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Full text of "Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness!"

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THY SOUL SHALL 
BEAR WITNESS ! 



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FROM THE SWEDISH OF 

DR. SELMA LAGERLOF 

TRANSLATED BY 

WILLIAM FREDERICK HARVEY 



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: LONDON 

ODHAMS PRESS LIMITED 
89 LONG ACRE, W.C. 2 



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Original Works issued for the first time 
in" book form. . 

Thy Soul shall bear Witness I Dr. Sblma Lagerlof 
The Virgin of Stamboul - Louisb Jordan Miln 

Bimonetta (from the Play Carnival) H. C. M. Harding* 
The Auction ol Souls - Aurora Mardiganian 
The Power ol the Borgias - Wm. Lb Queux 
Spiritualism— The Inside Truth Stuart Cumberland 
Aunt Angel ' - May Cromkrlim 

The Ship that Sailed on Friday Rolf : Bennett 

-i Rolf Bennett 

- Arthur Seymour 
Cecil H. Bullivant 
Cecil H. Bullivant 
Cecil H. Bullivant 
Cbcil H. Bullivant 

- Paul Trent 

- M. E. Francis 
Oliver Bland 
John Gabriel 

-.: John Gabrtsl 

- Charles Platt 
Maris Connor Leighton 

Sydney Horler 



A Bachelor's Baby - 

The Fall o! the Mighty - 

Oarnett Bell, Detective 

Hilly Lynne, Shop Investigator 

A Strong Man's Way 

Mysteries of Myra 

The Man Who Made Good 

Bosanna Dew - - 

Outwitted - - - ■ ' 

The Last ol the Corinthians 

A Prince of Sportsmen - 

Famous Fights and Fighters 

The Stolen Honeymoon 

Goal! - 

The Breed of the Beverleys - Sydney Horler 

Seconds out of the Ring - Ladbrokb Black 

How to Become a Film Artiste 

Dangerfield & Howard 

London : Odhams Press Limited 

89 LONG ACRE, OD.C 2 



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BEAR WITNESS! 



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5th AVENUE 

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ODHAMS 



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Thb General Film Renting (1920) Company, 

Ltd., 152-158 Wardour Street, W. i, 
are the authorised dlstabutuig agents for the film 
rights throughout the United Kingdom of the 
Swedish Biograph Excel- Production of this story. 
Telegrams : " Nunbeter, Ox, London." 
Telephone No. : Regent 3000-3001. 



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CONTENTS 



CHAP. 

T. THE STORM WITHIN THE SOUL . 
II. THE BIRTH OF A NEW YEAR 
III. THE DEATH-CART . . . 

•IV. A CALL EROM THE PAST . 

V. SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 
VI. THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROADSIDE 
VII. THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 
VIII. DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 
IX. THE DRIVER'S PRAYER 



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25 

37 
65 
102 
130 
141 
168 
182 



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THY SOUL SHALL BEAR 
WITNESS! 

CHAPTER I 

THE STORM WITHIN THE SOUL 

It was a poor little Slum-Sister who lay dying. 
She had contracted consumption of the rapid kind, 
arid had not been. able to resist it beyond a year. 
For as long as she possibly could she went about 
performing her usual tasks, but when her strength 
was quite exhausted she was sent to a sanatorium, 
where she was nursed for several months without 
getting any better. When at last the girl under- 
stood that her case was hopeless she went home to 
her mother, who lived in a little house of her own 
in a suburban street. Now she was confined to her 
bed. in a narrow room-rthe very same room she had 
occupied as child and young girl— and was awaiting 
death. 

Her mother sat sorrowful at her bedside, but so 
anxious was she to bestow ah the care she could 



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10 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

on nursing her daughter, that she gave herself no 
time to weep. A Sister, who had been the sick girl's 
colleague in the slum work, stood by the foot of the • 
bed weeping silently. Her gaze hung with tenderest 
love on the face of the dying girl, and when the 
tears gathered in her eyes she hastily wiped them 
away. On a small uncomfortable chair, which the 
invalid so much prized that she had brought it with 
her when she moved, sat a stoutly^built woman, 
with a big " F " embroidered on the collar of her 
dress. She had been offered another chair, but she 
insisted on sitting on the rickety one — as a mark 
of respect, as. it were, to the sick girl. 

It was no ordinary day, this, but New Year's 
Eve ! The sky without hung grey and heavy, and 
so long as one sat indoors one fancied that the 
weather must be rough and chilly, but, once out 
in the air, one found that it was surprisingly mild 
and balmy.- The ground lay black — without snow ; 
now and again a snowflake fell, but it melted at 
once. Wind and snow seemed to think it not worth 
while eetting to work to make a pother in the Old' 
Year, but much preferred to husband their strength 
for the New Year that was fast approaching. 

It was much the same with men as with the 
weather. They, too, seemed unable to set about 



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THE ; STORM WITHIN J THE SOUL ir 

anything. There was no movement without nor 
any work- within. Right opposite the house where 
the woman lay dying was a plot of land where piles 
were being driven in for a building. A few labourers 
had come there that morning, had drawn up the 
great pile-driver, accompanied by the usual noisy 
song, and had let it drop again. They did not 
stick long at their work, but soon tired of it, and 
went their way. 

It was just the same with everything else. A few 
women had hurried by with their baskets to make 
purchases for the holiday. The traffic had con- 
tinued for a while, but soon stopped. Children 
who had been out playing in the street were 
summoned home to put on their best clothes— 
and, after that, they had to stay indoors ! Cart- 
horses were driven past, to be stabled far away in 
the suburb, to rest for the next twenty-four hours. 
The longer the day advanced the quieter everything 
grew, and the cessation of every sort of noise was 
felt as a relief.. 

, "--It is well that she should die thus, on a holiday, ' ' 
said the mother. '* Soon there will be no sounds 
from without to disturb her." 

The sick giri. had been lying unconscious ever 
since morning,' and the three who were gathered 



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12 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! . 

round her bed could say anything without her : 
hearing them. In spite of this, however, it was 
easy to perceive that she was not lying in a state of 
dull torpor — her countenance had changed its 
expression many times in the course of the forenoon. 
It had looked astonished and anxious ; sometimes 
it had an imploring; at other times a cruelly tortured 
expression. Now for a long time it had been marked . 
by a violent resentment, that marred and beautified 
it at the same time. ■ " • 

The little Slum-Sister had become so unlike 
herself that her companion, who was standing at 
the foot of the bed, stooped down to the other 
Salvationist, and whispered : '";'•: 

" Look, Captain, Sister Edith is getting so . 
beautiful ; she looks like a queen:" : 

The stoutly-built woman got up from the low 
chair so as to get a better look at the invalid. 
Assuredly never before had she seen the littje Sister 
without the meek and cheerful mien which she 
had retained up to the last, however tired and ill 
she might feel. So surprised was the Captain at 
the change in the girl's appearance that she did not 
resume her seat, but remained standing. 

By an impatient movement the little Sister had 
thrown herself so high on the pillow that she was 




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THE STORM: WITHIN THE SOUL 13 

sitting half upright in the bed. An expression of 
indescribable majesty hovered over her brow, and, 
though her mouth did not move, she looked as if 
words of chiding and contempt were issuing from 
her lips. 

The mother looked up : at the two wondering 

women. " She has been like this on other days as 

. well," she remarked. "Was it not about this 

time of day that she used to go on her rounds ? " 

The Slum-Sister glanced at the patient's battered 

. little watch that ticked on the table by the bedside. 

' Yes," she admitted, " it was at this time she 
. used to seek the outcasts." 

She stopped abruptly and put her handkerchief 
■•; to her eyes; whenever she tried to say something 
about the invalid she found jt difficult not to burst 
out weeping. 

The mother took one of her daughter's hard little 

hands into her own, and stroked it. 

" She has, I suppose, had far too hard a task in 

. helping them to keep their dens clean, and warning 

them against their vicious habits," she said, with 

suppressed resentment in her voice. " When you 

•-'have a too exacting . task, it's hard to keep your 

thoughts from it. She fancies she is once more on 

her rounds, visiting them." 



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14 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

" That m^y sometimes be the case with a work 
one has loved too much," remarked the Captain 
quietly. 

They noticed how the patient's eyebrows were 
raised and lowered till the wrinkle between them 
became deeper and deeper, and how the upper 
lip curved upwards. They waited, only for the 
eyes to open and . shoot a glance of withering 
scorn. 

" She looks like an avenging angel J " cried the 
Salvationist Captain in an excited tone. 

"What can they be about in the slums this 
particular day ? " wondered her companion, as she 
pushed past the others, so that she could stroke 
the dying girl's forehead. "Sister Edith, don't 
worry yourself about them any more," she went on, 
and stroked her once again. "Sister Edith, you 
have done enough for them." 

These words seemed to have power to release 
the sick girl from the vision that obsessed her ; her 
features lost their look of tension, of majestic wrath. 
The gentle and suffering expression, which was her 
usual one since her illness, returned. 

She opened her eyes, and, on seeing her companion 
bending over her, she laid her hand on the latter's 
arm, and tried to draw, her down to her. 



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THE STORM WITHIN. THE SOUL 15 



The Sister could hardly guess the meaning of 
this gentle touch, but she understood the imploring 
look in the eyes, and bent down to the sick girl's 
lips. 

" David Holm I " whispered the dying girl. 

The Sister shook, her head, doubting if she had 
heard accurately. 

The sick girl tried her hardest to make her mean- 
ing clear. She uttered the words with a pause 
between each syllable. 

" Send— for— Da— vid— Holm." 

She gazed into the Sister's eyes until she was 
certain that her friend had caught her meaning. 
This done, she lay down again to rest, and a couple 
of minutes afterwards she was off again, occupied 
just as before, mentally present at some hideous 
scene which filled her soul with wrath and 
anguish. 

: The Sister rose from her stooping position. She 
had ceased weeping, and was seized by a strong 
emotion that had driven away her tears. 

" She wants us to send for David Holm ! " 

It seemed to be something quite awful that the 
patient longed for — the big, coarse Salvationist 
Captain was as much agitated as her companion. 

" David Holm ! " she repeated. " That's hardly 






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16 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 

possible, I suppose ; nobody would allow David 
Holm to approach anyone who was dying." 

The girl's mother had sat down and seen how her 
daughter's "countenance was working up to that 
judicial expression of indignation. She now 
turned to the two embarrassed women for an 
explanation. 

" Sister Edith wants us to send for David Holm," 
explained the Salvationist Captain, " but we don't 
know if that is fit and proper." 

" David Holm? " asked the girl's mother doubt- 
fully. "Who is he? " 

" He is one of those with whom Sister Edith has 
had a lot of trouble in the slums, but the Lord has 
not vouchsafed to her to gain any influence over 
him." 

" Perhaps it is God's purpose, Captain," said the 
Sister hesitatingly, " to work upon him in these 
\ her last moments." 

The girl's mother looked at her indignantly. 
" You have had the upper hand with my daughter, 
you know, as long as she had a spark of- life left. 
Let me have her to myself now that she is on the 
point of death." 

That settled the matter. Thg" Sister resumed 
her place at the foot of the bed ; the Salvationist 



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THE STORM WITHIN THE SOUL 17 

sat down on the little chair, shut her eyes, and was 
quickly absorbed in low murmured prayer. The 
' others caught a word or two — she was beseeching 
God that the young Sister's soul should be suffered 
to depart in peace from this life, without being 
troubled and disturbed any more by the duties and 
cares which belong to this world of trials and 
tribulations. 

Whilst absorbed in prayer she was aroused by 
-the Sister laying a hand on her shoulder. She 
opened her eyes suddenly. 

The sick girl had recovered consciousness once 
more, but she was not looking so meek and humble 
as on the last occasion ; something of that threaten- 
ing storm-cloud still lingered upon her brow. 

The Sister stooped over her, and heard clearly 
enough the reproachful . question : 

" Sister Mary, have you sent for David 
Holm?" 

It was likely enough that the others would be 
prepared to make excuses, but something *he 
woman read in the poor girl's eyes silenced her^ 
"I will fetch him to you, Sister Edith," she promised, 
and turned apologetically to the mother. " I 
have never said no to anything Sister Edith has 
asked me. How can I do so to-day ? " 



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18 THY SQUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

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The girl shut her eyes with a sigh -of relief, and 
the Sister quitted the little room. " Then all was 
hushed again. The dying girl's chest laboured more 
painfully, and. her mother drew nearer to the bed, 
as though anxious to shield her daughter from 
death. 

A few seconds afterwards the girl looked up. 
She had the same impatient expression as before, 
■— - but when she saw that "her companion's seat was 

~j- empty, she realised that her 1 wish was about to be 

gratified, and her face assumed a gentler expression. 
She made no attempt to speak, but, oh the : other 
hand, she did not sink into a coma, but kept awake. 
An outer door opened, and she sat up in bed. 
Directly afterwards the Sister looked in at the 
bedroom door, which she opened as narrowly as 
possible. 

" I dare not come in," she said, " I'm too cold. 
Captain Andersson, be kind enough to come here 
for a moment." She noticed at once how expect- 
antly the sick girl's eyes were fixed on her. " I've 
not been able to find him, yet, Edith," she added, 
" but I met Gustavsson and two others of ours, 
and they promised me to have him found. Sister 
Edith, Gustavsson will be sure to bring him to 
you if it is at all possible." 



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THE STORM WITHIN THE SOUL 19 

She had hardly finished speaking before the dying 
girl shut her eyes and relapsed into that mood of 
inward contemplation which had obsessed her all 
that day. 

" She sees him right enough," remarked the 
Sister. Her voice had in it a ring of indignation, 
but she corrected herself immediately. "Alleluia ! 
it's no misfortune that God's will should be 
done." 

She. quietly retired into the outer room, followed 
by the Salvationist Captain. 

There stood a woman who could hardly have been 
more than thirty years old, but who had so grey 
and almost savagely lined a complexion, such 
scanty hair and so shrunken a figure, that many an 
old woman was not so ill-favoured in these respects. 
Moreover, she was so miserably clad that you might 
have fancied that she had put on some particu- 
larly wretched rags for the purpose of going out 
begging. 

The Salvationist glanced at this woman with a 
feeling of fast rising anguish. It was not her sorry 
clothes or her premature old age that was the worst 
point about her, but the steely rigidity of her 
features. It was a human being which moved and 
walked or stood, but who seemed absolutely ignorant 



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20 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 

as to where she was. She had apparently suffered . 
so dreadfully that her soul had reached a 
crisis ; she might the next moment go raving : 
mad. 

" This," explained the Sister, " is David Holm's 
wife. I found her 'like this when I reached her 
house to fetch the man here. He had gone out, 
and she was pacing there all alone, unable to 
answer a word to my questions. I dared : not 
leave her' by herself, so I brought her with me 
here." • ■ 

" Is this David Holm's wife? " exclaimed the 
Salvationist Captain. " I have certainly seen her 
before, though I can't identify her. What can. have 
happened to her ? " 

" It's clear enough what has occurred," replied 
the Sister sharply, as if seized by an impatient rage ; 
"it's her husband who' is torturing the life out of 
her." 

The Salvationist scrutinised the woman again and 
again. Her eyes were bulging out of their sockets 
and their pupils were staring fixedly before her ; 
two of her fingeTs were incessantly writhing about 
each other, and time after time a slight shiver ran 
over her lips. 

" What has he done to her ? " she wondered. 



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THE STORM WITHIN THE SOUL 21 

" I don't know. She could not answer my ques- 
tions, but sat shivering like this when I came. The 
children were out, and there was no one to ask. O 
Lord God, that this should happen on this very day. 
How can I manage to look after her now, when I want 
to think of nobody but Sister Edith ? " 

" The fellow has been beating her, I suppose." 

r ' There must have been something far worse. 
I've seen plenty of women who have been beaten, 
but they were, never like this. No, it has been 
something a great deal worse," the Sister exclaimed, 
with increasing horror. " We saw, you know, from 
Sister Edith's face that something terrible had 
happened." 

' Yes," -cried the Salvationist Captain ; " now 
we can understand . what it was that worried her. 
Thank and praise God that Sister Edith did see, so 
:that you reached there in time, Sister Mary. Thank 
the Lord and praise Him ! It is certainly His 
purpose that we should succeed in saving the poor 
woman's reason." 

" But what am I to-do with her ? She follows me 

; when I take her hand, but does not understand a 

word I say. Her soul has taken flight ; how can 

. we recapture it ? I've no influence over her ; but 

perhaps you will succeed better, Captain Andersson ? " 



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22 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

The heavily-built Salvationist took the poor 
woman's hand, and spoke to her in a. gentle, but- at 
the same time stern, voice. Not a glimmer 'of 
understanding, however, was discernible on the 
woman's countenance. 

In the middle of these useless efforts Edith's 
mother put her head in at the door. 

" Edith is getting restless," she warned them ; 
" you had better'come in." 

Both the Salvationists hurried into the little 
bedroom. Edith was tossing backwards and for- 
wards on her bed ; but her restlessness seemed 
rather to have been due to something weighing on. 
her mind than to actual physical pain. She became 
quiet directly she saw her two friends in thieir usual 
places, and shut her eyes. : ■ 

The Salvationist gave the Sister a sign to remain 
by the patient, but she herself got up, intending 
to steal noiselessly out again. At that moment 
the door opened and David Holm's wife walked in. 

She went up to the bed, and stood there with 
staring, dazed - eyes, shivering as before, and 
twitching her bony fingers till the joints cracked. 

It was long before anyone noticed any signs that 
she was aware of what she saw, but the steeliness 
of her glance gradually relaxed ; she leaned forward, 



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THE STORM WITHIN THE SOUL 23 

and drew nearer and nearer to the face of the dying 
girl. 

Something defiant and awful passed over the 
wretched woman ; her fingers clasped and unclasped. 
The two Salvationists jumped up, in fear that she 
was about to fling herself on Edith. 

The little Slum- Sister opened her eyes, gazed at 
the dreadful, half-insane creature before her, sat 
up in bed, and flung her arms around her. She 
drew the woman towards her with all the strength 
which she could muster, and kissed her forehead, 
cheeks, and lips, whispering meanwhile : 

" Ah, poor Mrs. Holm ! Poor Mrs. Holm ! " 

At first the broken victim of misfortune seemed 
inclined to draw back, but all at once a shiver passed 
through her body ; she burst into sobs, and fell on 
her knees beside the bed, her head pressed against 
Edith's cheek. 

" She is weeping, Sister Mary, she is weeping," 
whispered the Salvationist ; " she will not go mad 
now." 

The Sister's hand clutched tightly her tear- 
drenched handkerchief as she mopped her eyes in 
a desperate effort to steady her voice. " Captain, 
it's Sister Edith alone who can work such marvels. 
Oh ! what will become of us when she is gone ? " 



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24 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

The next moment they caught an imploring 
glance from Edith's mother. 

" Yes, certainly," said the Salvationist, with 
quick understandkig ; " it would riever do for the 
husband to come and find her here. No, Sister 
Mary, you must remain with your friend," she went 
on, when the Sister was about to leave the room. 
" I will look after this other one." 



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CHAPTER II 

THE BIRTH OF A NEW YEAR 

OK this same New Year's Eve, but so late that it 
: was night and quite dark, three fellows were sitting 
dririking ale and Schnapps in the little shrubbery 
surrounding the city church. They had thrown 
themselves down on "a withered grass-plot, beneath 
some lime-trees, the black branches of which 
gleamed with moisture. Earlier in the evening 
they had gathered together in a lap-room, but, 
after closing time, they sat out-of-doors, as they 
knew that it was New Year's Eve, and for that 
reason they had betaken themselves to the shrubbery. 
They wanted to be near the steeple-clock, so as not 
to miss hearing when it was time to drink a toast 
to the New Year. 

They were not sitting in darkness, but had 
abundance of light from the gleams thrown on the 
shrubbery by the electric lamps in the surrounding 
streets.. Two of them were old and down-at-heel; 



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26 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



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a couple of unlucky tramps who had slunk into the 
town to swill up the coppers they had amassed by 
begging. The third was a man somewhat past 
thirty. He, like the others, was very shabbily 
dressed, but he was tall and well built, and seemed 
to be sound of limb and stalwart. 

They were afraid of being discovered and driven 
off by the police, and that was the reason of their 
sitting close together, so that they might talk in low 
tones, almost in whispers. The younger fellow 
was doing the talking, and the other two were 
listening with -such rapt attention that they let the 
bottles he for a long while undisturbed. 

" Once upon a time I had a chum," said the 
speaker, and his voice took a serious, almost eerie 
tone, while a gleam of cunning lit up his eyes, " who. 
was always quite unlike his usual self on New Year's 
Eve. Not because he had on that day gone through 
his big account books and was dissatisfied with his 
year's profits, but simply because he had heard 
tell of something dangerous and mysterious which 
might befall anybody on that day. I assure you, 
friends, that he used to sit silent and anxious from 
morning to night, and would not once look at a 
drink. He was not a moody man otherwise, but 
it would have been as impossible to get him out on 






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THE BIRTH OF A NEW YEAR 



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a New Year's Eve — for a little spree such as this — 
. as it would be for one of you two to be hail-fellow- 
well-met with the Lord Lieutenant. 

" Ah, well ! I suppose you are wondering what 
he was afraid of. It was something of a job to get 
that out of h im, but on one occasion; however, he 
: told me what it was. Perhaps you Would not care 
to hear it to-night ? It does feel a bit dismal in a 
shrubbery like this, which, likely enough, may have 
been a graveyard in bygone days. What do you 
think ? " 

As the two tramps naturally protested that they 
did not know what it was to be afraid of ghosts he 
: proceeded to tell the story. 

" He had come of a rather superior class, this 
man I'm telling you about. He had been a student 
at Upsala University, so he knew a little bit more 
than fellows like . us, you see. And mark you, 
gentlemen, he kept sober and quiet on New Year's 
Eve simply so as not to get mixed up in a fight, or 
expose himself to the risk of any accident, and so 
come to die on that day. He did not care a rap if 
he met his death on any other day whatsoever, 
provided only that nothing fatal befell him on New 
Year's Eve, for in that case he believed that he 
would be made to drive the death-cart." 



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28 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

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"The death-cart? " repeated his two hearers 

together, in a tone of interrogation. 

The tall fellow amused himself by whetting their 
curiosity, asking them if they really wanted to hear 
the story just where they were sitting ; but they 
were eager for him. to go on with it. 

" Well, this friend of mine," he continued, 
" always used to assert that there is an old, old cart, 
of the sort which peasants use for carrying ;< their 
goods to market, but so dilapidated that it never 
ought to exhibit itself on the king's highway. It 
is so bespattered with mud, so dusty and dirty, that 
one can hardly see what it is made of. Its shafts 
are flawed, its fellies sit so loosely that they rattle, 
the wheels have not seen grease within the memory 
of man, and creak in a way to drive one crazy. Its 
bottom is rotten, and the driver's cushion is tattered 
and torn, and half : the back of the seat has been 
broken off. And' this' cart has an old, old horse 
that is one-eyed, lame, and grey with age in mane 
and tail. It is so skinny that its spine sticks up 
like a saw beneath its skin, and all its ribs can be 
counted. It is stiff-legged, lazy, and ill-disposed, 
and moves no faster than a young child crawls. : For 
the horse there is harness that is worn out and moth- 
eaten, it has lost all its buckles and clasps, and the 



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r :'=) 



THE BIRTH OF A NEW YEAR 29 

pieces are joined together with odds and ends of 
sail twine and birch twigs. It cannot boast a 
single boss of brass or silver, but only a few sparse 
tassels of yarn, which are a disfigurement and not 
an ornament. The reins are in keeping with the 
harness, for they consist solely of knot upon knot — 
they have been mended so often that nobody can 
make any "further use of them." 

He got up and screeched out his hand for the 
bottle, perhaps ; > give his audience time to reflect 
on "."hat they had heard. 

" Perhaps you think this sounds too much like 
romancing," he said, resuming his story ; " but see, 
the fact is that, besides the harness and the wretched 
reins, there is a driver, who sits crooked and loath- 
some on the tattered seat, and drives *he old horse. 
He is blue-black on the lips and grey-blue on the 
cheeks, and his eyes are as sombre as broken mirrors. 
He is clad in a long black stained monkish habit, 
•with a cowl which he pulls down over his face, and 
in his hand he holds a blunt and rusty scythe in a 
long handle* And, mark you, the man who sits 
driving", with those reins tied together, is no ordinary 
driver,. but is in the service of a grim master whose 
name is Death. Night and day he needs must fare 
on his master's errands. Directly anyone is doomed 



M 








30 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



to die — understand that, friends— it is his duty to be 
on the spot. He comes rattling along in his creaking 
old cart, as fast as the lame horse can drag him/' 

The narrator paused, and; tried to get a glimpse of 
his companions' faces. When he discovered that 
they were as attentive as he could possibly desire he, 
went on with his story. 

" You haVe possibly seen some picture or other 
of Death, and you have perhaps noticed that, for 
the most part, he goes on foot. That is not Death 
himself, but only his driver. Look you, one might 
think that, so high and mighty a lord maybe' will 
garner none but the very finest crops, and will leave 
to his driver the care of the poor little straws and 
weeds that grow by the wayside. But now you 
must pay attention to the most curious thing in this 
story. Well, the legend is that, though there is 
always the same cart and the same horse to make 
the rounds in this particular business, yet it is not 
always the same driver. That grim figure will be the 
last man or woman who dies during the year — the 
one who gives up the ghost just as the clock strikes 
twelve on New Year's Eve — and is foredoomed to. 
become Death's driver. His corpse will be buried 
like all other corpses, but his wraith must don the 
monk's habit, grasp' the. scythe, and journey round 




. _ - . - . 



' K. 



THE BIRTH OF A NEW YEAR 



3i 



from one house of death to another for a whole 
year, till he or she is released on the next New Year's 
Eve." ; 

He ended his story, and gazed at his undersized 
companions with a look of crafty expectation. He 
noticed that they were looking in a fruitless effort to 
see what time the church clock was pointing to. 

" The clock has just struck a quarter to twelve," 
he informed them, " so you need not have the 
'slightest doubt that the fateful hour has come. 
Now perhaps you understand what it was that my 
friend dreaded— nothing except that he might die 
just when the clock struck twelve on New Year's 
Eve, and that he might be compelled to become the 
ghastly driver I have told you about. All that day, 
I believe, he used to sit and imagine that he could 
hear, the death-cart creaking and rattling. And, 
mark you, gentlemen, the curious part of it is that 
he is said to have died last year on that very same 
New Year's Eve." 

" Did he die immediately before the New Year 
was ushered in ? " 

" All I know is that he died on New Year's Eve, 
but I've never found out the exact time. Well, well, 
I might have predicted that he would die at that 
very hour, because he sat worrying himself about. 



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32 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

it. If you two got that idea into your heads, likely 
enough the same fate would overtake you." 

The two puny fellows, as if by mutual agreement, 
each clutched the neck of a bottle and took a long 
pull, after which they began slowly and awkwardly 
to stagger to their ..feet. 

" But, friends, surely you would never dream of 
going your ways before the stroke, of midnight ? " 
cried the narrator, when he saw that he had suc- 
ceeded all too well in frightening them. " I can 
never really believe that you attach the least im- 
portance to such an old wife's story as. this. Bear 
in mind that my friend was rather a weakling— not 
like us, of good, sound old Swedish stock. Come now, 
will you take a drink and sit down again ? It will, 
I think, be just as we'll," he went on, when he had 
got them down on the grass, " for us to keep our seats. 
This is the first place where I've had a rest since 
morning. Everywhere else I was attacked by the 
Salvation Army people, who want me to go to Sister 
Edith, who, "so they say, is dying. But I made 
excuses. Nobody for choice would let himself in .. 
for such a beastly sermonising as I should get." 

The two tramps, their brains clouded by their 
last heavy pull at the Schnapps bottle, both bounced 
up at hearing Sister Edith's name mentioned, and 



1 




Satiisk Biograph Co., UJ 



VICTOR SEA-STROM 
\David Holm 



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SatJisk Biognph Co., Ltd.; 



TORE SVENBORG 
iGeorce Geller) 



'■'__ :■'.. . THE BIRTH OF A NEW YEAR. 33 

1' '"'" ■"'-'■ ■. : •' '-."'" 

'."..' asked if she was the one who was managing the 
Slum Rescue in that town. 

"Yes, right enough, she's the one !"; replied 
the younger man. " She has been honouring me 
, with her special attentions all this year. I hope 
she isn't one ..of your intimate acquaintances, in 
which case your grief would be terrible." 
It was not unlikely that the two tramps retained 
, some "recollection of a .kindness Sister Edith had 
' shown them. "They asserted with dogged deter- 
mination that, according to their view of the matter, 
; if Sister Edith Wanted to meet somebody, no matter 
who he or she might be, it was that person's plain 
duty to go to her at once. 

" Ha ! that's your opinion, is it ? " said their 
companion. " Well, I will go, if you, whose ac- 
quaintance with me is somewhat slight, can tell 
me what pleasure it would give Sister Edith to 
meet me." 

Neither of the two vagabonds condescended to 

answer" his question ; all they did was to insist on 

• his taking himself off, and, when he repeatedly 

refused to do so and got irritated with them, they 

' flew into such a violent rage as to declare that,- if 

he would not go of his own accord, they would give 

him a sound thrashing. Thereupon they got on 
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34 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! ... . 

their feet and rolled up their coat-sleeves .to attack 
him. 

Their adversary, who was quite aware that 1 he 
was the biggest and strongest man in the whole 
town, was moved with a sudden sympathy for the 
wretched weaklings.. 

" If you must needs have it that way," he criedi. 
" of jcourse I am ready whenever you please ; but 
I venture to say that I think, gentlemen, that we 
might as well make up this quarrel, especially if 
you bear in mind what I have just told you." 

The tipsy fellows hardly knew what had upset 
their tempers, but their lust for battle was whetted, 
and they hurled themselves on their companion 
with clenched fists. So confident -was he of his 
superiority that he did not trouble to stand up, 
but remained sitting on the ground. He merely 
stretched out his arms and warded off his adver- 
saries right and left; as if they had been a pair of 
puppies. But, like puppies, they returned to the 
attack, and one of them managed to deal the big 
man a doughty blow on the chest. The moment 
afterwards the latter felt something hot rising. in 
his throat and filling his mouth. As he was aware 
that one of his lungs was gone, he suspected this 
to be the starting of a hemorrhage. He stopped 




THE BIRTH- OF A NEW YEAR 



35 

1, wh|le 



fighting and threw himself on the ground, 
•a stream of blood gushed over his lips. 

This was of itself a grave misfortune, but what 
rendered it almost irretrievable was that his com- 
panions, when they felt the warm blood spraying 
over their hands and saw him sinking down, on the 
ground, believed that they had murdered him, and 
took to flight. He was left deserted! The 
hemorrhage, it is true, gradually ceased, but directly 
he made the slightest effort to rise the blood welled 
forth again. 

It was not a particularly cold night, but the 
dampness and chill began to torture him as he lay 
prostrate on the ground. He had a feeling that 
he was likely to perish unless someone came to his 
rescue and took him to a place of shelter. To all 
intents and purposes he was lying in the very heart 
of. the town, and, as it was New Year's Eve, there 
were multitudes of people up, and he could hear 
them walking about the streets that ran round the 
shrubbery— but not a soul entered it. He could 
even hear the murmur of their voices! It was 
hard, he thought, that he should perish for lack 
of help, when help was so near at hand. 

He lay waiting for a while, but the cold tortured 
him worse and worse, and, when he realised that 



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36 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS \ 

it was impossible for him to^get on his feet, be 
determined at any rate, to- I&out for assistance. .7 

Just as he was uttering his cry for help the clock 
in the tower above him began striking! 

The human voice was so completely stifled in 
that loud metallic clang that .nobody noticed his 
cry of distress. The hemorrhage started afresh, 
and it was now so extremely violent that he could 
hardly help thinking that all the' blood in bis body 
was about to leave it — if it had not, as it seemed, 
already done so. .. ^ 

" It can't really . be possible, that I am to die 
now, while the clock is actually striking midnight ! " 
he thought, but he had a feeling that he was going .. 
out like a burnt-out candle. 

He sank down into darkness, and unconsciousness 
at the very moment that the last booming stroke 
of the clock died away — heralding the birth of the 
New Year. 



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CHAPTER III 



THE DEATH-CART 





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Directly after the clock in the church tower had 
b_oomed out. twelve far-resounding strokes, a short, 
sharp, creaking noise cleaved the air. 

It recurred incessantly, at only momentary in- 
tervals, exactly as if it arose from some ungreased 
cart-wheel, but it was a much sharper and more 
disagreeable sound than that which would come 
from the most utterly worn-out vehicle. It had 
anguish in its train ; it aroused a dread of all the 
torture and suffering, imaginable. 

Lucky it was that this weird sound seemed in- 
audible to most of those who were waiting to see 
the Old Year out. If it had been audible, all the 
merry young people who wandered all night up 
and down the streets round the . market-place and 
church shrubbery, and who were now shouting 
to each other "A happy New Year," would have 
exchanged their festive greetings .for lamentations 

' 37 ' . 






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..... ^ ... __._,„, , . _ 

38 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS \ Y 

over all the evil that impended for themselves and 
their friends. 

Had it been audible, the congregation which was ' 
keeping watch-night in the mission chapel, and had 
just struck up the New Year's psalm of praise and 
gratitude to God, would have fancied that they 
heard mocking howls and yells from fallen spirits, 
intermingled with the singing. " 

Had it been audible, the orator at a merry party, 
who was standing, a bumper of champagne in his . 
hand, and was shouting for cheers for the New 
Year, would have stopped his speech to listen to 
the horrid raven-croak, with its foreboding of failure 
in all for which he had hoped and longed.. 

Had it been audible, all those who were watching 
that night in their silent homes, and examining in 
the light of their consciences all their actions in the 
bygone year, would have felt a keen despair at 
'their own helplessness and weakness lacerating, 
their hearts. 

It was lucky that the creaking was audible only 
to a single individual, and that this individual was 
one whom it behoved to be brought to disquiet, to 
the pangs of conscience, and, if it were possible, to 
self-contempt. - 

The man who had lost so much blood lay struggling 




*mmm 



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THE DEATH-CART 



39 



to recover his senses. He thought that there was 
something awakening him; that a bird with a 
piercing shriek, or whatever it might have been, 
was flying. over his head. He had, however, fallen 
into a delicious slumber, and could not rouse himself 
from it. 

Immediately afterwards he was convinced that 
the shrieking came from no bird — it was the old 
death-cart, about which he had been talking to the 
two vagabonds that was driving through the 
shrubbery, creaking and squeaking so horribly that 
he was unable to sleep. 

But, half-conscious as he was, lying there, he 
dismissed from his mind the idea that it could be 
the death-cart. • It was simply because, but a little 
time back, he had had it in his thoughts that he 
fancied he was hearing it now. He fell again into 
a trance — but once more that persistent creaking 
came nearer and nearer through the air, and would 
not suffer him to get any rest. At last he began to 
realise that, what he heard was the creaking of a 
real carriage ; it was no hallucination, but an actual 
reality, and it gave no hope of any cessation. 

Then he realised that he must make up his' 
mind to wake ; there was no other course open to 
him. 



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} ; .. . -J4':-:- 







:.... ._ n _ r _ , ^ _______ 

■11R1S :■%,'". 

40 THY SOUt; SHALL OBEAR>WITNESS ! 

At once he observed' that he was lying on. the 
same, spot, and that nobody had come to his assist- 
ance. All seemed just as it had been, but a couple 
of short and sharp creakings passed through the 
air. They seemed to come from a long distance', 
but they, were so persistent and ear-piercing that 
he immediately made up his mind that these were 
the sounds that had awakened Mm. 

He wondered if he had been lying unconscious for 
any length of time — but that did not' seem probable. 
There were people so near that he had heard 
them, just recently, shouting to each other "A 
happy New Year." From this he concluded that 
it could not be .much past midnight. 

The creaking recurred again and again, and, as 
the fellow had always been sensitive to strident 
sounds, he decided that it .would be as well if he 
ventured to get up and go his way, so as to escape 
the noise — anyhow, he would make the attempt ! 
He felt in excellent health after waking up. It, no 
longer seemed as if he had an open gaping wound 
in his chest ; he was no longer chilly or tired,, 
and did not feel conscious of his body, as is usually 
the case when a person is in perfect health.. 

He was still lying on his side, just as he had 
thrown himself down when the hemorrhage had 



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THE DEATH-CART 



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started, and now, in the first place, he decided to 
turn himself on his back to test what his far from 
robust body would stand. 

"Now I am going to lift myself on my elbow- 
very, very carefully," he thought; "then Twill 
turn round and let myself down again." 

The man was accustomed— as we all are— when 
his mind said : " Now I'll do this or that," to find 
the thing done instantly, but this time it happened, 
strangely enough, that his body remained lifeless, 
. refusing to carry out the prescribed movement. 
It simply lay completely inert ! 

Was it possible that he had lain there so long 
that, he had turned to ice ? But if he were actually 
frozen, then he must be dead— yet obviously he 
was alive, for he both saw and heard. Besides, it 
was not cold ; moisture was dripping-dropping from 
the trees above him. 

He had been- so busy wondering what sort of 
paralysis had seized him that he forgot, for a 
moment,' that excruciating creaking. But now he 
• heard it again. 

" Yes, David," he thought, " there is no possi- 
bility now of escaping that music; you must put 
up with it as best you can." 
/. .It was not easy for a man who, a moment before, 



~ .' 



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■■p 







42 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS 1 

had felt well and hearty, and was not in the least 
ill either, to be patient when lying inert. He made 
incessant efforts' to move &l any rate a finger, or 
raise an eyelid, but everything was equally 
impossible ! He began to wonder how he acted 
in former days when he could move. He fancied 
that, somehow or other, he had forgotten the 
trick! 

Meanwhile the creaking kept coming nearer and 
nearer. It was not far off now, for he could hear . 
that it proceeded from a vehicle which was coming 
very slowly down Long Street in the direction 
of the market-place. It must be some wretched . 
shandrydan that was coming, no doubt about that. 
Now he could hear not only how its Wheels were 
creaking, but also how the wood-work was rattling, 
and the horse slipping upon the wood pavement. 
It could not sound worse if the wretched death-cart 
— for which his old friend had such respect — were 
approaching. 

" We two, David," he thought, " are not as a 
rule particularly partial to the police, but if they 
were to turn up now and put a stop to this awful 
row, we should be -grateful to them." 

The man had always bragged about his strength 
of mind, but now he began to fear that this creaking 






' - • 



THE DEATH-CART 



43 



music, combined with everything else that had 
happened to him that night, would put a stop to 
that. He had some disagreeable apprehension 
of being found lying there, and, on the supposition 
that he was dead, being put into a shroud and 
buried. 

" You will have to he and hear all that is said 
around your dead body— and that is unlikely to 
sound much prettier than what you are listening 
h now.". 

Probably it was the creaking that made him, for 
once, think of Sister Edith — not, however, with 
any sort of remorse, but with an angry feeling that 
she had, in some way, got the better of him. 

The creaking filled the air and pierced his ears, 
but it failed to arouse in the man any repentance 
for the wrongs he had inflicted on others, but only 
angry recollections of all the- disagreeable and evil 
things that others had inflicted on him. 

Whilst he was most bitterly bemoaning his lot, 
he paused and listened intently for a whole minute. 
i Yes, true as he was alive, the vehicle had passed 
through Long Street, but had not turned off 
towards the market-place ; the horse was not 
stumbling any more upon the little round paving 
stones— it was tramping on a gravel path — it was 







&*-' - - ' 



?V--' 



1 









coming in 
shrubbery 

In his joy at the thought that he could possibly 
get help, the man tried hard to stand up,, but that' 
effort was as ineffectual as the previous one. With 
him it was only thought that seemed capable of 
movement. But to make up for that he heard the 
old cart coming nearer, and all the time its wood- 
work was groaning, its harness was grating, and 
the unlubricated wheels were painfully creaking. 
It sounded so utterly decrepit that he began to 
fear that it would tumble to pieces before it reached 
the spot where he lay. 

It moved so incredibly slowly, too> and, impatient 1 
as he had been at lying helpless and alone, he 
fancied that it -was taking more time to reach his 
spot than it actually did. What sort of a vehicle . 
it could be that was making for a shrubbery in the 
dead of New Year's night was a puzzle to him. 
Perhaps the driver was drunk, otherwise he would 
not be taking such a course. No help could be 
got from him if that were the case ! 

"It's the creaking that is making you so de- 
spondent, David " he said to himself^ " The cart 
has not turned down another alley, as you are 
imagining, but is making straight for you." 




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THE DEATH-CART 



The thing could not be more than a few steps 
from' him now, but it was the dreadful creaking 
which he could not stand, that had cooled his 
courage. 

" You are out of luck to-night, David," he con- 
tinued. '" You will find that it is a fresh bit of ill- 
luck that is coming to you. Some heavy roller is 
gOirig to run over you — or something cheerful of 
that sort!" 

The next moment the man saw the thing that he 
had been waiting for — though it was not a roller 
coming to crush him it was frightening him out 
of his wits. 

As he could not move his eyes any more than 
any limb of his body, he could see only what was 
right in front of him. As the creaking vehicle came 
from the side, it appeared in parts. The first 
object to display itself to him was an old horse's 
head, with a hoary foretop and blind in the eye 
which was turned towards him. Next came the 
fore-part of a horse, which had only one short 
stump left of one foot, and carried harness mended 
with bits of string and birch twigs, and adorned 
with -dirty tufts of yarn. 

Such was the sight presented by the whole of the 
hoist, the whole of the wretched cart, with the back 




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46 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS 1 



of its seat broken, and loose wobbling wheels— a 
, common market-cart, but so- badly used by age 
that no wares, it . seemed, could be- carried in 
it. 

The driver occupied his seat, and his appearance 
tallied accurately with the description the man 
himself had/but a short time back, given of him and 
his vehicle. He held in his hands a pair of reins 
which consisted of a succession of knots, his cowl 
was drawn over his eyes, and he sat askew, as 
though bowed down by a weariness that no amount 
of rest could ever cure ! 

The man had fainted after his second loss of blood, v 
and thought that his soul had fluttered away from 
him like an extinguished flame. It was not so 
now— yet he thought that it was shaken and whirled 
and agitated in such a manner that it could never 
come right again. From all that had happened to 
him before the cart came he ought to have expected 
to see something supernatural, but, even if he had 
for a moment entertained some thought or other of 
the kind, he had attached no importance to it. 
Now he beheld with his own eyes the apparition 
such as he had heard described in the legend. , 

" David, this is going to send you crazy," he = 
thought in his bewilderment. "It is not. enough 




''? '■ •;- ■-* ■ " 



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THE DEATH-CART 



47 



that my body is destroyed ; now my mind is 

What scared him at that moment was his catching 
sight of the driver's face. The horse had halted 
right in front of him, and at the same time the 
ddver had pulled himself together, as if he had 
awakened from a dream. He had thrown back 
Hs cowl with a weary movement, and was gazing 
in all directions, as if looking for something. 

Immediately the man on the ground met his 
eyes he recognised him as an old acquaintance. 

" Why, that's George," he said to himself 
" Though he is strangely attired, I recognise him 
— I recognise him ! " 

" Can you tell me, David, where he can have 
been all this time?" he continued, talking to 
himself. " I don't believe we have met for a whole 
year. But George is a free man — not tied with 
a wife and children like you, David. He must 
■ have been on a long tour — come perhaps from the 
North Bole. I think he does look pale and starved 
with cold/' ; 

He looked very closely at the driver, for there 
was something strange to him in the expression of 
.the latter's face. Yet it must be George, his old 
chum and boon-companion ! It could not be 







mtmmmmm 






y 






48 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 

anyone else. He recognised hinvby bis big head 
and hawk-nose, his huge black moustaches and 
his imperial. This main, who had the look about 
him which any sergeant — nay ! one might say any 
general— might be proud of, could hardly expect 
to be recognised by an old friend. 

" What are you saying, David ? " The mart 
resumed his curious questioning of himself. 
"Haven't you heard people say that .George died 
last year in a Stockholm hospital, and , precisely 
on New Year's Eve? I heard- it myself/ but this 
is the first time we two have failed to recognise 
each other— for this is George to the very life. Just 
look at him now; as he is getting up. Can it be 
anybody but George himself, "with that delicate 
body all out of proportion with his corporal's head ? 
Eh! what are you saying, David? Didn't you 
see, when he jumped out of the cart, that he had 
on a cloak that it looked as if he : was still wearing 
the long coat, full of holes, that used always to hang 
down to his heels? Buttoned right up to his 
neck, now as always, David, and the big red necker- 
chief that fluttered about his throat j but not a trace 
of waistcoat or shirt. Yes ! just the same George 
now as in the old days." " 
The paralytic felt quite cheered up. He would - 






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THE DEATH-CART 



49 



burst but laughing if, taking it aft together, 
it had been possible for him to laugh. 
*?■' Some day, if we get strong and well again — 

.you and I, David — we'll pay him back for this 
practical joke of this. He nearly drove me crazy 
with his queer rig-out, just as if he had laid dynamite 
under it. No other fellow than George would have 
■dreamt of picking up such a sorry horse and cart, 
and come driving in them to church ! Never once, 

• David, have you had the chance of getting up such 
a big bit of foolery as this. George was always a 
cleverer chap than you." 

' The driver walked up to the prostrate man and 
eyed him intently ; : his countenance was stern and 
grave, and^ evidently he did not know the man 
before him. 

There are two things I cannot make out in all 

. this»" thought the fellow: " One is how he found 
out that I and my pals were sitting on the turf 
here> and so got the idea of coming here and giving 
us a scare ; the other is his venturing to dress himself 
up just like that Death's driver whom he was always 
so frightened of." 

The driver stooped over him with the 
same weird look. " He won't be very cheerful, 
poor "wretch, when he finds out that he must 



; 



••'•-" ' .; 






50 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS I 

release me," the man heard him muttering to 
himself. : 

Leaning upon the scythe, the driver brought his 
face nearer and nearer ; next moment he recognised 
his friend. He bent : down towards him, threw 
back his cowl abruptly, and' looked him in the 
eyes. 

" Oh ! " he shrieked out,,," it is David Holm who 
is lying here ! He was the only one I hoped would 
be spared from this. 

"Ah, David, it is you, it is you!" he cried, 
flinging down his scythe, and kneeling before bis 
friend. " All the past year," he went on, with 
intense fervour and distress, " I. longed for an 
opportunity to say but a.single word to you— before 
it was loo late. Once I was almost able to do that, 
but, you withstood me, so I could not reach you. 
I thought I should have the chance one short hour 
afterwards, because I am now to be discharged 
from my duties, but you are already stricken down 
here. Now it is too late to warn you to take heed 
of yourself." ' 

David Holm listened with tremendous bewilder- 
ment. 

"What does he mean?" he wondered. "He 
is talking just as if he were dead. And when was 




if mi 



JgJE&ft&v 



i. 



m 



THE DEATH-CART 



5i 



it he was near me and I opposed him ? But, of 
course," he soothed himself by saying, " he must, 
you know, play up to the part he is acting." 

" I know, David," began the driver again, in. a 
voice trembling with emotion, " that it is my fault 
that you have come to such a pass as this. If you 
had n6t had the ill-luck to meet me you would have 
continued leading a quiet, honest life. You and 
your wife would have worked on, and in time reached 
prosperity. You were young and clever, both of 
you, and nothing should have prevented you. Be 
sure of this, David ; not a day has passed, this 
livelong year, without my calling to mind in bitter 
grief that it was I who lured' you from your in- 
dustrious habits and taught you my own bad ones. 
Alas," he continued, passing his hand over his 
friend's face, "lam afraid you have gone farther 
astray than I was aware of, for how else could these 
dreadful marks have been carven round your eyes : 
and mouth? " 

David Holm's good humour began to give way 
to impatience. " Let there be a stop to this 
foolery, George," he muttered. " Now, do go and 
find semeone who can help you lift me into your 
cart, and drive me to the hospital as fast as you 
can.*' 



•■'.'. - 

■ ■ ■ ! 



■CM 



! 







52 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 



" David, cannot you understand what has been 
my occupation during the last year? " cried the 
driver. " Do you not realise what kind of cart and 
horse have conveyed me here ? Do I need to tell 
you who, after myself, will have to grasp the scythe 
and hold the reins ?. But, David, bear in mind that 
it is not I who have condemned you to this fate. 
During the whole of this awful year that is 
before you, don't think for a moment that I 
was a free party, and could, therefore, have 
avoided meeting you to-night. Be well assured 
that I would have done my utmost, had it been 
possible, to prevent you "'undergoing ' the same 
penalty as I." 

" Poor Georga must have gone mad," David 
Holm decided, " else he would understand that it 
is -a question ol life or death for me, and that it 
will not do to dawdle in this' way/' 

Whilst these thoughts were passing through his 
brain, the driver gazed : on him with unutterable 
sadness. 

"You need not worry ■ yourself , David, at not 
being taken to. a hospital. When I •come .to a sick 
person, it is then too late to send for any other 
doctor." • 

" It's iny firm belief that all the witches and 




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THE DEATH-CART 



53 



■..■■• . • ■. 



... . 



• 



. 



•• . ■ 




devils are abroad to-night and have got up a per- 
formance among them," thought Holm. "When 
at last a fellow comes to me, who really could help 
me, he is either mad or malevolent, if he does not 
care a. straw if I perish." 

"I should like to remind you, David, of an 
incident that happened to you last summer," 
remarked the driver. " It was one Sunday after- 
noon, and you were trudging along the high-road 
through a deep valley ; wherever you looked lay 
broad fields and beautiful estates with verdant 
gardens. It was one of those sweltering hot after- 
noons which sometimes occur in midsummer, and 
I think you noticed, in the course of your walk, 
that you were the only one astir in all that country- 
side. The cows were standing still in the pastures, 
riot venturing beyond the shelter of the trees, and 
every human being had disappeared. They must 
have, betaken themselves to their homes to avoid 
the heat. Is it not true, David, that this was 
do?" 

; "It may have happened, you know," admitted 
the man, " but I've been out and about so many 
urnes .in the heat and cold that I can't remember 
them all." 

' Just when the silence was most intense, you 






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1 "a 



- 
ft" 












54 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS I 

heard a creaking behind you on the --road. You 
turned your head and fancied that someone was 
coming after you, but you could not discover anyone. 
You looked about you several times, thinking that ' 
it was the weirdest experience you had ever had. • . 
You heard the creaking quite distinctly— but where 
could it come from ? It was broad daylight open : . 
country, and the silence that reigned was such that 
nothing else could confuse the sound. You could 
not realise that it was possible for you distinctly 
to hear the creaking of a wheel without seeing any 
cart or carriage. You refused, however, to admit 
that there might be something supernatural in the 
incident. If only your thoughts h>d run in that 
direction, I might then have made myself visible 
to you — before it was too late." . 

David Holm now remembered all about the 
incident quite distinctly. He recollected that he 
had peeped behind the fences, and had peered down 
into the ditches, to find out what it was pursuing 
him. At last he had become half scared, and had 
gone into a farmhouse to escape from the pursuing 
noise. When he had come out again, all had been 
hushed. 

" That was the only time I saw you in the course 
of the year," continued the driver. " I did all I 



■"• i* 1ff ' ■ .' ~ — - 

THE DEATH-CART 55 

could to get you to see me, but it' did not lie in my 
power to come nearer to you than was necessary 
for you to hear the creaking. You were walking 
. like a blind man beside me." 

" It is true that I heard the creaking," thought 
David Holm, " but what does he want me to under- 
stand by that? Would he have me believe that 
it was he who was driving after me on the road ? 
I may have told the story to someone, but why 
: should he tell it in turn to George ? " 

The driver bent over him and spoke in the tone 
of one rebuking a sick child. 

" It is no use your struggling, David. It is not 

desirable that you should understand what has 

. happened to you. But you know more than well 

that I, who am addressing you, am no living man. 

- You have heard before this of my death, but you 

refuse to acknowledge it. Even if you had not 

heard of it, you have, you know, seen me driving 

in that fateful cart. In that cart, David, no living 

man is ever carried I ' ' 

v He pointed to the wretched vehicle, standing in 

• ■ i the middle of the avenue. 

"Just look at the cart, and look also at the trees, 
standing beyond it." 

David Holm obeyed his exhortation, and now, 



■ • ' ■ 



. 



1 



&&■ 



■ 
■ 



56 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



: -- : 







for the first time,, was forced to admit that he was 
in the presence of. something which he could not 
explain. He could actually see the trees, on the 
other side of the avenue,, right ■ through the oU 
cart ! 

' You have heard my voice many times," 
remarked the driver, " It cannot be possible that 
you fail to notice that I speak differently than I 
.did." 

David Holm had to agree to that. George had 
always had a beautiful voice, and so, also, had this 
driver ; but it was quite another sort of voice: It 
sounded thin and high-pitched, and not very audible. 
It was the same performer, without doubt, but'he 
was playing on another instrument. 

The driver stretched out his hand, and David 
saw that a drop of water, from the dripping branches 
above, fell upon it— but the drop was not arrested, 
but fell clean through the hand to the ground. 

On the gravel- walk in front of them lay a fallen 
bough. The driver took his scythe, thrust it under 
the bough, and lifted it up again through it— but 
the bough did not fall cleft in twain ; it remained" 
as intact as before. 

" Try not to misconstrue this, David," said the 
driver, "but rather to understand it. You see 



• '- • 






THE DEATH-CART 



me, and you thipk that I am like my old self — but 
this body of mine is such that those only who are 
dying or dead can see me. You, therefore, are 
not to think of my body as anything. It is a home 
for a soul — just as is your own body, and the bodies 
of other human beings. You must not regard 
it as something solid or heavy, or endowed with 
strength, but you are to regard it as an image that 
-you have, seen in a mirror, and then try to fancy 
. that it has stepped out of the mirror and can speak 
and move." 

David Holm no longer cherished any thoughts 
of rebellion. He looked the facts straight in the 
face, and was no longer at pains to evade them. 
It was, indeed, a dead man's wraith that was talking 
to him ; and his own body was that of a dead man. 
At the same time, however, while admitting this, 
he perceived that something within him was be- 
ginning to work itself up into a dreadful rage. 

" I will not be dead," he told himself fiercely. 
" I will not be a mere phantom and a nothing ! 
I will have a fist that I can fight with and a mouth 
that I can eat with." 

At these words, the rage within him gathered 
into a dense black cloud which rolled to and fro, 
sultry and loathsome, and tortured no one but 






3 

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■HiH 







5 ' 



- ■ 

- 

; 



- 



58 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

himself, nor that for long, but was ready to burst 
at the first opportunity. 

" There is something which I wish to ask you 
about, David, because you and I were good friends 
. in old days," continued the driver. " You know 
as well as I do that there comes a time to every 
man when his body is destroyed, or so worn out 
that the soul that dwelt therein is forced to quit 
it. The soul, however, trembles and shivers in. 
anguish at entering an unknown country. It 
stands much in the same way as a child by the sea- 
shore, that shrinks at committing itself to the waves. 
Before it dares to take the plunge, it must first 
hear a voice from someone, already in the Infinite, 
so it may understand that no peril aWaits — then 
it takes the plunge. 

" I have been a voice like that, David, for the 
whole past year, and such a voice must you be in 
the year at hand. And there is one thing I will 
beg of you — do not rebel- against this your lot, but 
accept it submissively ; otherwise you will bring 
great suffering upon yourself, and upon me." 

After saying this, the driver bent his head to 
look into David Holm's eyes. It seemed almost 
as if he shuddered at the defiance and rebellion 
that met his gaze. 




THE DEATH-CART 



fl . -,- ■ —■:-- 



59 



• 



.'< ^ 



" You must remember, David," he persisted, 
with even more insistent persuasiveness than before, 
" that this is not a thing you can escape from. I 
have as yet . not much knowledge of how matters 
stand on the other side. I have only been taken 
to -its borders, so to speak, but, so far as I have 
seen, no pity, no mercy, is to be looked for — you 
have to fulfil whatever is ordained, with good grace 
or with ill." 

Again he gazed into David Holm's eyes, but 
nothing met him there but the great blackness of 
a cloud charged with wrath. 

" I do not ifleny, David," he exclaimed, " that 
to sit in yonder cart and drive- that horse from house 
to house is the most awesome occupation that could 
be assigned to any man.- Wherever that driver 
comes, tears and lamentations await him ! What 
he has continually to see is sickness and destruction, 
wounds, blood, and horror. And that is perhaps 
the least' terrible part of it all. It is far worse to 
see that which lies within^that which is in agony, 
remorse, and dread of what may come. I have 
told you that the driver stands only at the threshold 
— he thinks, as men do, that he sees only acts of 
injustice, disappointment, unfairness of treatment, 
fruitless strivings, and confusion. He cannot peer 



- 







60 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS J 

so far into the other world as to discern if there is 
a meaning and a providence. He can see a glimpse 
of it sometimes, but, for the most part, he has to 
fight his way through darkness and doubt. And 
think of this, David ; though it is only for a year 
that the driver is doomed to drive the death-cart, 
yet time is not reckoned there according to earthly 
hours and minutes — as the driver is forced to reach 
every spot which he is ordered to visit, time for 
him is stretched out to such an extent that the 
single year is like thousands of your human years. 
Although the unfortunate driver knows that he is 
doing only what he is bidden to do, it is impossible 
to describe the loathing and disgust he feels for 
himself, and how he looks upon himself as damned 
by reason of his office. But worst, of all, David, 
is that, in the course of his journeys, the driver . 
also meets the consequences of such evil as he has 
committed during his earthly lifeT— for how should 
this be avoided I " 

The driver's voice nearly rose to a shriek, and 
he wrung his hands in anguish ; but he noticed that 
only withering scorn was gleaming on him from 
his old friend's eyes. '. He drew his cowl on, as if 
he felt chill. 

" But, David," he continued insistently, " I say 




. 



' - ■ i' ■ 



■ 



THE DEATH-CART 



61 



t 



% 



to you that, however hard that which awaits you 
may be, you must not rebel against it — unless 
indeed you wish to make it worse for you and for 
me than it is already. For I must not leave you 
to yourself ; it is my duty to teach you your work, 
.and that, I fear, will be the hardest task ever im- 
posed on me. You can keep me here, with my 
scythe, for weeks and months — nay ! even till next 
New Year's Eve. My year has expired, but I shall 
not get my freedom till I have taught you how to 
fulfil your Office with good grace." 

All the time he was speaking, the driver remained 
on his knees before David Holm, and his words 
gained strength by the sincere affection with which . 
he uttered them. Still on his knees, he paused for 
a moment, searching for a sign that his words had 
produced, some effect;' but in his former friend 
there remained a fixed determination to withstand 
him to the uttermost. 

■i " It rhay be that I am' dead," thought the latter ; 
" I can't help it if I am ; but nothing shall compel 
me to have anything to do with the death-cart and the 
death-horse. They must devise some other work 
for me-^-I won't have anything to do with that 
job." 
. The driver was about to rise from- his knees when 









' | 



• - 
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mm 




I 




62 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS I 

he suddenly, thought of something that he ought 
to add. 

" Bear in mind, David, that, up to now, it was 
George who was addressing you ; but now you 
have Death's driver to deal with. You remember, 
I suppose, whom people have in mind when they 
talk of him whose decrees are absolute."; 

The next moment he stood up, scythe in hand, 
his cowl pulled over his forehead. 

" Come out, you prisoner from your prison ! " 
he shouted in a loud and ringing voice. 

Instantly David Holm rose from the ground. He 
did not know how it had happened, but suddenly 
he was standing upright ! He tottered, as every- 
thing seemed whirling about him, both the trees 
and the church wall— but he soon gained his 
equilibrium. 

" Look round, David Holm," cried a stern 
voice. 

The man. obeyed in momentary". bewilderment. 
On the ground in front of him lay outstretched a 
splendidly built fellow, dressed in dirty rags. 
There he lay, weltering in blood and dirt', surrounded 
by empty bottles, with a red-blotched, swollen 
face, the original features of which nobody could 
guess. A stray beam of light from the distant 




-*■■■' - •-: 

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THE DEATH-CART 



63 



street lamps was reflected, with a baleful, malicious 
gleam; in the orbits of his eyes. 

Before this prostrate figure stood the man himself 
a tall fellow, of handsome build, clad in the same 
dirty raiment which the dead man wore. He stood 
before this other as his double. 

Yet he was not completely a double, for he was a 
nothing— perhaps it is wrong to say a nothing ; 
he was an image of the other, such h might be seen 
in a mirror, an image that had stepped out of the 
glass, and now lived and moved. 

He turned round hurriedly. There stood George, 
and he realised now that the latter, too, was nothing 
—only an image of the body that he once had 
possessed. 

" O soul which lost command of your body, the 
very instant that the clock struck twelve on New 
Year's Eve," cried George, " you shall relieve me of 
my office ! For the space of a year . you shall 
liberate the souls from their earthly tenements." 

At these words David Holm became his old 
aggressive self again. In a whirlwind of rage he 
rushed at the driver, made a snatch at his scythe 
to break it asunder— and at his cowl— to tear it to 
pieces. Then he felt his hands forced down, and 
. his legs snatched from under him ; something 



-. 



_ 



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mi > 




•■. 




64 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



invisible was bound round his wrists, chaining them 
together, and likewise round his ankles. After 
that he was lifted up and flung roughly, as a dead 
thing, into the cart, and there he had to he, without 
anybody caring how he had fallen. 

A moment afterwards the- cart started away ! 






( 



I 




SttbHsIi Biograph Co.', LU.< 



ASTRID HOLM 
(Edith L\rsson) 



1 



1 




Swedish liiograph Co., Ltd 






HILDA BORGSTROM 
Mrs. Holmj 



1 






y, : ~ : ■ . ; 



ii 



CHAPTER IV 

A CALL FROM THE PAST 

It was a narrow and lofty, but fairly capacious, 
room in a suburban bouse— a house so small that it 
was completely taken up by this room and a smaller 
one, which served for a bedroom. The room was 
lighted by a lamp suspended from the ceiling, and 
by its gleam one could see that it was cosy and 
comfortable. 

Not only that, it was a cheerful/ room, which 
provoked a pleasant smile on the lips of the visitor. 
You could see at once that those who dwelt there 
had amused themselves by furnishing it in such a 
way as to give the impression of its being a whole 
flat. 

The entrance to it was in a side wall, and hard by 
the door stood a small stove. Here also was the 
kitchen, and in it was gathered together all that 
pertained to cooking. The middle of the room was 
furnished as a living-room, with a round dining-table, 



; 










i 










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66 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



a couple of oak chairs, a tall grandfather's clock, and . 
a little cupboard for -china and glass. Here, of 
course, was the lamp, suspended from the ceiling, 
right over the round table, which sufficed to illum- 
inate the ante-chamber — the innermost portion of 
the room— with its mahogany sofa and drawing-room 
table, its flowery Axminster rug, its palm-tree in a 
tasteful china pot, and the innumerable photographs ! . 
What jokes such an arrangement of the furniture 
must have occasioned. If a good friend called, 
the fun would be to.take him into the ante-chamber 
and then apologise for his being left to sit by him- 
self whilst his hostess was obliged to shut herself up 
in the kitchen. At the dinner-table— which stood 
so close to the cooking department that.yoU could 
feel the warmth of the stove— you may have said 
many a. time with great pomposity : " Now you 
may ring for the housemaid to take away the plates." 
And if one of the children began to cry in the 
kitchen, you might pretend to laugh at th« joke 
that it should be careful not to shriek so loud, or. 
papa (who was sitting in the inner " room ")' might 
hear it. 

Thoughts akin to these usually sprang to the 
minds of people .who saw the room, but to those 
who entered it on New Year's Eve, shortly af^er 



■*.>i — < - 



-i 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



67 



midnight, most • assuredly no such light and flippant 
. fancies occurred. Those who then entered it were 
two men, both so down at heel and ragged that they 
might have been taken for common tramps, if one 
of them had not been wearing a black robe over his 
rags, and holding in his hand a rusty scythe. It 
was an unusual get-up for a vagabond, and, stranger 
still, was his way of entering the room— without 
turning a key or opening a door ever so little, but 
merely walking through it, although it was 
closed. 

. The second man was not wearing any alarming 
symbol, but when he came into the room, not 
walking, but in some queer fashion hauled and 
dragged in by his companion, he seemed a much 
more frightful object than the latter. Although 
he was bound hands and feet, and was with the 
uttermost contempt flung- down on the floor by 
his companion, lying like a dark heap of rags and 
wretchedness, he inspired dread through the frantic 
wrath that flamed from his eyes and distorted his 
countenance. 

. The two men did not find the room empty when 
they entered. They saw, at the round table in the 
living-room part, a young man with weak features 
and^ a pretty babyish look about the eyes, sitting 




m ?~ m ~ mmm ~ m ~^ mm 












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:" ; .'■ .-' ' ' ". . . ' • 

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68 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

with a somewhat older but small and delicate woman. 
The man was wearing a jacket on which, in striking 
big letters across his chest, was embroidered the 
words Salvation Army. The woman was clad in 
black, without any symbol except a bonnet of the 
usual type affected by Slum-Sisters, which lay in 
front of her on the table and testified to her 
connection with the Salvationists. 

Both these people were extremely distressed. 
The woman sat silently weeping, again and again 
drying her eyes with a moist and crumpled handker- 
chief. She did this impatiently, as if the tears 
embarrassed her by preventing her attending to 
something else that she ought to do. The man's, 
eyes were also red with weeping, but, in the presence 
of another, he refrained from giving full vent to 
his grief. 

Now and again they spoke a few words to each 
other, and it was evident that their thoughts were 
in another room with a sick person whom they had 
quitted for a moment so that her mother might 
be alone with her. They were, however, so engrossed 
with the invalid, that neither of them appeared to 
take the least- notice of the strangers. The latter 
certainly kept quite silent and still — the one stand- 
ing erect, leaning against the door-post, the other 






A CALL FROM THE PAST 



69 



lying nerve-racked at his feet. But the couple at 
the table ought, apparently, to have been amazed 
at these guests who had entered through closed 
doors and in the dead of night 

At any rate, the man who was on the floor felt 
astounded that these people should turn their eyes 
from time to time in his and his companion's direc- 
tion, without seeming to.be aware of their presence. 
He, for his part, could see everything, and, when 
he had passed through the town, he had noticed 
that everything seemed just like he had seen it 
with his human eyes— yet no one appeared able to 
see him. In his frenzy, the man had nursed the 
thought of trying to scare;his enemies by ^revealing 
himself to them in his present state, but he was 
forced to admit that he could not render himself 
visible to them. 

Never before had he been in this room, but he 
recognised both the people sitting at the table, and, 
for that reason, he had not the slightest doubt of 
his whereabouts. If anything could increase his 
rage, it was at being carried, against his will, to a 
place which he had, all the previous day, refused 
to enter. 

Suddenly the Salvationist at the table pushed 
his chair back. " It is past midnight now," he 



' 








70 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

said; "his wife thought that he would be back 
home by that time. I shall go there and ask him 
to come." 

Saying this, he rose slowly and reluctantly from 
his chair and took up his coat, which was hanging 
at the back of his chair, to put it on. 

" I understand quite well, Gustavsson, that you 
don't care for the job of going after him," replied 
the woman, struggling hard against the insistent 
weeping which threatened to stifle her voice, " but 
you must bear in mind, that it is the last favour 
Sister Edith asks of you." 

The Salvationist paused just as he was putting 
his arm into his coat-sleeve. "Sister Mary," he. 
said, " it may be true that this is the last service I 
can render Sister Edith, but I hope that David 
Holm will not be at home, or, if at home, that he 
will refuse to come with me. I have sought him 
several times to-day and begged him to come, as 
you and Captain Andersson told me to do, but I 
was glad all the time that he said ' No,' and that 
neither I nor anyone else succeeded in bringing 
him here." 

The prostrate figure started , when he heard his 
name mentioned, and an ugly sneer spread over 
his face 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



7* 



" That fellow seems to have a trifle more sense 
than the others," he mumbled. 
■ The Slum-Sister looked at the Salvationist, and 
spoke sharply, without her voice being choked with 
weeping. "Gustavsson, you had best this time 
convey the message in such a way that David Holm 
will be made to understand that he must come 
here ! " 

The Salvationist walked to the door with the air 
of a man who obeyed without conviction. 

" Shall I bring him here, even if he is as 
drunk as drunk can be?" he asked from the 
door. 

" Bring him here, Gustavsson— alive or dead, I 
had almost said. At the worst he can he here and 
sleep off his debauch. The only important thing 
is for us to get hold of him." 

The Salvationist had laid his hand on the door 
handle when suddenly- he turned and walked back 
to the table. 

" I don't like a fellow like David Holm coming 
here," he protested, and his face turned white with 
emotion. "Sister Mary, you know quite as well 
as I what sort of a fellow he is. Do you think, 
Sister, that he is fit to be here ? Don't you think 
that he is far too foul to go in there ? " he continued, 



1 

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■•■.••■■ 



72 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! . 

pointing to a door half -concealed in the ante-room 
part. 

" Do I think " she began, but he did not let 

her finish what she had to say. 

" Don't you realise, Sister Mary, that he may 
come only to jeer at us ? He will brag that one of 
the Slum-Sisters was so fond of him, that she could 
not die without getting a sight of him." 

The Sister looked up suddenly and shaped her 
lips for a hasty retort, but she bit them together ' 
again and reflected. 

" I can't bear his gossiping about her — least of 
all when she is dead ! " exclaimed the Salvationist. 

Directly afterwards came the Sister's answer, 
solemn and emphatic. " Gustavsson, are you 
certain that David Holm would be far wrong if he 
said that ? " 

The figure that lay imprisoned on the floor started, 
and was penetrated by a sudden feeling of joy. He 
was utterly astounded, and glanced up to George 
to see if he had noticed his emotion. The driver, 
however, stood motionless, but David Holm, by 
way of precaution, muttered something about it 
being a pity that he had not discovered that interest- 
ing fact while he was alive. It would have been 
something to brag about to his boon companions. 






-..-..- 






t 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



73 



The Salvationist was so perturbed by what he 
had heard that he clutched hold of the arm of a 
chair. The walls of the room were dancing round 
him. 

" Why do you speak in that way, Sister Mary ? " 
he askedj " You don't want me to believe " 

The S&ter was a prey to strong emotion. She 
clenched her hand tightly round her handkerchief, 
while she uttered words which gushed forth in a 
wild torrent, as if she were in a hurry to get them 
said before hesitation came to stop her. 

"Whom else should she hold dear? We two, 
Gustavsson, and all the rest who have learnt to 
know her, have allowed ourselves to be converted 
and conquered by her. We have resisted her in 
nothing, even up to the last. We have never 
mocked or sneered at her. She has no right to 
suffer either anguish or remorse for our sake. 
Neither you nor I, Gustavsson, is responsible for 
her lying where she now lies." 

The Salvationist seemed calmed by this out- 
burst. 

" I did not realise that you were speaking of love 
for sinners, Sister." 

" Nor do I, Gustavsson." 

At this confident assurance, one of the spectres 



> 



— , , , 










1 



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74 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



was again throttled by a feeling of joy which he 
could not express, but, afraid lest his anger, his 
frantic desire to rebel, should in some way be dis- 
pelled, he tried to choke it down at once. He had 
been taken by surprise, for up to now he had 
imagined that nothing but sermonising was in store 
for him. In future he intended to take better heed 
of himself. 

Sister Mary sat down and bit her lips to overcome 
her emotion, y She was about to make a sudden 
plunge. . ' 

" It does not matter my speaking to you of that, 
Gustavsson," she began, " for nothing matters now 
that she is about to die. If you will' sit down for a 
minute, I will explain what I mean." 

The Salvationist wriggled out of his coat and 
resumed his seat at the table. Without uttering a 
word, he sat looking expectantly at the Sister with 
his fine, honest eyes. 

" First of all, Gustavsson, I will tell you how we 
kept last New Year's Eve, Sister Edith and I,"- 
she continued. " It had been arranged at head- 
quarters, in the previous, autumn, that a Slum 
Refuge should be established in this town, and we 
two were sent to start it. We had a fearful lot of 
work, but the Brothers and Sisters had done their 



rif ii 



k 



. . .. ■ -i — 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



75 



utmost to help us, and by New Year's Eve we had 
got so far as to be able to move in. The kitchen and 
dormitories were already in order, and we had 
hoped that we should open the' Refuge on New 
Year's Day itself— but that diti not come off, 
because the sterilising oven and the wash-house 
were not ready." 

At first the Sister found it hard to keep from 
crying, but, as the story proceeded, and she was 
carried away from the present, her voice became 
more distinct. 

" In those days you did not belong to the Army— 
if you. had, you would have spent with us a very 
happy New Year's Eve. Some of the Brothers and 
Sisters paid us a visit, and we invited them to tea 
for the first time in the new home. You cannot 
imagine how happy Sister Edith wasj-at having 
established a Refuge here, where she was at home, 
and knew every poor person and understood what 
they needed. She walked about, looking at our 
coverlets and mattresses, our freshly painted walls, 
our bright pots and pans, with such joy that we 
could not help laughing at her. She was as 
merry as a grig— as the saying goes— and when 
Sister Edith is merry, then all the rest are 
merry." 




■— — ■ . - - - ■■ v 'r~::.t > -^i 







..'■•■■■■ •..-.'. — 



'_ 



76 THY'SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

" Halleluia ! that I know," cried the Salvationist. 

" The merriment lasted as long as our friends 
stayed," the Sister went on, " but after they had 
gone, a deep anguish overcame her at all the evil 
that exists in the world, and she said that I was to 
pray with her that it might not prevail against 
us. So we went on our knees and prayed for our 
Refuge, for ourselves, and for all those whom we 
hoped to succour. Just as we were kneeling in 
prayer, there came a ring at the front-door 
bell. 

" Our friends had been gone but a very short 
time, so we said to each other that one of them had 
perhaps forgotten something, and wanted to fetch 
it ; but, by way of precaution, we both went down 
to the street-door. When we opened it, we saw 
none of our friends, but one of those for whom the 
Refuge had been founded. There he stood in the 
doorway, big and ragged, but so drunk that he 
stumbled. He looked to me so awful that I was 
seized with terror, and thought that we ought to 
make the excuse that the Refuge was not yet 
opened, and decline to receive him. But 'Sister 
Edith was glad that God had sent her a guest — 
she thought that He wished by that to show us 
that He was looking favourably on our work. So 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



77 



she admitted the fellow. She offered him some 
supper, but he swore at her and said that he only 
wanted to he down. He went into a dormitory, 
and, after flinging off his coat, threw himself down 
on a camp-bed, and in another minute he was 
asleep." 

" Fancy you being frightened of me ! " laughed 
David Holm to himself, but not without some hope 
, that the motionless figure behind him would hear 
that he. was still the same David Holm as before. 
"It's a' pity you cannot see me just as I am now — 
then methinks- I should frighten the life out of 
you." 

" Sister Edith wanted to show some exceptional 
kindness to the first person who came to our Refuge," 
the woman went on, " and I noticed that she felt 
disappointed when he went so promptly to sleep ; 
but next moment she brightened up again, for she 
had just caught sight of his coat. Gustavsson, 
I don't think I have ever seen a garment so dirty, 
so ragged, and in such sorry plight as that was ! 
It reeked so of filth and . Schnapps, Gustavsson, 
that it was hard to go near it. When I saw Sister 
Edith start to mend it, I could not help a dread 
coming over me. I told her to let it alone, as we 
had no oven or wash-house ready to disinfect it. 



KS « 








E? 



>' 



i 



i " 






78 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

" You understand, Gustavssoni that this man 
was to Sifter Edith from the very first as a gift from 
God, and it was such a delightful task for her, to 
mend onl of his garments for him, that I could not 
prevent |er. Nor did I help her either: No, I 
had said to myself, you know, that there might 
be infection in that coat — it -could not be right for 
me to touch such filth. She took the responsibility 
on herself, because I was her subordinate, and she 
saw that I did not undertake anything injurious 
to health ; but she set herself to sew and mend that 
coat the whole of New Year's Eve," 

The Salvationist on the other side of the table 
lifted up his hands and pressed them in ecstasy one 
against the other. 

" Halleluia ! " he .cried ; " thanks be to God and 
praise for Sister Edith 1 " 

" Amen ! Amen ! " replied the Sister, beaming 
in a sudden ecstasy. " Thanks be to God and 
praise for Sister Edith — that is what we should 
always say, in sorrow as in joy. Thanks be to God 
and praise that she was what she was, to sit up all 
night bending over that horrible coat sewing at it 
as proudly and happily as if it had been a royal 
mantle." 

He who had been . David Holm . felt a curious 




• . » 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



79 



sense of rest and repose, picturing to himself the 
young girl, as she sat in the calm of night mending 
a poor vagabond's coat. After all that had been 
irritating and exciting him, there was something 
soothing and healing in this. If only old George 
had not been standing glum and motionless behind 
him, watching every movement of his, he would 
have liked to dwell long on this thought. 
. " Thanks to God and praise," continued the 
woman, " that Sister Edith has never regretted 
that she sat up all that night, sewing on buttons 
and patching up holes, until four in the morning, 
without thinking of all the infection and stench 
she was inhaling. Thanks to God and praise that 
she never regretted sitting in a room so penetrated 
by the bitter chill of that winter's night that it 
became like an ice-house before she went to bed." 

" Amen ! Amen ! " replied the Salvationist. 

" She was quite frozen with cold when at last 
she was ready," remarked the Sister. " I heard 
how she lay and tossed and turned in her bed, for 
many weary hours, without being able to get warm. 
She had hardly dozed off when it was time to get 
up again, but I coaxed her into staying in bed and 
letting me look after the guest, in case he should 
get up before she had had her sleep out." 



■ . •; • --■•■v..-^....r ^--!--? 

80 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

" Sister Mary, you have always been a good friend 
to her," replied the Salvationist. 

"I know that it was a great privation for Sister 
Edith," she continued, with the ghost of a smile, 
" but she did it to please me. It was not long she 
lay in bed, for when the man had drunk his coffee, 
he asked me if it was I who had mended his coat. 
When I told him that it was, not, he asked me to 
fetch the Sister who had helped him. 

" He was sober then, and quiet, and chose his 
words better than many of his stamp usually do, 
and, as I knew that it would be a great joy to Sister 
Edith to hear him express his thanks, I went to 
fetch her. When she came, she had not the look 
of one who had been awake all night, for she had 
a bright flush on her cheeks, and was so pretty in 
her joyful anticipation that the man was, to a 
certain extent, struck with admiration on seeing her. 
He had taken his stand by the door, and was waiting 
with such a baleful expression on his face that I 
was afraid he meant to strike her. ' There's no 
danger,' thought I, ' he won't do anything to her. 
Nobody could have the heart to hurt her.'' " 

" Halleluia ! Halleluia ! " chimed in the Sal- 
vationist. 
" But the fellow's face clouded again, and, when 



■ -; 



•''". , '," 



- • 



.'• ; - ■' ■ ■ • -•. . ■ ~^~~. r ~~- ~~ 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



81 



she came up to him, he tore so violently at the pilot 
coat he was wearing that the buttons— that had 
just been sewn on — were lugged out. After that 
he drove his hands so fiercely into his newly-mended 
pockets that we heard the cotton burst ; and, last 
of all, he split up the fining of his coat till it hung 
in sorrier rags than when he had first come. ' You 
see, miss, I'm used to having it in that state,' the 
fellow jeered. ' It seems easier and most suitable 
for me. It was a pity, Sister Edith, that you should 
have given yourself so much trouble, but I can't 
help it.' " 

The spectre which lay on the floor saw before 
him a face beaming with happiness, which was 
suddenly clouded. He almost acknowledged to 
himself that that silly monkey-trick of his had been 
cruel and ungrateful, when the thought of George 
again obtruded itself. " It is just as well that 
George should hear what sort of fellow I am— unless 
he knows it already," he decided. " David Holm 
is not the man to throw up the sponge at the outset. 
He is hard and wicked, and has a way of getting 
irritated by silly people." 

" I had not before that moment given a thought 
as to how the fellow looked," continued the Sister, 
" but when he stood there and deliberately tore up 



\ 










82 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



what Sister Edith had sewn together with so many 
beautiful thoughts., I looked closely at him, and 
noticed that he was so tall and finely built that one 
could not help admiring such a handiwork of nature. 
He had, too, a good and easy carriage ; his head was 
big and of the best shape ; his countenance at one 
time must have been handsome, though then it 
was so blotched and swollen that the features were 
undistinguishable, and one could not form an 
opinion as to how they may have looked at the 
beginning. 

" Though he acted as he did, and, moreover, gave 
a loud and wicked laugh ; though his eyes shone 
yellow and ferocious ; yet I think that Sister Edith 
only thought that she had met some special object 
for her charity, a human wreck far on the road to 
ruin. I noticed that at first she shrank back, as if 
she had been struck, but after that a bright fight 
illuminated her eyes, and she took a step nearer to ■ 
the man. 

" The only thing she said was that, before he 
went, she wished to invite him to- come to her 
Refuge next New Year's Eve. And as he stood 
gazing at her in utter astonishment, she added : 
' You see, I prayed to God to-night to grant to the 
first guest at this Refuge a happy New Year, so I 



■ ■ 



"'■'"■' "■ ■ ■■ ■ ~~-~ T^" ~ ~ — ~T 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



83 



want to see you again to find out if He has granted 
my prayer.' 

" As soon as he understood what she meant, the 
fellow broke out into oaths. ' Yes, that I promise 
you ! ' he jeered. ' I will come again and show you 
that He has not cared a rap for you and your namby- 
pamby nonsense.' " , - * 

The man who was thus reminded of a promise 
that he had made and quite forgotten, but had now, 
against his will, come to fulfil, felt for a moment 
like a weak reed in a strong man's hand, and 
wondered if his rebellion had any meaning. But 
he stifled the thought— he would not submit, he 
would fight until doomsday, if it was to be 
so. 

The Salvationist grew more -and more excited 
while Sister Mary related this meeting on New 
Year's morning. He could not keep quiet any 
longer, but jumped up. 

" You have not told me the name of that brutal 
tramp, Sister Mary— but I understand that it was 
David Holm! " 

Sister Mary nodded assent. 

" My God, my God, Sister Mary," he cried, out- 
stretching both his. hands, " why will you insist on 
my fetching him here? Have you noticed any 



- 







• 



„.-• 






.■ ; 






84 THY SOUL SHALL, BEAR WITNESS ! 



improvement in him since that morning ? It seems 
as if you would have him here, so that she should 
see that her prayer to God had been made in vain. 
Why do you want to inflict such distress on her ? " 

The Sister looked at him impatiently, almost 
angrily. 

" I have not finished " 

But the Salvationist interrupted her. 

" We must take heed, Sister Mary, of the snare 
set by a lust for revenge. There is in me a being 
of sinful nature, who would- like to summon David 
Holm here, this very night, to show him the pure ■ 
woman who is dying, and tell him plainly that- it is 
he alone who is responsible for her leaving us. I 
take it, Sister Mary, that it is your intention to tell 
David Holm that, while Sister Edith was carrying 
out the work which he, in his ingratitude, tore up, 
she caught a deadly infection. I have heard you 
say that she has never enjoyed a day's sound health 
since last New Year's Eve. - We must take heed, 
Sister, we who have lived with Sister Edith and still 
have her in our sight, not to yiejd to the hardness 
of our hearts." 

The woman bent over the table and spoke with- 
out looking up, just as if she had fitted her words 
to the figures on the tablecloth. 



>■ 



r 



t 



:'/"■>■'" ' "' • T ~~" " \ ~ 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



85 



"Revenge?" she said. "Is it revenge to let 
• a person understand that once he possessed some- 
thing most glorious, but that he has lost it ? Or, if I 
put a rusty iron into the fire to make it fresh and 
bright— is that revenge ? " 

" I knew that it was so, Sister Mary," replied the 
Salvationist, with equal vehemence. " You hope 
to succeed in converting David Holm by laying on 
his conscience the burden of remorse. Have you 
ever seriously thought whether it might not be 
our own revenge that we are nursing and hugging 
to our hearts? There is a dangerous snare in 
that, Sister Mary. It is so easy to make a 
blunder." 

The pale-faced Sister gazed on the man with eyes 
beaming with the rapture of self-denial, which said 
plainly enough : " To-night I am not seeding aught 
of my own." 

The Salvationist turned red, tried to reply, but 
the words failed him. The next moment he flung 
himself down by the table/ bid his face in his hands, 
and, overcome by long-pent sorrow, began to 
weep. 

The Sister did. not disturb him, but over her lips 
welled a prayer. " O Lord God, Jesus Christ, let 
US get through this miserable night. Grant me 



MM 



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f 



: 






- 







. 



86 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

strength to help all my friends— I who am the 
weakest and understand least ! " 

The prisoner scarcely paid any attention to the 
charge of having infected Sister Edith, but he 
started when the Salvationist burst into tears. He 
had made a discovery which affected him strongly, 
and he hardly cared to hide it from the driver. It 
delighted him to- realise that the girl whom that 
good-looking youth had loved preferred himself. 

As the Salvationist's sobs became less and less 
violent, the Sister stopped praying. • 

" Gustavsson, you are thinking of what I said a 
little while ago about Sister Edith and David 
Holm." 

A " Yes " was audible between his coat-sleeves, 
and at the same time the man's whole body quivered 
with pain^ 

" Gustavsson, that causes you much suffering, 
which I can well understand- I know another who 
has loved Sister Edith with all his soul — she herself 
remarked it and said that she could not understand 
it. She meant that if she were to care very much 
about a man, it would be one who stood higher 
than herself — and you think so too, Gustavsson. 
We can, I suppose, give our lives to help the wretched, - 
but our purely human love we cannot give to any 



ii 






a___a£ 



t 




— — - . _. _____ 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



87 



one of them. When I tell you that Sister Edith's 
love is given elsewhere, it wounds you." 

The Salvationist did not move, but lay with his 
head against the' surface of the table. The in- 
visible figure, on the other hand, made an attempt 
to get nearer, as if to hear better, but he was 
immediately ordered by the driver to keep 
quiet. 

" If you move; ■ David, I shall have to punish 
you in a way you have never dreamt of," he said, 
and David Holm, who now realised that the driver 
kept his word, and had strange powers, remained 
perfectly still. 

. " Halleluia ! " shouted the Slum-Sister, with 
an excited expression on her countenance. 
" Halleluia ! Who are we that we should judge 
her ? Have you not observed that, when a heart is 
filled with pride, it bestows its love on one of the 
great and mighty of this world; but when a heart 
is void of all but meekness and charity, to whom 
can it give its fondest love but to one who is greatest 
in cruelty and degradation, and has gone the 
farthest astray ? " 

David Holm felt a prick of annoyance at these 
words. " You are very strange to-night," he 
thought to himself. " Why bother yourself about 




I 









s 



■ 
1 



88 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! I 



89 



what those people say of you? Did you expect 
that they would value you very highly ? " • 

The Salvationist lifted up his head and looked 
as if he were putting to her a question. " It is 
not merely that, Sister Mary." 

" Yes, Gustavsson, I understand what you mean 
—but you must bear in mind that Sister Edith 
did not know at the beginning that David Holm 
was a married man, and," she continued, after a 
slight hesitation, " anyhow, I think it hard to believe 
otherwise — all her love aimed at his conversion. 
If she had seen him standing on the platform, 
confessing that he was saved, she would have been 
happy." 

The Salvationist grasped the Sister's hand, while 
he watched her lips attentively. At her last words 
he uttered a gasp of relief. " So it was not the 
love that I mean," he remarked. 

The woman shrugged her shoulders .slightly and 
sighed at this obstinacy. " I have never received 
any confidence on this point from Sister Edith," 
she explained. "It may very well be that I am 
mistaken." 

" If you have not heard anything from Sister 
Edith's own lips, then, in my opinion, you are 
mistaken," the young man stated very gravely. 



• , 



The ghost, crouching by the door, grew gloomy ; 
he did not like the turn the conversation had now 
taken. 

"Gustavsson, I don't assert that Sister Edith 
felt anything but pity for David Holm the first time 
she saw him. And there was no reason either 
that she should have loved him afterwards — at 
one time he often came across her, and he per- 
sistently withstood her. . Wives used to come to 
us and complain that their husbands had been 
enticed from their work since David Holm came 
to this town. And there was an increase of insolence, 
violence, and vice. Wherever we turned among 
the wretched we experienced it, and we fancied 
that we could always trace it to David Holm. But 
Sister Edith being what she is, it was quite natural 
that this very fact should make her more keen to 
win nim for God's sake. He was like a wild beast 
which she pursued with powerful weapons — the more 
the animal turned against her, the more doughtily 
she attacked it, confident that in the long run she 
would come off victorious, because it was she who 
was the stronger of the two." 

" Halleluia ! " shouted her companion. " So she 
was, too, Sister Mary. Do you remember that you 
and Sister Edith went one evening to a public- 



L 







go THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

house, and walked round distributing notices of the 
new Slum Refuge ? On that occasion Sister Edith 
saw David Holm sitting at a table in company with 
a young man, who was listening to the fellow's 
jokes at the Slum-Sisters, and joined in his laughter. 
Sister Edith noticed that young man, and her 
heart was touched for him ; she whispered a few 
words to him about not letting himself be ruined. 
The young man did not answer her, nor did he 
follow her immediately — but he could not force a 
smile. Though he stayed in the same company, 
and filled his glass, he could not put it to his lips. 
David Holm and the others laughed' at him and 
said that he had been frightened by the Sister. 
But that was not the case, Sister Mary, far 'from it ; 
it was her compassion — that she could not help 
warning him — which touched the young man, and 
won him so that he must needs leave the others 
and follow her. You know this is a fact, Sister 
Mary, and you know also who the young man 
was. 

" Amen I Amen ! It is true that I know who 
the man is who from that day became our best 
friend," replied the Sister, with a kindly nod to 
the Salvationist. " I don't deny that Sister Edith, 
got the better of David Holm on that occasion, 



.• 






Li 



A CALL FROM THE PAST 



91 



but much more often she was worsted. She caught 
a chill that New Year's Eve, and she was always 
struggling with a cough that she could not get rid 
of — which she has not got rid of even to this very 
day. The despondency of sickness preyed on 
her, and that, maybe, was the cause of her not 
fighting with her usual success." 

"Sister Mary," interrupted the Salvationist, 
" there is nothing in what you say that indicates 
that she was in love with him." 

" No, Gustavsson, you are right ; nothing in- 
dicated it at the beginning. I will tell you what 
made me think so. We knew a poor sempstress 
who had consumption, but who struggled against 
her disease, and, above all, fought with superhuman 
courage against spreading the infection. She had 
one child whom she wanted to save from contagion. 
She told us that, one day, when she was seized 
with coughing in the street, a tramp went straight 
up and abused her for the precautions she was 
taking. ' I also have consumption,' he said, ' and 
the doctor Wants me to be cautious — but not I ! 
I cough right into people's faces, because I hope 
they will catch it and go to "Kingdom Come." Why 
should they be better off than we ? That's what 
I should like to know.' He said nothing else, but 



v 









92 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! • 

the sempstress was so frightened by him that she 
felt ill the whole day. She described him as tall, 
and of good appearance, though he was clothed 
in wretched rags. His face was indistinct to her, 
but for hours at a stretch she could see before her 
his eyes, which iky like two fierce yellow gleams 
, between swollen eyelids. What frightened her 
most was that he seemed neither drunk nor an. 
utter wreck, but nevertheless spoke as he did, and 
cherished such bitter hatred towards his fellow 
creatures. 

" It was no wonder that Sister Edith recognised 
David Holm at once by this description, but what 
astonishes me is that she took up the cudgels for 
him. She tried to make the woman believe that 
he was only amusing himself by scaring her. ' It's 
quite out of the question that so strong a man as 
he should be in any way tuberculous,' she main- 
tained. ' I think he is quite wicked enough to 
enjoy frightening yOu, but he is not depraved 
enough to infect people out of sheer malice, even 
if he were consumptive. He is certainly not such 
a monster.' 

" We others contested this point— we believed 
that he was quite as bad as he had painted himself — 
but she defended him all the more warmly, and she 



- : • : " ~ 




A CALL FROM THE PAST 



93 



was almost angry with us for thinking so badly 
of him." 

For the second time the driver showed signs that 
he was observing what was going on around him. 
He bent down and looked into his companion's 
eyes. "I believe the Slum-Sister is right, David. 
She who could refuse , to credit everything evil of 
you must certainly have been very fond of you 
indeed." 

" It may be, Gustavsson, that all that means 
nothing," continued the Sister, " and what I noticed 
two days afterwards even less. It happened one 
evening when Sister Edith returned home dejected 
— she was in low spirits at the woes that had befallen 
her charges — that David Holm came up and began 
talking to her. All he wanted was to tell her, he 
said in his sneering way, that she would have a 
better and a quieter time now, because he was 
going right away from the town. 

" I expected that Sister Edith would have been 
glad at this news, but I perceived from her answer 
that she was unhappy about it. She told him 
straight out that she would prefer his staying — so 
that she might strive with him for some time 
longer. 

" He said that he was sorry for this, but that he 



4 ■'■-■' 




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94 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



could not stay, however, because he was on a journey 
through Sweden in search of a person whom he 
absolutely must find. There would be no peace 
and quiet for him until he had found that person. 

' You must know, Gustavsson, that Sister Edith 
inquired with such evident anxiety as to who this 
person was that I was nearly whispering to her to 
be careful not to give herself away to such a callous 
brute. He did not notice it, however, but simply 
replied that if he found the person in question she 
should be informed of it. He hoped that she would, 
be delighted that he need no longer tramp the wide, 
wide world as a poor vagabond. ' 

: ' With this he departed, and he may have kept 
his word, for we saw nothing further of him. I hoped 
we should never have anything to do with him . 
again, for he always seemed to me to bring bad 
luck wherever he appeared. One day, however, it 
so happened that a woman, came up to. Sister Edith 
at the Refuge and inquired for David Holm. She 
stated that she was Holm's wife, and had thrown 
him over, not being able to stand 'his drunkenness 
and bad habits. She had stolen away secretly, 
and taken her children with her, and come to our 
town, which lay far from their former home, and it 
had never entered his head to make any serious 



IL 



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A CALL FROM THE PAST 



95 



attempt to find her there. She had now got work 
in a factory, and was so well paid that she could 
support herself and her children. She was a well- 
dressed woman who commanded confidence and 
respect. She was a sort of superintendent of the 
factory-girls, and had earned such good money 
that she was able to provide herself with a comfort- 
able home, and a sufficiency of furniture and house- 
hold utensils. Formerly, while she was still living 
with her husband, she had not possessed enough to 
feed herself and the children. 

" She had now learnt that her husband had been 
seen in the town, that the Slum- Sisters knew him, 
and she had called on us to find out how he was 
going 1 on. 

" Gustavsson, had you been present then, and 
heard and seen Sister Edith, you would never have 
forgotten it. When the woman came and told us 
who she was, Sister Edith turned pale, and looked 
as if she had been stricken with mortal grief ; but 
she quickly pulled herself together, and then a 
heavenly light shone in her eyes. It seemed as if 
she had gained a complete victory over herself, and 
cared nothing, for her own part, about earthly 
things. And, I must tell you, she spoke so beauti- 
fully to Holm's wife- that she moved the woman to 






1 . 



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96 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

tears. She never uttered a word of reproach to 
her, yet she made her repent having deserted her 
husband. I believe she even got the woman to 
regard herself as a monster of harshness ! What is 
more, Gustavsson, Sister Edith contrived to revive 
the old love — the youthful love that the woman 
had felt for her husband when they were first 
married. She induced the wife to tell her about 
what sort of man he had been. during their early 
married days, and she got her to long for her hus- 
band. You must not think, Gustavsson, that she 
concealed what he was now, but she inspired the . 
other woman with the same ardent desire to reform 
David Holm that she herself felt." 

The driver, by the door, again stooped forward 
and observed his prisoner — but this time he rose 
without uttering a word. Something dark and 
horrible had gathered round his former friend, which 
he felt that he could not endure. He stretched 
himself at full length against the wall, and drew 
his cowl well. over his eyes to escape seeing him. 

" Certainly the wife already felt a germ of remorse 
for abandoning her husband to his wickedness and 
evil ways," the Sister went on. " It was whilst 
talking with Sister Edith that she received this new 
feeling. On this first occasion, however, there was 



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A CALL FROM THE PAST 



97 



no question about her duty to let the man know 
her address, but that was decided at the next long 
conversation'. And, Gustavsson, I won't insinuate 
that Sister Edith talked her over or gave her much 
hope, but I do know that she wanted the wife to 
invite him to her home. She thought that such an 
action might rescue him, and she did not dissuade 
the woman from it. I must say that that was Sister 
Edith's work, and that it came off ; I must say 
that it was she who united the man with those it 
was in his power to ruin. I have thought and 
wondered a good deal about that, and I do not 
understand how she dare venture to take on herself 
so grave a responsibility unless she had loved him." 
The woman uttered these words in a tone of 
strong conviction, but the two, who' had been 
excited when she told of the sick Sister's love, now 
kept still. The Salvationist sat motionless, his 
hands over his eyes, and the figure prostrate at the 
door resumed the expression of black hatred which 
he bore when first he had been dragged into the 
room. 

" None of us knew where David Holm had 
wandered to," continued the woman, "but Sister 
Edith sent him word by some tramps that we could 

give him information about h'is wife and children 
Dw 



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98 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

and it was not long before he came. Sister Edith 
brought him and his wife together, after she had 
seen to his being decently clothed, and had found 
him a job with some builders in the town. She 
exacted-no promise or undertakings, being aware 
that nobody can bind men of his sort by promises, 
but, as a good husbandman, she wanted to plant, 
in good new soil, the seed that had sprouted up 
amid thorns — and she was certain that she would 
succeed." 

" Who knows if Sister Edith might not have been 
successful, if a great misfortune had not happened ? 
To begin with, Sister Edith was attacked by 
inflammation of the lungs, and when that was 
subdued, and we were hoping for a speedy con- 
valescence, she languished instead, and we had 
to send her to a sanatorium. 

" I need not tell you how David Holm behaved 
to his wife — that you know as well as we do. The 
only person we have tried to keep in ignorance is 
Sister Edith herself, because' we wanted to spare, 
her feelings. We hoped that she would die without 
hearing of it, but. now I am not so sure. I think 
that she knows all. How could she have found 
out? 

" The curious spiritual tie that unites her to David 



• ; .v" >. 



C ' *• ~ '■ • 



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A CALL FROM THE PAST 



99 



Holm is so strong, that I believe she may have 
gained information of what concerns him by other 
than the usual ways, and it is just because she 
knows all that she has been anxious the whole day 
to speak to him. She has brought endless misery 
on his wife and children, and she has but a few 
short hours in which to put things straight. And 
we are so helpless that we cannot assist her even 
by bringing him here." 

" But what good would it do ? " demanded the 
Salvationist obstinately. "She can't talk to him 
— she is. far too weak." 

" I can talk to him in her name," replied the 
Sister confidently. " He would listen to my words, 
if spoken to him beside a death-bed." 

" What would you say to him, Sister Mary ? 
Would you tell him that she loved him ? " 

The Sister got up, clasped her hands across her 
breast, and stood with upturned face and closed 
eyes. 

" Oh, Lord God ! " she prayed, " grant that 
David Holm comes here before Sister Edith dies ! 
Dear God ! vouchsafe that he may see her love, 
and that the fire of her love may melt his soul I 
Oh; God ! was not that love sent to her to melt his 
heart. ? Good God, make me brave, so that I may 











ioo THY SOUL SHALLfBEAR WITNESS ! 



not - think of sparing her, but dare to lay low his 
soul in the flame of her love ! Oh, God ! let him 
feel it as a gentle breeze through his soul, as the 
breath from an angel's wing, as the red gleam that 
is kindled at dawn in the east and drives away the 
darkness of night. Let him not think that I would 
have vengeance on him, but make him understand 
that Sister Edith has loved the very soul in him 
— that which he himself has tried to choke and- 
kill. Dear God— " 

The Slum-Sister started and looked up. The 
Salvationist was putting on his coat once more. . 

" I will go after him, Sister Mary," he said, with 

a certain huskiness in his voice. " I will not come 

back without him." , 

j 
But the prone figure by the door turned to the 

driver and addressed him. 

" Haven't we had enough of this, George ?. When 

I first came here there was ; something that gripped 

me in what they talked about. In that way you 

- might perhaps have softened m% but you should 

have warned them — they ; should have avoided 

talking about my wife." ) 

The driver did not answer, but with a slight 

gesture pointed towards the' room. A little Old 

woman had entered through the hidden door, 






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A CALL FROM THE PAST 



101 



farthest away in the ante-room. She walked 
with silent steps to the couple who had been carry- 
ing on the long conversation, and spoke in a voice 
that quavered with the importance of the tidings 
she was about to announce. 

" She will not he there much longer. Soon she 
will fly hither ! It will be over quickly now." 



■ - 



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• 




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SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 

The poor little Sister who was lying on her death- 
bed felt that she was getting weaker and weaker 
every morkent. She was in no pain, but lay 
struggling against death, as, many a time, when 
she had been watching by- a sick-bed, she had 
struggled against sleep. 

" Ah ! how sweet is the temptation ; but it will 
never do for you to overtake me." Such words 
'had she addressed to sleep ; if, at any time, it had 
descended on her for a couple of minutes, she had 
always jumped up quickly from it and returned 
to her duties. 

Now she was thinking that, in some cool room — ■ 
with a continual draught of pure frosted air that 
it would be a delight for her lungs to breathe — a 
bed, deep and broad, was spread, with pillows as 
soft and puffy as fermenting dough. She knew 

that this bed was arranged for her, and she longed 

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SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 103 

to sink down in it and sleep off her physical weari- 
ness ; but she had a feeling that her sleep would be 
so sound that she would never wake again. She 
continued to resist the temptation of rest — that 
cannot fall to her lot as yet. 

When the little Sister gazed round the room, 
there was a look of reproach in her eyes. She 
looked sterner than she had ever done before. 

" How cruel you are not to help me with the 
only thing I long for," she seemed to explain. 
" Have I not gdne out of my way many a time to 
serve you when I was well, cannot you now take 
the trouble to summon here the man I wish to 
meet ? " 

More often than not she lay with her eyes shut, 
waiting and listening so intently that not a move- 
ment in the little house escaped her. Suddenly 
she. received the impression that a stranger had 
entered the outer room, and was waiting to be 
shown in to her. She opened her eyes and looked 
imploringly at her mother. 

"He is standing, you know, by the kitchen door. 
Can't you let him in, mother ? " 

Her mother got up, went to .the hidden door, 
opened it, and looked into, the bigger room. She 
came back, shaking her head. 









■ 



• - 

104 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



"There is no one there, child," she said; "no 
one but Sister Mary and- Gustavsson." 

Then the sick girl sighed and shut her eyes again ; 
but she had still the feeling that he was sitting 
right against the door and waiting. If only her 
^clothes had been lying, as usual, on a chair at the 
foot of the bed, she would have put them on, and 
gone herself to speak to him. But the clothes were 
*ri§fc lying there, "and, besides, she feared that her 
riiother would refuse permission for her to get 
up. 

She wondered and wondered how she could 
manage to get into the outer room. She was 
certain that the man was there, but that her mother 
would not let him pass in to her — probably she 
thought that he looked awful, and did not want 
"to have anything to say to such a creature. 

" Mother thinks that it is no good my meeting, 
him. She believes that it is a matter of indifference 
to me now I am fated to die." 

At last, she hit upon a plan which seemed to her 
extraordinarily ingenious. 

" I'll beg mother to let me move into the big 
room and he there," she decided.. " I'll tell her 
that I long to see it once agaim Mother cannot 
have any objection to that." 



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SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 105 



She expressed her wish, but could not help 
wondering if her mother had seen through her 
proposal of changing her room, for the elder woman 
had so much to urge against it. 

" Are you not lying comfortably where you are ? " 
the woman asked. " You were pleased enough, 
you know, to He here on other days." 

• She did nothing to gratify the sick girl's wish. 
The little Sister felt as if she were a child again, 
and had begged her mother for something that the 
latter did not .consider proper to give her ; and, 
in the same way, like a little child, she now began 
imploring and worrying, so as to exhaust her 
mother's patience. 

" Mother, I should so dearly like to go into the 
big room. Gustavsson and Sister~Mary will carry 
me there, if only you will call them. It won't be 
for long, mother, that my bed need remain there." 
"You shall find," replied' the mother, "that 
you will no sooner be there than you will want to 
come back here again ! " But she got up and 
: quickly returned with, the two friends. 

It was fortunate that Sister Edith was lying in 
the little wooden bedstead which she had slept in 
as a child, so that the three— Gustavsson, Sister 
Mary, and her mother — could manage to carry 



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106 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 

her out. Directly she was in the larger room, she 
cast a glance towards the kitchen-corner, and was 
quite astounded at not seeing Holm there — 
for this time she felt quite sure that she was 
right. 

She felt cruelly disappointed, and, instead of 
looking about her in the three-partitioned room 
which held so many memories, she shut her eyes. 
Once again she had the feeling that a stranger was 
lingering by the door. 

" It's impossible that I can be mistaken," she 
thought ; " somebody must be there — he or someone 
else." 

She opened . her eyes and examined the room 
with the closest scrutiny. Then, by dint of. great 
pains, she discovered that " something " was stand- 
ing by the door — not so visible as a shadow, but 
what she called the shadow of a shadow. 

The mother bent over her affectionately. "Are 
you feeling more restful now that you are in here ? " 

The girl nodded, and whispered that she was 
so glad to be there ; but she was not thinking of the 
room, but lay all the time gazing at the door. 

" What is that over there ? " she wondered, and 
deemed it ' more than a matter of life and death 
to find out. 



i " ■- '■ ■ 

y . . . ^ 

SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 107 

They had placed her bed in that part of the room 
which she and her mother used to call their drawing- 
room, and this part was farthest from the door. 
After she had been lying there for a short time she 
whispered to her mother : " Now that I have seen 
how it looks in the drawing-room, I should like to 
go into the dining-room." 

She noticed her mother exchanging a worried 
glance with the other two, and the shaking of their 
heads. ' This she interpreted as their fear of moving 
■her nearer to that shadow which was lingering by 
j, the threshold. She had now, little by little, begun 

to suspect who he was, but she had no dread of 
him, but only wanted to get nearer to him. 

She glanced imploringly at her mother and friends, 
and they obeyed her without further demur. 

When she found herself in the central part that 
they used to call the dining-room she was much 
nearer the door, and could discern a dark form 
lingering there, with some sort of implement in 
his hands. It could not be David Holm, but it 
was someone whom it was imperative that she 
should meet, the girl decided. 

She must get nearer still to him ; so, while she 
tried hard to • force an apologetic smile, she also 
showed by signs that she wanted to be carried into 




io8 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



■ 




i. 



the " kitchen.'.' She observed that her- mother was 
so saddened by this that she began to weep, and 
through her mind flitted the thought that her mother 
was calling to mind her sitting in the kitchen in 
front of the stove, her face flushing in the fire-glow, 
and herself chattering about everything that had 
happened to her at school, her mother mean- 
while preparing their supper. She realised that her 
mother was actually thinking that she saw her child 
in her usual places, and was reefing under the feeling 
of emptiness that sweeps over her. But she must 
not think any more about her mother now, nor fix 
her attention on aught but the one important 
task which she must accomplish within the little 
.time that remains to her. 

When she had been moved to the farthest part 
of the room she could at last see quite distinctly 
the invisible form by the door. It was a figure 
clad in a black habit, his head and face hidden- by 
a cowl. In his hand he held a long scythe. Sister 
Edith did not doubt for an instant who he was. 

"It is Death," she thought, and she was afraid 
that he had come too soon for her ; otherwise he 
did not alarm her at all. 

JWhile the poor sick girl had been drawing nearer 
and nearer, the prone and prisoned figure had been 



SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 109 



crouching and trying to make itself smaller, . as if 
he wished to escape her notice. He observed that 
she was incessantly looking towards the door, and 
it seemed' to him that she saw something there. 
He did not want her to see him ! That would be 
far too great a humiliation for him to suffer. Nor 
did her glances meet his ; they were directed at 
another ; and he realised that if she did indeed 
perceive anyone, it was not he, but George. 

She had hardly got as near as possible to them 
before he observed that she was calling George to 
her by a little sign with her head. George pulled 
his cowl down lower than before, as though he were 
deadly cold, and approached her. She looked up 
at him with a smile. 

" You see that I am not afraid of you," she whis- 
pered, inaudibly to the living watchers in the room. 
'' I will, willingly obey your summons, but I must 
first ask if you can grant me a delay till to-morrow, 
so that I may accomplish the great task for which 
God sent me into this world." 

Whilst she was thus occupied in talking to George, 

David Holm lifted up his head so as to see her. He 

noticed that the holy exaltation of her soul had 

. bestowed on her a beauty she had never possessed 

before-^omething lofty, unattainable, but so 









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no THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



irresistibly winning that . he could no longer think 
of taking his eyes off her. 

" Perhaps you cannot hear me?" she said to 
•George. "Bend further over me. I must speak 
to you without the others hearing what I say." 

George bent down until his cowl nearly brushed 
her face. " Speak as low as you like ; I shall even 
then hear you." 

She began to speak in a whisper so weak that 
none of the three around her bed had an inkling 
that she was saying anything at all. It was only the 
driver and the other spectre who heard her. 

" I don't know if you are aware of what that means 
to me," she continued to George, " but I am in dire 
need of a delay till to-morrow so that I may meet 
someone whom I must put in the right way. You 
do not know how ill I have acted. I have been 
too arbitrary, too presumptuous. How can I stand 
before the face of God, I who am the cause of so 
dreadful a misfortune ? " 

Her eyes dilated with fright, and she drew a deep 
breath, but proceeded without waiting' for an 
answer. 

" I must, I suppose, tell you that he whom I want 
to meet is the man I love. You understand me, 
don't you? The man I love." 



■M 



SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH in 



: ■ . . . ■ • 



" But, Sister/' replied the driver, " the man " 

But she would not hear his answer, until she had 
put before him all that ought to move him. 

" You understand that I am in dire need when 
I say this. It is not easy for me to confess that I 
love that particular man. It has shamed me to 
think that I must be so abandoned as to love one 
who is bound to another. I have striven and fought 
against it ; I have felt that I, who should be a guide 
and example to the outcasts, am become worse than 
the worst among them." 

One hand of the driver stroked her brow to calm 
her, but he uttered not a word, and allowed her to 
proceed with her, story. 

" But the bitterest humiliation does not he, after 
all, in my loving a married man! My lowest 
degradation is that he whom I love is a wicked man. 
I don't know why I should have thrown myself 
away on a scoundrel. I hoped and trusted that 
some good might be found in him, but I have been 
•deceived again and again. I must myself be bad, 
since my heart could go so far astray. Oh! can 
• you not understand that it is impossible for me 
to depart, before I have made yet another attempt, 
without my having seen him become another and 
a different man ? " 






■ ••' ■ 



■ 





" But you have made so many attemptsalready," 
remarked Red George doubtfully. 

She shut . her eyes and considered, but soon 
looked up again, and now a new assurance gleamed 
from her countenance. * 

' You think that I am asking for my own sake, 
and you believe, like the rest, that it does not 
matter what becomes of him. I shall, however,- 
be taken away from everything .here betaw. I beg 
leave to speak to you about something which has 
happened this very day, so that you may under- 
stand that it is to help others that I need the delay." 

Sister Edith closed her eyes, and continued 
talking without opening them. "« - 

" Well, it was in the forenoon. • I don't exactly 
understand how it could be so, but I was out with 
a basket on my arm, presumably about to take 
food to some poor person. I was standing in a yard 
where I know that I have never been before. There 
were many tall houses round me, and they looked 
respectable and in good condition, as if they were 
inhabited by well-to-do people. I did not know 
what I could possibly have to do in that quarter, 
but I noticed that there was an outbuilding against 
the wall of a house, which seemed originally meant 
for a fowl-house. But somebody had tried to 






/ 



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. * • 

SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 113 

. transform it into a human dwelling. Bits of boards 
and card were nailed on to it ; it had a few crooked 
windows, and two chimneys of sheet iron on the 
roof. 

" Thin smoke issued from one of the chimneys, 
and from that I understood that the place was 
inhabited. Said I to myself : . ' It is here, of course, 
that I am going.' I walked up a flight of wooden 
stairs, which were as steep as a ladder, and which 
more than once gave me the impression that I was 
climbing to some sort of. bird's nest — and then I 
put my hand to the lock. I felt that it was unlocked, 
. and, on hearing voices within, I entered without 
knocking. 

"No one turned round and looked at me when 
I entered, so I withdrew to a corner by the door, 
and stood waiting till I should be wanted, for I 
knew, for certain, that I had come there for some 
• specially important purpose. Meanwhile I stood 
thinking that I had come into an outhouse, and 
not into a room for human beings. There was 
scarcely a stick of furniture, not even a bed. In a 
corner lay some ragged mattresses which _ might 
conceivably serve for beds. No chairs — at any rate, 
none that any dealer would look at — and only one 
clumsy unpainted table. 



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114 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS I 

" Suddenly I said to myself that I knew my 
whereabouts. It was David Holm's wife who was 

i 

standing in the middle of the room.. They must, 
therefore, have moved whilst I was at the sana- 
torium. Why were their circumstances so uncom- 
fortable and wretched ? And where was their 
furniture ? Where were the beautiful chiffonier and 
sewing machine and— — I stopped reckoning, not 
knowing what I did not miss. In fact, there was 
simply nothing. 

" ' How full of despair the woman looks,' thought 
I, ' and how poorly she is clad. She is not the 
woman she was last spring.' I wanted to run up 
and ask her, but was prevented because there were 
two strange ladies in the room engaged in an 
animated conversation with David Holm's wife. 
They were very serious, all three, and I soon got to 
know the subject of their conversation — that the 
poor woman's two children were to be taken to a 
children's asylum, to prevent their being infected 
by the father, who had consumption. 

" One thing which I could not understand was 
their speaking of two children — I seemed to remem- 
ber that there had been three. It was not. long 
before I learnt the reason. One of the benevolent 
ladies noticed that the poor woman was crying, and 




— — . . ; 



- ' . 

SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 115 

said something in a kind way about the children 
being as well cared for in the asylum as in any 
private home. 

"'Doctor, you must not mind my crying,' I 
heard the wife reply ; ' I should cry worse if I had 
not to send the children away. I have the youngest 
of them at the hospital. When I saw how he 
suffered, I said to myself that if I could get the 
other two away from home I would not say a word 
against it, but only be too glad and grateful.' 

" When she said this, I felt profoundly depressed. 
What had David Holm done to his wife, his home, 
and his children — or, to put it more precisely, what 
had I done ? It was I who had inflicted him on 
them. I began to cry and sob in the corner where 
I stood. I could not make out why the others did 
not observe me, but not one of them seemed to 
do so. 

" I saw the wife approach the door. ' I will go 
down to the street and call the children in,' she said ; 
' they are not far away.' She went past me and 
came so close that her poor patched clothes brushed 
against my hand. Then I fell on my knees, drew 
her dress to my lips, and wept, but not a word 
could I utter— the wrong that I had done this 
woman was far too great for that. I was astonished 






______ 




, 







n6 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 



that she should not observe me, but I could well 
understand her not having any wish to speak to 
one who had brought such dire misfortune on her 
home. 

" The poor mother, however, did not leave the 
room, because one of the ladies told her that there 
was a matter that must be settled before the children 
were called in. She took a paper out of a handbag 
and read aloud from it. It was a certificate stating 
that the parents entrusted their children to her 
care, for so long as their home was infected with 
tuberculosis, and it had to be signed by both father 
and mother. 

" There was a door in the opposite side of the 
room ; it opened now and David came in. I could 
not help thinking that he had been waiting behind 
this door, so as to put in an appearance just at the 
right moment. He was dressed in his old shabby 
clothes, and he had a wicked gleam in his eyes. I 
could not help saying to myself that he looked 
about him with obvious delight, as if he were 
rejoicing in all the misery round him. He began 
talking about how much he loved his children, .and 
how hard he felt it, after one of them had been 
taken [to the hospital, to lose the two others 
also. 



*: 




SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 

" The two ladies scarcely troubled to listen to 
him, but simply remarked that it was much more 
certain that his children would be lost to him, 
unless he sent them away from him. His wife had 
drawn herself up against a wall, and she was look- 
ing at him , so I thought, as one who had been beaten 
and tortured might look at her tormentor. It 
began to dawn on me that I had acted worse than 
I -had hitherto thought. It seemed to me that 
there mus£ be a secret hatred . of the woman in 
David Holm, and that he had sought to be reconciled 
with her, not from his longing for a home, but in 
order to torment her. 

" I heard him entertain these cultured ladies 
with a speech about his paternal love. They replied 
that he could best prove it by observing the doctor's 
orders, and- not infecting those around him, which 
would be the case, they saw clearly, if the children 
were kept at home. But none of them yet had an 
inkling of what he had in mind. It was I who first 
understood it. ' He means to keep the children,' 
thought I ; ' he does not trouble about their catching 
/the disease.' 
. " The wife had just realised it. She shrieked 
violently, distractedly. ' That murderer ! He 
won't let me. send them away ; he means them to 



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... 



n8 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! ' 

stay at home for him to give them consumption, 
that they may die. In this way he has calculated 
to be revenged on me.' 

" David Holm .turned away from her with a 
shrug of his shoulders. 'It is a fact that I will 
not sign the paper,' he said to the two ladies. 
There was some angry talk and attempts at 
persuasion. The wife stormed at him with 
words of fury, and even the faces, of the 
two ladies flushed deeply ; cutting things were 
said ! 

" But David Holm stood there quite calmly, and 
said that he could not do without his children. I 
listened to this with indescribable anguish. None 
of the others could suffer as I did, because notfe of 
them loved the man who was committing this foul 
deed. I stood there, hoping that they would find 
the right words to move him to compassion. As 
to myself, I wanted to rush out of my corner ; but 
a curious feeling of being fastened down came over 
me. I was unable to stir. ' What use is it to 
dispute or try persuasion ? ' thought I. ' With a 
man such as he, the only course is to frighten him.' 
Neither his wife nor either of the others said a word 
about God ; no one threatened him with the wrath 
of God's justice. I thought that I was holding 



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SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 119 

Gqd'-s punitive thunderbolt in my hand, but was 
powerless to hurl it I 

" Once more there was silence in the room. The 
two ladies got up to go ; they had accomplished 
nothing, nor had the wife either. She had ceased 
making a fight, and had collapsed in despair. I 
made a superhuman effort to move and speak. 
The words .burned my tongue. ' Oh, you 
hypocrite ! ' I wanted to say, ' Do you think that 
I do not know the purpose you have in view ? I, 
who am a dying woman, summon you to meet me 
before God's judgment seat ! I accuse you before 
the Supreme Judge of intending, to murder your 
own children. I shall bear testimony against 
you.' 

" But when I got up to say this I was no longer 
there, in David Holm's dwelling, but at home 
lying helpless in my bed ! After this I called and 
called, but could not get him here." 

The little Slum- Sister had lain with her eyes 
shut all the while she was whispering this story. 
Now she opened them wide, and looked at George 
with unutterable anguish. 

" You cannot really let me die without having 
spoken to him ? " she implored. " Think of his 
wife and children ! " 



: ' 




120 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! - 

The crouching figure marvelled over George. 
He could have calmed the dying girl by a single 
word— told her that David Holm was out of the 
game, and could no longer injure wife and children. 
But he concealed this piece of news from her, and, 
instead, made her even sadder than she was 
already. 

"What influence could you have over David 
Holm? " he asked. " He is not a man to let his 
heart be softened. What you have seen to-day is 

~\ nought else than the revenge he has .cherished in 

^ his heart for long years." 

" Oh, don't say that, don't say that ! " Sister 
Edith cried. 

" I know him better than you do," replied the 
driver, *' and I will tell you what it was that made 
David Holm the man he is now." 

*' I should like to hear that," she said ; " it would 
be good for me if I could get to understand 
him." 

' You must accompany me to another town," 
said the driver, "and we must stand outside a 
prison cell. The time is evening, and. a man who 
has been confined for a week or two for drunkenness 
has just been released. . No one is waiting for him 
% at the prison gates, but he stands there staring 









: 



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. SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 121 

about him in the hope that someone will come— 
for he had been looking forward to having a jolly 
time just then. 

" It so happens that the man who is coming out 
of prison has just been subjected to a terrible shock, 
for while he was interned his younger brother 
turned out very badly. He had committed man- 
slaughter whilst in a state of intoxication, and 
had been sent to goal for it. The elder brother 
knew nothing of the affair, until the gaol chaplain 
took him to the culprit's cell, and showed him the 
man sitting there with his handcuffs still on him 
—for he had been violent when taken to the gaol. 
'■Do you see who is sitting there?' asked the 
clergyman, and when the man saw that it was his 
brother, he was deeply affected, because he had 
always been very fond of him. ' Here is a man 
who will have to remain in prison for a great many 
years,' said the clergyman, ' but we all say here, 
David Holm, that it is you who ought by rights to 
be undergoing the punishment, instead of him, for 
it is you, and nobody else, who tempted him and 
led him astray, till he became such a sot as not to 
know what he was about.' 

" It was all David Holm could do to keep himself 
calm till he returned to his cell, but then he began 



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122 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



to weep as he had never wept since he was a child. 
Afterwards he said to himself that he meant to 
turn away from his evil courses. He had never 
realised before that he had brought great misery on 
one he cared for. Then his thoughts turned from-his 
brother to his wife and children, and suddenly 
he realised that they, too, had had a rough time, 
but now he vowed to himself that never again 
should thay have cause to complain of him. That 
very evening of his coming out of prison he longed 
to tell his wife that he intended turning over a 
new leaf. 

" But she did not meet him at the prison gate, 
nor did he meet her on the road. Even when he 
reached their dwelling and knocked, she did not 
open wide the door to him, as she did at othei 
times when he had been away for long. He had 
a suspicion of how things were, but refused to credit 
it. It is impossible that this should happen now, 
at the very time when he intended becoming 
another man. 

" His wife always used to push the key under 
the door-mat when she went out. He stooped 
down and found it in the usual place. He opened 
the door, looked into his little honie, and wondered 
if he had gone mad, because the room was quite 



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SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 123 



empty — well, not exactly empty, for most of the 
furniture was still there, but not a living creature. 

"Nor was there any food or fuel, or curtains 
to the windows — the room was comfortless, raw, 
and cold, and did not seem to have been lived in 
for many days past. He went to the neighbours 
and inquired if his wife had been ill while he was 
away. He tried to persuade himself that she had 
been taken to the hospital. ' Oh, no, there was 
nothing the matter with her lately, when she went 
away/ they replied. ' But where has she gone 
to ? ' Ah ! nobody knew that. 

" He saw that they were curious, and maliciously 
glad at his discomfiture, and he recognised that 
there was only one explanation — that his wife 
had taken advantage of the opportunity, whilst 
he was in prison, to go her own way, taking with 
her the children and whatever else she chiefly 
needed, and made no preparations for him, but let 
him return home to all this bareness and desolation. 
And he had anticipated coming to her with such 
joy. He had rehearsed what he was going to say 
to her, for he really meant to ask her forgiveness. 
He had a chum, a young fellow who had belonged 
to a cultured class of society, but was quite ruined. 
He intended to promise to drop associating with 



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124 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS 1 



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him, although he was attracted to him not only, 
for the evil in him, but also because he had learning 
and science. On the following day he meant to 
go to his old employer and ask to be taken on again. 
He would have slaved for her and the children, 
so that they should get nice clothes to wear, and 
never have another anxious moment. And now, 
when he had thought out all this, she had run away 
from him ! 

" He grew hot and cold, by turns ; he shivered 
over her heartlessness. Yes ! he could have under- 
stood her going, if it had been done openly and 
honourably, in which case he would have had no 
right to be enraged, for she had had a hard life 
with him. But she had stolen away, and let hirn^ 
return to an empty home without any warning, 
which was heartless. Never could he forgive her 
for that. . • 

" He had been put to shame before all his fellows ; 
he was, in fact, the laughing-stock of 'the whole 
neighbourhood. But he swore that he Would put 
a stop to their laughter. He would find his. wife 
yet, and then he would make her as wretched as 
he was himself — nay, twice as much ! He would 
teach her how it felt to freeze, as he did, to the " 
very heart core. , 



SISTER' EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 125 

" It was the only comfort he could indulge in — 
the thought of how he would punish her when he 
found her. Since then he had been hunting for 
her for three years, and all the time he had fostered 
his hatred with the thought of what she had done 
to him, till it became a crime of the highest 
magnitude. He had gone alone on lonely ways, 
and, as time went on, the greater grew his hate 
and lust for" vengeance. He sought after her so 
long that he succeeded admirably in devising how 
he could torture her if ever they came together again." 

The little Slum- Sister had kept silent till now, 
but she had followed the story with features 
betraying every emotion. Now, in an agonised 
voice, she interrupted the dark figure. 

" Oh, no ! Say nothing more ; it is too dreadful 1 
How shall I ever be able fo answer for what I have 
done ? Oh ! that I had not brought them together I 
If I had not, his sin would not have been so great.'' 

" No, I need say nothing more," replied the 
driver. " I only want you to understand that it 
is useless your asking for. a delay." 

" Oh, but I want it ! " she exclaimed. " I 
cannot die, I cannot. Give me but a few moments. 
You know that I love him, have never loved him 
so. much as' I do to-day." 




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126 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

The spectre on the floor gave a start! All the 
time Sister Edith and the driver had been conversing 
he had been gazing at her. He had absorbed every 
word of hers, and every expression of her 
countenance, so that he might remember them 
for ever. All that she had said, even when she 
had been most severe against him, had been a joy 
for him to hear ; her anguish, too, and her sympathy, 
when George was relating his history, had healed 
his wounds. He hardly knew as yet by what name 
to express his feelings for her ; all he realised was 
that he could bear anything from her. He knew 
this — that her loving such a creature as he was, 
who had brought her to death's door, was some- 
thing supernaturally splendid! Every time she 
stated that she loved him, his soul experienced 
an ecstasy which he would never have thought 
possible. He tried hard to attract the driver's 
attention, but the latter never looked in his direcr 
tion. He tried to rise, but tumbled back in 
unspeakable torments. 

He noticed how restlessly and with what anguish 
Sister Edith moved in her bed. She stretched 
out to George her hands folded in prayer, but his 
face was stern and implacable. 

" I would grant you a delay, if delay could help 



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SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 127 

you," he said to her, " but I know that you have 
no influence over the man." 

With. these words, the driver stooped down to 
utter the words that were to release the soul from 
its bodily cover. 

At that very moment a dark figure crept painfully 
along the floor to the dying girl. With a tremendous 
effort, and at the cost of a pang the like of which 
he could never have had. the slightest conception, 
he had sundered his bonds in order to reach her. 
Although he believed that he would be punished 
by these pangs throughout eternity, nevertheless 
Sister Edith should not grieve and long in vain 
when he was in the same room. He stole up to 
the other side, where George could not see him, 
and he got far enough to be able to grasp one of 
her hands. 

Although it was impossible for him to exert the 
slightest pressure on this hand, yet, nevertheless, 
she was conscious of David's presence ; and, 
by a sudden movement, she turned towards him. 
She saw him kneeling by her side— ah ! and 
what is more, with his face pressed to the floor, 
as he did not dare to look up at her, but, by 
the hand that embraced hers, he endeavoured 
to express to her his love, his gratitude, and 



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128 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

the tenderness which was springing up in his 
heart. 

A gleam of most blissful happiness spread over 
her countenance ; she looked up at her mother and 
her two friends — to whom she had not yet had time 
to say a farewell word— so as to gain their sympathy 
with the splendid thing that had happened to her ! 
She pointed her free hand to the ground, so that 
they might see and share her endless joy over 
David Holm, lying contrite and remorseful at her feet. 

But at that instant the spectre, clad in black, 
leant towards her, and spoke : " O captive,. O 
beloved one, come forth from thy prison ! " 

The girl threw herself back on her pillows, and 
life left her in a sigh. 

At the same moment David Holm was snatched 
away. The bonds which he could not see, but only 
feel, tightened once more round his arms, while 
his feet were left free. George made him under- 
stand, in an angry whisper, that he would have 
been punished with eternal sufferings had it not 
been for their old friendship's sake. 

" Come with me hence at once," he went on ; 
" we two have nothing further to do here. They 
who have to receive her are come." 






" 



SISTER EDITH PLEADS WITH DEATH 129 

He dragged David Holm out with extreme 
. violence. The latter thought that he saw the 
room suddenly filled with bright figures. He 
seemed to meet them on the stairs, and in the 
street— but he was whirled away at such a giddy 
pace that he could not distinguish them. 









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CHAPTER VI 






THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROADSIDE 



DiV .D HOLM was lying nerve-racked in the death- 
car, wrathful, not against the whole world, but 
gainst himself. What W had lately s^ed 
J m? Why had he thrown himself at Siste 
Edith's fee" like a penitent and remorseful sinner ? 
George must certainly he laughing at htm • 
if he was deserving of that name, ought to stand 

I his deeds-he knew why .he had committed 

II He would not rush on and ntog every htng 

he had overboard, merely because a bit of a girl 
sL that she was in love with Mm. -Whaw-tt 

then that had come over him? Was it love? 
But he was dead-she was dead! What kind of 

love could that be? t 

The lame horse was moving again, jogging down 
one of the streets which led out of the town The 
houses became fewer and fewer, the street lamps 
Lther apart. The boundary of the town was « 
sight-and then these objects would cease. 



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I, 



THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROADSIDE 131 

As they were approaching the last lamp-post 
.Holm was seized by a land of depression, a vague 
anxiety to get right away from the town. He felt 
that he was being taken from something which 
he ought not to leave. 

At the very moment that he felt this disquiet, 
he heard, amid all the indescribable creaking and 
rattling of the cart, a voice speaking behind him, 
and he lifted his head to listen. 

It was George, in conversation with someone 
who seemed to be riding with them in the cart— 
a passenger whom he had not noticed up to now. 
"I must not accompany you farther," said a 
gentle voice, so choked by pain and sorrow that it 
was scarcely audible. " I had so much to tell him, 
but he is lying "here angry and malicious, and I 
cannot make myself either seen or heard by him. 
You must please let him understand from me that 
I have been to meet him, but I am being carried 
away from this town, and must never again appear 
to him as I am now." 

" But suppose he repents and regrets ? " asked 
George. 

, " You yourself have said that he can repent of 

nothing," replied the voice in a sorrowful tremor. 

' You must tell him from me that I thought we 










- ." . * ■ * ■ . 

132 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! • 

should belong to each other for eternity, but now 
from this moment he can never see me again." 

" But if he can make atonement for his evil 
deeds? " George queried. 

" You will kindly tell him from me that I was ' 
not allowed to accompany him farther than here,",, ' 
wailed the voice, "Bid him farewell from me." 

" But if he can reform and become another man ? " 
George insisted. 

" You may tell him that I shall always love 
him," replied the voice, in a strain of greater 
melancholy than before. " I have no other hope 
to give him." 

David Holm had got on his knees at the bottom 
of the cart. At these words he made a violent 
effort, and suddenly stood upright at full length. 
He snatched at a " something " which fluttered 
away from the uncertain clutch of his manacled 
hands — he did not succeed in clearly distinguishing 
what it was, but it left an impression of something 
gleaming bright, of a beauty beyond all dreams. 

He wanted to tear himself free and dash after 
the fugitive,, but was prevented by something that 
paralysed him more than mere fetters and bonds. 

It was love — the love of spiritual beings, of which 
earthly love is but a poor imitation— which once 











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THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROADSIDE 133 

again overmastered him, as at the death-bed. It 
had slowly burnt through him, just as a fire/whilst 
it is burning up, slowly burns the wood into a glow. 
Scarcely anyone notices its action, but nevertheless, 
" from time to time, it sends out a sudden flame to 
show that it is about to set the whole ablaze. 

Such a sudden flame was that which now blazed 
up within David Holm. It did not gleam in full 
radiance, but its light was sufficient for him to see 
the beloved one in such glorious guise that he must 
needs sink down stricken by helplessness— conscious 
that he dare not, that he had not the will, that he 
could not endure to approach her. 

The driver's cart continued its way in pitch 
darkness. On either side stood a dense and tower- 
ing forest ; so narrow was the road that the sky was 
indistinguishable. It seemed to Holm that the 
horse was moving, more slowly than ever, the 
creaking of the wheels was more piercing, his own 
self-examination more strict, and the forlorn 
monotony, greater than in other spots. Then 
George drew in the reins, for a moment the creaking 
ceased, and the driver cried aloud in a high-pitched 
voice. 

" What is all the torture I am suffering, what are 
all the . torments that await me, compared to the 



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134 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 



uncertainty of the only thing which is of vital 
importance to know? I thank thee, God, that 
I am come from the darkness of mortal life. I 
praise and glorify Thee in all my misery, because I 
know that Thou hast bestowed on me the gift of 

eternal life." 

The journey was resumed with jolts and creaking, 
but the driver's words long lingered in David Holm's 
ears. It was the first time he had felt some little 
sympathy with his old friend. 

" He is a brave man," he thought ; " he does 
not complain, although there is no hope of his 
getting away from his occupation." 

• • • • • • 

It was a long journey, this ; one that seemed 

never to reach an end. 

' After they had journeyed so long that David 
Holm supposed they had been on the road for a 
day and a night they reached a wide plain which 
was overshadowed by a sky no longer sullen but 
clear, and then a half-moon glided up between the 
Three Wise Men and the Pleiades. 

With creeping slowness the lame horse jogged 
over the plain, and when at last it was crossed 
David Holm looked up at the moon's disk to find 
out how far it had got. Then he observed that it 




I 



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THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROADSIDE 135 

had not moved at all, and he began wondering at 
this ! 

They journeyed on and on. At long intervals 
he glanced up to the sky, and saw that the moon 

never stirred from her place between the Three Wise 
Men and the Pleiades, but remained still. K 

At last he realised that, although he had supposed 
that they had been journeying for a day and a night, 
yet no ehange had taken place from night till 
morning nor from day to evening, and that there 
had been the same night all the time. 

For hours and hours, so it seemed to him, they 
journeyed on, buf on heaven's great dial none of 
the Wise. Men had moved— everything remained 
■ in its old position. 

He might have thought that the world had - 
stayed its course if he had not remembered what 
George had told him about time being stretched 
out— stretched out so that the driver might reach 
all the places he had to reach. He realised with a 
shudder that what for him was drawn out to days 
and days and nights and nights might not be more 
than one short moment, according to man's 
reckoning of time. 

In his childhood he had heard speak of a man 
who had visited the blessed in heaven in their 



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136 THY SOUL. SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

dwellings. When the man came back he said that 
a hundred years in God's heaven had passed as 
quickly as a single day on earth. But for him who 
drove the death-cart perhaps a single day was as 
long as hundreds of years on earth. Again he 
felt a touch of sympathy for George. • 

"It is no wonder that he longs to be released. 
It has proved a long year to him." 



Whilst driving up a steep hill, they caught sight 
of a person who was travelling even slower than 
themselves, and whom they would overtake. 

It was an old woman, bent and decrepit, who 
got along by the aid of a substantial stick, and 
who, despite her feebleness, was carrying a bundle 
so heavy that it quite dragged her down on one 
side. 

It seemed as if the old woman had the faculty of 
seeing the death-cart, for she made way for it, and 
stood still by the roadside when it came right 
opposite her. Afterwards she slightly quickened 
her pace so that she could keep up with the cart, 
and meanwhile she eyed it very closely to find out 
what manner of thing it was. 

In the clear moonlight it was not Jong before 
she observed that the horse was an old one-eyed- 



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THE OLD-WOMAN .ON THE ROADSIDE 



137 



crocks that the harness was fastened together with 
birch twigs and bits jof string, that the cart was 
worn out,. and in chronic danger of losing both 
its wheels. 

" It is extraordinary that anybody should venture 
to drive about in a vehicle of that description and 
with such a horse," mumbled the old woman to 
herself, without thinking that the travellers might 
hear her. " I was thinking of asking a lift for a 
bit of the way, but that poor horse has all it can 
do to get along, and the cart might break to pieces 
if I stepped into it." 

She had, however, hardly spoken the Words 
before George leaned over his seat and began to 
sing the praises of his horse and cart. 
. ' " Ah I " said he, " this cart and horse are not 
so bad as you think. I have driven them over 
roaring seas, where the waves rose as high as horses, 
and great ships sank, but they have not overturned 
with me." 

The old woman was somewhat dumbfounded, 
but she decided that she had come across a carter 
who liked to have his little joke, and she' was not 
long in giving him tit for tat. 

" Perhaps there are some who get on better on 
the roaring seas than they do on dry land," she 



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138 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 




said, "for I am inclined to think that they will 
find it a bit awkward to make progress here," 

" I have driven through precipitous mine-shafts 
right down into the bowels of the earth," said the 
driver, " without the horse stumbling — and I have 
driven through burning towns where it has been 
like a blast furnace, with fire on all sides. No 
fireman has ventured so far through fire and smoke 
as that horse has gone without shying." 

" You like making merry over an old body, 
driver," retorted the old crone. 

" Sometimes I have had business on the highest 
mountains, where no beaten track existed," con- 
tinued the driver, " but the horse has climbed up 
mountain-walls and ventured over chasms, and 
yet the cart has stood it — though the ground on 
these places was nothing but a succession of blocks 
of stone. I have journeyed over marshes where 
there was no solid turf, that could bear a child, 
and snow which lay in drifts as high as a man, and 
it has not been able to stop me — so I don't think 
I can complain of my gear." 

" Well, if it is as you say, I don't wonder you 
are pleased," remarked the old woman, agreeing 
with him. " You are, I can see, a real swell, 
you with your fine horse and carriage ! " 






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THE OLD WOMAN ON THE ROADSIDE 139 

"I am the strong one who has might over the 
children of men," replied the driver, and his voice 
took a deep and solemn tone. " I bring them 
under my sway, whether they dwell in lofty halls 
or in wretched cellars. I bestow freedom on 
slaves, and I tear down kings from their thrones. 
There is no citadel so strong but I can scale its walls ; 
there is no science so profound that avails to arrest 
my progress. I smite the confident, however 
much they bask themselves in the sun of prosperity, 
and I bestow wealth and possessions on the 
wretched who have languished in poverty." 

" Didn't I guess," said the old woman, laughing, 
" that I had come across some big-wig ? But 
since you are so grand and have such a fine carriage, 
perhaps you could give me a lif t ? I was off to 
one of my daughters for New Year's Eve, but I 
missed my way, and I believe I shall have to spend 
the whole night walking on the King's highway, 
unless indeed you will be good enough to help me." 

" No, you must not ask me for that," cried the 
driver. "You will fare better on the road than 
if you were in my cart." 

" Well, I dare say you are right there," said 
the old woman. " I rather think your horse 
would stumble if he had to carry me ; but, anyhow, 



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140 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS T 



I'll put my bundle in the back of the cart ; I fancy 
you could help so far." 

Without asking further leave, she shifted her 
bundle and deposited it on the bottom of the cart — 
but At sank down to the ground without the 
slightest stop, just as if she had put it on belching 
smoke, or on driving mist. 

Maybe at that very moment she lost sight of the 
cart, for she remained standing in the road, 
bewildered and trembling, without attempting 
to resume her talk with the driver. 

But this conversation made Holm more 
sympathetic with George. " He has certainly 
had to go through a good deal," he thought ; " I 
am not surprised that he is so altered." 




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CHAPTER VII 

THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 

George carried David Holm into a room with 
lofty but barred windows, bare gleaming walls, 
devoid of the slightest ornamentation. A few beds 
were placed along a wall, of which only a single 
one was occupied. A faint smell of drugs greeted 
him ; a man in a gaol constable's uniform sat beside 
the bed, and Holm understood that he had come to 
a prison hospital. 

A-small electric lamp was burning from the ceiling, 
and by its gleam he. saw a youthful invalid, with 
an emaciated face, lying in bed. He had hardly 
cast a glance at 'the prisoner before he forgot that 
he had just been feeling in better humour with 
George. Now, however, he was ready to spring at 
him with his old fury. 

" What have you to do here ? " he exclaimed. 
'-'If you do anything to the man lying in yonder 
bed we are foes for eternity, so understand that." 

141 




i 





■ 






142 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS 

The driver turned towards him with a look which 
was more pitiful than aggressive. 

" Now I know who it is who is lying there, David. 
I did not know till we came here." 

" Whether you knew it or not, it is all the same 
— understand " 

He stopped abruptly. George had made a com- 
manding gesture with his hand, and David relapsed 
into silence, subjugated by an irresistible fear. 

'' For you and me there is only submission and 
obedience," the driver warned him. " It is not 
for you to wish or ask for aught, but only to await 
quietly for illumination." 

With these words George pulled hjs cowl over 
his face as a sign that he would not have anything 
further to say "to him, and, in the silence' which 
ensued, David Holm observed that the sigk prisoner 
had begun to talk to his warder. 

" Do you think, officer, that I shall ever be 
myself again ? " he asked, in a weak but not at all 
despondent or melancholy voice. 

" Good gracious, Holm, of course you will," said 
the warder kindly, though in a slightly uncertain 
tone. " You must pull yourself together a bit, 
and shake off the fever." 

" I take it that you know, officer, that it was 




•I - . ■-- . " . 

...}.".. ■'■/.•. 

'..'■' THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 143 



not the fever I was thinking about," continued the 
sick man. " I am wondering if you think I can get 
out of this prison again ; it's no easy matter when 
one has been condemned for manslaughter." 

" You will do all right, Holm, as you have someone 
to go to," replied the warder ; " at any rate, you 
said that there was a place where you would be 
taken in." 

An exquisite smile overspread the prisoner's 
countenance. 

" How did the doctor think I was this evening ? " 
he asked. 

" No danger, Holm, no danger. What the 
doctor said was just this : ' If only I had him outside 
these walls, I could soon put him on his feet again.' " 

The prisoner expanded his chest and sucked in 
the air between his teeth. " Outside these walls ! " 
he murmured. 

" I am only repeating what the doctor usually 
says to me," the warder went on ; " but you must 
not take him too literally and slip away from us, 
as you did in the autumn of last year. That only 
means a longer imprisonment, you understand." 

" No fear, officer, . I am a wiser man now. I'm 
only thinking of putting an end to this soon, and 
afterwards beginning a new life." 







■ . 



144 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

" Ah ! you're right, it willjbe a new life," remarked 
the warder, in a somewhat solemn tone. 

Meanwhile David Holm was undergoing worse 
' torture than the sick man. 

"They have infected him with his disease in 
this prison," he mumbled, as he swayed his body 
to and fro in anguish. " And now he is done for, ' 
he who was so handsome, so strong, and so gay." 

" Warder," continued the sick man, " have you 

not " But at that moment he caught a slight 

movement of impatience in* the warder, and ex- 
claimed : " Perhaps my chattering is against the . 
rules ? " ■ 

"No, to-night you may talk, as much as you 
like." 

" To-night ! " the sick man repeated thoughtfully. 
" Ah, yes ! because it ! is New Year's Eve ? " 

" Yes," replied the officer, " because a good New 
Year is opening for you." 

" The fellow sits there, knowing that the poor 
chap will die to-night," complained the prisoner's 
brother in his utter helplessness. " That's why 
he is so gentle with him." 

" Have you noticed, officer," and the prisoner 
took up the question he had broken off short, " that 
there has been a change in me since I ran away? 



■ 






. 






. 



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i .: 



* ~ v. ■ - 



— 




• 






■ ■- 



■- 



■ 

% 



I 



j 



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• THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 145 

You have had no trouble with me since then, have 

you?" 

" You have been like a lamb ever since, so I 
have had no cause to be annoyed ; but I say, as 
I said before, don't do it again." 
' "As to- that change, officer, have you ever 
wondered what it was due to ? Perhaps you 
thought that it was because I became worse in 
health after the escape ? " 

" Well, yes, we all thought something like that." 

" But that's not the reason at all," the prisoner 
-explained ; " it comes from something else. I 
have never dared to speak about it before, but 
to-night I should like to tell you about it, warder." 

"I am afraid, Holm, that you are talking too 
much," said the warder, but onr observing that the 
man's face grew downcast, he continued in a kindly 
manner : " Not that I am tired of your talking 
.—it is for your own sake." 

. ■ " Did not those in the prison think it strange 
that I came back of my own accord ? " asked the 
sick man. " Nobody had the least knowledge 
as to my whereabouts, but I walked into the chief 
constable's office and gave myself up voluntarily. 
Why did you think I acted so queer ly ? " 

" We thought, of course, that you had fared so 



■ 



, ■ ■ 



^^^ 
















146 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

badly outside that you thought it better to give 
yourself up of your own accord." 

"It is true enough that I did fare badly during 
the first few days, but I had been away, you know, 
full three weeks. Did you think I had been out 
in the wide woods all that time— and in the winter, 
too?" 

" We were bound to believe it, Holm, as you 
said that it was so." 

The prisoner looked amused. "One had some- 
times to humbug the authorities in that way, to 
prevent those who have helped one from getting 
into trouble. One cannot answer otherwise. Those 
who have been brave enough to harbour an escaped 
prisoner, and treat him well, deserve to be helped 
as much as is in one J s power. You agree with that; 
I take it, warder ? " 

" Now, Holm, you are asking more than you 
will get answered," replied the warder, with the 
same patience that he had shown ail-along. 

The young prisoner heaved a deep sigh of longing. ' 
" If I could but endure all this, till I reach there 
again ! They were people who lived on the outskirts 
of the wood." 

He broke off and lay fighting for air. The warder 
looked anxiously at him. He seized hold of a 



THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 



147 



medicine bottle, but, on seeing that it was empty, 
got up. "I must fetch a little more of this stuff," 
he said, and left the room. 

A moment afterwards the driver took the man's 
place beside the bed, after putting his scythe where 
the young man could not see it — then he threw his 
cowl back. 

David Holm burst out wailing like a crying child 
when he saw that awful figure so near his brother, 
but the prisoner betrayed no uneasiness. Lying 
where he did in high fever, he did not observe that 
a new-comer had seated himself on the chair beside 
him, but fancied that it was the same warder whom 
he had continually facing him. 

"It was a little cottage," he muttered, panting 
cruelly after each word. 

" Holm, you are not to exert yourself like that 
with talking," commanded the driver. " The 
authorities' know every detail of what you are 
thinking about, but we did not want to betray that 
we knew." 

The sick man opened his eyes wide in astonish- 
ment. 

" Ah ! you are staring at me, Holm," said the 
driver, " but wait and you shall hear. Do you 
think that we had no information about a lad who 



■■ - ■ 



»,y.u... .,. ■ - 



148 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

sneaked one afternoon into a little cottage — the 
last of a row of cottages in a long village^-where 
he thought there would be nobody at home ? He 
had been lying in hiding, on the outskirts of the 
wood, till the mistress went out — he assumed that 
the master would be away at work, and he had 
not caught sight of any children. When .at last 
the woman went out with a milk-can on her arm, 
the lad, who had watched where she hid the key, 
slunk into the cottage." 

"How do you know that, warder ?" the sick 
man asked, and in his amazement tried to sit up 
in bed. 

" Just you he still, Holm,"_ replied the driver 
good-humouredly, " and don't be afraid for your- 
friends. After all, we prison warders are human. 
Now I'll tell you what I know besides. Well, 
when that lad entered the cottage, he was frightened 
because it was not empty, as he had believed it to 
be. A sick child lay in a big bed against the opposite 
wall looking at him. 1 He walked softly up to it, 
but the child closed its eyes and lay as quiet as if it 
were dead. ' Why are you lying there in the middle 
of the day ? ' asked the lad. ' Are you ill ? ' The 
child, however, did not stir. ' You mustn't be 
afraid of me,' said the lad. ' Just tell me where I 



Ti 



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_. 



■ 1 • ' 



[■'.? 



" ' 



: 



■:••■■ 



• 










THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 149 

can as quickly as possible get a little food, and then 
HI be off.' 

" As the child lay absolutely still and would not 
answer, the intruder pulled a straw out of the 
mattress and tickled it under the nose. The child 
started sneezing, and then the lad laughed. At first 
the child gazed at him with astonishment, but 
soon began to laugh too. ' I thought I would 
pretend to be dead,' said the child. ' I saw that, 
but what would be the use of it ? ' ' You have 
heard, I suppose, that if you meet a bear in the 
woods, and, throw yourself down and pretend to 
be already dead, the bear goes away to dig a hole 
to bury you in, and, while he is doing this, you can 
get away.' The man turned red in the face at these 
words. ' Oh, indeed, you thought I was going to 
dig a hole to cram you in ? ' he said. ' That was 
mere silliness of me,' replied the child, ' for, in any 
case, I can't run away. I have something the 
matter .with my hips, and I can't walk.' " 

The sick prisoner seemed quite beside himself 
with astonishment. 

" Perhaps you would prefer my not going on 
with the story ? " the driver remarked. 

" Oh, no ! I like hearing it. I hke being 
reminded of it I But I can't make out " 



- 

■-. - .. . 







,', 



..--■■ 



150 THY. SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

" That's not so remarkable, you know, Holm. 
There was a tramp called George — possibly you 
have heard speak of him, sometime or other ? He 
heard the story in one of his wanderings, and passed 
it on till at last it reached the prison." 

A short silence now ensued, but soon the prisoner 
asked in his weak voice : " What happened' 
afterwards to that lad, and that child ? " 

" Well, it happened that the lad again begged 
for food. ' I suppose poor people sometimes call 
at this cottage and ask for food ? ' he said. ' Yes, 
that certainly is the case,' replied the child. ' And 
your mother generally gives them something to 
eat ? ' ' Yes, if she has anything in the house, she 
gives them something.' ' Well, you see,' said the 
lad, ' that's just the question now ; it's only a poor 
chap who has come to you to ask for food. Tell 
me where there is something to eat, and I won't 
take more than sufficient to satisfy me.' The child 
gazed at him with a funny precocious look. ' Mother 
was thinking about this fugitive who is said to be 
running wild in the woods, so she put all the food 
away and locked the cupboard.' ' But you saw, 
didn't you, where she put the key, so you might 
tell .me ? Otherwise I shall be obliged to force 
open the cupboard.' ' That won't be easy,' said 



•: 




THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 



151 



the child ; ' because we have a strong lock to our 
cupboard.' 

" The lad went all round the cottage, searching 
for the; keys. He searched underneath the stove, 
and in the table-drawer, but could find nothing. 
Meanwhile the child was sitting up in bed, peeping 
out of _;the window. ' Here come a lot of people 
down the road — mother and a whole crowd of others,' 
he said. The fugitive made a spring and stood 
by the door. ' If you go out, you will run right 
into them,' remarked the child. ' It would be 
better for you to hide in our cupboard.' The lad 
lingered by the door. ' That is true, but I haven't 
the cupboard key.' 'Here it is, though,' said the 
child, stretching out his hand, which held a big 
key. 

" The fugitive took the key and rushed to the 
cupboard. ' Throw the key here,' shouted the 
child, after the lad had opened the door ; ' you 
fasten the door from the inside.' He obeyed, and 
next minute had shut himself in. Likely -enough 
the lad's heart beat fast when he listened to his 
pursuers. He heard the door of the outer room 
open, and then a crowd of people came in. A 
woman's voice Cried high and shrill : ' Has any- 
body been here ? ' ' Yes, mother,' said the child ; 



mm 







152 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 

'a young man came- in soon after you had gone.' 
' Good gracious ! Good gracious ! ' the woman 
whimpered. ' It was the one they said that they 
saw coming from the woods and entering this 
cottage.' 

" The fugitive swore silently to himself at what 
he thought was the child's treachery. That smart - 
boy had caught him, as it were, in a rat-trap. He 
began pushing at the door, so as to rush out head- 
long and, perhaps, contrive to break thrbugh. Then 
he heard someone ask which way the man had 
gone. ' He is not here now,' said the clear childish 
voice; 'he was frightened when he saw you 
coming.' 

Has he taken anything ? ' asked the mother. 
' No, he wanted food, but I had none to give him.' 
' But didn't he do anything to you ? ' ,' He tickled 
me under the nose with a straw,' replied the child, 
' and the runaway heard how I laughed.' ' Oh, 
did he ? ' said the mother, who laughed now that 
her anxiety had been dispelled. 

'We are not, I suppose, going to stay gaping 
at these walls when the fellow is not here,' said a 
man's voice, and directly afterwards the people 
could be heard leaving the cottage. 'You will 
stay at home now, Lisa? ' someone was heard to 



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.- 



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..- ' ■ .- ■ ■ - i 

THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 153 

say. 'Yes, I don't mean to leave Bernard again 
to-day,' answered the mother. 

'The fugitive, on hearing the outer door shut, 
concluded .that the mother and child were now 
alone in the room. ' What will be best for me ? ' 
he thought. ' Shall I remain here or try to make 
off? ' Just then he heard a step approaching 
the cupboard. 'Don't be frightened, you who 
are inside, but come out so that I may have a word 
with you,' cried the mother. Whereat she put the 
key into the lock and opened the door. The lad 
stepped timidly put. 'It was the kid who told 
me that T could hide here,' he said, pointing to 
the child. 

" The little boy was so excited by the adventure 
that he clapped his hands in glee. ' That small 
chap of mine gets so shrewd by always lying still 
and thi nk i n g his own thoughts,' said the mother 
proudly. ' Soon nobody will be sharp enough for 
him.' The fugitive' understood that she was not 
going to surrender him to the police, because the 
boy had taken a fancy to him. ' You are right 
there,' he replied. ' I may tell you that I walked 
in here to get myself a little food, but I could not 
light on any. This boy would not give me the 
key. He's cleverer than many a one who can walk 



- ._-Wii'. 




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TJ^Ti 






154 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS I 



on his feet.' The mother, no doubt, saw what 
his drift was by his flattery,, but, all the same, she 
liked hearing it. . ' I will give you something to 
eat first of all,' she said. While the fugitive was 
eating, the boy began asking particulars of his 
escape, and the man told his story truthfully from 
beginning to end. His flight had not been pre- 
meditated, but he happened to find an opportunity 
on an occasion when he had work in the prison- 
yard — the gates had been thrown open to admit 
a load of hay being carried through. The boy 
questioned and questioned him insatiably as to 
how he had contrived to get clear of the town and 
reach the woods. Twice the lad said that he really 
ought to stop, but the boy would not hear of it. 
' You are quite welcome to sit here to-night and 
chat with Bernard,' said the mother at last. 
' There's such a lot of people on the look-out ior 
you that, likely enough, you will be taken whether 
you stay here or steal away.' 

" The fugitive was still relating his adventures 
when the master of the house arrived. It was 
dark in the room, and the cottager thought at first 
that it was one" of the neighbours sitting chatting 
with the child. 'Is that you, Petter, telling ■ 
Bernard fairy tales ? ' he asked. The child began 




:i ?** ! " ; -'i 



■ :■• - ■• 



.. 



THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 155 




laughing again in his excitement. ' No, father, 
it isn't Petter; it's someone much better. Come 
here and you shall hear.' The father went to the 
bed, but he learnt nothing till he put his ears to 
the child's lips. ' It's the man who escaped ! ' 
whispered the boy. ' Good gracious, Bernard, 
what things you do say ! ' cried the father. ' Well, 
it's true,' said the child. ' He has been telling me 
how he stole out of the prison gates and lay for 
three whole niglits in an old lumber-shed in the 
woods. I know all about it ! ' 

" The mother had hurriedly lighted a small lamp, 
and the peasant now looked at the fugitive, who 
had taken his stand by the door. ' I must hear 
how that tale hangs together,' said the cottager. 
So they began the story, wife and child both 
talking, and both equally excited. The peasant 
was an oldish man, and he looked wise and 
thoughtful. He eyed the runaway prisoner 
narrowly, whilst the others were chattering. ' He 
looks, to say the least of it, mortally ill, poor 
fellow ! ' he thought. ' If he sleeps another night 
in that lumber-shed, it will certainly be all up 
with him.' 

" ' There are many people walking the streets, 
whom no one thinks of arresting, but who look 



, 






- 



.; 







..-- 



156 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 

more dangerous customers than you,' he said, when 
the others were silent. ' I am not really dangerous,' . 
said the fugitive ; ' it was someone who roused my 
temper when I was drunk ! ' The peasant would 
not let him say anything further on the matter, " 
lest the boy should hear it. 'I can imagine that 
it happened that way,' he said, interrupting. 

" It was quite silent hi the room now ; the peasant 
sat immersed in thought, the others watching him " 
anxiously. Nobody dared say another word to 
influence him in favour of the lad. At last he 
turned towards his wife. ' I don't know if I am 
doing wrong, but it is the same with me as with 
you — since the boy has taken a fancy to him, I 
can't drive him away.' 

" It was therefore agreed that the fugitive should 
stay the night and leave early next morning. 
Before long, however, he developed so bad an 
attack of fever that he could not stand on his legs, 
so, because of that, they had to keep him in the 
cottage for a fortnight." 

It was curious to watch the two brothers who- 
were listening to this story, when the driver got 
to the point where the fugitive was staying with 
the peasants. The sick lad had stretched himself 
on his bed, and was lying at perfect ease. His 



- IB -4 ■ 



■ • 
.-'■-■> 



- .' ■ 





^ 






THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 157 

■ pains seemed to have left him, and he was brooding 
over happy bygones. The other was still suspicious, 
surmising that behind all this some trap was hidden. 
He. tried again and again to make a sign to his 
brother not to be so confident, but he could not 
catch the latter's eye. 

"They dared not send for a doctor," said the 
■driver, going on with his story, "nor could they 
venture to the chemist's for physic. The sick lad 
had to get well without all that. If anybody 
called and seemed about to enter the cottage, the 
mistress went to the entrance and said that Bernard 
had such a suspicious looking rash on his body — 
she was afraid it might be scarlet fever — that she 
could not take the responsibility of admitting 
anyone. 

" About a fortnight afterwards, when the fugitive 
began to rally, he said to himself that it would 
not do for him to stay longer with his host 
and hostess— he must wander farther on. He 
could not continue to be a burden to these poor 
people. 

"About that time they began speaking to him 

on a subject that weighed on him heavily. It so 

happened that Bernard asked him one evening 

. where he was going after he left them. 'I suppose 










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—• «sf>- 



) 



158 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS 



I shall take to the woods again,'- he answered.. 
' But it will be precious little good your going out 
into the wilds,' said the peasant's wife. ' If I were 
you, I should make a clean breast of it to the police 
^authorities. There cannot really be much pleasure 
in roaming about like a wild animal.' ' Nor is 
there any pleasure in being in gaol ! ' ' No, yet 
when the thing has to be done, it is always better 
to get it done sooner, than later.' 'My sentence' 
had nearly expired,' the lad said, ' but 1 now I shall 
probably have it increased.' ' Yes, it was a mistake, 
your running away,' said the wife. ' No ! ' answered 
the lad briskly ; ' it was the best thing I did in all 
my life.' 

" In saying this, he looked aftfie boy and smiled, 
and the child nodded to him and laughed. He 
loved that youngster— he would have liked to lift 
him out of bed and carry him away on his shoulders 
when he quitted the cottage. ' It will be very 
difficult for you to meet Bernard again if you 
continue wandering about all your life as a poor 
runaway ! ' 'It will be a sight worse if I let them 
clap me into prison.' 

" The peasant sat by the fire and now joined in 
the conversation. ' We were beginning to get on 
well together,' he said, in his grave way, ' but we 



1 




. THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 159 

can't hide you any longer from the neighbours, 
•now that you are able to get about. It would be 
quite another matter if you had been discharged 
from prison.' The fugitive felt a sudden suspicion 
—they would perhaps make him give himself up, 
in order to avoid future trouble with the authorities ! 
So he answered : ' I am so well now that I can go 
my way to-morrow morning.' ' That wasn't what 
I meant,' said the peasant, ' but if you had been 
free, I should have invited you to stay on with us 
and help in the farming.' 

" The fugitive, who was well aware how hard it 
was for. a convict to find a situation, was touched 
by this offer, but there was much against his return- 
ing to prison, and he sat silent. 

" That evening the boy was worse than usual. 
' Ought he not to be sent to the hospital for treat- 
ment?' asked the fugitive. 'He has been there 
several times, but they say that nothing will do 
him any good except sea-bathing. How can we 
afford that ? ' 'It would be a long journey, I 
suppose ? ' said the visitor. ' It's not the journey, 
but he would need money'for bed and board.' ' Ah ! 
then, of course, it is impossible.' 
. "There was silence for a long while, but the 
fugitive played with the thought that, perhaps, 



M 



i6o THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 




■ —?< .- ■..--■■■. ^ 



some day 'he might be able to get Bernard the 
money for the journey. 

" He turned to the peasant and took up the 
subject they had been discussing. ' It is none sp" 
easy to take a convict into one's service,' he said 
tentatively. ' It would work all right, I think,' 
replied the peasant, ' but possibly you are one of' 
those who don't feel comfortable in the country) 
but must needs live in a town.' ' I never think. of 
town life,' remarked the convict, ' when I am 
sitting in my cell. I think of nothing but the woods 
and the fields.' 

'■• ' When you have completed your sentence, 
you will feel as though much that now weighs on 
your mind will be gone,' said the peasant. ' Yes, 
that's just what I say too,' chimed in the wife. 

" ' If you could sing to us, Bernard — but perhaps 
you are too ill for that.' ' Oh, no ! ' said the child. 
' I rather think your friend would like it,' the mother 
suggested. The convict felt nervous, as if fearing 
a misfortune. He wanted to ask the boy not to 
sing, but the latter had already begun. He sang 
in a clear, gentle voice, and he never worried so 
much about his being a prisoner for life, yearning 
for freedom and movement, when he sang. 

" The convict hid his face in his hands, but the * 



■ ■ 7 

■ mi mil* 



J 



... .. ' . - • 

THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 161 

tears dropped through his fingers. ' I myself can 
never be anything worthy,' he thought ; ' but I 
must do something to give that child his 
freedom.' 

" Next day he bade the family farewell. Nobody 
asked him where he was going— all they said was : 
' Welcome here again ! ' " 

' Yes, so they did, warder," remarked the sick 
man, at last interrupting the driver. " That, mark 
you, is the one and only beautiful incident in my 
^whole fife." He lay silent, but two tears softly 
coursed down his cheeks. "lam glad that you 
know all this, warder," he went on. " Now I can 
-tell you about Bernard. I think that I have been 
liberated— I think that I have been with him. I 
couldn't have believed that I should be so happy 

to-night " 

• "Listen to me, Holm," the driver interrupted. 
" If I could so arrange it that you might visit your 
( friends now and at once, but in a different way 
than you ever dreamt of, what would you say ? If 
I invited you to escape the long years of longing 
and gave you your freedom this very night, would 
you be willing ? " 

Whilst uttering these words, the driver threw 
back his cowl and .grasped the scythe. 
Fw 



t 

■"4 








,;r; 



162 THY SOUL SHALL, BEAR WITNESS 1 .- 

The sick lad looked at him with big eyes that were 
filled with longing. 

"Do you understand what I mean, Holm?" 
asked the driver. " Understand that I am he who 
can open all prisons ; I am he who can carry you 
to a height beyond the reach of any pursuers ? -". 

"I understand what you mean,"' the prisoner 
whispered, " but would not that be doing Bernard 
a wrong ? You know that I came back .here so 
that I might gain my liberty in an honourable 
manner — in order that I might help him." 

" You made for him the highest sacrifice in your 
power, and, in reward for that,, your punishment 
has been shortened, and the freedom that is beyond 
all price is offered to you. You need not think of 
him any more." 

" Oh, but I should have taken him to the seaside," 
replied the lad. " I whispered to him When we 
parted that I would come back and take him to 
the sea. One ought to keep one's promise to a 
child ! " 

" So you don't care to accept the freedom that 
I am offering you ? " said the driver, getting up. 

" Oh, yes ; oh, yes ! " cried the lad, laying hold 
of his garment. " Don't go. You know not what 
my longing is. If only there was another who 






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M 



THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 163 

might help him-^but he has no one except 
myself." 

__. The sick'lad looked wearily round his celL 

"My brother David is sitting over there," he 
cried, " so it is all right. I can ask him to' help 
Bernard." 

"Your brother David!" repeated the driver. 
" No/ you can't ask him to take care of a child. 
You should see how he treats his own." 

" David," the prisoner entreated, " I see before 
■ me green lawns and the free, open sea. You 
understand, David— I have been a prisoner here 
so long ! I cannot accept, when I am invited to 
fly away to freedom, without committing a wrong 
by so .doing. I must not break faith with that 
child. You know, I made a promise." 

"Don't be uneasy, lad," replied David Holm, 
in a trembling voice. " As to that child, and those 
people who helped you, I promise you that I will 
help them. Go! take your freedom— go where 
you will. I will look after them. Walk calmly 
out of .your prison ! " 

At these words ihe sick man fell suddenly back 
on his pillow. 

' You spoke to him, David, the words of death ! 
Let us hence ; it is time for us to be gone. The 



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164 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WItNESS 

freed soul must not be met by us who live in captivity 
and darkness ! " 

" Were it possible to make oneself heard in this 
horrible creaking and rattling," thought David 
Holm, " I should like, to say a few words of thanks 
to George for having helped those two — Sister 
Edith and my brother— in their last moments. I 
won't satisfy him by releasing him from his office, 
but I should very much like to show him that I 
appreciate the way in which he came to their 
assistance." 

Hardly had these thoughts crossed his mind 
before the driver pulled the reins and stopped 
the horse, just as if he had anticipated these 
thoughts. 

" I am only a poor bungler of a carter," he 
remarked, " but sometimes I have the luck to help 
someone — though it happens quite as often that 
I fail. These two were easy to carry over the 
boundary, because the one longed so ardently for 
God's heaven, and the other had so little to bind 
him to earth. Know this, David," he went on, 
assuming the old friendly tene, " that many a time 
when sitting listening in this cart, I have thought 
to myself that if I could but send a certain message 




. THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 165 

to mankind, what I should send them would certainly 
be a. greeting." 

" I can well imagine that to be so," said David 
Holm. 

" You know, David, that it is no sorrow to be a 
reaper when the field stands full of ripened grain ; 
but if one is forced to mow down poor and only 
half-grown plants, he might think that a cruel and 
thankless work. ' The husbandman whom I serve 
regards Himself as too good for such, and leaves 
it all for me, a poor carter." 

" I understood that it had to be so," remarked 
David Holm. 

" If men but knew," continued George, " how 
easy it is to help across the boundary those who 
have their work ready, and their duties fulfilled, 
and the bonds almost broken, and how hard it is 
to free him who has attempted nothing, accom- 
plished nothing,, and leaves behind him all he loves, 
then perhaps they would try to make the driver's 
task a less irksome one." 

" What do you mean, George ? " 

" Think of one thing, David. All the time you 
have been with me, you have hardly heard any 
talk of more than one disease. I can assure you 
that was the same with me all the year; c It is 







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166 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS J 



because the disease spreads among the unripe 
seeds that it falls to my lot to reap. During the 
first period of my driving the death-cart, I was 
always thinking that if only that disease were — 
removed, my office would be Considerably lightened." 

" Was that the greeting you wanted to send to 
mankind ? " 

" No, David. I know better now than I did • 
then what man can do. Some day. the.y certainly 
ought to vanquish this enemy with the weapons 
of science and perseverance. They should never .. 
rest till they have freed themselves from that, and 
all other great diseases which, strike them down, ■ 
before their maturity. The matter does not depend 
on this." . . 

" How should they, then, lighten the driver's 
work?" 

" Men are so eager to arrange everything for the 
best for themselves in their world," replied George, 
" that I think the day will come when poverty and 
drunkenness and all such wretchedness that shortens 
iife will no longer exist, but that does not imply • 
that the driver's occupation will be less toilsome." 

" What greeting, then, would you send them, 
George? " 

" It will soon be New Year's morning, David, . 



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THE STRUGGLE OF A SOUL 167 

and when men awake their first thoughts will be 
upon the New Year and all that they wish and hope 
. that it may give them— after that, on their future. 
But the greeting I would send them is not that 
they should wish for luck in love-affairs, success, 
or power, or a long, or even a healthy life. I would 
have them fold their hands and concentrate their 
thoughts upon a single prayer : 

" ' ' O God ! vouchsafe that my soul may come 
to maturity ere it shah be reaped ! ' " 



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CHAPTER VIII 

DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 

Two women were sitting engrossed in a conversation 
which had lasted many hours. It had been inter- 
rupted for a time in the afternoon, when the pair 
had been engaged in. holding divine service in the 
Salvationists' quarters, but, at its close, the con- 
versation had been resumed. During the whole 
of the time one of the women had been trying Very 
hard to infuse courage and confidence into the other, 
but it appeared to have been labour in vain. 

" Understand, Mrs. Holm," said she who was 
trying to console and cheer the other, " that, strange 
as it may sound, I believe there is a better time in 
store for you. I believe that David has now done 
his worst. That was, I take it, something he. had 
set himself to do, in order to slake the vengeance he 
has threatened you with ever since you came to be 
reunited. But, Mrs. Holm, it is one thing for Mm 
to be cruel one day and say that his children are 

168 




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DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 169 

not to be taken away, and another thing for him to 
cherish in his heart such a murderous thought and 
carry it out day after day. I don't believe that 
anyone could persist in such a course." 

" Captain, you are very good to try to console 
me," replied the wife, though it was evident that 
she thought in her heart that if the Salvationist 
Captain did not know anyone capable of a thing like 
that, she herself certainly knew one who was. 

The Captain looked as if she had now reached the 
limit of her power to convince, but, all of a sudden, 
she determined to make a fresh effort. 

"You are to bear in mind one thing, Mrs. Holm. 
I don't say that it was a great sin you committed 
when you ran away from your husband some years 
back, but I regard it as a neglect of duty. You 
left him to his own devices, and it was not long, 
either, before the evil consequences became evident'. 
For years, however, you have tried to make repara- 
tion for it. Now you have acted as- it is God's 
will that we should act, and I think that there must 
be a change for the better. It was a big storm that 
was raised then, and one not to be quelled in an 
instant, but the work that you and Sister Edith 
began is one of the good sort, and will bear the 
fruits of all good works." 



170 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS \ 



DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 171 



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When the Captain was saying this, she was no 
longer alone in the room with Mrs. Holm, for David 
himself and his friend George — or, more precisely 
put, their spectres — had found their way into the. 
room while she was talking, and had taken up their 
stand by the door. 

David Holm was no longer bound hand and 
foot ; he followed the driver without coercion ; 
but when he observed where he had been carried, 
a sudden resentment * arose within him. Here 
surely no oije was about to die ! Why then compel 
him to see his wife and children again ? He was 
about to turn to George with an angry question, 
when the latter made signs to him to keep qtjiet. 

David Holm's wife lifted up her head as if cheered 
by the other's strong conviction. "If, after all, 
one could believe that . it was true I " she 
sighed. 

" It is true," persisted the Salvationist, smiling 
at her. " To-morrow there will be a change. You 
will see that help will come to you with the New 
Year." 

" The New Year I " repeated the wife. " Yes, it 
is New Year's Eve — I had forgotten it altogether. 
How late can it be, Captain Ahdersson ? " 

" We are well into the New Year already," came 



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the reply, and she glanced at her watch. "It is 
a quarter to two." 

"Then you must not sit any longer with me, 
Captain, but go home to bed. I am quite calm 
now, you see." 

The Salvationist Captain gave the woman a 
.searching look. 

" There's something, though, that seems to me not 
altogether satisfactory about that calmness of 
yours." 

" You need have no apprehension about me, 
Captain," replied the wife. " I know that I have 
said some hard things to-night, but it is over now." 

" Do you mean, Mrs. Holm, that you can put 
everything into God's Hands and trust to Him to 
arrange everything for the best?" asked the 
Captain. 

" Yes," the wife assured her, " I can." 

" I would willingly have stayed till the morning, 
but I see that .you think it better that I should go.'' 

"It has been so nice to have you here, but David 
will soon be coming now, so I ought to be by myself." 

They both went out of the room after interchang- 
ing a few more words. David Holm knew that his 
wife was accompanying the Salvationist Captain 
to the door to open it for her. 



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172 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 

"David," said the driver, "did you hear her? 
You observe that human beings know all they need 
to know ? They have only to be strengthened in 
the desire, to will to live long and well." 

He had scarcely said this before the wife re- 
turned. It was obvious that she meant to keep her 
promise and go to bed. She sat on a chair and began 
unlacing a boot. 

While she was doing this, the house door slammed 
noisily. The woman at once got up and listened. 
" Is he coming ? " she wondered. " Surely it is 
David coming." 

She rushed to the window and tried to look down 
to the dark yard. She stood thus for a couple of 
minutes, scrutinising it intently. When she returned 
to the chair, her face had strangely altered. It had 
become grey— eyes, lips, all of her— as if covered 
with ashes ; her movements were stiff and 
stumbling, and a slight twitching passed over her 
lips. 

" I can't endure it ! " she whispered, "I can't 
endure it ! " 

"Yes, I will trust in God! " she cried, a few 
moments later, standing in the middle of the room. 
" They tell me that I must trust in God— they think 
that, perhaps, I have not prayed to Him and called 



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DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 173 

on Him. What shall I do ? How shall I contrive 
to get any help from Him ? " 

She was not weeping, but her speech was a pro- 
longed moan. She was under the sway of a despair 
so great that she was evidently not responsible for 
her actions. 

David Holm leant forward, eyed her sharply, and 
started at a sudden thought. 

The wife did not walk, but stumbled towards the 
bed in the corner, where her two children were 
lying asleep. 

" It is a pity," she murmured, bending over them, 
" that they are so pretty." 

She knelt on the floor beside them, gazing for a 
while first on one and then on the other. 

" But I must get away," she said, " and I can't 
leave them behind me." 

She stroked their heads awkwardly and as if 
unused to it. 

" You must not be angry with me for what I 
am doing," she continued, " for it is not my 
fault." 

While she was kneeling on the floor, caressing the 
children, the outer door banged again. The woman 
jumped up again and was obviously nervous till 
she realised that it was not her husband who had 



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174 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 



come in. " I must make haste," she said to the 
children, in a weird whisper. " It shall be done 
quickly, provided David does not come and prevent 
me. 

However, she did nothing at the moment except 
pace up and down the room. 

" There is something that tells me to wait till 
the morning," she murmured, half-aloud, "but 
what good will that be ? To-njorrow will be a day 
like all the rest. Why should he be kinder to-morrow 
than to-day ? " 

David Holm was thinking about that corpse 
which was lying in the shrubbery, and which 
would soon be buried in the earth as useless for 
anything else. He was longing for his wife to know 
in some way that she need no longe,r be afraid of 
him. 

Again a slight noise was heard. It was a door in 
the house being opened and shut, and again the 
wife trembled as she remembered the purpose she 
had in mind. She slipped to the stove and began 
putting in some wood, so as to kindle* a fire. 

" It does not matter if he does come and sees me 
making a fire," she said aloud, in reply to some 
silent objection. " I may, I suppose, boil some 
coffee on New Year's morning, so as to have 



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DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 175 



something to keep .me awake while waiting up 
for him." 



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David Holm felt a great relief^when she said this. 
Again he began to wonder what purpose George 
had in mind when bringing him here. Nobody 
was about to die — nobody was ill. 

The driver stood motionless, with his cowl drawn 

down, and so preoccupied was he that it would not 

do to question him. 

. " He wants me to see my wife and family for the 

• last time," David decided. " I shall never be in 

; their presence again. That does not make me a 

whit unhappy," he continued, a moment later, 

thinking that he had ho room in his heart save for 

.one ; but he went to the corner where the two 

, children were lying. Whilst standing there, he began 

to think about the little boy whom his brother 

loved so much that, for his sake, he even returned 

■'■'".. to prison of his own accord — he felt, with a sense 

of inferiority, that he did not love his children like 

that. 

'* May it, in any case, go well for them in this 
. world I " he thought with sudden tenderness. 
. . " They will rejoice f o-morrow when they hear that 
they need not be afraid of their father any longer. 

" I wonder what sort of creatures they will turn 

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176 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 



out, when they are grown up," he wondered, with 
a more lively interest than he had ever before 
displayed over them, and he felt at the same time a 
sudden fear lest they should be such as he himself. 
" I've been an exceedingly unhappy man. I don't 
understand why I did not trouble myself about 
them before. If there is any return for me, I will 
come back and make real men of these two." 

He paused and examined the state of his heart. 
"It is curious that I no longer feel any hatred 
towards my wife," he murmured. " I should like 
her to be happy, after all that she has suffered. .' 
Were it possible, I would get back all that furniture 
for her, and I should like to see her go to church on 
Sundays in nice clothes. But she will, of course, 
get all that and more, now that I am out of her 
path. I believe that George has brought me here 
so that I may be glad to be among the dead ! " 

At that moment he gave a sudden start. He had 
been so engrossed in his thoughts as to pay no 
attention to what his wife was about. Now, 
however, he uttered a cry of anguish. 

" It's boiling— the water's boiling ; it will soon 
be ready. It must be done at once, for there is no 
time to lose." 

The woman took down a pot. that was standing 







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DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 177 



on a shelf close to the stove, and poured from it 
some ground coffee into the vessel. This done, she 
took from her bosom a little packet containing a 
white powder, which she also put in the water. 

David Holm stood staring at her, without daring 
. .to put into thought the meaning of what she was 
. doing. 

"You shall see, David, that this will do it!" 
she said aloud, turning towards the room just as 
if she saw him. " That will suffice for both children 
and myself. I can't stand any longer seeing the 
children pining away. If you only stop out another 
hour or so, everything will be done as you wanted 
by the time you return." 

Now the man could not remain any longer 
listening quietly ; he hurried to the driver. 

" George ! " he" cried. " Oh, good God ! don't 
you understand what is going on ? " 

" Yes, David, I do," replied the driver, "I am 
standing here — I am obliged to be present. I 
can't evade my duty ! " 

" But surely, George, you don't understand ; 
it's not only my. wife, but also the children. She 
means to take them with her ! " 

" Yes, David," the driver admitted, " she means 
to take your children with her." 



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" But that must not be ! It is unnecessary, 
you know. Can't you make her realise that it. is 
unnecessary?" 

"I cannot make myself heard by her— she is 
too far away." 

" But can't you summon someone here, George 
—someone who will tell her that it is no longer 
necessary? " 

"You are asking absurdities, David. What 
power have I over the living ? " 

David Holm refused to be deterred from his 
purpose. He threw himself on his knees before 
the driver. 

" Remember that you were once my friend and 
companion, and do not suffer this thing to be done 1 
Let not this befall me — do not suffer the poor 
innocent children to die." 

He looked up at George for an answer, but the 
latter only shook his head in refusal: 

"I will do all in my power for you, George. I 
refused when you told me to take, your place as 
driver, but I gladly accept that service, provided 
that I escape going through this awful trial. They 
are so tiny, both of them — and just now I was 
wishing that I could have lived to make good men 
of them. And she — she is insane to-night ; she 



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DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 179 

does not know what she is doing ! Have pity on 
her, George!" 

When the driver remained motionless, he turned 
a little aside from him. 

" I am so lonely, so lonely ! " he cried. " I do 
not know where to turn. I do not even, know 
whether to pray to God or to Christ. I am a new- 
comer in this world. Who is it that has the power ? 
Who can tell me to Whom I can betake myself in 
prayer? 

"Oh, I, a poor sinful man, pray to Him who is 
Lord Of life and of death. I am not fit to stand 
forth and pray. -• I have,, in good sooth, wrought 
against all Thy laws and ordinances, but suffer 
me to go into the uttermost darkness. Let nothing 
remain of me: Do what Thou wilt with me, so 
that these three innocents be spared." 

David held his peace and listened for an 
answer, but all he heard was his wife talking to 
herself. 

" Now that this is melted and boiled, it will only 
have to stand and cool for a few moments." 

Then George bent down to his companion, his 
cowl thrown back and his face brightened with a 
smile. " David," he said, "if you are really in 
earnest, there is perhaps still a means of saving 



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180 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS 



them. You yourself must let your wife know that 
she need not be afraid of you." 

" But I cannot make myself heard by. her, can 
I, George ? " 

" No, not as you are. You must return to the 
David Holm who is lying in the shrubbery. Can 
you do that ? " 

David shuddered with fright. Human life seemed 
to him something suffocating and deadly. Would 
not the soul's fresh development stop, if he became 
a mortal once more ? All his happiness was awaiting, 
him in another world ! 

Nevertheless, he did not hestitate a second. 

" If I can — if I am free. I. thought that I should 
have to " 

" Yes, you are right," replied George, and his 
countenance gleamed with still greater beauty. 
" You must be Death's driver for the whole of this 
year, unless another undertakes to perform the 
office in your stead." 

" Another ? " exclaimed David Holm. " Who 
would sacrifice himself for a wretch like me? " 

" David, there is a man who. has never ceased to 
bewail that he seduced you from the path of virtue. 
Perhaps that man would perform your office gladly, 
because he need never again have to grieve for you.'. 



rfHM 



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DAVID HOLM RETURNS TO PRISON 181 

Without giving David time to understand fully 
the purport of his words, he bent over him, gazing 
with radiant eyes on his face. 

." Old friend, David Holm, do the best you can. 
I shall remain here till you return. You have not 
a long time left." 

" But you, George " 

The driver checked him by that commanding 
gesture of the hand which he had learnt to obey. 
In a flash, he threw back his cowl, and cried in a 
loud and ringing voice : 

" Prisoner, return- to your prison ! " 



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THE DRIVER S PRAYER 

David Holm leant on his elbow and looked round 
about him. All the street lamps were extinguished, 
but it had grown light, and the half -moon was 
shining. He had no difficulty in assuring himself, 
that he was still lying in the church shrubbery, on 
the withered grass-plot overshadowed by the dark 
branches of the lime-trees. 

Without a moment's reflection, he began getting 
to his feet. He felt absolutely weary; bis body 
was stiff with cold and his head swam; but he 
managed somehow to raise himself up from the 
grass, after which he began stumbling in the 
direction of the avenue. So near was he to 
falling, that he was obliged to steady himself 
against a tree. 

—" I am not up to it," he thought. " It will be 
impossible for me to be there ia time." 

Not for an instant did he feel that what he had 
gone through was an illusion — he had the fullest 

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THE DRIVER'S PRAYER 



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and most definite impressions left of the night's 
events. * 

"I left the driver waiting in my house," he 
muttered he. "I needs must hasten." 
. "He left the tree that he had been leaning against, 
and took several steps forward, but he was so 
pitifully weak that he sank to his knees. 

Then, in this terrible moment of abandonment, 
he felt something brush against his forehead. He 
did not know whether it was a hand, or a pair of 
lips — or, possibly, the flapping of very thin garments 
—but it was enough to ravish his whole soul with 
bliss. . 

" Shehas returned to me I " he cried in jubilation ; 
"she is near me again ; she is protecting me." 

He stretched out his hands in ecstasy at being 
encompassed by the beloved's, love, at her love 
filling, his heart with gladness even at the moment 
when he -had returned to the earthly sphere. 

He heard footsteps behind him in the deserted 
night. A small woman, whose head was covered 
by a big Salvationist bonnet, came tripping 

by. 

" Sister Mary 1 " he cried, as she was going past 
him. "Sister Mary, help me 1" 
The Slum-Sister may have recognised the voice. 






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184 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 



She shrank away and pursued her course without 
troubling about him. ' 

" Sister Mary, I am not drunk. I am ill ! Help 
me to get home." 

Well, she scarcely believed him, but, without 
another word, she went to him, helped him to rise, 
and supported him as he walked. 

He was once more on his way home, but how slow 
was the journey. All might be over by now ! 
The man stopped suddenly. 

" Sister Mary, it would be a great boon if you 
would go to my home first, and fell the wife -" 

" Need I tell her that you are coming back, drunk 
as usual ? Is she so unused to it ? " 

David bit his lips and struggled on, striving to 
the uttermost to increase his pace ; but his body, 
half-paralysed by cold, refused obedience. 

Soon he made another effort to induce her to 
hurry forward in advance of hini. "I have been 
asleep and dreaming," he said. " ^rhave seen Sister 
Edith die— I saw Sister Edith on her death-bed ; 
I have also seen my wife and children at home. She 
is not in her right mind to-night. I tell you, Sister 
Mary, if you don't hurry on before me she will do 
herself a mischief." 

His words came weak and broken. The Sister 



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THE DRIVER'S PRAYER 



185 



made no answer, as she persisted in her opinion that 
she had a drunkard to deal with. 
'Nevertheless she helped him on. He realised that 
she had won a hard-fought victory over herself 
in consenting to aid one whom she regarded 
as mainly instrumental in causing Sister Edith's 
death. 

Whilst David Holm was stumbling along, he 
became the prey to a fresh anxiety. How was he 
to get himself believed by the poor woman at home, 

who was so frightened of him, unless Sister Mary 

■ At last they stood before the gate of the yard in 
which he lived, and the Sister helped him to open 
it. 

" Now you can, I suppose, look after yourself," 
she said, preparing to go. 

" It would be very kind indeed, Sister Mary, if 
you would shout to my wife to come and assist 
me." 

The woman shrugged her shoulders. " Under- 
stand, David Holm, on another night I might 
perhaps have looked better after you, but to-night 
I have not the heart to do it. This, must suffice 
for the present." 

Her voice died away in a burst of sobs, and she 
hurried away from him. 



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186 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR WITNESS! 



As Holm made his way with difficulty up, the. 
steep flight of stairs, it seemed to him that it must 
be too late— and, in any case, how could he make 
his wife believe in him? 

Whilst he was almost sinking on the stairs from 
weariness and despondency, he again felt that- soft 
caress on his brow. 

" She is near me ; she is watching over me ! " 
and he found strength at last to toil up to the top/ 
floor. 

When he opened the door, his wife stood right 
in front of him— as if she had hurried to bolt the 
door to prevent him coming in. On finding 
that she was too late, she withdrew to the stove 
and stood with her back to it, as though she 
had something there she wanted to hide and 
preserve. 

" She has not done it ! I have come in time I " 

With a rapid glance at the children, he- assured 
himself that that was actually the case. " They are 
still asleep. She has not done it I I have come in 
the nick of time," he said to himself. 

He extended his hand to the side where the 
Death-cart driver, George, had stood but a short 
time back. He fancied that another hand clasped 
and pressed it. " Thanks I " he whispered softly, . 



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and his voice trembled, a sudden mist came over his 
eyes. 

He stumbled into the room and sank down into 
a chair. He saw that his wife was watching his 
movements, just as she would have done if a wild 
• beast had entered the room. 

" She really believes that I am drunk— she too ! " 
he thought. 

'; A new feeling of hopelessness came over him, 
because he was so unutterably weary and could not 
get rest. A bed stood in the inner room, and he 
longed to stretch his limbs on it and not have to 
hold himself erect ; but he dared not go there— his 
wife would carry out her fell purpose directly he 
turned his back. He must stay up and watch 
heri 

*' Sister Edith is dead," he managed to say, " and 
I was with her. I promised her that I would be 
good to you and to the children. You must send 
them to. the Home to-morrow." 

" Why are you lying ? " his wife demanded. 
"Gustawson was here, and spoke to Captain 
Andersson about Sister Edith being dead. He said 
that you had not gone to her." 

David Holm sank on to a chair, and, to his own 
great astonishment, he began to weep. It was 



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"flef! 

188 THY SOUL SHALL BEAR -WITNESS ! 

fruitless his returning to the world of thoughts, . ' 
to the world of closed eyes, which weighed 
him down. It was a paralysing conviction that >' 
he would never get outside the wall which his 
own ill-deeds had erected round him, a yearning — 
a boundless yearning — to fuse himself with the 
soul which hovered over him, a soul, however, 
which was beyond his reach, which occasioned 
his tears. 

Whilst the heavy weeping was shaking him, he 
heard his wife's voice. 

" David is weeping ! " she said to herself, in a 
tone of indescribable astonishment ; and again, 
about a minute afterwards, she repeated the words : 
" He is weeping ! " 

She left the stove and approached him with 
evident anxiety. 

" Why are you weeping, David ? " she asked. 

He lifted up to her a face which was bedewed with 
tears. 

"I will reform," he said with clenched teeth, in • 
a way which might almost have given the impression 
of his being angry. "I mean to become a really 
good man. But nobody will believe me. Should 
I not weep then ? " 

" You see, David, it is so hard to believe it," his . 



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THE DRIVER'S PRAYER 



189 



wife replied dubiously ; but I do believe you, 
now that you are weeping. I do believe you 
now." 

To give him a proof that she felt a renewed trust 
in him she sat at his feet and leant her head against 
his knees. She sat perfectly still for a while, but 
she, too, soon began to weep. 

David started. " What ! you weeping also?" 
."I cannot help it ! I can't be happy until 
I have wept away all the sorrow that lies in 
me. 

At that moment David again felt that wonderful 
cold puff on his brow. His tears ceased, and in their 
place .came a mysterious inward smile from the 
depths of his soul. 

He had fulfilled the first duty imposed on him 
by the events of the night ; it now remained to him 
to succour the boy whom his brother had loved. 
He must show such people as Sister Mary that Sister 
Edith was not wrong in bestowing on him her love ; 
he had to raise his own home from its ruins, he must 
carry to. mankind the driver's greeting. Then, 
when all this was done, he would go to the beloved, 
to the object of his yearnings. 

David sat on, feeling exceedingly old. He 
had become patient and submissive, as the 



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190 



SHALL BEAR WITNESS ! 









old are wont to be; he dared riot either hope, 
or wish. 

He clasped his hands and whispered the Driver's - 
prayer : 

" O God ! vouchsafe that my soul may come. 

TO MATURITY ERE IT BE REAPED ! " ) 

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Odhams Press Ltd., Long Acre, London, W.Ca 






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