“I’ll have to go away,” he thought wistfully. “They’ll not be wanting me here after this.”
It grew darker and darker in the gloomy room. The mournful voice of a negro singing in the next cell came to him faintly:
“We’ll hunt no
moah fo’ de possum and de coon,
On de medder, de hill, an’ de shoah.
We’ll sing no moah by de glimmer ob de moon,
On de bench by de old cabin doah.
“De days go by like
de shadow on do heart,
Wid sorrer, wha’ all wuz so bright;
De time am come when do darkies hab to part—
Den, my ole Kaintucky home, good night.”
Sandy’s arm was against the grating and his head was bowed upon it. Through all the hours of trial one image had sustained him. It was of Ruth, as he had seen her last, leaning toward him out of the half-light, her brown hair blowing from under her white cap and her great eyes full of wondering compassion.
But to-night the darkness obscured even that image. The judge’s life still hung in the balance, and the man who had shot him lay in a distant city, unconscious, waiting for death. Sandy felt that by his sacrifice he had put the final barrier between himself and Ruth.
With a childish gesture of despair, he flung out his arms and burst into a passion of tears. The intense emotional impulse of his race swept him along like a feather in a gale. His grief, like his joy, was elemental.
When the lull came at last, he pressed his hot head against the cold iron grating, and his thoughts returned again and again to Ruth. He thought of her tender ministries in the sick room, of her intense love and loyalty for her brother. His whole soul rose up to bless her, and the thought of what she had been spared brought him peace.
Through days of struggle and nights of pain he fought back all thoughts of the future and of self.
These times were ever afterward a twilight-place in his soul, hallowed and sanctified by the great revelation they brought him, blending the blackness of despair with the white light of perfect love. Here his thoughts would often turn even in the stress and strain of the daily life, as a devotee stops on his busy round and steps within the dim cathedral to gain strength and inspiration on his way.
The next time Aunt Melvy came he asked for some of his law-books, and from that on there was no more idling or dreaming.
Among the volumes she brought was the old note-book in which the judge had made him jot down suggestions during those long evening readings in the past. It was full of homely advice, the result of forty years’ experience, and Sandy found comfort in following it to the letter.
For the first time in his life he learned the power of concentration. Seven hours’ study a day, without diversion or interruption, brought splendid results. He knew the outline of the course at the university, and he forged ahead with feverish energy.