attire, he attended the festival, and it was evident that he had regained his self-reliance, and had learned self-respect.

Freda welcomed the occasion with a happy countenance; she wore a simple, but very becoming dress which Walmot had prepared for the confirmation, though she viewed the ceremony in a very different light from the others. It had never entered her mind to prevent her child from joining in a long-established custom and so make her an object of village gossip ; just as little had she sought to perplex Freda by unfolding her own views about the confession of faith which the girl was required to make. They understood each other perfectly without need of words, and Walmot simply remarked :

"The vow which you are going to take is an acknowledgment that you feel within you a something sacred and holy; it matters little whether you understand the words exactly in the same sense as the others do. Make a vow to yourself that you will ever faithfully live and act according to what you believe to be right and honest and meet. Then you utter no lie when you answer the pastor's question with the words “I do,” for you promise to cling to the Holy of Holies, and for all else we have but the word of man, the one naming it this, the other that. He who vows to be true to his own heart and conscience makes this vow to God, let men define Him as they please. No one on earth has yet seen or heard Him, nor ever will. Perhaps your sister Datya, who is dead, knows Him now; we, too, must wait till then. But what we are to do and what we are not to do, whilst here on earth, this we have been plainly told.'

Standing before the altar of the little church, Teda presented as great a contrast to Freda in her dress as she did in her person. In compliance with her wish, Pastor Remmert had consented to mark the importance of the occasion by providing his daughter with a suitable costume, which he had had made at Norden. She had nothing to do but decide upon the colour. So she wore a white dress, perfectly simple in material and make, but such as had never before been worn on the island. The women and maidens who saw her declared that she looked a perfect 'bride of heaven,' and the term was by no means inappropriate. The white shimmering robe veiled, as it were, the bodily form, increased its height, and threw at the same time an effulgence over the finely-cut features of the face. Never before had Teda appeared such a spiritual, angelic creature; the impression she made was strengthened by her lack of all self-consciousness and vanity, and because she was, like her father, so perfectly indifferent to personal beauty.

Uwen, when he saw her in this festal robe, gazed upon her in amazement; his eyelids quivered, and his silence indicated that he had never dreamed that Teda, in her white dress, could look so beautiful as this.

The hair of Pastor Remmert had become somewhat gray about the temples, otherwise his fifteen years' residence on the island had wrought but little change in his outward appearance. While addressing those who were about to be confirmed, his eyes sparkled with an unearthly gleam ; his words being intended for more educated hearers than usual, he was able to give them a higher flight, and thus displayed in this poor little village pulpit eloquence of the richest and rarest character. This was, however, merely an outward form, adopted for the purpose of bringing home more fully to his hearers the preacher's anxiety and earnest desire for the eternal welfare of the three youthful souls who were now to be admitted by him into covenant with God. This made the day a special festival even for him, and the enthusiastic elevation of his thoughts found expression in words that were full of the deepest emotion. Though nearly fifty years of age, he looked still handsome and young ; his form, his features, and, above all, his eyes, seemed so imbued with the spiritual power of his religious convictions as to give out a vital force capable of defying the flight of time.

Deena, of course, was also at church, but she was not in festive attire. She wore the dress in which she usually went about her morning household duties. Even this, torn and stained, hung about her in a slovenly fashion. She had got up too late, had not had time to finish her breakfast in the house, but had brought a piece of bread with her, and, during her husband's sermon, sat on a bench, half hidden in the background, eating as she held her hymn-book before her. She would go about the whole day in this neglected attire, but Remmert's eyes never noticed her outward appearance, and she, too, no longer perceived her husband's youthful air, or the rapt expression of his handsome features. could be seen nothing but selfish indifference towards all that

In her eyes

did not affect her own bodily comfort, while her faded features wore a fixed look of stolid vacant stupidity.

It suited the inclination of both the pastor and his wife to let things go on in the parsonage in their usual course, as soon as the confirmation was over. For Pastor Remmert the solemnity and sanctity of the day ended with the service in church, and Deena never for a moment dreamt of sacrificing her own ease in order to prepare any home festivity for the young people on their_return from the solemn ceremony. Walmot expected that Freda would be invited to dine with her two companions, but no one concerned themselves any further about the young people. They knew, from former observation, that even in the poorest families confirmation day was celebrated as something exceptional, and thus, overpowered by the same feeling, the three young people stood, silent and undecided what to do. It was not for long, however; Walmot quickly put an end to their embarrassment by the simple-hearted friendly way in which she asked Uwen and Teda if they would, as a special treat to Freda, come and share her mid-day meal, and as the invitation was joyfully accepted, she hurried on before, in order, if possible, to make some little addition to their usual fare. For herself the day had no special significance, but she felt for the young people, whose overwrought feelings were likely to be changed into despondency by the indifference with which they were treated.

An instinctive impulse of Teda's, to do in some way the honours of the parsonage, made her invite Freda to accompany Uwen and herself into the sitting-room. It all looked very bare and untidy, just as Deena had left it. She herself had gone to bed, as soon as she had come in from church, in order to make up for the sleep which she considered that she had lost. The contrast of the bright sunshine outside with the close, cheerless room only increased the melancholy mood in which the young people had entered it. Freda felt oppressed to such a degree that she could scarcely breathe. She did not quite know what business she had there, and stood silent as before, until Teda took the little picture of the Madonna from the wall and showed it to her. Freda had heard of it, but had never seen it until now. She shook her head as if she had pictured it quite different. It made no great impression upon her. The pastor's daughter asked her:

Do you not see that this shows us, as we were told in

[ocr errors]


church, what we ought to be, and how we ought to think, not of earth, but only of heaven?'

Freda answered:

'If that represents a human being, I can't understand it at all.'

It is the mother of our Saviour, and no ordinary mortal.'

But your father said that, according to our Creed, she was just such a mother as all other mothers.'

'She is so, it is true, but she is also something more. We must not pray to her as the Roman Catholics do, but we must admire the humility with which she adores her Son, who is both her Saviour and ours.'

Freda knew not what to reply; she gazed at the picture in silence, then she said : • My mother never looks at me in that way.

I love her eyes far more, and they seem to me far more beautiful.'

Teda's lips curled somewhat contemptuously.

“Oh, it's because you have never learned from books what artistic beauty is. We do not find it in mere men and women. But Uwen understands—don't you, Uwen?'

She looked at him inquiringly, and he answered, fixing his gaze full upon her :

* An artist might also paint a Madonna from you. Mother Walmot has only beautiful eyes, and they have a different expression. Of course you must know better than Freda what the “beautiful” means.

Teda's eyes beamed with pleasure. She hung the engraving on the wall again. Freda felt that she would like to say something, but she could not tell exactly what. She felt herself inferior to her companions in culture and comprehension, and felt it more and more difficult to breathe in the close atmosphere of the room. At last she whispered :

Can't we go outside ? it looks so beautiful.' As she uttered the last word, she felt there was something beautiful that she was able to comprehend perhaps better than Teda-certainly in a different way. And so she felt secretly consoled as they came outside the house; the sense of oppression was removed, and her cheerfulness returned.

Uwen exclaimed, 'I feel hungry! and Teda responded, 'So do I.'

Freda thought mother would have the dinner ready, and they might as well go over. So they went on their way, and



the larks, unseen, poured forth their carols in the blue sky overhead. It was a most lovely day in spring. Freda was overflowing with delight; a jest even rose to her lips as she asked her companion :

‘And do you think of nothing but heaven when you are hungry and hurrying home to dinner?'

Teda could not repress a smile as she answered:

"We are, indeed, enjoined to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread," and if your mother has something good besides, I shall have no objection. It is, too, quite proper on confirmation day. My mother likes her ease too well to give herself

any trouble.'

Walmot's larder had not been able to furnish any special dainty, but still there was an addition to the meal which was quite an unusual thing in the village or at the parsonage. On the neatly-spread table stood a bottle of ruby-coloured wine, which, with a couple of others, she had once bought at Emden for use in case of illness. It had been cast ashore from some wreck, and was apparently of Spanish vintage, sweet and sparkling. The unwonted beverage cast a genial glow over the simple fare, and was thoroughly enjoyed by them all. The wine was drunk out of tiny coarse glasses, which had often to be filled up, and which as often gave forth a tempting aroma. But the best stimulant of all was Walmot's cheerful temper, and the pleasure which she took in making the young people happy. It mattered not to her whether the day was really more important than other days, but the three beside her looked upon it as a festival in their lives, and therefore it possessed similar importance for Walmot too. Her views bore a singular resemblance to those of Pastor Remmert; in both they sprang from the same root, an unselfish disposition. Only in the pastor's estimation the soul of his own child was no more precious than any other soul, while to Walmot her own Datya stood first of all, and was the dearest of all. Still, she strove her utmost to make up to Uwen, and Teda too, for all that was lacking in their daily life at home; she was just as thoughtful for them as though some moral obligation had imposed on her this charge. There was, it is true, a striking difference in the aim and in the results of the unselfish disposition of Pastor Remmert and that of Walmot. The former sought for those entrusted to his charge the imperishable riches of life eternal ; the other aimed at increasing the joys and softening the

« ForrigeFortsett »