“I am free,” he exclaimed aloud. “I have emancipated myself from superstition. I am going forth into the world to assert myself, to gratify my natural appetites, to satisfy my normal desires. It was for this that life was given. I have too long believed that duty consisted in conquering nature. I now see that it lies in asserting it. I have too long denied myself. I will hereafter be myself. That man was right—there is no law above the human will.”
THE CHANCE WORD
“A man reforms his habits
altogether or not at all.”
David was not mistaken in his vague impression that he had heard a sob and footsteps outside the cabin door.
The little band of lumbermen abandoning their camp in the early light of the morning for another clearing still farther in the wilderness, had already covered several miles of their journey when their leader suddenly discovered that he had forgotten his axe, and with a wild volley of oaths turned back to get it.
Even in that region, where new types of men sprang up like new varieties of plants after a fire has swept over a clearing, there was not to be found a more unique and striking personality than Andy McFarlane. In physique he was of gigantic proportions, his hair and beard as red as fire, his voice loud and deep, his eyes blue and piercing. Clad in the gay-colored woolen shirt, the rough fur cap, and the high-topped boots of a lumberman, his appearance was bold and picturesque to the last degree.
Nor were his mental powers inferior to his physical. Although unable to read or write, he could both reason and command. His keen perceptions, his ready wit, his forcible logic and his invincible will had made him a leader among men and the idol of the rude people among whom he passed his days.
Repelled and disgusted with those manifestations of the religious life with which alone he was familiar, he was still an unconscious worshiper. The woods, the hills, the rivers and the stars awoke within him a response to the beautiful, the sublime and awe-inspiring in the natural universe.
But because of ignorance, the mysteries of existence which ought to have made him devout had only rendered him superstitious, though, all unknown to himself, his bosom was full of inflammable materials of a deeply religious life. A spark fell upon them that Sunday morning and kindled them into a conflagration. Nothing else can so enrage a nature like his as having to retrace its steps. He could have walked a hundred miles straight forward without a feeling of fatigue or a sense of hardship; but every backward step of his journey had put him more out of temper. He reached the clearing in a towering passion and was bewildered at hearing in what he supposed to be a deserted room, the sound of a human voice in whose tones there was a peculiar quality which aroused his interest and perhaps excited his superstition. He crept toward the rude cabin on his tiptoes, paused and listened. What he heard was the voice of the young mystic, pouring out his heart in prayer.