When the child became older, and her sorrows were heavier, and, perhaps, more real, her well-nurtured mind began to rise to a higher source for comfort. Habit and inclination led her indeed to the same tree; but when she kneeled upon its roots and leaned against its stem, she poured out her heart into the bosom of Him who is ever present, and who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
Almost immediately after landing on the island, Alice sought the umbrageous shelter of her old friend and favorite, and on her knees thanked God for restoring her to her father and her home.
To the same place the missionary directed his steps; for he knew it well, and doubtless expected to find his daughter there.
“Alice, dear, I have good news to tell you,” said the missionary, sitting down beside her.
“I know what it is!” cried Alice, eagerly.
“What do you think it is, my pet?”
“Gascoyne is to be forgiven! Am I right?”
Mr. Mason shook his head sadly. “No, that is not what I have to tell you. Poor fellow, I would that I had some good news to give you about him; but I fear there is no hope for him,—I mean as regards his being pardoned by man.”
Alice sighed, and her face expressed the deepest tenderness and sympathy.
“Why do you take so great an interest in this man, dear?” said her father.
“Because Mary Stuart loves him, and I love Mary Stuart. And Corrie seems to like him, too, since he has come to know him better. Besides, has he not saved my life, and Captain Montague’s, and Corrie’s? Corrie tells me that he is very sorry for the wicked things he has done, and he thinks that if his life is spared he will become a good man. Has he been very wicked, papa?”
“Yes, very wicked. He has robbed many people of their goods, and has burnt and sunk their vessels.”
Alice looked horrified.
“But,” continued her father, “I am convinced of the truth of his statement,—that he has never shed human blood. Nevertheless, he has been very wicked, and the fact that he has such a powerful will, such commanding and agreeable manners, only makes his guilt the greater; for there is less excuse for his having devoted such powers and qualities to the service of Satan. I fear that his judges will not take into account his recent good deeds and his penitence. They will not pardon him.”
“Father,” said Alice, earnestly, “God pardons the chief of sinners; why will not man do so?”
The missionary was somewhat perplexed as to how he should reply to such a difficult question.
“My child,” said he, “the law of God and the law of man must be obeyed, or the punishment must be inflicted on the disobedient: both laws are alike in this respect. In the case of God’s law, Jesus Christ our Lord obeyed it, bore the punishment for us, and set our souls free. But in the case of man’s law, who is to bear Gascoyne’s punishment and set him free?”