When Amanda stood upon the fringe of the great moss that stretched for three miles between the Scars and Rehoboth her spirit sank within her. The season had been dry, and she knew the path by instinct; but the storm and the darkness seemed like twin enemies determined to bar her advance. She felt that Nature was her foe, even as man had been, and as Rehoboth would be when it knew of her return. Why did the rain hiss, and dash its cold and stinging showers in her face? Why did it saturate her thin skirts so that they, in chill folds, wrapped her wasted frame and clung cruelly to her weary limbs to stay her onward travel? And why that strange, weird sound—the sound muttered by miles of herbage when beaten down by rain—the swish and patter and sigh of the long grass and of the bracken, as they bent beneath the continuous fall, and rose in angry protest, to fling off their burden on each other, or shake it to the ground? Then a mute sympathy sprang up in her desolate heart as she grew incorporate into this storm-swept, helpless vegetation, and she felt that she, too, like it, was the helpless prey of angry forces.
The moss traversed, the twinkling lights of Rehoboth broke the darkness. Yes, the old chapel was illuminated, the windows of that rude structure glowing with warmth and life; and as she passed the graveyard a hymn, only too well known to her in the happy days of the past, reached her ears. Once this had been her sanctuary, a shelter, a home, where as a happy girl she had sung that very strain—then a house of prayer, now a temple of judgment. And she grew rebellious as she saw in her mind the hard faces of its worshippers, and realized that nothing unholy or unclean must enter there. The native instinct, however, was too strong; and passing through the gate, and stealthily crossing the sea of graves, she paused to peep through the window, and, unobserved, took in the scene. The old faces—Enoch, and Abraham, and Moses Fletcher, and Malachi o’ th’ Mount, and Simon o’ Long John’s. Yes, the old faces as she knew them five years ago—the old faces, all save one. Where was the saintly Mr. Morell? In his place sat a young man whom she knew not.
Hastening on, she climbed Pinner Brow, on the summit of which lay her home. As she scaled the height the beacon in her mother’s gable told she was not forgotten. Then it was she trembled. A rebuke—a curse—a refusal; these she could face. But forgiveness—welcome—love—never! She turned to fly.
* * * * *
The great, good God had ordained that the despairing girl should fly into the arms of the one who had not forgotten, and who felt she had nothing to forgive. Amanda found herself in the stillest and strongest of all havens—the haven of a mother’s breast.
In another moment Amanda permitted her mother to lead her as that mother had been wont to lead her when the warm, strong hand of the parent was a guiding touch—a magnet of love amid the dangers of an early life—and when, as now, there was but one shelter of safety—the home.