Part 6 out of 6
"Then you do not scorn me, Helen?" the man asked in a faint,
trembling voice, and went on pleading with her, in words so abject
and so wretched that they wrung the girl's heart more than ever.
"David, how can you speak to me so?" she cried, "you who are all my
life?" And then she added with swift intensity, "Listen to me,
David, it cannot be so bad as that, I know it! Will you not tell me,
David? Tell me all, so that I may help you!" So she went on pleading
with him gently, until at last the man spoke again, in faltering
"Helen," he said, "I was only a boy; God knows that is one excuse,
if it is the only one. I was only seventeen, and she was no more."
"Who was she, David?" the girl asked.
"She lived in a village across the mountains from here, near where
our home used to be. She was a farmer's daughter, and she was
beautiful--oh, to think that that woman was once a beautiful girl,
and innocent and pure! But we were young, we loved each other, and
we had no one to warn us; it was so long ago that it seems like a
dream to me now, but we sinned, and I took her for mine; then I went
home to tell my father, to tell him that she was my wife, and that I
must marry her. And oh, God, she was a farmer's daughter, and I was
a rich man's son, and the cursed world knows nothing of human souls!
And I must not marry her--I found all the world in arms against
"And you let yourself be persuaded?" asked the girl, in a faint
"Persuaded?" echoed David, his voice shaking; "who would have
thought of persuading a mad boy? I let myself be commanded and
frightened into submission, and carried away. And then five or six
miserable months passed away and I got a letter from her, and she
was with child, and she was ruined forever,--she prayed to me in
words that have haunted me night and day all my life, to come to her
and keep my promise."
And David stopped and gave a groan; the other whispered, "You could
"I went," he answered; "I borrowed money, begged it from one of my
father's servants, and ran away and went up there; and oh, I was two
days too late!"
"Too late?" exclaimed Helen wonderingly.
"Yes, yes," was the hoarse reply, "for she was a weak and helpless
girl, and scorned of all the world; and her parents had turned her
away, and she was gone, no one knew where. Helen, from that day to
this I have never seen her, nor ever heard of her; and now she comes
to curse me,--to curse my soul forever. And it is more than I can
bear, more than I can bear!"
David sank down again, crying out, "It is too much, it is too much!"
But then suddenly he caught his wife's hand in his and stared up at
her, exclaiming, "And she said there was a child, Helen! Somewhere
in the world there is another soul suffering for this sin of mine!
Oh, somehow we must find out about that--something must be done, I
could not have two such fearful things to know of. We must find out,
we must find out!"
As the man stopped and stared wildly about him he heard the woman's
voice again, and sprang up; but Helen, terrified at his suffering,
caught him by the arm, whispering, "No, no, David, let me go in, I
can take care of her." And she forced her husband down on the sofa
once more, and then ran into the next room. She found the woman
again struggling to raise herself upon her trembling arms, staring
about her and calling out incoherently. Helen rushed to her and took
her hands in hers, trying to soothe her again.
But the woman staggered to her feet, oblivious of everything about
her. "Where is he? Where is he?" she gasped hoarsely; "he will come
back!" She began calling David's name, and a moment later, as Helen
tried to keep her quiet, she tore her hands loose and rushed blindly
across the room, shrieking louder yet, "David, where are you? Don't
you know me, David?"
As Helen turned she saw that her husband had heard the cries and
come to the doorway again; but it was all in vain, for the woman,
though she looked at him, knew him no more; it was to a phantom of
her own brain that she was calling, in the meantime pacing up and
down, her voice rising higher and higher. She was reeling this way
and that, and Helen, frightened at her violence, strove to restrain
her, only to be flung off as if she had been a child; the woman
rushed on, groping about her blindly and crying still, "David! Tell
me where is David!"
Then as David and Helen stood watching her in helpless misery her
delirious mood changed, and she clutched her hands over her bosom,
and shuddered, and moaned to herself, "It is cold, oh, it is cold!"
Afterwards she burst into frantic sobbing, that choked her and shook
all her frame; and again into wild peals of laughter; and then last
of all she stopped and sprang back, staring in front of her with her
whole face a picture of agonizing fright; she gave one wild scream
after another and staggered and sank down at last upon the floor.
"Oh, it is he, it is he!" she cried, her voice sinking into a
shudder; "oh, spare me,--why should you beat me? Oh God, have
mercy--have mercy!" Her cries rose again into a shriek that made
Helen's blood run cold; she looked in terror at her husband, and saw
that his face was white; in the meantime the wretched woman had
flung herself down prostrate upon the floor, where she lay groveling
That again, however, was only for a minute or two; she staggered up
once more and rushed blindly across the room, crying, "I cannot bear
it, I cannot bear it! Oh, what have I done?" Then suddenly as she
flung up her arms imploringly and staggered blindly on, she lurched
forward and fell, striking her head against the corner of the table.
Helen started forward with a cry of alarm, but before she had taken
half a dozen steps the woman had raised herself to her feet once
more, and was staring at her, blinded by the blood which poured from
a cut in her forehead. Her clothing was torn half from her, and her
tangled hair streamed from her shoulders; she was a ghastly sight to
behold, as, delirious with terror, she began once more rushing this
way and that about the room. The two who watched her were powerless
to help her, and could only drink in the horror of it all and
shudder, as with each minute the poor creature became more frantic
and more desperate. All the while it was evident that her strength
was fast leaving her; she staggered more and more, and at last she
sank down upon her knees. She strove to rise again and found that
she could not, but lurched and fell upon the floor; as she turned
over and Helen saw her face, the sight was too much for the girl's
self-control, and she buried her face in her hands and broke into
David in the meantime was crouching in the doorway, his gaze fixed
upon the woman; he did not seem even to notice Helen's outburst, so
lost was all his soul in the other sight. Fie saw that the
stranger's convulsive efforts were weakening, and he staggered
forward with a cry, and flung himself forward down on his knees
beside her. "Mary, Mary!" he called; but she did not heed him, tho
he clasped her hands and shook her, gazing into her face
imploringly. Her eyes were fixed upon him, but it was with a vacant
stare; and then suddenly he started back with a cry of horror--
"Great God, she is dying!"
The woman made a sudden fearful effort to lift herself, struggling
and gasping, her face distorted with fierce agony; as it failed she
sank back, and lay panting hard for breath; then a shudder passed
over her, and while David still stared, transfixed, a hoarse rattle
came from her throat, and her features became suddenly set in their
dreadful passion. In a moment more all was still; and David buried
his face in his hands and sank down upon the corpse, without even a
Afterwards, for a full minute there was not a sound in the room;
Helen's sobbing had ceased, she had looked up and sat staring at the
two figures,--until at last, with a sudden start of fright she
sprang up and crept silently toward them. She glanced once at the
woman's body, and then bent over David; as she felt that his heart
was still beating, she caught him to her bosom, and knelt thus in
terror, staring first into his white and tortured features, and then
at the body on the floor.
Finally, however, she nerved herself, and tho she was trembling and
exhausted, staggered to her feet with her burden; holding it tightly
in her arms she went step by step, slowly and in silence out of the
room. When she had passed into the next one she shut the door and,
sinking down upon the sofa, lifted David's broken figure beside her
and locked it in her arms and was still. Thus she sat without a
sound or a motion, her heart within her torn with fear and pain, all
through the long hours of that night; when the cold, white dawn came
up, she was still pressing him to her bosom, sobbing and whispering
faintly, "Oh, David! Oh, my poor, poor David!"
Hast du im Venusburg geweilt, So bist nun
ewig du verdammt!
"Then said I, 'Woe is me! For I am undone;... for mine
eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.'"
David'S servant drove out early upon the following morning to tell
him of a strange woman who had been asking for him in the village;
they sent the man back for a doctor, and it was found that the poor
creature was really dead.
They wished to take the body away, but David would not have it; and
so, late in the afternoon, a grave was dug by the lake-shore near
the little cottage, and what was left of Mary was buried there.
David was too exhausted to leave the house, and Helen would not stir
from his side, so the two sat in silence until the ceremony was
over, and the men had gone. The servant went with them, because the
girl said they wished to be alone; and then the house settled down
to its usual quietness,--a quietness that frightened Helen now.
For when she looked at her husband her heart scarcely beat for her
terror; he was ghastly white, and his lips were trembling, and
though he had not shed a tear all the day, there was a look of
mournful despair on his face that told more fearfully than any words
how utterly the soul within him was beaten and crushed. All that day
he had been so, and as Helen remembered the man that had been before
so strong and eager and brare, her whole soul stood still with awe;
yet as before she could do nothing but cling to him, and gaze at him
with bursting heart.
But at last when the hours had passed and not a move had been made,
she asked him faintly, "David, is there no hope? Is it to be like
The man raised his eyes and gazed at her helplessly. "Helen," he
said, his voice sounding hollow and strange, "what can you ask of
me? How can I bear to look about me again, how can I think of
living? Oh, that night of horror! Helen, it burns my brain--it
tortures my soul--it will drive me mad!" He buried his face in his
hands again, shaking with emotion. "Oh, I cannot ever forget it," he
whispered hoarsely; "it must haunt me, haunt me until I die! I must
know that after all my years of struggle it was this that I made, it
is this that stands for my life--and it is over, and gone from me
forever and finished! Oh, God, was there ever such a horror flashed
upon a guilty soul--ever such fiendish torture for a man to bear?
And Helen, there was a child, too--think how that thought must goad
me--a child of mine, and I cannot ever aid it--it must suffer for
its mother's shame. And think, if it were a woman, Helen--this
madness must go on, and go on forever! Oh, where am I to hide me;
and what can I do?"
There came no tears, but only a fearful sobbing; poor Helen
whispered frantically, "David, it was not your fault, you could not
help it--surely you cannot be to blame for all this."
He did not answer her, but after a long silence he went on in a
deep, low voice, "Helen, she was so beautiful! She has lived in my
thoughts all these years as the figure that I used to see, so bright
and so happy; I used to hear her singing in church, and the music
was a kind of madness to me, because I knew that she loved me. And
her home was a little farm-house, half buried in great trees, and I
used to see her there with her flowers. Now--oh, think of her
now--think of her life of shame and agony--think of her turned away
from her home, and from all she loved in the world,--deserted and
scorned, and helpless--think of her with child, and of the agony of
her degradation! What must she not have suffered to be as she was
last night--oh, are there tears enough in the world to pay for such
a curse, for that twenty years' burden of wretchedness and sin? And
she was beaten--oh, she was beaten--Mary, my poor, poor Mary! And to
die in such horror, in drunkenness and madness! And now she is gone,
and it is over; and oh, why should I live, what can I do?"
His voice dropped into a moan, and then again there was a long
silence. At last Helen whispered, in a weak, trembling voice,
"David, you have still love; can that be nothing to you?"
"I have no right to love," he groaned, "no right to love, and I
never had any. For oh, all my life this vision has haunted me--I
knew that nothing but death could have saved her from shame! Yes,
and I knew, too, that some day I must find her. I have carried the
terror of that in my heart all these years. Yet I dared to take your
love, and dared to fly from my sin; and then there comes this
thunderbolt--oh, merciful heaven, it is too much to bear, too much
to bear!" He sank down again; poor Helen could find no word of
comfort, no utterance of her own bursting heart except the same
frantic clasp of her love.
So the day went by over that shattered life; and each hour the man's
despair grew more black, his grief and misery more hopeless. The
girl watched him and followed him about as if she had been a child,
but she could get him to take no food, and to divert his mind to
anything else she dared not even try. He would sit for hours
writhing in his torment, and then again he would spring up and pace
the room in agitation, though he was too weak to bear that very
long. Afterwards the long night came on, and all through it he lay
tossing and moaning, sometimes shuddering in a kind of paroxysm of
grief,--Helen, though she was weary and almost fainting, watching
thro the whole night, her heart wild with her dread.
And so the morning came, and another day of misery; and in the midst
of it David flung himself down upon the sofa and buried his face in
his arms and cried out, "Oh God, my God, I cannot stand it, I cannot
stand it! Oh, let me die! I dare not lift my head--there is no hope
for me--there is no life for me--I dare not pray! It is more than I
can bear--I am beaten, I am lost forever!" And Helen fell down upon
her knees beside him, and tore away his hands from his face and
stared at him frantically, exclaiming, "David, it is too cruel! Oh,
have mercy upon me, David, if you love me!"
He stopped and gazed long and earnestly into her face, and a look of
infinite pity came into his eyes; at last he whispered, in a low
voice, "Poor, poor little Helen; oh, Helen, God help you, what can I
do?" He paused and afterwards went on tremblingly, "What have you
done that you should suffer like this? You are right that it is too
cruel--it is another curse that I have to bear! For I knew that I
was born to suffering--I knew that my life was broken and dying--and
yet I dared to take yours into it! And now, what can I do to save
you, Helen; can you not see that I dare not live?"
"David, it is you who are killing yourself," the girl moaned in
answer. He did not reply, but there came a long, long silence, in
which he seemed to be sinking still deeper; and when he went on it
was in a shuddering voice that made Helen's heart stop. "Oh, it is
no use," he gasped, "it is no use! Listen, Helen, there was another
secret that I kept from you, because it was too fearful; but I can
keep it no more, I can fight no more!"
He stopped; the girl had clutched his arm, and was staring into his
face, whispering his name hoarsely. At last he went on in his cruel
despair, "I knew this years ago, too, and I knew that I was bringing
it upon you--the misery of this wretched, dying body. Oh, it
hurts--it hurts now!" And he put his hand over his heart, as a look
of pain came into his face. "It cannot stand much more, my heart,"
he panted; "the time must come--they told me it would come years
ago! And then--and then--"
The man stopped, because he was looking at Helen; she had not made a
sound, but her face had turned so white, and her lips were trembling
so fearfully that he dared not go on; she gave a loud, choking cry
and burst out wildly, "Oh, David--David--it is fiendish--you have
no right to punish me so! Oh, have mercy upon me, for you are
killing me! You have no right to do it, I tell you it is a crime;
you promised me your love, and if you loved me you would live for my
sake, you would think of me! A thing so cruel ought not to be--it
cannot be right--God could never have meant a human soul to suffer
so! And there must be pardon in the world, there must be light--it
cannot all be torture like this!" She burst into a flood of tears
and flung herself upon David's bosom, sobbing again and again, "Oh,
no, no, it is too fearful, oh, save me, save me!"
He did not answer her; as she looked up at him again she saw the
same look of fearful woe, and read the cruel fact that there was no
help, that her own grief and pleadings were only deepening the man's
wretchedness. She stared at him for a long time; and when she spoke
to him again it was with a sudden start, and in a strange, ghastly
voice,--"And then, David, there is no God?"
He trembled, but the words choked him as he tried to respond, and
his head dropped; then at last she heard him moan, "Oh, how can God
free my soul from this madness, how can he deliver me from such a
curse?" Helen could say no more--could only cling to him and sob in
So the day passed away, and another night came; and still the
crushed and beaten soul was writhing in its misery, lost in
blackness and despair; and still Helen read it all in his white and
tortured features, and drank the full cup of his soul's fiery pain.
They took no heed of the time; but it was long after darkness had
fallen; and once when the girl had gone upstairs for a moment she
heard David pacing about, and then heard a stifled cry. She rushed
down, and stopped short in the doorway. For the man was upon his
knees, his face uplifted in wild entreaty. "Oh God, oh merciful
God!" he sobbed; "all the days of my life I have sought for
righteousness, labored and suffered to keep my soul alive! And oh,
was it all for this--was it to go down in blackness and night, to
die a beaten man, crushed and lost? Oh, I cannot bear it, I cannot
bear it! It cannot--it must not be!"
He sank forward upon the sofa, and buried his head in his arms, and
the girl could hear his breathing in the stillness; at last she
crept across the room and knelt down beside him, and whispered
softly in his ear, "You do not give me your heart any more, David?"
It was a long time before he answered her, and then it was to moan,
"Oh, Helen, my heart is broken, I can give it to no one. Once I had
strength and faith, and could love; but now I am lost and ruined,
and there is nothing that can save me. I dare not live, and I dare
not die, and I know not where to turn!"
He started up suddenly, clasping his hands to his forehead and
staggering across the room, crying out, "Oh no, it cannot be, oh, it
cannot be! There must be some way of finding pardon, some way of
winning Tightness for a soul! Oh God, what can I do for peace?" But
then again he sank down and hid his face and sobbed out: "In the
face of this nightmare,--with this horror fronting me! _She_ cried
for pardon, and none came."
After that there was a long silence, with Helen crouching in terror
by his side. She heard him groan: "It is all over, it is finished--I
can fight no more," and then again came stillness, and when she
lifted him and gazed into his face she knew not which was worse, the
silent helpless despair that was upon it, or the torment and the
suffering that had gone before. She tried still to soothe him,
begging and pleading with him to have mercy upon her. He asked her
faintly what he could do, and the poor girl, seeing how weak and
exhausted he was, could think of only the things of the body, and
begged him to try to rest. "It has been two nights since you have
slept, David," she whispered.
"I cannot sleep with this burden upon my soul," he answered her; but
still she pleaded with him, begging him as he loved her; and he
yielded to her at last, and broken and helpless as he was, she half
carried him upstairs and laid him upon the bed as if he had been a
little child. That seemed to help little, however, for he only lay
tossing and moaning, "Oh, God, it must end; I cannot bear it!"
Those were the last words Helen heard, for the poor girl was
exhausted herself, almost to fainting; she lay down, without
undressing, and her head had scarcely touched the pillow before she
was asleep. In the meantime, through the long night-watches David
lay writhing and crying out for help.
The moon rose dim and red behind the mountains,--it had mounted
high in the sky, and the room was bright with it, when at last the
man rose from the bed and began swiftly pacing the room, still
muttering to himself. He sank down upon his knees by the window and
gazed up at the silent moon. Then again he rose and turned suddenly,
and after a hurried glance at Helen went to the door and passed out,
closing it silently behind him, and whispered to himself, half
deliriously, "Oh, great God, it must end! It must end!"
It was more than an hour afterwards that the girl awakened from her
troubled sleep; she lay for an instant half dazed, trying to bring
back to her mind what had happened; and then she put out her hand
and discovered that her husband was no longer by her. She sat up
with a wild start, and at the same instant her ear was caught by a
sound outside, of footsteps pacing swiftly back and forth, back and
forth, upon the piazza. The girl leaped up with a stifled cry, and
ran out of the room and down the steps. The room below was still
half lighted by the flickering log-fire, and Helen's shadow loomed
up on the opposite wall as she rushed across the room and opened the
The gray light of dawn was just spreading across the lake, but the
girl noticed only one thing, her husband's swiftly moving figure.
She rushed to him, and as he heard her, he turned and stared at her
an instant as if dazed, and then staggered with a cry into her arms.
"David, David!" she exclaimed, "what is the matter?" Then as she
clasped him to her she found that his body was trembling
convulsively, and that his hand as she took it was hot like fire;
she called to him again in yet greater anxiety: "David, David! What
is it? You will kill me if you treat me so!"
He answered her weakly, "Nothing, dear, nothing," and she caught him
to her, and turned and half carried him into the house. She
staggered into a chair with him, and then sat gazing in terror at
his countenance. For the man's forehead was burning and moist, and
his frame was shaking and broken; he was completely prostrated by
the fearful agitation that had possessed him. Helen cried to him
once more, but he could only pant, "Wait, wait," and sink back and
let his head fall upon her arm; he lay with his eyes closed,
breathing swiftly, and shuddering now and then. "It was God!" he
panted with a sudden start, his voice choking; "He has shown me His
face! He has set me free!"
Then again for a long time he lay with heaving bosom, Helen
whispering to him pleadingly, "David, David!" As he opened his eyes,
the girl saw a wonderful look upon his face; and at last he began
speaking, in a low, shaking voice, and pausing often to catch his
breath: "Oh, Helen," he said, "it is all gone, but I won, and my
life's prayer has not been for nothing! I was never so lost, so
beaten; but all the time there was a voice in my soul that cried to
me to fight,--that there was glory enough in God's home for even me!
And oh, to-night it came--it came!"
David sank back, and there was a long silence before he went on: "It
was wonderful, Helen," he whispered, "there has come nothing like it
to me in all my life; for I had never drunk such sorrow before,
never known such fearful need. It seems as if all the pent-up forces
of my nature broke loose in one wild, fearful surge, as if there was
a force behind me like a mighty, driving storm, that swept me on and
away, beyond self and beyond time, and out into the life of things.
It was like the surging of fierce music, it was the great ocean of
the infinite bursting its way into my heart. And it bore me on, so
that I was mad with it, so that I knew not where I was, only that I
was panting for breath, and that I could bear it no more and cried
out in pain!"
David as he spoke had been lifting himself, the memory of his vision
taking hold of him once more; but then he sank down again and
whispered, "Oh, I have no more strength, I can do no more; but it
was God, and I am free!"
He lay trembling and breathing fast again, but sinking back from his
effort and closing his eyes exhaustedly. After a long time he went
on in a faint voice, "I suppose if I had lived long ago that would
have been a vision of God's heaven; and yet there was not an instant
of it--even when I fell down upon the ground and when I struck my
hands upon the stones because they were numb and burning--when I
did not know just what it was, the surging passion of my soul flung
loose at last! It was like the voices of the stars and the
mountains, that whisper of that which is and which conquers, of That
which conquers without sound or sign; Helen, I thought of that
wonderful testament of Pascal's that has haunted me all my
lifetime,--those strange, wild, gasping words of a soul gone mad
with awe, and beyond all utterance except a cry,--'Joy, joy, tears
of joy!' And I thought of a still more fearful story, I thought that
it must have been such thunder-music that rang through the soul of
the Master and swept Him away beyond scorn and pain, so that the men
about Him seemed like jeering phantoms that He might scatter with
His hand, before the glory of vision in which it was all one to live
or die. Oh, it is that which has brought me my peace! God needs not
our help, but only our worship; and beside His glory all our guilt
is nothing, and there is no madness like our fear. And oh, if we can
only hold to that and fight for it, conquer all temptation and all
pain--all fear because we must die, and cease to be--"
The man had clenched his hands again, and was lifting himself with
the wild look upon his countenance; he seemed to the girl to be
delirious, and she was shuddering, half with awe and half with
terror. She interrupted him in a sudden burst of alarm: "Yes,
yes,--but David, David, not now, not now--it is too much--you will
"I can die," he panted, "I can die, but I cannot ever be mastered
again, never again be blind! Oh, Helen, all my life I have been lost
and beaten--beaten by my weakness and my fear; but this once, this
once I was free, this once I knew, and I lived; and now I can die
rejoicing! Listen to me, Helen; while I am here there can be no more
delaying,--no more weakness! Such sin and doubt as that of
yesterday must never conquer my soul again, I will not any more be
at the mercy of chance. I love you, Helen, God knows that I love you
with all my soul; and this much for love I will do, if God spares me
a day,--take you, and tear the heart out of you, if need be, but
only teach you to live, teach you to hold by this Truth. It is a
fearful thing, Helen; it is madness to me to know that at any
instant I may cease to be, and that you may be left alone in your
terror and your weakness. Oh, look at me,--look at me! There is no
more tempting fate, there is no more shirking the battle--there is
life, there is life to be lived! And it calls to you now,--_now!_
And now you must win,--cost just what it may in blood and tears! You
have the choice between that and ruin, and before God you shall
choose the right! Listen to me, Helen--it is only prayer that can do
it, it is only by prayer that you can fight this fearful
battle--bring before you this truth of the soul, and hold on to
it,--hold on to it tho it kill you! For He was through all the ages,
His glory is of the skies; and we are but for an instant, and we
have to die; and this we must know, or we are lost! There comes
pain, and calls you back to fear and doubt; and you fight--oh, it is
a cruel fight, it is like a wild beast at your vitals,--but still
you hold on--you hold on!"
The man had lifted himself with a wild effort, his hands clenched
and his teeth set. He had caught the girl's hands in his, and she
screamed in fear: "David, David! You will kill yourself!"
"Yes, yes!" he answered, and rushed on, chokingly; "it is coming
just so; for I have just force enough left to win--just force enough
to save you,--and then it will rend this frame of mine in two! It
comes like a clutch at my heart--it blinds me, and the sky seems to
turn to fire----"
He sank back with a gasp; Helen caught him to her bosom, exclaiming
frantically, "Oh, David, spare me--wait! Not now--you cannot bear
He lay for a long time motionless, seemingly half dazed; then he
whispered faintly, "Yes, dear, yes; let us wait. But oh, if you
could know the terror of another defeat, of sinking down and letting
one's self be bound in the old chains--I must not lose, Helen, I
dare not fail!"
"Listen, David," whispered Helen, beginning suddenly with desperate
swiftness; "why should you fail? Why can you not listen to me, pity
me, wait until you are strong? You have won, you will not
forget--and is there no peace, can you not rest in this faith, and
fear no more?" The man seemed to Helen to be half out of his mind
for the moment; she was trying to manage him with a kind of frenzied
cunning. As she went on whispering and imploring she saw that
David's exhaustion was gradually overcoming him more and more, and
that he was sinking farther and farther back from his wild
agitation. At last after she had continued thus for a while he
closed his eyes and began breathing softly. "Yes, dear," he
whispered; "yes; I will be quiet. There has come to my soul to-night
a peace that is not for words; I can be still, and know that He is
God, and that He is holy."
His voice dropped lower each instant, the girl in the meantime
soothing him and stroking his forehead and pleading with him in a
shuddering voice, her heart wild with fright. When at last he was
quite still, and the fearful vision, that had been like a nightmare
to her, was gone with all its storm and its madness, she took him
upon her lap, just as she had done before, and sat there clasping
him in her arms while the time fled by unheeded. It was long
afterwards--the sun was gleaming across the lake and in at the
window--before at last her trembling prayer was answered, and he
sank into an exhausted slumber.
She sat watching him for a long time still, quite white with fear
and weariness; finally, however, she rose, and carrying the frail
body in her arms, laid it quietly upon the sofa in the next room.
She knelt watching it for a time, then went out upon the piazza,
closing the door behind her.
And there the fearful tension that the dread of wakening him had put
upon her faculties gave way at last, and the poor girl buried her
face in her hands, and sank down, sobbing convulsively: "Oh, God,
oh, God, what can I do, how can I bear it?" She gazed about her
wildly, exclaiming, "I cannot stand it, and there is no one to help
me! What _can_ I do?"
Perhaps it was the first real prayer that had ever passed Helen's
lips; but the burden of her sorrow was too great just then for her
to bear alone, even in thought. She leaned against the railing of
the porch with her arms stretched out before her imploringly, her
face uplifted, and the tears running down her cheeks; she poured out
one frantic cry, the only cry that she could think of:--"Oh, God,
have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me! I cannot bear it!"
So she sobbed on, and several minutes passed, but there came to her
no relief; when she thought of David, of his breaking body and of
his struggling soul, it seemed to her as if she were caught in the
grip of a fiend, and that no power could save her. She could only
clasp her hands together and shudder, and whisper, "What shall I do,
what shall I do?"
Thus it was that the time sped by; and the morning sun rose higher
in front of her, and shone down upon the wild and wan figure that
seemed like a phantom of the night. She was still crouching in the
same position, her mind as overwrought and hysterical as ever, when
a strange and unexpected event took place, one which seemed to her
at first in her state of fright like some delusion of her mind.
Except for her own emotion, and for the faint sound of the waves
upon the shore, everything about her had been still; her ear was
suddenly caught, however, by the noise of a footstep, and she turned
and saw the figure of a man coming down the path from the woods; she
started to her feet, gazing in surprise.
It was broad daylight then, and Helen could see the person plainly;
she took only one glance, and reeled and staggered back as if it
were a ghost at which she was gazing. She crouched by a pillar of
the porch, trembling like a leaf, and scarcely able to keep her
senses, leaning from side to side and peering out, with her whole
attitude expressive of unutterable consternation, and even fright.
At last when she had gazed until it was no longer possible for her
to think that she was the victim of madness, she stared suddenly up
into the air, and caught her forehead in her hands, at the same time
whispering to herself in an almost fainting voice: "Great heaven,
what can it mean? Can it be real--can it be true? _It is Arthur!_"
I am Merlin
And I am dying,
"I am Merlin,
Who follow the Gleam."
Helen stood gazing at the figure in utter consternation for at least
half a minute before she could find voice; then she bent forward and
called to him wildly--"Arthur!"
It was the other's turn to be startled then, and he staggered
backward; as he gazed up at Helen his look showed plainly that he
too was half convinced that he was gazing at a phantom of his own
mind, and for a long time he stood, pressing his hands to his heart
and unable to make a sound or a movement. When finally he broke the
silence his voice was a hoarse whisper. "Helen," he panted, "what in
heaven's name are you doing here?"
And then as the girl answered, "This is my home, Arthur," he gave
"You live here with him?" he gasped.
"With him?" echoed Helen in a low voice. "With whom, Arthur?"
He answered, "With that Mr. Harrison." A look of amazement crossed
Helen's face, tho followed quickly by a gleam of comprehension. She
had quite forgotten that Arthur knew nothing about what she had
"Arthur," she said, "I did not marry Mr. Harrison;" then, seeing
that he was staring at her in still greater wonder, she went on
hastily: "It seems strange to go back to those old days now; but
once I meant to tell you all about it, Arthur." She paused for a
moment and then went on slowly: "All the time I was engaged to that
man I was wretched; and when I saw you the last time--that dreadful
time by the road--it was almost more than I could bear; so I took
back my wicked promise of marriage and came to see you and tell you
all about it."
As the girl had been speaking the other had been staring at her with
a look upon his face that was indescribable, a look that was more
terror than anything else; he had staggered back, he grasped at a
tree to support himself. Helen saw the look and stopped, frightened
"What is it, Arthur?" she cried; "what is the matter?"
"You came to see me!" the other gasped hoarsely. "You came to see
me--and I--and I was gone!"
"Yes, Arthur," said Helen; "you had gone the night before, and I
could not find you. Then I met this man that I loved, and you wrote
that you had torn the thought of me from your heart; and so---"
Again Helen stopped, for the man had sunk backwards with a cry that
made her heart leap in fright. "Arthur!" she exclaimed, taking a
step towards him; and he answered her with a moan, stretching out
his arms to her. "Great God, Helen, that letter was a lie!"
Helen stopped, rooted to the spot. "A lie?" she whispered faintly.
"Yes, a lie!" cried the other with a sudden burst of emotion,
leaping up and starting towards her. "Helen, I have suffered the
tortures of hell! I loved you--I love you now!"
The girl sprang back, and the blood rushed to her cheeks. Half
instinctively she drew her light dress more tightly about her; and
the other saw the motion and stopped, a look of despair crossing his
face. The two stood thus for fully a minute, staring at each other
wildly; then suddenly Arthur asked: "You love this man whom you have
married? You love him?"
The girl answered, "Yes, I love him," and Arthur's arms dropped, and
his head sank forward. There was a look upon his face that tore
Helen's heart to see, so that for a moment or two she stood quite
dazed with this new terror. Then all at once, however, the old one
came back to her thoughts, and with a faint cry she started toward
her old friend, stretching out her arms to him and calling to him
"Oh, Arthur," she cried, "have mercy upon me--do not frighten me
any more! Arthur, if you only knew what I have suffered, you would
pity me, you could not help it! You would not fling this burden of
your misery upon me too."
The man fixed his eyes upon her and for the first time he seemed to
become aware of the new Helen, the Helen who had replaced the girl
he had known. He read in her ghastly white face some hint of what
she had been through, and his own look turned quickly to one of
wonder, and even awe. "Helen," he whispered, "are you ill?"
"No, Arthur," she responded quickly, full of desperate hope as she
saw his change. "Not ill, but oh, so frightened. I have been more
wretched than you can ever dream. Can you not help me, Arthur, will
you not? I was almost despairing, I thought that my heart would
burst. Can you not be unselfish?"
The man gazed at her at least a minute; and when he answered at
last, it was in a low, grave voice that was new to her.
"I will do it, Helen," he said. "What is it?"
The girl came toward him, her voice sinking. "We must not let him
hear us, Arthur," she whispered. Then as she gazed into his face she
added pathetically, "Oh, I cannot tell you how I have wished that I
might only have someone to sympathize with me and help me! I can
tell everything to you, Arthur."
"You are not happy with your husband?" asked the other, in a
wondering tone, not able to guess what she meant.
"Happy!" echoed Helen. "Arthur, he is ill, and I have been so
terrified! I feared that he was going to die; we have had such a
dreadful sorrow." She paused for a moment, and gazed about her
swiftly, and laying her finger upon her lips. "He is asleep now,"
she went on, "asleep for the first time in three nights, and I was
afraid that we might waken him; we must not make a sound, for it is
She stopped, and the other asked her what was the matter. "It was
three nights ago," she continued, "and oh, we were so happy before
it! But there came a strange woman, a fearful creature, and she was
drunk, and my husband found her and brought her home. She was
delirious, she died here in his arms, while there was no one to help
her. The dreadful thing was that David had known this woman when she
was a girl--"
Helen paused again, and caught her breath, for she had been speaking
very swiftly, shaken by the memory of the scene; the other put in,
in a low tone, "I heard all about this woman's death, Helen, and I
know about her--that was how I happen to be here."
And the girl gave a start, echoing, "Why you happen to be here?"
Afterwards she added quickly, "Oh, I forgot to ask you about that.
What do you mean, Arthur?"
He hesitated a moment before he answered her, speaking very slowly.
"It is so sad, Helen," he said, "it is almost too cruel to talk
about." He stopped again, and the girl looked at him, wondering;
then he went on to speak one sentence that struck her like a bolt of
lightning from the sky:--"Helen, that poor woman was my mother!"
And Helen staggered back, almost falling, clutching her hands to her
forehead, and staring, half dazed.
"Arthur," she panted, "Arthur!"
He bowed his head sadly, answering, "Yes, Helen, it is dreadful--"
And the girl leaped towards him, seizing him by the shoulders with a
thrilling cry; she stared into his eyes, her own glowing like fire.
"Arthur!" she gasped again, "Arthur!"
He only looked at her wonderingly, as if thinking she was mad; until
suddenly she burst out frantically, "You are David's child! You are
David's child!" And then for fully half a minute the two stood
staring at each other, too much dazed to move or to make a sound.
At last Arthur echoed the words, scarcely audibly, "David's child!"
and added, "David is your husband?" As Helen whispered "Yes" again,
they stood panting for breath. It was a long time before the girl
could find another word to speak, except over and over, "David's
child!" She seemed unable to realize quite what it meant, she seemed
unable to put the facts together.
But then suddenly Arthur whispered: "Then it was your husband who
ruined that woman?" and as Helen answered "Yes," she grasped a
little of the truth, and also of Arthur's thought. She ran on
swiftly: "But oh, it was not his fault, he was only a boy, Arthur!
And he wished to marry her, but they would not let him--I must tell
you about that!" Then she stopped short, however; and when she went
on it was in sudden wild joy that overcame all her other feelings,
joy that gleamed in her face and made her fling herself down upon
her knees before Arthur and clutch his hands in hers.
"Oh," she cried, "it was God who sent you, Arthur,--oh, I know that
it was God! It is so wonderful to think of--to have come to us all
in a flash! And it will save David's life--it was the thought of the
child and the fate that it might have suffered that terrified him
most of all, Arthur. And now to think that it is you--oh, you! And
you are David's son--I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it!" Then
with a wild laugh she sprang up again and turned, exclaiming, "Oh,
he will be so happy,--I must tell him--we must not lose an
She caught Arthur's hand again, and started towards the house; but
she had not taken half a dozen steps before she halted suddenly, and
whispered, "Oh, no, I forgot! He is asleep, and we must not waken
him now, we must wait!"
And then again the laughter broke out over her face, and she turned
upon him, radiant. "It is so wonderful!" she cried. "It is so
wonderful to be happy, to be free once more! And after so much
darkness--oh, it is like coming out of prison! Arthur, dear Arthur,
just think of it! And David will be so glad!" The tears started into
the girl's eyes; she turned away to gaze about her at the golden
morning and to drink in great draughts of its freshness that made
her bosom heave. The life seemed to have leaped back into her face
all at once, and the color into her cheeks, and she was more
beautiful than ever. "To think of being happy!" she panted, "happy
again! Oh, if I were not afraid of waking David, you do not know how
happy I could be! Don't you think I ought to waken him anyway,
Arthur?--it is so wonderful--it will make him strong again! It is
so beautiful that you, whom I have always been so fond of, that you
should be David's son! And you can live here and be happy with us!
Arthur, do you know I used to think how much like David you looked,
and wonder at it; but, oh, are you sure it is true?"
She chanced to think of the letter that had been left at her
father's, and exclaimed, "It must have been that! You have been
home, Arthur?" she added quickly. "And while father was up here?"
"Yes," said he, "I wanted to see your father--I could not stay away
from home any longer. I was so very lonely and unhappy--" Arthur
stopped for a moment, and the girl paled slightly; as he saw it he
continued rapidly: "There was no one there but the servant, and she
gave me the letter."
"And did she not tell you about me?" asked Helen.
"I asked if you were married," Arthur said; "I would not listen to
any more, for I could not bear it; when I had read the letter I came
up here to look for my poor mother. I wanted to see her; I was as
lonely as she ever was, and I wanted someone's sympathy--even that
poor, beaten soul's. I heard in the town that she was dead; they
told me where the grave was, and that was how I happened out here. I
thought I would see it once before I left, and before the people who
lived in this house were awake. Helen, when I saw _you_ I thought it
was a ghost."
"It is wonderful, Arthur," whispered the girl; "it is almost too
much to believe--but, oh, I can't think of anything except how happy
it will make David! I love him so, Arthur--and you will love him,
too, you cannot help but love him."
"Tell me about it all, Helen," the other answered; "I heard nothing,
you know, about my poor mother's story."
Before Helen answered the question she glanced about her at the
morning landscape, and for the first time thought of the fact that
it was cold. "Let us go inside," she said; "we can sit there and
talk until David wakens." And the two stole in, Helen opening the
door very softly. David was sleeping in the next room, so that it
was possible not to disturb him; the two sat down before the
flickering fire and conversed in low whispers. The girl told him the
story of David's love, and told him all about David, and Arthur in
turn told her how he had been living in the meantime; only because
he saw how suddenly happy she was, and withal how nervous and
overwrought, he said no more of his sufferings.
And Helen had forgotten them utterly; it was pathetic to see her
delight as she thought of being freed from the fearful terror that
had haunted her,--she was like a little child in her relief. "He
will be so happy--he will be so happy!" she whispered again and
again. "We can all be so happy!" The thought that Arthur was
actually David's son was so wonderful that she seemed never to be
able to realize it fully, and every time she uttered the thought it
was a sweep of the wings of her soul. Arthur had to tell her many
times that it was actually Mary who had been named in that letter.
So an hour or two passed by, and still David did not waken. Helen
had crept to the door once or twice to listen to his quiet
breathing; but each time, thinking of his long trial, she had
whispered that she could not bear to disturb him yet. However, she
was getting more and more impatient, and she asked Arthur again and
again, "Don't you think I ought to wake him now, don't you think
so--even if it is just for a minute, you know? For oh, he will be so
glad--it will be like waking up in heaven!"
So it went on until at last she could keep the secret no longer; she
thought for a while, and then whispered, "I know what I will do--I
will play some music and waken him in that way. That will not alarm
him, and it will be beautiful."
She went to the piano and sat down. "It will seem queer to be
playing music at this hour," she whispered; but then she glanced at
the clock and saw that it was nearly seven, and added, "Why, no, we
have often begun by this time. You know, Arthur, we used to get up
wonderfully early all summer, because it was so beautiful then, and
we used to have music at all sorts of times. Oh, you cannot dream
how happy we were,--you must wait until you see David, and then you
will know why I love him so!"
She stopped and sat thoughtfully for a moment whispering, "What
shall I play?" Then she exclaimed, "I know, Arthur; I will play
something that he loves very much--and that you used to love,
too--something that is very soft and low and beautiful."
Arthur had seated himself beside the piano and was gazing at her;
the girl sat still for a moment more, gazing ahead of her and
waiting for everything to be hushed. Then she began, so low as
scarcely to be audible, the first movement of the wonderful
As it stole upon the air and swelled louder, she smiled, because it
was so beautiful a way to waken David.
And yet there are few things in music more laden with concentrated
mournfulness than that sonata--with the woe that is too deep for
tears; as the solemn beating of it continued, in spite of themselves
the two found that they were hushed and silent. It brought back to
Helen's mind all of David's suffering--it seemed to be the very
breathing of his sorrow; and yet still she whispered on to herself,
"He will waken; and then he will be happy!"
In the next room David lay sleeping. At first it had been heavily,
because he was exhausted, and afterwards, when the stupor had
passed, restlessly and with pain. Then at last came the music,
falling softly at first and blending with his dreaming, and
afterwards taking him by the hand and leading him out into the land
of reality, until he found himself lying and listening to it. As he
recollected all that had happened he gave a slight start and sat up,
wondering at the strangeness of Helen's playing then. He raised his
head, and then rose to call her.
And at that instant came the blow.
The man suddenly gave a fearful start; he staggered back upon the
sofa, clutching at his side with his hand, his face turning white,
and a look of wild horror coming over it. For an instant he held
himself up by the sofa, staring around him; and then he sank back,
half upon the floor, his head falling backwards. And so he lay
gasping, torn with agony, while the fearful music trod on, the
relentless throbbing of it like a hammer upon his soul. Twice he
strove to raise himself and failed; and twice he started to cry out,
and checked himself in terror; and so it went on until the place of
despair was reached, until there came that one note in the music
that is the plunge into night. Helen stopped suddenly there, and
everything was deathly still--except for the fearful heaving of
That silence lasted for several moments; Helen seemed to be waiting
and listening, and David's whole being was in suspense. Then
suddenly he gave a start, for he heard the girl coming to the door.
With a gasp of dread he half raised himself, grasping the sofa with
his knotted hands. He slid down, half crawling and half falling,
into the corner, where he crouched, breathless and shuddering; so he
was when Helen came into the room.
She did not see him on the sofa, and she gave a startled cry. She
wheeled about and gazed around the room. "Where can he be?" she
exclaimed. "He is not here!" and ran out to the piazza. Then came a
still more anxious call: "David! David! Where are you?"
And in the meantime David was still crouching in the corner, his
face uplifted and torn with agony. He gave one fearful sob, and then
he sank forward; drawing himself by the sheer force of his arms he
crawled again into sight, and lay clinging to the sofa. Then he gave
a faint gasping cry, "Helen!"
And the girl heard it, and rushed to the door; she gave one glance
at the prostrate form and at the white face, and then leaped forward
with a shrill scream, a scream that echoed through the little house,
and that froze Arthur's blood. She flung herself down on her knees
beside her husband, crying "David! David!" And the man looked up at
her with his ghastly face and his look of terror, and panted,
"Helen--Helen, it has come!"
She screamed again more wildly than before, and caught him to her
bosom in frenzy. "No, no, David! No, no!" she cried out; but he only
whispered hoarsely again, "It has come!"
Meanwhile Arthur had rushed into the room, and the two lifted the
sufferer up to the sofa, where he sank back and lay for a moment or
two, half dazed; then, in answer to poor Helen's agonized pleading,
he gazed at her once more.
"David, David!" she sobbed, choking; "listen to me; it cannot be,
David, no, no! And see, here is Arthur--Arthur! And David--he is
your son, he is Mary's child!"
The man gave a faint start and looked at her in bewilderment; then
as she repeated the words again, "He is your son, he is Mary's
child," gradually a look of wondering realization crossed his
countenance, and he turned and stared up at Arthur.
"Is it true?" he whispered hoarsely. "There is no doubt?"
Helen answered him "Yes, yes," again and again, swiftly and
desperately, as if thinking that the joy of it would restore his
waning strength. The thought did bring a wonderful look of peace
over David's face, as he gazed from one to the other and
comprehended it all; he caught Arthur's arm in his trembling hands.
"Oh, God be praised," he whispered, "it is almost too much. Oh, take
care of her--take care of her for me!"
The girl flung herself upon his bosom, sobbing madly; and David sank
back and lay for an instant or two with his eyes shut, before at
last her suffering roused him again. He lifted himself up on his
elbows with a fearful effort. "Helen!" he whispered, in a deep,
hollow voice; "listen to me--listen to me!--I have only a minute
more to speak."
The girl buried her head in his bosom with another cry, but he shook
her back and caught her by the wrists, at the same time sitting
erect, a strain that made the veins in his temples start out. "Look
at me!" he gasped. "Look at me!" and as the girl stared into his
eyes that were alive with the last frenzied effort of his soul, he
went on, speaking with fierce swiftness and panting for breath
between each phrase:
"Helen--Helen--listen to me--twenty years I have kept myself alive
on earth by such a struggle--by the power of a will that would not
yield! And now there is but an instant more--an instant--I cannot
bear it--except to save your soul! For I am going--do you hear
me--going! And you must stay,--and you have the battle for your life
to fight! Listen to me--look into my eyes,--for you must call up
your powers--_now_--now before it is too late! You cannot shirk
it--do you hear me? It is here!"
And as the man was speaking the frenzied words the look of a tiger
had come into his face; his eyes were starting from his head, and he
held Helen's wrists in a grip that turned them black, tho then she
did not feel the pain. She was gazing into his face, convulsed with
fright; and the man gasped for breath once more, and then rushed on:
"A fight like this conies once to a soul, Helen--and it wins or it
loses--and you must win! Do you hear me?--_Win!_ I am dying, Helen,
I am going--and I leave you to God, and to life. He is, He made
you, and He demands your worship and your faith--that you hold your
soul lord of all chances, that you make yourself master of your
life! And now is your call--now! You clench your hands and you
pray--it tears your heart-strings, and it bursts your brain--but you
say that you will--that you will--that you _will!_ Oh, God, that I
have left you so helpless--that I did not show you the peril of your
soul! For you _must_ win--oh, if I could but find a word for you!
For you stand upon the brink of ruin, and you have but an
instant--but an instant to save yourself--to call up the vision of
your faith before you, and tho the effort kill you, not to let it
go! Girl, if you fail, no power of earth or heaven can save you from
despair! And oh, have I lived with you for nothing--showed you no
faith--given you no power? Helen, save me--have mercy upon me, I
cannot stand this, and I dare not--I dare not die!"
The man was leaning forward, gazing into the girl's face, his own
countenance fearful to see. "I could die," he gasped; "I could die
with a song--He has shown me His face--and He is good! But I dare
not leave you--you--and I am going! Helen! Helen!"
The man's fearful force seemed to have been acting upon the girl
like magnetism, for tho the look of wild suffering had not left her
face, she had raised herself and was staring into his burning eyes;
then suddenly, with an effort that shook her frame she clenched her
hands and gave a gasp for breath, and panted, scarcely audibly:
David's head had sunk, but he mastered himself once more; and he
whispered, "I leave you to God--I leave you to life! You can be a
soul,--you can win--you _must_ win, you must _live_--and worship--
and rejoice! You must kneel here--here, while I am going, never more
to return; and you must know that you can never see me again, that I
shall no longer exist; and you must cling to your faith in the God
who made you, and praise Him for all that He does! And you will not
shed a tear--not a tear!"
And his grip tightened yet more desperately; he stared in one last
wild appeal, and gasped again, "Promise me--not a tear!"
And again the throbbing force of his soul roused the girl; she could
not speak, she was choking; but she gave a sign of assent, and then
all at once David's fearful hold relaxed. He gave one look more, one
that stamped itself upon Helen's soul forever by its fearful
intensity of yearning; and after it he breathed a sigh that seemed
to pant out the last mite of strength in his frame, and sank
backwards upon the sofa, with Helen still clinging to him.
There for an instant or two he lay, breathing feebly; and the girl
heard a faint whisper again--"Not a tear--not a tear!" He opened
his eyes once more and gazed at her dimly, and then a slight
trembling shook his frame. His chest heaved once more and sank, and
after it everything was still.
For an instant Helen stared at him, dazed; then she clutched him by
the shoulders, whispering hoarsely-then calling louder and louder in
frenzied terror, "David, David!" He gave no answer, and with a cry
that was fearful to hear the girl clutched him to her. The body was
limp and lifeless--the head fell forward as if the neck were
broken; and Helen staggered backward with a scream.
There came an instant of fierce agony then; she stood in the center
of the room, reeling and swaying, clutching her head in her hands,
her face upturned and tortured. And first she gasped, "He is dead!"
and then "I shall not ever see him again!" And she choked and
swallowed a lump in her throat, whispering in awful terror, "Not a
tear--not a tear!" And then she flung up her arms and sank forward
with an incoherent cry, and fell senseless into Arthur's arms.
A week had passed since David's death; and Helen was in her father's
home once more, sitting by the window in the gathering twilight. She
was yery pale, and her eyes were sunken and hollow; but the beauty
of her face was still there, tho in a strange and terrible way. Her
hand was resting upon Arthur's, and she was gazing into his eyes and
speaking in a deep, solemn voice.
"It will not ever leave me, Arthur, I know it will not ever leave
me; it is like a fearful vision that haunts me night and day, a
voice that cries out in my soul and will not let me rest; and I know
I shall never again be able to live like other people, never be free
from its madness. For oh, I do not think it is often that a human
soul sees what I saw--he seemed to drag me out into the land of
death with him, into the very dwelling-place of God. And I almost
went with him, Arthur, almost! Can you dream what I suffered--have
you any idea of what it means to a human being to make such an
effort? I loved that man as if he had been my own soul; I was bound
to him so that he was all my life, and to have him go was like
tearing my heart in two; and he had told me that I should never see
him again, that there was nothing to look for beyond death. And yet,
Arthur, I won--do you ever realize it?--I won. It seemed to me as if
the earth were reeling about me--as if the very air I breathed were
fire; and oh, I thought that he was dead--that he was gone from me
forever, and I believed that I was going mad! And then, Arthur,
those awful words of his came ringing through my mind, 'Not a tear,
not a tear!' I had no faith, I could see nothing but that the world
was black with horror; and yet I heard those words! It was love--it
was even fear, I think, that held me to it; I had worshiped his
sacredness, I had given all my soul to the wonder of his soul; and I
dared not be false to him--I dared not dishonor him,--and I knew
that he had told me that grief was a crime, that there was truth in
the world that I might cling to. And oh, Arthur, I won it--I won it!
I kept the faith--David's faith; and it is still alive upon the
earth. It seems to me almost as if I had won his soul from death--as
if I had saved his spirit in mine-as if I could still rejoice in his
life, still have his power and his love; and there is a kind of
fearful consecration in my heart, a glory that I am afraid to know
of, as if God's hand had been laid upon me.
"David used to tell me, Arthur, that if only that power is roused in
a soul, if only it dwells in that sacredness, there can no longer be
fear or evil in its life; that the strife and the vanity and the
misery in this cruel world about us come from nothing else but that
men do not know this vision, that it is so hard--so dreadfully
hard--to win. And he used to say that this power is infinite, that
it depends only upon how much one wants it; and that he who
possessed it had the gift of King Midas, and turned all things that
he touched to gold. That is real madness to me, Arthur, and will not
let me be still; and yet I know that it cannot ever die in me; for
whenever there is an instant's weakness there flashes over me again
the fearful thought of David, that he is gone back into nothingness,
that nowhere can I ever see him, ever hear his voice or speak to him
again,-that I am alone-alone! And that makes me clench my hands and
nerve my soul, and fight again, and still again! Arthur, I did that
for days, and did not once know why-only because David had told me
to, because I was filled with a fearful terror of proving a coward
soul, because I had heard him say that if one only held the faith
and prayed, the word would come to him at last. And it was true--it
was true, Arthur; it was like the tearing apart of the skies, it was
as if I had rent my way through them. I saw, as I had never dreamed
I could see when I heard David speak of it, how God's Presence is
infinite and real; how it guides the blazing stars, and how our life
is but an instant and is nothing beside it; and how it makes no
difference that we pass into nothingness--His glory is still the
same. Then I saw too what a victory I had won, Arthur,--how I could
live in it, and how I was free, and master of my life; there came
over me a feeling for which there is no word, a kind of demon force
that was madness. I thought of that wonderful sixth chapter of
Isaiah that David used to think so much beyond reading, that he used
to call the artist's chapter; and oh, I knew just what it was that I
had to do in the world!"
Helen had been speaking very intensely, her voice shaking; the
other's gaze was riveted upon her face. "Arthur," she added, her
voice sinking to a whisper, "I have no art, but you have; and we
must fight together for this fearful glory, we must win this prize
of God." And for a long time the two sat in silence, trembling,
while the darkness gathered about them. Helen had turned her head,
and gazed out, with face uplifted, at the starry shield that
quivered and shook above them; suddenly Arthur saw her lips moving
again, and heard her speaking the wonderful words that she had
referred to,--her voice growing more and more intense, and sinking
into a whisper of awe:--
"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon
a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
"Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he
covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain
he did fly.
"And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord
of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
"And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and
the house was filled with smoke.
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of
unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips:
for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a living coal in his
hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
"And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy
lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
"Also I heard the Voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and
who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me."