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The Deliverer by Dorothy Canfield

 

“I shall not die, but live; and declare the works of the Lord.”

The great lady pointed with a sigh of pleasure to the canvas hung between a Greuze and a Watteau! “Ah, is there anyone like LeMaury! Alone in the eighteenth century he had eyes for the world of wood and stream. You poets and critics, why do you never write of him? Is it true that no one knows anything of his life?”

The young writer hesitated. “I do not think I exaggerate, madame, when I say that I alone in Paris know his history. He was a compatriot of mine.”

“Oh, come, Mr. Everett, LeMaury an American! With that name!”

“He called himself LeMaury after his protector, the man who brought him to France. His real name was Everett, like my own. He was cousin to one of my great-grandfathers.”

“Ah, an old family story. That is the best kind. You must tell it to me.”

“I will write it for you, madame.”

I

At the foot of Hemlock Mountain spring came late that year, now a century and a half gone by, as it comes late still to the remote back valley, lying high among the Green Mountains; but when it came it had a savor of enchantment unknown to milder regions. The first day of spring was no uncertain date in Hillsboro, then as now. One morning generally about the middle of May, people woke up with the sun shining in their eyes, and the feeling in their hearts that something had happened in the night. The first one of the family dressed, who threw open the house-door, felt the odor of stirring life go to his head, was the Reverend Mr. Everett himself. In the little community of Puritans, whose isolation had preserved intact the rigidity of faith which had begun to soften somewhat in other parts of New England, there was no one who openly saluted the miracle of resurrection by more than the brief remark, “Warm weather's come”; but sometimes the younger men went back and kissed their wives. It was an event, the first day of spring, in old-time Hillsboro.

In the year of our Lord 1756 this event fell upon a Sabbath, a fact which the Reverend Mr. Everett commemorated by a grim look out at the budding trees, and by taking from his store of sermons a different one from that he had intended to preach. It was his duty to scourge natural man out of the flock committed to his charge by an angry and a jealous God, and he had felt deep within him a damnable stirring of sensual pleasure as the perfumed breath of the new season had blown across his face. If the anointed of the Lord had thus yielded to the insidious wiles of unregenerate nature what greater dangers lay in wait for the weaklings under his care! The face of his son Nathaniel, as he came back from the brook, his slender body leaning sideways from the weight of the dripping bucket, told the shepherd of souls that he must be on his guard against the snares of the flesh.

The boy's thin, dark face, so astonishingly like his father's, was lifted toward the sky as he came stumbling up the path, but his eyes were everywhere at once. Just before he reached the door, he set the bucket down with a cry of ecstasy and darted to the edge of the garden, where the peas were just thrusting green bowed heads through the crumbling earth. He knelt above them breathless, he looked up to the maple-twigs, over which a faint reddish bloom had been cast in the night, beyond to the lower slopes of the mountain, delicately patterned with innumerable white stems of young birch-trees, and clasped his hands to see that a shimmer of green hung in their tops like a mist. His lips quivered, he laid his hand upon a tuft of grass with glossy, lance-like blades, and stroked it.

His father came to the door and called him. “Nathaniel!”

He sprang up with guilty haste and went toward the house. A shriveling change of expression came over him.

The minister began, “A wise son heareth his father's instructions; but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”

“I hear you, father.”

“Why did you linger in the garden and forget your duty?”

“I—I cannot tell you, father.”

“Do you mean you do not know why?”

“I cannot say I do not know.”

“Then answer me.”

Nathaniel broke out desperately, “I cannot, father—I know no words—I was—it is so warm—the sun shines—the birches are out—I was glad——”

The minister bowed his head sadly. “Aye, even as I thought. Sinful lust of the eye draggeth you down to destruction. You whose salvation even now hangs in the balance, for whose soul I wrestle every night in prayer that you may be brought to the conviction of sin, 'you were glad.' Remember the words, 'If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.'“

Nathaniel made no reply. He caught at the door, looking up wretchedly at his father. When the minister turned away without speaking again, he drew a long breath of relief.

Breakfast was always a silent meal in the Everett house, but on Sabbath mornings the silence had a heavy significance. The preacher was beginning then to work himself up to the pitch of storming fervor which made his sermons so notable, and his wife and son cowered under the unspoken emanations of the passion which later poured so terribly from the pulpit. The Reverend Mr. Everett always ate very heartily on Sabbath mornings, but Nathaniel usually pushed his plate away.

As a rule he walked to church between his father and his mother, like a little child, although he was now a tall lad of sixteen, but to-day he was sent back for a psalm-book, forgotten in the hurry of their early start. When he set out again the rest of the village folk were all in the meeting-house. The sight of the deserted street, walled in by the forest, lying drowsily in the spring sunshine, was like balm to him. He loitered along, free from observation, his eyes shining. A fat, old negro woman sat on a doorstep in the sun, the only other person not in meeting. She was a worn-out slave, from a Connecticut seaport, who had been thrown in for good measure in a sharp bargain driven by the leading man of Hillsboro. A red turban-like cloth was bound above her black face, she rested her puffy black arms across her knees and crooned a monotonous refrain. Although the villagers regarded her as imbecile, they thought her harmless, and Nathaniel nodded to her as he passed. She gave him a rich laugh and a “Good morrow, Marse Natty, good morrow!”

A hen clucking to her chicks went across the road before him. The little yellow balls ran briskly forward on their wiry legs, darting at invisible insects, turning their shiny black eyes about alertly and filling the air with their sweet, thin pipings. Nathaniel stopped to watch them, and as he noticed the pompously important air with which one of the tiny creatures scratched the ground with his ineffectual little feet, cocking his eye upon the spot afterward as if to estimate the amount of progress made, the boy laughed out loud. He started at the sound and glanced around him hurriedly, moving on to the meeting-house from which there now burst forth a harshly intoned psalm. He lingered for a moment at the door, gazing back at the translucent greens of the distant birches gleaming against the black pines. A gust of air perfumed with shad-blossom blew past him, and with this in his nostrils he entered the whitewashed interior and made his way on tiptoe up the bare boards of the aisle.

II

After meeting the women and children walked home to set out the cold viands for the Sabbath dinner, while the men stood in a group on the green before the door for a few minutes' conversation.

“Verily, Master Everett, the breath of the Almighty was in your words this day as never before,” said one of them. “One more such visitation of the anger of God and your son will be saved.”

“How looked he when they bore him out?” asked the minister faintly. His face was very white.

The other continued, “Truly, reverend sir, your setting forth of the devil lying in wait for the thoughtless, and the lake burning with brimstone, did almost affright me who for many years now have known myself to be of the elect. I could not wonder that terrors melted the soul of your son.”

“How looked he when they bore him out?” repeated the minister impatiently.

The other answered encouragingly, “More like death than life, so the women say.” The minister waved the men aside and went swiftly down the street. The hen and chickens fled with shrill cries at his approach, and the old negress stopped her song. After he had passed she chuckled slowly to herself, thrust her head up sideways to get the sun in a new place, and began her crooning chant afresh.

“How is the boy?” asked the minister of his wife as he stepped inside the door. “Not still screaming out and——”

Mistress Everett shook her head reassuringly. “Nay, he is quiet now, up in his room.”

Nathaniel lay on his trundle bed, his eyes fixed on the rafters, his pale lips drawn back. At the sight his father sat down heavily on the edge of the bed. The boy sprang upon him with a cry, “Oh, father, I see fire always there—last winter when I burned my finger—oh, always such pain!”

The minister's voice broke as he said, “Oh, Nathaniel, the blessed ease when all this travail is gone by and thou knowest thyself to be of the elect.”

Nathaniel screamed out at this, a fleck of froth showing on his lips. “That is the horrible thing—I know I am not one of the saved. My heart is all full of carnal pleasures and desires. To look at the sun on the hillside—why I love it so that I forget my soul—hell—God—”

His father gave a deep shocked groan and put his hand over the quivering lips. “Be not a bitterness to him that begot you. Hush!”

The fever of excitement left the boy and he fell down with his face in the pillow to lie there motionless until his parents went out for second meeting, leaving him alone in the house. “Confidence must be rooted out of his tabernacle,” said his father sternly. “The spirit of God is surely working in his heart in which I see many of my own besetting sins.”

Nathaniel sprang up, when he heard the door shut, with a distracted idea of escape, now that his jailers were away, and felt an icy stirring in the roots of his hair at the realization that his misery lay within, that the walls of his own flesh and blood shut it inexorably into his heart forever. He threw open the window and leaned out.

The old negress came out of the woods at the other end of the street, her turban gleaming red. She moved in a cautious silence past the meeting-house, but when she came opposite the minister's house, thinking herself alone, she burst into a gay, rapid song, the words of which she so mutilated in her barbarous accent that only a final “Oh, Molly-oh!” could be distinguished. She carried an herb-basket on her arm now, into which, from time to time, she looked with great satisfaction.

Nathaniel ran down the stairs and out of the door calling. She paused, startled. “How can you sing and laugh and walk so lightly?” he cried out.

She cocked her head on one side with her turtle-like motion. “Why should she not sing?” she asked in her thick, sweet voice. She had never learned the difference between the pronouns. “She's be'n gatherin' yarbs in the wood, an' th' sun is warm,” she blinked at it rapidly, “an' the winter it is pas', Marse Natty, no mo' winter!”

Nathaniel came close up to her, laying his thin fingers on her fat, black arm. His voice quivered. “But they say if you love those things and if they make you glad you are damned to everlasting brimstone fire. Tell me how you dare to laugh, so that I will dare too.”

The old woman laughed, opening her mouth so widely that the red lining to her throat showed moistly, and all her fat shook on her bones. “Lord love ye, chile, dat's white folks' talk. Dat don't scare a old black woman!” She shifted her basket to the other arm and prepared to go on. “You're bleeged to be keerful 'bout losin' yo' soul. Black folks ain't got no souls, bless de Lord! When dey dies dey dies!”

She shuffled along, laughing, and began to sing again. Nathaniel looked after her with burning eyes. After she had disappeared between the tree trunks of the forest, the breeze bore back to him a last joyous whoop of “Oh, Molly-oh!” He burst into sobs, and shivering, made his way back into his father's darkening, empty house.

III

At the breakfast table the next morning his father looked at him neutrally. “This day you shall go to salt the sheep in the Miller lot,” he announced, “and you may have until the hour before sundown to walk in the wood.”

“Oh, father, really!”

“That is what I said,” repeated the minister dryly, pushing away from the table.

After the boy had gone, carrying the bag of salt and the little package of his noonday meal, the minister sighed heavily. “I fear my weak heart inclines me to too great softness to our son.” To his wife he cried out a moment later, “Oh, that some instance of the wrath of Jehovah could come before us now, while our son's spirit is softened. Deacon Truitt said yesterday that one more visitation would save him.”

Nathaniel walked along soberly, his eyes on the road at his feet, his face quite pale, a sleepless night evidently behind him. He came into the birches without noticing them at first, and when he looked up he was for a moment so taken by surprise that he was transfigured. The valley at his feet shimmered like an opal through the slender white pillars of the trees. The wood was like a many-columned chapel, unroofed and open to the sunlight. Nathaniel gave a cry of rapture, and dropped the bag of salt. “Oh!” he cried, stretching out his arms, and then again, “Oh!”

For a moment he stood so, caught into a joy that was almost anguish, and then at a sudden thought he shrank together, his arm crooked over his eyes. He sank forward, still covering his eyes, into a great bed of fern, just beginning to unroll their whitey-green balls into long, pale plumes. There he lay as still as if he were dead.

Two men came riding through the lane, their horses treading noiselessly over the leaf-mold. They had almost passed the motionless, prostrate figure when the older reined in and pointed with his whip. “What is that, LeMaury?”

At the unexpected sound the boy half rose, showing a face so convulsed that the other horseman cried out alarmed, “It ees a man crazed! Ride on, mon colonel!” He put spurs to his horse and sprang forward as he spoke.

The old soldier laughed a little, and turned to Nathaniel. “Why, 'tis the minister his son. I know you by the look of your father in you. What bad dream have we waked you from, you pretty boy?”

“You have not waked me from it,” cried Nathaniel. “I will never wake as long as I live, and when I die—!”

“Why, LeMaury is right. The poor lad is crazed. We must see to this.”

He swung himself stiffly from the saddle and came limping up to Nathaniel. Kneeling by the boy he brought him up to a sitting position, and at the sight of the ashen face and white, turned-back eyeballs he sat down hastily, drawing the young head upon his shoulder with a rough tenderness. “Why, so lads look under their first fire, when they die of fear. What frights you so?”

Nathaniel opened great solemn eyes upon him. “I suppose it is the conviction of sin. That is what they call it.”

For an instant the old man's face was blank with astonishment, and then it wrinkled into a thousand lines of mirth. He began to laugh as though he would never stop. Nathaniel had never heard anyone laugh like that. He clutched at the old man.

“How dare you laugh!”

The other wiped his eyes and rocked to and fro, “I laugh—who would not—that such a witless baby should talk of his sin. You know not what sin is, you silly innocent!”

At the kindliness of the tone an aching knot in the boy's throat relaxed. He began to talk hurriedly, in a desperate whisper, his hands like little birds' claws gripping the other's great gauntleted fist. “You do not know how wicked I am—I am so wholly forward the wonder is the devil does not take me at once. I live only in what my father calls the lust of the eye. I—I would rather look at a haw-tree in bloom than meditate on the Almighty!” He brought out this awful confession with a gasp at its enormity, but hurried on to a yet more terrible climax. “I cannot be righteous, but many times there are those who cannot—but oh, worse than that, I cannot even wish to be! I can only wish to be a painter.”

At this unexpected ending the old man gave an exclamation of extreme amazement.

“But, boy, lad, what's your name? However did you learn that there are painters in the world, here in this prison-house of sanctity?”

Nathaniel had burrowed into his protector's coat as though hiding from the imminent wrath of God. He now spoke in muffled tones. “Two years ago, when I was but a little child, there came a man to our town, a Frenchman, they said, and his horse fell lame, and he stopped two days at my Uncle Elzaphan's. My Uncle Elzaphan asked him what business did he in the world, and he said he put down on cloth or paper with brushes and colors all the fair and comely things he saw. And he showed a piece of paper with on it painted the row of willows along our brook. I sat in the chimney-corner and no one heeded me. I saw—oh, then I knew! I have no paint, but ever since I have made pictures with burnt sticks on birchbark—though my father says that of all the evil ways of evil men none lead down more swift to the chambers of death and the gates of hell than that. Every night I make a vow unto the Lord that I will sin no more; but in the morning the devil whispers in my ear and I rise up and sin again—no man knows this—and I am never glad unless I think I have done well with my pictures, and I hate the meeting-house and—” His voice died away miserably.

“Two years ago, was't?” asked the old man. “And the man was French?”

“Aye.”

The old soldier shifted his position, stretched out a stiff knee with a grimace of pain, and pulled the tall lad bodily into his lap like a child. For some time the two were silent, the sun shining down warmly on them through the faint, vaporous green of the tiny leaves. The old horse cropped the young shoots with a contented, ruminative air, once in a while pausing to hang his head drowsily, and bask motionless in the warmth.

Then the old man began to speak in a serious tone, quite different from his gentle laughter. “Young Everett, of all the people you have seen, is there one whom you would wish to have even a moment of the tortures of hell?”

Nathaniel looked at him horrified. “Why, no!” he cried indignantly.

“Then do you think your God less merciful than you?”

Nathaniel stared long into the steady eyes. “Oh, do you mean it is not true?” He leaned close in an agony of hope. “Sometimes I have thought it could not be true!”

The old soldier struck him on the shoulder inspiritingly, his weather-beaten face very grave. “Aye, lad, I mean it is not true. I am an old man and I have learned that they lie who say it is true. There is no hell but in our own hearts when we do evil; and we can escape a way out of that by repenting and doing good. There is no devil but our evil desires, and God gives to every man strength to fight with those. There is only good in your love for the fair things God made and put into the world for us to love. No man but only your own heart can tell you what is wrong and what is right. Only do not fear, for all is well.”

The scene was never to fade from Nathaniel Everett's eyes. In all the after crises of his life the solemn words rang in his ears.

The old man suddenly smiled at him, all quaint drollery again. “And now wait.” He put hand to mouth and hallooed down the lane. “Ho there! LeMaury!”

As the Frenchman came into sight, the old man turned to Nathaniel, “Is this the gentleman who painted your willows?”

“Oh, aye!” cried Nathaniel.

The Frenchman dismounted near them with sparkling glances of inquiry. “See, LeMaury, this is young Master Everett, whom you have bewitched with your paint-pots. He would fain be an artist—de gustibus—! Perhaps you have in him an apprentice for your return to France.”

The artist looked sharply at Nathaniel. “Eh, so? Can young master draw? Doth he know aught of chiaroscuro?”

Nathaniel blushed at his ignorance and looked timidly at his protector.

“Nay, he knows naught of your painter's gibberish. Give him a crayon and a bit of white bark and see can he make my picture. I'll lean my head back and fold my hands to sleep.”

In the long sunny quiet that followed, the old man really slipped away into a light doze, from which he was awakened by a loud shout from LeMaury. The Frenchman had sprung upon Nathaniel and was kissing his cheeks, which were now crimson with excitement. “Oh, it is Giotto come back again. He shall be anything—Watteau.”

Nathaniel broke away and ran toward the old man, his eyes blazing with hope.

“What does he mean?” he demanded.

“He means that you're to be a painter and naught else, though how a man can choose to daub paint when there are swords to be carried—well, well,” he pulled himself painfully to his feet, wincing at gouty twinges, “I will go and see your father about—”

Mais, Colonel Hall, dites! How can I arrange not to lose this pearl among artists?”

At the name, for he had not understood the title before, pronounced as it was in French, the boy fell back in horrified recognition. “Oh! you are Colonel Gideon Hall!”

“Aye, lad, who else?” The old soldier swung himself up to the saddle, groaning, “Oh, damn that wet ground! I fear I cannot sit the nag home.”

“But then you are the enemy of God—the chosen one of Beelzebub——”

“Do they call me that in polite and pious Hillsboro?”

The Frenchman broke in, impatient of this incomprehensible talk. “See, boy, you—Everett—I go back to France now soon. I lie next Friday night at Woodburn. If you come to me there we will go together to France—to Paris—you will be the great artist——”

He was silenced by a gesture from the colonel, who now sat very straight on his horse and beckoned to Nathaniel. The boy came timorously. “You have heard lies about me, Everett. Be man enough to trust your own heart.” He broke into a half-sad little laugh at Nathaniel's face of fascinated repulsion.

“You can laugh now,” whispered the boy, close at his knee, “but when you come to die? Why, even my father trembles at the thought of death. Oh, if I could but believe you!”

“Faugh! To fear death when one has done his best!”

He had turned his horse's head, but Nathaniel called after him, bringing out the awful words with an effort. “But they say—that you do not believe in God.”

The colonel laughed again. “Why, lad, I'm the only man in this damn town who does.” He put his horse into a trot and left Nathaniel under the birch-trees, the sun high over his head, the bag of salt forgotten at his feet.

IV

A little before sundown the next day the minister strode into his house, caught up his Bible, and called to his wife, “Deborah, the Lord hath answered me in my trouble. Call Nathaniel and bring him after me to the house of Gideon Hall.”

Mistress Everett fell back, her hand at her heart, “To that house?”

“Aye, even there. He lieth at the point of death. So are the wicked brought into desolation. Yesterday, as he rode in the wood, his horse cast him down so that it is thought he may not live till dark. I am sent for by his pious sisters to wrestle with him in prayer. Oh, Deborah, now is the time to strike the last blow for the salvation of our son. Let him see how the devil carries off the transgressor into the fires of hell, or let him see how, at the last, the proudest must make confession of his wicked unbelief——”

He hurled himself through the door like a javelin, while his wife turned to explain to Nathaniel the reason for the minister's putting on his Sabbath voice of a week-day morning. He cried out miserably, “Oh, mother, don't make me go there!”

“Nay, Nathaniel, there is naught new. You have been with us before to many a sickbed and seen many a righteous death. This is an ill man, whose terrors at the reward of his unbelief will be like goodly medicine to your sick soul, and teach you to lay hold on righteousness while there is yet time.”

“But, mother, my Uncle Elzaphan said—I asked him this morning about Colonel Hall—that he had done naught but good to all men, that he had fought bravely with French and Indians, that the poor had half of his goods, that—”

She took him by the hand and dragged him relentlessly out upon the street. “Your Uncle Elzaphan is a man of no understanding, and does not know that the devil has no more subtile lure than a man who does good works but who is not of the true faith. Aye, he maketh a worse confusion to the simple than he who worketh iniquity by noonday.”

She led him through the village street, through a long curving lane where he had never been before, and down an avenue of maple-trees to a house at which he had always been forbidden even to look. Various of the neighbor women were hurrying along in the same direction. As they filed up the stairs he trembled to hear his father's voice already raised in the terrible tones of one of his inspired hours. At the entrance to the sick chamber he clung for a moment to the door, gazing at the wild-eyed women who knelt about the room, their frightened eyes fixed on his father. His knees shook under him. He had a qualm of nausea at the slimy images of corruption and decay which the minister was trumpeting forth as the end to all earthly pride.

His mother pushed him inexorably forward into the room, and then, across the nightmare of frenzy, he met the calm gaze of the dying man. It was the turning-point of his life.

He ran to the bed, falling on his knees, clasping the great knotty hand and searching the eyes which were turned upon him, gently smiling. The minister, well pleased with this evidence of his son's emotion, caught his breath for another flight of eloquence which should sear and blast the pretensions of good works as opposed to the true faith. “See how low the Lord layeth the man who thinks to bargain with the Almighty, and to ransom his soul from hell by deeds which are like dust and ashes to Jehovah.”

Nathaniel crept closer and whispered under cover of his father's thunderings, “Oh, you are truly not afraid?”

The dying man looked at him, his eyes as steady as when they were in the woods. “Nay, little comrade, it is all a part of life.”

After that he seemed to sink into partial unconsciousness. Nathaniel felt his hand grow colder, but he still held it, grasping it more tightly when he felt the fumes of his father's reeking eloquence mount to his brain. The women were all sobbing aloud. A young girl was writhing on the floor, her groans stifled by her mother's hand. The air of the room was stifling with hysteria. The old sister of the dying man called out, “Oh, quick, Master Everett. He is going. Exhort him now to give us some token that at the last he repents of his unbelief.”

The minister whirled about, shaking with his own violence. The sweat was running down his face. “Gideon Hall, I charge you to say if you repent of your sins.”

There was a pause. The silence was suffocating.

The old man gradually aroused himself from his torpor, although he did not open his eyes. “Aye, truly I repent me of my sins,” he whispered mildly, “for any unkindness done to any man, or——”

The minister broke in, his voice mounting shrilly, “Nay, not so, thou subtle mocker. Dost thou repent thee of thy unbelief in the true faith?”

Colonel Gideon Hall opened his eyes. He turned his head slowly on the pillow until he faced the preacher, and at the sight of his terrible eyes and ecstatic pallor he began to laugh whimsically, as he had laughed in the wood with Nathaniel. “Why, man, I thought you did but frighten women with it—not yourself too. Nay, do not trouble about me. I don't believe in your damned little hell.”

The smile on his face gradually died away into a still serenity, which was there later, when the minister lifted his son away from the dead man's bed.

V

The four old men walked sturdily forward with their burden, although at intervals they slipped their tall staves under the corners and rested, wiping their foreheads and breathing hard. As they stood thus silent, where the road passed through a thicket of sumac, a boy came rapidly around the curve and was upon them before he saw that he was not alone. He stopped short and made a guilty motion to hide a bundle that he carried. The old men stared at him, and reassured by this absence of recognition he advanced slowly, looking curiously at the great scarlet flag which hung in heavy folds from their burden.

“Is this the road to Woodburn?” he asked them.

“Aye,” they answered briefly.

He had almost passed them when he stopped again, drawing in his breath.

“Oh, are you—is this Colonel—”

“Aye, lad,” said the oldest of the bearers, “this is the funeral procession of the best commander and truest man who ever lived.”

“But why—” began the boy, looking at the flag.

“He's wrapped in the flag of the king that he was a loyal servant to, because the damned psalm-singing hypocrites in the town where he lived of late would not make a coffin for him—no, nor allow ground to bury him—no, nor men to bear him out to his grave! We be men who have served under him in three wars, and we come from over the mountain to do the last service for him. He saved our lives for us more than once—brave Colonel Gid!”

They all uncovered at the name, and the boy shyly and awkwardly took his cap off.

“May I—may I see him once again?” he asked, dropping his bundle. “He saved my life too.”

Two men put their gnarled old hands to the flag and drew it down from the head of the bier. The boy did not speak, but he went nearer and nearer with an expression on his face which one of the old men answered aloud. “Aye, is he not at peace! God grant we may all look so when the time comes.”

They let the flag fall over the dead face again, set their shoulders to the bier, and moved forward, bringing down their great staves rhythmically as they walked. The boy stood still looking after them. When they passed out into the sunshine of the open hillside he ran to the edge of the thicket so that he could still follow them with his eyes. They plodded on, growing smaller and smaller in the distance, until as they paused on the crest of the hill only a spot of red could be seen, brilliant against the brilliant sky.

The boy went back and picked up his bundle. When he returned to the edge of the thicket the spot of red was disappearing over the hill. He took off his cap and stood there until there was nothing before him but the sun shining on the hillside.

Then he turned about, and walking steadily, Nathaniel Everett entered into his own world.

 
 
 

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