The next morning rose calm and fair. It was the Sabbath-day; the last Sabbath in Mary’s maiden life if her promises and plans were fulfilled.

Mary dressed herself in white—her hands trembling with unusual agitation, her sensitive nature divided between two opposing consciences and two opposing affections. Her devoted filial love towards the Doctor made her feel the keenest sensitiveness at the thought of giving him pain. At the same time, the questions which James had proposed to her had raised serious doubts in her mind whether it was altogether right to suffer him blindly to enter into this union. So after she was all prepared, she bolted the door of her chamber, and opening her Bible, read, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given;’ and then kneeling down by the bed, she asked that God would give her some immediate light in her present perplexity. So praying, her mind grew calm and steady, and she rose up at the sound of the bell which marked that it was time to set forward for church.

Everybody noticed, as she came into the church that morning, how beautiful Mary Scudder looked. It was no longer the beauty of the carved statue, the pale alabaster shrine, the sainted virgin, but a warm, bright, living light, that spoke of some summer breath breathing within her soul.

When she took her place in the singers’ seat she knew, without turning her head, that he was in his old place not far from her side, and those whose eyes followed her to the gallery marvelled at her face, where—

‘The pure and eloquent blood

Spoke in her cheeks, and so divinely wrought

That you might almost say her body thought;’

for a thousand delicate nerves were becoming vital once more, as the holy mystery of womanhood wrought within her.

When they rose to sing, the tune must needs be one which Mary and James had often sung together out of the same book at the singing school—one of those wild, pleading tunes dear to the heart of New England, born, if we may credit the report, in the rocky hollow of its mountains, and whose notes have a kind of grand and mournful triumph in their warbling wail. The different parts of the harmony, set contrary to all the canons of musical pharisaism, had still a singular and romantic effect, which a true musical genius would not have failed to recognize. The four parts, tenor, treble, bass, and counter, as they were then called, rose and swelled and wildly mingled with the fitful strangeness of an Æolian harp, or of winds in mountain hollows, or the vague moanings of the sea on lone, forsaken shores. And Mary, while her voice rose over the waves of the treble, and trembled with a pathetic richness, felt to her inmost heart the deep accord of that other voice which came to meet hers so wildly melancholy, as if the soul in that manly breast had come forth to meet her soul in the disembodied shadowy verity of eternity. That grand old tune, called by our fathers ‘China,’ never, with its dirge-like melody, drew two souls more out of themselves and entwined them more nearly with each other.

The last verse of the hymn spoke of the resurrection of the saints with Christ—

‘Then let the last dread trumpet sound,

And bid the dead arise;

Awake, ye nations underground,

Ye saints, ascend the skies.’

And as Mary sang she felt sublimely upborn with the idea that life is but a moment and love is immortal, and seemed in a shadowy trance to feel herself and him past this mortal pain far over on the shores of that other life, ascending with Christ all glorified, all tears wiped away, and with full permission to love and to be loved for ever. And as she sang, the Doctor looked upward and marvelled at the light in her eyes and the rich bloom on her cheek, for where she stood a sunbeam, streaming aslant through the dusty panes of the window, touched her head with a kind of glory, and the thought he then received outbreathed itself in the yet more fervent adoration of his prayer.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook