still lay below the blue horizon of lake and forest which she had left
behind her, the sky above was a gulf of sunshine.
She stepped out of the boat and pushed away the hat to look in her
father's face. She saw now who it was that she had rescued. Toyner
stirred a little when she touched him, and opened his eyes, the same
grave grey eyes with which he had looked at her when he bade her
good-bye. There was no fever in them, and, as it seemed to her, no lack
of sense and thought. Yet he only looked at her gravely, and then seemed
to sleep again.
The girl sprang upright upon the bank and wrung her hands together. It
came to her with sudden clearness what had been done. Had Toyner told
his tale, she could hardly have known it more clearly. Her father, had
tried to murder Bart; her father had tied him in his own place; it was
her father who had escaped alone with the boat. It was he himself, and
no apparition, who had peered in upon her through the window. She was
wrought up into a strong glow of indignation against the baseness that
would turn upon a deliverer, against the cruelty of the revenge taken.
No wonder that miserable father had not dared to enter her house again
or to seek further succour from her! All her pity, all the strength of
her generosity, went out to the man who had ventured so much on his
behalf and been betrayed. That unspoken reverence for Toyner, a sense of
the contrast between him and her father and the other men whom she knew,
which had been growing upon her, now culminated in an impulse of
devotion. A new faculty opened within her nature, a new mine of wealth.
The thin white-faced man that lay half dead in the bottom of the canoe
perhaps experienced some reviving influence from this new energy of love
that had transformed the woman who stood near him, for he opened his
eyes again and saw her, this time quite distinctly, standing looking
down upon him. There was tenderness in her eyes, and her sunbrowned face
was all aglow with a flush that was brighter than the flush of physical
exercise. About her bending figure grew what seemed to Bart's
half-dazzled sense the flowers of paradise, for wild sunflowers and
sheafs of purple eupatorium brushed her arms, standing in high phalanx
by the edge of the creek. Bart smiled as he looked, but he had no
thoughts, and all that he felt was summed up in a word that he uttered
She knelt down at once. "What is it, Bart?" and again: "What were you
trying to say?"
It is probable that her words did not reach him at all. He was only
half-way back from the region of his vision; but he opened his eyes and
looked at her again.
The sun rose, and a level golden beam struck through between the trunks
of the trees, touching the flowers and branches here and there with
moving lights, and giving all the air a brighter, mellower tint. There
was something that Bart did feel a desire to say - a great thought that
at another time he might have tried in a multitude of words to have
expressed and failed. He saw Ann, whom he loved, and the paradise about
her; he wanted to bring the new knowledge that had come to him in the
light of his vision to bear upon her who belonged now to the region of
outward not of inward sight and yet was part of what must always be to
him everlasting reality.
"What were you going to say, Bart?" she asked again tenderly.
And again he summed up all that he thought and felt in one word:
"Yes, Bart," she said, with some sudden intuitive sense of agreement.
Then, seeming to be satisfied, he closed his eyes and went back into the
state of drowsiness.
Ann went up to the house. It was a great relief to her to remember that
the man for whom she was going to ask help was no criminal. She could
hold up her head and speak boldly.
Another minute and she began to look curiously to see how long the grass
and weeds had grown before the door. It was some months since David
Brown had been here. The doubt which had entered Ann's mind grew
swiftly. She knocked loudly upon the door and upon the wooden shutters
of the windows. The knocks echoed through empty rooms.
She had no hesitation in house-breaking. In a shed at the back she found
a broken spade which formed a sufficiently strong and sharp lever for
her purpose. She pried open a shutter and climbed in. She found only
such furniture as was necessary for a temporary abode. A small iron
stove, a few utensils of tin, a huge sack which had been used for a
straw bed, and a few articles of wooden furniture, were all that was to
Upon the canvas sack she seized eagerly. Bart might be dying, or he
might be recovering from some injury; in either case she had only one
desire, and that was to procure for him the necessary comforts. Having
no access to hay or straw, she began rapidly to gather the bracken which
was standing two and three feet high in great quantities wherever the
ground was dry under the trees. She worked with a nervous strength that
was extraordinary, even to herself, after the toilsome night. When she
had filled the sack, she put it upon the floor of the lower room and
went back to the canoe. She saw that Bart had roused himself and was
sitting up. He was even holding on to the rushes with his hand - an act
which she thought showed the dreamy state of his mind, for she did not
notice that the rope had come undone. She helped Bart out of the canoe,
putting her arm strongly round him so that he was able to walk. She saw
that he had not his mind yet; he said no word about the help she gave
him; he walked as a sleeping man might walk. When she laid him down upon
the bed of bracken and arranged his head upon the thicker part which she
had heaped for a pillow, he seemed to her to fall asleep almost at once;
and yet, for fear that his strange condition was not sleep, she hastily
opened the bag of food and the flask of rum.
She stripped the twigs from a tiny spruce tree, piling them inside the
old stove. When they had cracked and blazed with a fierce, sudden heat,
Ann could only break bread-crumbs into a cupful of boiling water and put
a few drops of rum in it. She woke Bart and fed him as she might have
fed a baby. When he lay down again exhausted, with that strange moan
which he always gave when he first put back his head, she had the
comfort of believing that a better colour came to his cheek than before.
She resolved that if he rested quietly for a few hours and appeared
better after the next food she gave him, she would think it safe to
cushion the canoe with bracken and take him home. This thought suggested
to her to moor the canoe.
She went down to the creek again, but it was too late. The water running
gently and steadily had done its work, taken the canoe out from among
the rushes, and floated it down between the mosses of the swamp. Making
her feet bare, she sprang from one clump of fern root to another,
sometimes missing her footing and striking to her knees through the
green moss that let her feet easily break into the black wet earth. In a
few minutes she could see the canoe. It had drifted just beyond the
swamp, where all the ground was lying under some feet of water; but
there a tree had turned its course out of the current of the creek, so
that it was now sidling against two ash trees, steady as if at anchor.
So few feet as it was from her, Ann saw at a glance that to reach it was
quite impossible. Realising the helplessness of her position without
this canoe, she might have been ready to brave the dangers of a struggle
in deep water to obtain it, but the danger was that of sinking in
bottomless mud. The canoe was wholly beyond her reach. Retracing her
steps, she washed her feet in the running creek, and, as she put on her
shoes, sitting upon the grassy bank in the morning sunlight, she felt
drowsily as if she must rest there for a few minutes. She let her head
fall upon the arm she had outstretched on the warm sod.
When she stirred again she had that curious feeling of inexplicable
lapse of time that comes to us after unexpected and profound slumber.
The sun had already passed the zenith; the tone in the voices of the
crickets, the whole colouring of earth and sky, told her, before she had
made any exact observation of the shadows, that it was afternoon.
She prepared more food for the sick man. When she had fed him and put
him to rest again, she went out to discover what means of egress by
land was to be found from this lonely dwelling. She followed the faint
trace of wheel-ruts over the grass, which for a short distance ran
through undergrowth of fir and weeds. She came out upon a cleared space
of some acres, from which a fine crop of hay had clearly been taken,
apparently about a month before. Whoever had mowed the hay had evidently
been engaged also in a further clearing of the land beyond, and there
was a small patch where tomatoes and pea vines lay neglected in the sun;
the peas had been gathered weeks before, but the tomatoes, later in
ripening, hung there turning rich and red. Ann went on across the
cleared space. Following the track, she came to a thick bit of bush
beyond, where a long cutting had been made, just wide enough for a cart
to pass through.
There was no other way out; Ann must walk through this long green
passage. No knight in a fairy tale ever entered path that looked more
remote from the world's thoroughfares. When she had walked a mile she
came to an opening where the ground dipped all round to a bottom which
had evidently at some time held water, for the flame-weed that grew
thick upon it stood even, the tops of its magenta flowers as level as a
lake - it was, in fact, a lake of faded crimson lying between shores of
luxuriant green. The cart-ruts went right down into the flame-flowers,
and she thought she could descry where they rose from them on the other
side. Evidently the blossoming had taken place since the last cart had
passed over, and no doubt many miles intervened between this and the
next dwelling-house. Nothing but the thought of necessities that might
arise for help on Bart's account made her make the toilsome passage,
knee-deep among the flowers, to see whether, beyond that, the road was
passable; but she only found that it was not fit for walkers except at a
time of greater drought than the present. The swamp crept round in a
ring, so that she discovered herself to be upon what was actually an
island. Ann turned back, realising that she was a prisoner.
On her way home again she gathered blood-red tomatoes; and finding a
wild apple tree, she added its green fruit to what she already held
gathered in the skirt of her gown; starvation at least was not a near
She had made her investigation calmly, and with a light heart; she felt
sure that Bart had grown better and stronger during the day, and that
was all that she cared about. She never paused to ask herself why his
recovery was not merely a humane interest but such a satisfying joy.
The knowledge of her present remoteness from all distresses of her life
as a daughter and sister came to her with a wonderful sense of rest, and
opened her mind to the sweet influences of the summer night and its
stars as that mind had never been opened before.
She cooked the apples and tomatoes, making quite a good meal for
herself. Then she roused Bart, and gave him part of the cooked fruit.
The darkness closed in about eight o'clock. Ann sat on the doorstep
watching the lights in the sky shine out one by one. Last night had been
the only night which had ever possessed terrors for her, and now that
she believed her father to be still alive she thought no longer with any
horror of his apparition. She wondered where he was wandering, but her
heart hardened towards him. She rested and dozed by turns upon the
doorstep until about midnight. Then in the darkness she heard a voice
from the bracken couch that assured her that Bart's mind had come back
to him again.
"Who is there?" he asked.
"I am going to give you something to eat," she said, letting her voice
speak her name.
"Is it very dark?" he asked, "or am I blind?"
"You can see right enough, Bart," she said gently; "you can watch me
kindle the fire."
She left the door of the stove open while the spruce twigs were
crackling, and in the red, uncertain, dancing light he caught glimpses
of the room in which he was, and of her figure, but the fire died down
very quickly again.
"I was thinking, Ann," he said slowly, "that it was a pity for Christa
to be kept from dancing. She is young and light on her feet. God must
have made her to dance."
"Christa's well enough without it," said Ann, a little shortly.
She thought more coldly of Christa since she had come up to a higher
"Well, I only meant about Christa that I think I made a mistake," said
"How a mistake?" she asked.
It was a very hard question to answer. A moment before and he thought he
had seen what the mistake was and how to speak, but when he tried, all
that manifold difficulty of applying that which is eternal to that which
is temporal came between his thought and its expression.
He could not know clearly wherein his difficulty lay; no one had taught
him about the Pantheism which obliterates moral distinctions, or told
him of the subjective ideal which sweeps aside material delight. He only
felt after the realities expressed by these phrases, and dimly perceived
that truth lies midway between them, and that truth is the mind of God,
and can only be lived, not spoken. For a while he lay there in the
darkness, trying to think how he could tell Ann that to his eyes all
things had become new; after a little while he did try to tell her, and
although the words were lame, and apparently contradictory to much that
they both knew was also true, still some small measure of his meaning
passed into her mind.
"God is different from what I ever thought," he said; "He isn't in some
things and not in others; it's wicked to live so as to make people think
that, for they think they can get outside of Him, and then they don't
mind Him at all."
"How do you know it?" she asked curiously.
"I saw it. Perhaps God showed me because I was so hard up. It's God's
truth, Ann, that I am saying."
The room was quite dark again now; the chirping of the crickets outside
thrilled through and through it, as if there were no walls there but
only the darkness and the chirping. Ann sat upon a wooden chair by the
She considered for a minute, and then she said, with the first touch of
repentance in her heart: "Well, I reckon God ain't in me, any way. There
isn't much of God in me that I can see."
"I'll tell you how it is if I can." Toyner's voice had a strange rest
and calm in it. He spoke as a man who looked at some inward source of
peace, trying to describe it. "Supposing you had a child, you wouldn't
care anything about him at all if you could just work him by wires so
that he couldn't do anything but just what you liked; and yet the more
you cared about him, the more it would hurt you dreadfully if he didn't
do the things that you knew were good for him, and love you and talk to
you too. Well now, suppose one day, when he was a little fellow, say,
he wanted to touch something hot, and you told him not to. Well, if he
gave it up, you'd make it easier for him to be good next time; but
suppose he went on determined to have his own way, can't you think of
yourself taking hold of his hand and just helping him to reach up and
touch the hot thing? I tell you, if you did that it would mean that you
cared a great sight more about him than if you just slapped him and put
it out of his reach; and yet, you see, you'd be helping him to do the
wrong thing just because you wanted to take the naughtiness out of his
heart, not because you were a devil that wanted him to be naughty. Well,
you see, between us and our children" (Toyner was talking as men do who
get hold of truth, not as an individual, but as mankind) "it's not the
same as between God and us. They have our life in them, but they're
outside us and we're outside them, and so we get into the way, when we
want them to be good, of giving them a punishment that's outside the
harm they've done, and trying to put the harm they are going to do
outside of their reach; and when they do the right thing, half the time
we don't help them to do it again. But that isn't God's way. Nothing is
ever outside of Him; and what happens after we have done a thing is just
what must happen, nothing more and nothing less, so that we can never
hope to escape the good or the evil of what we have done; for the way
things must happen is just God's character that never changes. You see
the reason we can choose between right and wrong when a tree can't, or a
beast, is just because God's power of choice is in us and not in them.
So we use His power, and when we use it right and think about pleasing
Him - for, you see, we know He can be pleased, for our minds are just
bits of His mind (as far as we know anything about Him; but of course we
only know a very little) - He puts a tremendous lot of strength into us,
so that we can go on doing right next time. Of course it's a low sort of
right when we don't think about Him, for that's the most of what He
wants us to do; but I tell you" (a little personal fire and energy here
broke the calm of the recital), "I tell you, when I do look up to God
and say, '_Now I am going to do this for Your sake and because You are
in me and will do it_,' I tell you, there's _tremendous power_ given us.
_That's the law that makes the value of religion_; I know it by the way
I gave up drinking. But now, look here; most of the time we don't use
God's will, that He lends us, to do what's right; well, then He doesn't
slap us and put the harm out of our reach. He does just what the mother
does when she takes the child's hand and puts it against the hot thing,
and the burn hurts her as much as it hurts the child; but He is not weak
like we are to do it only once in a way. I tell you, Ann, every time you
do a wrong thing God is with you; that is what I saw when I was hard up
and God showed me how things really were. Now, look here, there isn't
any end to it that we can see here; it's an awful lot of help we get to
do the wrong thing if that's the thing we choose to do. It gets easier
and easier, and at first there's a lot of pleasure to it, but by-and-by
it gets more and more dreadful, and then comes death, and that's the end
here. But God does not change because we die, and wherever we go He is
with us and gives us energy to do just what we choose to do. It's hell
before we die when we live that way, and it's hell after, for ages and
ages and worlds and worlds perhaps, just until the hell-fire of sin has
burned the wrong way of choosing out of us. But remember, God never
leaves us whatever we do; there's nothing we feel that He doesn't feel
with us; we must all come in the end to being like Himself, and there's
always open the short simple way of choosing His help to do right,
instead of the long, long way through hell. But I tell you, Ann, whether
you're good or whether you're wicked, God is in you and you are in Him.
If He left you, you would neither be good nor wicked, you would stop
being; but He loves you in a bigger, closer way than you can think of
loving anybody; and if you choose to go round the longest way you can,
through the hell-fire of sin on earth and all the other worlds, He will
suffer it all with you, and bring you in the end to be like Himself."
The calm voice was sustained in physical strength by the strength of the
Ann's reply followed on the track of thoughts that had occurred to her.
"Well now, there's that awful low girl, Nelly Bowes. She's drunk all the
time, and she's got an awful disease. She's as bad as bad can be, and so
is the man she lives with; and that little child of hers was born a
hard-minded, sickly little beast." Her words had a touch of triumphant
opposition as she brought them out slowly. "It's a mean, horrid shame
for the child to be born like that. It wasn't its fault. Do you mean to
say God is with them?"
"It's a long sight easier to believe that than that He just let them go
to the devil! I tell you it's an awful wicked thing to teach people
that God can save them and doesn't. God is saving those two and the
child just by the hell they've brought on themselves and it; and He's in
hell with them, and He'll bring them out to something grander than we
can think about. They could come to it without giving Him all that agony
and themselves too; but if they won't, He'll go through it with them
rather than turn them into puppets that He could pull by wires. And as
to the child, I can't see it quite clear; but I see this much that I
know is true: it's God's character to have things so that a good man has
a child with a nice clean soul, and it's just by the same way of things
that the other happens too. It's the working out of the bad man's
salvation to see his child worse than himself, and it's the working out
of the child's salvation to have his bad soul in a bad body. Look you,
can't you think that in the ages after death the saving of the soul of
that child may be the one thing to make that man and woman divine?
They'll never, never get rid of their child, and the child will come
quicker to the light through the blackness he is born to than if, having
the bad soul that he has, God was to set him in heaven. But, look you,
Ann, there isn't a day or an hour that God is not asking them to choose
the better and the quicker way, and there isn't a day or an hour that He
isn't asking you and me and every one else in the world to do as He does
so as to help them to choose it, and live out the sufferings of their
life with them till they do."
Ann sat quite still; she had a feeling that if she moved to make any
other sound, however slight, than that of speech some spell would be
broken. In the darkness Bart had awakened out of the stupor of his
injury; and although Ann could not have expressed it, she felt that his
voice came like the speech of a soul that is not a part of the things we
see and touch. It was so strange to her that he did not ask her where he
was. For a few minutes more at least she did not want to bring the least
rustle of material surroundings into their talk. She was still
incredulous; it is only a very weak mind that does not take time to grow
into a new point of view.
"Bart, was God with father when he tried to kill you and tied you to the
"How do you know?"
"You can't think of God being less than something else. If God was not
in your father, then space is outside God's mind. You can't think that
God wanted to save your father from doing it and didn't, unless you
think that the devil was stronger than God. You can't think that you are
more loving than God; and if He is so loving, He couldn't let any one do
what wasn't just the best thing. I tell you, it's a love that's awful to
think of that will go on giving men strength to do wrong until through
the ages of hell they get sick of it, rather than make them into
machines that would just go when they're wound up and that no one could
"Do they know all this in church, Bart?" Ann asked. It had never
occurred to her before to test her beliefs by this standard, but now it
seemed necessary; she felt after tradition instinctively. The nakedness
of Bart's statements seemed to want tradition for a garment.
Bart's words were very simple. "When I was fastened on that log and saw
all this, I saw that Jesus knew it all, and that that was what all His
life and dying meant, and that the people that follow Him are learning
to know that that was what it meant; it takes them a long, long time,
and we can't understand it yet, but as the world goes on it will come
clearer. Everybody that knows anything about Him says all this in
church, only they don't quite understand it. There's many churches, Ann,
where the people all get up and say out loud, 'He descended into hell.'
I don't know much, for I've only read the Bible for one year; but if you
think of all that Jesus did and all that happened to Him, you will see
what I mean. People have made little of it by saying it was a miracle
and happened just once, but He knew better. He said that God had been
doing it always, and that He did nothing but what He saw God doing, and
that when men saw Him they would know that God was like that always.
Haven't I just been telling you that God bears our sins and carries our