The thought thrilled him, and the fierce glow of enthusiasm became an intoxicating ecstasy. The tinkling drip of falling water broke into the noonday silence of the forest like the low-voiced call of a sacred bell. For the first time since leaving the mountain top he took note of his surroundings. He was standing beside the great, cubical boulder under the cedars—the high altar in nature’s mountain tabernacle.
Ah, Martha Gordon, mother of many prayers, look now, if you can, but not too closely or too long! Is it merely the boy you have molded and fashioned, or is it the convinced and consecrated evangelist of the future, who falls on his knees beside the great rock, with head bent and fingers tightly interlocked, groping desperately for words in which to rededicate himself to the God of your fathers?
Thomas Jefferson had the deep peace of the fully committed when he rose from his knees and went to drink at the spouting rock lip. It was decided now, this thing he had been holding half-heartedly in abeyance. There would be no more dallying with temptation, no more rebellion, no more irreverent stumblings in the dark valley of doubtful questions. More especially, he would be vigilant to guard against those backslidings that came so swiftly on the heels of each spiritual quickening. His heart was fixed, so irrevocably, so surely, that he could almost wish that Satan would try him there and then. But the enemy of souls was nowhere to be seen in the leafy arches of the wood, and Tom bent again to take a second draft at the spouting rock lip.
THE IRON IN THE FORGE FIRE
He was bending over the sunken barrel. A shadow, not his own, blurred the water mirror. He looked up quickly.
“Nan!” he cried.
She was standing on the opposite side of the barrel basin, looking down on him with good-natured mockery in the dark eyes.
“I ’lowed maybe you wouldn’t have such a back load of religion after you’d been off to the school a spell,” she said pointedly. And then: “Does it always make you right dry an’ thirsty to say your prayers, Tommy-Jeffy?”
Tom sat back on his heels and regarded her thoughtfully. His first impulse was out of the natural heart, rageful, wounded vanity spurring it on. It was like her heathenish impertinence to look on at such a time, and then to taunt him about it afterward.
But slowly as he looked a curious change came over him. She was the same Nan Bryerson, bareheaded, barelegged, with the same tousled mat of dark hair, and the same childish indifference to a whole frock. And yet she was not the same. The subtle difference, whatever it was, made him get up and offer to shake hands with her,—and he thought it was the newly-made vows constraining him, and took credit therefor.
“You can revile me as much as you like now, Nan,” he said, with prideful humility. “You can’t make me mad any more, like you used to.”