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again. The music of my life is nearly finished."

Then, with a sudden access of interest, he lifted
his face quickly, and asked :

" What are we to do about our children ?"

The question was so abrupt that Balfour was
startled by its imperative demand. He looked
steadily at the baron, reflected a moment, and
answered :

" We are to do right, Sir Rolfe ; we are to do
right. We are to do what in the hour and arti
cle of death our souls will approve."

" Just so, Balfour. I was once bitterly
opposed to Donald s marriage with your
daughter. That was when death was not in my
thoughts. Now that we are familiars, 1 think
differently ; now that I have seen Roberta Balfour
I am anxious that Donald should have so fair, so
good a woman for his wife. Do not deny them
your sanction any longer. Donald may be home
any day. Let him have your consent to visit



At the Last Peace. 345

Roberta. I would wish to welcome her to Tas-
mer while I am yet its master. You see how
short and frail my tenure now is." And he
stretched out his thin, white hands, and looked
into Balfour s face with eyes in which there was
already the far-off look of a soul watching for its
own eternity.

" I cannot speak in a hurry. I cannot prom
ise. I may sin away my child s soul."

" Only leave Roberta to her own conscience ;
that is all I ask. You permit no one to dictate
to your conscience ; give your daughter the same
liberty. We are at the close of life. Shall our
prejudices any longer darken their youth, and
make bare and barren their days ? Balfour, it is
a great injustice to them. I have been wrong
and cruel. I have asked of God this favor ; to
right the wrong before I go away forever."

" You trouble me, Torquil. You trouble me
greatly. I must talk with my conscience. I
must talk with my God. I wish to do right
only right."



346 At the Last Peace.

" I believe you. Can it be wrong for us to
give our children the same liberty of conscience
we claim as an inalienable right for ourselves ?
They are of full age they are responsible to
God. Let us trust them. I am weary now. I
have said what I came to say. Let me sleep
under your roof."

There was a moral grandeur in the humility
of this request. Balfour was greatly touched
by it. He gave the dying man his arm to lean
upon. He assisted him in the removal of his
raiment ; he softly repeated the Benediction at
his bedside ere he left him. Torquil slept
soundly and peacefully as a child. Balfour
paced his study floor the whole night long.
The baron had sheltered himself higher than all
creeds, even in the infinite love of his Maker ;
the minister had the restless pain of one who
tries to confine the immortal spirit within the
lines of a human creed.

With the morning tide the baron left Eller-
loch. He leaned upon Roberta s arm as he



At the Last Peace. 347

walked to the pier, and he treated her as a
daughter, though he never named Donald. At
the last, the two men parted like those who trust
in God and in each other.

" We shall meet again, Torquil," said the
minister.

" We shall meet again somewhere some
day in the kingdom of God. Farewell,
Roberta."

Then as the boat left the pier, he waved his
hand over the sparkling waters and said, with a
smile:

" Is not this great sea beautiful ? But there
is to be .no sea there. Shall we not miss it, I
wonder?"

He was too far away to hear Balfour s answer.
The north wind and the flowing tide were driv
ing the boat before them. Balfour watched the
tall figure, sitting motionless, with troubled
eyes. He turned homeward with Roberta
and was speechless. It was not until they



348 At the Last Peace.

reached the gate of the manse garden that
Roberta said :

" Baron Torquil is a true nobleman. But is
he not very ill, father ?"

" He is dying, but I think I hope yes, I
truly believe,

" Into that dark, he takes with him a Light ;
The Lamp that can illuminate the grave. "

When Sir Rolfe reached Tasmer again, he
found that Sara and his little granddaughter
Patricia had arrived during his absence. They
were not unexpected. He was quite aware that
the tone of his last letter to Sara would make
her understand that his days were numbered.
Her arrival was a great comfort, and her tender
care of him probably prolonged his life. He
was also greatly attached to Patricia. In the
gloaming he generally asked for her, and the
child expected and liked the visit. In her white
night-dress she was laid in his arms, and he
crooned softly to her, half-talking and half-sing
ing until the little maid was fast asleep. And



At the Last Peace. 349

often, when Sara came for the child, she
found the baby hands clasping the Beads of
Tasmer, and the dying grandfather praying
above them.

He seemed to tarry on earth only to see his
son. But Donald was in a position where
obedience to orders was imperative; and there
was some necessary delay in procuring the
authority which gave him freedom to return to
Tasmer. But he came at last. Sir Rolfe heard
Sara s voice in joyous modulations, and he knew
what it meant. She had been walking in the fir-
wood, and had there met her brother.

The meeting between father and son was
solemnly affectionate ; and these few last days
united them with an indissoluble bond. There
was now perfect confidence between them.
They spoke of Roberta ; and Donald received
his father s full approval of his choice. He
made no allusion to the years which had been
darkened by opposition and exile. A sweet
restraint forbade all reproach. He apprehended



350 At the Last Peace.

that his father had also suffered disappointment
and loneliness. Both had forgiven. At the last
there was a great love and a great peace.

One night, just at sunset, he spoke to Donald
about the " clearance." It was the only time he
named it. His eyes filled with their last tears as
he said :

" It was a mistake ; it was a great wrong ; it
was a great failure, Donald. I gave fifty pounds
to assist in sending my people from me. I
would give fifty thousand pounds to see them
on Tasmer braes again."

" If ever I have the power I will bring them
back, father."

" You promise?"

"Solemnly!"

" For the peace of my soul, do it."

Then he sent Donald away and asked for
Patricia. The child was asleep in his arms
when Sara came, half an hour afterward, for
her. Father and daughter smiled in each other s
face, as the babe was lifted from the old arms ;



At the Last Peace. 351

for, to a lonely father, a daughter is very dear,
and Sara sat close to Sir Rolfe s heart. It was
their last " good-night." It was their parting
smile.

An hour afterward Father Matthew entered
the room. As the baron was absent, he sup
posed him to be engaged in the oratory, and he
sat down to wait. But after a little wh ile he
became sensible of that strange silence which
accompanies death. He stood up and listened
intently. There was no movement. There was
no echo of sigh or prayer. He pushed aside the
door very gently. Sir Rolfe lay upon his face,
at the foot of the great white crucifix, with the
ivory beads in his hand. His cold fingers
marked the last " Our Father " which his lips
had said.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE SECRET OF THE BEADS.

" For modes of Faith, let graceless zealots fight ;
He can t be wrong whose life is in the right."

So, Sir Rolfe died, and so, in his last years, he
would have desired to go. Yet Donald remem
bered how once, when he was a lad, he had heard
his father wish to die as a soldier " with tumult,
with shouting, and with the sound of the trum
pet." But who has the oracle of his death ?
Only God knows the place and the manner in
which a soul shall meet its latest enemy.

They had all loved him dearly. He had true
friendship, and, in the main, affectionate
obedience ; yet, before the majesty of death, each
living soul of his household bowed itself humbly,
and acknowledged : " I have done too little."



The Secret of the Beads. 353

In the long past centuries when it was unsafe
to let their neighbors know that the head of the
clan was dead, the Torquils had begun to bury
their dead at midnight. For unnumbered gen
erations it had been the custom, and Sir Rolfe
had expressed a wish to have it conformed to in
his own case. It was then necessary to keep the
dead for many days. Friends were to notify, and
facilities were few and slow. It was not until
midnight of the eighth day after his death that
Sir Rolfe was laid among his forefathers. Dur
ing these eight days, he lay in the room which
he had mostly occupied. The August sun fell
brightly upon his worn, white face; the fresh
winds from the ocean blew over it. How tran
quil, how distant, how grandly, terribly differ
ent he was ! But his lips kept, until the last
moment, the faint, glad smile of one who had
died dreaming of heaven.

The burial night was still and warm. There
was no moon, and at midnight every fisher and
shepherd having the least claim to a drop of the



354 The Secret of the Beads.

Torquil blood came up to Tasmer. Each
carried a blazing torch ; and in this fitful light
they carried Baron Rolfe to his resting-place in
Torquil church-yard. All the midnight spaces
were filled with the heavenly, peaceful echoes of
the burial service recited in a solemnly trium
phant voice by Father Matthew. When it was
finished, every man extinguished his torch at the
grave-side, and, with a silent lifting of their
bonnets in a last " farewell " to the dead chief,
they scattered,

Sara was weeping on her husband s arm.
Donald looked down into the grave with tear
less eyes, but his heart shuddered constantly as
he watched torch after torch extinguished in the
open, narrow house, which was soon to be
closed forever. At length the light was nearly
gone ; he was conscious that only one torch
remained. Some one on the opposite side of the
grave held it. He looked up, and saw it was in
the hand of Balfour. Roberta stood by his side.



The Secret of the Beads. 355

It was the first glimpse of her dear face he had
had for years.

Their eyes met in one long, loving, sorrowful
gaze ; involuntarily Donald stretched out his
hand ; involuntarily Roberta touched it. They
met they clasped above the grave above the
closed coffin of the kind old knight who had
pleaded their cause so well.

The act, simple and touching, and full of a sad
significance, powerfully affected Balfour. He
took his daughter s hand and turned toward the
gate of the inclosure. As they trod silently the
narrow path, some one spoke, some one touched
Roberta s arm and stayed them. It was Sara.
In a voice trembling with sorrow, she said :

" Mr. Balfour. My brother has often been
your guest. Come up to the castle with us,
to-night you and Miss Balfour."

" We cannot."

He spoke with difficulty, and with a decision
that seemed unkind, but which was really the
result of a tumult of feeling he was trying to



356 The Secret of the Beads.

control. Sara and Mr. Maclane urged him a
little, and, during the passing conversation,
Donald took Roberta s hand. Before her
father before his sister and his friends with
the priest standing near, he lifted her face
and solemnly kissed it there. It was a new
betrothal. It was a promise to which he called
as witnesses the dead and the living of his house.
It was a fresh claim upon Roberta, and Balfour
was almost angry at the advantage which it
gave to Donald.

After that kiss it was easy to refuse the hos
pitality of Tasmer. In short, he would not be
persuaded by any plea of Maclane s good feel
ing, nor of Sara s courtesy, nor of Donald s love.
He was, indeed, a little irritated by the discus-
tion, and he said not a word to his daughter, as
they journeyed over the cheerless sea, depressed
by the infinite solitude of the dark waters and
the still greater solitude of hearts, each nursing
its own sense of wrong.

On the whole, however, the minister had



The Secret of the Beads. 357

acted with dignity and prudence. Donald and
Reberta, in that swift, unconsidered, unsanc-
tioned reassertion of their love over the grave
of the late baron, had placed him in a position
that did not permit him dissent at the time ; and
which, therefore, assumed his approval.

He was not by any means sure that he could
approve their marriage. Sir Rolfe s plea had
touched, but it had not convinced him. As
soon as he arrived at Ellerloch he wrote to a
church in Edinburgh, which had long desired
his services, and accepted its call.

Roberta received the intelligence with a look
of reproach.

" Do you not trust me, father, even yet ?" she
asked.

" I wish to take you out of temptation,
Roberta."

" You wish to take me away from Donald ?"

" Yes."

"Why?"



358 The Secret of the Beads.

" Is there any reason to ask that question
again ? I have answered it to you often."

" You have answered it to me, father j now
answer it to your own heart. Is Donald s faith
really the great stumbling-block you imagine it
to be ? Are you not in some measure afraid of
what Aunt Helen and all my cousins will say ?
Of what the ministers of your synod will say ?
Yea, of what these poor villagers in Ellerloch
will say ? Be just to Donald. Be just to your
self and to me."

Every question was like a sword-thrust to
him ; but he gave no sign of his spiritual wound.
His face was a little sterner only as he added :

" Before I sanction your marriage with Donald
Torquil, I must have the assurance of my con
science that I am doing right."

" Father, for nearly five years you have been
seeking this assurance. If I was really doing
wrong, would not the sin have been clear to you
long before this ? When 1 really disobeyed you
when I really deceived you when I really



The Secret of the Beads. 359

sinned against your love and confidence, was
there any need of this search ? You and I also
had a consciousness of it, swift and sure. We
had no need to argue or to search about it. I
broke the fifth command, and I came very near
to losing that long life which is the promise of
its observance. Father, you must not go to all
sorts of theological books about Donald and me.
What have synods and institutes and creeds to
do with our love ?"

" You speak without knowledge."

" I speak as my heart speaks. I am faithful to
my conscience. I ask the blessing of God upon
my love. Is there any other or any greater
law?"

" If events stopped with ourselves, if "

" Ah, then it is as I said ! You fear what this
person and that person will suspect ? You fear
to have your motives misunderstood ? You
think people will never know how firmly you
have opposed my marriage, or if they do, that
they will say : Minister Balfour has made hi



360 The Secret of the Beads.

daughter Lady Torquil at last ; you see that
every conscience has its price. Are not these
things so, father ?"

" Roberta, who gave you liberty to probe
your father s conscience ? To imagine his
motives and invent his difficulties ?"

He left her with these questions unanswered,
and went into his study to hide the pain her
analysis had caused him.

Roberta had divined much that the minister
had always refused to be separately conscious
of. There are in every soul some dark corners
full of unacknowledged, underlying motives.
To have them dragged into the light of con
science and the light of discussion is not a pleas
ant experience. Balfour was at first exceed
ingly irritated by it. But above every other
thing, the man was a just man. He was even
more severe with his own recognized faults than
he was with those of any other person. He was
compelled by the integrity of his nature to ans
wer Roberta s questions to himself; and it was



The Secret of the Beads. 361

with humiliation he admitted that there was
much truth in their interrogatory.

After all, Roberta and Donald were now
answerable to God. He might counsel, but
their souls were of age, and amenable to God s
reward or punishment. Frequently he had
spoken bitterly of the priests of the Romish
Church assuming the charge of souls, and
requiring nothing from their people but implicit
obedience to the commands of the Church. He
had said : " Souls are to be judged individually ;
they must be permitted individual judgment."
This very thing he had been denying to his
child with a persistent stubbornness. The fact
was suddenly clear, to him.

" I have been wrong !" And he made the
acknowledgment with a slow, distinct emphasis,
staying his walk up and down his study floor to
utter the words. " I have been jealous of my
authority, spiritual and temporal. I have feared
the opinions of my sister, and of my nephews
and nieces, of my fellows in the ministry, of all



362 The Secret of the Beads.

and sundry who know me. I have called it
the fear of God ; it has been very much the
fear of man. Mercifully, both repentance and
works meet for repentance are yet possible.
Now I will leave Donald and Roberta to the
commands of their own consciences ; and if I
have not the authority, well, then, neither have
I the responsibility." He made the surrender
freely, without anger, but he permitted himself
some compensating comfort in the thought that
Donald could not marry for a year after his
father s death, and that for so long yet his child
would be under his own influence. " And
as to what may happen in a year, who can
tell?"

The last thought was not a kind one in its
essence, but he put it away without any indul
gence of it. And though he did not enter into a
formal renunciation of his past feelings, or
express in so many words the change which had
taken place not in his opinions, but in the
application of his opinions Donald and Roberta



The Secret of the Beads. 363

understood that he had accepted the fact of
their marriage, and was inclined to hope they
were at least justified in their own consciences.
Neither expected more than this. Balfour s
nature was of the quality of his country s gran
ite. When young, he had been hewn with hard
tools into a certain form ; a grand, massive
form, that would not, perhaps, be improved by
chipping off a corner here and there.

The move to Edinburgh was now fully deter
mined on, and Balfour took a sudden dislike to
the lonely, misty village in which he had spent
so many happy and sorrowful days. Every one
has experienced these rapid changes of feeling
toward places, houses, people, certain kinds of
work, certain opinions. The soul which has
been unconsciously growing, becomes in a night,
as it were, ripe for change for a wider arena, a
keener life it may be, a sharper sorrow just
as a sudden frost will give sudden ripeness to
the grain.

He went to Edinburgh and took a house befit-



364 The Secret of the Beads.

ting the position his new church gave him.
Then he recognized that he had long been fam
ishing for books, and he satisfied his longing
with an extravagant generosity. He was impa
tient to complete his change of life. He
appeared to be suddenly younger, more impos
ing in appearance, quicker in his movements ; he
had cast the past behind, he was turning to the
future, strong with the lessons the past had
taught him.

The move was propitious to the lovers. Dur
ing the winter months it was almost impossible
to travel between Ellerloch and Tasmer, but com
munication with Edinburgh was comparatively
easy and quick. Indeed, Donald no sooner
heard of the minister s intention, than he began
to contemplate spending the winter in the capi
tal, in the constant society of Roberta. The
great drawback to this plan was the want of
ready money. He had come to his inheritance,
and found himself poor, and soon he discovered



The Secret of the Beads. 365

that the estate was in the hands of authorized
robbers.

The first tenet of service is to serve itself, and
the servants of Tasmer had been exceedingly
faithful to their own interests. Everything- had
been favorable to their dishonesty. For a long
time the late baron had neither had the power
nor the inclination to investigate his affairs.
They were purposely made complex and fatigu
ing, and, as his wants were small, he was per
mitted a sufficient sum of money to satisfy them
a wise generosity on the part of the iactor and
the head shepherd and game-keeper, as it pre
vented all inquiries and explanations. Donald s
absence made their system of spoliation easy,
for Father Contach thought only of the baron s
spiritual welfare, and Maclane seldom came to
Tasmer, and could hardly when there discuss
with his father-in-law the income of his estate.

But Donald was soon suspicious of the truth,
and it did not take him long to understand the
shameful schemes which had puzzled the sick



366 The Secret of the Beads.

and weary Sir Rolfe ; and as Donald had no
toleration for theft, the unfaithful servants were
quickly placed within the discipline of the law.
Financially, however, Donald derived no satis
faction from this movement ; the men were
Celts, selfish and greedy, and fully prepared to
keep a tight grip upon their stolen property.

It was in this total want of faithful service, in
this cruel realization that honor and honesty are
not to be hired out, that Donald remembered with
tears and longing the men and women who
had been sent away to make room for these
clever, unscrupulous managers. Oh, for the
trusty Fergus once more in the castle ! Oh, for
the trusty Torquils on the fells with the sheep,
and on the heather with the game ! They might
be slow, but they were the souls of piety and
fidelity.

Under the new order of things there had been
a gradual influx of strangers from the coast of
Ireland. They were pushing and energetic ;
they had made Torquil a fine lobster fishing



The Secret of the Beads. 367

station, but they offended Donald wherever he
saw them offended him, though they bowed
down to him with the most cringing humility,
and had for his ears only the words of flattery
and compliment. For they had possession of
the best cottages and the best boats and the best
fishing-grounds, and the native race had fallen
back as they encroached.

Donald regarded these things with a passion
ate regret, and Roberta shared all his anger and
all his longings. They sat hours over Donald s
plans and estimates, considering the yield of the
game and the land and the wool, and calculating
how much yearly could be saved toward bring
ing home the Torquils. For, from the very
hour oi his succession, this hope and end had
been in the heart of the new master of Tasmer.

Both were, however, aware that little could
be done until after their marriage. As long as
Roberta was in Ellerloch, the Sea Bird was
traveling between Tasmer and Ellerloch.
When Roberta removed to Edinburgh, Donald



368 The Secret of the Beads.

found himself unable to do anything without
consulting her. And neither of them thought
it possible to shorten the term of mourning for
Sir Rolfe. They felt it imperative to give all
the ceremonious respect to his memory, which
his relationship and his position demanded of
them in the public mind.

But Donald had many a weary hour. He
had been compelled to call in the help of lawyers
and accountants, and they were daily making his
great losses more and more clear to him. The
new servants resented the unaccustomed watch
over them, and gave little satisfaction, and his
military training was not, perhaps, the best
preparation for the circumstances in which he
was placed. He himself was prompt and faith
ful in all his duties; and he had been obedient
to his superiors when his service demanded it.
He expected from others the excellencies which
they did not possess inherently, and which had
not been cultivated in them.

These seem to be prosaic and very ordinarj



The Secret of the Beads. 369

trials, but it is precisely such trials which are
hardest to bear. When a man fights with his
equal, his spirits rise to the encounter ; whether
he conquer or fail, he feels no degradation.
But a daily, hourly fight with inferiors is a dif
ferent thing. Intellect must stoop to match
itself with vulgar cunning ; honor and truth
have to meet covert enmity and fathomless
deception. Such an ignoble fight greatly
depresses a noble soul the weapons its enemy
uses are not in its armory ; it has to study the
tactics of fear, hatred and envy, in order to
defeat them. Donald would far rather have
ridden in the van of an invading army, than
been compelled to buckle down to such a worry
ing defense of his own rights and such an irritat
ing prosecution of the wrong-doing of others.

Upon Christmas Eve he was suffering from an
accumulation of annoyances, and Angus had


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