph
Schneider said, encouragingly, and then he added, as if to convey a
covert warning to the people of Zanah: “Yet thou art a woman, and all
that are made in the image of Eve are easy to be persuaded by the voice
of Satan, speaking through man.”

“A love that is of heaven, and yet of earth, hath taken possession of my
heart,” declared Walda, fixing her eyes upon the people. “It came to me
like a great light shining through the gates of heaven. I did not know
the glory that enfolded me was what ye of Zanah call an earthly love,
for, truly, even now it seemeth to have in it more of heaven than of
that which pertaineth to earth. I did not fight against this love which
hath been revealed to me, for I did not know it was human love which
made me feel a kinship with God. Here, in Zanah, ye have taught me that
the love of men and women is a sinful thing, and there came to me no
prick of the conscience—no warning that I was transgressing the law of
God.”

She was transfigured with the mystery and beauty of her new heritage of
love, and the people listened in awe. When she had stopped speaking, she
turned to her father with a look of such pleading and entreaty that the
old man, who had heard as one that dreams, moved his lips in an effort
to speak. Presently there arose a murmur from the people. The Herr
Doktor commanded that all should hold their peace.

“What man in Zanah hath stolen thy thoughts from God?” the Herr Doktor
asked, in a stern voice.

“I love Stephen Everett, the stranger who belongeth not to Zanah,” Walda
answered, in unfaltering tones.

A wail arose from the people. It grew into a mighty sound that was like
the autumn winds rushing through the tall trees on the slopes of the
bluffs.

“The tempter hath come to Walda Kellar even as he came to Marta
Bachmann, but repentance is possible for her who hath been chosen to be
the instrument of the Lord,” declared Adolph Schneider. “Daughter of
Zanah, pluck this love from thine heart.”

“I have proclaimed to you that this love seemeth a holy thing sent from
heaven. It is fixed in my heart forever.”

Walda was again the prophetess. She spoke slowly, and it was as if she
were but repeating the promptings of some inner voice.

“Walda, I command thee, let the fountains of thy tears wash away this
earthly love!” Wilhelm Kellar cried, rising from his chair and lifting
his arms as if he were beseeching the intervention of Heaven.

“Nay, I cannot repent. There is that which tells me this is the love
that is stronger than death,” Walda said, softly. “Father, I crave thy
forgiveness, and the forgiveness of all that belong to Zanah.”

She went to him and knelt humbly before him. Gerson Brandt stood with
arms folded across his breast and head bowed over them. Karl Weisel
gathered some of the other elders close to him and talked to them in
whispers. The people looked on breathlessly. Suddenly, from her place
among the women, arose Mother Kaufmann.

“Behold the unfaithful one asking for forgiveness,” she cried, in rage.
“Through her vanity and her weakness the divine messages that were to
direct Zanah how to prosper are withheld from the colony. Our crops may
fail and we may starve, but she careth for naught if she may love a man.
She hath chosen a stranger sent by Satan from the outside world to
confound us.”

Cries of derision and reproach were heard among the women. At first they
were but low mutterings. Then an old hag jumped upon a bench and
shouted:

“Send her back to the room where the watchers can guard her. Cast the
stranger out of Zanah.”

“Yea, yea, cast out Satan’s messenger,” shouted the women. The men took
up the cry, and in a moment the orderly crowd of religionists became a
mob of fanatics which pressed towards the platform.

“Repent, repent!” shouted the people. “Remember thy duty!” “Put aside
thy sinful love!” “Ask the Lord to forgive thee for thy transgression!”

Walda faced the angry mob fearlessly. Her personality still impressed
the people, so that none dare lay hands upon her.

“Let the curse of Heaven descend upon the head of the stranger in
Zanah!” Mother Kaufmann shrieked.

“Curse him! Curse him!” called out the men, repeating the woman’s
imprecation.

In an instant Walda compelled silence. She raised her arms in a warning
gesture, and shamed the people by the contempt she showed for their
weakness as she looked down upon them.

“How are ye fitted to judge the stranger in Zanah?” she asked, in a
scornful tone. “Have ye the Christian charity the Bible enjoins you to
cherish in your hearts? If there is any one to be blamed for the loss of
your prophetess it is I, Walda Kellar, that should bear it all. But
again I tell you there is naught concerning love of which I would
repent.”

“She would defy Heaven!” shouted Mother Kaufmann. “Let the elders take
her away that the sight of her shall not breed sinful thoughts of love
in the hearts of the maidens of Zanah.”

“Yea, lock her up until she cometh to her right mind,” said the old hag,
waving her hands to invite the elders’ attention.

The uproar became deafening. Gerson Brandt stepped forward where he
could stand between Walda and the mob. Through all the commotion
Everett, with difficulty, had restrained himself from rushing out to
protect Walda from the maddened colonists, but he realized that his
appearance would but fan the flame of wrath and increase the confusion.

In the centre of the women’s division of the out-door chapel Mother
Schneider and her daughter Gretchen had been sitting. Both had taken
little part in the demonstration against the fallen prophetess. When
Gerson Brandt was seen to move forward on the platform Mother Schneider
said to the women near her:

“It is a sorry day when the women of Zanah are permitted to hear a
maiden boast of a love that knoweth no bounds. It is an indecent
confession that Walda Kellar maketh. Truly, she belongeth to the class
of women that should be stoned.”

“It is such as she that cast wicked spells upon men. Behold, the elders
fear to discipline her,” answered a mother, who that day had been
promoted to the highest grade of the colony because she testified that
she had found earthly love an unholy thing.

“She should be stoned! She should be stoned!” repeated the women; and
the words passed from mouth to mouth until they reached a boy who
loitered on the edge of the crowd. The boy picked up a flat stone, and,
aiming it at Walda, threw it with all the force at his command. It
sailed above the heads of the people. Gerson Brandt, with a quick
movement, pulled Walda aside. The stone struck him on the forehead,
making a deep gash, from which the blood coursed down his cheek. Walda,
with a woman’s quick instinct of ministration, undid the kerchief around
her neck, and gave it to Gerson Brandt.

“Stanch the blood with this,” she said, and when he made no effort to
take it, she pressed it against his cheek.

Everett threw every consideration of prudence to the winds when he saw
the stone hurled towards Walda. He pushed his way to the platform, but
he had to fight his path through the crowd, which had been dazed at the
sight of the blood on the school-master’s face. The men frowned at him
sullenly, and some muttered low imprecations. Everett climbed to a place
near Walda. When the people of Zanah saw him they shouted in angry
protest. One burly man sought to lay hold of him, but he shook off the
colonist and would have gone closer to Walda, but Gerson Brandt put out
a restraining hand.

“Profane not this place with thy presence,” said the school-master,
stepping between Everett and Walda. “Thou art a traitor. Thou hast
betrayed the trust we put in thee. The brother of Zanah doeth well to
hold thee back.”

All the pent-up emotion of the hour suddenly burst out as Gerson Brandt
spoke. His gaunt form trembled with the strength of his passion.

“It is this man who should bear all the curses of Zanah,” he continued,
turning to address the people. “We took him into close communion with
us, and he hath repaid our faith in him by seeking to ensnare the love
of our prophetess. He pledged me his honor, and he cared naught for his
word given with the seal of a hand-clasp. He is a Judas who hath worked
secretly for the undoing of Zanah—a Judas who hath cared for neither
honor nor truth, so that he might win the woman whom he coveted. He
deserveth not mercy. Let us cast him out of Zanah, and when he hath gone
back to the wicked world to which he belongeth, the soul of Walda Kellar
can be cleansed of the stain of an earthly love. Much prayer and fasting
will restore her to fellowship with God.”

Everett moved close to Walda, and, laying his hand upon her arm, would
have drawn her away from the infuriated mob. When he touched her, the
sight of what seemed an assertion of his claim enraged Gerson Brandt.
The school-master was imbued with the strength of a giant. He thrust
Everett away with a mighty stroke of his arm.

“Seize this man!” he commanded. “Bind him, and put him out of the sight
of the people!”

Four or five colonists sprang forward to obey Gerson Brandt’s orders,
but Everett threw them off as lightly as if they were children.

“You have no right to touch me,” he said, towering above even the
tallest. “I have broken no law, and I can hold you responsible if you
deprive me of my liberty.”

The elders had gathered about Gerson Brandt and Walda. Wilhelm Kellar
tottered to his daughter’s side, and implored her to surrender her will
to the will of Zanah.

“Shame on you! Shame on you, men of Zanah!” cried Mother Kaufmann, who
had climbed to the top of a high tree-stump. “Will ye let one man make
cowards of you? Do the bidding of Gerson Brandt.”

Some of the women hissed, and a score of the mill-hands fought their way
to the platform. Surrounding Everett, they closed in upon him. One, more
daring than the rest, sought to seize him. Everett felled the colonist
with a quick blow. The others endeavored to detain him, but none was a
match for the athlete with muscles of steel. Knocking down two or three
of the most aggressive of his assailants, Everett went to Walda, who
trembled with fear for his safety. He drew her close to him. The
quavering voice of Wilhelm Kellar sounded in their ears.

“Offend not the eyes of Zanah by parading your unseemly love,” he said,
raising his cane as if he would strike the man of the world. The effort
was too much for his feeble strength. He almost fell, and Walda knelt
before him to support him with her outstretched arms. His indignation
changed to grief, and, looking down at the daughter upon whom he had
built all his ambition, he gave way to bitter lamentation.

“Oh, Lord, how have I deserved this punishment?” he cried.

Walda sobbed, still holding his frail body close to her. “Forgive me,
father,” said she, looking up through her tears.

“Nay, ask not my forgiveness,” he answered, sternly. “Seek the
forgiveness of the Lord, whom thou hast offended. Repent now, when it is
not yet too late.”

“There is no repentance in my heart,” she said, rising to her feet.
“This love must ever seem to me a holy thing.”

“Come away with me now, for I would talk to thee alone. Let us flee from
the presence of this man and the people of Zanah,” pleaded Wilhelm
Kellar.

“Yea, we will go away together,” Walda answered. She drew his arm
through hers, and gently led him to the end of the platform. They slowly
descended the steps and walked to the middle aisle, which offered them a
chance of egress. As they passed the women, Mother Kaufmann hissed
Walda, and taunts and jeers from the crowd assailed her. Wilhelm Kellar
stopped. Raising himself on his cane, he said, with a tremendous effort:

“Wag not your tongues, ye women of Zanah. Ye have no right to heap
insult upon her whom an hour ago ye were proud to hail as the
prophetess.”

“Lo, this prophetess is but a Jezebel!” sneered Mother Kaufmann; and the
women near her repeated the name “Jezebel! Jezebel!”

Wilhelm Kellar heard the insult to his daughter, and once more raising
himself on his cane, he called out:

“Let your evil tongues be silent! There is none in Zanah who hath
suffered the bitterness of disappointment that hath come to me, yet now
do I forgive Walda Kellar, and bespeak for her your mercy and loving
kindness.”

His voice died in a rattle in his throat. His gray head sank upon his
breast. His arm loosened its tense hold upon Walda, and he fell in a
heap at her feet.

Walda bent over him with a cry of such agony and fear that it pierced to
the outer edge of the great assembly.

Raising his head, she looked upon his face, ghastly with the touch of
death. In his eyes a last flicker of light faded as she stooped to
pillow his head upon her bosom.

“Stephen, Stephen,” she called, “come to my father!”

Everett gently lifted the emaciated form of the elder, and, waving the
crowd apart, laid his burden down upon the ground. A glance told him
that a soul had gone out of Zanah.

“My father is dead! Dead!” shrieked Walda. Sinking on her knees, she
wrung her hands and gave way to her grief.

“Wilhelm Kellar is dead,” Gerson Brandt announced, in solemn tones.

He stood for a moment on the edge of the platform, where he could see
the white face upturned to the sky. Then his eyes fell upon Walda, who
was weeping with her head supported on the shoulder of Everett. The
school-master jumped from the platform, and, pointing to Everett,
ordered that he be bound. With his own hands he loosed the stranger’s
arms, and would have made the weeping girl lean upon him, but she
proudly drew away.

“Brothers of Zanah, bind this man,” he said, repeating his command.
“Through him, death and grievous trouble have come to the colony.”
Everett waited, ready to defend himself, but the men hesitated before
making a second attempt to carry out the elder’s orders.

“Let them bind thee, Stephen,” Walda said. “In the presence of death it
is not meet there should be strife.”

“I want my liberty in order that I may defend you from these mad
zealots,” Everett answered.

“Nay, Stephen, thou forgettest that I am in the Lord’s hand,” Walda
replied, with a little quiver of the lips.

“I surrender myself as your prisoner,” Everett said, addressing Gerson
Brandt. “It will not be necessary for you to have me tied. I give you my
word that I will not try to escape.”

“It hath been shown to me that thou hast no regard for thy promises,”
Gerson Brandt said, in an angry voice. “When thou art securely bound I
shall have faith in thy word, and not till then.”

The insult kindled Everett’s anger. He would have retorted, but a sign
from Walda compelled his silence. He let the men tie his hands behind
him. They used the rope clumsily, and drew it so tightly over the flesh
that it was painful. During the process Gerson Brandt looked on, and
Walda stood with eyes upon the ground. The colonists waited quietly. The
elders on the platform had resumed the air of stolidity which generally
distinguished them. They watched the proceedings without interference.
By common consent they permitted Gerson Brandt to take the initiative in
dealing with the tragic climax of the _Untersuchung_.

“Let a bier be brought that the body of Wilhelm Kellar, who hath fallen
into his last sleep, may be carried back to the village,” Gerson Brandt
directed.

Diedrich Werther with three other colonists carried a heavy bier, over
which was thrown a black pall, down the grassy aisle of the out-door
chapel. Following it walked Hans Peter, carrying a gourd in his hand.
The body of Wilhelm Kellar was lifted upon the bier and covered with the
pall. When the men stooped to raise the bier, Adolph Schneider spoke:

“Behold, this day we have lost one of the leading men of Zanah. Wilhelm
Kellar hath guided the business affairs of the colony. He hath been my
strong arm. Lo! he is slain by the frowardness of the daughter upon whom
he had centred too much affection. He hath suffered because he let her
become an idol of earth. If she repenteth, so that she may become the
prophetess of Zanah, her crime may be blotted out of the book of life.”

He paused, but the people made no demonstration.

“Repent, O daughter of Zanah!” the Herr Doktor shouted, in a voice
intended to terrify all who heard it. “Repent now. Pledge thyself to put
earthly love out of thy heart, and to serve the Lord forever.”

“Love that hath taken root in the heart cannot be plucked out at will.
This love must remain always with me,” Walda replied.

“Let thy shame be upon thine own head,” shouted Adolph Schneider. “Thou
art a woman possessed of Satan. Thou hast caused thy father’s death, and
yet thou darest to defy the laws of God and the laws of Zanah.”

“She hath committed murder,” cried a woman. “The mark of Cain is set
upon her forehead.”

The colonists surged around the place where Walda and Gerson Brandt
stood. Straining at his bonds, Everett, who had been dragged back upon
the platform and thrown before the vacant chair of the prophetess,
shouted to the elders to preserve order. Seeing Walda’s peril, he
demanded that he be released, and poured forth such a torrent of
invective and entreaty that Adolph Schneider and Karl Weisel were moved
to action. The two elders tried in vain to obtain a hearing. The crowd
was clamoring for revenge. Infuriated by disappointment and goaded by
superstition, the colonists pressed so closely upon Walda that she was
in danger of being crushed.

Some of the women would have spat upon her, but Gerson Brandt pushed
them away. Terrible in his anger, he widened the circle around the
white-clad figure of the fallen prophetess, who seemed unmindful of the
turmoil about her. She stood with bowed head, and her lips moved in
prayer.

“Make way for the bier!” Gerson Brandt said. Diedrich Werther and his
three companions lifted the bier, and slowly started down the grassy
aisle. When Walda would have followed, one of the most turbulent of the
colonists roughly shoved her back. Gerson Brandt threw out his arm with
a protecting gesture, and in the surging of the crowd Walda was pressed
close to him. His arms folded about her, and for one moment he felt her
heart beating upon his. In that moment the fires of life that had long
smouldered in him flamed up and illuminated his soul. In that moment
came to him the knowledge that he, the elder of Zanah, had long been
possessed of the earthly love against which he had preached so many
years. For a few seconds the golden autumn day faded from his sight. He
passed into a new existence. His divinity was unveiled to him. When the
mist before his eyes cleared away he looked into Walda’s face, and,
still clasping her close to his breast, said:

“Canst thou forgive me for mine anger, which hath brought upon thee much
unnecessary trouble this day? Until this moment I have been blinded. I
have done thee and him whom thou lovest a grievous wrong.”

“Thy provocation hath been great,” Walda answered. “Yet there is
resentment in my heart since thou hast caused Stephen Everett to be
bound.”

“Forgive me, and I will make reparation for mine offence,” he pleaded.
“For the sake of the past, for thy father’s sake, bear no enmity against
me.”

“Thou wilt see that no harm befalleth Stephen Everett?” she said.
Unconscious of the tumult in the school-master’s heart, and indifferent
to his touch, she thought only of the stranger in Zanah. The mob moved
forward, and Gerson Brandt gently put Walda away from him.

“Let Walda Kellar follow the bier of her father,” he commanded.

Again the women hissed their fallen prophetess.

Raising her hands to heaven, Walda uttered the words:

“Lord, have mercy upon us, thy people in Zanah. Forgive us our
transgressions.”

The colonists’ jeers were silenced. As Walda passed down the aisle, the
majesty of her carriage and the exaltation that was written on her face
cast a fear upon the people. One woman who had but a moment before
uttered bitter gibes kissed the hem of the white garment of the fallen
prophetess.

Hans Peter, who had been watching the proceedings from the limb of a
tree, slid from his high seat and walked a few feet behind Walda.

A hush fell upon the multitude. Standing with uncovered head, Gerson
Brandt waited until the bier disappeared among the trees and the last
glimpse of Walda’s white-robed figure was obscured.

The distant bell of the meeting-house tolled. The sunset hour of prayer
had come. Beneath the sky, dyed in crimson and purple, the people of
Zanah bowed their heads.



                                  XIX


For three days after the _Untersuchung_ Zanah was in mourning. The body
of Wilhelm Kellar lay in the meeting-house, and there the colonists
spent many hours in prayer and fasting. Gerson Brandt shut himself in
the upper room where Wilhelm Kellar had been so long ill and where
Piepmatz still hung in the big wicker cage. The school-master sat for
hours looking towards the bluffs which shut out the busy world. He
thought constantly of Walda. He had given her a pledge that he would
make reparation for his part in the _Untersuchung_, but his heart
rebelled against his task. He coveted Walda with all the strength of a
nature in which the best human impulses had been thwarted. He knew that
he must give up the woman he loved to the stranger in Zanah, but his
soul cried out against the fate that took her from him. He looked back
upon the years in Zanah, and he knew that she had become all of life to
him. At first he was dead to the sense of his own unfaithfulness to the
colony. Gradually he realized that his had been the part of the
unconscious traitor. He felt relieved when he looked forward to his
release from the irksome duties of a leader of Zanah.

A sense of terrible loneliness took possession of him whenever he
thought of the death of his friend, but his grief became more poignant
with the thought that Wilhelm Kellar’s death made Walda’s departure from
the colony possible. There was no reason why she should not go out into
the world as Everett’s wife. Night after night he battled with himself
to the end that he might be strong enough to help the woman he loved to
the attainment of happiness. He gained many partial victories over
himself, but at first he could not summon the courage to go to see Walda
in the House of the Women where she was kept under surveillance. The day
after the _Untersuchung_ he compelled himself to ask that Everett be
released, but he found that the cupidity of Adolph Schneider had been
aroused by the possibility of exacting a fine from the stranger, who was
locked in his room at the inn. It was a rule of the colony that a member
who brought money into the community should, in case of departure from
Zanah, receive just what he had contributed. Wilhelm Kellar’s share was
not small, and the danger of Walda’s marriage, and consequent demand for
her portion of her father’s property, was one that the elders desired to
avert.

“Thou canst persuade Walda Kellar that the curse of God will descend
upon her if she leaveth Zanah,” Karl Weisel said to Gerson Brandt, at
the close of a long conference of the elders. “She is suffering from
remorse, and thou canst sway her woman’s heart.”

“I refuse to have aught to do with inclining Walda’s will to the will of
Zanah,” said the school-master, in a tone so decisive that the matter
was dropped.

It was two days after Wilhelm Kellar’s death that Gerson Brandt, who had
gone to look once more upon the still face of his friend, encountered
Walda. The girl was kneeling alone beside the bier.

“See how peaceful he looketh,” she said, in a voice that was shaken with
sobs. “It is a comfort to remember that his last words told me and all
the people that he had forgiven my failure to fulfil his hopes.”

“He hath attained greater wisdom. He knoweth that thou wast led by a
stronger power than thine own will,” the school-master answered.

“As thou art my friend, point out the path of duty to me,” Walda
implored, rising to her feet. “I have prayed constantly, and it seemeth
that it is right I should stay here in Zanah serving the people, and
proving to them that while love must ever be in my heart, I can still
follow in the paths of righteousness.”

Gerson Brandt was silent. He stood looking at her as if he would have
her image graven on his mind for all his coming years. The tempter spoke
to him. One word of counsel, given as from her father’s friend, and he
could keep her safe in Zanah.

“Art thou strong enough to let Stephen Everett go back into the world
without thee?” he questioned.

“I have prayed for fortitude. I have found courage to think of living on
here without him,” she replied. “I have seen myself an old woman of
Zanah who goes her way dreaming still of the love of her youth.”

“Thou knowest that I would watch o’er thee,” said the school-master.

“Yea; but thy brotherly compassion hath not the sustaining power of
love.”

“Thou knowest not what sustaining power brotherly compassion may
reveal.”

Gerson Brandt’s voice betrayed suppressed emotion, and, looking up,
Walda saw that his face had become suddenly old and drawn.

“I have pained thee by my seeming ingratitude for all thy kindnesses,”
she said, putting her hand on his arm. The school-master’s face flushed,
for her touch made his heart throb.

The tempter’s voice spoke insistently.

“Shall I send Stephen Everett away?” Walda asked, after a brief pause.
“Direct me aright. Help me to do what my father would have me do.”

Gerson Brandt did not answer.

“The people of Zanah accused me of murdering my father,” Walda said,
after a long silence. “All the night after the _Untersuchung_ I was
filled with terror, but now I know that I could not have spared him the
sorrow. I was, indeed, but the instrument of fate. I had to tell the
truth as it was made clear to me. Oh, tell me that thou dost not deem me
guilty of my father’s death.”

She was weeping again, and Gerson Brandt was stirred to compassion.

“Cease thy lamentation,” he said, gently. “I have thought much about
thee ever since thou didst make thy confession of love. I have come to
know that thou must follow the dictates of thy heart. It is right that
thou shouldst go out into the world as Stephen Everett’s wife. There
thou wilt find pain and suffering, but all will be glorified by thy
love.”

The tempter was vanquished. The school-master had listened to him for
the last time.

“Nay, speak to me as my father would speak.”

“As thy father’s friend, and as one who holds thee in the deep recesses
of his heart, I tell thee to go forth from Zanah with the man thou
lovest.”

“And do I owe no duty to the colony? Is it not right that I should
strive to make amends for my unfaithfulness to the trust reposed in me?
Tell me the whole truth. Spare me not, for I would do the Lord’s will.”

“The colony hath forfeited all claim upon thee, for the men and women
did shamelessly flout thee. Thy father hath recompensed the people of
Zanah a hundredfold for whatever may have been done for thee.”

Walda gazed at the face of her dead father. Its calmness gave her
assurance of his forgiveness. Then the realization of her loss impressed
itself on her. She wept again. Stroking his stiffened hands, she prayed
that he might know she had not meant to disregard his teachings or to
bring him to dishonor.

Distressed at the sight of her remorse, Gerson Brandt urged her to leave
the meeting-house, and when she gave no heed to him he led her away,
holding her hand as was his custom in the years of her childhood. Two
colony mothers were waiting on the steps.

“Remember my counsel,” said the school-master. “There is but one path
for thee.”

Walda walked slowly towards the House of the Women, and left him
standing on the threshold of the meeting-house. A mist came before
Gerson Brandt’s eyes, and as it cleared away he saw Hans Peter running
up the hill.

“The stranger, who is still bound at the inn, would speak with thee,”
said the simple one, when he had reached the meeting-house steps.

“What doth he want?” said the school-master.

“He hath not talked with the village fool,” answered Hans Peter, “but
even the simple one might guess that he wants thee to have him set
free.”

Gerson Brandt thought for a moment. Walda’s presence still exerted its
influence over him. He had not the courage to see the man she loved.

“Tell Stephen Everett that I cannot go to him until after Wilhelm
Kellar’s funeral,” said the school-master, “and you may give him the
message that he may trust me to work for his deliverance.”

“He hath made threats that he will not be patient much longer,” Hans
Peter volunteered. “He hath told the Herr Doktor that it will cost Zanah
much if he is imprisoned another day.”

“According to the laws of the United States he hath right on his side,”
declared Gerson Brandt.

“He hath offered to pay much money if they will let him take Walda
Kellar away, and every hour that he remaineth with his hands behind him
he is more wasteful of his dollars.”

“Stand not here gossiping, Hans Peter. Hasten back with my reply to the
stranger’s message,” admonished the school-master, to whom the words of
the simple one had suggested an easy method of obtaining permission for
Walda to leave Zanah. If the elders were seeking to profit financially
from the loss of money as a compensation for the loss of their
prophetess, they would be likely to consent to let Walda leave the
colony on one condition—the forfeit of her property rights.

In his room at the inn Everett received Hans Peter with much impatience,
and, after he had heard Gerson Brandt’s message, gave expression to his
views on Zanah’s methods of dealing with strangers.

“So I am to remain bound until to-morrow,” he said. “Since Diedrich
Werther consented to tie my hands less tightly I am not so
uncomfortable. But I want you to summon the Herr Doktor immediately.”

Adolph Schneider was slow in making his appearance, and Everett, who had
fretted under the delay, was not in his usual self-contained mood.

“I sent for you to tell you that I am tired of this outrageous
treatment,” he said, as soon as the Herr Doktor’s burly form appeared at
the door. “You must come to an understanding with me to-night, or I will
show you that Zanah cannot ignore all the laws of the United States. I
will have you and all the leaders arrested for falsely imprisoning me. I
will cause an investigation of the affairs of the colony.”

Adolph Schneider’s fat face was deeply lined and his thick skin was a
pallid yellow. He showed plainly that he was worried with the numerous
troubles that had come upon the colony. He sat upon the nearest chair,
and, letting his head sink into his neckcloth, studied Everett
furtively.

“What do you intend to do with me?” the prisoner asked, after his first
outburst had remained unanswered.

“After the funeral to-morrow thou art to have a trial, and then the
people of Zanah will fix thy penalty.”

“Penalty? Penalty for what? I have broken no law. I have done nothing
for which you can deprive me of my liberty.”

“Thou art not the judge of that,” declared the Herr Doktor. “Thou hast
acknowledged that thou hast wronged the people of Zanah, for hast thou
not offered to pay a fine?”

“I have offered to buy my freedom, because I cannot expect to obtain
justice here among you bigots,” returned Everett. “I warn you that if
you do not take this rope off my arms, I shall see that you do not get a
penny from me, and that you pay for this week’s work.”

“So long as Walda Kellar is guarded it will be safe to let thee have thy
freedom, but we take no chances now.”

“Walda Kellar is my promised wife, and I demand her liberty as well as
my own.”

“Walda Kellar belongeth to Zanah, and thou canst not assert any claim to
her,” Adolph Schneider retorted, angrily.

“You will see what I can do,” Everett said. “But I do not want to try
coercion. Give your consent to our marriage, and I will make Zanah a
gift of money to signify my gratitude.”

The Herr Doktor’s little eyes glittered.

“How much?” he asked.

“We will not discuss terms until I am freed from these ropes,” said
Everett. “My imprisonment would be much easier to bear if you would let
me have my hands free, so that I can smoke.”

Adolph Schneider surveyed the stranger in Zanah with a look of
suspicion.

“Zanah would not be doing the will of God if Walda Kellar was not
punished for causing her father’s death,” he remarked.

“How dare you accuse her!”

The prisoner strained his bonds, as if he would use his hands to some
purpose in defending the woman he loved.

“Her confession broke her father’s heart,” said the Herr Doktor.

“The cruelty of you zealots of Zanah made Wilhelm Kellar die,” declared
the prisoner. “I warn you to be careful how you blame an innocent girl,
who simply told the truth at your _Untersuchung_.”

Everett’s face was so stern in its expression that the wily colonist
thought it wise not to pursue the subject.

“When thou art ready to make an offer of money, the elders will weigh it
against Walda Kellar’s transgression,” he said. “If it is found better
for the colony that she be cast out with thee, consent to the marriage
may be given.” He thought for a moment, with his chin in his neckcloth.
Shaking his head, he added: “There is still a chance that Walda Kellar
may receive the true inspiration. She may yet lead the people. It is but
small hope that I can give thee.”

He turned to go out.

“Stop! How about these ropes? Have them taken off,” Everett said, in a
tone that was menacing. “I shall be here to my trial. Don’t think I
would miss that. I shall stay in Zanah until I can leave the colony with
Walda Kellar.”

Adolph Schneider paid no attention to Everett’s demand. Instead, he
stalked through the door, his cane pounding in unison with every other
step.



                                   XX


It was noontime when the colonists gathered in the meeting-house to
attend the funeral of Wilhelm Kellar. The bier, placed before the
platform of the elders, was covered with flowers—the late garden
blossoms of autumn. White dahlias and asters, intwined in wreaths,
almost concealed the lid of the coffin. The women, who wore gowns of
black calico, gathered solemnly on their side of the big, bare room. The
men stood in groups until the elders had taken their places on the
platform where the vacant chair of Wilhelm Kellar was draped in black.
This occupied the position formerly given to the chair of the
prophetess, which was pushed back and turned so that it faced the wall.

The bell tolled the age of the dead elder. When its fiftieth stroke had
died away Walda was brought in from the room where she had held her
vigil before the _Untersuchung_. Mother Werther and Mother Kaufmann
accompanied her. Her appearance caused a hush to fall upon the assembly,
and some of the women covered their eyes, for it was seen that over her
black gown was thrown the scarlet cloak, which betokened that her soul
was clothed in the garment of sin. It was the same cloak that Marta
Bachmann had worn during the time of her probation, and some of the
softer-hearted of the colony “mothers” prayed that the fallen prophetess
might follow in Marta Bachmann’s footsteps until she reached the height
of final repentance. The maidens of Zanah gazed on Walda with fascinated
eyes. A few were bold enough to hope that she might be able to leave
Zanah with the stranger whose worldly ways and physical beauty had
charmed even those who had never spoken to him. At the head of the
coffin a stool had been provided for Walda, and she sank upon it as if
overcome with sudden weakness. For a moment she bowed her black-capped
head in prayer, and then, looking unflinchingly into the faces of the
colonists, waited with courage for the service to begin. She was very
pale, and once she threw off the cloak, as if it smothered her. In a
second she remembered its significance, and drew it about her shoulders.

From his seat at one end of the platform Gerson Brandt, with pitying
eyes, looked upon Walda. His thin face had a pinched look, and from his
eyes had faded the last smouldering fires of youth and hope. He sat with
hands tensely clasped, except when, now and then, he pressed his thin
fingers to his temples, from which the long hair, touched with gray,
fell back to his shoulders.

Karl Weisel read a long chapter from the Bible, and then a meek elder
offered a prayer. Adolph Schneider next told the people of their dead
brother’s services to the colony. His thick, droning voice, monotonous
in its cadences, did not hold Walda’s attention, until presently she
knew he was speaking of her and accusing her of unfaithfulness to Zanah.
She listened with downcast eyes, her lithe body quivering with emotion,
but she was too proud to show the pain she suffered. She choked back the
tears and prayed for strength.

At last the funeral address was finished. The bier was carried out into
the golden sunshine. Walda rose as if to follow it, but one of the
elders detained her.

“Is it meet that one who wears the scarlet cloak should walk first
behind the bier?” he asked.

Gerson Brandt answered by going to Walda’s side, pulling her arm through
his, and waving the people aside.

“He hath touched Walda Kellar’s hand, and he is no kin to her!” cried
Mother Kaufmann; but the school-master walked on as if he had not heard
her. Tenderly he supported Walda’s faltering footsteps. The procession
formed behind them, the men and women walking on opposite sides of the
village street, while Gerson Brandt and Walda kept in the middle of the
grass-grown road, directly behind Wilhelm Kellar’s coffin.

“Gerson Brandt, thou art, indeed, a friend in mine hour of trouble,”
Walda said, when they had reached the strip of woods and the bier had
been put down in order that its bearers might rest.

“Until death thou wilt be ever safe in my heart,” the school-master
answered, solemnly.

“Pray that I may have fortitude when I see the earth cover my father’s
body,” she whispered, as the procession started again, and he pressed
her arm to give her the assurance of his aid.

The school-master could have prayed that the walk to the graveyard might
last forever. He knew that, in all the coming years which might belong
to him on earth, he might never again touch her or be close to her. He
trembled in the excess of his joy. He felt a great strength taking
possession of him. They came to the lake, and he looked out upon it as
it lay undisturbed by wave or ripple. Around the water’s hem the
yellowing willows dipped into the placid pool. The sumach flamed among
the oak-trees.

“When thou art gone from me out into the world I shall pray that thy
soul shall be untroubled as is this lake to-day,” he murmured, softly.

“Ah! To-day I feel that I must remain here in Zanah to make atonement
for my betrayal of the people’s trust,” she answered.

The tempter had spoken to him for the last time, and so he made haste to
say:

“Thy love leads the way of thy duty. Harbor no longer the thought of
sacrificing thyself to no purpose.”

They reached the high gate of the graveyard. The bier was carried to the
rise of ground where Marta Bachmann’s burial-place had been selected
many years before. A grave had been hollowed out near that of the
prophetess of revered memory. The colonists gathered around it. Walda
and the school-master stood on one side and the elders on the other
while the coffin was lowered. The simple one, who had not been seen at
the meeting-house or in the procession, looked on from a place of
vantage on the gravestone of Marta Bachmann.

Adolph Schneider announced that there would be a reading of the
Scriptures. An awkward pause followed. It was discovered that the Bible
had been forgotten. The elders held a conference, while the villagers
waited stolidly.

“Hans Peter shall be sent back for the Holy Book,” announced the Herr
Doktor, motioning to the simple one.

Hans Peter advanced with slow steps.

“There is a Bible here,” he said.

“Bring it quickly, then,” ordered the elder.

“It can be brought only after an understanding,” answered the simple
one. “Gerson Brandt’s lost Bible is hidden here. It belongeth now to the
stranger in Zanah. If it is the will of him who made it gay with colors
that it be given to the stranger I will bring the Bible forth.”

“Would the fool make terms with the elders of Zanah? Bring forth the
Bible,” commanded the Herr Doktor.

Hans Peter did not stir.

“Dost thou defy me?” asked Adolph Schneider.

The simple one made no sign that he heard.

“Speak,” urged Gerson Brandt. “Stephen Everett shall have the Bible.”

“When the promise is given that the elders will let me deliver it to the
owner I will find it,” said Hans Peter.

The promise was given, after a brief consultation of the elders. Hans
Peter went back to Marta Bachmann’s gravestone, and from beneath it
pulled out a stout wooden box. This he opened with some difficulty, and
from it produced the Bible, which was wrapped in oil-cloth. Gerson
Brandt’s heart gave a throb of joy when he saw it.

“Bring it here to me,” he commanded, and the simple one, almost
staggering under its weight, obeyed the wish of the school-master.

The people whispered among themselves, and the elders looked sullenly at
the volume about which there had been so many conjectures.

“I will read from the Scriptures,” announced Gerson Brandt, motioning to
the village fool to help him hold the heavy book. He turned to the
fourteenth chapter of St. John, and, scanning a page more beautiful in
its illumination than all the rest, he began to read the message of
peace. After he had finished he closed the Sacred Book. One of the
elders prayed, and while the people’s heads were bowed Hans Peter stole
away with the Bible.

Diedrich Werther began to shovel the earth into the grave. Walda, with a
sudden feeling of horror, clutched Gerson Brandt’s arm, upon which she
buried her face. The school-master forgot the people of Zanah. He leaned
over her, whispering words of comfort and strength. Half fearfully he
touched her on the shoulder, and bade her remember that the Lord worketh
in wondrous ways. He told her that the Father in heaven had planned for
her deliverance from Zanah.

The people had begun to leave the graveyard before Walda was calm. Two
of the colony “mothers” waited for her, and she bade the school-master
return to Zanah, leaving her alone with the women.

Gerson Brandt hesitated, loath to walk away from the place that had
become to him one of the outer courts of heaven.

“I would pray here for a time,” Walda said, “and thou shalt be
remembered in my petitions.”

He looked at her, not trusting himself to speak.

He led her close to the new-made grave and left her there. Not until he
had closed the graveyard gate behind him did he dare to look back.
Gazing with straining eyes he beheld the prophetess as she lay face
downward on the ground, with the scarlet cloak still wrapped around her.
From a place a little distant the colony women watched her.



                                  XXI


Immediately after the funeral the colonists gathered in the village
square for the trial of Stephen Everett. The stocks still stood where
they had been erected for the punishment of Hans Peter, and upon the
high platform surrounding the culprit’s seat the elders met for the
purpose of passing judgment. The prisoner was not brought from the inn
until after all the villagers were assembled. He walked from the porch
of the _gasthaus_ with a step that showed he was glad to have a chance
to make a plea for liberty. An expression of scorn and anger was plainly
visible on his handsome face. He had been inclined to accept whatever
happened in Zanah as rather an amusing experience, but the events since
the morning of the _Untersuchung_ had awakened him to a full sense of
what he had at stake. He meant to have Walda at any hazard, but his
patience had been exhausted in his tiresome ordeal of imprisonment. His
old, careless manner asserted itself when he had ascended the steps to
the stocks and had taken a seat upon the great beam in which the simple
one’s feet had been fastened.

At the first sight of him some of the villagers gave vent to indignant
murmurs, which were quickly quieted.

“This man is accused of being one whom Satan hath sent to Zanah,”
announced Karl Weisel. “He hath stolen the affections of her who would
have been our prophetess; he hath tempted the Lord’s chosen one with an
earthly love. He hath broken his pledge to an elder of the colony.
Through his wicked plottings the plans of Zanah are overthrown. He hath
lost to the people who serve God the instrument that would have led the
people in the paths of pleasantness.”

“He shall be punished!” shouted some of the people.

“Yea; he shall be punished,” agreed the head of the thirteen elders,
puffing out his chest and knitting his brows. “He shall be punished; but
is there a penalty severe enough for offences such as his?”

“He shall be made to pay a fine,” said Adolph Schneider. “Many thousand
dollars would not wipe out the harm he hath done to the crops since we
are deprived of the guidance of a prophetess.”

“Cast him out of Zanah!” clamored many voices.

At this point Gerson Brandt advanced from his place at the end of the
row of elders.

“Who is fitted to determine the stranger’s punishment?” he asked.

No one answered. With arms folded upon his breast Gerson Brandt waited
for a response.

“In this case it seemeth just that only he who hath not succumbed to the
same temptation that Stephen Everett hath found here in Zanah is fit to
choose a penalty for this offence. Let the man of Zanah who hath lived
twenty-one years without loving a woman say what the stranger’s
punishment shall be.”

The men of Zanah stared at one another. The women tiptoed to see if they
might read long-buried secrets in the faces of their husbands and
brothers.

“There must be many here who have escaped the lure that lurketh in the
eyes of women,” the school-master said, presently. “It may be that my
meaning hath not been made plain. Let him who hath attained the age of
manhood without knowing what Zanah calleth an earthly love judge Stephen
Everett.”

The men of Zanah looked at one another with shamefaced glances.

“Is not he who hath loved and repented a better judge?” asked Karl
Weisel.

“Nay; why should one that hath been weak in the presence of woman judge
another?” responded the school-master. “There are many men of Zanah who
have never married. Why do not they answer? Why do not they volunteer to
measure the sin of loving a woman?”

A minute passed.

“Is there none in Zanah qualified to judge the stranger?” inquired
Gerson Brandt.

From the edge of the crowd came the simple one.

“I, the fool of Zanah, have passed the age of one-and-twenty without
loving,” he declared, in a tone that betrayed not the least trace of any
feeling.

His face was, as usual, absolutely without expression.

“Set a fool to judge a fool,” sneered Mother Schneider. But the men had
nothing to say.

“What is thy judgment, Hans Peter?” asked the school-master.

“The simple one would have the stranger freed,” said Hans Peter.
Standing with both hands in his pockets, he waited to be dismissed. He
had uncovered his head, and as he stood there before the people
something of the tragedy of the simple one’s life was revealed to Zanah.
He was a creature apart; one who had reached the years of manhood
without attaining to the full stature and the full knowledge of
maturity. Some strange recesses of his brain were closed to memory, and
yet nature had made compensation by giving him queer flashes of wit and
odd shreds of intelligence that often confounded Zanah. In the crowd
were some, more superstitious than the rest, who looked at the village
fool with fear written on their faces.

“Let us free the stranger and send him out of Zanah. He hath brought a
curse with him. The sooner he goeth from among us the better,” spoke
Mother Werther, who, since the _Untersuchung_, had gone about with care
marked upon her good-natured face.

“He whom you call the simple one is the only man in Zanah who hath not
transgressed the colony law forbidding all who would attain to serve the
Lord in singleness of purpose to put away earthly love,” said the
school-master. “Would not your own weaknesses teach you lenity?”

From his place on the stocks Everett scanned the dull faces below him.
The idea of associating sentiment or romance with the heavy-featured men
of Zanah brought a contemptuous smile to his lips.

“How is it that thou dost not judge the stranger?” asked Mother
Kaufmann. “Surely thou hast not loved a daughter of Eve?” She laughed,
mockingly, showing her hideous tusks.

“Let Gerson Brandt, the elder and school-master, be the judge of the
stranger,” cried a sturdy colonist, who had been quietly looking on from
the porch of the inn.

A chorus of voices bade the school-master deal with the prisoner.

Gerson Brandt motioned to Hans Peter to retire from the place in front
of the stocks.

“Thou hast this day taught Zanah a lesson,” he declared, in a kindly
voice. “Thy verdict is right. It should be accepted by the people.”

“Faugh! Wouldst thou let a fool decide a matter of great importance to
Zanah?” angrily inquired Adolph Schneider, who had with difficulty
smothered his rage when he saw the chief law of the colony made
ridiculous by Gerson Brandt’s declaration that the man who had never
loved should judge Stephen Everett.

“We demand that the school-master shall fix the penalty,” shouted Mother
Schneider. “He knoweth best to what extent the madness of an earthly
love hath afflicted her who would have been a prophetess; he hath lost
his best friend through the iniquitous influence of the stranger.”

The people became unruly, for their patience had been tried by the
suspense. They clamored for speedy justice to him who had made trouble
for them.

“Gerson Brandt, thou shalt pass the verdict,” said Karl Weisel. “Since
thou didst order Stephen Everett made a prisoner, thou shouldst make
sure that he suffers for his misdeeds.”

The school-master pushed back the hair from his forehead. He waited for
a moment, lifting his hands to invite the attention of the people.

“None is more unworthy to judge this man for loving a woman than I,
Gerson Brandt,” he said, with a quaver in his voice. “It is my desire
that some of you fix his punishment, for even though you may set him
free, I shall do penance for him. I have sinned against Zanah more than
he.”

“What meanest thou, Brother Brandt?” asked Adolph Schneider, confronting
him. “Beware how thou dost forfeit the respect of the people.”

“I have treasured in my heart an earthly love,” the school-master
confessed, turning from Adolph Schneider and speaking to the colonists.

His words caused even the most stoical of the elders to turn pale. It
meant much to the colony to lose the school-master from among those who
managed the affairs of the community.

The people heard and yet appeared not to believe their ears. The square
became so quiet that when Piepmatz, hanging in his cage from a rafter of
the inn-porch, sang the one bar of the love-song, the bird-voice reached
every one in the throng, and presently broke the spell of amazement that
held the villagers.

“Thy case shall be taken up presently,” said Karl Weisel, who was the
first to recover from astonishment. “Thy sin is minor to his, in that
thou didst not love the prophetess.”

“Mine offence is greater than his,” answered Gerson Brandt. He had
gained complete control of himself, and he spoke in a voice clear and
unfaltering. “I have loved Walda Kellar even from the days of her
childhood with a love that is stronger than all else in life. I had
thought that mine affection was merely that of a teacher, a counsellor,
a friend, until, through the stranger, it became known to me that I
loved her who might have been the prophetess as a man loveth the woman
whom the Lord hath sent into the world for him to cherish until death.
There is no word of extenuation for me. I love Walda Kellar with the
longing to claim her from Zanah and all the world.”

He paused, as if the flood-gates of his heart had broken, and the tide
of his emotion drowned his words. Stephen Everett, who had listened with
a shamed sense of his own good-fortune, gazed upon the school-master’s
face until he was compelled to turn his eyes away, for he saw despair
and pain so deeply graven there that the pity of it brought tears.

“In the heat of what I thought a righteous anger I did order the
stranger to be bound,” Gerson Brandt said, after a brief pause. “But
there, in the place of the _Untersuchung_, it was made clear to me that
jealousy actuated me unworthily to use my power as an elder. For that
offence, I crave Stephen Everett’s pardon and Zanah’s forgiveness.”

The people were stirred with indignation and sorrow. They began to speak
to one another, but Gerson Brandt compelled them to hear him to the end.

“I would ask you to release the prisoner and to give Walda Kellar into
his keeping. The love I bear for this daughter of Zanah hath in it that
which giveth me the strength to surrender my heart’s desire, and so I
crave for her the happiness that cometh through the love of another man.
I plead with you to consent to the marriage of Stephen Everett and Walda
Kellar. Send them forth into the world together this night. Delay not in
meting out to them the judgment that will give them joy. The punishment
is mine.”

Gerson Brandt leaned against one of the supports of the stocks. He was
dimly conscious that the elders whispered to one another and that the
people gathered in groups to talk earnestly.

The afternoon was far advanced. A golden haze had settled upon the
valley. Above his head the dry leaves of the trees were rustled by a
gentle wind that soothed his spirit. He was conscious of a sudden
faintness. His little world, the colony of Zanah, slipped away from him
for a moment, but he remembered that he had not won his battle for
Walda’s freedom, and he steadied himself, calling all his senses to
serve him until the end of the day’s ordeal.

“Art thou aware that when an elder lets human love into his heart he
must be put under the ban of silence?” asked Adolph Schneider. “It is
the law of Zanah. Thou art the first elder to prove himself too weak for
the high office.”

Gerson Brandt made no response. Far down the road he caught sight of the
scarlet cloak worn by the fallen prophetess.

The elders continued their conference, presently taking Stephen Everett
into their circle. The school-master kept his eyes on the approaching
figure of Walda, who came towards the square with lagging steps. Her
attendants followed her closely, and when the three at last came into
the crowd he saw that some of the villagers gathered about them.

“Will Walda Kellar stand before the stocks,” commanded Karl Weisel,
seeing that the fallen prophetess had come into the square.

Walda obeyed the summons.

“Art thou willing to forsake Zanah in order that thou mayst go forth
into the world with a stranger?” he asked.

Everett looked at her with pleading in his eyes, but she hesitated
before replying. He leaned forward in an agony of suspense.

“Tell the elders that thou art under a law higher than any of Zanah,”
prompted Gerson Brandt. “Thou art led by the law of love, which ruleth
the world outside the colony. This day hath shown that it ruleth here,
even in Zanah.”

“If in leaving Zanah I am not ignoring any allegiance I owe to the
memory of my father, I would go with Stephen Everett. This love that I
bear to him hath given me a desire to be always near him,” Walda
answered.

“Thou shalt be cut off from the roll of those who serve the Lord in
Zanah,” declared the head of the thirteen elders. “Thou shalt leave
Zanah to-night, after the village hath closed its doors on thee, so that
the eyes of the men and women may not be offended by seeing the
beginning of thy journey into the world.”

“I would give vent to my gratitude,” Walda said, tremulously. “Even now
I prayed at my father’s grave that if it be the will of God I might be
permitted to be the wife of Stephen Everett, and lo! when I least hoped
for it my prayer hath been answered.”

“Silence! Dare not to rejoice in thy frowardness of heart here before
the people of Zanah,” Karl Weisel admonished. “Remember that there may
be a curse in answered prayer.”

Walda shrank under the lash of his cruel words. She glanced around her
as if seeking sympathy from some of the women, but all who were nearest
her drew their skirts away as if they would not be defiled by the touch
of her scarlet cloak. Her pride came to the rescue, and, drawing the
crimson mantle around her, she stood proudly waiting for a sign that she
might pass on.

“From this moment Walda Kellar, once hailed as the prophetess of Zanah,
is no longer to be counted with the colonists who live in the hope of
earning an entrance to heaven by walking in the paths of righteousness,”
announced Adolph Schneider, coming forward. “She hath listened to the
voice of Satan, and she hath been unfaithful to a most sacred trust. She
hath lost the gift of tongues; she hath turned a deaf ear to the voice
of prophecy. Henceforth, forever, her name shall not be spoken in Zanah.
Let her go in peace, and may she repent of her sin.”

Some of the colonists shuddered as the Herr Doktor proclaimed the
excommunication of the fallen prophetess. Walda read reassurance and
encouragement in Gerson Brandt’s face. She stood gazing up at him, and
he held her spirit in calm submission.

“Stephen Everett is hereby liberated. He hath consented to pay to Zanah
a goodly fine, which is still out of proportion to his great offence,”
Adolph Schneider next announced. “Through the agency of Gerson Brandt,
Walda Kellar hath waived all claim on her share of the property of
Zanah. She shall go forth from the colony penniless, and dependent upon
the stranger.”

“That is good,” agreed some of the men.

“To-night Stephen Everett and Walda Kellar shall leave Zanah, even as
Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden,” continued the Herr
Doktor, pronouncing the sentence so that it might intimidate all
possible lovers in the colony. “They shall go forth, never to return.”

When Adolph Schneider dwelt on the words “never to return,” Gerson
Brandt caught his breath as if he felt a sudden pain.

“It is my duty to pronounce upon Gerson Brandt the ban of silence,” Karl
Weisel said, taking the Herr Doktor’s place at the front of the
platform. “As head of the thirteen elders I hereby declare to the people
of Zanah that his office of counsellor and guide to the colony is
vacant. Like the fallen prophetess, he hath forfeited all right to a
high place in Zanah by opening his heart to an earthly love.”

Walda could not repress an exclamation of surprise. She glanced
questioningly among the women, as if she would discover the one upon
whom the school-master had bestowed his heart, but she received such
looks of anger and indignation that she turned to Gerson Brandt, as if
she would read his secret. He gave her a smile, and she listened sadly
to the terrible sentence pronounced upon him.

“For the space of a year no man or woman of Zanah shall speak to Gerson
Brandt,” the elder continued, in a loud voice. “Although he hath been
the school-master, the children shall not be permitted to utter one word
to him. He shall no longer be a teacher in the colony. Instead, he shall
dwell alone, avoided by all. Because Zanah harboreth no drones, he shall
serve the colony as night-watchman. During all the hours of darkness he
shall pace up and down the street of Zanah. He shall call out the hours
from sunset until sunrise, and he shall be forgotten by all who serve
the Lord.”

Gerson Brandt heard the words unmoved, as if the sentence were of little
concern to him. In a moment, after Karl Weisel ceased speaking, his
thoughts were far away. He exulted over the solitude before him. He knew
that he could live in memories; precious dreams would be his. Each
night, while he walked alone, he told himself that he could send to
Walda his best hopes. He could speak her name in his prayers. After all,
he had triumphed over himself and over the laws of Zanah. Unconsciously
he drew his thin body to its full height. The light of victory illumined
his face. He looked at Walda and saw that she was weeping for him. Then
he was troubled.

“This sentence is monstrous,” Everett asserted, with wrath in his voice.
“Gerson Brandt shall come out into the world with me. Walda Kellar and I
owe him whatever of happiness may be ours in the future, and we shall
see that he has some of the joys of life.”

“Nay, nay,” spoke Gerson Brandt. “I would be out of place in the great
world. I thank thee, but I am better here. I shall be quite contented to
remain in Zanah. Outward conditions count for naught.”

When Everett still would have insisted, he showed such evident
embarrassment and uneasiness that it was kindlier to cease to importune
him.

“Stephen Everett, thou shalt take Walda Kellar to the _gasthaus_, there
to wait until darkness falls,” snarled Adolph Schneider, who had begun
to feel that he had not made the stranger’s fine large enough.

Everett hastened to Walda’s side. When he gently took her by the arm,
Gerson Brandt turned his head away. The crowd began to disperse. The
school-master walked down the steps from the stocks. All the colonists
pretended not to see him. As he crossed the square a little girl ran to
him, clasping her arms about his knees. He stooped to disengage himself,
and a woman snatched the child away from him. A few steps farther on
several of the boys who had been his pupils ran away from him, one
hiding behind a tree to peep at him, as if he were an evil thing. He had
not reached the bridge before he felt some one touch him on the arm. It
was Hans Peter.

“I shall dwell with thee,” said the simple one. “The laws of Zanah rule
not the village fool.”



                                  XXII


Everett led Walda into the living-room of the inn and shut the door.
Taking the red cloak from her shoulders, he tenderly placed her in one
of the big rocking-chairs.

“From this moment you are always to be in my care,” he said. “Ah, Walda,
I cannot realize that at last you are to be mine—all mine.”

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes.

“Stephen, it is strange, but now that I am about to go out into the
great world with thee I am full of misgivings,” she replied.

He knelt beside her, and, taking her hand, said:

“You have had a tragic day. You are exhausted. Surely, you are not
afraid to trust yourself to me?”

“Nay, nay. When thou art close to me I feel safe from all trouble; yet
my heart trembles. Thy love hath a power that affrights me.”

He had risen and kissed her, drawing her head upon his breast and
holding it there. She hid her face with a sudden shame while she asked:

“Are we to be married to-morrow, Stephen?”

“It was the agreement that we should leave Zanah at midnight. We shall
drive to a town twenty-five miles away, and there, at sunrise, you and I
will attend our own wedding.”

“Thou art sure that my father would have had it so?”

“Yes, Walda; I would have gained his consent. You are to forget all the
troubles that my love has brought to you. I shall try to atone for every
heartache of these last few days.”

“Our love was sent from heaven. Truly thou believest that?”

“Fate has given you to me. You must not ask any more questions. We are
to begin to be happy now.” He stroked her cheek and soothed her as if
she were a child, and his great strength gave her confidence. “The first
thing that I shall do will be to send for your white gown, so that you
can take off this mourning,” he said, lightly, when he saw that she was
more composed. “I bought from the elders the white gown and the red
cloak, for both have a significance for us—both have marked great days
in our lives.”

She smiled faintly, and he began to unpin the black cap that she wore.
It was securely fastened to her fair hair. He had to ask her assistance
in getting rid of it. When it was loosened he threw it on the floor, and
then walked off to look at her. She was very pale, after the sorrow and
excitement of the day. Her black gown accentuated the fairness of her
skin, and her clear-cut features were brought out in relief against the
dark back of the chair.

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” he said, with the
fervor of sincerity. “How often you will hear your praises sung when you
belong to the world.”

“Art thou teaching me vanity so soon, Stephen?” she exclaimed, with a
sigh, for she was in no mood for gayety.

“I am half afraid to take you into the world,” he answered, with some
seriousness. “You see, I have my misgivings. But you did not tell me
what disturbed you. Come over here to Mother Werther’s sofa, where you
can whisper to me all the vague fears of your heart.”

“Thou knowest I shall need thy charity oftentimes,” Walda said, after
Stephen had made her rest her head upon his shoulder. “I shall not
understand many of thy ways—even thy thoughts will be too deep for me to
understand.”

Everett laughed.

“You forget that you have wisdom and goodness that I can never fathom.”

“Here in Zanah those who love soon weary of each other. Surely, it is
not so in the world, where earthly love is not counted a sin. Is it?”
she questioned.

“Our love is for all our life,” he said, softly. “I shall be faithful to
it always.”

“And thou wilt be patient with me? Thou wilt teach me all that I should
learn, if I would be thy worthy companion?”

“I would not have you changed in any way, Walda.”

“Ah! but love bringeth wisdom, and I have thought much about our
marriage. I shall be unlike all the people thou knowest. When Gerson
Brandt said he would be out of place in the great world, his words smote
me.”

“You shall learn all that you need to know about the ways of the world,”
Everett promised, easily. “Is there any other subject that is causing
you apprehension?”

“Nay; none that I may voice to thee. When a woman is about to give
herself to the man she loveth there is a tumult in her heart. It is of
mingled faith and fear. Love carrieth both with it, for, while it exalts
the soul, it bringeth the wisdom that hath a far sight of the meanings
and mysteries of life.”

Walda put her hands upon his shoulders, and, looking into his eyes, saw
in them something that gave her courage.

“Let us be grateful in this hour of our deliverance,” she said, rising.
“Have the white gown—my wedding-gown—brought to me.”

Everett went up to the room he had occupied during his last sojourn in
Zanah, leaving Walda alone while he made his preparations for the
journey.

Walda, leaning on the window-sill, looked out upon the quiet village
that had been so long her home. One by one the lights in the stone
houses on the winding street went out. The footsteps of chance
passers-by became less frequent. The noises in the inn were hushed. At
last every door was closed against her.

When the tall clock struck eleven, Everett entered the room. The
solitary candle had burned out, and Walda was sitting in the darkness.

“Can you see to find your cloak?” he asked. “It is time for us to
start.”

Walda caught up the wrap from its place on the sofa, and followed
Everett out on the porch of the _gasthaus_. There was not a sign of life
anywhere.

“The carriage will be waiting for us on the other side of the square
beneath the old oak-tree,” said Everett. “Don’t you want to say good-bye
to Piepmatz, or would you like to take him with you?”

“Nay, Stephen; Piepmatz is like the others that dwell in Zanah. He would
not feel at home in the great world,” Walda answered, going to the cage
where the chaffinch, with his head beneath his wing, slumbered in happy
unconsciousness of the influence of love-songs.

On the bridge appeared a lantern. It came towards the inn, and when it
was a few feet away the form of the bearer, Gerson Brandt, was
discerned. By his side walked Hans Peter.

“I was afraid I should not have the chance to say good-bye to thee,
Gerson Brandt,” Walda exclaimed, going down the steps to meet him.
Everett drew the simple one away, with the excuse that they would go to
see whether the carriage had come.

“Nay, at any cost, I meant to send thee out into the world with my
blessing,” Gerson Brandt answered. He set down his lantern and put his
hands behind him lest he should be tempted to touch her.

“It seemeth selfish of me to be so happy when thou art sad, Gerson
Brandt.” Walda put her hand upon his arm, and they looked into each
other’s faces with something of the old frankness in their glance.

“In this hour of parting it is good to know that thou leavest Zanah with
a light heart.” Gerson Brandt spoke bravely, but his lips quivered.
“Farewell, Walda. If I never behold thy face again, remember thine image
is ever treasured in the memory of a man of Zanah. To him thou wilt
never grow old. Here in my thoughts thou shalt dwell always in thy youth
and beauty.”

He trusted himself to let one hand reach out above her head.

“Peace go with thee. The Lord bless and keep thee,” he said, softly,
lifting his face to heaven, because he could no longer depend upon his
human strength.

They stood silent for a moment.

Everett and Hans Peter returned to the inn to say that the carriage was
waiting.

“Thou shalt have Piepmatz, if thou art willing to be burdened with the
care of the chaffinch,” said Walda, speaking to the simple one.

“Nay, give him to both of us,” pleaded Gerson Brandt so earnestly that
she bestowed the bird upon him and Hans Peter, with the injunction that
they must not disagree over the partnership.

Everett put the scarlet cloak upon Walda’s shoulders and led her away.
She went without waiting to say a last word to the man of Zanah, who had
lifted his lantern and held it so that it might give her light. Gerson
Brandt would have gone on ahead illuminating the way, but a sudden
weakness overcame him when he saw that Walda had forgotten his presence
in the excitement of her departure. He sank upon the well-curb, at the
very place where Everett had first seen him and Walda speak to each
other. He listened for the wheels of the carriage. He heard the horses
start and then stop suddenly. Hans Peter had run out of the inn carrying
on his shoulders the illuminated Bible which had become, by right of
purchase, the property of the stranger.

Gerson Brandt quelled in his heart the rebellion he felt because to him
was denied even the privilege of giving to Walda the Sacred Book into
which he had wrought so many of his best thoughts and most precious
hopes. He buried his head in his hands, waiting patiently until he
should know that the woman he loved had gone forever beyond his reach.

The horses’ hoofs struck the soft road with a muffled sound. The wheels
started a second time. Gerson Brandt closed his ears for a moment, and
then, rising, listened for the last sound of the carriage. He was still
standing in the deserted square when Hans Peter spoke to him.

“It is almost the beginning of a new hour,” the fool said.

Gerson Brandt examined his big, silver watch by the light of the
lantern.

“Midnight!” he called, in a voice out of which all hope had gone.
“Midnight!—”

“And all is well!” cried the simple one, taking up the words that Gerson
Brandt had not power to speak.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



Transcriber’s note:

 1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.

 2. Archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Walda - A Novel" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home