Her dream was this : —

She sat at the communion-table in her own parish-church, with many others, none of whom she knew. A man with piercing eyes went along the table, examining the faces of all to see if they were fit to partake. When he came to Kirsty, he looked at her for a moment sharply, then said, "That woman is dead. She has been in the snow all night. Lay her in the vault under the church." She rose to go because she was dead, and hands were laid upon her to guide her as she went. They brought her out of the church into the snow and wind, and turned away to leave her. But she remonstrated: "The man with the eyes," she said, "gave the order that I should be taken to the vault of the church!" — "Very well," answered a voice, "there is the vault! creep into it." She saw an opening in the ground, at the foot of the wall of the church, and getting down on her hands and knees, crept through it, and with difficulty got into the vault. There all was still. She heard the wind raving, but it sounded afar off. Who had guided her thither? One of Steenie's storm-angels, or the Shepherd of the sheep? It was all one, for the storm-angels were his sheep-dogs! She had been bewildered by the terrible beating of the snow-wind, 187 but her own wandering was another's guiding! Beyond the turmoil of life and unutterably glad, she fell asleep, and the dream left her. In a little while, however, it came again.

She was lying, she thought, on the stone-floor of the church-vault, and wondered whether the examiner, notwithstanding the shining of his eyes, might not have made a mistake: perhaps she was not so very dead! Perhaps she was not quite unfit to eat of the Bread of Life after all! She moved herself a little; then tried to rise, but failed; tried again and again, and at last succeeded. All was dark around her, but something seemed present that was known to her — whether man, or woman, or beast, or thing, she could not tell. At last she recognized it; a familiar odor it was, a peculiar smell, of the kind we call earthy: — it was the air of her own earth-house, in days that seemed far away! Perhaps she was in it now! Then her box of matches might be there too! She felt about and found it. With trembling hands she struck one, and proceeded to light her lamp.

It burned up. Something seized her by the heart.

A little farther in, stretched on the floor, lay a human form on its face. She knew at once that it was Steenie's. The feet were toward her, and between her and them a pair of shoes: he was dead! — he had got rid of his feet! — he was gone after Phemy — gone to the Bonny Man! She knelt, and turned the body over. Her heart was like a stone. She raised his head on her arm: it was plain he was dead. A small stream of blood had flowed from his mouth, and made a little pool, not yet quite frozen. Kirsty's 188 heart seemed about to break from her bosom to go after him; then the eternal seemed to descend upon her like a waking sleep, a clear consciousness of peace. It was for a moment as if she saw the Father at the heart of the universe, with all his children about his knees: her pain and sorrow and weakness were gone; she wept glad tears over the brother called so soon from the nursery to the great presence chamber. "Eh, Bonny Man!" she cried; "is't possible to expec ower muckle frae your father and mine!"

She sat down beside what was left of Steenie, and ate of the oatcake, and drank of the milk she had carried forgotten until now.

"I won'er what God'll du wi' the twa!" she said to herself. "Gien I lo'ed them baith as I did, he lo'es them better! I wud hae dee'd for them; he did!"

She rose and went out.

Light had come at last, but too dim to be more than gray. The world was one large white sepulchre in which the earth lay dead. Warmth and hope and spring seemed gone forever. But God was alive; His hearth-fire burned; therefore death was nowhere. She knew it in her own soul, for the Father was there, and she knew that in his soul were all the loved. The wind had ceased, but the snow was still falling, here and there a flake. A faint blueness filled the air, and was colder than the white. Whether the day was at hand or the night, she could not distinguish. The church bell began to ring, sounding from far away through the silence: what mountains of snow must yet tower unfallen in the heavens, when it was nearly noon and still so dark! But Steenie was out of the snow — that was well! Or perhaps he was be 189 side her in it, only he could leave it when he would! Surely anyhow Phemy must be with him! She could not be left all alone and she so silly! Steenie would have her to teach! His trouble must have gone the moment he died, but Phemy would have to find out what a goose she was! She would be very miserable, and would want Steenie! Kirsty 's thoughts cut their own channels: she was as far ahead of her church as the woman of Samaria was ahead of the high priest at Jerusalem.

Thus thinking, thinking, she kept on walking through the snow to weep on her mother's bosom. Suddenly she remembered, and stood still: her mother was going to follow her to Steenie's house! She too must be dead in the snow! — Well, let Heaven take all! They were born to die, and it was her turn now to follow her mother! She started again for home, and at length drew near the house.

It was more like a tomb than a house. The door looked as if no one had gone in there or out for ages. Had she slept in the snow like the seven sleepers in the cave? Were the need and the use of houses and doors long over? Or was she a ghost come to have one look more at her old home in a long dead world? Perhaps her father and mother might have come back with like purpose, and she would see and speak to them! Or was she, alas! only in a dream, in which the dead would not speak to her? But God was not dead, and while God lived she was not alone even in a dream!

A dark bundle lay on the door-step: it was Snootie. He had been scratching and whining until despair came upon him, and he lay down to die. 190 She lifted the latch, stepped over the dog, and entered. The peat-fire was smouldering low on the hearth. She sat down and closed her eyes. When she opened them, there lay Snootie, stretched out before the fire! She rose and shut the door, fed and roused the fire, and brought the dog some milk, which he lapped up eagerly.

Not a sound was in the house. She went all over it. Father nor mother was there. It was Sunday, and all the men were away. A cow lowed, and in her heart Kirsty blessed her: she was a live creature! She would go and milk her!

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