BY GEORGE PARSONS LATHROP
AUTHOR OF "AN ECHO OF PASSION," "NEWPORT," ETC.
FUNK & WAGNALLS
10 and 12 Dey Street
44 Fleet Street
All Rights Reserved
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884, by
FUNK & WAGNALLS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C.
CHAPTER I. Her Eyes were Gray
CHAPTER II. The De Vines
CHAPTER III. Twilight
CHAPTER IV. A Vision
CHAPTER V. Birthday Tokens
CHAPTER VI. A New Lesson in Botany
CHAPTER VII. The Races, and the Motto
CHAPTER VIII. Adela's Legend
CHAPTER IX. Lance and Sylvester
CHAPTER X. The Likeness
CHAPTER XI. Lance Returns
CHAPTER XII. Sylv's Trouble
CHAPTER XIII. Lance and Adela
CHAPTER XIV. Dennie's Trouble
CHAPTER XV. Elbow-crook Swamp
CHAPTER XVI. "I Live, How Long I Trow Not"
MAJOR BARRINGTON'S MARRIAGE.
I. The Importance of a Hat
II. Father, Daughter, And—who Else?
IV. The Third Bridge
IN EACH OTHER'S SHOES.
HER EYES WERE GRAY.
It might have been yesterday, but in simple fact it was three hundred
years ago, that something happened which has an important bearing on
this story of the present.
Antiquity is a great discourager of the sympathies: the centuries are
apt to weigh like lead on an individual human sentiment. Yet we find it
pleasant sometimes to throw off their weight, and thereby to discover
that it is a mere feather in the scale as against the beating of a
I know that when I speak of Guy Wharton as having been alive and in love
in the year 1587, you will feel a certain patronizing pity for
him—because he is not alive now. So do I. But then it is possible that
you will be interested, notwithstanding—because he was a lover. Would
you like to hear what experience he had? I promise not to go through the
history of those three hundred years. The story of Guy is merely the
starting-point of my narrative.
He was in love with a sweet English girl, Gertrude Wylde, who lived in
Surrey; and she, for her part, was the daughter of a small tenant-farmer
there, well connected as to family, but not well furnished with worldly
goods, Guy's father was a country gentleman; but that circumstance
failed to affect the young man's eyesight and emotions injuriously; he
beheld Gertrude, and he loved her. I can see it all, now, as if it were
something that had happened to myself—how they strolled together in
those wondrous lanes hedged with hawthorn and brier and hazel, which
stray so sweetly over the rolling lands about Dorking; how they met
beneath the old yew tree where, half way up Box Hill, it hung out its
foliage black as night, spotted with strange waxen blossoms of scarlet,
like drops of blood upon a funeral-pall; how they wandered in the
untamed forest of great box trees at the top; what joys they had, what
anxieties beset them.
"And will thy father indeed take his leave of old England so soon?" he
asked her, when they had reached the brow of the hill.
"Yes, in truth," she answered, sadly enough, looking out over the white
chalk highlands, and the arborous glades and open downs, to where the
waters of the English Channel showed soft against the hazy sky at the
horizon, like a blue vein on a circling arm. "And that means that I must
take leave of thee, Guy."
"Never, my darling!" cried Guy, drawing her to him. "If thou goest, I go
"What! Forsake all here—estate and fortune and family? Nay, dearest,
that can never be." But, as she spoke these words, Gertrude pressed her
face upon his shoulder and gave way to tears. Then presently, raising
her head and gazing up into his face: "How should it be possible?" she
"Easily enough, if thou wilt," he replied. "I would go as thy affianced
Thus it was settled that he also should join the colonizing expedition
with which Gertrude's father had resolved to embark, under the patronage
of Sir Walter Raleigh. Its goal was Roanoke Island, Virginia.
As the lovers walked homeward in company, and parted to go their
separate ways, they felt as if their feet already trod the shores of the
New World. "But when we are there," said Wharton before he left her at
the turnstile that ushered the way to her father's farm—"there we shall
have no more partings."
Alas, he was but a poor prophet!
Difficulties came up. Wharton's father violently opposed the plan that
Guy had made. That, however, might not have prevented its execution, had
not a fatal thing happened just at the critical time. On the eve of the
sailing of the expedition, Guy's father died. That which his bitterest
activity while alive failed to effect was accomplished by his white and
silent presence as he lay dead in the old manor-house. At such a moment
Guy could not go away; the unspoken edict of death restrained him
absolutely. Besides, the elder Wharton's affairs were left in a
confusion which it would take long to clear up.
So the ship sailed without Guy; but you may be sure he was at the wharf
when she weighed anchor, and that he bade a tender farewell to Gertrude,
promising that he would follow with the first convoy that should be sent
to re-enforce and victual the new colony. At the instant when he had to
leave her, she said, as if answering his words, uttered many weeks
before at the turnstile: "Yes, dearest, we shall meet soon in that other
world, and there shall be no more parting."
Guy did not think of the exact expression, just then; but as he
travelled back to the manor-house, now his own, he kept saying to
himself involuntarily: "That other world? God grant it may not mean the
world beyond!" When he stepped within the door, his eye rested on the
inscription over the great fireplace of the hall:
"I live, how long I trow not;
I die, but where I know not;
I journey, but whither I cannot see:
'Tis strange that I can merry be."
Many a festival had been held beneath the unnoticed shadow of those
solemn lines; the laughter and the cheer, the sobs and murmurs of many a
voice forever hushed, had echoed from the wall where the verses were
graven; but it seemed to him that the motto had never gained its full
meaning until now.
"I journey, but whither I cannot see."
Gertrude had gone out into the great void of the unknown spaces; and he
was to follow her—whither?
It would indeed have been strange if he could have been merry; and, to
say truth, he was not greatly so; but he kept up his hope indomitably.
At last everything was arranged: he was ready to go. But he had to wait
for the relief expedition to sail. In those days it was a great
undertaking to prepare for a journey across the Atlantic. Raleigh was
busy, perplexed, anxious: three years went by before Admiral John White
started from Plymouth with three little ships (one for each year) and
two shallops. But when he did start, Guy was on board.
It had been agreed with the colonists that, if anything went wrong and
they should find it best to look for a new site, they should remove to a
spot fifty miles inland among the friendly Indians, and should carve
upon a tree the name of the place to which they were going. In case
misfortune befell them, a cross was also to be carved above the name of
When, after a five weeks' voyage, Admiral White's vessels approached the
shore of Hatteras, they anchored some miles out, for safety, and sent a
boat in to the shallow Sound. Guy was in the bow of the boat which
steered for Roanoke Island. The crew, when they had come near enough,
blew trumpet-blasts as a signal of their approach, and sang songs of
home—old English glees and madrigals—that had often echoed in the
fields, the groves, the farmhouses of Surrey and Kent. Attracted by the
sound the colonists, they hoped, would make their appearance the sooner.
But how strangely these familiar strains fell upon the ear in the
primeval solitude of those lonely waters, on that lovely April day! So
strangely, indeed, that one might almost fancy the colonists did not
recognize them anymore, and hence failed to respond. Yet the trumpets
continued to ring out on the air, and the gay songs were trolled
cheerily, as the boat drew near the landing-place.
It may be imagined what an eager lookout Guy kept up at the bow. Ho
believed every moment that, at the next, he should see Gertrude emerging
from the woods and waving her hand to him. Still, not a sign of life had
been given when he stepped ashore.
The little party began to be oppressed by forebodings. They set out
through the forest, eagerly searching for some token of their
countrymen's presence; but no voice answered their calls, except those
of unaccustomed birds and astonished squirrels; and no trail was found
upon the light brown soil, other than the marks of an Indian moccasin or
the curious dottings made by the feet of furtive animals.
At last, however, the seekers came to a tree which confronted them with
three rudely carved letters cut upon its side.
That was all. There was no indication of the cross, the symbol of
distress. The men burst into exclamations of delight; yet Guy, though
his heart bounded high with reviving hope, suffered a terrible suspense.
The sturdy tree had, as it were, found a voice and spoken; but it had
uttered only one vague, baffling syllable. Of what use was that feeble
clew? Still he pressed on, having no idea which way to turn, but guided
by some inspiration; and presently, shouting to his companions, he
pointed to another conspicuous tree which bore upon its blazed trunk the
full name of the colony's new abiding-place. The letters missing from
the first inscription had doubtless been worn away by storms. The word
engraved upon the fibre of the second tree was "Croatan."
The friends of the colonists did not know precisely where Croatan lay;
and though Guy urged an immediate exploration, the rest thought it
impracticable. The distance from the ships threatened danger of being
separated from the expedition by some accident, and left alone without
supplies. So, having read the brief message of the departed colonists,
the boat party returned to the little squadron and reported.
A storm arose; anchors were lost; the supply of fresh water had run low;
and a council called by the Admiral decided that prudence required
taking a southerly course to find some safer harbor; advising also that
an attempt should be made to capture some Spanish vessels and return
with the booty and provisions to find the lost colony. In vain Guy
pleaded, with anguish in every word, that at least one of the ships
should cruise near the coast off which they now lay and await the first
favorable moment for prosecuting the search. The Admiral and his
captains were inexorable; and the southern course was taken.
None of the vessels ever went back to the aid of the English at Croatan.
The captain of that one on which Guy Wharton was a passenger turned her
prow toward England after a little time. Once more at home, Guy made
every endeavor to have a new fleet equipped; but all his attempts
failed. He was on the point of selling everything he owned, in order to
fit out at least one ship and carry substantial aid to the exiles, when
certain commercial ventures, in which a great deal of the property left
to him was involved, went amiss and left him helpless. Restless,
unhappy, almost broken-hearted, he entered on the struggle to
re-establish himself; no opportunity occurred for him to sail to
Virginia again; and so much time passed by, that such an undertaking
came to look hopeless. Even could he have gone, what would he have
found? Perhaps Gertrude by this time had died. Or, perhaps, thinking
herself forsaken or forgotten, as the whole community of emigrants
seemingly had been, she might have married one of the colonists.
The old hope went out of Guy Wharton's life; but though, after some
years, he took a wife, he never lost the pain which this tragedy of his
youth had planted in his breast.
And they, meanwhile, the vanished exiles—what was their life; what were
their thoughts? How long their hope survived, no one can even guess.
Without resources beyond those which the friendly Croatans themselves
had; living a rude and simple life among the natives in that wild and
lonely land; did they watch day after day for some sign of sail or
fluttering pennon coming up the river, or listen for some sudden
bugle-note or gun-shot, announcing the approach of relief? Did Gertrude
keep up her faith through the weary years, hourly awaiting her
lover?—fancying she heard his voice close by?—then waking again to the
reality of the lonely stream, the fluttering forest-leaves, the uncouth
habitations, the garments of deerskin and the swarthy savage children at
God only knows; for of all those hundred and fifteen wanderers, men and
women, not one was ever seen among the civilized again. They passed from
the region of the known and the recorded into the vagueness of
unlettered tradition. From the midst of history they were transplanted
into myth. They faded out amid those dusky tribes in the forest, as the
last streak of light in the west fades into darkness at nightfall.
A hundred years afterward the Indians of the Hatteras shore were
described as declaring with pride that some of their ancestors were
white and could "talk in a book," like the later Englishmen who were
then established in Virginia. It was taken as confirmation of this
story, that some of the Indians who told it had gray eyes.
Her eyes were gray.
THE DE VINES.
On a little headland at the southern end of Pamlico Sound where it
narrows in to the waters of Core Sound, a small dwelling-house, half hut
and half cottage, looked forth over the liquid expanses with an air of
long habitude and battered self-reliance. It had but two meagre windows,
and its chimney was short and black, suggesting an old tobacco-pipe; but
the little house leaned comfortably against the low sandy ridge at its
back, and did not seem to mind any of the imperfections in its own
facial aspect. Along the ridge live oaks and red cedars flourished
gracefully, and the ancient structure was closely enfolded at either
side by thickets of that kind of holly known in the region as yaupon,
the polished leaves and warm red berries of which glistened cheerily in
the sunlight. Indeed, the whole place, dilapidated though it was, had
the reassuring appearance of a home; and when from its narrow doorway a
beautiful young woman stepped forth into the breezy afternoon, nothing
more was needed to complete the effect.
If it was a home before, it now looked the ideal of a home.
The young woman turned to the holly bushes at the left and began
clipping from them some of their lighter branches, which she let fall
into a large basket, held gracefully against her hip with one rounded
arm, while the other plied the shears. She was tall, but not fair. No
daughter of the gods, but firmly and robustly human; yet, at the same
time, there was in her humanity something noble and inspiriting. Am I
not going too fast? Why talk in this way about a young girl in a calico
gown, cutting holly-sprigs beside a tumble-down old cabin on the Nawth
Ca'liny shore? No, she was not fair as to complexion; her skin was
richly browned by out-door life, though a clear rose-tint shone faintly
through the brown. She was beautiful, nevertheless; and yet—and yet
what was it? It seemed as if that outer hue could never under any
circumstances wear off. But a mere glance at her features would convince
any one that she was not of octoroon or metif parentage. Only it was as
if the sun, watching over her loveliness from birth, and searching into
the depths of her nature, had warmed her blood until it had darkened a
little and her pulses had spread a shadow in their flowing.
Suddenly she desisted from her work and, bending her head forward, gazed
off across the light green waves that stretched for miles between her
and the low-lying strip of sand that barred out the sea. Had she heard a
distant hail from the boat that was scudding fast toward the headland?
At any rate, there was the burly little craft, careening to the lively
breeze amid a shower of spray, with a recklessness characteristic of the
young helmsman, whom the girl's bright eyes would have recognized even
farther away. And now, as the craft abruptly veered to windward, to
approach the landing, her master's careless handling received a
startling illustration, for she almost broached to; the sails were laid
aback, and for an instant the boat threatened to capsize.
There was one passenger, an old woman, who sat near the helmsman; and at
this juncture she snatched from her lips a short clay pipe, emitting a
shrill cry of fright, together with an alarmed whiff of smoke—as if she
herself had unexpectedly exploded.
"Lord save our souls, Dennis! What be you thinkin' on?"
"All right, auntie!" cried the young man, heartily. "The critter'll
come straight in half a turn." And, exerting all his force, he caused
the dug-out to round into her course again, with the breeze on her
quarter. Two or three minutes later she touched the shore.
The young woman, having thrown down her basket, stood ready to greet the
"Well, Deely dear!"
"Why, Aunty Losh, it don't seem possible that it's you come back again.
And so you're really here."
"Yes; a'most really—though, as you see just now, I come nearer
drowndin' in front o' my own door, Deely."
Dennis submitted his stout frame to a convulsive laugh, which for an
instant gave him some resemblance to a dog shaking himself on emerging
from the water, "Drownded in half a fathom," he exclaimed, hilariously.
"I'll be dog-goned if that ain't the cutest, aunty! Why, I'm almost
sorry we didn't overset the old boat, to show you. It would have livened
you up fit to kill."
"Dennis!" exclaimed Deely, her eyes flashing indignantly, "you ought to
"Oh, never mind the boy," Aunty Losh soothingly interposed. "It's his
natur' to be wild, ye know. He ain't never happy unless he's in some
dare-devil scrape. But where's Sylvester?"
Deely, with eyes cast down, appeared needlessly embarrassed. "He went up
to Beaufort to market," she explained.
Something in her tone caused Dennis to glance at her rather fiercely, as
if he were jealous. "Yes, that suits him," he muttered, with a trace
of contempt. "Market business is just about what Sylv is good for;
that's what it is."
"It aren't right to speak so of your only brother, Dennis," said Aunty
"Oh, dog gone it!" (Dennis reverted to his favorite expletive.) "What
does it matter whose brother he is? I speak my mind. Deely, don't look
so down on me. What's the trouble?"
"Only you're so rough," said the girl, laying her hand on his arm. "You
know I love you, don't you, Dennie? But it goes against me to hear you
He placed his own rough hand on her smooth one and patted it softly for
an instant; then he moved it somewhat brusquely from its resting-place
on his shoulder, and Deely drew away a step or two.
"I catch all the fish," he said, "and Sylv takes 'em for himself."
There seemed to be an undertone of double meaning in his remark. But the
next instant he changed from gloom to sunny cheer. "Come, aunty, you
mustn't stand here on the mud. I reckon you've been away so long you'll
be kind o' glad to see the inside of the old cabin again; hey?"
He was tall and sturdy, this Dennis De Vine; and though he could not
have been described as handsome, his reddish hair and ruddy coloring,
united with the glance of his blue eye and a certain good-humored Irish
daring of expression, made his presence gay and attractive. Aunty Losh
was quick to act on his suggestion, and they all went into the cabin,
which despite its limited frontage spread out sufficiently, within, to
afford rooms for the old woman and her two nephews.
"Now, aunty," said the girl, "the tarrapin is most ready, and I'll brew
you a good cup of yaupon. I was just cutting some to dry when you came."
And thereupon Adela, taking a handful of the seasoned leaves from their
place of storage in a cupboard, swung the kettle from the fire and
proceeded to infuse this local substitute for tea.
"My patience, but it's dear to my buddy and heart," Aunty Losh murmured,
as she sipped from the smoking cup. "An' now tell me what's happened
while I been away."
"Why, Sylv wrote you everything that happened hyar," Adela reminded her,
in some surprise.
"Oh, I know, I know!" was the rejoinder. "But it didn't seem nachul-like
when I had to have folks read it to me. I didn't mo'n half get it in."
"There ain't nothin' very novel," said Dennis, "except old Sukey strayed
off on to the main yistiddy." Sukey was the cow.
"Sho! It'll allays be so, long as I live. Nothin' but stray and find,
stray and find. Ye mout hev dug that ditch across the neck, Dennie,
when ye knowed I wanted it so bad. If you'll do it one o' these
near-comin' days, I'll knit ye a new pair o' socks."
The headland on which Aunty Losh's house had been built was connected
with the main only by a narrow neck, and it was one of the grievances of
her life that her cow and her two or three sheep, when turned loose to
graze, could so easily make their way to the adjoining territory.
"I'm fearsome o' the tides," Dennis explained. "They run so strong that
mebbe they'd cut a wider channel than you want, aunty. But I'll try it;
I'll dig that ditch by-and-by—or arterward."
The talk then turned to other matters, and Miss Jessie Floyd was
mentioned, the daughter of an ex-Confederate colonel who lived a few
miles inland on an "estate" of some dozen acres, magnificently entitled
"Miss Jessie's been down hyar two or three times," Adela said, "to buy
bluefish and tarrapin for the manor; and she was very kind to the boys.
Wasn't she, Dennie?"
"That she was. She brought us jelly, one time." Dennis gently smacked
his lips, in a reminiscent way.
"I reckon she hain't brought any money, though," his aunt skeptically
meditated, aloud. "Any company up at the manor?"
"Why, yes," said the girl. "There's a young gen'l'man from the Nawth—a
sort of English chap, I reckon; anyhow, he comes from New York. Mr.
Lance; that's what they call him. I hain't seen him, but Dennis can tell
"Certain shore," said Dennis. "That's his name. He's got idees about
buildin' up. He wants to eddicate folks all round—sort of free snack of
knowledge for everybody."
"I reckon he'll be eddicating Miss Jessie to fall in love with him,"
Adela observed. "That's what."
"Well, I sha'n't find no fault with him if he do," Dennis returned.
"Only he needn't come down hyar away with his idees and all. 'Pears like
him and Sylv 'ud be chancey to take up with one another, though."
"What makes you think that?" Aunty Losh asked, with a trace of
"'Cause Sylv don't think of nothin' now but book-larnin', and he's been
hevin' talks with that ar fellow."
"Sylv'll be goin' off and leavin' us one o' these days," the old woman
mused, as she put a match to the short pipe she had been filling for
"Oh no, aunty! You ortenter think he'd be so mean!" Deely protested,
Dennis turned upon her, angered. "You keep still, d'you har!" he
exclaimed. "What matters if he do go? I reckon I can take car o' you and
aunty, all by myself, when it comes to that."
Deely was evidently impressed by his dictatorial manner, but she assumed
a haughty air. "I reckon it's about time for me to go," she retorted,
"if you can't be more civil. Just when aunty hain't no more'n set her
foot inside o' home, too." And, despite her tone, there was a slight
appearance about the girl's lips and eyelids as if she would like to
"Oh, well; I didn't mean nothin', you know I didn't," Dennis answered,
becoming penitent. "And when you go," he added, "I'm a-goin' with you as
far as your dad's."
The rising trouble was thus allayed, and all three were soon engaged
again in talking over the news, or the local affairs of the last few
weeks. For Aunty Losh had achieved one of the most remarkable events of
her life, in going to see some of her relatives at Norfolk, Virginia.
She had much to tell about the journey and the ways of the people in
that great city, and dwelt especially upon the hardship she had been
compelled to suffer in drinking "China tea," instead of that far
superior docoction, yaupon. The young people, in their turn, gradually
discovered many little items which they must impart to her.
Aunty Losh, strange as it may seem, was the sole female representative
of a stock which once gave promise of making itself distinguished. Her
lineage was traceable from a certain Major De Vine, a young Irishman
who, stirred by the sympathy that led the natives of two widely separate
but oppressed countries to join the cause of the American colonies, had
enlisted in the cavalry corps raised by Count Pulaski to join the
Continental army, during our Revolution. Pulaski was a Pole, and De Vine
an Irishman, but they had the same inspiration: they fought for freedom
in America with the hope that their own people might also become free.
De Vine performed many a gallant deed, in the course of the war, and
rose to be a major; but the consciousness of his good service was his
At the peace he retired from the struggle poor, and ill fitted to make
his way by other means than the sword. He settled in the South, where
the soil was not favorable for such a man as he. What little property he
possessed was soon lost. Moreover, he and his children having
surrendered to the reigning prejudice against work, there was no way
open to a retrieval of even the meagre comfort they had at first
commanded. The family, failing to make any advantageous alliance by
marriage—which, indeed, would scarcely have been possible in their
circumstances—soon declined into still deeper poverty. The Major died,
followed by all his children excepting one son, who drifted across the
border into North Carolina; and his posterity became a part of that
strange population known as "poor whites."
Listless and inefficient as those people are, germs of energy are known
to have been fostered among them, which have sometimes developed; and
the De Vines always retained enough of their ancestral vigor to
counteract their ancestral pride, as well as their sense of unmerited
misfortune, and to keep them somewhat above the general hopeless
prostration of the class into which they had fallen.
Aunty Losh, widowed by the Rebellion, and left childless, had settled in
the little hut on the headland, with her two nephews, mere boys at the
time, but now grown to efficient manhood. The elder one, Dennis, was
stalwart and courageous, and became a successful fisherman on a small
scale. Sylvester had also assisted in the common support, and together
they had made a little headway. But in Sylvester the ambition for
something higher had awaked: he had not only learned to read, but had
actually become a student, and was now taking steps toward what seemed
to his aunt and brother the attainment of a distant and dangerous
witchcraft—namely, making himself a lawyer. Neither of them believed
that he would ever accomplish this chimerical design, but Sylvester's
scheme was always present to them in the guise of an impending danger,
which was just as dreadful as if it had been realized. In fact, it was
worse, because it seemed to them a spell in which he had been caught,
and to which his life would ultimately be sacrificed. They regarded him
with the mingled envy and commiseration that we are apt to bestow upon
those who have the strength to devote themselves to an idea which we
think is going to prove a failure.
Dennis, on the contrary, had never troubled himself to learn anything
beyond that which his own instinct and contact with the forces around
him could teach. There was a vague tradition stored up in the dust-heaps
of Aunty Losh's mind, to the effect that his ancestor, the Major, had
once at the siege of Savannah cut his way through the British with a
detachment of Pulaski's Legion, and that in so doing he had slain with
his own hand eleven of the enemy. Well, it was with the same sort of
desperate rush that Dennis cut his way through the problems of
existence. He was good for a short, sharp struggle, but he was not
steady, and had no ability to plan long manœuvres or patient
A streak of fierceness remained in him, also, derived from the man who
had been so deadly to his enemies when placed in a perilous dilemma. As
there were no British opposed to him, it did not manifest itself in just
the same way; and, thus far, being temperate in his habits and having no
foes so far as any one knew, he had not slain anybody. But his
passionate impulses asserted themselves plainly enough at times, to the
discomfort not only of others, but also of himself.
Here they were, then, these three people, the remote offspring of that
old Revolutionary officer, living humbly on the North Carolina shore,
unlike as possible to what Major De Vine might at one time have supposed
his descendants would be, yet bearing his blood in their veins, and
acting out every day his traits or those of some still earlier
progenitor, with as much exactness as if what they did and said had been
a part written for them in a play.
They knew nothing about the romance of Guy Wharton and Gertrude Wylde,
so far back, so musty with age as it seems, yet so alive and fragrant, I
think, when we pluck it out from the crumbled ruins of the past where it
grew. They knew nothing of the deposit of stones in the waters up by
Shallowbag Point, near Roanoke, which—being of foreign character—are
probably the ballast of one of Raleigh's vessels thrown overboard there,
in the stress of weather; nothing, except that Dennis had learned to
steer clear of it at low tide. But when you consider the destiny that
had befallen the family of the gallant young Revolutionary fighter, how
much did it differ from that of the English colonists whose race had
been extinguished in savagery? The change which had taken place was,
essentially, of the same kind.
When the group at Aunty Losh's cabin had finished what they had to say,
Adela Reefe rose to go; and Dennis, taking his gun from a corner of the
room, prepared as a matter of course to accompany her.
"Sun'll be goin' down," he remarked, languidly, "by the time I'm
a-comin' back, and I'll have a right smart call to get a few birds."
"I wish ye was goin' t'other way," Aunty Losh said, fretfully. "Ye mout
see suthin' o' Sylv. It's quare he don't come 'long when he knows his
old aunty's a-waitin' for him."
"Oh, he's young, aunty. You got to give him some play," said Dennis,
with fine sarcasm, though he knew well enough that his younger brother
was more mature and better balanced than he.
But his demeanor underwent a change as soon as he had passed out of the
doorway with Adela. The air of lazy jesting disappeared; his face became
earnest, and he walked with a kind of meekness beside the girl, looking
at her guardedly with a devotion that did not lose the grace of a single
motion of her lithe figure. Leaving the headland, they took the
direction of Hunting Quarters, a fishing village several miles distant,
where Adela lived alone with her father, a nondescript personage
depending for his livelihood upon equally nondescript and fragmentary
lore of a supposed medical character. Old Reefe, to say truth, was held
in awe by some of the simple neighborhood folk, as a man possessed of
mysterious and magical powers.
The two had gone some distance without speaking, when Dennis began
abruptly: "I got somethin' to say to ye, Deely, what I was waitin' to
say till aunty come back. It didn't seem everyways fair to say it
"What in time is it wouldn't be fair for you to say to me, Dennie?" she
asked, turning her face quickly toward him, her lips parted in a smile,
or perhaps only in eagerness.
"Why, when you was comin' over, tendin' me and Sylv and the cabin, it
didn't look like it was right," Dennis said. "But now there's a free
course, and I want to lay for home."
"That's a good word," Adela threw in, seeing him pause.
"Yes, and you know what I'm after. I want ye to say when you'll marry
Deely, at this, was quick to avert her glance. She remained silent.
"Well, what's in the wind now?" he persisted. "Ain't ye goin' to pass me
"What can I say to you?" she returned, earnestly. "I love you, Dennie,
as I told you long ago; and I want to be your wife. But where are we to
go? What have we got to live on?"
Adela's speech varied from the customary manner of the locality to a
more precise and refined utterance, according to her mood; for she had
shared in Sylv's progress to the extent of taking lessons from him in
reading. This had caused her to observe Miss Jessie Floyd's
pronunciation, and that of the few other cultivated persons whom she
occasionally saw, so that she had learned to copy it. The instant she
found herself in opposition to Dennis, she unconsciously assumed that
superior accent, the effect of which upon him was by no means
"Oh, don't go for to go on that tack now!" he exclaimed. "I've hearn
enough on it a'ready. I mean squar' talk now, and I ain't goin' to be
"Answer my question, then," said the girl, peremptorily. "That's no
more than fair."
"Why, there ain't no trouble," Dennis assured her, becoming amiable
again. "I reckon we can make out to live together as well as we can
separate one from t'other."
"Just like we do now. 'Pears to me the fish 'll bite as easy when they
know they've got to make a dinner for we uns, stead o' for Aunty and
Sylv, and the tarrapin 'll walk up to be cotched, and ground-nuts and
rice 'll allays be plenty."
"Yes, yes, Dennie; but who's goin' to take keer of Aunty Losh?" said
Adela, dropping back into the easier way of talking.
The young man's face fell, and he wrinkled his forehead. "That's a fact;
that's a fact," he murmured, sadly. "Poor ole aunty! She's been a true
mammy to we uns, and it ain't nachul to leave her be by herself. But
Sylv mout take keer on her, Deely."
"Sylv's younger than you," she objected. "'Tain't his portion to do
"Mebbe he ar young," said Dennis; "but he's got a darn'd sight cuter
head, some ways, than I have. And you mind now what I say, Deely, this
hyar thing has got to stop one o' these hyar days. If it hadn't been for
Sylv's mopin' over them books, and a-glowerin' and tryin' to make his
self too wise, I'd a-been a heap better fixed."
"But Sylv wouldn't a-been," was the answer; "and he's worth thinkin' on
Dennis laughed scornfully. "A little! He's a heap too much wuth thinkin'
Adela ceased walking, and faced round upon him, at the same time
brushing away with one hand a tress of her crispy black hair, which the
wind had blown across her eyes. She wanted to meet his gaze directly.
"What do you mean by that?" she demanded.
Dennis was her match for belligerency. "I mean," he said, "that that ar
youngster takes up too much 'tention. Thar ar'n't no time for
considerin' on no one else. It's allays Sylv's ways and Sylv's idees,
and he can't do nothin' for himself, but some one else hev got to do it
for him. An' here am I, one month arter another, findin' the ways for
him and aunty to live, lettin' alone myself; whiles he goes smellin'
arter them old books what's made o' yaller hide that ain't no better
than the skin off'n our Sukey's back. An' that's whar the bits and the
dollars go, that you and I might be enjoyin' if 'twarn't for his
dog-goned concayt of lawyer's jawin' and politics and parlaments.
That's what! An' I'm tired on it, I tell ye. What I mean?" Here the
young fellow's handsome, free-colored face became clouded with passion
that darkened it as with the shadows of a thunder-cloud. "I mean, Deely,
that if you are a-goin' to put Sylv up agin me, every chance comes
along, thinkin' o' his good and not o' mine, ye're not nigh so lovin' o'
me as ye are o' him. D'ye un'stan' me, now?"
Adela shrank back slightly, as if he had levelled a sudden blow at her.
Then she replied: "If that's all ye got to say to me, Dennie De Vine, ye
can just go back on your tracks to the cabin, and I'll go to the
Dennis forgot his anger in anxiety. "But there's the tide-way ye can't
cross," he said.
"I've done it afore now, by myself," replied the girl. "'Twant for
nothin' you learned me to row and sail. Ah, Dennie"—her under-lip
trembled as she spoke—"it ar'n't right in you to treat me so. If you'd
only remember those times when we were children! You was always good to
me, then. Why ar'n't you good to me now? I feel just the same about you
as I did in those way-off days. I never loved any but you—and old dad."
The poor child's head was drooping, as she finished; and, but for pride,
she would have wept.
"All right, then, Deely," began Dennis. "If that's so, I'm sorry—I
started for to say, I'm glad. Only, give me your squar' promise that you
won't let him stand in the way no more. I've kept my hand to the helm,
and I've waited. I've been waitin' a long time. Sylv won't never be no
'count, if he go on as he ar', and we won't be no 'count, nuther. Only
say the word that you'll marry me soon, and that you ain't goin' to let
Sylv stand in the way."
"But you said I cared more for him than I do for you," Adela objected,
less inclined to make peace than before.
"Well then, you can say you don't," he suggested.
"No, I'll never tell you so!" she cried, her eyes flashing. She laid a
hand upon her bosom, which was heaving. "There's somethin' here, Dennie,
makes it hard to say it. I can't! I can't!"
What she intended by this was no more than that, if he could not trust
her without such assurance, it was impossible for her to speak. But
Dennis took it quite otherwise.
"By God, it's true, all an' all!" he stormed. He paused an instant,
seemingly dazed, and then went on: "I didn't fairly believe it afore,
but a little black devil come allays whisperin' it into my ear, when I
was alone, and I couldn't get him out'n my mind. It was Sylv, Sylv,
Sylv—my own brother! Oh yes, you can bet I began to see it, then! I
done my best, and I've waited; but it's him you love, and now I'm to
be throwed over, I am. I'm the one that don't count nary fip. An'
now I believe it, you needn't be afeared. I believe it, and I know
Adela was stung by his doubt, and, recoiling from it, made her next move
in precisely the opposite direction to that which her heart prompted her
"You've done your best?" she echoed, tauntingly. "And what's that?
Mighty little. You can't read, like—like Sylv."
"Sylv be d—d!" shouted her lover. "If ye say another word, I'll kill
Adela Reefe stood before him, quite calm and unshaken. However she might
fear his violence toward others, she felt no alarm for herself. She knew
"No, you won't kill him, Dennie," she said. "You're not wicked: you
can't do that wrong. But I'm goin' to tell you what you'll do. You're to
leave me here, and go back by yourself, as I said."
Dennis tossed out a little defiant laugh. "No, I ain't a-goin', nuther.
You'll see me walkin' right alongside o' you till we get to old man
Reefe's, and then I'm a-goin' to tell him the whole yarn, and we'll fix
"You will go straight back to aunty's," she reaffirmed, quietly.
Dennis's features softened into a pleading expression. "You'll let me go
as far as the tide-way?" he petitioned.
He hesitated, but presently turned and walked a few steps over the
ground they had just traversed. His gun was slung in the bend of his
right arm. Once more he reverted to her, appealingly, but without a
"You must go," said Adela, gently, standing on one of the little
hummocks into which the land was broken, with the glow of the sinking
sun irradiating her brown and rosy cheeks, her dark gray eyes, and wild
Dennis obeyed. She remained stationary, watching him as he withdrew.
But before he had gone out of earshot, he called out to her, defiantly,
like a truant schoolboy: "I'm not goin' back to aunty's. Some o' those
birds yonder got to smell powder, fust."
Accordingly, he sauntered along over the uneven ground, scanning the
narrow territory, the stretches of adjacent marsh, and the clear,
pink-illumined air around him, for snipe or plover. He was the picture,
outwardly, of careless ease and confident health; but, inwardly, he was
far from being placid. There was a turmoil of clashing sentiments and
impulses within him, which he did not understand. He was not sure as to
what he thought, nor could he have told what he felt: he knew only that
he was thwarted, miserable, and angry. He was hurt and helpless, and
drifting on toward some fresh injury, the nature of which he could not
foresee and did not so much as try to guess; for he had no more control
over the passions that tossed his soul than if they had been a raging
sea. Yet, all the while, his gunner's instinct was alert, and the winged
creatures doomed for his prey could not, even had they been gifted with
understanding, have guessed that he was about to avenge his own wounds
by those he would inflict on them.
Adela waited a few moments where she stood; for she, too, was
distressed, and hardly knew which way to turn. The thought of the dreary
home of the herb-doctor, to which she must return, was not alluring; but
she could not go after Dennis, either, to make up with him. Suddenly she
heard a short, hollow report, that was lost immediately in the echoless
spaces over land and water. She started; an indescribable dread seized
her. Why, at that instant, did she think of the foolish threat—empty as
his gun-barrel—which Dennis had made against his brother?
It was nothing but a flying plover that he had knocked out of existence;
she could guess that well enough. But she did not stay to reflect. Like
a frightened thing seeking shelter, she sprang from her place, along the
open stretch, taking the opposite edge of the open ground to that which
Dennis had chosen, and ran lightly on under shelter of the low hillocks,
so as to reach some spot abreast of him.
A strange sight—this maiden running so featly under the sunset-light on
one side, while her unconscious lover strolled along the other! She
glided over the sod with a swiftness and an intuitive caution worthy of
an Indian. Then all at once she halted, so promptly that it might have
been with a premonition of the shock of sound that came almost
simultaneously from a second discharge of the gun—nearer, this time;
much nearer; so near that Adela, standing still, quivering but not
breathless, heard the faint rush of several shot that fell with a sharp
"pat" on the ground, close by her. Glancing up, she saw a small bird
driving through the sky, with dropped feet and frantic little wings,
which seemed to melt away out of sight in a moment, as if by magic.
Dennis had tried too high a shot and missed his aim.
Adela did not flinch, but she continued on her way more slowly.
Dennis also proceeded, popping at the feathered game now and then. He
did not fire again toward the quarter where Adela was lurking; she half
wished that he would. The dangerous greeting of those leaden pellets
would be better than no message at all. She longed to cross over and
speak to Dennis, but could not persuade herself to. He, meanwhile,
gathered only two small birds; the rest that came in his way either
escaped or fell out of reach among the sedges. Slinging the little
creatures into his pocket, indifferently, he went on; and when he
reached the point where he should have diverged toward the cabin, he
resolved to strike into the pine-woods and meet the Beaufort road.
Moody and dissatisfied, he was not inclined to shut himself up in
solitude at this hour with Aunty Losh; for he knew that Sylv, though he
had set out for Beaufort before sunrise, was not likely to have
accomplished the return journey before now. It was a distance of more
than fifteen miles; Sylv had taken his load of fish on a borrowed wagon
which must be left at the town, and therefore would be obliged to foot
the whole way back. Dennis preferred to wait on the road and meet him
Possibly Adela had suspected that he would do this. At all events, on
arriving where she could see him if he had been going toward the hut,
she discovered that he must have taken the other course, and she, too,
protected by the trees which now were frequent enough to afford a cover,
slipped cautiously into the piny woods.
Dennis had not gone far along the rough thoroughfare when a second
figure appeared, moving toward him in the gradual twilight, between the
ranks of long-leaved pines. It was the figure of a man, young and of
vigorous frame, but slightly bent; though that may have been due only to
fatigue or revery. His face was darkened, rendered still more serious in
its thoughtful expression by a straggling beard, which, however, grew in
a picturesque entanglement that added character, instead of obscuring
it. He was dressed with a modest style and care that made an outward
difference between him and the ordinary dwellers on that shore, but his
clothes were of simple "sheep's gray." Under his arms he carried two
books, heavy tomes, the smoky yellow of which, discernible even in that
fading light, showed that they were the ripe husks in which the fruits
of the law are stored.
This was Sylvester.
Dennis waited in the shadow of the trees until Sylv came nearly abreast
"Hullo, Sylv," he said.
The younger brother gave a start, and stopped abruptly in the rutty
roadway, looking toward the speaker. Then, with a smile of singular
frankness and sweetness, he said in a low, unperturbed voice: "Why,
Dennie, I wasn't looking to find you here. Seems queer, but I was
thinking so hard, all alone, that you almost frightened me."
He spoke with great precision, as was natural in a person of his
studious turn, but without the least primness or affectation. Carefully
transferring a ponderous volume from its place under his right arm-pit
to his left hand, he held the other hand out for a greeting. "Seems as
if I'd been away a week," he said, wearily. "Has aunty come?"
Dennis made no motion to take the proffered hand. "Yes," he said, "she's
thar, and she's waitin' for ye."
His manner was so unusual, so withdrawn, that Sylv was surprised, and
let his right arm fall to his side.
"Why, what's the trouble?" he asked. "You're not like yourself, Dennie.
You are dispirited."
"Anybody could see that," answered the senior in a surly tone, "without
those thar long words. Yes, I am sort o' down; I'm out o' gear. That's
"Well, let's go along to the cabin," Sylv proposed, throwing into his
words a soothing tenderness as unconscious as that of a woman's voice.
"Whatever's ailing, we'll consult over it there."
"No," said his brother, refusing to stir. "I want to talk to you hyar."
"I'm downright tired," Sylv objected, mildly. "I've been walking so
long. I made a good trade, though, Dennie. See here."
He laid his books down in the road, and put his hand into his pocket.
Then he withdrew it suddenly, looking alarmed, and began to search
another pocket. Dennis waxed visibly impatient. Finally, plunging into a
third receptacle, Sylv brought to light five silver dollars. "That's
what I got!" he exclaimed, triumphantly.
"That all!" cried Dennis. "Oh, I knowed it, I knowed it! And those thar
books—you worked shares on 'em."
"Yes, I found I could get those, too," said Sylv, with honest
Dennis emitted a groan. "Ye've done it agin," he muttered, gloomily.
"Now look hyar, Sylv, ye wisht a second; I'm goin' to give ye my mind.
You're a-takin' the life right out'n me and ruinin' my hopes, and I
ain't stood out about it afore; but dog-gone me if I don't stand out
now. I wouldn't 'a' keered if it hadn't been none but me and aunty,
but—" Here the unhappy man's voice broke. His right arm was occupied
with holding his gun, but he raised his left and wiped away upon the
sleeve the moisture which had gathered in his eyes. "But when it comes
to Deely," he continued, "I ain't a-goin' to let things run as they
With the instinct of the collector, Sylv stooped and picked up his
books; but, as he rose, he offered to Dennis the money which he held. "I
don't understand," he said, looking puzzled. "What are you talking
Dennis remained immobile in the shadow of the pines, ignoring the
younger man's gesture. "Keep your money," he said. "D'ye think I'm a
highway robber, to stop ye for what ye've got? It's bad enough that ye
barter away our livin'; but 'tain't that I'm a-thinkin' on. Ye've took
Deely away from me. That's worse; a heap sight worse!"
His brother gazed blankly at him, apparently not understanding. "Deely?"
he said. "I didn't take her. What d' you mean. Where is she?"
"Coward!" cried Dennis, growing violent.
At that word Sylv quivered visibly, and drew himself up, with a pride he
had not shown before.
Dennis, after pausing, went on: "D'ye dar' to tell me ye don't know what
I mean? Deely's home, but I've been a-talkin' with her, and I know it's
so and ain't no other way. She sees how you been a-playin' it on me, but
'tain't no 'count to her. She wants you to go right on, the same way.
'Tain't nothin' to her that you hold us off from bein' married, by that
foolishness and studyin' o' yourn. It's cl'ar as day she thinks a heap
more on you than she does on me. An' I tell ye ye're the one that's to
blame. Ye done it, and ye knowed it. Ye took her heart away from me."
A new perception broke upon Sylv. He contemplated Dennis with a sort of
curiosity, and a smile stirred the loose dark beard about his lips. Any
one but his angry brother might have seen that he regarded the idea of
his being enamored of a woman with a disdain curbed only by a sense of
"So you stand up here and tell me that, do you?" he retorted. "Well, all
I've got to say, Dennie, is that you're acting like a fool."
Dennis's hand clutched the stock of the gun, nervously, under the strain
of the effort he made to control himself. "No, I ain't," he declared. "I
been a fool afore, but I ain't one now. I see the whole thing, I tell
ye. She's set her heart on you, and you've set yourn on her."
Sylv braced himself a little, and looked resolute. "Now I give you fair
warning," he said. "I tell you square that I don't care about Adela
Reefe more than as a sister—my sister and your wife that is to be. Are
you going to deny my word?"
"Yes, I am," the other asserted, doggedly.
"And you're going on, after that, to assert that I took her love away
"Yes, I am."
"Then I say, you lie!" Sylv returned, hotly. The same passionateness
that ruled Dennis was present in him, also, though well concealed under
his habitual calm; but it had broken loose now.
In an instant Dennis lifted his gun to an aim. "No man can say that to
me," he thundered.
His finger slid down to the trigger, and he drew the hammer back.
Sylv stood in the road, unmoved, the books under his arms. "It's too
easy a shot," he said, quickly, but in a low voice. "Besides, I can't
"You won't have any call for that," Dennis assured him, grimly. He spoke
coolly, but his rage completely mastered him.
"Stop!" cried Sylv, when the gun-mouth seemed about to burst into flame.
The syllable was repeated from the woods close by them. Was it an echo?
No; that was impossible; there was no echo in that place, and both men
knew it. Besides, there was a different tone in the voice which seemed
to ring out from the shadow of the pines—an accent of alarm and agony,
unlike the peremptory cry which Sylv had uttered.
Dennis brought down his gun, instantly. "What's that?" he exclaimed,
thoroughly unnerved. He felt as if some supernatural warning had been
"It sounded," said Sylv, "like—" Here he checked himself, and stared
across the road, trying to make out something among the trees.
Dennis turned in the same direction, and in a moment they had both moved
thither, and were straining their eyes to discover the source of the
sound. But their scrutiny was in vain: nothing appeared. It is true,
they fancied a noise as of some one stirring, some one making a hasty
retreat; but that might have been only the wind that came with stealthy
swiftness from the ocean side and set all the murmurous branches in
movement. Was there a figure flying through the piny arcade? Of that,
also, they could not be sure; for the twilight had increased more and
more, and darkness seemed to ooze through the air like a palpable
exudation from the gummy trees.
The brothers faced half around and exchanged a peculiar glance that was
tinged with awe. But Dennis fell to trembling.
"Hyar! Take it!" he said, in a voice of horror. "Take the gun, Sylv. I
was crazy. What was I a-doin' just now? Oh, take it away from me; don't
let me touch it!"
Sylv, on the point of complying, paused and said slowly: "No, Dennie, I
won't take it. You didn't think what you were doing. I trust you."
Still shaking, Dennis looked at him with a dumb, bewildered gratitude.
"Come," said his brother, stepping again into the path.
Dennis followed him, but as they left the spot he said: "It war like
Deely's voice, Sylv. She saved me, this time."
That which Adela had seen and overheard so startled and horrified her,
it raised such a war of emotions, that she was unable to reflect upon
what she ought to do. In coming through the woods, obedient to the vague
need she felt of following Dennis, she had heard the rising voices of
the disputants, and when she reached a spot where she could command a
view, she beheld her lover with his gun raised, on the very verge of
For a moment her every faculty was paralyzed. Had the weapon been
levelled at herself, her dread would have been less freezing: she could
have been brave and active on her own behalf. To see another person
threatened with mortal danger, and he the brother of Dennis, was
different. In the presence of impending crimes, human beings seem to
yield to a painless lethargy like that which is said to overcome the
victim of a tiger, even before the claws have made a single wound. The
extreme of terror suspends the faculty of feeling, as of action; and
this is what renders possible the enactment of the most dreadful deeds
in broad day, before a crowd of witnesses.
To shriek would have been the easy resource of some women. Adela Reefe
did not know how to shriek. She might have bounded forward, to stay
Dennis's hand or divert his aim; but her muscles failed her as if they
had been caught and webbed with invisible cords. Besides, any sudden
movement might have resulted only in precipitating a tragic end.
Just then it was that Sylv called out; and Adela echoed him,
half-unconsciously, but with a wilder earnestness. The two exclamations
dissolved the spell that had held her. The crisis was over, and the
catastrophe had been warded off. What was she to do next? If she
appeared, the effect of her sharp outcry might be lost; Dennis might be
maddened to some fresh outbreak worse than the first, by the knowledge
that she had seen him in that awful situation. The difficulties, the
quarrel that might ensue, were she to confront the brothers then, would
be full of peril. There was nothing for it but to hide; and, gliding
from tree to tree, she made her escape.
It was a long time before she finally reached her father's house at
Hunting Quarters that night; for, driven by the agitation which followed
the episode in the woods, and troubled by a cloud of doubts, wonders,
and anxieties that rose upon her mind, she wandered restlessly along the
shore, as homeless and unfettered as the marsh-ponies that were tossing
their manes above the dim, low line of that outer strip of land which,
across the Sound, ran out thirty or forty miles under the evening sky
toward Ocracoke and Hatteras.
Now it happened that Mr. Edward Lance, the guest at Colonel Floyd's, had
been out on a solitary excursion of scientific inquiry, diversified by
fishing, along that same sandy barrier. He stayed later than he
expected; and, boating over to the main in the nightfall, he came
walking along the uneven and indented shore, on his way to Fairleigh
Park, while Adela was still abroad.
Lance was sorry to be so late, but he had abundant material for
agreeable revery with which to occupy himself until he should get back
to the society of Miss Jessie and her father. Some three weeks had
passed since he had come to the hospitable shelter of the colonel's
roof, and he had had time to become much interested in other things than
the errand which had originally brought him hither.
The young man, it should be explained, was a New Yorker, whose tastes
were cultivated and progressive; fortunately for him, he likewise had
money enough to admit of following his bent.
"He is the son of my agent's former partner in business," Colonel Floyd
had told his daughter, when he received the letter which led to his
sending Lance an invitation to visit them. "You don't know his name, my
dear, and indeed it is unfamiliar to me. Mr. Lance senior died some
years since, before my relations with Mr. Hedson, who was in business
with him, began. But I understand that he is an accomplished young
gentleman, who wishes to inquire into the resources of our State—more
especially the coast-belt."
"That's where we live, isn't it, pa?" Miss Jessie inquired.
"Yes, my child," said the colonel, impressively. "He desires to study
our fisheries and other industries—with a view, perhaps, to
establishing some manufacturing or agricultural enterprise. It would not
be at all strange, Jessie, if he were to put capital into something in
our neighborhood. I think he may invest. Yes; he is probably seeking a
field for his capital."
Colonel Floyd said all this as if he were reading a letter or quoting
from a cyclopædia. That was his habitual way of saying things. I should
hardly call it an affectation, but he seldom spoke at any length without
producing the effect of his being a standard work of reference, which
would always tell you exactly what you wanted to know, and would state
it in the best language.
He was a slender man, with a small but well-shaped head encased in
closely cut hair that had begun to silver; the gray and the black
intermingled, and shone with a glimmering changefulness, like the sheen
of mica. He wore spectacles, and had that precise, tactical expression
noticeable in Confederate veterans of the war and so wholly at variance
with our conventional idea of the romantic Southern type. As the colonel
held the lease of a turpentine plantation which he was working, near his
own modest estate, he was naturally interested in the development of the
"coast-belt," and was disposed to welcome the young Northern capitalist
of whom his agent, Hedson, spoke so highly.
"What do you say, my daughter?" he asked Jessie, after a pause. "Would
it be agreeable to you to have a visitor? Shall we invite Mr. Lance to
stay with us?"
He inspected her kindly through his glasses, as if she had been some
harmless little prisoner of war.
"It shall be just as you like, pa dear," said Jessie, artlessly. "And if
Mr. Lance is coming—why, there's no other place for him to stay. Is
The unsuspicious would have been forced to suppose, from the forlorn
manner in which Miss Jessie cast her eyes around, that she regretted the
absence of any convenient hostelry for the stranger's harborage.
The veteran, however, saw through her, or fancied that he did. At all
events, he knew that the solitude of the Park, with only a few liberated
slaves and the old housekeeper for company, could not be much more
desirable for his daughter than the presence of a promising young man
Accordingly, it was settled that Lance should come. Here he was, then,
fully established, and—thanks to the perfect hospitality of the old
officer—rejoicing in an unexpected sense of being thoroughly at home in
those warm latitudes. It was now the end of July—a hot time to be so
far South—but Lance's satisfaction with his new surroundings was so
great, that he had decided to remain through the summer, and already
began to think that that period would seem all too short.
While his scientific eye had been riveted upon the processes of
turpentine manufacture, on the number and kinds of food-fish inhabiting
the shallows of the sea, and on the feasibility of turning Elbow Crook
Swamp into a luxuriant market-garden, a finer vision—which he possessed
in common with some others of us who belong to the masculine side of our
species—had been occupied with the dainty yet commanding outline of
Jessie Floyd's face; the saucy charm of her dark hair parted on one
side; her novel, half-childish, yet imperious ways.
He was thinking of her, now, as he traversed the bit of open,
marsh-bordered land alongside the pines, where Dennis and Adela had
taken their unpropitious walk, that day.
The sun had set long before; the twilight had deepened and deepened
until all at once it seemed to meet, in its meditativeness, a thought,
an inspiration, a celestial surprise—and the moon rose, silent and
beautiful, like the embodiment of that thought.
A panorama of memory passed before Lance's mind, embracing pictures of
all the things he had observed during the day, and all that he had seen
since he came to North Carolina. He stood there alone, with the ocean
moaning subduedly beyond the sandy dunes, four miles away, yet audible
through the plash of the nearer waters of the Sound, across which the
warm breeze brought its voice to him. He saw in fancy the green waves,
the ardent sunshine, the low shore with huts or hamlets clustering
occasionally in some favoring nook, surrounded by evergreen oaks and
other verdant growths; the chalky lighthouses, the random sails of
shore-fishers; the green, inaccessible marshes that fringed so much of
the mainland. The poor folk he had met in his rambles, hearty, simple,
ignorant and superstitious, came back to his eye in groups, with the
surroundings amid which he had happened to encounter them. The gloomy
recesses of Elbow Crook Swamp filled in the background of his
memory-pictures; wild birds rose and flew across the sky, as it seemed;
and all the while Lance was oppressed with a sense of the great natural
resources of the region, against which its loneliness, the prevailing
ague, and the shiftless languor of the population opposed themselves as
a dead-weight on all improvement. Yet, stranger and alone though he was,
his soul expanded with the idea of somehow bettering the condition of
affairs and making life there brighter and more prosperous.
Then he, too, emerged from revery as the twilight had from its
sombreness, and faced clearly the new thought that glowed upon him like
the large, sweet moon so dreamily brooding in the sky.
Suddenly he was aware of a shape looming up in the faint moonlight not
far from him; the form of a woman, half of whose body was concealed by a
curve of the ground, in such a way that it might have been thought she
was just rising out of the earth.
The woman was looking seaward. She did not observe his presence.
Such an apparition would, in any case, have given pause to a preoccupied
man upon whom it came without warning; but there was a special reason
why it should affect Lance in an extraordinary manner. Her face offered
itself to him in profile, and was so irradiated by the nocturnal light
that it came out clearly against the sky. Seeing it thus, Lance was
instantly—I might say, appallingly—struck by its resemblance to a face
he had many times seen, one that, in fact, he had been thinking about
only a little while before.
The face was like a darker profile of Jessie Floyd, touched with
At first, of course, Lance thought that he must be suffering from
hallucination; that the day's exposure to the sun had affected his brain
and brought out in a visible form the thought of Jessie, which had been
so constantly with him. But the unknown woman stirred, and he saw that
she was real. Hereupon he scanned her more carefully, guessing that at
least the resemblance which he traced was an illusion. No; it remained
intact. He could not get rid of it. Clearly, the resemblance was real,
no less than the woman.
I have hinted that Lance was of a modestly scientific turn; but he also
had in his constitution many susceptibilities whereof science as yet
knows little, and the phenomenon so abruptly thrust upon his notice
stirred these susceptibilities to their depths. He did not at all know
what to make of it. A fear crossed him that he was becoming as
superstitious as the ignorant folk on whom he had lately shed the balm
of his pity. What did this strange presence and resemblance mean or
portend? Was there not some omen hidden in them?
Another thing disturbed him, affecting his mind very much as a sudden
contact with the supernatural might have done. In Lance's family, which
had sprung from England, fragments of an old story were still extant,
about an ancestor who had been involved with one of the colonizing
expeditions to Virginia. He did not recall every particular of the
story, but sundry items of it were quite distinct. It was said that this
early predecessor had fallen in love with an Indian girl, from whom he
had been cruelly separated; or that he had come to these virgin shores
in search of some one whom he had lost: accounts differed as to that.
But Lance's belief was, that this long-dead member of his long-dead
English family had been in quest of his plighted wife, and that he had
somehow missed her, returning to England alone. Virginia, in those days,
included the territory of North Carolina—the very place to which Lance
had drifted, propelled by a rather vague purpose and a desire for
knowledge as well as recreation. There was nothing very remarkable in
this, perhaps. The young man himself had not thought much about it; for
one does not have time, in the present age, to linger over little
coincidences and bits of ancient family gossip. The old tale had once or
twice flitted through his mind since his installation at the colonel's
manor, but it was not a thing he would have considered worth mentioning.
Nevertheless, because of those occult susceptibilities which I have
mentioned, at the moment of encountering this mysterious woman with her
face turned seaward, the remembrance flashed up over his mental horizon
like a kindling beacon-fire. A marvelling awe took hold of him, and for
his life he could not have shaken off the fantasy that made him conceive
of her as a projection from the shadowy past, an image that typified the
lost mistress, or the forgotten Indian maiden, with whom his ancestor's
life-history had been linked. The circumstance that she was gazing
eastward also had an effect upon him; he could easily have persuaded
himself that she was waiting for her vanished lover to come to her over
But the fancied resemblance to Jessie—that was the most bewildering
element of all. Why should it occur to him? And why should he feel such
an unwonted shiver running through his veins?
The simplest way to banish all this nonsense was, doubtless, to go
forward and speak to the girl. The good nature of the inhabitants, Lance
knew, made such an informality excusable; but, as he was about to try
that solution of his perplexity, and find out who this woman really was,
the figure began to descend the slope on the farther side from him, and
disappeared so noiselessly that she seemed to have crumbled and dropped
back into the earth from which she came.
Lance stood still; that curious warm shiver thrilled his veins anew.
Then he turned away and resumed his tardy progress toward the distant
manor-house, muttering aloud: "How can I be such a fool?"
But the vision, notwithstanding, remained imprinted on his
consciousness, and troubled him.
The next morning ushered in Miss Jessie Floyd's birthday anniversary.
The emancipated housemaid, ancient Sally, had given Lance timely warning
of this occasion, and he had taken the precaution to send to New York
for a present which he thought might be acceptable.
The question as to what sort of a gift he should select had been a hard
one to decide. If the truth must be told, he had allowed himself the
inappropriate but impassioned notion that he would like to give her a
ring; inappropriate because he had not yet succeeded in effecting those
preliminaries which justify a young man in giving a ring to a young
woman; though, except for that, it was exactly what would best have
conveyed his sentiments. Just why an ornament for a lady's hand should
have this potent significance, when it is her ear that receives the
lover's confession, was not perfectly clear to him; yet it was plain
that there was no insurmountable objection to his offering Miss Jessie a
pair of ear-drops. He therefore ordered some pearl ones, hoping to
please her. To please himself, he ordered a ring. But the little packet
which lay beside her plate at the breakfast-table, that morning,
contained only the ear-drops. The ring was securely locked in Lance's
private consciousness and his trunk.
Perhaps in order to appease his own self-reproaches for cherishing this
jewelled secret, but also to prevent any embarrassment in Jessie's
receiving a costly trifle from him, Lance thought it best to let Colonel
Floyd know of his intention beforehand. He did so, late in the evening,
after returning from his solitary expedition.
"I hope this will be quite agreeable to you, sir," he ventured, with
becoming deference, when he had explained.
The colonel remembered that he himself had once been young, and probably
found it easy to gauge the effort it cost his youthful friend to
maintain this deference in a case where he was positive that he had an
inalienable right to do as he pleased.
"My dear Lance," he replied, "neither my daughter nor myself can need
any outward token to assure us of the kindly feeling you entertain
toward us. That is the only reason why I might regret that you have
decided to offer one. A simple congratulation or good wishes would have
been enough, I assure you; but I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and
Jessie, I am sure, will be delighted."
"Thank you, colonel. Then it is all right," said Lance, decisively,
feeling as if he had just snapped the cover tight over the pearls and
rescued them from loss.
They were sitting in the room which the colonel, with innocent grandeur,
called his library, surrounded with a few editions of English and Latin
classics, flanked by rows of obsolete works largely relating to
politics; and they were engaged in the unscholarly pastime of sipping
whiskey and water. It may be that the beverage had softened the colonel
into a pensive mood.
"Speaking of congratulations," he said, "these anniversaries begin to
make me think that my Jessie perhaps hasn't got so much to be
"I think she has a great deal," said his guest, with some fervor. "More
than I have, at any rate. She still has her father—" his listener
smiled sedately—"she has her old home, and—and herself!"
Lance had not known in advance that he was going to wind up with those
words, and was himself rather astonished at them.
The colonel braced his neck and looked at the young man somewhat
narrowly for an instant; after which he subsided, and observed,
good-humoredly: "That is saying a good deal, too. What I had in mind,
however, was the changed condition of everything here—the melancholy
changes that have come since the war. When Fairleigh Park, sir, embraced
five hundred acres instead of twelve, and when I had a hundred good
niggers, it was a very different matter. Why, sir, even in this poor
house there was hardly a stick or a rag left on my return from the
field. My books"—here the colonel waved his arm with proprietary pride
at the faded volumes on his shelves—"my books fortunately had been
removed to Wilmington, where my wife and daughter were in the care of
friends; but a foraging party of the Northern soldiery came here, sir,
in my absence, and, though there wasn't a soul opposed them, they broke
the mirrors, chopped my piano into kindling, stabbed and maimed the
pictures on the walls, and tore the hangings into shreds. Yes, sir, that
was the noble revenge they took upon me for daring to fight in defence
of my native land. Ah, I must not recall those things," he added,
recovering himself. "Thank God, we are a united country once more, and I
don't regret my share of the loss. But I was also thinking, sir, of
The veteran leaned his head on his hand, unable to speak further. There
was a quivering of the muscles in his good old, honest, disciplinarian
face, that touched Lance's heart.
"I can understand what a loss that has been to you," he said,
gently—"and to Miss Jessie."
The colonel raised his head again, and looked with determination at the
opposite wall, mustering his self-control.
Lance resumed, with some hesitation, but impelled to speak at this
precise moment, though he had not contemplated doing so. "I—I have
reflected a great deal about Miss Jessie," he said.
Colonel Floyd's attention was prompt and watchful at once. He regarded
the speaker with mingled friendliness and jealousy. "You are very good,
my friend," said he.
The younger man smiled involuntarily. "I see no great merit in my
thinking of her. I can't help it."
His host hemmed, and gave evidence, by his restless manner, of being ill
at ease. "I don't know that I fully understand you," he began, moved by
a conviction that he did understand with the greatest distinctness.
"Well," said Lance, "I suppose it ought to be very easy to explain
myself; but I find it extremely difficult. I have thought about Miss
Jessie—I wish it were possible to add in any way to her happiness."
The colonel rose. "Pray say nothing more," he begged, not unkindly, but
with some reserve.
"I will say nothing, if you prefer, beyond this: that her welfare and
her future cannot possibly be of greater moment to you than to me."
Lance looked at the colonel squarely until he had finished, and then he
dropped his eyes. There was no mistaking the purport of his tone, which
went farther than his words.
"My dear fellow," said the colonel, stretching out his hand, "from what
I have seen of you I like you; I may say, I esteem you. If you have
anything to say which concerns Jessie more than it does me, tell it to
The other accepted his hand, and pressed it. They stood thus for a
moment, before parting for the night, and Lance saw that the old soldier
approved of him. A strange feeling also came over him, that his host and
he met not so much on the basis of a possible father-and-son
relationship as on that of brotherhood. There was a community in their
love for Jessie; each felt the depth of the other's devotion to her,
different though it was from his own; and to Lance this mutual trust was
of good omen.
Before the breakfast-hour they met again in the pleasant dining-room.
The colonel was mixing a mint-julep by an open window which gave upon
"I'm not feeling quite well," he said, "and so concluded to tone myself
up a little. It's a great thing to have a Virginian's grave in your
"Virginian's grave" was the facetious term, as Lance had learned,
applied to a bed of mint; in allusion to the theory that where a
Virginia gentleman is buried the plant essential to his favorite
beverage in life will spring up and multiply.
He laughingly declined to share in the refreshment, and the two said
little to each other. Their talk of the night before lingered with them
in the form of a slight constraint, mixed with suspense.
But Jessie put all this to flight, when she slipped into the room fresh
as the morning sunbeams. She was quick to notice the white packet on the
"Oh, how lovely of you, pa," she exclaimed as she opened it, "to take so
much trouble! Why, they're exquisite!"
She held the case up admiringly.
The colonel glanced over at their guest, a slight smile wrinkling his
bronzed cheeks with fine lines like those in old engravings; and there
was a trace of guiltiness in his look, as if he and Lance had been
"Don't thank me, my dear," he said. "It's Mr. Lance who was lovely."
"Oh!" cried Jessie. She fastened her eyes on Lance, with a sort of
reproach; and his heart sank.
"They're beautiful, though," she continued. "Thank you so much, Mr.
Lance. Then you didn't get anything for me, pa? Well, I shall have a
kiss, anyway." And she ran toward him.
The old man's gray mustache appeared to revive, as he received the
salute and gave one in return. "Look under your plate, child," he said,
"and you'll find something, will do to give you a treat when we go up to
the races at Newbern."
Jessie trotted back to her place, and the treasure under the plate
proved to be a gold eagle. Another demonstration of filial fondness
ensued, and they all sat down in a good humor; albeit Lance suffered a
feeling of unenviable exclusion.
But in a moment or two Jessie jumped up again, and, with the earrings in
her hand, went to the glass to put them on. She faced around brightly
from her reflected image there, to thank Lance again. "I never dreamed
of getting anything so nice," she said, frankly.
And Lance told himself that he, on the contrary, had many times dreamed
of some creature as captivating as she was, but had never quite expected
to find the realization. He wondered how, in this solitude and with no
one to set her the example, she could have grown up into such charming
The doors of Fairleigh Manor, excepting in the most inclement weather,
stood always open—a symbol of the owner's frank and hospitable heart.
And now when the breakfast was over and Jessie had betaken herself with
the two gentlemen to the little morning-room across the hall, a train of
darkies—men and women—presented itself at the entrance, bringing good
wishes and simple gifts to their young mistress. First of all came old
Sally, who folded the fair maiden in her faithful arms and covered her
forehead and neck with kisses. Lance, with his abstract theories of
equality and his concrete prejudices, which made equality impossible,
was rather amazed at this proceeding. He did not relish the spectacle of
the black face in such close proximity to the white one. Involuntarily
he turned toward the colonel, expecting to find in him some support for
his own displeasure; but there was a kindly light in the colonel's eye,
and he looked on with approval as the servants approached, one after
another, to give greeting in their several ways—the women with less
effusion than was permitted to Sally, and the men with awkward bows or
friendly grins that attested their speechless affection. Those who
shared in this demonstration were elderly servants who had once been
slaves, though they were accompanied by a few younger ones—their
children, born in freedom. They all brought flowers and leaves; the
fragrant yellow jessamine being a favorite form of tribute, alternating
with festoons of the trailing vines found in Elbow Crook Swamp, baskets
adorned with gray moss, and little ornaments of woven straw.
The colonel's face grew radiant and tender as he watched them. "Faithful
creatures!" he said, in undertone to Lance. "Most of my people stayed by
me when the fight was over. I told them they were free to go where they
liked, that they didn't belong to me any more, and I couldn't tell
whether I could give them work—much less support them. But they
wouldn't go. They clung round me; and little by little we all got on our
feet again. They said: 'You's been a good massa to us, and we ain't
gwine to leave you now yore in trouble, Massa Cunnel.' And so we built
up, together, what small prosperity there is here now. I had fed and
clothed them, Lance, and spent many thousand dollars in buying them, but
they did not forget everything, as many white people do. I little
thought it would be my old slaves who would help me out in the hour of
need—I to whom they had always looked for help. But so it was. My
God, it has been worth all the cost and the suffering! We are more human
than we were."
The veteran planter was deeply affected; and, as he spoke, a mist seemed
to clear away from the young man's mind, and he beheld the simple
ceremony that was taking place, in a transfigured light.
Here, close to his eyes, was an act in the endless changes and
developments through which humanity is forever passing: the lifting up,
the pulling down, the growth of new types and phases, the subsidence of
old forms of life, accompanied by the survival of certain among their
One of the negroes, bolder than the rest, after wishing Jessie happiness
all her days, said he knew it wasn't right to ask her for anything now,
but if she "would only give him a little book to read in." ... The book
was instantly forthcoming. Jessie went to her secretary, and took one
from the slender row of volumes on its upper shelf. But at this Sally
came forward again.
"Why, missy," she said softly, in Jessie's ear, where Lance's pearl was
trembling, "ole Scip ain't no 'count. He war on'y coachman, you know,
befo'. He didn't nevah b'long to you and the missus. But I come from
yo' side de house, yo' know I does; and now yo' dun gone give him
suffin', why I'd kin' o' like dat ar pink frock what you mos' got fru
wearin'. 'Tain't good nuff for yo', nohow, missy, and ole Sally she'd be
mighty glad on't, ef you don' want it no mo'."
So Jessie laughed, and sent Sally up-stairs to get the garment of her
desire; and from that moment on the reception was metamorphosed into an
exchange of gifts.
The darkies brought in their vines and clusters, and laid them on the
table or draped them with primitive art about the room, until it became
a sort of bower, verdant and perfumed with their offerings; and Jessie
sat there like an unaffected little queen, distributing tokens to this
and that adherent. She knew their humble demands were not prompted by
greed, but that they simply loved the old custom of receiving something
from their mistress, and could not give it up even though times were so
Lance had now fully entered into the spirit of the scene, and the fancy
struck him that it was a repetition of the old story of savages on the
New World shores worshipping the first white person who came among them.
What if these negroes had been the aborigines, and his Jessie—or Miss
Jessie, rather—had been that Gertrude Wylde whom tradition told of,
receiving their homage? The idle query of imagination, thus propounded,
brought up to him with renewed force the vision, still unexplained,
which had crossed his path on the sea-shore.
A NEW LESSON IN BOTANY.
In the cool of the afternoon the Floyds and their guest took a drive,
rattling gayly on, in the old carry-all, which was the colonel's chariot
of state, over many miles of light-earthed road screened for the most
part by groves of pine.
The old gentleman discoursed to Lance a good deal about the country and
the people, and gave vent to his natural regret that the class once
dominant had yielded more and more to a hard, pushing set, who were no
doubt doing much to increase the general welfare, but lacked the graces
and the repose of the whilom aristocracy. The young Northerner's own
conviction was that the old aristocracy had succumbed to a relentless
law of nature, for which he entertained the admiration that he believed
all natural laws were entitled to; but he could not help regretting
somewhat the fate that had overcome his friends and their kind; and it
was borne in upon him strongly that so fine a flower of heredity as
Jessie appeared to be—however defective the structure of the species to
which she belonged—ought not to be involved in this decadence.
You will observe that I am giving you his thoughts in the formal and
strictly rational phraseology which it pleased him to adopt. Plainly
speaking, he was very much in love with Jessie, and did not care a rap
about natural laws or anything else, if they conflicted with her
happiness or his chances of winning her.
Meanwhile, as they passed Elbow Crook Swamp, which the road skirted for
a considerable distance, he reverted, with every appearance of absorbed
interest, to his scheme for reclaiming that tract and converting it into
a source of wealth and the means of building up a prosperous, highly
intelligent community. The swamp covered a territory of many hundreds of
acres. It was rank with cypress, evergreen, oak, and laurel, from which
parasitic gray mosses depended in endless garlands, locked in the
embrace of luxuriant vines, that hung or crept down to the edge of that
slow brown stream, the angular turnings of which gave the place its
name. The rich, alluvial soil in which all this greenery rooted held a
promise of unlimited fertility; but the only profit which men derived
from the splendid waste was found in the cane-brakes, that yielded
succulent fodder for hogs or cattle. Lance imagined in this wild expanse
a possibility of great results, which might play in well with his
humanitarian schemes. He had brooded over the matter ever since first
seeing the spot; but the commercial and educational interest attaching
thereto was not the only one that kept him thinking about it. Its
mysteriousness, its lone solemnity; the frowning masses of dense and
forbidding trees; its impenetrability in parts; the danger and
savageness of its hidden depths—all these had wrought upon and excited
him, until it became impossible for him to get the swamp out of his
mind, and he felt that it was somehow connected with his destiny.
In answer to his exposition of his schemes, the colonel, who was fond of
a classical allusion, said: "That's all very fine, Lance; but you
propose a labor beside which Hercules slaying the Lernean Hydra would be
insignificant. You know, that myth is supposed to refer to the draining
of a morass. Hercules was the first man who discovered the still
mythical disease of malaria, and tried to kill it."
But Lance was not to be discouraged by banter. When they got back to the
mansion the colonel judiciously disappeared, and the two young people
were left alone on the veranda. Lance began to talk over his theories
anew with Jessie, as they sat there just outside the window of the
morning-room whence the scent of the pine-boughs, the jessamine, and
flowering vines drifted toward them in occasional puffs of fragrant air.
"The people here need so much help, so much enlightening," he said. "I
can't give up the idea that something might be done in the way of
"Oh, that's only because you're so restless," said Jessie. "You come
from the North, and you find it so dull here that you have to think of
something to keep you busy."
Her lips pretended that they were smiling with indolent mockery; but she
looked so charming, and the contrast between her gray eyes and the
Spanish jauntiness of her dark hair was so attractive, that the young
man began to think opposition was the pleasantest form of encouragement.
"No," he said, quite earnestly; "I don't think it's mere restlessness. I
mean what I say, and I can't help it. And certainly it isn't dull here
He fixed his eyes for a moment on the boards of the veranda-floor, as if
meditating. Jessie, in her turn, considered him. In his loose blue
flannel suit, with a soft straw hat perched upon his thoughtful head,
but throwing no shadow on his features, to which a small brown mustache
gave additional emphasis, he certainly was handsome; she had never
denied to herself that he was handsome, but she was just now especially
impressed with the fact.
"I am going to tell you something curious," he said, lifting his eyes
unexpectedly, so that she turned hers quickly toward the garden. He had
evidently arrived at the result of his meditation. "It has several times
occurred to me," he continued, "that my interest in this locality may
have a queer, remote sort of origin that no one would ever suspect."
"Why, what's that?" asked Jessie, in a dreamy tone, feeling sure now
that he could not be going to speak of her, since she was neither
"queer" nor "remote."
Thereupon Lance went on to relate to her the legend of Gertrude Wylde
and Guy Wharton, as well as he could from the stories which he
remembered to have heard half jestingly repeated in his father's
household. "I am directly descended from Guy Wharton," he stated, in
conclusion, "but my name is different, because the male line died out
and my father belonged to the posterity of one of the daughters. It's
true, all that romance happened a hundred miles or more from here, way
up by Roanoke, and I didn't think of it in the least when I started to
make this visit; but, some way or other, the thing has come back into my
mind, and I begin to fancy that by an occult law of thought it may
account for my interest in this place—at least, partly."
Jessie was absorbed by his narration, as her attentiveness and her eager
interruptions had shown; but what she said was: "It must be a very
occult law indeed." She also emitted a little impertinent laugh, which
she did not mean to be impertinent.
Lance was somewhat taken aback. "I dare say it's all foolishness," he
admitted; "and there are other elements of interest which are much more
She was sorry to have brought such confusion upon him, and hastened to
revive the conversation.
They got to talking about the negroes; and Lance, alluding to the scene
that morning, proceeded to speculate on the problem of the colored race.
"There is something very fine in their relation to you," he said, "but
it belongs to a phase that has passed away. They ought to be educated,
"I'm sure," Jessie answered, "we educate them as much as we can. Didn't
you see me give Scip a book? And I've helped to cultivate Aunt Sally's
æsthetic tastes by letting her have my pink frock. What more can you
"You insist upon making fun of me," said Lance, forcing a smile, though
a trifle mortified by her lack of enthusiasm. "But you know I'm right."
"Indeed I don't know it!" exclaimed Miss Jessie, vigorously. "You want
to change everything, but you can't tell what you would get by the
change. You would like to cut down those splendid old trees in the
swamp, and turn it into fresh vegetables and berries for New York. But
the trees are much nobler than the berries, or even wild-flowers."
"Oh no, I beg your pardon; they're not!" said Lance. "Most of the trees
around here are simply monsters. They represent rude, primitive types of
vegetation; they are the earliest specimens of Nature's effort to
produce flowering plants. Why, the common ox-eye daisy is a far more
refined product than they."
"Oh, dear me," cried Jessie, "I never heard that. How much you know! But
I like daisies, too; I don't want any of these things destroyed."
"They sha'n't be, then," Lance declared, with offhand omnipotence.
After that, he branched out into an informal lecture on the
relationships of various plants and flowers, trying, in the sketchy way
that he had learned from cheerfully popular books of science, to give
her some conception of the evolution of new types and the persistence of
old ones in the flora of the earth, together with the manifold delicate
ties of kinship between the different existing forms.
"Then, they are all one big family!" said Jessie, her face lighting with
a sympathy that Lance reverently recorded as being maternal. She was as
much pleased as if she had discovered a new set of thoroughly desirable
relatives. "But oh, Mr. Lance," she added, quickly reflecting, "doesn't
that prove that all these types have got to exist? You say that after
one crude attempt has been followed by a better development, specimens
of the old sort continue—like the pine trees. Now, it seems to me that
it's just the same with the human family. We're all related, but we're
very unlike; and while some of us have gone on improving, the others
have stayed just as they were. The negroes and the poor whites around
here are our monsters—for you say the pine trees are monsters—but if
we have the pines, why shouldn't we have the others?"
She clapped her hands, in her glee at the argument she had discovered;
and it must be admitted that Lance was nonplussed by her swift sagacity.
"But then you must remember," he said, after pausing, "that the human
creation has a much greater capacity for growth than the vegetable; and
we ought to help it forward in its growth. There's Sylvester De Vine as
an example. See how he's rising above his condition! I take the greatest
interest in that young fellow, and I believe I'm bound to assist him as
far as I can."
"Yes, that's true," Jessie acknowledged. "But it's very nice to have all
these contrasts. I don't want them abolished."
Lance could not but be aware that he didn't want them abolished, either.
Would he have been willing to obliterate all the differences that
existed between Jessie and the majority of the surrounding population?
Did he want all other women to be just like her? On the contrary, the
reason why he preferred her was that she represented a higher
development, a "more specialized" form, an exception to the common mass
of inferior beings.
"You're right," he said. "It is nice to have the contrasts. I admit
In her triumph Jessie rose from the cane chair where she had sat
reclining. "Oh, how splendid!" she cried. "I never expected such a
victory. I must find pa, and tell him how I've vanquished you."
Lance also rose, but to detain her. "Don't go yet," he said; "I have
something else to say. You have conquered me in another way, too, and I
want to hear from you whether you will accept my surrender." In saying
this he drew a little closer, and gazed with earnest expectancy into her
The sudden stillness and frightened silence with which Jessie at first
met his advance were not exactly what one would expect in a conqueror.
After an instant, however, she regained her self-possession. Her natural
merriment and archness returned as she asked, with her head leaning
sideward: "Is the surrender unconditional, Mr. Lance?"
"No. There is one condition, of supreme importance. Ah! Miss Jessie, you
understand. Will you listen to me?"
"I can't promise, but I'll try," said Jessie, in a faltering tone.
Imperceptibly, as it were, she resumed her place in the chair, and
waited. The sun was declining; a faint rumor of odd clucking cries came
from the turkey-field at the end of the grounds; but otherwise the air
was still, and a spicy coolness stole in to them from the
pine-plantations and the distant Sound. "Now tell me," she said, softly.
You may be sure Lance eagerly complied. With an eloquence that had never
been his before, he told her what he thought of her; how he loved her,
and wished her to be his wife. In his confession he likewise mingled
unpremeditated touches about the daisies and the pines, and all that
marvel of nature of which they had been talking; and he made her see how
to him she was the culminating blossom of creation.
"If you could only guess," he ended, hopeless of conveying all that he
wished to, "what a delight your presence is to me—how it is almost
enough just to look at you and watch every movement that you make!"
So fine and frank was Jessie's maiden mind, that she no longer thought
of concealment. "Why, then you know," she answered, with the surprise of
a child, "exactly how I feel about you!"
I do not care to describe what happened after that; for in the first
place it belongs only to those two lovers, and in the second place I
know it could not be described without tarnishing the pure beauty of it.
In the long interchange of confidences that followed their union, Lance
was moved to tell Jessie of the woman he had seen in the moonlight, the
night before. "Strange, that she should have made me think of you and of
the old Wharton story, isn't it? Who do you suppose she could have
"I can't imagine," said Jessie. "Perhaps you had a moonstroke; isn't
there such a thing? Or, perhaps it was a ghost."
When they came in to tea they found the colonel carefully dozing over
the market columns of his newspaper. "May I go and get the ring?"
whispered Lance, who had owned to her the secret of his hopeful
Jessie gave a silent assent. He returned quickly, and slipped the emblem
on to her finger.
"Mr. Lance has been telling me the most wonderful things!" said Jessie
to her father, as they sat at table. "All about flowers and legends and
She was holding up a cup at that instant, for the servant to take, and
the colonel noticed the sparkle of the new ring on her hand. His eyes
threw back an answering sparkle; he gazed fondly at his daughter for an
instant, and then, with forgiving kindness, at Lance.
"Miss Jessie refers to an old family history," the young man hastily
explained. "I mean the Wyldes and Whartons. It wouldn't seem so
wonderful to you, sir."
The colonel threw himself back in his chair, with raised eyebrows. "The
Wyldes!" he exclaimed. "You never told me you knew my family history.
How does it happen? Or is it, perhaps, only a coincidence of name? By
George, it strikes me as very wonderful!"
As Lance, in his turn, showed equal astonishment, it became necessary
for him to ask questions; and, by a rapid interchange of replies, they
arrived at an extraordinary revelation. The colonel raked out from his
library a dingy and ruinous old "family tree," by which ocular
demonstration was given of his descent from a branch of the identical
Surrey Wyldes that the Gertrude of Lance's story belonged to. Puzzling
out the different lines on the old diagram, which represented a trunk
and branches, with here and there a big circle like some impossible
fruit or an abnormal knot in the wood of the "tree"—the said knots or
circles representing fathers of families—they ascertained that the Miss
Wylde whose life-current had long ago blended with that of the Floyds
was a first cousin of Gertrude Wylde, who had been Guy Wharton's
The colonel glowed with interest and enthusiasm. "I never came upon
anything more thrilling," he declared, roundly.
"But you never said a word about the Wyldes," said Jessie, to Lance. "If
you had, I could have told you there was some connection between us and
"I didn't think of it," he assured her, "because there was a sort of
doubt in my mind whether the girl was English or an Indian—as I told
you. But I knew the name of Wylde was mixed up with the affair, anyhow;
and the more I reflect upon it, the more clearly it comes back to me
that Gertrude Wylde was the woman whom Guy Wharton came to this country
to find, and who was lost here."
They referred once more to the "family tree," and detected there, surely
enough, a small branch terminating suddenly with the names of Matthew
Wylde and his daughter Gertrude, accompanied by the inscription:
"Emigrated to America, 1587."
The colonel, much excited, now brought forth a faded tome devoted to the
history of North Carolina. Turning its pages, he unearthed the record of
Raleigh's expedition and the search-party that came after it. But the
names of the emigrants, of course, were not given.
"I remember," said he, musingly, "that I read of this incident, years
ago, and was struck with it. But I should never have imagined that it
concerned a collateral branch of my own ancestry. How singular! The
Floyds immigrated to this country long after that time, and yet here am
I, their representative, who have spent my life in this spot, so near
where Gertrude Wylde disappeared from civilization—and I never knew of
The discovery supplied them with a theme for meditation and remark, that
lasted the rest of the evening.
Jessie bestirred herself, in the midst of a revery which had enveloped
all three, after they had talked for some time, saying: "How much it's
like the flowers! We're all one great family—at least, nearly one."
"Yes," echoed Lance, "nearly one!"
She blushed, and rose to say good-night.
After she had gone, the colonel came to Lance and, drawing his arm
around him, said: "God bless you, my boy—and her. I see how it is, and
"So am I," said Lance; "except that no man is good enough for her."
What a night that was! Did ever darkness close round a pair more happy
than Lance and Jessie? The great heavens seemed to Lance the only canopy
that overhung his slumbers; for the thoughts and images that filled his
dreaming brain rose beyond the barriers of roof and wall, and included a
vast realm of peaceful joy, in which the stars burned ever mildly. He
had taken a spray of the yellow jessamine with him to his room. He
fancied that its fragrance repeated to him all night long, in
untranslatable sweetness, the name so like its own and now so dear to
him: "Jessie—Jessie—Jessie." And the knowledge that she was a late
comer in the line of the woman whom his ancestor had loved, contributed
still another element to his trance of silent rejoicing.
Yet, through the whole delicious maze of happiness, he was aware of a
surmise which had not presented itself while he had been awake. It was
this: since Jessie had the Wylde blood in her veins, and the woman whom
he had met by the shore so strongly suggested a resemblance to Jessie,
might there not be some hidden bond between them, dating from the lost
THE RACES, AND THE MOTTO.
It so happened that Lance, up to this point in his sojourn with the
Floyds, had never, to his knowledge, seen Adela Reefe, although she had
come once or twice to the house while he was there. On a single occasion
he had ridden with Jessie to the cottage at the headland, and had met
"the De Vine boys." Becoming interested in Sylvester and his ambitions,
he had stopped to see him at other times in the course of his excursions
roundabout, and had also received one or two visits from him at
Fairleigh Park. He had, to be sure, heard something of Adela Reefe; but
the fact that he lacked the smallest idea as to what she looked like was
the absent link in his knowledge, which made it impossible to guess who
the mysterious girl of the night encounter might be. In fact, he never
so much as thought of Adela, and he gave up the riddle as one not likely
to be solved. But an event was now approaching which brought him sudden
The date of the races to be held at Newbern had been fixed—somewhat
early in the season, it is true—for a time shortly after the
occurrences which I have already described; and this affair was the
excuse for a general rally of inhabitants from the surrounding
districts. Colonel Floyd meant to attend it, with a large part of his
household, and Lance, as a matter of course, was going with him.
Dennis De Vine had also looked forward to the festival as the excuse for
a great holiday. It had been his intention to take Aunty Losh, Adela,
and Sylv in his dug-out sloop, and sail a hundred miles up the Neuse
River, to the scene of the merrymaking. But the quarrel with Sylv, which
had come so near to a fatal result, threw a cloud over him, and for a
time threatened to mar the pleasure of this prospect.
The day after that incident Dennis disappeared from the cabin, and was
not seen there again until evening. He was supposed to be out fishing,
and did, I believe, actually pass his time in sailing outside the
network of sandy spits and islands, as if engaged in trolling for
bluefish; but when he returned he brought but few trophies of the hook.
I know that during the afternoon he beached his boat on the inner shore
beyond Ocracoke, and took to wandering disconsolately along the dreary
dunes. The hour of sunset approached as he found himself near the old
graveyard of Portsmouth. It was a rough, melancholy, neglected spot; and
the thick-sown graves lay near the racing tides that the land which held
the dead was gradually crumbling away, and delivered to the sea, from
time to time, its mournful burden of forgotten humanity.
Dennis, while trudging unconsciously hither, had been lost in mingled
reflections upon the quarrel—alternately grateful for his escape from
crime, and remorseful for the passionate temper which had almost swept
him on, without premeditation, to the consummation of a terrible deed.
All at once he became aware that he stood at the edge of this grim and
pathetic graveyard. A shudder ran through him.
"To think," he muttered, "that I was nigh on to bringin' Sylv to such a
place as this! And then how would I ha' felt? Oh, God, forgive me! We
die soon enough, the best way we can fix it. Why should one man want to
Near the water the ground was ragged and worn away, where the chafing of
the tides had carried it off piecemeal; and from the gaunt earth several
coffins projected, which were soon to fall a prey to the waves. Dennis
gazed upon them with a fascinated horror, and as he looked it seemed to
him that in the mouldering receptacle of death nearest to him he could
see something bright shining through the crevices of the boarding that,
warped by long inhumation, leaned partly open. For a moment the wild
fancy presented itself that impossible wealth, in the shape of sparkling
jewels, had been buried with the unknown inmate of the coffin. He bent a
little closer to examine it. At that instant the bank beneath crumbled
slightly—some of the sandy soil slipped into the water—and a fresh
breeze, sweeping in from the sea, shook the side-plank so that it fell,
disclosing the dusty and shapeless contents. Sweat started to the brow
of Dennis; he beheld there a row of toads, sitting inert and hideous
inside the coffin, with glittering eyes.
No more awful example of the ghastiliness of burial could have
confronted him than that. The sight redoubled the agony he was already
suffering, and with a staggering motion he turned to retrace his steps.
Dennis was not a reflective man; perhaps he had never before meditated
very deeply on the transitoriness of life, and the thousand ways in
which oblivion is forever clutching at us, obliterating the few poor
traces of our existence that are left when we depart from this world.
But the conjunction of circumstances, bringing such a sight to him at
that precise moment, wrought powerfully on his mind. "If I could only
change!" he said to himself, as he plodded back to his boat. "If I could
only be better!"
Yet he was by no means certain that he could improve.
Throughout the next few days he devoted himself to Sylv with a careful
tenderness that was almost pathetic. He offered to do him little
services; he tried to exhibit an interest in Sylv's reading; he was
anxious not to have Slyv expose himself to any undue fatigues or risks
or dangers. He would not let him go out in the boat.
"'Pears like you thought you was married a'ready and Sylv was your
baby," Aunty Losh observed, with kindly sarcasm, noticing his unwonted
solicitude. "But I'm glad on't, Dennie. Bein' as you're older'n him, it
ar' right, and I'm glad on't." And thereupon she again betook herself to
"paddling" snuff, with a pleasant sense of duty performed.
Sylv understood his brother's contrition, but did his best to banish all
remembrance of their saturnine controversy in the wood. "How 'bout
Beaufort," he asked, as the time approached for making the final
arrangements; "have you seen Deely?"
Now, the truth was that neither of them had seen Deely for several days;
she had stayed at home punctiliously, dreading to meet Sylvester by
chance, and dreading still more to see Dennis, after what she had
"No," said Dennis; "but I will see her."
Accordingly he went over to the so-called Doctor Reefe's house at
Hunting Quarters, the next day. Adela was at home, but she came out of
the house to receive him, and did not ask him in.
"I'm not going," she said at first, facing him with a reserved majesty
like that of some wild princess.
"Why not?" he inquired, his eyes still downcast.
"Because I'm afraid. Something might happen."
Dennis shot a swift, indignant glance at her. "What'd happen, I'd like
"I didn't mean anything," said Adela. "I'm not going; that's what." She
saw that she had been too abrupt, and she was determined not to disclose
that she knew anything of the altercation.
But Dennis besought her in every way he could think of. "I won't talk to
you so, like I did last time," he said, penitently. "I know I'm a rough
kind o' fellow. I ain't got no temper—or mebbe I got too much. But I'm
sorry for what I done, and sorry for mor'n what you know, Deely. I'll
promise to be good if ye'll go."
And so, at last, she consented.
Old Reefe regarded the races as a matter of business, being in the
habit, I regret to say, of selling considerable quantities of his
untrustworthy herb-medicines on these occasions. He was peculiar and of
a solitary turn, and had his own way of going to Newbern. He started
three or four days in advance, on foot, and did more or less peddling in
the sparsely settled country through which he passed. This arrangement
was also quite satisfactory to Dennis. His sloop was made out of two
large hollowed cypress logs—as is the custom in those latitudes, where
the hard knocks that boats must endure on the shoals soon wear out any
lighter craft—and the accommodations aboard were limited; there was
really no room for "ole man Reefe."
To people leading so plain and secluded a life as that of the shore, you
may imagine what a change and what an outlook of wild excitement this
extensive trip to Newbern afforded. Adela was always interested in the
boat; Dennis had given her lessons in sailing, and often let her take
the helm. Once on board, her old delight returned; doubts and troubles
vanished, and it was soon a gay party that sat beneath the sail, now
briskly speeding midway up the five-mile-wide current, now tacking from
side to side.
An informal, impromptu sort of fair clustered around the races,
embracing booths and stalls for the sale of various trumpery, with
perhaps a circus in a tent, or merely a nomadic little "show,"
consisting chiefly of over-colored pictures, that hung upon the canvas
wall, flapping and trembling in the breeze as if frightened by their own
mendacity. Then, as I have said, "Doctor" Reefe went about, lean and
sombre, with grayish hair straggling round his dark cheeks, to hawk his
"great Indian remedies," although it did not appear that there were any
Indians to be remedied. Adela, who possessed a knack for making
ornamental baskets and bead-work, likewise availed herself of the brief
season to sell some of her pretty wares, in a modest and desultory way.
Lance, Jessie, and Colonel Floyd occupied themselves at first with
looking at the trotters and watching the false starts, the true starts,
the judges incessantly ringing a bell in the most confusing way, and the
fine, steady rush of the horses around the track, with small sulkies and
eager drivers apparently glued to their haunches. But after a time, when
a number of heats had been run, there was an intermission, and Lance and
Jessie began to stroll about in the crowd, examining the limited means
of entertainment, while the colonel talked with some of his cronies
among the horse-owners. Blacks and whites were slowly sauntering from
point to point, chiefly in separate groups, and our friends kept on the
edge of the white crowd. There was a fresh odor of bruised grass in the
air, from the treading of many feet, and the beating of a drum sounded
from the small tent where an outrageous effigy of the Great Giant of
Tartary alternately swelled out threateningly and crumpled itself up
ineffectually, as the gusts of wind came and went that fluttered the
streamers above him.
Here and there a game of some sort was in progress, though without
enlisting much energy from the participants, except in one
instance. The exception was due to a newly introduced sport—that of
"egg-jumping"—the point of which was that each contestant, in trying to
make the longest jump, should carry an egg in either hand. The natural
tendency to close the fingers at the moment of leaping was relied on to
make jumpers crush the eggs; and most of them came to grief in that way,
for a failure to bring either egg intact through the experiment ruined
the competitors chance for that time. The enterprising individual who
presided over this game had put up several cheap prizes, among which was
a brilliant neckerchief for feminine adornment, and charged each person
who entered the sum of five cents, the low rate being due to the fact
that the eggs consumed were no longer marketable; and their condition
was supposed to increase the dismay of the defeated.
The men toed a chalk line on the grass, and jumped from it successively.
The line never lacked for the boots of some ambitious contestant ready
to make his attempt; and as Lance reached the spot with his companion,
the stalwart form of Dennis De Vine was discovered there, gathering
itself together for a saltatory effort. He had set his heart on winning
the neckerchief for Adela; but, with the eyes of the spectators upon
him, he was conscious of being in an absurd position, and his greatest
difficulty seemed to be to suppress a smile that was broadening on his
lips. Twice or thrice he seemed on the point of jumping, but each time
he paused to give way to a bashful guffaw and stamp his bouts on the
ground with humorous emphasis. Finally he nerved himself, and,
readjusting the fragile burdens in either fist, made his spring. For an
instant the sunlight showed brightly on his ruddy cheeks and red hair as
he flew from the line, rising a few inches from the sod. Then he landed
suddenly, several feet away, slipped, and went down, with the yolks
gushing in yellow spurts from the shells. A roar of laughter rose from
Dennis looked a little angry, but hastened to rub off the egg-yolks on
the grass, and, producing another five cents, took his stand at the line
again. He waited for one or two companions in misfortune to repeat his
failure; but there was no awkward merriment about him, this time. He was
too intent upon success. Holding the new eggs firmly and lightly,
swinging his arms and then keeping them well up as he started, he made
his second energetic venture; and when his feet struck the turf he
raised the two small white objects triumphantly. They were unbroken.
He was rewarded with plaudits and shouts of approbation—the length of
the jump was respectable—and, with a reluctant flourish of the
kerchief, the proprietor of the game awarded him that prize.
"Good for you, Dennie!" cried a deep and rather musical voice near
He turned, and recognised Sylv. "Why, how are you?" he asked, cordially.
He would have stepped toward him and shaken hands, but Sylv merely took
off his hat, bowing, and gave no sign of expecting further advances. The
truth was, he was afraid of Jessie, whose notions of caste made her
think it proper to keep these folk at a distance in public places.
"Come," she said to her lover; "let us be going back to the racecourse."
"I wanted to speak a moment with De Vine," Lance objected, mildly. "I
intend to make him part of my schemes; don't you see?"
"Oh, well, not here; not now," said Jessie. "He's not your friend, if he
is to be your workman. And this is hardly the place."
"Very well," he assented, though not wholly pleased.
But by this time Dennis had elbowed his way through the press of
onlookers, bearing his prize like a victorious banner, and Jessie all at
once became interested in seeing what he would do with it. "Look!" she
exclaimed, abandoning her position of careful reserve. "He's going to
give it to his sweetheart—Adela Reefe. Don't you remember my telling
you about her? She's really a handsome girl—very handsome. And that
reminds me—I must buy one of her baskets or boxes. She'd be
dreadfully disappointed if I didn't."
The result was that Jessie impulsively carried him off in pursuit of
Dennis, whom Sylv also followed.
Old Reefe, mounted on a box under the spreading branches of a tree, not
far away, was dispensing his medicaments with an impressively stoical
air, now and then addressing the bystanders in a curiously grave manner,
quite at variance with the usual volubility of nostrum-dealers; and near
him Adela was moving to and fro with a bundle of her handiwork on her
arm, waiting for purchasers, but never soliciting them. Aunty Losh
smoked her pipe serenely in the background, beneath the shade of the
Lance and Jessie witnessed the pleasant little scene that was enacted,
of Dennie's presenting the scarf loyally to his lady-love, and her
unfeigned satisfaction in receiving it, while Sylv stood apart for a
moment, and then came up to take a share in describing his brother's
achievement. They all three broke into smiles and laughter at the
But Lance stood motionless with astonishment. "Is that Adela Reefe?"
"Certainly," Jessie assured him. "Why shouldn't she be?"
Lance was too much surprised to answer. It appeared to him certain, at
the very first glance, that this was the same young woman who had of
late been so often in his mind; and, as she looked so much like his
recollection of her, the resemblance to Jessie which he had before
imagined also struck him now. But he could not as yet be quite sure that
it existed. He waited until they came nearer before making up his mind
on this point.
Meanwhile Jessie pressed forward, and he with her. She greeted Adela
with smiles, nodded with the affability of a natural superior to Dennis,
and congratulated them both on his success, in a way that made them feel
that she had bestowed a favor. She then began to examine Adela's
stock-in-trade, holding up the different articles that took her fancy,
turning them this way and that, and bringing out their meek decorative
value by the sunniness of the light from her own eyes. "This is pretty.
That's remarkably good!" she said, like a connoisseur inspecting rare
bric-à-brac. "Oh, I must have this box of bark and moss! And that
belt—just see how quaint it is, Ned."
Lance quietly received each piece that she selected, and kept every one;
so that when she had done choosing and he had paid for them, Adela
conceived that it would be unnecessary to sell anything more that day.
The belt which Lance was called upon to admire especially was made of
simple undressed leather, but it was embroidered with a design in
varicolored beads, so original and ingenious that the thing became
positively charming. Through the pattern there ran a series of angular
lines that suggested an inscription; as this, however, seemed to be only
a whim of the designer, and was illegible, it fell into the general plan
of ornament, with an effect like that of hieroglyphics. Miss Jessie's
cavalier glanced at it hastily, as they moved away, and was decidedly
pleased with the acquisition. But he had no time to consider it, and he
was, moreover, exceedingly occupied with the result of the closer
scrutiny he had given to Adela.
It had confirmed his idea that there was a degree of likeness in her
features to Jessie's; and the fact so impressed him, that he forgot to
seize the chance which had offered of a chat with Sylv. He said to the
young man only: "I want to see you soon, De Vine, about an important
matter. Come up to the manor when you can."
It was impossible to keep the subject out of his mind, as he returned to
the racecourse with Jessie; and it recurred again and again that night,
which he passed, with the Floyds, in the house of friends at Newbern. A
whole rout of bewildering surmises and baffled guesses beset him. If
Adela really looked at all like his Jessie, why, he asked himself, had
not others discovered it? Why hadn't Jessie herself remarked the fact?
But then, on the other hand, the thing was so unlikely, and the
positions of the two women were so far apart, that no one here would be
apt to notice or for a moment consider such a supposition.
It was not until they were once more, at Fairleigh Park that he looked a
second time at the belt which they had bought From Adela. Sitting with
Jessie and her father, in the evening, when they were talking over the
experience on the rail and at the races, he glanced over the various
purchases which had been made, most of them of a more ambitious sort;
but when they came to the belt, he studied it with a good deal of care,
feeling an interest both in its novelty and in the maker.
Did he dream, or was this another illusion? The angular pattern in the
midst of the design, which he had before noticed, unexpectedly assumed a
meaning to his eyes. The more sharply he scanned it, the less he doubted
his senses, for the beaded lines took with increasing clearness the
forms of letters; and, on tracing these out, one after another, he saw
that they composed a series of words arranged in coherent
order—briefly, a motto.
I am not afraid of being old-fashioned. Therefore I shall ask my reader
if he ever came upon any sight—ever was smitten, either in thought or
in reading, by any feeling that set a thousand flame-points tingling
around his brain, and sent irresistible waves of cold, nervous thrill
down his spine. By this I do not mean a thrill of horror, but of supreme
and overwhelming emotion that instantly suggests your being in the grasp
of some more than human power—the power of endless, ideal forces,
directed upon the human organism from without, as the harper's hand is
directed with omnipotent sweep upon the strings of his instrument. If my
reader, as aforesaid, has had such experience, he will understand the
strange, exalting shock of wonder and awe that vibrated through Lance's
system when he discerned in the wording on the belt:
"I journey whither I cannot see.
'Tis strange that I can merry be."
The old motto of Wharton Hall, in Surrey, England, was perfectly
familiar to him, because he had visited the place with his father, on
one of their journeys abroad, and having noted down the lines, which
still remained engraven on the wall, he had committed them to memory.
And here was the last half of that quatrain, obscurely inscribed—as if
the embroiderer had hardly understood their full significance—on the
handiwork of Adela Reefe. Could there be anything more astounding than
this? Did Adela know the origin of those verses? And if she did, what
momentous secret did the fact involve?
The next moment, naturally enough, a simple and matter-of-fact solution
occurred to him. Adela might have learned the motto from the Floyds.
"Do you see how it reads?" he asked, holding up the bead-work so that
Jessie could survey the whole pattern.
"No," said she.
He pointed out the letters with his finger, and gradually spelled the
inscription through, until she caught its purport.
"How very odd!" she exclaimed, at the end. But the look with which she
accompanied the remark showed that the verses touched no chord of memory
or knowledge in her mind. "Where do you suppose the girl got the idea?"
The quivering sensation which Lance had felt, at first, renewed itself.
He laid the belt down, and, as he did so, his hands trembled.
"Do you know anything about this motto?" he said, appealing to the
But the colonel was also a blank on the subject.
Lance, therefore, was reduced to telling them where he had seen it. In
doing this he was quite methodical, but he could not conceal the
peculiar agitation which affected him.
Both the colonel and his daughter were much impressed by his strange
disclosure, and were utterly at a loss to account for the reappearance
of the traditional rhymes in a way so unlooked for; but they did not
take the mystery so much to heart as Lance did.
"It's not only extraordinary, but incredible," he affirmed. "I must see
that girl and ask her about it."
Jessie was not much inclined to give heed to her lover's curiosity about
Adela, and his desire to consult her respecting the enigma which had so
piqued him. But he continued so persistent, that she was obliged to
humor him; and before a week passed he persuaded her to ride with him to
Hunting Quarters and search out the mysterious maiden.
Both Adela and her father were at home, the latter being engaged, when
the visitors entered, with some jugs and bottles, in which were stored
his marvellous decoctions. Promptly desisting from his work, he invited
the young pair to seat themselves; and Adela, who was just then
stitching at some of her semi-savage contrivances, also rose to offer
The interior of the house at Hunting Quarters was rude enough. The room
in which these four people met was badly lighted from two small windows
facing toward Core Sound, one of which was open, so that the dull
booming of the sea continually entered, supplying an uncouth refrain to
their conversation. On one side was a large hearth; on the other, a door
leading to the remaining part of the house—what there was of it. The
furniture was scanty: a table, a bench, a couple of stools, some shelves
holding bottles, boxes, a few books and various cooking utensils as well
as dishes. The lack of sufficient seats for guests was supplied by
several blocks of wood sawed off from the stumps of trees; and to these
primitive perches old Reefe and his daughter resorted, in order to make
room for their callers.
Jessie presented an excuse for coming, to the effect that Aunt Sally was
desirous of having a bottle of Doctor Reefe's famous specific; but, when
this business was over, she turned the conversation to Adela's work.
"Mr. Lance is ever so much pleased with those things you let us have,"
she said. "And I can assure you he takes the greatest interest in some
of them. I think he wants to ask you how you sew the beads, and how you
make those moss-boxes."
Adela laughed. "I don't know," she said. "I've done it so long—ever
since I was a tiny girl. Ain't it so, dad?"
Old Reefe, thus referred to, gave a nod, without saying anything. But
Lance took advantage of the cue Jessie had given him to go into
particulars with Adela as to her mode of manufacture and the several
beauties of the articles she produced. Finally he came around to the
subject of the belt and the pattern woven upon it. "Have you got any
more of those?" he asked.
"No," said Adela; "it was the last—the one you took. I can make
another, if you want. I've got it all in my head."
"And the rhyme, too?" Lance inquired, eagerly.
"What? What's that?" Adela appeared a little dazed.
"I mean the words," he explained. "Didn't you know there were words in
"Oh, that part along the middle," said the girl. Her gray eyes took on a
far-off, dreamy expression. "Yes; they are words."
Lance controlled his excitement, which still seemed to him causeless and
rather annoying. "I wonder if I read them right?" he hazarded. "Would
you like to see how they looked to me?"
He drew out a bit of paper on which he had written them, and showed it
to her. The action seemed to rouse her taciturn father slightly. But
Adela gazed at the paper, and said, with an incredulous laugh: "Oh, no,
they don't look like that!"
"Can you read?" Lance demanded.
"Yes, a little; but they don't look like that."
"Well, at any rate, they mean something," he retorted; "and this is what
He read the rhyme aloud, and their eyes met.
"Yes," she admitted; "I suppose that's how it goes;" and she crooned the
distich over, as if singing to herself.
"But what I want to know," he continued, "is how you got it. How did you
come to know it?"
Adela remained silent; but her father spoke, after a pause, in a
serious, hollow voice. "It is very old," he said. "It is a great charm.
We have always known it."
"How do you mean—'you'?"
"Our people," replied the old man, gravely.
"But not all the people around here," Lance interposed. "Miss Jessie
doesn't know it."
Reefe made a gesture of dissent that approached the disdainful. "No," he
exclaimed, with a sort of gutteral grunt after the word; "she don't
"But I have known it well," Lance said. "I saw it years ago in
"You?" cried Reefe, with the first indication of marked feeling that he
had betrayed during the interview. "Who are you, then?"
"Oh, I'm a humble citizen named Lance!" said the young man, quietly.
"But I know that motto; it has been in our family for a long time."
The old man seemed to withdraw suddenly into himself. "It is a great
charm," he repeated, slowly. "Wonderful! It keeps off harm and trouble.
My father gave it to me."
"Where did he find it?" Lance inquired.
"He found it far, far back," Reefe responded. But his tone was so vague,
and his expression grew so introspective, that Lance half imagined that
the old face was growing still older—immeasurably more ancient—as he
gazed upon it, and that the speaker was removing himself, by some occult
spell, into a distant past.
"You spoke of our people," he said, at length. "Did you mean your
"Where we came from. Our people—over there," the herb doctor answered,
pointing uncertainly to his right, in a direction, Lance noticed, which
signified farther to the North, up the Sound.
"Yes, they always had that charm," Adela now said. "I don't know why.
Who can tell? It all comes from the old story of the Indians and the
Her father appeared to have lapsed into a semi-trance, or to be dozing;
but Adela looked aroused; her interest was kindled, and she was
evidently prepared to be communicative.
"Oh, is there a story?" Jessie cried. "Why, I never heard it. Do tell
Some judicious urging was required before the girl would speak; but, in
the end, the inquisitive lovers succeeded in persuading her, and at last
she narrated to them the legend of her "people," the substance of which
shall here be given, though not precisely in her language.
A great many years ago—as many as there are buds on a tree—an old man
dwelt in a wigwam beside the sweet waters, with his only child, a
beautiful girl. They had come out of the sea together, no man could
remember when; but, while the other people in the wigwams were dark and
red, these were almost white. They had been so long in the sea that the
foam of the waves, touching their faces, had made them so white. And the
old man loved his daughter very much. They spoke a strange language
together, but when others talked to them, they replied in the words that
The old man had no name; but his daughter was called Ewayeá, which meant
Lullaby or Rest-Song. She, too, loved her father. They lived for each
other; and the old man seemed always waiting for something, uneasy and
troubled, but Ewayeá made him rest and sang him to sleep; and he slept
much, and was happy. But when he was resting, Ewayeá would go to the top
of a little hill near the wigwam and look far away, seeming also to
expect that some one would come.
By and by he came. His name was Sharp Arrow; and he came suddenly, as if
some hand had bent a bow and sent him there swiftly. He loved Ewayeá,
but at first she did not love him, because she had not waited for him,
and he was a red color; and she told him he must go and stay in the sea
and let the foam dash over him, to wash his face and make him white.
Then he went away, but when he came back his face was still red; and the
Old-man-without-a-name told him that he could not have his daughter. But
Sharp Arrow stayed there, and he flew in and out of the forest, always
returning to the maiden with love and with some presents, or bringing
food to her father. So at last he struck her heart. It bled for him, and
she longed to go with him, to comfort him, and be happy herself. But she
said: "Not yet, not yet! The Old-man-without-a-name would die if I left
him now. I must sing him to sleep many times before we go."
Her father saw that she loved Sharp Arrow, and he was very jealous. He
looked at the young man with enmity, while his face every day grew
harder, more angry, and stern, like iron. Often, too, he spoke to Ewayeá
in the strange language, and pointed to the East, as if he would have
her go there. But she only shook her head and sighed; and sometimes she
The summer flew away, and the birds flew away to find it. But those two
lovers did not know it had gone, for their hearts were warm, and
thoughts of love grew in them, like the leaves of June. The days parted,
one from another, and the seasons separated; but for Ewayeá and her
lover there was no separation. They were man and wife. Their two
children played in the shade of the forest, and Ewayeá sang lullabies to
them. She taught Sharp Arrow charms and spells. She gave him words out
of a book. Her children learned the strange language; and she looked at
the trees, the water and the sky, and made them talk as they had not
talked till then. And Sharp Arrow promised that her spells should never
be forgotten among his people if she should die.
But she never died.
The old man slept a long while; then at last he woke. And when he woke
his face was wrinkled with anger—it was hard like ice in the sweet
waters—and when he looked at Sharp Arrow the look seemed to freeze the
young man's face, so that hatred stiffened it into a hardness like that
of the old man's. Then, one night in winter, the old man came to the
door of his wigwam and stood there like a spirit. He beckoned to Sharp
Arrow, with one finger upraised; the moonlight gleamed white on his
bitter white face, and behind him there was much white snow. "I am
dead," he said to Sharp Arrow, "and you must come with me!"
The look of hate was still in all his features; and as Sharp Arrow rose
to obey the command, his own face reflected that hatred. The moonlight
fell on him, too—his face grew white in it—and no one could have told
which face was most like the other, then. But he went forward, and
followed the old man.
Just at that moment Ewayeá awoke from her sleep beside the children. She
stretched out her arms, tried to catch her husband and hold him, and saw
him pass away out of her reach; saw her father, also, standing beyond,
"Father! father!" she cried, "why do you leave me? Where are you going?"
And to her husband she cried: "Oh my heart, my heart, come back to me!"
But they gave no heed to her. The old man moved away, noiseless, on feet
of air—always turning backward that icy, malignant gaze—and the young
man followed, staring fixedly, helplessly upon him, with the same dumb
and frozen wrath upon his own countenance.
And so, as if they had been spirits, they passed noiselessly on and on,
disappearing in the pale night and the snow, until all that Ewayeá could
see in the quarter where they had vanished was the crescent of the
sinking moon, like an uplifted, crooked finger, beckoning some one to
Ewayeá hoped that they would come back. At first she wanted to go after
them, but when she tried to move she could not: her limbs were as weak
and cold as snow, and invisible arms were thrown around her, holding her
back. There was nothing for her to do but to wait. When the spring came
again she was always waiting and watching. She stayed every day in the
same place, looking out and expecting her father and her lover to
return; but still they came not. At last she ceased to speak: she sat
there motionless and voiceless on the ground, ever longing for them, but
afraid to stir, for fear that they would come back and not find her. The
years passed, and her children grew up and departed, carrying with them
the spells and charms they had learned. Yes; they went away and forgot
their mother, who sat there so patiently. But she never once called to
them, and only waited—waited—waited. They say she is still waiting in
that spot. Summer after summer has blossomed above her, and the new
leaves have started and rustled with surprise as they caught sight of
her, and have whispered one another all day long about the strangeness
of her silent presence. The slow autumns, one after another, have
wreathed her brow with weird, unnatural flame; and the snows of many,
many winters have crept around her feet and drifted higher until they
almost buried her. But she cares nothing for all these changes; does not
even turn her head one way or the other, but simply gazes straight
forward, expectantly, just as she used to when she went to the top of
the little hill looking eastward. In summer, again, come the butterflies
and softly touch her cheek with sympathetic wings, as they hover around;
the humming-birds flash and tremble near her lips, as if expecting to
find honey there; and other birds look curiously with their bright eyes
into hers that make no answer, while the squirrels that chatter on the
boughs near by, and nibble nuts, seem to wonder that she does not ask to
share their food. Still, she gives heed to nothing. She crouches low,
and her weary head has drooped; and the leaves and dust have fallen
thick upon her from the underbrush that has sprung up so rankly about
her; so that sometimes you might think she was not a woman at all, but
only a mound of earth. Yet she is not dead. No! The rains and winds, of
course, have worn away the expression from her face, until it looks dull
and sad and lifeless; but, for all that, she is not dead. Her arms and
knees must have grown very tired in the long vigil she has been keeping,
and one would suppose they would have crumbled into earth before now.
But, you see, the wild vines have reached out from the surrounding trees
to support her; and they have encircled her lovingly, lending their
strength, that she may not fail of her purpose.
No; she is not dead. If you could only discover the exact place, you
would find her still alive. But we do not know where it is.
All four remained silent for a few moments, after Adela had finished her
legend. Lance had listened with profound attention; and the shadowy,
fantastic outlines of the narrative were so extraordinary, that he was
at first too much astonished and perplexed to know what to think or say
about it. Clearly enough, that which the girl had told might be
interpreted as a sequel to the history of Gertrude Wylde, after his
ancestor, Guy Wharton, had lost trace of her. It was impossible to say
just what the tradition, now so vague and impossible, had originally
come from. But the blending of the white and Indian races at which it
hinted, the looking eastward, and the idea of endless waiting and
expectancy that ran all through it—did not these things point plainly
toward the old romance with which his family was connected?
He did not believe that his imagination alone was responsible for these
suggestions, because Adela could not possibly know what he knew—her
story was an inheritance so carefully guarded, that even Jessie had not
heard it until now—and yet here were these salient details that fitted
on so naturally to his own tradition, and supplemented it. Then, too,
there was the old, transmitted rhyme. Ah, that was the clew! It clinched
all the parts of his guess-work together.
"Was Ewayeá one of your people, then?" he asked, at length.
Adela looked at him with surprise, as if he were asking about something
which had already been explained.
"Why, I thought I said so," she answered. "We came from her."
Old Reefe, roused perhaps by Lance's voice, opened his eyes, and,
hearing his daughter's statement, nodded a silent corroboration.
"And that charm," Lance continued—"the one that you put on the
belt—came from her, too? Did she teach it to her children?"
"Yes; that came from her, too," said Adela.
Lance turned toward Jessie in a bewildered way, gazing at her as if he
expected her to say or do something which would dispel the phantasm that
was growing so like a reality. But Jessie only reflected his amazement
in the glance which she gave him in return.
"Isn't this very remarkable?" he said.
"Very," said Jessie. "It's a perfect puzzle. I don't see what to make of
it. But, Adela," she went on, addressing the girl, "why have you never
told me this before?"
Adela responded only with a reticent smile, and her luminous gray eyes
roved from Jessie to Lance and back again without betraying what she
"We don't tell it," muttered her father. "It was our story—only for
"But you have told it now," Jessie argued. "You've told Mr. Lance, and
he is a stranger." Here Jessie blushed, and corrected herself: "Any way,
he was a stranger to you."
The old man raised his hand to point at Lance; and—by an odd
coincidence—his forefinger, separated from the others, was curved with
a beckoning emphasis, as if he were himself the Old-man-without-a-name
of the legend. "He is one of us," he declared.
"I'm not so sure of that!" Lance exclaimed, feeling that the mystery was
going almost too far. "I don't see it at all."
"You knew the charm," old Reefe retorted; and his eyes twinkled
obscurely, as he fixed them upon his visitor.
"That doesn't prove that I'm one of you," said Lance, rising, for the
situation vexed him; he was becoming indignant. "It only shows that my
people in England knew the rhyme long before yours were heard of."
Jessie rose as well. "I don't see what your father is thinking of," she
observed, frigidly, to Adela. "Mr. Lance belongs to a very old family."
Something like a sarcastic chuckle seemed to escape from Reefe's bearded
lips; but he remained quite impassive. It was impossible to tell whether
or not he had made any sound.
"Before I go," Lance began, desperately, "I wish you'd tell me what this
legend means. Did you have Indian ancestors, as well as English?"
He fixed his gaze intently and strenuously upon Adela as he spoke.
"I told you all I could," Adela answered, evasively; and began to resume
her work upon one of the moss-boxes.
Reefe looked at him, with a trace of defiance now. "We have as good
blood as any," he averred. "But we ask you no questions, and I don't see
that we've got a call to answer any more. If ye want any yarb
medicine—" And there he paused, indicating that he was ready for
There could not have been a completer collapse of the climax which Lance
had thought to force. He turned away in disgust. "Come, Jessie," he
said, "let us go." And Jessie was more than ready to accede.
But before they went he thanked Adela for her story, and bade good-by to
her and her father. As he faced them in doing this, he noticed once more
the baffling resemblance between Adela and Jessie, which their
unlikeness in stature and general bearing rendered all the more
peculiar; and the gray eyes of the Reefes troubled him by their
enigmatic expression. The conviction was strong in his mind, that the
cause of their silence was that they really had nothing more definite to
tell him about their ancestry than what they had imparted. Yet he wished
that they had not stopped at this point. Why did they have gray eyes?
And yet, why should they not have them? Save for a slight bronze or
coppery hue in their complexions, they were of the same European race
that Lance and Jessie belonged to.
Nevertheless, their eyes and their strange legend pursued and haunted
him long after he and Jessie had cantered away from the herb-doctor's
LANCE AND SYLVESTER.
So mingled and conflicting were the considerations in Lance's mind, on
leaving the Reefes, that he was not sure he would want to see Adela
again. But his mood soon changed; he was not able to evade the
importance which she had assumed for him.
"I hope you are satisfied now," said Jessie, as they rode homeward
"No, I'm not," he answered. "I suspect myself of being very much
Somehow he did not dare to speak to her, as yet, of the theory he
entertained, that Adela was a descendant of Gertrude Wylde. And how
could he tell her that he thought they looked alike?
But within a few days, so incessantly did the notion pursue him, that he
was forced to make a limited confession of it. Jessie observed that he
was preoccupied and thinking of something which he would not tell her.
"Do let me know what it is that troubles you, Ned," she whispered to
him, laying her arm gently around his neck one evening on the veranda,
when she found him brooding there alone.
Thereupon he made his disclosure, and was rewarded by a rather
tumultuous dialogue, in which Jessie demonstrated clearly that she was
not pleased with the idea which he presented.
"But how can it be any other way, Jessie?" he demanded, reproachfully.
"Everything leads up to this conclusion; and, surely, if Adela Reefe
represents to-day the line of that poor girl, Gertrude, who would have
been your own cousin if you had been living then, how can we be
indifferent to the fact that the same blood is in your veins and hers?"
"I won't have it so!" Jessie returned. "I don't care if it is. And,
besides, she has Indian blood; that makes all the difference. It is no
longer the same."
Lance bethought him of those reported cases in which the stock of
negroes and whites had been blended, and he feared that it would be next
to hopeless for him to overcome Jessie's aversion. Still he said: "But
that is so far off, child. She is so like us now, that I can't help
thinking of her as if she might be a kinswoman of yours—can't help
taking an interest in her welfare."
"Never say that to me again!" cried Jessie. "No one in that class shall
be considered as a kinswoman of mine. If you are going to give yourself
up to such fancies as these, you may as well choose between them and
Her tone exasperated Lance, but he controlled himself. "Dearest," he
said, "I have given myself up only to you. You know it; don't you?"
Then Jessie showed contrition, and humbly, while the tears rose to her
eyes, acknowledged her hastiness; and the little quarrel proved to be
only a convenient groundwork for new demonstrations of mutual
tenderness. But there remained in Lance's mind a residuum of doubt, lest
his betrothed should not fully sympathize with all his impulses, his
desire to be true to every one who could justly make a claim upon him.
He did not abandon the project, which had unconsciously been taking
shape, of somehow including Adela in his schemes of improvement.
While this dubious colloquy was fresh in his thoughts, it chanced that
Sylvester De Vine, responding to the invitation he had thrown out at the
races, trudged up to the manor to see him. Lance's love affair, and the
misty problem concerning Adela, had not prevented him from giving a good
deal of meditation to his plans, which he had also talked over with
Colonel Floyd, regarding investment in new enterprises. Consequently, he
was primed for the interview with Sylv.
At that time the process of making paper from the refuse of Louisiana
sugar-cane, commonly called "bagasse," had scarcely been thought of;
Lance, at any rate, had never heard it suggested; but it had occurred to
him that the glutinous reeds, which grew in such unmeasured abundance
along this marshy North Carolina coast, might be utilized in
paper-manufacture; and he had annexed the idea to his other pet desire
of reclaiming Elbow Crook Swamp. He was anxious to enlist Sylv in both
these enterprises, having already ascertained that the young fellow was
far more receptive and progressive than Colonel Floyd. What he needed
was an assistant who would give time and energy to the preliminary steps
and experiments, animated by faith and assisted by due compensation in
"Would you undertake to explore the swamp for me, and give me a detailed
report?" he asked Sylv.
"It would be very difficult," Sylv answered, "and would take time. I
might do it for you, though, by and by."
"Oh, there's no immediate hurry. You can wait a while. I shall probably
have to go North during the winter on business and to arrange about
mobilizing capital to work with here. I want to find out what is
practicable before I do anything serious. But, in the meanwhile, we
might start in on a trial of the reed-pulp for paper."
Sylv pulled his tangled beard meditatively, and replied: "That won't
help me much with my law studies."
"Yes, it will, indirectly," Lance declared. Then, after reflecting, he
added: "I'll tell you what I'll do! I'll give you some assistance for
the present, so that you can go on reading. It won't do you any harm.
Afterward, you can undertake my job."
It was not to be wondered at that, from this beginning, they should go
on to speak of Adela. "She astonishes me," said Lance. "I did not expect
to find any one like her here. It's a pity that she can't have a chance
to develop, too."
Sylv cast a sharp glance at the young philanthropist. It may have been
that the remark threw a new light for him upon Lance, or upon Adela.
"Yes, it would be a good thing for her," he replied, with moderate
enthusiasm. "She's engaged to marry my brother—Dennie."
This was news to Lance, and it took him by surprise. Somehow, his first
sensation was one of disappointment, though he could not have explained
to himself or anyone else why. In Sylv's accent, also, there was a vague
hint of despondency, as he made his announcement. Possibly it was the
first sign of a sentiment which he had not, up to that time, suspected.
The two men dropped into silence for a moment.
"Well," said Lance, with abrupt energy, "that's all right, I suppose.
And I'm engaged to Miss Jessie. It will be all the pleasanter to have
you and Dennie and Adela working with us for a common end."
It was taking a sanguine view, to suppose that such a harmony could be
maintained; but it gave Sylv great pleasure, although he saw the
difficulties in the way. His face lighted with surprise, which gradually
changed to quiet satisfaction.
The two men talked long and earnestly, and by the time Sylv set out for
home they had agreed that they would try to persuade Adela to go to
school at Newbern, Lance undertaking the expenses.
"I'm not main certain Dennie'll let her," Sylv warned him, as they
"But he ought to be very glad to have her go," Lance replied. He had no
misgivings on that score.
Sylv was brimming with eagerness and anticipation for Adela's future as
it expanded before his vision, in the light of his friend's generous
offer; and it was a new experience to him to be treated as an equal,
almost a companion, by one so much above him in position and fortune.
Altogether, he felt very happy. His desire for intellectual improvement
was so single and controlling, that he was able to extend to another the
same congratulation he gave himself; and the prospect just opened for
Adela filled him with keen, unselfish delight. As he had told Dennie,
his regard for her was simply that of a brother; and it was only in the
opportunity as presented to a sister that he rejoiced. Yet he found,
when he came to mention the matter to Dennie, that it threatened to
renew in some measure the trouble which had recently come between them.
"I'm glad for your luck, Sylv," said Dennie, in a cordial tone, "But
'pears to me you uns might kinder be satisfied with polishin' and
rubbin' on your own brains and makin' 'em all smooth and shiny, 'thout
interferin' with Deely. 'Pears to me like she ar' good enough the way
she ar' now. That's what."
"So she is," Sylv assented. "But it would make her happier, and she'd
have a heap more real pleasure in life, if she could be educated. She
was very glad to learn to read, you know. Now, this is one chance out of
a thousand; she may never get another."
Dennie, however, was not open to argument. He looked with favor on the
scheme of Sylv's receiving money and employment from Lance, partly
because it would gratify his brother and partly because it would lighten
his own cares and bring him nearer to marriage with Deely; but if Deely
was to be included in the abstract movement for unnecessary culture, he
would be as badly off as before.
In spite of Dennie's opposition, Sylv could not relinquish the plan; and
he had the imprudence to broach it with Deely on his own account. She
did not manifest any pronounced desire to enter into it, but they talked
of it several times, and it was evident that she was considering it.
Dennie heard of these consultations, of course, and reproached his
brother. He exerted great force of self-command, and avoided any
outbreak of temper; he was resolved never to be jealous again. But Sylv
saw that the subject was a dangerous one, and he promised not to urge it
upon Deely any further. Sorrowfully and apologetically he conveyed to
Lance the information of this obstacle to Deely's acceptance of his
proposal, and said that he feared she could do nothing about it.
It was reserved for Dennie himself to bring about, unwillingly, the
consummation of Lance's philanthropic design.
There was to be a wedding-party at a house in the woods, near Hunting
Quarters, to which the young people were invited. Dennie came to Reefe's
early, in order to escort Deely to the scene of the ceremony; and on
their way to the wedding he spoke of the school idea.
"We ought to be goin' to the parson, 'stead of your goin' to that thar
school," he said. He urged her again to fix the time for their marriage.
Deely still demurred. "I'm only nineteen," she answered. "I reckon I
won't be too old if I do wait a while."
Dennie was very much put out by her obduracy. "I don't know what to make
out'n the way you go on," he complained. "Mebbe you're goin' to that
thar school, after all."
"'Twouldn't be strange if I did," said she, although she had in reality
abandoned the thought.
He persisted in urging his wishes; she continued in a contrary mood; and
Dennie at last refused to talk. They completed their walk to the house
of the hymeneal merrymaking in a bitter silence, both very miserable.
But Deely possessed the advantage of expressing her unhappiness by means
of the greatest gayety, while Dennie had to fall back upon the more
ordinary masculine resource of looking glum and morose.
There was an abundance of corn-whiskey and of "common doin's," as well
as of "chicken fixin's" with other delicacies, at the supper and dance
which followed the brief formality of the wedding-service. The
simple-hearted and jolly guests proceeded to have a very good time; and
while the bride and groom remained in one corner, happy at being
ignored, the rest shuffled to and fro in a lively jig, stamping their
heels, indulging in sundry gratuitous capers, and shouting with
laughter. Dennie, meanwhile, devoted a much closer attention than was
needful to the corn-whiskey, the forcible quality of which he could have
ascertained by a single drink.
It may have been due to his diligence in reducing the supply of the
beverage that, as the hilarity of the others increased, and as Deely
grew more and more excited with the dance, his depression and gloom
deepened portentously. He had taken no part in the dancing, and had
begun by affecting to watch Deely's energetic share in it with
indifference. But it was impossible for him to keep up this pretence,
and the climax came when he saw his betrothed giving her hand for the
third or fourth time to Dan Billings, a handsome young fisherman against
whom she knew that Dennie cherished a special grudge.
Dennie stepped forth upon the floor that trembled with the heavy tread
of the athletic revellers, and, shoving his way between the astonished
pairs of youths and maidens, struck a commanding posture.
"This hyar's enough!" he screamed, confronting Deely. "It's time to go
home; and I'm goin' to take ye with me right now. D'ye hear?"
Tho old fiddler, mounted on a box at one side of the room, stopped the
frantic discord he had been sawing from the strings, and began
mechanically to rosin his bow with a lump of the best virgin-pine rosin.
"I could ha' heard you if you'd stayed over t'other side," Deely
retorted, her dark cheeks flaming angrily; "if you war goin' to shout
out so, what do you want to come so close?"
"I say," repeated Dennie, in a more subdued voice, "I'm goin' along, and
I mean for to take you with me. Dan Billings ain't goin' to dance with
you no more this night."
Upon this Billings, who was a vigorous young fellow, asserted his
rights, and gave Dennie to understand roundly that no one should dictate
to him his choice of partners, "when the lady was willin'."
A serious result was imminent; for Billings, elated by his apparent
success with Deely, became increasingly noisy and bumptious, and retorts
flew hotly from one man to the other, until Billings raised his fist to
strike a blow at Dennie. When it came to that, Deely stepped between the
wranglers, and prevented their fighting.
"Now you're wrong, Dan!" she exclaimed, "You both ought to be ashamed,
making me so much trouble. But there sha'n't be a fight, whatever. I'm
goin' home this minute, along with Dennie."
The other girls had drawn aside, dumb and frightened, and the men were
disposed in a group around the chief actors, feeling that they ought to
interfere, but restrained by a respect for the privilege of fighting,
which they might some time wish to exercise on their own account.
Billings relaxed his clinched fingers, quite abashed at being so
abruptly robbed of his dignity as Deely's champion; but it took a few
moments to cool Dennie's wrath. He insisted that the fisherman had "told
him insults," and must be punished.
"I'm waiting," Deely reminded him. "You said you was going, and now I'm
The bride and groom remained oblivious of all this stir, but the bride's
mother came forward, urging Deely not to leave them. The girl, however,
would not yield. Every one could see that she was greatly incensed at
Dennie's conduct, but there was a decisive calm about her that made
persuasion useless. She had, in fact, arrived at a conclusion much more
far-reaching, which she lost no time in imparting to Dennie when they
had left the house.
"My mind's made up," she said to him, without heat. "I've borne your
tantrums as long as I can, and it's no use. By and by it'll get so that
I can't have any will or way of my own, and I don't think you'll ever be
any better, Dennie, until I'm far away where you can't tease me. Yes;
I've made up my mind. I'm goin' to that school."
To Dennie the announcement was like a knell. His burst of temper had
left him much quieter and, as usual, rather ashamed; and he felt that
Deely's intention of punishing him was quite justifiable. Still, he
could not as yet believe that she would carry it out.
"You won't treat me so hard as that," he protested. "Think it over
another time, Deely. Everything'd be all right if you'd only marry me."
"I don't want to talk about it," was her answer. "I've decided, now, and
I'm goin' away."
In the course of the next few days her lover was forced to recognize
that she was in earnest, and her resolve irrevocable. An extra session
at the small academy for young ladies which Lance had selected was about
to begin; and, through Sylv, Adela obtained a conference with him on the
subject of going thither. Old Reefe put in some objections; but as Adela
was determined he gave way, and the final arrangements were soon made.
The conference just referred to took place near the manor. Lance met
Sylv and Adela in the grounds, by appointment, and talked over the
details with them. But just as they were bidding him good-by Colonel
Floyd came strolling along; and Lance, in walking back to the house with
him, told him, full of enthusiasm, what he had done. The colonel seemed
to think it rather strange.
"My dear fellow, what has put this into your head?" he asked.
"Why, it seems to me the most natural thing in the world," Lance
replied. "It grew out of my plans, when I was consulting young De Vine.
Besides"—he hesitated an instant—"something leads me to feel a
peculiar interest in this young woman."
"Evidently," said the colonel, "or you never would become her
benefactor." But he volunteered no criticism further than to say: "I'm
not altogether sure, Lance, that you are doing wisely."
"If you think," said his prospective son-in-law, "that there's any good
reason why I shouldn't befriend her, I suppose I could abandon the
thing, though I've committed myself now."
The colonel devoted a few moments to reflection, under cover of his
spectacles. Then he said: "No, I am not clear that there is any
sufficient reason. It struck me as odd, and may seem so to others. But
then, in your character—You see, you are something of a professed
philanthropist, and people will learn to understand it on that ground.
Otherwise—" Once more he broke off, and resumed: "You are the next
thing to a married man, now, which makes it proper enough for you to
take the poor girl under your wing. Perhaps you had better talk with
Jessie about it."
Somehow the phrase "poor girl" grated slightly upon Lance's ear. Nor did
he relish the prospect of debating with Jessie the wisdom of his
proceeding; but it was plain that he would have to do so. It was true
there had been no trace of the clandestine in his undertaking, and he
had asked Sylv to bring Adela to the garden only because he considered
the whole transaction as a side-issue, in which he was separately
concerned; hence he preferred not to thrust it upon the colonel or his
daughter. But it was also true that Jessie's vigorous rejection of his
theory about Adela had made him less sure of her approval than he would
have liked to be.
By one of the surprises frequent in the moods of women, even though one
supposes their views to be settled on a particular point, it turned out
that Jessie, when consulted, did not oppose his design.
"I have been thinking over what you said, dear, about educating people,"
she announced to him, "and perhaps you are right. If you're wrong,
you'll find it out by an experiment. So all I have to say is, 'Go
ahead.' That's the way you'd like to have me put it, isn't it?"
Her whole manner was sweet and trustful; she wanted to make amends to
him. But, unless I am mistaken, Lance's effort on behalf of Adela was
not entirely to her taste.
Thus, while they endeavored to keep up a good understanding, an entering
wedge of doubt and possible division had been put in place.
The day having come for Adela's departure, difficulty arose as to her
escort, if she was to have any. Aunty Losh was not precisely the person
to introduce her at a Young Ladies' Academy; and Dennis also felt
himself to be inadequate for that duty. Sylv, as was natural, refrained
from offering his services. Neither was it possible for Lance to
accompany her. The end of it was that Aunty Losh and Dennis went with
her by wagon as far as Beaufort, and there she took the train alone for
Newbern. Lance had been to the city and prepared the way for her, so
that she might be received by the principal of the school, at the
But the time which followed was a dreary period to poor Dennis. Knowing
his own faults, and that his loss in Adela's exile had been brought on
by himself, he made no remonstrance after he saw that her purpose could
not be altered. But his wonted cheeriness and energy forsook him as soon
as she had gone; he performed his daily tasks in a listless and
perfunctory way; he talked little, and did not forget his misery long
enough to smile. On the other hand, he abstained from complaint; but
occasionally, when alone with Aunty Losh, he would confer with her
briefly about Adela and the change that had occurred. The jealousy that
took root with such ease in his uncultivated mind, and sprang up there
like a weed at the slightest encouragement, soon began to flourish again
on a suspicion that Lance must have some interested motive in helping
Adela. Aunty Losh, it must be said, was not a good counsellor. Much as
Dennis tried to conceal this new source of trouble, it was perfectly
apparent to her; and, because Dennis was her favorite and she
instinctively aided against all innovations, she fanned the flame
instead of quenching it.
"I reckon Deely may be your wife one o' these hyar days," she said, when
they had been discussing his affairs and Lance's connection with them
over a cup of yaupon. "Who would ha' thout you wouldn't been her husband
now? But there's an old sayin' what's in my head, that the man as has
got his hand on the back o' the chair is mighty often the one as sits
down in it."
Dennis saw the application, and was filled with alarm. Possibly it had
its effect in prompting him to seek assistance from Sylv; but his
loneliness, and the harassing thought that Adela might also be lonely,
or that something might go amiss in her new surroundings, where he could
not be present to help her, had a great deal to do with his impulse.
Besides, in contrition both for his jealousy of Sylv and his general
disagreeableness toward his betrothed, he fancied that it would be a
fine thing to show that he cared for her at a distance, and that he
trusted his brother.
"Sylv," said he, one evening, while they were finishing the bestowment
of the day's catch in the shed at one side of the cabin, where they kept
the fish cool by means of spring water—"Sylv, I'd like right well to
have you do somethin' for me."
"Say the word, Dennie," Sylv returned.
"I—I want you to go up thar to the city and stay thar, whar ye can see
Deely and make her feel like she had a real, true friend—some one to
'tend on her as I mout, if I was fit—and to help her if she want any
help. Dog-gone it! Mebbe it's foolish, and I reckon she ar' happy enough
and won't need nothin', but 'pears like I couldn't stand it, the way
'tis now. I want ye to go, Sylv—for me."
"You ask me to do this, Dennie?" said Sylv. "Why did you think of my
going? Why not go yourself?"
"'Cause I'm not fit for't. An' what's more, she don't want me. She said
she war a-goin' away, so's she could be alone, and I could be alone. An'
I couldn't do nothin' if I was thar, Sylv."
"I see. It would be some comfort to you if I were to go. If you're sure
you want it, Dennie, I reckon I can manage."
"There ain't no more doubt on it," answered Dennie, "than when I put my
helm down to starboard to get the east breeze, steerin' north'ard. There
ain't no one else I can count on, Sylv, 'less it be you. An', Sylv, I—I
trust you; I got faith in you!"
He held out his rough hand, and Sylv grasped it firmly. There were tears
in Dennie's eyes, seeing which Sylv pressed his brother's weather-beaten
palm the harder.
"All right, Dennie. I won't fail you."
And so the compact was made.
Sylv was absolutely honest in what he said. He knew but one ambition,
and the gaining of any woman's love had never formed a part of it. Why
was it, then, that his spirits rose so at the thought of being near
Adela once more?
You remember how little Lance had seen of Adela Reefe, and that he knew
her scarcely at all. But this makes it the stranger, and rendered it at
the time all the more unaccountable to him, that, on her removal from
his neighborhood, he should have been afflicted with a sense of vacancy,
and should have suffered from the melancholy which one might expect to
feel when suddenly separated from a dear friend. Was he not engaged to
Jessie, and thoroughly contented in his love? Moreover, Adela had not
entered into his life as an important factor. Yet, now that she was
gone, he perceived how quickly and completely the web of surmises which
he had thrown around her had taken him also into its tangles. Her
identity and destiny had engaged his thoughts far more deeply than he
Acting on his offer of assistance, and obeying Dennie's wish, Sylv
presently came to him to suggest that he would like to go to Newbern to
pursue his studies.
"But I have just made arrangements," Lance told him, "to put up a small
building where we can experiment with reed-pulp; and I expected you to
Not without embarrassment, Sylv made known the special reason proposed
by Dennie for his going. Lance thought the plan a rather curious one,
and allowed himself a queer, vicarious jealousy on Dennie's account, at
the notion of his being so far from Adela when his brother should be in
the same town with her. But he had promised to help Sylv; so he
consented to send him to Newbern and maintain him there for a while, the
cost to be returned in future services.
"Perhaps Dennie will take a hand with me in the pulp experiments," he
Thus it came to pass that a shed was built in the woods not far from the
manor, where a boiler and a small beater and washer were placed,
convenient to the limited water supply from a "run" or creek. An
experienced vatman was sent for from the North; Dennie was engaged to
collect and haul reeds, and aid in other ways when he could. All this
involved a good deal of expense, and the colonel watched the work with
suppressed horror at the young man's extravagance. But the experiments
went on, and Lance became enthusiastic over the details of drying the
reeds, getting the mixture of caustic alkali just right for boiling, and
trying rags in various proportions. Finally he was able to produce from
the vat a few sheets of tolerably good hand-made paper, on which he
fancied that he could see already inscribed a record of the profits that
were to be his.
It took many weeks, however, to accomplish that much. At first Jessie
entered into the new enterprise with great interest, and made it doubly
charming to him; but after a while, finding that it consumed her lover's
time and distracted his attention from her, she began to regard the
fascinating shed, with its boiler and engine and rude apparatus, as a
dangerous rival. Nothing daunted by such symptoms of her discontent as
he observed, Lance continued his application with a fervor that seemed
to her little less than fanatical. Meanwhile he saw Dennie very often,
and was constantly in receipt of news about Adela from him.
Indeed, since neither Aunty Losh nor Dennie had ever become enslaved to
the luxury of reading, it was necessary for Lance to interpret Adela's
letters to them. These epistles, in the beginning, were somewhat slight
and informal. They would begin thus: "I write to inform you that I am
enjoying good health. I hope you are the same." But as she went on with
her studies, and as the various particulars of her new life appealed
more decidedly to her attention, her style became more familiar and
cordial; she described what happened at the school, day by day, and
often lit up her account of events with flashes of humor that, to Lance,
were delightful. She hit off some of the absurdities of modern routine
education with a surprising sharpness of perception, and was greatly
amused at the old theologian who attended to the religious instruction
of the girls. He had shown her some books of Hebrew, the characters in
which reminded her of her own invented patterns in silk and beads. But
withal it transpired from what she wrote, that she made astounding
progress in her lessons. She quickly outstripped her classmates in their
work, and was promoted to a higher grade. Lance wondered whether this
were due to the stored-up energy of a nature that was in some respects
primitive, or whether it came from inherited aptitude—an aptitude
derived partly, through the dim centuries, from Gertrude Wylde. Several
times she alluded to Lance, and sent to him reserved messages of
friendly thanks for his kindness; but perhaps she would not have written
so familiarly on other topics if she had known that he was to see her
letters. The truth was, it had not occurred to her that her betrothed
and his aunt would apply to Lance to decipher her letters. And Lance,
embarrassed by these references to himself, refrained from disclosing
Inevitably, from the supervision which thus fell to his lot over
everything Adela did or said or thought, so far as her letters formed a
record, it ensued that his interest in her increased. I am afraid he
watched those letters with an alertness not to be excused, for some
trace of a thoughtfulness respecting him, equal to his own toward her;
and when she addressed to him directly a short communication, to tell
him how she was getting on, and how grateful she was for his assistance,
it was in a mood closely akin to disappointment that he read it through
without having detected a word that could be construed as indicating
even a commencement of friendship.
Now and again he contemplated turning the letters over to Jessie, and
felt a desire to talk with her about the progress of his pupil. But he
fancied that she would receive the confidence coldly, and he forbore to
say anything, except in the most general terms. Why, in the mean time,
he should expect anything more from Adela than a formal recognition of
indebtedness, was a riddle to him; but nevertheless he knew that he was
It should be understood that his peculiar state of mind was not at any
one time clearly apparent to him; he merely caught glimpses of it. His
preoccupation with the paper manufacture all the while kept his
attention busy, and it was but dimly that he perceived what was going on
in other regards. But when his experiments had reached their
culmination, and he had decided to build a mill and begin operations, it
became necessary for him to go North. He resolved to run up to Newbern,
first, and see Adela Reefe, before bidding good-by to Jessie. This
intention he was about to confide to Jessie, when one morning she
unexpectedly presented herself at the engine-shed, at the moment when he
was perusing a recent letter from his charge.
"So I've found you at last!" cried Jessie, standing by the sill of the
open shed-door, wrapped in a light shawl, with a broad hat bent archly
over her head, and looking wonderfully pretty. She caught sight of the
letter. "Aha!" she said. "I thought you came here to work. But it's only
make-believe, I see. Well, I've a great mind to write you letters myself
and send them down to you here to read."
"Oh, it's only a letter from Adela Reefe," Lance answered. "Dennie De
Vine brought it; he's just gone away again. Would you like to see it?"
The vatman was occupied at the other end of the shed. Jessie took the
letter and glanced at it; then returned it to her lover, indifferently.
"Deely seems to be quite contented," she observed. "When are you going
to finish, Ned?"
"Finish? You mean what I'm doing here? Why, I can go with you now, if
"I wish you would, then. I feel just like having a little walk and talk.
You're going away so soon, it's only fair I should see something of
"I know that, dearest," said Lance, "and I'm afraid I've spent too much
time over this business. It's only fair to me, too, that we should be
They sauntered away in company, and strolled through the woods. "I have
been thinking," he told her, "that I ought to start in two or three
days. But I must see Adela and Sylv first. I don't want to go North
without knowing just how they seem up there, in their new life."
A change came over Jessie's manner. "You mustn't go!" she said, with
sudden vehemence. "It isn't right, Ned."
"Not right, my dear. Why?" Lance bent his earnest, clean-cut features to
look down at her more searchingly.
But Jessie lowered her eyes, and would not meet his glance. "Oh, I have
watched you," she said, "and you are often talking with Dennie; you talk
about that girl, I am sure. And now she is writing to you. Don't you
think you have done enough for her, without going to see her?"
"Perhaps so," said Lance, his energetic mind arrested by a sudden
discontent, and by a wonder as to whether he had unconsciously fallen
into error. "But surely you don't allow yourself to be troubled about
it, do you?"
"Why, no," Jessie answered. "It would be foolish to do that. Why should
I? Only, it may be that you don't think what you're doing, Ned. She is
not our friend, and she never can be. I have agreed that you should be
her benefactor if you want to. But think how it might seem for you to go
up there and call on her. Isn't it too much?"
"I will do as you think best, my dear," Lance assented.
"Thank you," said Jessie, at once growing radiant.
They passed on through the sun-flecked gallery of the spicy woods,
chatting on various topics, and were outwardly quite content. But Lance
could not banish the idea that he had been deprived of something which
was his right; and Jessie, for her part, was not nearly so serene as she
appeared to be. A subtle intuition had warned her that Lance was wrapped
up in his care for Adela to an extent which he himself was not able to
measure. The circumstance weighed upon her with increasing force; and
many times at night she had been awakened by her own tears, only to fret
out the solitary hours with vain questionings and attempts at
reassurance. Her trouble seemed needless and absurd; but somehow Adela
Reefe came flitting across her dreams, and even darkened her waking
moments, like a shadow revived from the past, that had the power to blot
out the vivid and sunny present.
That evening the lovers looked over some old miniatures of former Floyds
and of the Wyldes, from whom the colonel traced his inheritance. In
every one of the female faces Lance instinctively hunted for traits that
should account for Jessie's features; but he could not find any. Not
only was he baffled in the search, but when he retired to rest the old
puzzle as to the similarity between Jessie's face and Adela's grew upon
him, as more complicated and less easy to shake off than ever.
A few nights afterward his hands clasped Jessie's cheeks as he bade her
farewell, on his departure for Beaufort, where he was to take a
coast-wise steamer for New York.
It was late October. There was a chill in the air. The leaves of the
deciduous trees had turned, and were already falling. The pines were
rusty in places, their needles showered to the ground in great numbers;
the snow-goose had already been heard piping in the air, on its
southward flight; and the waves of the Sound and the sea, as they broke
upon the shore, seemed to shiver with a knowledge of approaching winter.
But Jessie stood with her lover on the veranda, in the darkness; and her
face rested so yieldingly in his palms that Lance half imagined he could
carry it away with him. There in the night it was like a picture painted
long ago and dimmed by time, yet shining out through the obscurity with
its youth and loveliness and passion still intact. No; he could not
carry it bodily away with him, but he could take it in his heart; and so
he did, holding it there long after the farewell kiss had left his lips.
But after he reached New York, and during the long months of winter, the
magic of fancy played strange tricks with the image he had brought in
his heart. Strive as he would, he could not prevent it from wavering and
flickering, as it were, and occasionally taking on a darker hue, so that
he seemed at times to be contemplating Adela, instead of Jessie.
One of the first things he did was to hunt up some old memoranda in
which the tradition concerning Guy Wharton was definitely set down. This
cleared up his recollection of it; and his next act was to write to a
lawyer of his acquaintance in England, who knew something about the
Wharton history, asking him to use his best endeavors to get some
authentic likeness of Gertrude Wylde.
Unfolding to Hedson, his father's old partner, the paper-mill project,
and finding it received with favor, he next exerted himself to form a
small syndicate for purchasing and reclaiming the swamp-lands, since
that undertaking would require more capital than he cared to venture.
But the swamp was not the Treasury of the United States, nor was it a
fantasy of such vast dimensions as the Panama Canal; so the syndicate
could not be formed. For capital, despite all the cant about its
conservatism, is really moved by extremes: it is allured either by a
dead certainty or by an equally defunct impossibility. Elbow Crook Swamp
was a something between the two.
"Wait until spring," Hedson advised. "Then you will have time to
explore; and, besides, I may get down there myself to take a look!"
Hedson enjoyed the harmless pride of believing that anything at which
Hedson had "taken a look," and was able to speak well of, must
necessarily glitter like gold to his brother bondholders.
This affair and others detained Lance a long time. His mind was fixed on
settling in North Carolina, at least for the first years of his married
life, and he was anxious to get all his investments in good order before
making the change. At Christmas he took a flying trip to Fairleigh Park,
and enjoyed a brief season of jollity and of companionship with Jessie;
but he was soon back again among the snowy streets. He had seen Sylv,
but would not permit himself an interview with Adela. On his return
Hedson informed him that he was about to sail for England, being called
thither by business, to be absent a couple of months. Lance had received
no news from his legal friend in London, and did not indeed expect
anything valuable from that source; the records of the Surrey Wyldes
were doubtless too scattered to be traceable, and it was scarcely
possible that any vestige of Gertrude's features would have been
retained among the possessions of the Whartons. But, not wishing to
forego any chance, he petitioned Hedson to see the solicitor and
co-operate with him. The acute perception of the American man of
business might perhaps aid the careful British lawyer in getting at
something, even in so sentimental an inquiry. Lance would have gone
himself, so active was his interest in the question, had it not been for
his reluctance to place the ocean between himself and Jessie.
Toward the end of February Hedson sent him a half-page letter, which
ended with the words: "Think I have got something for you." Exasperating
silence followed this communication. But, in latter March, Hedson landed
at New York, and brought Lance a drawing. "It's from an old picture," he
said. "Had the devil's own time getting it; but I bored everybody
concerned, until they couldn't stand it any longer, and had to help me
ferret it out."
"And you're sure this was Gertrude Wylde?" asked Lance.
"Why, my boy, you don't think I'd say so if I wasn't sure, do you?
Besides, look at this curious monogram on the back. It seems to be two
Gs and two Ws intertwined. You see, G. W. alone would stand for either
Gertrude Wylde or Guy Wharton—a singular coincidence. The fact that the
letters are repeated seems to show that Wharton had noticed this and
resolved that his initials should be linked with hers, which were the
same, so that in that way at least they might be united. It's a mark of
identity. But why do you ask?" he added. "Is there anything wrong about
Lance was excited, evidently. The drawing shook in his hand. "No," he
said; "nothing wrong. Quite the contrary. It's exactly like her in some
"You don't look crazy, Lance; but how can you possibly know whether
it's like or not?"
"Oh, I mean—I forgot; you never saw Adela—Miss Jessie, I mean."
"No," said Hedson. "I take, now. Like her, eh?"
Lance nodded silently. To him the picture resembled Adela more than
April, coming to thaw the ice on Northern streams, and to mould the
first buds that started out timidly as a young artist's efforts at
creation, also dissolved the spell of solitude which had so long
Lance was ready to build the paper-mill, and had written that he would
take the rail southward as soon as possible. It had been agreed at
Christmas-time that the wedding should come off in May or June. Activity
began in the turpentine plantation; the trees were "boxed" and "tapped;"
the sap commenced to flow. The air grew milder, the stars shone with a
more hazy lustre in the night heavens, and birds renewed their notes in
the thickets about the manor, or flew with transient greetings over the
lonely land, on their mission of heralding the return of spring to
higher latitudes. But Jessie could not rid herself of the mournfulness
and the partial lethargy that had so long clung to her. She knew that
Lance was coming, and her heart throbbed the more warmly: she waited
eagerly to feel his arms clasped round her. Yet a lingering fear
persuaded her that the happiness might still be deferred or, in the end,
It was in such a mood that she leaned, one evening, on the railing of
the old veranda, vaguely musing and inclined to sadness. There was no
certainty as to the hour of Lance's advent, for he had not named a time,
and into that far-off nook where she lived the lightning of the
telegraph never penetrated. But of late Jessie had adopted a custom of
straying out upon the veranda, as if she expected to see Lance
Suddenly she heard the click and crunch of unwonted wheels upon the
drive near the house. She started up and listened, in a tremor of
incredulous delight. The sounds drew nearer; presently a light flashed
across the moist branches of the shade-trees, and the next moment she
beheld the lanterns of a carriage, dimly illuminating its battered
varnish, the smoking backs of two horses and the muffled torso of a
sable driver. Then Lance's young, energetic face appeared in the square
of the carriage-door, faintly roseate with the light from the house. He
was fumbling at the door-handle before the wheels stopped turning.
The sable driver subsided completely into the depths of his sableness,
as the two figures clasped each other at the top of the steps.
"Ah, Ned, I have waited for you so long!"
"And so have I for you, dear."
"Do you know, I felt almost as if I were that poor Gertrude, waiting and
"You are, dearest—you are my Gertrude!"
And then the colonel, always discreet, allowed himself to be seen in the
hallway, prepared to welcome the wanderer.
Lance barely restrained himself until the next day before seeking an
opportunity to tell Jessie about the drawing which Hedson had brought
"You've written me next to nothing about Adela Reefe," he said to her.
"But I suppose you have kept on taking charge of her letters for
"Oh yes," said Jessie; "he brought them all the way up to me. Poor
"Why do you call him that?"
"It seems so severe for him, having her stay away at such a distance,
and for so long. He's dreadfully in love with her."
"Yes, I know he is," Lance confessed. "Those times when I was with him
so much, and you hardly liked it, I was talking with him about her and
trying to console him. He let me into his confidence, and told me how he
was afraid he had driven her from him and should never get her back. But
Sylv used to send an encouraging message, now and then. Has he sent any
"Sylv has hardly written at all," said Jessie.
Lance mused aloud: "That's strange."
"Yes," responded his sweetheart, in a tone as if she were about to say
more; but she did not go on.
At this point Lance thought it best to bring forward his little
surprise. Excusing himself, he went to his room and came back with the
drawing. "By the way," he began, reseating himself, "I wonder if Adela
has changed much in looks, under the influence of education. It would be
curious to see her, wouldn't it?"
"I saw her," said Jessie, "just before she went back, after you left us,
"Well, then, you can tell. What do you think of this?" And her lover
produced the portrait.
Jessie stared at it in some astonishment. "Where under the sun did that
come from?" she exclaimed. "Was it done for you?"
"What do you think of it?" he repeated.
"It isn't perfect," was the answer; "but still, I should know it, I
think. Why, Ned, are you cheating me? It isn't meant for Adela, is it?
You naughty boy, I could almost think it was an attempt to show how I
shall look when I'm stouter! It's a joke."
"Then you think it's like you?" he inquired. "Does it strike you?"
"I won't say another word, until you tell me what it is."
"It is a picture of Gertrude Wylde," Lance returned.
Then there was silence for a moment. Jessie took the drawing and looked
at it intently. Her voice was low, and quivered with a sort of
frightened tremor when she next spoke. "Why didn't you tell me at first,
Ned? And what did you mean by speaking as if it were Adela Reefe? It
is like her; and it is like me, too. Oh, what this secret? What is the
meaning of it all?"
"As well as I can make it out," said Lance, "the meaning is that Adela
is a direct descendant of Gertrude Wylde, and a kinswoman of yours. The
only thing remaining, in my mind, is to find out whether her father or
his family came from Croatan. If that is proved—"
"And if that is proved, what then?"
"I know of nothing to follow, except that we should recognize her as a
"Never!" cried Jessie. "This is a mere dream. It's impossible to prove
her descent from our stock. I can have nothing to do with her."
Her vehemence was such that another man might have suspected some
underlying motive of feminine jealousy. But Lance merely laughed. "Oh,
there's no legal claim involved," said he, lightly. "Of course, I don't
expect that anything tremendous is going to happen, even if she does
turn out to be of your blood. But suppose we appoint your father
arbitrator as to this portrait?"
Jessie consented, and they referred the picture to Colonel Floyd.
"If this is a well-authenticated reproduction," said the colonel,
deploying his finest hand-book manner, "the appearances would seem to
indicate some connection. 'Pon my soul, I never noticed any resemblance
till now; but while the similarity to our Jessie is perceptible, it is
not nearly so pronounced as the likeness to this Adela Reefe. Is it
possible that an inherited type of countenance should last so long,
under such conditions? Very singular; very strange!"
He did not evince enthusiasm, and he paced the room restlessly.
"What we want is to go and see old Mr. Reefe," suggested Lance, "and ask
him about Croatan."
The colonel fell in with this proposition; and on the morrow they rode
down to Hunting Quarters. It was not an easy matter to draw Reefe into
conversation; but they at last succeeded in pinning him down to facts,
and, without discovering their purpose, he assured them that, to the
best of his knowledge, his predecessors had lived in the region of
Croatan, until the time of his father, who crossed Pamlico Sound and
settled near Hunting Quarters. To make a clean breast of it, he also
admitted that his stock probably contained Indian blood; but of this he
was rather proud than otherwise.
"It is settled," said Lance, when he came to tell Jessie the result of
the inquiry. "There can be no reasonable doubt now. I must go up and let
Adela and Sylv know about it at once."
Jessie leaned back in her chair and fixed her mild gray eyes upon him.
She had never looked more captivating than at that instant, the
side-part in her hair giving an accent of dainty self-reliance to her
whole pose and demeanor. "Let me ask you a question," she said.
"About poor Dennie. Has it ever occurred to you, Ned, that you may be
doing him a great injury by sending Adela off in this way, and throwing
her with Sylv?"
"No, of course not," answered Lance, somewhat nettled. "Would I have
been a party to it if I had thought so?" But the mention of Sylv in this
sort of way caused him an inward shudder. If there were any peril of
Dennie's losing Adela, why should it be Sylv who should win her?
"I think you are helping to separate them," Jessie continued, "and you
ought to reflect, and stop. Besides, why should you go on so, mixing
yourself up in her affairs?"
"I'm not. I ought at least to see her and tell her my discovery."
Jessie suddenly rose. "I hate that woman!" she cried, sharply. And, at
the same instant, Lance saw his engagement ring flashing upon her
"You shall not hate her," he declared, with passion. "She is your
kinswoman—one of us. It isn't right that you should say that, and I
won't endure it."
"Never mind whether you will endure it or not," Jessie retorted. "She
has occupied enough of your attention already."
"My dear child," Lance remonstrated, "it's impossible that you should be
jealous of that girl! But what else can you mean? What do you demand?"
"I think that you ought to just drop her, from this time on," said
Jessie, closing her lips decisively.
There are scientific thinkers who tell us that the will is not a cause,
but merely a state of consciousness resulting from previous conditions
of the nerves and the emotions. However this may be, Lance's will
asserted itself in strong opposition to Jessie's. The probability that
Adela was a lineal descendant of Gertrude Wylde appealed strongly to his
imagination. Now that his theory seemed so well established, he was
resolved to have her kinship acknowledged; and, further, he experienced
a strong attraction toward her, the stress of which he did not fully
comprehend. He himself represented the man who had loved Gertrude, who
had vainly searched for and lost her. Was it not fair that he should
have some hand in the destiny of the girl thus reclaimed, after the
lapse of centuries, from the oblivion which had overtaken Gertrude's
"I will not drop her," he said, unyieldingly. "And, what's more, Jessie,
I am going to see her, and shall stand by her."
Exactly what was to be the issue of Lance's sentiment respecting Adela,
it would have been hard to say. No fatal breach had as yet been made in
his relations with Jessie; yet they parted, after the difference which I
have just detailed, with a coldness that promised ill; and, for the
first time, Lance met the issue that had for weeks past unobtrusively
put itself in his way. If Jessie would persist in being so narrow, so
unsympathetic, what was to come? And if any trouble from this source
should divide them, what was there left to him? Facing this alternative,
Lance was forced to perceive that the interest which he had allowed
himself to feel in Adela had, unawares, grown into a dangerous emotion.
In one way it seemed absurd. In another, it was tragical. Did he
actually, in view of the rupture which now seemed likely to occur
between himself and Jessie, contemplate such a possibility as giving his
life up to Adela? If he were to do that, the question of treachery to
his humble friend, Dennis De Vine, would be involved. Nevertheless, some
unseen power seemed to propel him toward an erratic solution of this
sort. He wondered whether at last the yearning of his ancestor, long
ago, was fated to meet fulfilment by his own union with the latest
offspring of Gertrude Wylde. No! he would not think of it: he refused to
surrender himself to such fantasies. And still he could not escape their
He was involved in a struggle. He did not know what to make of it; but
he resolved to maintain his own dignity, first, by going to see Adela,
and then, after that, everything concerning Jessie and himself might be
righted. Meanwhile he kept one idea firmly before him, which was, to
remain true to Jessie so long as she would let him do so without
But before he had time to carry out his determination of seeing Adela,
an unlooked-for incident occurred, which altered the situation
The last bell for the day had sounded at the "academy" where Adela
pursued her studies, or rather was pursued by them, for they followed
her steps from morning to night in a race with which it was hard to keep
even, notwithstanding her prowess. The bell signified freedom for a
brief period. When it sounded she was allowed to go out for a walk, the
usual discipline of the school having been relaxed in her favor, to
admit of her taking her recreation in Sylv's company. Sylv was duly
accredited as Dennie's ambassador, to look after Adela's welfare; hence
it was considered very proper that he should see her every day. In this
way he had taken a great many walks with her.
When the bell rang, therefore, he met her at the gate of the garden
surrounding the academy, and they strolled away together. Had Lance seen
them at that moment, he would have been surprised by the noticeable
change which had come over them both. Adela had now been at school some
ten months—nearly a year—and her steady application, with the loss of
that out-door life to which she had been accustomed, had subdued the
color in her cheeks, though it had not made them pale. The delicate
brown tinge was always there. But the stiff black hair that had formerly
blown so carelessly about her head was demurely combed and orderly, now,
and a serene, womanly thoughtfulness had somehow drifted into the lines
of her face, making its wild beauty sweeter.
Sylv, too, had acquired a more polished air. It was not a gawky polish.
His clothes were very plain, but he appeared at ease in them; and
although his tangled beard was reduced to comparative trimness, it
hinted nothing of the incipient dandy. On the whole, they were a very
serious and simple pair, who would have looked extremely "countrified"
in Richmond, and still more so in New York. But they had altered very
much since the days on the shore.
Had Lance seen them then, he would have been surprised—and perhaps
displeased—by another thing. This was, that as they moved down the road
leading away from the town, they looked so like a pair of lovers.
Ah, while they had been growing so neat and orderly on the surface, and
had come to show marks of the educational mould, had they possibly
undergone another change of an opposite kind, within? Were their hearts
as well regulated, as calm, as their dress and their faces?
Through the long period of their sojourn together, they had lived upon
hopes, interests, ambitions common to both. Adela had been fired with
zeal for her new occupation; they had talked over their daily successes
or reverses every afternoon; and though I have not said much about
Sylv's natural refinement, and his quiet, persuasive quality, these two
things—combined with constant association—had exercised a great
influence upon Adela. Imperceptibly she had grown into a life which
belonged to them alone, apart from every one else.
"How did you get along to-day?" asked Sylv.
"All right," said Adela. "But the algebra was hard. It seems as if I
couldn't think of anything but squares and roots and coefficients. It
appears to me like I'll have to extract the square root of my head right
soon; and if I do, there won't be anything left."
"You're getting tired, I reckon," Sylv suggested. "Maybe you ought not
to work so much. How would it suit you, Deely, to go home for a few days
"Oh, vacation's coming in a few weeks," she answered, wearily. "It ain't
that, Sylv. I ain't tired with the work; but it's because my life seems
so queer, and I don't know what I want. I don't want to stay here, or to
go home. I'm afraid I'll never be happy any more."
They were now in a quiet spot outside of the town. Some willows grew
beside the road, which was here carried over a small bridge that covered
the gurgling flow of a brook. Sylv stopped short, and eyed her
"Not happy?" he questioned. "Why not, Deely? Wouldn't you be if you were
with Dennie again?"
Adela paused, too. "I can't tell," she said. "I don't know what is the
matter with me, but I don't seem to be satisfied with anything, Sylv. I
never can go back to what I was, but I don't see that I can go forward,
"But Dennie loves you just the same," said Sylv, rather falteringly.
The girl clasped her hands and gazed absently in front of her. "I know
he does," she said, in an inert way. "I know it well enough."
"And you know he has been trying to learn to read, just to please you,
and so as to keep up with you as well as he can."
"Yes." But still her face did not lighten. The gathering sadness
deepened upon it, if anything. "Oh, why did I come here!" she suddenly
cried, despairingly. "If Mr. Lance had not sent me! Ah, what was the
Sylv regarded her compassionately, but he was himself undergoing an
anguish that it seemed impossible to withstand.
"Come," he said, soothingly, "let's go down yonder among the trees and
talk about it. We'll see if there isn't some way of making you happy. I
reckon the time has come for a change, and we ought to see what is
She yielded, as though he were entitled to lead her. Taking his hand,
she walked with him down on to the young grass at the side of the
highway, and in among the trees alongside the "run." In the retired nook
that they came to they seated themselves, while the spring breeze
murmured through the light leaves above them, unsuspicious of any woe in
the minds of these two young persons.
"I was angry with Dennie," said Adela, speaking low, "and that was why I
left him to come here. But he has been so good, and so patient."
"Yes, that he has!" Sylv corroborated, fervently. "Why don't you go back
The gaze which Sylv fixed upon her, in asking this question, was very
unlike that of an impartial and philosophic adviser. His eyes burned
with a rapacious though restrained fire. Yet his tone was composed.
Adela broke into moaning. "Why do you ask me that?" she exclaimed. "Oh,
don't you know how hard it is to go back? Do you think it can ever be
the same? I don't want that kind of life any more: I am for something
different now. You see, all this studying and thinking and reading has
given me a new idea, and there's no one to take a share in it. When I go
back and marry Dennie that part of me will be alone. What am I to do;
oh, what am I to do?"
Her distress was so acute that she gave way to tears, which she
helplessly tried to press back with a hand at her eyes.
"Don't cry, Deely," said Sylv, taking her other hand. "You're tired out,
and you're troubling yourself, but you don't need to. By and by you'll
be happy; never fear!"
Adela clung to his hand instinctively. "You're a kind fellow, Sylv,"
said she, ceasing to sob. "I know you wish me well. But it's all over
with me. I ought not to think of anything but Dennie. If I can make
him happy, why—I ought—to be satisfied." But the stifled tone in
which she uttered the words showed how far she fell short of that duty.
Sylv longed to speak more tenderly to her. The touch of her trusting
hand in his was maddening. He would have laid down his life, at that
instant, to comfort her; and if he was ready to sacrifice his own, what
mattered the life and happiness of any other? But there was only one way
in which he felt sure that he could secure lasting comfort to her, so
far as one man might; and that way he dared not propose. Why had he not
foreseen this difficulty and this peril in time to evade them? He had
imagined that his whole life depended on books, and here he found that
it was nothing as compared with a woman. He had indulged in the tranquil
belief that he was a disinterested student; but now he awoke to the fact
that he was a reckless lover!
"Deely," he exclaimed, rising, but still keeping her hand in his, "if
you don't love Dennie enough to go back to him, you must not do it!"
"And break his heart?" she asked, looking up at him with an effort at
"I speak to you as his brother," answered Sylv—"his brother, whom he
sent here of his own accord to watch over you; and I say that it would
be wrong. You would not be happy yourself, and you would find it
impossible to make him happy."
Adela drew her hand away. "But I have promised him! And I will keep my
As she spoke she rose erect: he could hear her close her teeth with a
"I don't intend to argue about it," he said. "You are free to settle
everything your own way. It appeared to me like I must tell you my
opinion. That's the end of it, Deely." He paused. "I got a letter from
Mr. Lance; says he's got back, and is coming up to see you. But I am
going away to-morrow."
Adela started violently. "You going away!" Then she trembled toward
him and laid her hands on his shoulders. "Oh no, no! Don't leave me now,
Sylv. Don't go away!"
"I must," he replied. "I've got through. I've done all I can. I must go
back to work for Mr. Lance."
Adela's hands still rested on his arms. He could hardly move them
otherwise than to enfold and sustain her. Unable to support herself, she
drooped and sank toward him for an instant.
"Dear—dear—sister," he almost groaned, "don't despair! Don't give way!
I wish I could save you from suffering."
She recovered herself and stood upright before him, looking into his
eyes. She trembled, and he longed to embrace her once more, holding her
to his heart for as long as he should live. But neither of them made any
movement toward such a renewal of her dependence upon him. Steadily, yet
with a kind of doubt and fear, they gazed at one another; and the whole
story of their hearts was made clear. But not one word of passion was
"I must leave—must leave to-morrow," Sylv repeated, as they started
simultaneously to go back to the school; "and I think I will send Dennie
up here." Instead of advancing this proposition with the courage he
wanted to show, he made it sound like the knell of all their hopes.
Nerving himself, he added: "Shall I tell him you've forgiven him?"
This time, by a prodigious effort, he spoke bravely; yet his eyes,
without his knowledge, seemed to beg her to come to the aid of his
"Shall I tell him?"
"And that you're ready to go with him now?" The faltering look had
vanished. A white, still light of triumph rested on his paling face.
"Yes," said Adela again, with trembling lips.
LANCE AND ADELA.
Sylv was on the point of beginning his journey, when Lance walked into
his boarding-place with a hearty salutation.
"Isn't this very sudden?" he asked, with pronounced astonishment at
Sylv's new move.
"It looks so to you," said the young man. "But I've been thinking it
over a long time. It isn't best for me to stay here."
Lance saw that something was held in reserve, but could not conjecture
what. "Suit yourself, Sylv," he returned. "If you're satisfied, I ought
"Besides," said Sylv, with the air of having already given one reason,
"I ought to do some of that work I promised for you."
"It would be an advantage to begin exploring the swamp before warm
weather comes on," Lance agreed.
"Well, sir, I'm ready to go at it right straight off," said the other.
There was a disproportionate grimness in his tone and manner, Lance
imagined. The declaration had apparently cost him an effort.
"Lord bless me, Sylv," he exclaimed, abruptly, "how thin and pale you've
grown! I didn't fairly notice it until this moment. It evidently won't
do you any harm to have a change."
"No, sir. I have not been feeling well."
"All right. Wait till the afternoon train, and I'll go back to Beaufort
with you. I only want to see Adela for a while. Will you come along?"
He did not really want Sylv to accompany him; and perhaps this was
manifest in his way of speaking. Yet he was somewhat surprised when the
young man, turning aside and pretending to adjust some of the articles
in the forlorn miniature trunk he had been packing, said: "No, thank
you, Mr. Lance. I said good-by to her last night."
"It's just as well, that way," said Lance, nervously. "I have something
important to tell her, and it will be better to see her alone."
Sylv straightened up, and glanced at him almost fiercely. A suspicion
occurred to him. "Something important?" he asked. But he did not dare to
Nor did it reassure him much, either, to have Lance answer, "Yes; I'll
tell you about it afterward."
For his part, Lance, in noticing Sylv's abstracted behavior, recalled
what Jessie had said as to throwing the young fellow so much with Adela,
and wondered whether there was any confirmation of her fear in the
constraint which had overtaken his protégé. But he was so anxious to
see Adela, that he did not stop to reflect on that point more than a
Ushered by the matronly principal of the academy into its scrupulously
dusted but threadbare parlor, he awaited the girl's advent with a good
deal of trepidation. The window-blinds were closed, and the interior was
pervaded by a mock twilight. When Adela at last made her appearance, her
figure, from the opposite side of the room, looked so dim and uncertain
that Lance was strongly reminded of the first time he ever saw her—the
time that she rose out of the earth, as it were, and again crumbled back
"Miss Reefe!" he said, scarcely above a murmur.
"Oh, Mr. Lance! Sylv told me you were coming." And she approached him
through the dimness of the room, groping, one might say.
They shook hands formally, and to Lance's distraught fancy it seemed as
if her fingers withdrew themselves with the recoil of absolute dislike
from the touch of his own.
"You're not glad to see me, I'm afraid," he began, boldly.
"Oh yes—yes I am. What makes you think so?"
"I can hardly tell, but I think I should know if you were. It is so dark
here I can barely see you. Shall I open a shutter?" He made a movement
to do so.
"It is light enough for me," Adela answered; and he at once desisted
from his purpose. "Won't you sit down?" she asked.
He accepted the invitation.
They conversed for a few moments about her studies and about what he
himself had been doing since they last met. But at length he said: "You
never would be able to guess, Adela, why I have come to see you to-day.
You told me a very interesting story once—do you remember?—about your
people. That was a legend; but now I have a true story to tell you,
which is connected with yours. Would you like to hear it?"
"I always like stories better than anything," said the girl. "Do tell it
Thereupon Lance narrated the tale with which we are familiar, adding the
details of the picture, the first clew which he had caught in her
resemblance to Jessie, and the extraordinary coincidence of the old
rhyme from Wharton Hall. Adela listed intently, without interposing a
syllable; but he could hear her breath coming and going, and
occasionally she sighed. She was seated in a chair near his own; but,
though his eyes were growing used to the gloom of the apartment, he felt
her presence more by the warm irradiation of her vitality through the
air than by actual vision. From time to time there was an audible flurry
of light feet and flitting skirts in the passageway without, or in the
rooms above, indicating the movement of young women from one point to
another of the scanty scholastic edifice; and once a desk-bell rang
punctiliously from a distance. But otherwise they were uninterrupted. As
Lance proceeded with his story, the dimness of the light and the random
brushing of the breeze against the shutters aided a species of
hallucination that laid hold of him. While he retraced the mazes and the
by-paths of the tradition that led back so far into the forests and the
obscurity of an earlier epoch, the gloom of the wilderness itself seemed
to surround him; the leaves of an unknown forest-land muttered and
rustled in his ears; he felt like an explorer; he was making his way, he
could fancy, toward the goal of his long striving and his harassed
desire. Should he not meet, at the end of his wanderings, the object of
When he had finished the story he said: "You have Indian blood in your
Her voice permeated the dusk slowly and hesitatingly: "Yes. But how do
"I have seen your father, and he has told me." Lance rose and stepped
toward the window. "Gertrude Wylde was your ancestress," he declared,
"and she was the same woman as Ewayeá in your legend. It is I who have
discovered this, and I have brought you, at last, out of all that
Flinging the shutters open he stood there, looking toward her. Adela at
the same instant left her seat and placed herself before him. Then, for
the first time, he could see the change that had crept over her
"Good God!" he cried. "What has happened?"
Adela spread her hands out in timid deprecation. "I don't know," she
said. "What do you mean?"
"You are so much more—you have grown so like Jessie since I saw you,"
Lance returned, well-nigh gasping. "If it were not for that darker
"Mr. Lance," she interrupted, "what can you be thinking of? Why do you
talk so excitedly, and why did you come here to tell me this?"
"Because," he said, "I have been intensely interested in the problem. I
believe you belong to the line of Gertrude Wylde. If you do, you
represent the woman whom my ancestor loved, and you are closely related
to Jessie Floyd. Do you suppose it makes any difference to me that
Indians came into that line? No; I see in you the lineal descendant of
Gertrude, and a kinswoman of the Floyds. I wish to have it clearly
understood that you and they are of one family. You must take the place
that belongs to you."
"What place?" Adela sighed. "Can you tell what place mine is?"
"Of course I can. Haven't I said what I thought?" But while Lance
uttered these words, he noticed how sad and wan she looked, and he also
felt the difficulty of bringing her within the circle of life to which
"You have made a great mistake," she replied. "I am only Adela Reefe,
and I cannot be anything else. Did Sylv tell you? I am going away from
here. I shall not stay any longer, for I promised to be Dennie's wife,
and I am going to marry him as soon as he comes for me."
"To be Dennie's wife!" exclaimed Lance, instinctively treating the idea
as though he had not heard of it before. "Yes; yes; I suppose you are to
be. But why should that prevent your being one of us? You will be a
kinswoman, a cousin, just the same."
Adela gathered herself up, and spoke with resolution. "I don't know if
you are right," she said, "but any way, Mr. Lance, if I am a kinswoman
and a cousin, do you think Miss Jessie will want to have me for one?"
The best that Lance could do was to parry this direct thrust. "If you
are so," he answered, "what difference can her wish make?"
"I will tell you, easy enough," Adela retorted, proudly. "It is just
that I won't have anything to do with people who don't want me for one
of them. If I had ever supposed that coming up here to school would make
it seem as if I wanted to do that, I wouldn't have come. Oh, I didn't
know all this when I came! No, no! And I'm sorry I did it. I tried to be
grateful to you, Mr. Lance, and I do thank you for your good meaning;
but I'm sorry I came."
"Adela," he said, rather coldly, "I can't let you talk in this way. You
are proud and angry, and don't know what you're saying. Remember that,
whatever happens, I stand by you."
"I don't want any one to stand by me," she returned. "I am all alone,
and I will stay so. Suppose you had never come here, Mr. Lance; who
would have guessed that I had anything to do with that old English
family? I could not have guessed it myself, even. I know you've tried to
help me, and now you want to make something different of me from what I
always was before. But I'm going back to marry Dennie, and the best
thing you can do is to leave me where you found me, and forget all about
me. I shall just be Dennie's wife; that's all. I don't ask to be
It may seem to you unreal that Lance should have been so much exercised
regarding Adela's happiness and her future, especially since he was
bound to Jessie Floyd by the most sacred promises. Unreal it is, I
grant, to people who live by the tinkle of the horse-car, the tick of
the clock, and the reading of the newspaper. But this individual,
impracticable man—so like many other men who, in dissimilar
circumstances, conceive themselves to be prodigiously practical—was
bent upon an idea. And he was determined to carry out his idea. He cared
more for his theory than he did for himself or for any one besides. It
was his ambition to be impartial—to secure the recognition of all
rights which he thought were in need of vindication. And so far did he
carry that desire, that he was really somewhat bewildered by it; in
consequence whereof he held himself ready, at this especial moment, to
sacrifice one great obligation to a lesser obligation.
"I'm not going to be satisfied with this result," he said. "I am
determined that it shall not be in vain that I have sought you out and
found you. Listen to me, Adela! It is a question of justice—in fact, of
simple humanity—and I'm bound to have justice done. You may go back to
Hunting Quarters, if you like, any day, and marry Dennie; but you ought
not to ask to be dropped out of our lives. I wish to see you put where
you belong. If you have changed your mind, and do not want to marry
Dennie, only tell me so. Your happiness is at stake, and it shall be
preserved at all hazards."
"How can you preserve it better than I can?" Adela demanded.
Lance delayed his answer, inwardly trembling. It may be that we ought
not to inquire into the wild and erratic impulses that assailed him at
that instant; but, amid their dizzying influence, he held fast to the
ideal of honesty on all sides.
"Very likely I can't," he replied, calmly. "But I wish to say that, if
anything should go wrong, if any trouble should come to you, I may be
counted on as your friend—no matter who opposes."
Adela melted at once into frank dependence. "Oh, Mr. Lance," she said,
"I have sorrows, like other people, and I don't know what they will
bring at last; so if you will help me when I need help, I shall be
glad! But please don't think about me now; only let me go—let me go!"
And with this sorry climax the interview ended, Lance retiring with an
inexplicable sense of defeated endeavor. In some way, which he was not
able to analyze as yet, his dream had been exploded. The unravelling of
the mystery of Gertrude Wylde had been to him a romance of the most
fascinating kind; but now that the romance had culminated, no one seemed
to know what to do with it. Apparently he had followed a
will-o'-the-wisp, when he expected any good to attend his success in
ferreting out Adela's identity; for it had put him at odds with Jessie,
and it brought no pleasure to Adela herself.
With heavy hearts both Lance and Sylv accomplished their journey to
Beaufort late that afternoon; and on the way Lance explained to his
companion the new light in which Adela must be regarded.
Sylv, however, said little, and appeared anxious to reach home, where he
could consult with Dennie.
He found his brother busily engaged in completing a ditch across the
neck of the headland, which he had finally, in deference to the wishes
of Aunty Losh, undertaken to dig, to the end that her live-stock might
be kept from straying over to the mainland. "I am fearsome o' the
tides," said Dennie, as he had said long ago; "but aunty wants this hyar
for to be done, and so I am doin' on it."
The docile, plodding industry of his brother smote upon Sylv with a
singular reproach. He could not throw off the conviction that he himself
had been essentially idle in his devotion to book-learning, while Dennie
had remained so faithful to the dull duties at home.
"Dennie," he said, "I got some good news for you."
"Ye mean that ar?" queried Dennie, halting in his toil, with his shovel
in the loose ground. "I ain't had no good news for a long sight, Sylv.
What mout it be?"
"Deely's coming back to you."
Dennie stood stock still and wiped the sweat from his brow. Then he
touched his grimy knuckles to his eyelids; but, without betraying
emotion in any other way, except by the softening of his voice, he said:
"I'm glad on't, Sylv. Ar' she a-comin' back because she want to?"
"Yes; oh yes! There couldn't be any other reason, could there, Dennie?"
"Well, I warn't right sure," said Dennie. "No; I reckon they aren't no
other reason." Seizing the shovel, he made a few more plunges with it
into the soil. "Well, I'm right glad on't, Sylv. When ar' she comin'?"
"Now, I'll tell you how it is," Sylv returned, assuming an expository
manner. "Deely thinks you've been a right good boy, and she allows she
was impatient with you. But, then, you were impatient too. She's made up
her mind to let go the rest of her school term, and she's waiting for
you now up at the city. All you've got to do is to go there and get
Dennie abandoned his work for the moment, and gazed at his brother
affectionately. "Thank ye kindly, Sylv. Ye been a good brother to me.
Oh, it don't 'pear true! I don't make out how it's so; but I waited and
sarved kind o'patient, Sylv, and all to once it comes out squar'.
Deely's been fair to me, old man, and so ha' you been. Wall, it's more'n
With the guilty knowledge of a hidden love for Adela in his heart, Sylv
would rather have faced the threatening muzzle of his brother's gun, as
it had once been pointed at him, than to have stood up before the glance
of trust and affection which Dennie now directed toward him. But, thank
Heaven, his conscience was clean. He had not betrayed the trust. He had
preserved his honor, and had left Adela free.
"Don't think about what you deserve," he said, "but just you go and do
what she expects you to. You go up there and fetch her back."
"Did she ask ye to tell me that, Sylv?"
"Then I'll do it! But I ar' got to dig this hyar ditch first off, don't
you see I have? 'Cause I tole aunty I would, and she'd be a heap sight
put out if I didn't. But ye'll go up to the city with me, won't ye,
Sylv? I'd feel lonesome and quar' ef ye didn't."
"I'm right sorry, Dennie; but I can't. I've got to do some work for Mr.
Lance, and I ought not to go back."
However, when Dennie was ready to take his departure Sylv came to him
with a sealed letter. "I can't go with you, Dennie," he repeated; "but
there's a few words I wanted to say to Deely, and you might as well
carry them, I thought."
Dennie conscientiously dumped the missive into his hat; and, with a last
joyous whisk of his red beard, took leave of his brother.
His impatience to see Adela caused him to spurn the faithful dug-out as
a means of travel, and he went by rail.
In the long months of separation from his sweetheart he had succeeded in
carrying out a great self-improvement. The hope of making himself worthy
to recover her was the mainstay of his gallant persistence in this work,
and it had wrought a wonderful effect. He was still the same Dennie—his
temperament could not be remodelled—but from being irascible,
hot-headed, untrustworthy, he had come to exercise a self-control that
made him seem uncommonly gentle. What he gained in that direction he had
to hold by untiring vigilance and firm will; but a succession of
victories convinced him that now, when the reward was held out to him,
he could prove his fitness to receive it.
A driving rain poured down upon North Carolina as he left the coast. The
sea showed its white teeth at Hatteras and all along the sandy spits and
islands that fringe that shore. Every one said that still uglier weather
was likely to come soon. But to Dennie the drenching showers and the
hurly-burly of the winds only enhanced the gladness in his heart. He
basked in the delicious glow of cosiness which children feel when snugly
housed from pelting storms that they can watch at ease. The slow-paced
cars seemed to him to glide ahead with wonderful swiftness—his own
happy anticipation lent speed to the wheels—and the humming rails
echoed and rang again with one continual song of hope, hope, hope.
How many fond, encouraging things he would say to Adela! How bright he
would make the prospect for her! He would show her, beyond question,
that she need never undergo any trials or troubles which he could
It was not so easy to do all this, at first, as he had imagined it would
be. On meeting, they were both rather quiet. Dennie took her hand
bashfully: he discovered all at once that he was in the presence of a
superior being. The muscles of his right arm, also, appeared to succumb
to a peculiar disorder, and would not act when he wanted to throw that
arm around her waist. Good Lord! was he afraid? Had he been afraid to
clasp her in his arm a year before? But gradually this paralytic attack
wore itself out: he sat down beside her, and presently his right hand
was visible to his own eyes, resting easily at a point on the right side
of her belt.
"I'm glad to be with ye again, Deely," he said, carefully eliminating as
much of the gruffness as he could from his strong out-of-doors voice.
But the hearty gruffness that remained was, somehow, very agreeable to
Adela. "Dear old Dennie," she said, in a gentle, musing way, as if she
were speaking of him to some third person.
"And ye're glad, too, be ye, Deely?" he asked, gazing at her
indulgently, but with some vestiges of anxious doubt.
"Yes, Dennie, I'm glad to be with you; you're so good now. And I like to
see you happy."
"That's a puss," said the big fellow, but instantly felt astonishment at
his own familiarity. Finding, too, that he was instinctively patting her
with his hand, he promptly stopped, because it struck him that his hand
was too rough, and he might hurt or crush her. He drew it softly away to
a more normal position. "Why, they tell me," he resumed, "that ye're a
great lady now—a sort o' princess, or su'thin' that way, I didn't
know for sure ye'd want to see me or have me hangin' round ye no more."
And then he laughed at the deceptiveness and the wild humor of his own
"Oh, Dennie," she implored, "don't talk about that! What difference does
"Ye needn't bat yer eyes," he replied. "I ain't 'shamed on it, if ye
ain't. Why Sylv, he said how ye war just as good as Miss Jessie, 'cause
ye war born away back out'n the same family; leastways, some one else
did the bornin' for ye, them ar times. But I—well, I allays thought
ye war a heap sight better'n Miss Jessie or any one else."
"I know that, Dennie. You always loved me true. Oh, it was wrong for me
to come away from you so!"
Adela leaned her head upon him, and began to sob slightly. This
proceeding was to totally unlooked for, that Dennie was amazed.
"Thar, thar," he said, "ye'd oughtn't for to cry when I come back to ye.
No; ye had the right on't, Deely. I warn't fit, then, and I wouldn't ha'
been a fip better ef ye hadn't ha' left me be. It ar' all right, I tell
ye. But fust, when I saw ye just now, thinks I, ye've changed so, and ye
look so sort o' ironed up all careful, ye won't care nothin' for a old
rough boy like Dennie no more. But if ye're goin' to cry, Deely, why, I
want for to stop ye; and I do think it war all right, your leavin' me."
"Oh no, no," she reaffirmed, still weeping. "I did you a great wrong,
Dennie's face became apprehensive for a moment; but that look quickly
dissolved, and he permitted himself a subdued laugh. "It are enough to
make a man laugh," he said, in excuse, "to think o' my forgivin' ye; but
if ye feel ye done wrong, why, I'll say I forgive ye, Deely. I do
forgive ye, right free."
She had made the only confession she could. Indeed, what was there to
reveal, except that in her long companionship with Sylv she had learned
to love him, before she comprehended what was happening, and that she
had honestly, at a fearful cost, stifled that love so far as might be,
in order to remain true to the man she had promised to wed? But to tell
this would in itself be to dishonor her vow.
She looked up to Dennie with streaming eyes, and her hand sought his.
"Thank you, thank you!" she murmured. "I have suffered a great deal
here, Dennie—away from you. I know you have suffered too. But you are
generous and kind; and now I hope we can forget all the pain."
Dennie, in listening to her, was strongly impressed with the feeling
that he was hearing something read from a book, so sharp was the
contrast between her utterance and his. But the contents of the
supposititious book were very soothing and acceptable. He turned quickly
to her, and for the first time since his arrival they embraced each
other with thorough self-forgetfulness.
"But, Deely," he said, "I ain't like ye ar'. I ain't got l'arnin' the
way ye have now. Don't ye reckon that ar'll disapp'int ye?"
"No; not a bit," she answered, warmly; "you'll be kind and good to me,
Dennie, and I will be a good wife to you. All I want is for you to take
me away from here. Take me home!"
There was an almost desperate energy in her voice. The truth was,
Dennie's presence acted upon her as a restorative, and awakened many
memories of the simple and happier time when they had played together
and grown up together and carried on their courtship by the shore.
Despite her love for Sylv—or perhaps in consequence of it—she threw
herself upon Dennie's protection with an eagerness she would not have
believed possible until she met him face to face. His big figure, his
glowing cheeks, his heavy hands and rough accent—all brought to her a
whiff of the salt air in which she had been born and bred. Her secret
misery was dulled by his trusting companionship; she was lulled into
reveries of some existence of comparative peace, in which she would be
able to fulfil her ideal of duty and find her recompense in so doing.
"Take ye home, dear girl! Why, that's what I'm wantin' to do," he
rejoined, tenderly. And, fired by the thought, he went on to tell her
where they would make the home; how Sylv and he were going to take part
in Lance's wide-reaching plans; how he would perhaps have something to
do with the paper-mill or the market gardens that were to replace the
swamp; and how happy she and he could be.
Adela entered eagerly into all these glowing particulars. A new life
opened before her, which she believed would be beautified with all sorts
of unexpected happiness; and she was filled with thanksgiving because
she had clung resolutely to her plighted troth.
"We'll go to-morrow!" cried Dennie, with enthusiasm. "D'ye think ye can
make out to be ready, Deely?"
"I could be ready to-day," she replied, "if there's a train."
Dennie, wonderful to relate, had provided himself with a time-table,
though the "summer arrangement" of the railroad to Beaufort was not
complicated. He resorted to his hat to find it. But as he plucked the
printed slip from its place in the inner band of the hat his eye lighted
on Sylv's letter. Until that moment he had entirely forgotten that he
was a usurper of the postal function.
"Dog-gone it!" he exclaimed, "I come mighty near not givin' you this.
It's from Sylv."
Adela stripped away tho yellow envelope with startled haste; and on a
poor sheet of blue-ruled note-paper she read these words:
"Dear Deely: I did not mean to write anything, but the feeling
comes over me that I ought to say good-by to you and Dennie. I
have decided that my life here has been a failure, and I am
going away. I shall not come back. Mr. Lance thinks I have gone
to do something for him, but it is no use to look for me,
because no one can find me.
"I love you and Dennie, and want you to be happy together.
Remember that, and do not mourn over me any more than if I had
died. You know we cannot help dying. If I could do any good by
staying I would; but I am certain it is better for me to go.
"Tell Dennie I trust him to make you happy. I believe in him
and love him. Good-by. Sylv."
Dennie awaited the result of her reading in dumb expectancy, and saw the
look of horror in her face, but could not account for it.
Adela shrieked aloud. "Oh, he is dead!" she cried. "He meant to kill
himself! Help, Dennie, help! What are we to do?"
She stretched out her hand, with the letter in it; but Dennie only shook
his head, in helpless bewilderment.
"I can't read it," he said, piteously. "I don't know enough, Deely. That
ar writin'—Deely, what ails ye? What's he said there?"
The mistress of the academy came running in, alarmed by the girl's
"Sylv is going to kill himself," Adela repeated. "He says he's going
away; but I know—oh, I know what he means! See, Dennie; that's what he
says." And again she held the letter toward him, distractedly. "He says
good-by to you and me. Can we go to-day? Is there any train?"
Dennie offered the mistress his time-table, which to him was merely an
illegible curiosity—a memento of his unprecedented journey.
Without looking at it, however, she drew out her watch with a sharp tug
at the silken guard that held it. "Yes, you have time," she announced,
"if you hurry. I'll bring your things, Miss Reefe."
"Tell me 'bout it, Deely," said Dennie, fumbling hopelessly with the
letter, which he had now taken into his sunburned hands.
Adela set foot upon her agitation, and rapidly read the letter over to
Dennie appeared to be stunned. "Suicide?" he said. "What for? Hev you
got any right for to think that ar?" His tone was indignant. "What call
ar' he got to kill hisself? Sylv—our Sylv, I tell ye. My brother!"
"Because he hadn't anything left to live for! He was miserable," Adela
answered, with vengeful emphasis. "It is Mr. Lance did it—sending me
here. No! I did it, because I would not tell him what I felt. I wanted
to be true to you."
The truth burst upon Dennie like a flood, and his fierce temper rose to
meet it. For an instant a blinding light flashed dazzingly by across
everything that surrounded him; he grew giddy, and Adela had no more
important existence in his eyes than the table and the chairs around
him, or the lifeless walls of the room. His single desire was, in his
rage, to destroy something, to create havoc and ruin, answering to the
ruin of his own hopes. But the next instant he felt as if he were among
the pines, with his gun aimed at Sylv; and the thought that Sylv at this
very instant might be lying dead somewhere brought a ghastly picture
before his eyes. The whirl of maddening light passed away, and he stood
humiliated, mournful, calm, motionless.
"Then it's true at last!" he said, hoarsely. "You loved that man—my
brother—and he loved you."
For a moment Adela could not speak. Her lips moved, without sound. At
last she answered: "Yes. But I never told him, and he said nothing to
me. 'Twas only after we came here."
Dennie replied in a voice that made her think of the muffled breaking of
the waves on the distant coast. "I was fearsome of it, Deely, but I
swore I wouldn't think on't. It ar' best I know it now. We'll go and
look for—for Sylv. If he ar' alive, I'll bring you to him."
Without notice Hedson had appeared on the scene; he was hospitably
received by Colonel Floyd, and asked Lance to show him over the ground
in which the as yet unborn syndicate was expected to invest.
Accompanied by Sylv they were occupied in a general survey of the swamp,
from the outside, at the time when Dennie was talking with Adela in
Newbern. "Yes, yes; fine country for a cemetery," said the hale but
sceptical Hedson. "To come down to bed-rock on this thing," he added,
turning to Lance, "the expense of paring off the natural growth and
filling in here would be enormous, to say nothing of what the lawyers
call 'supplementary proceedings.' You know what that means, don't you,
Mr. De Vine?" Here he included Sylv in the favored list of those for
whom his remarks were intended.
The upshot of the exploratory drive was that Hedson gave a semi-adverse
judgment; notwithstanding which he began to consult with himself
inaudibly as to the best mode of going to work to buy some of the waste
land in question on his private account.
Sylv showed an unmistakable eagerness to begin his task of investigating
the interior of the swamp, and before he parted from Lance for the day
he took him aside and told him that he should be in the swamp by
daylight of the next morning.
Hedson and the colonel found plenty to talk about that evening, and
Lance was left alone with Jessie.
The conversation that passed between these two was somewhat ruffled.
Jessie found fault with her lover because he had gone to Newbern against
her will, and Lance assured her that his eccentric interest in Adela
Reefe was now appeased: he had done all that he wished to, in disclosing
to her the probable relationship with the Floyds, and would henceforth
leave her affairs, for the most part, alone. But Jessie was not content
with that declaration.
"If she comes back here to live, as you say she is about to do," she
asked, "what do you expect?"
"Simply that we shall receive her as one of us," said Lance. "I have
befriended her and the De Vine boys, and I intend to keep on. They are
inevitably a part of my system and my plans now."
"Then you are going to overturn everything," Jessie asserted.
In short, silly though it was, they quarrelled more seriously than they
had done hitherto.
Jessie, there is reason to believe, was very unhappy in consequence, and
passed a wretched night. And Lance scarcely slept a wink. He lay
restless on his bed, turning and tossing, until it seemed to him that he
veered this way or that with the varying gusts of the tempestuous wind
that hourly grew more turbulent, until Fairleigh Manor shook in its
"How the wind roars!" he growled aloud, starting from a half doze; and
after vainly waiting a while longer for repose he got up, dressed
himself, and went out.
The earliest gray of daybreak was visible in the eastern sky, but the
atmosphere was so surcharged with storm that he fancied he could hear
the seething of the angry ocean in the blasts that whirled around him,
though he was not within ten miles of the open sea.
An hour after he had left the manor a worn-out wagon from Beaufort drew
up in front of the door, and Dennie alighted. Dennie raised such a
clamor at the door that at last the inmates began to arouse themselves.
Jessie was the first to respond to the summons. She gathered hastily
from Dennie the object of his untimely call, and learned that Adela was
with him in the wagon. They were looking for Sylv; had been detained at
Beaufort, and were only just arrived; so they had come at once to the
manor to ask Lance if he knew anything of Sylv's whereabouts, since
Lance had been mentioned in the letter of farewell. But, a servant being
sent to Lance's room, it was discovered that he was not at home; and
Dennie forthwith started to drive to the shore, hoping that he might get
some clew from Aunty Losh.
Imagine Jessie's wonder and anxiety when she found that Lance had
disappeared! Her conscience had already stung her for the absurdity of
her quarrel with him; but now that he was out of reach, and that Dennie
had brought to her the apprehension of something tragic impending over
Sylvester, her excitement rose to fever-height. Daylight broadened while
she sat up, nervous and speculating, amid the noises of the disturbed
household; and the wind-storm increased in violence every moment,
keeping pace with her terror and her perplexity. Filled with
forebodings, and finding it impossible to remain inactive, she completed
her toilet, had one of the stable-hands called, and, leaving word for
her father that she had gone to the headland in quest of Lance, she
started to drive through the plantations.
Hunting Quarters being the nearer point, Dennie dropped the reins when
the jaded team which he drove brought him to a fork in the roadway, and
told Adela to drive to her father's house. He himself set out on a full
run for Aunty Losh's, and never paused until he reached the cabin-door.
Aunty Losh reported that Sylv had risen before dawn and gone toward
Elbow-Crook Swamp, saying that he had something to do there for Mr.
The storm raged more furiously than ever. The ocean could be heard
thundering at the outer bulwarks of the coast irresistibly. The great
billows were actually at that moment surging far beyond their wonted
limits and shaking the very roots of the low hills out by Hatteras,
though Dennie could not see them there. He could guess the tumult that
was in progress at Ocracoke and lower; the air was full of mist and
flying spray; the sea was literally pulling down the outer sand-heaps,
eating into them, doing its best to tear open a new inlet; and the
waters of the Sound were furrowed, foaming, and uncontrollable. Yet
Dennie could not delay. He began at once to retrace his course, heading
for the swamp, for he had several miles to go. It was only for an
instant, as he crossed the planks over the ditch he had so recently
made, that he observed how the water from the Sound was boiling through
the artificial channel.
He went on in headlong haste.
Before he had been twenty minutes out of sight Jessie drove up to within
a few rods of the ditch, and sped across the intervening space. Her
coachman warned her not to go thither. "You'll be blown away, missy," he
cried, despairingly. "Dis yer am a hurricane, and de hosses can't stan'
it much longer."
But, if she heard him, she paid no attention. In a few moments she had
crossed the narrow planks, which, bedded though they were in the earth,
trembled at the assaults of the wind. She had no more than vanished
among the trees around the cabin when the tide, rushing in renewed
volumes through the ditch, swept away the frail bridge as if it had been
straw. The banks began to crumble; and the coachman, barely able to
guide his horses, whipped up and drove away as well as he could, in
search of aid.
Dennie got over the ground with marvellous rapidity, taking the shortest
line for the swamp. The wind was blowing inland, and bore him along with
it; so, when he had gone two thirds of the way, it seemed to him that
but a few minutes had elapsed. He was on the regular road, now; but it
was providential, nevertheless, that he should encounter in that spot
another man. He hailed him loudly, amid the howling of the wind; and the
man, turning round, proved to be Lance! He, too, was on his way to the
swamp. Going forth aimlessly, he had made up his mind to join Sylv, if
he could find him, in the proposed expedition. Alarmed by the prodigious
force of the tempest, however, he would have turned back and endeavored
to regain the manor, if he had not met Dennie.
A few hasty words gave him knowledge of the threatened catastrophe; and
the two men joined forces in the forlorn attempt to find Sylv and
prevent his self-destruction.
Dennie knew where a boat could be had to launch upon the devious river
that ran through the swamp; and, fortunately, it turned out that Sylv
had not taken this boat for himself.
Together they entered the gloomy jungle. They not only plunged into the
desperate undertaking of trying to save the life of another man, who had
resorted to this convenient cover with the evident purpose of never
emerging thence, but they also engaged in a struggle which, for
themselves, was very like a life-and-death matter.
For some time they could not use their boat. They were obliged to drag
it through a tangled mass of roots and vines and treacherous brake,
until they could reach the stream. The exertion they made was almost
super-human, and would have been impossible to them except under the
terrible incentive that drew them on. Only when they were afloat, and
paddling warily along the dubious and unfamiliar current, did they
understand how their labor had sapped their strength. And only then,
also, did they perceive that they had passed from a world of uproar and
elemental upheaving into a realm as secluded and quiet as a tomb.
The mighty winds, it is true, rumbled through the tops of the trees
under which they were buried; but the dense mass of boughs and springing
verdure that walled in the secret places of the swamp, as with a hundred
separate walls, would not permit that wild commotion of the outer air to
reach them. Birds had fled hither from the hurricane, and even dared to
chirp in the lonely and forsaken thickets of this uncouth wilderness.
Day was spreading above the thick canopy of boughs, and was pouring its
light all round the vast area of the swamp at its edges; but here,
within, there reigned a perpetual and awful twilight. The slow, brown
stream ran on ahead, turning here and there, opening into blind creeks,
sprawling through the dusk like some great snaky thing with a hundred
sinuous arms and feelers; but it was rather by instinct and touch than
by any other means that the two men in the canoe traced the main body of
the slimy current. No landmarks were to be counted on there: the points
of the compass were obliterated.
The swamp was the home of oblivion. They moved through it as through a
place set apart for those who are condemned to a death in life.
From time to time they shouted aloud. Having no weapons with them, they
could make no other signal. They called to Sylv, with a hope that he
might answer to them from the next bend in the stream, or from some
adjoining depth of bough and bramble. Yet always the same dead silence
swallowed up the sound of their voices, and no human response came back.
The raw air, the shade, the moisture of the oozing current, gradually
invaded them with a chill that seemed to run through their very bones;
but it was with a more deadly chill that they gazed into one another's
eyes, and thought, without saying it, that perhaps they were even then
pushing their way over the liquid grave in which Sylv might have sought
How long they urged that ghostly chase it would not be easy to say: they
could form no judgment of the time. But at last Dennie caught sight of
what appeared to be a ruddy flame on a low island in the muddy flood,
some distance in advance. Neither of the paddlers was quite positive
that it was a real flame, but they put new vigor into their strokes, and
hallooed again. Once more, no answer.
Still, the flame grew more distinct. The canoe swept rapidly forward and
rubbed against the roots and sediment of the tiny island. No other boat
was moored there, but the fire flickered and spurted up more vividly.
Beside it they beheld Sylv, haggard, inert, and seemingly unconscious of
"Sylv! Sylv!" cried Dennie.
"What are you doing here?" Lance demanded.
Sylv shrank back, then started to his feet; the flame-light—looking so
garish in that gloomy place—thrown upward on to his wan checks in such
wise as to make them seem more hollow than they were in fact.
"I came here to die," he answered, without emotion. "Why did you follow
me? It would have been over before long."
They heard the booming of the storm-wind in the trees overhead, like the
groan of some remote unknown multitude of sufferers; and it chimed in
well with the lonely reverberation of his voice.
"It is over now!" Lance exclaimed. "Don't you see that we won't let you
die? It was mad of you to think of such a thing, Sylv!"
Dennie drew close to his brother swiftly, and put his arm around him, as
though to guard him from an unseen enemy.
"Sylv," he said, "it ar' all fixed and done. Deely loves ye—she have
told me—and I see that I ain't the one for her. I'm clean done with all
that ar foolishness, Sylv, and I told her she'd got to marry ye, anyhow.
Steady away now, Sylv. D'ye listen to me?"
The burly, red-bearded brother slid his hands down the arms of the
slender, dark-haired one, and held him as if he feared that he might
still break away and escape.
Lance, looking on, thought he had never seen anything more tender, more
brave and manly, than Dennie's expression and attitude. He had never, he
thought, heard finer sweetness in a man's voice than came from Dennie's
Sylv broke down. "Dennie, boy," he cried; and then paused, choking.
"Dear old Dennie!" (His brother winced at that unconscious repetition of
Adela's phrase.) "I never thought this would come! I was true when I
said I did not love her. I couldn't know what it would be like, then.
But, you see, I tried to get out of the way. Oh, why didn't you let me
The morbid mood which had impelled him to the resource of slow suicide,
by starvation in the swamp, could not at once be dispelled; but by dint
of soothing words and of reminders that they must lose no time in
getting back to the outer world, the two allies prevailed over Sylv's
"Where's your boat?" asked Lance.
"I set it adrift," was the answer.
A fresh peril was thus intruded upon them; for the canoe would hold
three persons only with the greatest precautions.
"You uns go, and then one can come back for me," Dennie suggested.
But Lance would not risk leaving him alone. It was decided, therefore,
that they should all embark and make their way to safety, if possible.
The hazard and suspense of the situation, however, roused Sylv up
thoroughly. All his finer qualities reasserted themselves, and he became
the guiding spirit in the endeavor of the party to extricate itself. He
whom the others had come to recall to life was now eager to lead them
out of the dilemma in which they had placed themselves on his account.
But in the anxiety of the moment he forgot one thing. The flame which he
had kindled, like a torch in the gloomy vaults of death, was left
burning; and they had paddled some distance before they remembered their
Meanwhile the lonely beacon, unwatched, had shot out an experimental
tongue to try sundry dry vine-stems hard by. The stems responded with a
brisk crackle. The flames scaled the side of a tree almost instantly,
and ran along the boughs. Thence they transferred themselves with ease
to another tree. Thus, in a few minutes, the blaze spread from the
island into the rest of the dense wood, and became a conflagration.
The smoke blew lazily toward the occupants of the canoe; then a lurid
glow shone along the murky water. They saw their danger, and paddled
with might and main; but the danger of upsetting the overloaded craft
handicapped them and retarded their progress.
Soon the glow came nearer and burst into actual fire. The whole swamp
seemed to be roofed with writhing flame. The heat was frightful: birds
flew away madly through the labyrinth; the shadowy shapes of wild
creatures scurried through the tangle, and scared serpents slipped out
from their lairs, trailing across the sluggish stream. All the while the
fire pursued the three human fugitives with what seemed a vindictive
intelligence: the long draperies of gray moss caught the sparks,
flashing them on in vivid festoons, and wrapping the forest in a
Blinded, stifled, and dizzy, the canoeists were at last obliged to
abandon their narrow bark and push their way through the fearful maze on
shore. Luckily, however, when they were driven to this extreme they had
come nearly to the edge of the wilderness.
Each struggling for himself, Lance and Sylv suddenly achieved safety:
they set foot upon the solid ground, and felt the fierce wind from the
sea. But at that juncture Dennie, who was behind them, stumbled, and was
caught in the mire. The hissing mass of flame advanced upon him, and
Sylv, seeing his danger, turned to help him.
Lance tried to hold Sylv back. He fought with him, in his desire to
prevent what he thought a certain sacrifice of two lives instead of one.
But Sylv, nerved by an ecstatic force, sprang away from him and reached
his brother's side. How it was done neither Lance nor Sylv could say
afterward; but the attempt succeeded, and Sylv dragged Dennie out of
danger, though not unscathed. The intense heat had blistered their faces
and hands even in the few moments that it had to work upon them; and
Dennie, hurt by the fall of a heavy branch which had struck his leg, lay
in the road, unable to rise.
"I LIVE, HOW LONG I TROW NOT."
One might well have supposed that the period of final destruction had
come on that eventful day. Wind, fire, and sea all combined to make it a
memorable one. For, while Lance and the De Vines were going through
their adventures in Elbow-Crook Swamp, the incoming tides, fomented by
the winds, not only swept away the paltry planking that joined Aunty
Losh's headland to the main shore, but also proceeded to crunch up and
dissolve a large portion of her real estate.
The freakish inroads of the sea on the North Carolina coast are scarcely
subjects for exaggeration, because they themselves outdo fancy. The
ocean thereabouts has an occasional fit of map-making. Not content with
changing the soundings as it pleases, it sometimes closes up an old
inlet, at a single mad flurry, or insists upon opening a new avenue in
any place that may suit its convenience. And so, at this particular
crisis, having thundered at the outer gates and found no admission, it
sent a heavy tide into the Sound, and played havoc there. The green
waters, ordinarily manageable enough, converted themselves into
cataracts. They heaved, frothed, billowed and raged, until Aunty Losh's
demesne, once an innocent promontory, became a very perilous and
The watery ditch turned into a rushing tide-way; then it became a deep
channel; and lastly it widened into an angry reach of turbulent waves,
which could be crossed only by boat. All this transformation, be it
remembered, was accomplished in a few hours.
Meanwhile, Aunty Losh and Jessie cowered in the little cabin on the
dwindling territory, and expected every moment to be swallowed up by the
surges that lashed so wildly around them.
But the retreating coachman had known what he was about. He had gone at
once to Hunting Quarters, where he had found Adela, who was herself
distracted with anxiety for Sylv, and therefore in a perfect mood for
venturing upon the wildest scheme of rescue that could be imagined. It
so chanced that the dug-out was harbored in a cove which the girl could
reach. The rude sloop clung there, thumping heavily on the bottom, and
lurching now and then against the shore, with an impact that would have
smashed any other sort of craft at short notice. But this was precisely
what she was made for, and so she endured the strain.
Adela prepared to take her out to the now isolated cabin, and bring off
the inmates. Old Reefe remonstrated. He said it was certain death to go;
that no boat could live in such a wind on a short, shallow sea; and that
his daughter must wait until the storm abated.
"No," cried Adela; "I am going, whether it's death or not! How do you
know what will happen to them out there if I wait? The cabin itself may
be swept away, and poor old aunty in it. Then, Dennie is there, and—and
perhaps Sylv." For one instant, as she uttered this name, her voice
sank. "If they had any boat, 'twould be another thing. But they're cut
off—they can't help themselves—and I'm going."
The brave girl hardly believed that she could make the trip in safety,
but she thanked her stars that Dennie had brought her up to handle a
tiller—and the rest she left to Providence.
The water was swashing up close to the door of the little hut, and Aunty
Losh and Jessie sat within, holding on to each other in silence when,
through the deep, prolonged roar of the tempest, they fancied that they
heard a shout—a woman's shout. Simultaneously with it there came a
thud, like the dropping of some heavy weight upon the ground just
outside of the house. "Lord be praised!" Aunty Losh exclaimed, "Thar
ain't nothin' could do that ar but the ole dug-out. Open the do', Miss
Jessie considered this as a command to invite dissolution into their
fragile shelter; but she obeyed.
In a few moments they were on board the sloop, bouncing and reeling
through the violent waves. By this time Colonel Floyd, having also
received the alarm, reached the spot on horseback. Waiting with old
Reefe on the shore, he noted every motion of the plunging sail, which
was let out barely enough to give the dug-out headway. Adela stood at
the helm, strong and masterful as a man, but with a quick, feminine eye
for every chance or change of the terrific gale, and with a touch that
responded instantly to her observation. She ignored her two passengers
But when, after several escapes from foundering and a weary battle of
tacking from one point to another, the sloop rounded, with her heavy
prow, into the cove and touched the land, the girl dropped down in the
There had been no time for delay or inquiry, and indeed it would have
been impossible to talk in the over-powering bluster of the storm, while
fighting a way through it; but Adela had been very much astonished both
by Jessie's presence at the cabin, and by the absence of Dennie. She now
tried to learn from Aunty Losh what had become of him; but the poor old
woman's mind was in such confusion from fright and from the suddenness
of her rescue that she could not furnish much enlightenment. As for
Jessie, she had gone to the headland without any knowledge of Lance's
actual whereabouts, but thinking it probable that her lover would go
there, since she had heard something vaguely about his arrangements with
Sylv. It was now noon, and the suspense in which she remained about
Lance, joined to Adela's fearful dread concerning Sylv, would not permit
them to rest. The colonel, who had been thrown into a wild excitement by
the failure both of his daughter and of Lance to return to the house,
hugged Jessie close to his heart with silent prayers of thanksgiving,
and wrung Adela's hand with gratitude, while the tears ran down his
cheeks. The carriage had followed him with fresh horses, bringing dry
wraps, food, and restoratives; and the colonel insisted that the best
thing to be done was for the three women to get in and go at once to the
manor with him.
Meanwhile Sylv and Lance, helping the disabled Dennie between them, had
arrived at the house, and were taking care of the sufferer.
I need not detail the recitals and explanations that followed. I will
say only that Jessie treated Adela like a sister that day, and ever
afterward. It was strange, mysterious, yet beautiful, to Lance's eyes,
to see them together; one of them the latest offspring of Gertrude
Wylde, rescued from oblivion—coaxed back, as it were, from the forest
shadows and the red race to her own race and kin—the other a descendant
of Gertrude's cousin, to-day rescued by her kinswoman from the engulfing
waters of the Sound. The whims and prejudices that had hampered Jessie
before were now totally dissolved; and Lance's dream was realized, after
all. The wild thought which had crossed his mind, of devoting his life
to Adela, proved to be simply a perversion of the ardent desire which he
had felt, that she ought to be included somehow in the lines of
relationship and love prescribed by her ancestry. His allegiance to
Jessie, never really shaken, was perfect and enduring. But these results
would never have come about had not the actors in the curious drama
remained, through all their troubles, sound and sincere of heart. They
had, every one, risen somewhat higher than they were when their
relations began. Each had advanced in his or her own way. Sylv strove
upward by means of intellectual effort and by will; Dennie attained to
as lofty a standard of conduct through the working out of instinct and
passion. But in whatever manner they had proceeded, all were true.
The wild storm went down that night, though the rolling sea and the
curling breakers of the Sound continued to heave for hours, throwing out
in the darkness broad lines and crests of phosphorescence that made them
look like fluid white fire. Then the rain came, in torrents; and it was
well that it came, for the danger to the inflammable pine-plantations,
from the conflagration in Elbow Crook, had become alarming. Not even the
sullen fierceness of that furnace—in which the swamp-woods, with all
their intricacies of flickering boughs, like some gigantic red coral
work, were melting down—could withstand the providential rain-streams.
The fire faded away as if by magic; and the next day, when Hedson went
out, with scores of other gazers, to look at the expanse of charred
débris where the wood had been, he remarked tersely (but in an
undertone) to Lance: "That property is now worth just one hundred
percent more for our purpose than it was day before yesterday. The
clearing has been done free of charge."
By the middle of the summer the county awoke to the fact that a
syndicate of Northern capitalists had purchased the tract and were going
to develop it into a prodigious vegetable garden. The reed-pulp
paper-mill went up; there was an immense quantity of ditching and
levelling carried on in the swamp. Little houses began to make their
appearance; now dwellers came to live in them; and a school and church
were found to be necessary. There is now a flourishing community in that
place; and while Lance, I am glad to say, has made a good deal of money,
his pleasure has grown largely from the knowledge that he has brought
about improvements which others also enjoy. Sylv acts as his chief
adviser and confidential agent.
Dennie's accident left him somewhat lame, but he has still found it
possible to be of service in some of Lance's undertakings. He prefers,
however, to retain a degree of independence by living on the island with
Aunty Losh, and following more or less his old employment in a superior
dug-out schooner, which has replaced the sloop. On the island he has
remained ever since the marriage of Sylv and Adela and their
installation in a pretty house which was built for them, near enough to
the manor to make it convenient for the children of Jessie and Adela to
meet often when they shall grow a little older.
One slight question came up, I must admit, as to who had the best right
to appropriate the old Wharton Hall motto. Sylv acknowledged that it
belonged primarily to Lance, by inheritance from Guy Wharton; but, then,
had it not been handed down to Adela as well? The point was settled
without dispute; for Sylv's house was built before Lance was ready to
remodel the manor, and when the plans were submitted to Lance he
proposed—with Jessie's permission—that he should be allowed to
contribute as his gift a tablet for the hall, on which were to be shown
(not cut in, but raised in bold relief) the lines beginning
"I live, how long I trow not."
Dennie has no new house and no old motto. I cannot suppose that he is
altogether a contented man; but I believe he is happy in having taken
the right course.
"My old heart do ache for ye, Dennie," said Aunty Losh to him, about the
time of the wedding. "There ain't much on't left at my time o' life; but
what there be of heart in me do ache, for sure. But ye done right, boy.
'Tain't no use tryin' to drive a woman. It's mighty like when ye tryin'
to make a passel o' hens come into the house; and ye chase 'em up and
say, 'Shoo!' and gits 'em a'most to the do'; and then they jist run
straight past it. No; ye can't drive a woman, Dennie, if she's sot her
mind ag'in it. That's what."
Dennie looked up from the tackle he was mending, and smiled. "Wal,
aunty," he said, "you and me make out to git along pretty squar'
together, don't we? I don't want for to drive ye, and ye can't look to
drive me, neither. I don't complain."
The last three words will do for his motto; and they make a sufficiently
MAJOR BARRINGTON'S MARRIAGE.
Major Barrington before the acquisition of his military title was a
rather shapely gentleman, with a fine, carrot-tinted complexion and
strong, reddish whiskers, corresponding well with it, and branching out
on either side of his chin with a valiant air.
Nor did his appearance greatly alter, immediately after passing from the
condition of plain citizen to that of a defender of his country. His
chin (which was shaven, and had a pretty little dent in the bottom of
it) came for a time more prominently before the public, being carried
somewhat higher in the air; but otherwise you would hardly have known
what a great man he was.
It happened thus: The War of the Rebellion had been going on for about a
year, and Mr. Zadoc S. Barrington was a boarder in the respectable but
shabby mansion of one Mrs. Douce, in East Thirtieth Street, New York—a
short, pale, dusty-looking woman, who had under her threadbare wing a
maiden relative, Natalia by name. Natalia was alternately visitor and
boarder, according as her slender income gave out or held out, and the
consequence of this variable status was an equally variable disposition
on the part of the aunt toward the niece. Mrs. Douce had naturally a dry
heat of temper, which was possibly the source of that pulverous look
about the face already noticed; and it was only by turning on periodical
smiles, like the spray from a watering-cart, that she was able to allay
the gritty particles of her irritability in the presence of paying
boarders. It was to be expected, therefore, that during Natalia's
impecunious seasons her aunt should relapse into unmitigated dustiness,
and puff her discontent, so to speak, in dreary little gusts at the
Being forlorn, was it strange that Natalia should look to Barrington for
sympathy? Not at all. By degrees he thus came—without any movement on
his own part—to take an important place in her daily experience. A
variety of little hopes and illusions, of which her life had been pretty
well divested before, and which she alone could not have revived, sprung
up spontaneously under the most casual glance of Zadoc S. For example,
though she had no appetite for Mrs. Douce's feeble dinners, she could
get up a fictitious enjoyment of them by looking at the robust
Barrington, whose bold coloring and hearty appearance deceived her as to
the real measure of his relish for that dreary cookery.
Barrington was not dangerously youthful, but neither was Natalia.
Financially he was not prosperous, but she was decidedly not so. Heaven
only knows how, during the years of his residence in New York, he had
contrived to subsist. It was not on any scientific principle of survival
that he persisted; but rather on the principle of the fallen sparrow.
Still, he was a portly sparrow, and must have needed a good deal to keep
him on his feet. But he remained on his feet—he never soared. And yet,
such as he was, Natalia—let us confess it with a becoming amount of
maiden timidity—yes, Natalia had begun to love him.
But she did not tell her love. She let concealment feed upon her
cheek—which, to be accurate, was not damask, but rather of the quality
of sarsnet. However, before her appearance had had time to suffer by
this process, an unexpected proceeding on the part of Barrington led her
to reveal her sentiment—to surprise and, one might say, surround him.
Did capture follow? Let us see.
At this period his affairs were very low. He was a prospective patentee,
a filer of caveats for little inventions, which no one could have been
hired to infringe, the most ingenious point of which was their perfect
adaptability for not making money. He was also by turns an agent for
books, subscription engravings, sewing-machines, and what not. He did
everything but succeed. Finally he conceived the idea of a new vegetable
lamp-oil that could be made from floating oily matter to be found in any
swamp. He had made close computation of the swampy land in the whole
State of New York, which could be bought for a trifle, and turned into
sources of boundless wealth. For a time he fed the flame of hope with
this visionary fluid; but a serious lamp explosion, resulting from one
of his experiments, deprived him at once of half his whiskers and all
his expectations. There was indeed one resource left him, the nature of
which we may discover presently; but he hesitated to avail himself of
it, because it might compromise his independence. In fact, a certain
steady effort to be a man and to keep his self-respect, in spite of his
many failures, was Barrington's finest trait, and always gave me a
liking for him, notwithstanding his weakness.
By the time his singed whiskers had regained their pristine vigor, and
when the war had passed through its first year, there drove up to Mrs.
Douce's door, one day, an express wagon with a trunk in it. The
startling thing about this was that the trunk (which was made of
sole-leather) was quite new, and had painted on it, with terrific
distinctness, this legend:
Capt. Z. S. Barrington, U. S. A.
The painted end of the trunk happened to be nearest the house. Now, Mrs.
Douce was at that very moment in her reception-room on the ground
floor—a sort of little bin or wine-cooler of a room, where (having
nothing better to cool) she kept callers, and sometimes herself—and
from there she spied the appalling arrival. She did not know, which was
the fact, that Barrington, tired of his sparrow's life on the pavements
of the metropolis, had been in correspondence with friends at
Washington, who had secured him the promise of a commission on his
applying for it. He had not at once made such application, but had gone
off with much high beating of the heart, and ordered the trunk, as a
preliminary, feeling perhaps that the final step would be easier to take
after committing himself thus far.
Mrs. Douce, I say, not knowing this, opened the door for the expressman
in a great flurry of excitement. "Now, indeed," thought she,
melodramatically, "I begin to feel what war is!"
Then she ran up-stairs herself, to inform Barrington that the trunk had
come. But he was equal to the emergency. With an unshaken demeanor the
hero rose from the table at which he had been conducting a busy and
wholly useless correspondence, and looked at Mrs. Douce with a
magnificent calm, which gave her a strange sensation of having
penetrated some great general's headquarters. Then he proceeded
down-stairs to parley with the expressman, who for a moment seemed to
take the place of a flag-of-truce bearer, or some kind of military
As Barrington descended he heard Natalia in the drawing-room conducting
to its close an extensive piece of music, with a copious rumbling of low
notes and a twittering of high ones, which was apparently reluctant to
be brought to a close at all. The sound touched his heart, somehow; but
he went on. It also touched Mrs. Douce, who had followed; but she did
not go on.
She stopped in the narrow passage, just by a niche containing a tall and
bilious-complexioned alabaster vase, with scraggly arms, which had
always impressed her as giving the house a great advantage over other
boarding-houses. (That vase, by the way, had levied its tax in many a
bill.) But now it seemed gloomily symbolic; everything had begun to seem
unnatural and suggestive since that trunk appeared. She fancied the vase
was like a "storied urn," containing the ashes of some valiant warrior
who should no more wield the humble breakfast-knife at her devastated
table. Overcome with emotion, she passed on and pushed open the
"Natalia," she exclaimed, impressively, "guess what has happened!" As
the expressman, with fate-like footsteps, tramped up-stairs, carrying
the trunk on his shoulder, Barrington, who came after him, noticed that
the rumbling and twittering of the piano had ceased, and that his
landlady had disappeared. The two women were, in fact, conversing in
agitated whispers on the other side of the closed parlor door.
"Well, never did I think to lose him!" exclaimed Mrs. Douce.
"Poor aunt!" said Natalia; "and so late in the season, too."
"It isn't that so much," interrupted the other, severely; "but it hurts
me that he should have been so sudden and so secret."
"Perhaps he thought we—" Natalia paused, and blushed. "But why should
he think we'd urge him to stay?"
"Hark! is he coming down again?" said her aunt. No; it was merely the
expressman. He thumped his way down to the street door. They heard the
wagon drive off, and for a moment afterward they held their breath, as
if a battle had been raging near them, and the heavy current of the
fight had now swept by, leaving them in suspense, lest it should return.
Then the dignified step of Barrington resounded on the staircase. He
came to the door, and opened it. "I ought," he began, stepping in with a
smile, "to explain matters a little."
Mrs. Douce's mood was like that of elderly matrons at the wedding of a
young friend. She hardly knew whether to laugh or cry. "Oh," she
returned, in the breathless, short-of-supplies manner usual with her in
awkward situations, "oh—no—explanation is needed, Mr. Barrington!"
and, after a short pause, simpering, "I'm sure."
Natalia, meanwhile, stood in a shrinking, drooping attitude near the
battered rosewood piece of furniture from which she had been drawing
music, and looked a good deal like one of those young ladies in old
colored prints who devote themselves to standing mournfully under
weeping willows, among headstones.
"Well, you see," proceeded Barrington, who took Mrs. Douce's denial at
its worth, "I didn't say anything, because—well, it wasn't quite
"Then you're not sure of going to the war?" Natalia burst forth, with
pathetic eagerness. (Barrington noticed that her heightened color was
becoming to her.)
"Sure?" answered he, cruelly; "oh, yes; humanly speaking, I suppose it's
sure enough. I—good gracious!—I only—"
These incoherent phrases were drawn out by the effect his statement had
produced. Natalia's eyelids fell at his words. She was trying to repress
a tendency to sob. By the time the hero had discovered this a tear had
found its way into sight beneath her eyelashes.
"There!" cried Mrs. Douce, sternly. "Any one might have known it. We
aren't made of sole-leather, Mr. Barrington. [He said to himself it was
lucky she had told him this.] Common humanity and friendship ought to
have shown you what this suddenness would lead to."
"I can't help it," murmured her niece, referring to the tears now
hurrying down her face, and misled by the matron's angry tone and her
own confusion into the idea that she was being scolded. (She was at
this time without money.)
"Of course you can't, dear," said the aunt, soothingly. "As if any one
with any considerateness, or average humanity, I may say, would suppose
you could! I am not the woman to blame you for giving way under the
circumstances, Natalia. It only shows you've got a heart, while some
people—Mr. Barrington, excuse me, but I must speak out." However, she
didn't speak out any further, but wound up with: "Anyway, it can't be
worse than it is [though nobody had intimated that it could be]. You've
decided to leave me. Well, that's what I must expect, I suppose." And
she dropped into a chair, and patted her thumbs together, as if there
were some crushing sarcasm in the action, which satisfied her wounded
Barrington succumbed to remorse. Besides, Natalia's unhappiness aroused
his sympathy, and he became angry—without knowing whether he had a
right to be so—at Mrs. Douce's taking the part of a comforter. He
fancied he could do this even better than she. "Of course," he said,
stiffly, "I don't expect to leave you without compensation for not
giving notice. I shall pay you for two or three weeks extra."
He felt a dreadful sinking of the pocket as he spoke; but dignity
required the sacrifice. The landlady did not respond for an instant; her
eyes wandered about with a pained, prophetic air. "What have I done,"
she cried, "to bring this upon me? Mr. Barrington, have I ever asked you
more than we agreed upon? Have I treated my family meanly? You have
been in this house two years, and I know you can't point to anything.
What have I done to be insulted so?" she demanded of the faded
A moment of silence followed this outburst; then she swept out of the
room, with a thin rustle of her black dress, and left the prospective
captain and Natalia alone.
Miss Douce put away her handkerchief in a business-like manner, and
looked at Barrington with soft appeal. "Ah, why didn't you tell?"
"Tell? My dear Miss Douce, I had no idea—"
"Thoughtless man, not to foresee!"
"I didn't suppose your aunt would be so much annoyed."
"Oh, I didn't mean that!" said Natalia, growing judiciously pettish.
"Not her," said the maiden, significantly.
"Really, Miss Douce," said Barrington, "you have surprised me—I had no
"Don't, for pity's sake, tell me again that you had no idea!" exclaimed
"I beg your pardon, I meant to say something."
"What good can it do to say anything, when you have done your best to
break our hearts?" she demanded. And here she brought out the
handkerchief again, and began to look dangerously tearful.
"Goodness!" said the unfortunate man. "I'm sure I didn't mean to. I
would a good deal rather stay at home than have you feel this way."
"You have caused me great suffering, whether you meant to or not,"
declared Miss Douce, with a quaver in her voice. Then, replying to his
devotion: "Will you give up going, to prove your words? Will you stay at
Barrington felt the glory upon his horizon beginning to fade. He braced
himself by a chair with one hand; with the other he took Natalia's. "Do
you ask this as a personal favor?" he said.
Miss Douce was weeping slightly again. "I don't want you to go," she
answered, shyly, turning away her head. "Yes, for my sake, stay!"
At this crisis Rawsden, one of the junior boarders, who had just
returned from business and had been met at the reception-bin by Mrs.
Douce with news of the dread trunk, passed up-stairs and caught a
glimpse of the tableau, from the hall. "Aha," he muttered (for he was a
cynical youth)—"Hector and Andromache!" And then he glided on and up to
his remote chamber.
Zadoc S. still hesitated a moment. "I shall not go immediately, in any
case," he said, gently. "I shall be here some days yet."
"But why go at all?" urged the Andromache. "Is it irrevocable?"
"No," he answered, unguardedly. "I—I haven't got my commission yet. I'm
only expecting it."
There was a sudden revulsion of feeling on this announcement. Barrington
became aware that his position was not so heroic as it had been, and
Natalia began to blush violently at having betrayed her feelings on a
sham emergency. But, as it happened, neither of them thought of getting
out of the trouble by laughing.
"You see, now, why I kept it to myself," he proceeded, awkwardly, after
Miss Douce had released her hand, and now rose abruptly. "Oh, yes," she
said; "I suppose it was all very foolish of me—but—you will forgive
"I assure you, I feel honored," cried Zadoc, warmly, "by your
solicitude. And, if I dared—if you would allow me—"
Let me here confess that I haven't the slightest notion what Barrington,
in that moment of impulse, was going to say. But explanation is made
unnecessary by the fact that Miss Douce didn't allow him to finish.
"Don't say any more," she begged. "It is too painful. I must go and find
my aunt, Mr. Barrington, to tell her there's a hope of your staying. For
if your commission shouldn't come—"
"I should wait, of course," he responded, captivated by her glance.
Naturally, after this, he went up to the room which Mrs. Douce's fancy
had transformed into a headquarters, and wrote to his Washington friends
not to get the commission. Of course, too, Mrs. Douce came gently
rapping at his door, in the evening, with a face as solemn as an
obituary notice, and with his bill in her pocket, whereon she had
obediently registered the item of compensatory payment, which she had so
scornfully rejected in the afternoon. Quite of course he said, with
dignity: "You may leave the bill, but I have decided not to go." And
then, by sequence, she affirmed—her face irradiated with joy—that she
had brought the bill very reluctantly, in the first place, and, if he
would excuse her, she thought she would not leave it.
As a further matter of course, Miss Natalia, being informed of the
abandonment of warlike measures, pretended not to care anything about
the episode, and to feel that it was rather an impertinence than
otherwise to bring it to her notice.
On the other hand, little Rawsden had been cracking his joke about
Hector, etc., to a Miss Sneef, a rather pretty young boarder, whom he
honored by confiding to her his more successful sarcasms; and, when she
imparted to him, next day, the news of Barrington's capitulation, he had
the presence of mind to smile pallidly and look as if he had known all
about it from an early period of his existence. Without changing his
tone, he muttered, dryly: "Antony and Cleopatra!"
The two parties most concerned said nothing about it to each other for
days. But the interval was not unemployed. Mrs. Douce, having now
discovered her niece's inclination (if she had not known it before), was
allured by a calculation, based on the fact that Barrington had always
managed to pay his bills, and on the hope that if Natalia were to become
Mrs. Barrington two permanent paying boarders might be secured, with
possibly, in time, a half price besides. "One of these days, after all,"
she said to Barrington, whom she took an early opportunity of seeing
alone, "you will be going off and leaving me, I fear."
"Oh, no," said he; "I've really given up the war!"
"But there are other things than war."
"Other things to carry me away, do you mean? Or other disasters?"
"Well, not exactly disasters," said Mrs. Douce, hastily; "I mean
"You don't call that a disaster, then?" Barrington inquired, wickedly.
"But what on earth has put this into your head?"
"It's much easier to get into my head than war. If you could think of
such an unnatural thing as going to war, you might easily decide to
marry," was the landlady's equivocal conclusion.
"What, I?" exclaimed Barrington, trying not to grow red, but doing so.
"I see I've made you suspicious."
At this juncture a faint ghostly voice was heard rising from the
basement, where the cook had long been buried, to the third-story
banister, where they were talking. "Mrs. Douce, Mrs. Douce!" And Mrs.
Douce, giving him an arch look, observed, with a dry laugh: "I don't
know what you're plotting." Then she obeyed the voice.
Whether this talk was the cause, or whether it was owing to the interest
which Miss Natalia Douce's behavior with regard to the military trunk
excited, Barrington's attention was more closely directed to her now,
and he observed in her from day to day a deepening melancholy. She
became listless, and fell into reveries. She played more than usual on
the piano in the dowdy parlor, behind the bilious-looking but
aristocratic vase; but there was less rumbling and twittering in her
music than formerly, and there were more pensive strains. She played
"Make me no Gaudy Chaplet" and nocturnes by sundry composers; she sang
"The Three Fishers." All this was the more interesting, in that there
was no apparent personal application in the music she choose, since no
one had insisted upon her accepting a gaudy chaplet, and she was not
wedded as yet to a fisherman. But one evening Barrington, coming down a
few minutes before dinner, entered the parlor as she was wrenching from
the key-board the last phrases of a funeral march in the "Songs without
Words." He listened attentively until she had finished; then, after a
moment's reflection, called out from the arm-chair he had taken: "But
why do you play such mournful things, nowadays, Miss Natalia, especially
before dinner? No wonder you have no appetite."
Natalia didn't answer, but got up in silence and made for the door. On
the way, however, she turned toward him with a look of indignation and a
terrible flash of the eye. The next instant she was gone. She did not
appear at dinner.
"What do you suppose is the matter with your niece?" Barrington blandly
asked the aunt, at table. "I made a casual remark about her playing,
just now, and she left the room without a word."
Mrs. Douce did not answer the question until the next day, when she came
to Barrington's room. "I've found out all about it, now," she said. "The
idea of asking me what was the matter, when you had been speaking to her
in that way!"
"Good Lord!" cried Harrington, nettled. "What way? It was innocent
enough; and I really don't like those tunes."
"After all that has happened!" continued the landlady, casting up her
"Well, what has happened?" he demanded.
"Why, your thinking of going to the war—and—and Natalia's feeling
badly, and—well, you understand, though I can't explain myself, you've
put me out so with your abruptness."
"It's always my abruptness or my suddenness," complained Barrington.
"No; I don't understand you."
Mrs. Douce's dusty face hardened and dried till it became a very desert
of physiognomy. "Well," she said, "you are not a boy, and I—well, I am
old enough, I suppose," with a catch of the breath, "to be your mother.
So we may as well speak plainly. You see that Natalia is deeply
interested in you; you consented for her sake to give up going to the
front; and now you coolly abandon her. Not content with that, you begin
to taunt her with her melancholy. I little expected this, Mr.
Barrington. I little expected it."
"Oh, you're unjust!" said Zadoc S.
"At least, you'll admit you've wounded her feelings and ought to
apologize," was the rejoinder.
"Perhaps so," he confessed, feeling sorry for Natalia.
"Go and see her," urged his landlady, gently, though still with
something of the desert atmosphere in her voice. "Speak to her about
"But, remember there's only one thing can make your conduct consistent
and restore her happiness."
"You mean," said Barrington, exploring the dent in his chin with his
forefinger—"you mean, propose?" Then, as if this were quite out of the
question, he shook his head vigorously, smiling. "Of course not that;
but I don't see what else you can mean."
"Nothing else," said the voice of the desert.
"It's impossible," he rejoined, quietly.
"You must," responded the voice.
Then Barrington delivered a crushing blow. "I have promised to marry
some one else," he said, with great composure.
To Mrs. Douce's gasping, broken, indignant queries he replied that the
lady's name was Magill, and that she was a widow possessed of ample
means. There had long been an understanding between them, he declared,
but he had been unwilling to marry without an independent property of
his own. Unable to acquire this, he had hoped at least to gain
distinction in the army. That hope he had sacrificed out of pure
sympathy for Miss Natalia Douce's distress; and now he had concluded to
marry without further delay.
I pass over the period of internal convulsion in the Douce hearts,
widowed and maiden, which followed Barrington's disclosure. For a time
their disconcertment was so obvious that Rawsden had it all his own way
in making contemptuous remarks about them to Miss Sneef; and to judge
from the conversation of these two singular young people, you would have
supposed that nothing could give them such exquisite delight as to prove
that all human beings are unspeakably false and absurd, and that if they
could but have succeeded in showing each other—Miss Sneef on her part,
and Rawsden on his—how they two were the falsest and absurdest of all,
their happiness would have been complete.
But Natalia soon rallied from the shock of Barrington's engagement to
Mrs. Magill, at least far enough to begin an exasperating warfare of
innuendo, which, though it stabbed her own heart as well, brought a balm
of revenge to her own wounds, but left Barrington quivering under the
petty blows. She made frequent allusions to that neglected trunk
belonging to the non-existent Captain Barrington, U.S.A.; affected to
believe that he kept in it a complete set of defunct accoutrements,
which she begged him to put on some time and show to the "family;" and
in general taunted him most unfairly with his abandonment of his whilom
noble resolve to seek the martial field.
Before long the entire "family" of boarders had joined more or less
actively in this guerilla attack; and the worst of it was, that they
always kept just beyond the pseudo-captain's range. He couldn't retort
upon them without losing his dignity. At last he hit upon a masterly
defence. One day he said to Natalia, carelessly, at the table: "Oh, as
to my uniform that you've been asking about, I'll show it to you
to-night! I am going to drill."
The effect was gratifying. Natalia grew pale at the thought that her
cruel sneers had actually driven Barrington (whom she continued to adore
in spite of his desertion) back to the cannon's mouth, so to speak. The
other boarders were also deeply impressed, in their several degrees.
These emotions were considerably modified, yet not wholly effaced, when
the military aspirant finally appeared in his trappings; for he did not
wear the United States uniform. He was clothed in the splendors of a
militia major. He revealed to the little group of fellow-boarders, who
had assembled with a sort of hushed solemnity to inspect him, that for
some time he had been getting up a new, independent cavalry company, of
which he was now the commander.
"And you're all organized?" asked one gentleman, gazing at the major as
if he were an entire company in himself.
"Yes; first drill to-night," said Barrington, with a business-like air,
lighting a cigar, and looking quite terrific.
"Thought a company was commanded by a captain, and not a major,"
observed Rawsden, rescuing himself from a secret feeling almost of
admiration, and becoming cynical again, just in time to retain the
approval of Miss Sneef, who gave him a sagacious glance.
"Yes, that's the common way," said the officer, with superior
indifference; "but in consideration of my zeal and expense in getting up
the company, which is very large, I rank as Major of the National Guard
of the State." Then, with striking precision, he executed a brilliant
retreat from the parlor, slammed the street-door, as he went out below,
with a report like a cannon, and left the awe-struck boarders to spend a
miserably peaceful evening, in a state of deep humility, while he reaped
the first honors of his new career.
There was much question among them as to where he had got the money for
this great undertaking; but Mrs. Douce shrewdly suspected that the
widow's gold had something to do with it. She was right. Mrs. Magill's
money had gilded the major's uniform and the spurs whereby he was now
hoping to leap into the saddle of fame.
Still, there was no immediate sign of the threatened marriage for some
time after this. Barrington took part in sundry parades, and he and his
company were freely mentioned in the papers. But the widow remained so
entirely in the background that Natalia almost believed she was a myth;
and there was no change in Zadoc's military life, except that the
letters U. S. A. on the trunk were replaced with N. Y. S. N. G. Then
came the tremendous day when Barrington's cavalry were ordered out, with
other militia, to resit the rebel invasion of Pennsylvania. I will spare
the reader the hardships of that campaign. It is enough that the gallant
major should have undergone them; and, to tell the truth, he was not
slow to make the most thereof. He never went into a fight, and hardly so
much as heard the snapping of a cap or the drawing of a sabre while his
company was at the front; for they were kept marching and
counter-marching, for strategic purposes, guarding supply-trains or
small batches of prisoners; but he was a hero, for all that, when he
returned. He had been obliged to forego shaving during his fortnight's
absence, and this gave him a suitably battered and realistic look. I'm
sorry to say he was in no hurry about shaving after he came back. He
deliberately made capital of that stubby growth on his chin and upper
lip, and it lent great effect to his tales of suffering with mud and
rains, and beds of hard wood in barns, and to the agony he expressed at
not having met the craven foe.
Rawsden and Miss Sneef attempted to turn these narratives to ridicule,
but the effort failed signally. Barrington was a success. He had always
been trying to be one, on some solid basis or other. Now he had become
so on no basis at all.
Mrs. Magill was satisfied with her investment, but she wished now to
make it permanent. In short, she thought in time that the major should
fulfil his promise of marriage. It is scarcely necessary to say that,
meanwhile, his resplendent military renown had redoubled his
fascinations for the pensive Natalia; and that maiden's faithful
admiration and devout sympathy with him in the dangers to which he had
lately been exposed had begun to make an impression on his simple,
pompous and sanguine middle-aged heart. In all this time the two women
who divided his affections and interests had not once met. Being charged
with their rival influences, it almost seemed as if the major, while
uniting them in his mind, had possessed a sort of chemical power of
keeping them apart. But now he became extremely anxious to bring them
into each other's society. The pretext he found was that of private
theatricals. He proposed to Mrs. Magill that an entertainment in this
line should be gotten up at the drill-room of the company, which was a
sort of riding-school arena, easily transformed into a theatre. She
consented at length, but only on the understanding that this was to be
Barrington's last grand frolic before settling down to married life.
"Yes," said Barrington, in vague terms; "I sha'n't want to remain single
any longer." But he was a good deal alarmed to find himself wondering,
at that very moment, which lady it was that he intended to marry.
Mrs. Magill and Natalia were made acquainted, and among them the three
soon completed their plans for the performance. The piece selected was
Boucicault's farce, "Wanted—a Widow." The major had pressed Mrs. Magill
to take a part, but, with a becoming distaste for publicity, she
declined, and Natalia was induced to play in her stead. Considering the
title of the farce, the widow's abstention was certainly judicious; but
I think she would have been better pleased to see Natalia in the rôle of
Lady Blanche Mountjoy, rather than that of the successful widow, Mrs.
Lovebird. Lady Blanche was taken by Miss Sneef, who, being young and
pretty, yet withal sceptical by nature, made a success of the part. Mrs.
Magill, whose eyes began to survey Natalia in the appalling light of a
rival, after the first interview, took care to be present at all the
rehearsals, as you may believe; and a little real drama, for which no
rehearsal was needed, began to move within the fictitious one.
Mrs. Magill was a short and rather fleshy person, with a bland
countenance, in which the experiences of her forty years—good and bad
alike—had agreed to get under shelter of a placid and non-committal
tinge of pink, there to make what pretence they could of not being
experiences at all. There was the same discreet, uncommunicative look
about her hair, which she wore stamped down along her forehead, with the
severe simplicity of a butter-pat. Natalia's face, on the contrary,
showed whatever she had been through. Thus, the widow and the unmarried
woman trenched on each other's provinces, and promptly took a dislike
one to another.
The farce in hand, as all my readers may not remember, turns upon the
fact that Henry Revel (Barrington), having been jilted by a lady who
became Mrs. Lovebird, has taken to reckless courses, and finally
becomes a heavy debtor, in hiding from the sheriff. In this dilemma he
gayly advertises for a rich widow, "with immediate possessions," and his
whereabouts thus come to the knowledge of Amy Lovebird, now widowed,
who deserted him originally only to marry a rich man who could save her
father from ruin. She seeks Harry at once, in order to explain and to
draw him back to herself. When he receives her response to his
advertisement, however, pride and resentment make him unwilling to
profit by her wealth. Meanwhile, Amy's friend, Lady Blanche, plans a
stratagem to test him, so that it may appear whether he receives his
former flame's advances out of mercenary policy, or with the old-time
affection. She persuades Amy to appear before him as if in great
poverty, while she herself (Lady Blanche) writes him a letter, stating
her fortune and a fictitious age, and requesting a meeting to consider
the matrimonial project. When Harry meets Amy and hears this made-up
story of her poverty, although his early love remains unabated, he
decides to see the other widow, Lady Blanche, whose letter he has just
received, to marry her, and to use the money thus acquired for the
relief of Mrs. Lovebird. This decision, of course, makes him appear
for a time false to Amy; and the motive of the piece is, accordingly,
that of the hero's struggle between the powers of love and of money.
Since he finally marries Mrs. Lovebird, the superficial moral of the
play was favorable to Mrs. Magill, considered with reference to
Barrington's vacillations, because the major's affair with her antedated
the first springing up of a sentiment for Natalia, and, moreover, she
was rich. So the widow had no fear as to the moral influence of the
drama upon his mind. But the deeper lesson of this amusing composition
is that of fidelity to love without money; so, as a matter of fact, it
had a powerful effect in attaching the major to Natalia. At first he
thought little about it. But, as the rehearsals went on, he found that
theatricals, being an art, and having the magic of art, sometimes give
one a strange, new interest in the real person, exhibited under subtly
novel circumstances; and he began to think it would be pleasant to
follow up his imaginary devotion to Natalia with a real passion.
In proportion as this feeling of the major's grew, Mrs. Magill tired of
seeing him perpetually going through the farce with Natalia, and coming
out as her tried and trusted lover. She resolved to hasten the date of
the performance, perhaps also hoping, furtively, that Natalia wouldn't
be ready, and would therefore fail disgracefully.
On his part, Barrington, to whom the new partiality for Natalia had made
the rehearsals increasingly pleasant, found also that the conflict
between this and his promise to Mrs. Magill brought in an element of
painfulness. He became exceedingly blue, and even treated the widow
"Zadie," said she, one evening, as they walked home from the drill-room,
"what ails you? I thought you were going to get so much amusement out of
"I wish I'd never gone into them!" he answered, gloomily.
"How unkind to say that, after the condition we made about them!" This
allusion didn't improve his temper.
"I don't forget my promise, though I am sorry," he said, dubiously.
"Sorry about the promise, you mean?" asked the widow, with an archness
that failed for want of a street-lamp to light it up.
"You wouldn't like it if I should says yes," he retorted.
"Oh, if you're sorry," she exclaimed, haughtily, "we'll give up
the"—here the major became attentive and eager—"the theatricals
altogether!" she concluded.
"The theatricals," muttered he, disappointed; "I thought you were going
to say—But no! We'll play the farce out, and, when it's done, we'll
have the wedding. Does that satisfy you?"
"It's very wrong of you to talk of it that way," said Mrs. Magill, too
sagacious to lose her temper. "But I know you'll regret it." And so,
holding him firmly by the arm, she carried him off to the door, where
At length, the evening of the performance came, and all the independent
cavalry, and their friends, assembled to look at it. Rawsden was
unusually cynical that day, and came near disabling Miss Sneef for her
part by the number and variety of his pessimistic remarks. But this was
due merely to his own inward trepidation on her behalf; and it was with
a strange whirl of by no means cynical emotion, raging underneath his
calm dress-coat and well-starched shirt-bosom, that he left her at the
dressing-room, and took his own place in the audience. As for
Barrington, the contradiction of moods into which he had fallen excited
him to great energy, and he consequently achieved a brilliant success in
the first part of the piece. Mrs. Magill sat refulgent and
diamond-flashing in her place, drinking in the praise of the major,
which was murmured on all sides; these bright moments compensated her
for all the pain of the rehearsals. But between the first and second
scenes the curtain fell, to allow the arranging of a new "set." The
shadow of that descending curtain was destined to darken seriously the
widow's fair prospect.
Just as the audience were getting impatient for the second scene, an
audible disturbance arose on the stage, in the midst of which the green
cloth was rolled up, revealing a pictured street. No one "came on,"
however; and as a moment elapsed, and the disturbance increased, Mrs.
Magill suspected something wrong. Then Natalia burst out on the
astonished spectators, through the right entrance, with a distracted
air, crying out, with apparent unconsciousness of the lifted curtain,
"What! Major Barrington has cut his head open? Where?"
Some of the audience began to laugh, several ladies screamed, and the
cavalrymen were divided between a wish to comfort their frightened
guests and the duty of running to their commander's aid, when Barrington
appeared from the sides, moving mechanically, and with a distinct wound
on his forehead. At this sight Natalia, who had but half crossed the
stage, paused, screamed sharply and spread out her hands, seeking
support. Meanwhile the stage-manager had got the curtain started down,
and it dropped silently upon the unexpected tableaux.
By the time it had touched the boards Mrs. Douce had reached the
dressing-room. She now stood leaning over her niece, who had fainted,
and was lying in a chair. Mrs. Magill, being of inferior velocity, was
much longer in making her way to the stage through the crowd of excited
people now hurrying to and fro. A hack had already been ordered for
Barrington, who was sitting behind the street in Lady Blanche's
drawing-room, with his head bound up, and looking rather pale. The hero
of a hundred failures, he had at last managed to get a genuine hurt.
"Oh, horrible, horrible!" cried Mrs. Magill. "Speak to me, Zadie; how
did it happen? Can no one tell me?"
"We were just getting up Lady Blanche's chandelier in great style,"
exclaimed the manager, "when Major Barrington came along, and—"
"No more, no more, for mercy's sake!" entreated the widow, with a
"Yes," continued the manager, with severe accuracy; "he hit his head
"Mrs. Douce," cried Mrs. Magill, "run out and get my things for me—at
"I'm sorry," said the landlady, rather sharply, "but I can't leave
Natalia." Here some one came forward, and said the hack had arrived.
"You see," protested the widow, "I must have my things." But Mrs.
Douce devoted herself to Natalia, obliviously.
Barrington had by this time been got on his feet, and was walking slowly
toward the stage-door, the arm of a fellow-officer under his own.
"Major," cried the exasperated widow, "stop!" And, as she spoke, she
stepped in front of him.
Barrington did stop; but he looked feebly peevish, and in a tone of
disgust said, plainly, "Do let me alone, can't you?" There could be no
doubt as to his words.
The conflict over his remains, which seemed likely a moment before to
become obstinate received a check in this utterance from, as it were,
the very dead. Mrs. Magill fell back in horror, and the major was
triumphantly borne away with Natalia.
The farce was never finished; but the assembled company set about the
dance which had been planned to succeed it. Rawsden and Miss Sneef
enjoyed this very much, in their superior way, and, in fact, the
breakdown of the histrionic effort made those youthful misanthropists
thoroughly hilarious. The events of the next few days, after the "caving
in" of the Major's head (as Rawsden described it), furnished him with
still further material for entertainment.
Mrs. Magill resumed the field early the next morning, seeking to visit
her poor major. This Mrs. Douce prevented her from doing by powerful and
imaginative descriptions of Barrington's condition, and citations from
Mrs. Magill then proposed to hire a room in the house. But Mrs. Douce
solemnly averred she had no room to spare. Still, the next day Mrs.
Magill came, with a carriage full of things, including light bedding, to
occupy the enemy's country, and declared she would bivouac in the
"But the parlor belongs to my boarders," said Mrs. Douce. "Use of parlor
included, those are the terms."
"Then I'll take the reception-room."
"The door is very narrow," said Mrs. Douce, scrutinizing the massive
form of the invader so insinuatingly as to make the non-committal pink
in Mrs. Magill's cheeks give place to an angry red.
Mrs. Magill turned, and called out of the open door to the
carriage-driver to bring in the bedding, etc. "Recollect," she said,
severely, to Mrs. Douce, "he is my husband that is to be."
The landlady looked inquiringly at the driver, and then, as if
correcting her impression, said: "Oh, the major? That makes no
difference. Those things shall not come in! Besides, it isn't at all
certain that he is."
"Not certain? How can you dare?"
"He says so himself."
"Then he's out of his mind," said Mrs. Magill, calmly.
"He was," replied Mrs. Douce.
"I won't converse with you," said Mrs. Magill.
"Then please order your man not to bring in those things."
But Mrs. Magill refusing, "I will tell him," announced Mrs. Douce,
stepping out to do so.
Mrs. Magill, with great presence of mind, instantly shut the spring-lock
door and began to walk up-stairs. There was a furious rattling at the
door-handle, from the outside, followed by violent ringing. But no one
came to open, until the widow had gained the first landing. Mrs. Douce,
being admitted at last, swiftly mounted after her. It was a fearful
chase; but there was no way of heading off the intruder now.
They went up another flight. But Mrs. Douce over-reached her opponent by
calling out, in a loud voice: "You can't see him, Mrs. Magill! Mrs.
Magill! Mrs. Magill!"
Immediately after this they heard the lock working in Barrington's door.
The major was safe in his intrenchments.
Nothing daunted, however, Mrs. Magill strode forward and knocked. There
was no answer except a slight cough, probably caused by the officer's
sudden exertion in locking his door. "Major," said the widow, in a
gentle tone, "do you hear me?" Echoless silence received her words. She
began again, with a considerably increased alertness of voice: "Major!
Are you engaged or not?"
"Very much so," answered Zadoc from within, and with a startlingly
robust and comfortable voice for an invalid.
"I mean, to me," explained Mrs. Magill, with annoyance. "Mrs. Douce,
here, has the face to declare that you are not. I wish the question
answered in her presence. Are you engaged to be married?"
"I am sorry not to be able to open the door," responded the evasive
Barrington. "It fatigues me to talk in this way, so I hope you'll be
satisfied with my answering this one question."
"Well," said the widow, more affably, "say you are—"
"I are engaged to be married," promptly struck in the major, with
"Am, you mean," Mrs. Magill corrected. But silence had resumed its
reign on the other side of the door.
"Very well, that will do," she concluded, somewhat as a prose Portia
finishing a cross-examination in a modern law-court might have done. She
shot upon Mrs. Douce a glance of scorn, saying, "I shall come again
to-morrow," and then proudly departed.
But she did not come on the morrow. Barrington sent her a note, which
effectually prevented her doing so.
"Dear madam," it said, "our remarkable—not exactly interview, but
conversation, this morning, may have misled you. My reference to an
engagement of marriage was to another than the one you had in mind—in
point of fact, my very recent engagement to marry Miss Natalia Douce.
"You will pardon the mental reservation in my reply, when you reflect
that I made it out of regard to your feelings. Those feelings I am sorry
to disturb in any way, and I believe you will see that it is the truest
consideration for them that leads me to give up the design we once
cherished. Our understanding, too, was that when the farce was finished
we would marry. The farce was never finished; the condition was not
fulfilled; and therefore our agreement is dissolved. I have just sent in
my resignation to the company, and shall dispose of the horse according
as you may desire. The uniform I will retain (since it would not fit any
one else), as also the respect for you, which has long been entertained
"Zadoc S. Harrington."
To this note the major never got any reply. In due time, therefore, his
marriage with Natalia, being unimpeded, took place very quietly, and,
after going off for a small wedding journey, the husband and wife came
back to a pair of Mrs. Douce's small rooms, and began to live in them.
Yes; this corpulent, middle-aged sparrow of a major had decided in favor
of idealism—prosaic though the form in which it was presented to
him—as against money and ease without honest affection. He threw aside
the only success he had ever achieved, which was due to the opulent
siren, Mrs. Magill, and fell back to his old shabby independence, with a
poverty-stricken little wife to share it. I don't say it was good
political economy; I dare say it was very bad sociology; and perhaps I
ought to show how some dire catastrophe came upon him in consequence.
The only obstacle in the way is, that it didn't. He remained reasonably
happy ever after.
By this it is not to be understood that he prospered materially. As a
matter of fact, he had a terribly hard time. There were the old
struggles, the old uncertainties of fortune to be faced, with new
anxieties added. His own opinions and his wife's were at times far from
being in unison.
After a time, too, he found himself a father; and, though I don't doubt
his little infant girl brought him compensations, he grew visibly older.
His once courageous complexion, which I have described as carrot-tinted,
lapsed slowly toward the hue of turnips when in a boiled state;
and—melancholy change!—his dainty martial chin, with the dent in the
bottom of it, was hidden by a practical red beard, while his hair became
proportionately thin on top of his head. If Mrs. Magill cared for
revenge she probably took it now, in the contemplation of his hard
career and the alterations in his appearance. He felt this a little, I
know; for, as we were walking together one day near Worth's monument, he
suddenly changed our course, with a hasty, "May as well go this way;"
and I perceived the wealthy widow coming toward us.
We were not quick enough to escape her, and Barrington winced at her
expression. Yet I am equally certain that he never regretted his choice.
Luckily for Rawsden's slight remaining toleration of mankind, he left
Mrs. Douce's before the baby was added to the other household ornaments.
Now that I think of it, Miss Sneef had previously left the house, and
Rawsden's critical mood grew upon him so rapidly that he, too, found a
change necessary. In fact, he followed Miss Sneef.
Yet he continued to bestow a share of his amused contempt upon Mr. and
Mrs. Barrington from a distance.
"Barrington got a taste for the drama that time," he once said to me,
recalling the private theatricals, "and he keeps it up well. I think his
piece will have a long run."
"The Ex-Bachelor and his Baby!" said the little wretch. "A
tragic-comedy—by the whole strength of the company."
I think I should have kicked Rawsden for this, but that something in his
manner hinted an inconsistent envy of the major. And he presently went
on to say that as for Miss Sneef and himself, although not believing at
all in the necessity of sentiment and all that sort of thing, they had
concluded—since they didn't seem to be able as yet to get tired of each
other—that they would try marriage, and see what that would do for
Such was the distorted little tribute of this nil admirari youth to
the element of real manliness he could not fail to see in Barrington's
"You see, I want to strike down to Bad Peppers."
These words were pronounced by the third person at my right on the
bench. The bench, it must be explained, was covered with red velvet, and
situated in the cabin of a steamer. And the steamer was the Weser,
bound for Bremen.
I could not imagine at the moment what "Bad Peppers" meant; and the
remark—uttered at our first dinner on board—came out with such
ludicrous distinctness, in the midst of the clatter at table, that I
made haste to observe the individual from whom it proceeded. I beheld a
rough but impressive head, with cheeks of a settled red, and beetling
grizzly hair, looking out over the board in a dogged, half-perplexed,
but good-humored way, though the owner of the head was evidently
unconscious that he had said anything open to comment. He was a man, I
should say, of forty-six; but as I looked at him now in the glare of the
skylight above, the simplicity and frankness in his face were so marked,
that I could not help imagining the short gray curls turned to golden
brown, and feeling the momentary pity that comes over one in looking at
an elderly person who reminds one of childhood, yet is hopelessly far
removed from it. I felt a little sorry for a man with this kind of a
face attempting so large a task as crossing the ocean to Europe, and I
was a little amused at the idea, too.
He was talking earnestly to my handsome friend Fearloe, who sat on this
side of him; but I observed that he was watched with a certain
patronizing scrutiny by a young German opposite.
"Yes, you see I couldn't get rid of this rheumatism anywhere," he
continued, "and so I took a friend's advice and started for Europe. They
say that Bad Peppers will fix up the worst case you ever saw better than
any amount of medicine. Anyway, I'm going to try it."
Peppers as a cure for rheumatism! What could he mean? And if this was to
be the remedy, why go to Europe to try it? But he proceeded:
"And that's the reason, you see, why I want to strike right down to Bad
The mystery began to grow less opaque. Possibly he might mean by "strike
down" that he wished to reduce his diet to the article in question; but
I thought it more likely that Bad Peppers was a place which he had made
his objective point. I determined to ask Fearloe at the earliest
opportunity, and therefore drew him away as soon as dinner was over.
"Who is your new acquaintance?" I inquired.
"He reports himself as Steven Steavens, a wholesale grocer from
"And he's going to Europe to cure his rheumatism? Europe ought to be
flattered, certainly," said I; and I am afraid we both laughed rather
scornfully at our unsuspecting fellow-traveller, who was pacing another
part of the deck with a fierce meerschaum pipe in his mouth. "But tell
me what he means by this Bad Peppers. Is it a place? I'm sure I never
heard of one by that name."
"Of course," said Fearloe, "it's a place, but that isn't the right name.
He means a resort of some note for invalids in the canton of St. Gall,
Switzerland—Bad Pfeiffers, or Pfeiffers's Baths—south of the Lake of
Constance, and near the Rhine: a very picturesque spot, too."
"You've been there, then?"
"Yes," answered Fearloe, who, I may remark by the way, had been nearly
everywhere—out of America. He was one of those Yankees of the later
generations who are born with a genius for belying their own
nationality. When he was in England, the English would actually claim
him for one of themselves, in the face of positive denial from his own
countrymen; though I must do him the justice to say that he made no
merit of this, and never allowed newspaper paragraphs to be written
about it. In France he was frequently taken for a Frenchman; and in
Italy his fine statuesque features and rich dark beard, with the aid of
a good Roman accent, might easily cause him to pass for a descendant of
one of the old patrician families. In consequence he was very apt to be
looked upon as a foreigner during his occasional flights through his
native land, and possessed accordingly a remarkable power over the
hearts of sundry republican young women; for women love to pay homage to
a judicious male superiority, and this is the reason the daughters of
our nation delight in foreign manners, which assume that grandeur of the
male that most Americans are too polite and timid to assert. These
things being so, I do not wonder that Fearloe was a little conceited on
one point—his success in impressing the female heart.
"You speak so well of the place," I continued, after a pause, "that I've
a great mind to 'strike down' there myself. Do you advise it?"
"By all means, Middleby, after you've seen the Exposition. Paris will be
hot, and you will need a change of some sort."
"I hope it won't be a change to rheumatism," I replied, with another
laugh. I had not noticed that Steavens had come nearer to us as I spoke;
but the word "rheumatism" seemed to attract him, and roused the only
association with the Old World which he as yet enjoyed.
"You gentlemen have been to Europe before?" he said, advancing, and
taking me in with a half-inquiring nod, as if my acquaintance with so
foreign-looking a person as Fearloe was sufficient guarantee of my
experience in travelling. "Now I would consider it a favor, gentlemen,
if you would come down with me to the smoking-room. We can have a little
something to drink, and then we can talk this thing over."
Fearloe smiled condescendingly.
"This thing?" inquired I (perhaps not with the utmost respect, since his
sentence struck me as rather too informal for the very beginning of a
chance acquaintance). "You mean the Bad—"
"The whole of it," broke in Mr. Steavens. "The European continent—Bad
Peppers, Paris, and all the rest of it. You've been there, and know just
what a fellow ought to see and do, and now I'm away from my store, I've
got a little time to sit down and think over what I'll do. So, if you
don't object, gentlemen—"
"Not at all," Fearloe hastened to assure him, being always ready for
"I can't tell you anything about Pfeiffers's Baths," said I, trying to
be companionable too, "for I never heard of them before; but whatever I
do know is at your service."
As we moved toward the gangway the grocer turned to Fearloe, and asked,
in an undertone, "What does he call it? Feiffers? That ain't right, is
it? My friend that set me on going there, he said Peppers. I thought,
first off, he meant they put red peppers in the water when you bathe;
but he said no, it was the name of the man that started the place, he
"You can pronounce it either way," said Fearloe, magnanimously.
"Well, I prefer Peppers," declared Steavens, with an air of relief. "But
it's kind of queer, now, that your friend, Mr. What's-his-name—"
"Middleby," I suggested, claiming my place in the colloquy.
"—Middleby," he continued, without embarrassment, transferring the
remark to me. "Ain't it queer, Mr. Middleby, that you never heard of the
place? I thought everybody knew about Bad Peppers."
I was foolish enough to be irritated at this presumption on the part of
the child-like grocer, and had a great mind to hint that he preferred a
wrong pronunciation of the name because peppers were in the line of his
business; but I contented myself with saying that I thought there were
places in Europe a good deal better known than the baths.
In the smoking-room we found the young German who had cast his critical
eye upon Steavens at dinner. He introduced himself as Herr Scharlach,
and in order to make matters clear, he drew from his pocket a printed
list of the passengers, which had been distributed just before we
sailed, on which he put a cross against each of our names and his own,
as he had already done with several others in the catalogue. He was a
young man somewhere in the thirties, with a clear blue eye that gleamed
like a sword, a high forehead, and a soft complexion deepened by
tropical sunburn. He could have been identified as a German anywhere,
from the air he had of holding a balance of power in all earthly
affairs; and when he checked off our names, I couldn't help thinking
that he was collecting data for use in some future military campaign, or
else for a biographical dictionary of the whole human race.
"Ain't from Philadelphia, are you?" queried Steavens, in a friendly
tone, implying that the other probably was from that city. "We have a
good many Germans there."
"No," said Scharlach, "Brazil." After which he lit a cigarette he had
been rolling in his thin fingers, and puffed smoke from his nostrils in
such a way as to suggest that any aperture for confidential conversation
was permanently closed.
"Now here," said our confiding acquaintance, after we had pledged one
another in several mild beverages suited to a first day out on the briny
deep—"here's a list of places my friend made out that I want to kind of
take in on my way to the springs and back." And he produced from his
pocketbook a narrow crumpled white paper, on which were pencilled the
weighty names of Paris, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Dresden,
Antwerp, Heidelberg, and Munich. I give them in the order in which they
occurred. "I suppose that's all right, ain't it?" he concluded, glancing
at each of us in turn, as if the success of his tour depended on our
"Why, yes," said Fearloe, "the places are all right, but you'll have to
travel a good deal to include them all. I don't see how you're to get at
them on the way to the baths."
"Oh, of course I shall have to branch off a little; but then the
distances over there don't compare with ours," returned Mr. Steavens,
"I'm not so sure of that," rejoined my friend, with a malicious air of
there being some slight room for doubt. "Your first jaunt, from Paris to
Rome, will be five hundred miles—five times as far as from Philadelphia
to New York. After that you must count at least a thousand to Madrid, a
thousand more from there to Vienna, and then twelve hundred, or over, to
St. Petersburg." Steavens almost turned pale. He hastily set down the
glass which he was carrying to his lips. "Besides," continued Fearloe,
"you can't go to Rome at all before winter."
"Hold on!" cried the other, looking as if the sense of solid reality
were slipping away from him. "Has anybody got a map here? Let's settle
one thing at a time. You know what I want to do first is to strike down
to Bad Peppers. I'd like to settle just how that stands."
Scharlach immediately went to his state-room, and returned promptly with
a large and perfect map of the Continent, showing all the railroads and
post-roads. Seeing this, I was tempted to make some sarcastic remark
about his thorough German equipment; but I remembered Sedan, and
shuddered. He was soon busily engaged in tracing out certain lines of
travel with his long pink finger, the nail of which was whitish, and
edged with black—according strangely with the Prussian national colors.
I thought Scharlach took a peculiar interest in Pfeiffers, and seemed
oddly familiar with it. He furnished our fellow-passenger with full
details about the place; how it was situated on the Tamina River—which
Steavens, with a friendly reminiscence of New York politics, instantly
transformed into "Tammany" River; how the mountains were piled around
its wild gorge seven or eight thousand feet high; how the healing waters
flow only in summer, and are brought to the hotel by an aqueduct; and so
on. All this seemed to reassure the rheumatic grocer very much; and
having got "Peppers" definitely fixed in his mind again, and becoming
familiar with the map, he once more grew self-confident about his list
of cities, and nothing could avail to dissuade him from adhering to the
exact order in which his unknown adviser had jotted them down. So, for
the time, we abandoned the attempt.
There is hardly a circle more merciless in its criticisms than a body of
first-cabin passengers on one of the European steamers; and Steavens
soon became an object of amusement to most of us. His simplicity,
openness, and perfectly good-humored, almost joyous, ignorance, made him
an easy prey. But he proved to be a "good sailor," and was very gallant
toward the ladies. The strangest part of it was that they rather liked
him, and took his side against our covert ridicule. I suppose I must
admit that this, instead of altering our opinions concerning him, only
added a slight bitterness to a spirit of fun which would otherwise have
been quite innocent; and we got into a way of looking at him with
sarcastic hostility. When I say "we" I refer more particularly to
Fearloe, the German, Scharlach, and myself, who, having been thrown with
him more than the others on the first day of the voyage, regarded him as
a sort of comic exhibition under our special supervision.
This rather absurd bond of union between us led to some degree of
intimacy with Scharlach, who disclosed—greatly to the enhancement of
our interest in Steavens's journey—that he, likewise, was going to
Pfeiffers. His errand, moreover, was a romantic one. Five years before
he had fallen in love with the orphaned niece of a rich merchant in
Berlin; but feeling his cause to be hopeless, at least as regarded the
girl's uncle, so long as he had nothing but his personal appearance and
a very elaborate education to support his suit, Scharlach had preferred
to retain the hold of friendship while starting out to better his
condition; and accordingly he had never made a positive declaration of
his passion, but had gone to Brazil, where he succeeded in gaining a
moderately handsome fortune. His friends had kept him informed of
Fräulein Raslaff's movements. As yet she had not married, from which he
augured hopefully for his future; but her uncle had become an invalid,
and they were now about resorting to Pfeiffers for his health, whither
Scharlach, of course, purposed following them, in order to learn his
He requested us urgently to say nothing about this to any of our
fellow-voyagers, and we even kept the secret of his destination from
Steavens. But that could not prevent Fearloe and myself from privately
talking over Scharlach's prospects a little. My own opinion was that
such cool self-possession as his course showed might not impress a woman
so favorably as it did us, and I said I was by no means sure that
Scharlach would win, after all. Fearloe did not agree with me here, and
stroked his beard with an air of restrained certainty as he replied: "I
see, Middleby, you fancy that women want something more startling
romantic than that. But they are very practical, too; and I think you'll
find Miss Raslaff will appreciate such sensible devotion as this of our
Brazilian emigrant." As I have said, Fearloe knew the effect he could
produce on women, and was proud of it; and when he uttered this remark
it was plain that he thought he had settled the question.
As I left the steamer at Southampton, and went up to London for a few
days, I parted with Steavens before the voyage was completed. It was
nearly a week later that I met Fearloe again, in Paris. We went together
to dine at a neat little two-franc place in the Rue St. Honoré, which we
had formerly haunted, and during dinner he suddenly asked, with a
roguish look, "Who do you think I saw yesterday?—Steavens!" And Fearloe
here bent his head, bathing his beard in laughter. "Do you know, he has
been in Paris three days and hasn't gone near the Exposition?"
"Well, that shows a healthy independence," said I. "Is he studying the
"No," was the answer; "he has discovered something far more important
than the Louvre or the Exposition—something which seems to reward him
for the whole trip."
"What can that be?" I queried, rather blankly.
"He has discovered," said Fearloe, "that Paris is the place to buy
This, it appeared, was the topic which had engrossed Steavens's mind
when Fearloe met him. The erratic man, after reaching Bremen, had
abruptly decided to come over to the French capital, which he might have
done much more easily and cheaply from Southampton; and the result of
this expensive détour had been a kind of shirt-intoxication. "You've no
idea," added Fearloe, "how neatly he has gotten himself up. He really is
making progress. And the magnificence of the fellow! Why, he says he
shall merely take a single run through the Exposition, and leave all the
rest of Paris till after he has been to Pfeiffers."
"Fearloe," I said, with a measure of solemnity, "don't scoff at a man
like that. I never before have met an American with quite so much
originality in his treatment of Europe. He must be a genius."
Nevertheless, we continued to laugh at him, with that superiority of
being less naïf and independent than he which so oddly seems to us a
desirable thing nowadays. And if any one at that time had hinted that
Steven Steavens, with his want of reserve and complete indifference to
what is known as culture, possessed qualities of character more to be
admired than our own, we should not have taken the trouble even to smile
at the critic.
I did not happen to meet Steavens while in Paris; but in August I
finally acted on Fearloe's chance hint aboard ship, and went to
Pfeiffers myself, where I found not only our enthusiast in shirts, but
also Scharlach and Miss Raslaff, together with that young lady's uncle,
a shrivelled little old man, who had the air of being put away to keep
in his thick white hair and whiskers, like a dried beetle in
cotton-wool. To the rest of us indeed, the old gentleman was of no more
account than a beetle, and appeared to have as little influence on the
lives around him as an insect might. But, as a matter of fact, though he
was so nearly dead, and scarcely stirred a limb, he clutched three lives
in his faded fingers, and held them fast there—his niece's life,
Scharlach's life, and Steavens's life. For I was not long in discovering
that my rheumatic pilgrim had fallen in love with Fräulein Raslaff
almost at first sight. He himself took good care that I should not
remain blind to the fact. He drew me aside, and poured his tale into my
ear, though with somewhat more reserve than he had shown on the steamer
in discussing his plans of travel.
"How long has this been going on?" I inquired, as we walked together up
and down the hotel terrace overlooking the wild and picturesque valley.
"Three weeks and a half," he answered. "It's a short time, and it
seems like a short time. I've read in the story papers that when a
man's in love, a few days seem to him like years, and so forth. But I
don't believe it. I know exactly how long I've been here, and yet
there's no doubt about it, I'm in love with that young lady, and am
going to make her my wife if I can. The story papers are wrong, and I'm
I couldn't help reflecting that this was the same independence I had
praised to Fearloe. "The man has the faculty of knowing exactly what
he's about," thought I, "and that goes a good way toward securing
success." Yet it seemed preposterous that he should have the least
chance with a woman so far removed from him by tastes and traditions as
Fräulein Raslaff. I said to him merely, "Have you spoken to her?"
"I've tried to feel my way," was his reply. "But that uncle of
hers—he's an old potato-bug, sir. He's worse than a potato-bug. I
don't know what to call him. He won't let any one come near her, and yet
he don't seem to take any pleasure in her himself. He looks just about
dead, but I tell you it's only shamming; the minute another man talks to
Miss Raslaff, he wakes up; it puts life into him, and he flies around
sharp. This is a good country to operate in, though; he can't take the
walks we do with parties sometimes—up to Solitude, and the Belvedere,
and around. I'd just like to see him in the gorge once; that would
The gorge was a very peculiar and rather perilous cavern, higher up in
the valley through which the Tamina runs.
"Then it's only the uncle that troubles you?" I queried. "You don't feel
afraid of Scharlach?"
Steavens paused, looking anxious for an instant. Then the child-like
expression which I had marked on my first glimpse of him came out
strongly again. "Do you think he'd be mean enough to stand in my way?"
"But suppose you are standing in his?" I returned.
Steavens apparently considered this an unnatural view to take.
"Scharlach can get along by himself all right," he asserted. "He might
be disappointed, and it wouldn't ruin him. But me—why, take me, and
what am I without her?" I must admit that this humbleness touched me
with its pathos, and I began to range myself on Steavens's side. Then he
concluded, without any pathos at all, "Well, I've got as good a right to
try as he has, any way, and I'm bound to win in the end."
At length, wishing to soften a possible disappointment, I thought I
ought to toll him how long Scharlach had been hoping to gain Miss
Raslaff's heart. The information startled him considerably; but after a
few moments' silence he struck me on the shoulder, and exclaimed, "Well,
here we are! He's rich and I'm rich; let her choose between us for
something else. If he hadn't made any money out there, I'd say to him,
'Here, my man, I've got the best of you, so I'll stand by, and you can
just walk in and try your chances first.' But seeing we're neck and neck
on that, I don't know that there's anything to do but go ahead."
And go ahead he assuredly did from that hour. He astounded the old uncle
by remonstrating with him directly against his supervision of Miss
Raslaff. "It ain't fair," he said. "You don't know how to manage things
in this country. I don't say a woman ought to vote; but anyway she ought
to have a right to listen to a man when he wants to tell her what he
thinks of her. Do you suppose I could tell you?" (With a glance by no
means politic in its contempt at the desiccated little figure before
him.) "And how am I to talk to her about it when you are around?"
The result of this attack, which he made in my presence, was a violent
outbreak from the old man; and the next day Steavens was asked to meet
Miss Raslaff and her uncle in their salon, to receive from the young
woman herself a confirmation of her uncle's objection to receiving any
attentions from him. The girl was pale, but composed and very beautiful.
I could not make out whether or not she had taken any fancy to my
brusque compatriot, but she acted her part firmly. When at last she
said, in pure English, "My uncle is right; you must not seek my
acquaintance any more—more ardently; let us be quite as we were
before," I declare so sweet a suspicion of a blush came over her checks,
and her voice died away so delicately, like a soft echo heard among the
very hills around us, that I almost fell in love with her myself. A
great change instantly came over Steavens. All his jauntiness, his
unreserve, his child-like confidence, were extinguished at a blow. After
a moment he collected his voice, and said, with great gentleness, "Miss
Raslaff, I will never do anything you ask me not to, so far as speaking
is concerned; but that won't prevent my thinking about you just as much
as ever, and I shall keep just as near the place where you stay as I
This was the end of the interview, and I thought my countryman had the
best of it. He was very melancholy, though, while I remained at the
baths; and the savage beauty of the place—the rough stream roaring out
of the cavern against whose walls of black calcareous rock, glittering
here and there with feldspar, the faint Alpine rose bloomed pensively,
the shaggy heights above the hotel, and the glimpses of snowy peaks in
the distance—was not suited to restore his cheer. One day we went into
the gorge, with its rocky walls rising two or three hundred feet, and
gradually closing together above, where a bridge of planks cornered into
the solid stone runs for a distance of six thousand paces to the
springs, slippery all the way from the flying river-foam. It was gloomy
and depressing as a scene from the Inferno, and bad for a rheumatic
patient, as I reminded Steavens; but he shook his head mournfully, and
said he didn't care. What was worse was the danger of missing a foothold
on the wet and mossy planks, and so being precipitated into the wild
stream beneath; and I breathed more easily when we came out safely
again. But it struck me that this would be a fearful place for two angry
rivals, such as Steavens and Scharlach now were, to meet in.
It so happened that Scharlach that very day came to me with his tale
of despair. Thinking the field was his own, after Steavens's
discomfiture, he had formally proposed for Miss Raslaff's hand, and had
been rejected. He could not understand it. He had addressed the young
lady with her uncle's permission, and she had refused him. I gathered
from what he said that he had pressed his claim as a matter of right,
that he considered himself to have bought her love by long patience and
the accumulation of a competence, and had put forward this theory with
undue bluntness; for he confessed that she had dismissed him with a cold
anger and disdain that left no hope. We were sitting on the great stone
steps hewn in the height above the hotel as he told me this. "No," he
cried, springing to his feet, at the end, in a sort of fury. "If she had
shown heat of temper, I might have kept up hope. But she petrified me
with her contempt. I am no better than these rocks." He ground his teeth
as he spoke, looking down at the hostelry, sunk at a fearful depth below
us. Then he seized a heavy stone from the earth, and flung it down the
steep, madly crying, "Yes, I am stone now, and there goes my heart
rolling down to crush you!" It stopped before it had gone far; but the
frenzied action was enough to show that the man had lost his balance.
The pent-up force of years, so well controlled till now, had broken
forth at a bound, and was carrying him away. "And it was that fool from
America, that friend of yours," he added, fiercely, turning upon me all
at once, as if I were an enemy—"it was he that did this. It is because
he is a novelty, and because her uncle opposes it, that she has taken a
fancy to him, and thrown aside the man who was a slave to her for eight
years. That's it, I am sure. Take him away! Take your American away!"
I need not say that I did not obey this command; but I did take myself
away. The truth is, the situation was getting altogether too serious for
my liking. Yet, after I had gone, I felt an incessant curiosity to know
how the affair had resulted. I heard nothing more for some time, until I
came across an acquaintance during the winter, who had met Steavens in
Paris again. This gentleman was telling me how Steavens had been to Rome
early in the winter, and now went about complaining that it was a very
dirty, one-horse town, which couldn't compare with Philadelphia. He also
reported Steavens as gaining some notoriety for his romantic attachment
to a young German lady, whom I had no difficulty in recognizing as
Fräulein Raslaff. It appeared, therefore, that he had as yet made no
headway; but I indulged in a sense of approval when I learned that he
was studying hard, to enlarge his education and his knowledge of
European things. Still, my acquaintance described him as a man who could
never become anything but an American. He had taken the baths under the
necessity of improving his health; he was trying to take European
manners, in the same way, for the sake of improving his chances with
Fräulein Raslaff. Yet he remained immutably hostile to everything
foreign, and to prolong his stay abroad was, therefore, the strongest
sort of devotion he could have shown.
Fearloe knew nothing of these events, having gone to Egypt for the
winter. But more than a year afterward, when I had been at home for some
time, I was one day telling a lady at a dinner party something about
Steavens's eccentricities and absurdities, when she exclaimed: "Oh, I
have heard of that man before! Your friend Mr. Fearloe was telling me
I was decidedly annoyed by this, because I had frequently made an
anecdote of Steavens with great effect, and now here was Fearloe
spoiling my fun by telling it in advance. Of course I had confined
myself to narrating the rheumatic pilgrim's strange plan of travel, his
excitement about Parisian shirts, and his unique view of Rome—things
which invariably proved highly amusing—and said nothing of his romance.
I now questioned my companion at dinner, to see if I could learn
anything more about that part of his history, but I could get no
information on that subject. My irritation continued all the evening,
for it is no slight matter when a man who painfully hoards materials for
small conversation, and uses them frequently, finds an insidious friend
depriving him of them. But I had an ample revenge upon Fearloe
afterward, as you shall see. When I next saw him, which was some months
later, he had an experience to recount which certainly put him at my
mercy. I will tell it in his own words.
"I was staying at North Conway for a few days, late in July, and there
was a most beautiful woman there. I hardly know whether to call her girl
or woman, Middleby, there was such an immortal freshness about her face
and figure, combined with a reflective sadness that showed she had had
more than a girl's experiences. She dressed in black; it was a cool thin
black, that looked—perhaps on account of the calm, sweet face above
it—more airy and summer-like than the most studied of the country
costumes worn by other ladies at the hotel; and she wore bracelets and a
pin of Irish bog-stone set in ebony, that harmonized deliciously with
her personality. You know how that sort of stone sparkles, like a
clouded diamond. Well, there was something about its dim, shrouded flash
that was just like the mystery in her pale face with its surroundings of
black. It struck into me very deep, and excited a desire to pierce the
mystery, to find out what her face meant, and what was at her heart—and
perhaps to place myself in the heart, too. I'll own it frankly. You know
I'm not susceptible, though I've generally made my way pretty well with
the ladies." (Here a flash of Fearloe's old self-complacence on this
point came to light, but quickly died out again.) "I have always cared
more for foreign women, though, than for our own; and this girl or woman
was a German, so I was doubly taken with her. Her name was set down on
the register as—Well, I won't tell you what the name was, just at
present, but it was registered in such a way that I couldn't tell
whether she was maid, wife, or widow. I fixed on the last, in my own
mind, from her wearing black. There was no one with her; none of the
people in the hotel, with whom I talked, knew anything about her. There
could be no question that she was rich; but that was all I could find
out concerning her.
"It was a delicate business, as you can imagine, to make her
acquaintance in the face of such a state of things; but I managed it,
fortunately, through doing her a little service on the 'piazza,' and
from that I went on to press my society upon her cautiously. In a few
days we were on very good terms, and took a few of the customary walks
and drives in the neighborhood, with other persons at first, and then
alone. I was puzzled to find her so easy as to this, being a foreigner;
but I believe I convinced her of my trustworthiness, and she must have
found out easily, from my acquaintances in the place, just who I was.
Then she seemed to have outgrown foreign prejudices in some way; and I
confess, besides, that I accounted for it at the time by fancying that I
had begun to make some impression upon her.
"I determined there shouldn't be any doubt about it. Yes, it was a
serious matter, Middleby; I had come to a point when I meant to offer
myself to her the very next day. I got her consent to go to Artists'
Falls, where I meant to lay my passion before her. Hideous name, by the
way—Artists' Falls!" broke off Fearloe, testily. "No affair could have
prospered in a spot with such a shoppy name."
He relapsed into gloomy reflections, from which I roused him, insisting
that the story should be finished.
"It was the evening before our intended excursion," he then went on.
"She and I were sitting on a retired part of the piazza, just about
sunset. Everything about us was rarely beautiful; the flush of the
evening just dying away from old Rattlesnake, and the line of the great
peaks at the distant head of the valley, with Washington's dome in the
midst, looking, to the fancy—as you have probably seen them—like giant
ghosts of the great men they commemorate. Then, across the intervale,
with its hundreds of little brooks and its soft elms, we looked at
White-horse Cliff, and that waterfall that seems to flutter from the
distant hill-side like a white banner. You remember? A single star was
poised above it. I shall never forget that scene. It came upon me with a
kind of surprise, after all, that we could have anything so lovely here,
and I began contrasting it with Europe. I wanted to hint something about
going back there, you know—lead up in a sort of way to my intended
declaration in the morning. So it was natural that, in talking of the
other side, and the voyage, and all that, I should begin to tell her
about that odd fellow on the Weser when we went over, you
"Miserable man!" I exclaimed, at this point, remembering my discomfiture
at that dinner. "You told her, and then you found she was some one I had
already met and told before?"
Fearloe glared at me in amazement, then slowly smiled in a melancholy
manner, and shook his head. "Don't be childish, Middleby," said he; "and
please don't interrupt me. I fancy I know something more about Steavens
than you've ever told. This particular time I'm describing to you I
was surprised to find that my listener didn't seem to enter into the fun
of the thing. I didn't mention his name, yet I almost suspected she knew
something about the man. But as she didn't relish the absurd side of
him, I thought I'd give her a proper dose of the serious. I went on to
impart what I had learned about a desperate love affair of his at Bad
Pfeiffers; and this, by the by, is news to you, Middleby."
"Not quite," I said, with a vain smile. (It must be kept in mind that
Fearloe and I had claimed a joint ownership in Steavens as a comic
spectacle, and I was jealous of any other kind of property in him as a
"No?" rejoined Fearloe, rather surprised, but cool. "Well, then, you can
judge how flat I felt on finding that the beginning of his romantic
episode didn't seem to strike her much more than the rest I had said
"'You seem rather to despise your compatriot,' she said, when I had got
as far as telling her what I had heard about his rivalry with Scharlach
for the favor of a young lady whom they met at the baths. 'But why
shouldn't he feel the same love and devotion that another might, even if
he were not the most accomplished of his nation?'
"I answered, 'Ah, that is like you, to defend a man for holding a
generous sentiment. It is to be hoped you would be equally kind in
judging a less out-and-out American who dared to love one of your race.'
(I imagined she blushed just there.) 'But if you had seen this man
Steavens, you would understand just how I look at him. You don't know
much yet about such raw specimens of my kind.'
"The fact is, Middleby, I put something of a sneer into my words. I was
angry at her liking the man even in fancy. However, I finished my story.
"'He certainly was very devoted;' I admitted that. 'He was quite as
brave as the other man.'"
"'No braver, you think?' asked she, quietly, with a tone I did not
"'You shall decide,' said I. 'The sequel was this: My German gentleman,
Scharlach, got perfectly raving mad, I'm told. He looked upon the lady
as his absolute right, and couldn't be quieted; while Steavens behaved
so calmly that he began to get on terms with the lady and her uncle
again, even after his rebuff. If you have ever been at Pfeiffers,' I
said to her, 'you know the gorge of the Tamina; but you can't guess
what's coming. It happened, one day, that Steavens went in there, when
Scharlach had already gone to the spring, and was coming back along the
foot-bridge.' I can tell you, Middleby, she looked interested when I
came to this—just as you do now. She was startled, too. 'Now, by the
strangest coincidence, the obdurate uncle and his niece also went down
there shortly afterward, not knowing that either of the rivals was in
the cave. They had gone some little way along the dangerous path, when
they heard a terrible shout, like the cry of a wild man. They tried to
make haste forward to see what it meant, after the first moment of
terror, and came in sight of the two men just in time. Scharlach was
making a rush upon Steavens, who stood perfectly still, with a pale
face, but resolute and terribly stern.
"'He braced himself as well as he could. The shock came. There was a
stout, short struggle, and suddenly Scharlach went over, plunging toward
the rough torrent full of rocks, and was lost.'
"Then, Middleby, you should have seen that woman's eyes as she sat there
in the twilight. How they flashed, as she rose in her chair! Yet there
was an intense pain in her expression. 'This is too terrible,' she said.
'But no; I must speak now. Mr. Fearloe, did the person who told you this
story also tell you how, when Scharlach fell, Steven tried to hold
him—tried to save the man who had just been seeking his life? Ah, there
his true and great nobility were seen!'
"'Good heavens, madam,' cried I, 'who are you? You saw them? Then you
"Just then, Middleby, the coach from the station had come up, and the
passengers were getting out. Madame was exclaiming, without heed to my
questions, 'Oh, I cannot bear this! That scene all comes back to me.
Steven! Steven! why are you not here?' And, as if in answer to her
words, the man came up behind her with his travelling-bag in his hand. I
felt as if lightning had struck me! But to her, calmness returned in
an instant. She rose, and with her arm in his she said, coldly, 'Steven,
do you remember Mr. Fearloe?' He recalled me at once, and started to
take my hand. But she checked him, and said to him, while looking at me
like ice, 'Ah, it's a pity you remember him, for you must learn now to
forget him!' And with that she wheeled away, carrying him with her."
"It was Miss Raslaff," I cried. "And how did it happen you didn't know
"I had forgotten the name. Ah, my boy, I have been fearfully punished. I
had a conceited contempt for that man, and see how it has been visited
"Then she has married him?"
"By this time, yes. She clung to her savage old uncle till he died, then
came over to marry Steavens, though by condition of the will she must
forfeit all her uncle's money in doing so."
"Fearloe," I remarked, after a pause, "I think we will neither of us
relate our funny encounter with Steavens any more. What did we, with all
our fancied supremacy, gain by going to Europe, compared with this man?
After all, it was a real inspiration of his to 'strike right down to Bad
THE IMPORTANCE OF A HAT.
Within a distance of about ten miles Shagford River makes three long
curves, each of which is crossed by a bridge.
The first is for the railroad. The second, thrown across at a point
where the ground is lower, carries a country road from bank to bank.
Still further down is the third, which is of stone, and forms a paved
street connecting the two parts of the factory town of Shagford.
On the afternoon of a superb summer day a fast train from the north-west
swept around the curve leading to the bridge-head, and emerged upon the
open iron-work structure which bore the double track above the water.
The fireman was shovelling coal, and the engineer had just withdrawn his
hand from a cord which blew the whistle when he caught sight of a man,
in a round Bombay hat, half way across and walking in the same direction
the train was taking. Again he pulled the string, sending out four
hoarse notes: "Lo-ook oout, a-head!" But the man did not step aside, as
would have been expected, on to the line of plank provided for foot
passengers between the tracks. The engineer turned on the air-brake and
shouted; but there was a strong breeze blowing against him; and at best
a voice could hardly rouse a traveller deaf to the steam notes. The last
chance of escape appeared to have passed when the stranger, moved by an
instinct of danger, though hearing nothing, turned his head.
For the space of a second he confronted the swift, trembling glitter of
steel and brass and the pallid face of the engineer at the cab-window. A
look of unutterable horror convulsed his own features, and he sprang
wildly into the air. Falling again, without being hit by the engine, he
went tumbling down through an interstice of the iron beams into the
muddy water below. The train was soon stopped and reversed. Slowly the
wheels revolved backward—with a solemn, funereal movement, as if
conscious of the inanimate body that might soon be added to their
But to the amazement of every one on board, staring frightened into the
river, the hurt man was seen to be already struggling out of the
current, and clambering—wet, hatless, with dripping hair—up the steep
bank they had just left. On reaching the top he began to walk aimlessly
away from the train, as if nothing had happened, but presently sat down
on the ground looking weak and bewildered.
"Well, if he ain't the coolest hand!" exclaimed the brakeman. "Must be a
new sort of water-rat." This same brakeman, however, was prompt to go
with the conductor to the aid of the stranger. They found him conscious,
but stupefied, and so helped him into the train, which then continued on
its way, bearing him off to Shagford.
"Where are you bound?" asked the conductor.
The man, who was of middle age, with a sun-browned face and close
iron-gray whiskers along the upper jaws, felt for his hat and, not
finding it, looked uneasy. "There must be no delay," he said, half to
himself. "I'll tell you in a moment," he added.
But he sat for some time without speaking; and it was evident that the
shock of his terrible fall had worked confusion in his brain. Even on
reaching Shagford he was unable to collect himself. But they persuaded
him to consult the nearest physician, whom he sought under care of the
young brakeman. This resulted in his being taken temporarily to the
hospital, for, though seemingly without physical injury, he had suffered
so peculiar a mental effect that rest and proper care were thought
Shortly after the occurrence of this singular accident a vehicle crossed
the turnpike bridge, of which mention has been made. The vehicle was a
buggy, occupied by a single figure—that of a man say about
thirty-eight, clothed in a close-fitting suit of mixed brown. He was of
prosperous but not portly aspect, and what was most noticeable in him
was that his eyes scanned the river in a sudden, peculiar way. One might
have said that, emerging from the softly massed trees upon the bank, he
had an uneasy sense of being exposed to unexpected observation on the
open stretch of the bridge. But perhaps the more likely explanation
would be that he was an inquiring, energetic person, who habitually
looked everywhere. Habit or chance, whichever it might be, his alert
vision was not exercised in vain that day. He saw on the river, floating
toward his point of vantage, an upturned hat. Now, this hat was the
identical one which had quitted the head of the unlucky man at the
railroad bridge; for, being made of cork, it was perfectly adapted to
"That's what comes of sharp eyes," said the driver of the buggy aloud,
much as though he were stating a moral maxim which it did him good to
hear. "Who knows but this may turn out important? If anybody's been
drowned, or—" The alternative was lost in a clucking sound with which
he accompanied the urging of his horse; for he had formed a plan.
The bridge was low; the hat was drifting toward one of the numerous rows
of spiles, hence he believed he could fish it up with his long-handled
whip. Dismounting, and watching his opportunity, he succeeded after a
few moment's novel angling in bringing up, by a noose made of the
lash-end, his piece of flotsam.
As I have said, this man wore a comfortable mien; his face was smooth,
rosy, firm and beardless, and though the structure of his lips was
rather hard and determined, the corners of the lips indicated constant
readiness for a smile which, however, never culminated when he was
alone. Still, at this moment, a beam of satisfaction rested on his
features. The recovery of the hat presented itself to him in the light
of a virtuous action. Looking into it he saw the owner's name written on
the leather band: "Simeon Piper." As this conveyed no impression, he
turned his attention to a small folded paper stuffed inside of the band
and making a slight bulge in it. On examining what was inscribed upon
the sheet, his countenance changed; the beaming look vanished, and his
eyebrows, always describing an acute angle to the temples, grew sharper
than ever. It was a movement analogous to that of an animal drawing back
its lips before biting, or darting a fang out. His expression, in fact,
had become wolfish.
What did it mean? Merely that the name he had seen this time was his
own. "Martin E. Hounshell," he read, in a half voice, finding it for an
instant even stranger than the strange name he had encountered just
before. But he had seen other things on the page with his name; things
which he would not articulate even here; certain names and dates for
which he deemed silence the fittest atmosphere.
Hounshell's next act was to toss the hat back into the river, and he was
about to tear up the paper scrap and send it after the hat, when he
changed his mind. He put the memorandum into an inside pocket and
buttoned up his coat, tapped the surface of the coat snugly, then got
into his buggy and drove on—thoughtful and puzzled, but with equanimity
returning and ready to spring his patent smile in a moment, should he
meet an acquaintance.
Nevertheless, what had just happened was startling. If the paper which
now lay over his heart had possessed the power of receiving a photograph
from his brain he could not have been more astonished. The invisible had
become visible; what had lain concealed for years in his own mind now
confronted him from without. And who was Simeon Piper—a total
stranger—in whose hat so mysterious a revelation had taken place?
Hounshell's horse dragged that question along unconsciously to the end
of the bridge, where, for the moment, it disappears from our pen
The small waves flashed lightly around the spiles; a breeze rustled in
the woods, perhaps looking for something it had lost there and never
could find again. The two bridges were deserted; all was silent, dreamy.
Then from the unseen bridge lower down a shrill clamor arose to break
the serenity of the evening; a chorused shriek of twenty unearthly
voices blended together. Unexpected and wild, loudly startling it was,
so that there seemed something uncanny about it. One might have thought
it the cry of monsters discovering human prey, or a mob of witches
revelling in some crime that had been found out there. But as a matter
of fact no one indulged in either of these impossible fancies. Everybody
knew that the uproar came from the mills of Shagford, blowing the hour
of release from work.
FATHER, DAUGHTER, AND—WHO ELSE?
At this signal the operatives streamed forth like school-children; and
from Hounshell's flannel-mill in particular came one elderly man, who
threw himself with all the energy of a boy into a row-boat that lay at
the waterside, and began oaring his way lustily up-stream. He had not
gone far before he turned the bow into a secluded bay where water-lilies
grew thickly. Here, paddling about and causing the boat to lurch
violently as he stooped over the side, he pulled a few of the flowers.
He looked tired and hard-worked; there was something indescribably
pathetic in his making so much effort after the day's labor. But he did
not seem to see this; and so, after getting a bunch of lilies, he
continued up the river with a business-like stroke that implied some
past familiarity with life on the water. The end of the course was soon
reached; he moored the boat close to a little cottage that stood apart
from the houses of the other working-people, and wore a peculiarly
On one side of the path was a tomato-patch; on the other a minute
flower-garden; a grape-vine laid its flat leaves by one of the windows,
and everything about the place was neat, cosey, sheltered. As the weaver
came up toward it, however, he saw that there were two persons in the
room behind the vine, instead of only one, as he had expected. He
paused, looking in, and saw that it was Hounshell with his daughter. The
mill-owner at that moment took her hand in a somewhat fervent way,
addressing her eagerly, and led her toward the window. Instantly the
girl withdrew her hand and came running out.
"Oh, father, dear, how lovely! Did you bring them for me?"
"Who else d'you s'pose, Addie? I'm not courting any one."
He looked at her quizzically as she received the lilies, his
weather-worn face glowing mildly at the same time, with pride in her
beauty and delight at having pleased her.
"That's mean of you, father," she said, half offended, yet smiling as
she inhaled the delicate, sweet-almond scent of the blossoms.
"What? Not to be courting?" he asked, putting his arm fondly around her.
"I can do better than that, lass, by coming home. Four bells have
struck; time for a kiss, you know." Whereupon she put her lips to his
faded, fatherly check.
Addie was certainly beautiful in her way, and Scofield thought there was
no way to compare with it. She was tall, fresh, dark-eyed; her
complexion was rich with the soft, clear brown which our American sun so
deftly diffuses over a healthy face that ripens in its warmth; and she
always looked as cool, as sparkling and lithe as if she had just stepped
from a bath in the river. You felt that, were you to place your hand on
her shoulder, she would resist springily, like a young bough in the
"And you can do a good deal better than I can; that's certain," said
Hounshell to Scofield, breaking in. He had come to the threshold and
witnessed this little passage.
"You ought not to talk about it before me, anyway," declared Addie,
whose code of propriety never allowed ceremony to stand in the way of
truthfulness. And, having administered this rebuke, she blushed as if it
were she who had offended modesty.
"Oh, well, don't take on about it!" said the mill-owner, apologetically.
"I don't know how to talk when I get down here. Different up to the
mill; ain't it, Scofield?" Here he winked at the father with humorous
comradeship. Then, turning again to Addie: "All is, I want you to be my
wife, and you know it, and so does the old man. So where's the harm,
talking about? Lord! there ain't nothing high daddy about me. I worked
my way up, and I like working-people; so, 'stid of going round among the
high daddies, I come to you and say I want to marry you. I've seen you
grow into a woman, just like"—the speaker, embarrassed, gazed
helplessly round the garden for a comparison, and proceeded:—"Like one
of those tomaytoes there, when it comes to fruit. And I know all about
"I don't believe I'm like a tomayto one bit," said Addie, with
conviction. The next moment, allowing herself a saucy smile: "And I
don't know all about you, you see. So there!"
Her mature admirer did not resent this, but stood really abashed and
disconcerted. "What am I to do, Scofield?" he asked, stepping out on to
the walk. "You see how it goes."
Addie seized the moment for escaping into the house, while her father,
regarding his employer meditatively, replied: "Take soundings, and then
try again. That's all I can say."
"I don't know," observed Hounshell, shaking his head. He tried to bring
his regulation smile into play, but the springs would not work. He was
really attached to the girl; and there was a painful longing in his
mind, besides another motive, of which he could not speak. He was
Presently they went into the house. "Won't you stay to supper?"
"No, thank'ee. I'm going. Addie!"
"Yes, sir." She looked at him from her cool, liquid eyes as steadily and
with as much unconsciousness in her clear-lined face as if she had never
heard him speak of marriage.
"I've a word to say, if you'll come out to the gate."
"All right." Addie put the cups on the table for her father and herself,
and then followed Hounshell, who bade the weaver good-night.
"I want you to treat me differently," said the miller, when they were
alone. "This is a very serious matter, and there's more in it than you
think. You ought to consider your father."
The girl's eyes flashed. "You don't mean," she began, "that you—"
"No, I don't mean any harm to him, of course. Take me or leave me, he'll
be all right. But if you take me, my father-in-law don't remain in the
weaving-room, by a long shot. I'll make him my partner instid."
Addie appeared to weigh this.
"Well, that's right," she said. "He ought to be." Hesitatingly, she went
on: "I know it's generous of you, but—but—"
"There's another reason, too," the suitor hastened to explain. "I can't
tell you now, but I might afterward. It's very serious. Oh, I can't
stand it, if you don't consent!" he almost groaned.
She was startled by his strenuous manner.
"What reason can it be?" she asked, quivering a little.
"It's been on my heart so long," Hounshell said, pressing both hands on
his chest. "It's there now," he continued, sinking his voice. At the
precise instant of speaking his fingers felt beneath the coat that
fateful fold of paper which the river had brought him, and both arms
fell as if he had been struck.
"Good God!" he exclaimed, staring at her.
It seemed to him that she, too, must have felt the paper and its
"What have I been saying?" he asked, in a bewildered tone.
The change in him within a few moments had been extraordinary, and Addie
experienced a shock. Any one who had seen the wolfish glare of his eyes
on the bridge would have been surprised at the human emotion he now
"You frighten me," said the girl, shrinking; but she was conscious of
feeling more pity than fright.
"Don't be frightened," urged Hounshell, trying to speak gently; but his
voice broke. It sounded abject rather than soothing. "I s'pose I'm
making mistakes again. You can't understand me. Only this—think of
this: I shall never get over it if you don't have me. You may do me a
great wrong by turning me off. Can't you consider about this a little
"I—I will try to consider, Mr. Hounshell," faltered Addie.
"Then I'll go; I'll bid you good-night," he said, regaining some of his
"Good-night," she returned.
He got into the waiting buggy; there was a grinding of wheels, a puff of
whitish dust from them, and then the dusk obliterated him, much to her
relief. She went back into the house slightly paler than when she had
"Father," she declared, "I never can marry that man."
"Yes. There's something strange about him—and wrong."
"Careful! He's been our best friend, lass; there can't be anything
"All the same, I shall not marry him."
The old man was hurt.
"Have you thought over all?" he asked. "You wouldn't be the only
He glanced down at his arm, which still bore marks of sailor's
tattooing, and at his hard hands all day in service at the loom; and
then he sighed, as if despairing of rest.
"I know, dear father," said his daughter. "Mr. Hounshell would be very
generous to you, so I wish I could do it. But oh, I can't, I can't!"
She put one hand on his arm and looked piteously into his face.
"I see how it is," said Scofield. "You have fixed your fancy on Jonah."
Addie softly moved away. All her color had returned, but she said
nothing. They had barely seated themselves at the table when a knock was
"Come in!" cried Addie, and on the entrance of the new-comer,
"Did you think it was—well, never mind who."
Jonah, in whose spruce attire, as he now presented himself, it was not
easy to recognize the brakeman of the afternoon train, made this
enigmatical remark rather uneasily, and subsided into regretful silence.
"Sit down, Jonah, and have some supper," said old Scofield, with a
slight lingering gruffness.
The young man, however, accepted without compunction; and in a twinkling
Addie had spirited on to the table an extra cup, plate, knife and fork,
which were suspiciously ready to her hand.
"We had a queer thing happen on the train this afternoon," said Jonah,
as the hot tea roused him into talkativeness again. And he proceeded to
relate the occurrence with which our narrative of these events began.
"Man's name is Piper," he continued—"Simeon Piper. No one knows
anything about him, and he can't tell why he was there or where he was
going. The shock put a screw loose in his brain somewhere, the doctor
says. May get over it, and may not. But they won't keep him at the
hospital long, because there's nothing the matter with him much, except
"Poor fellow!" Addie murmured. "What will he do when they send him away,
if he doesn't know where he wants to go?"
"Can't make it out," was Jonah's answer. "Some one ought to take hold
and help him till he gets well."
Addie made a prompt resolution.
"We'll take hold; won't we, father? Couldn't you bring him out here,
The brakeman reflected a moment. Piper was not young; so there was no
objection on that score.
"Yes," he said, "I'll bring him out when I get back from my run
to-morrow. They say he seems pretty well-to-do, too. He'll pay board."
"Never mind if he does," said Miss Scofield, artlessly. "We can be kind
to him just the same."
It was settled accordingly.
After supper the two men went out into the garden. They had a serious
subject to talk over, and Jonah began it by saying:
"The men are pretty near all agreed, Mr. Scofield, and we've got to do
something soon. How is it in your mill?"
"Hounshell's, you mean," corrected the ex-sailor and weaver, cutting a
piece of tobacco. "Well, I suppose a good many of our hands will go with
you, if it comes to a strike. But I can control a number, I guess; and
I'm bound to tell you that we shall stick to work and stand out ag'in
"That's bad—bad," mumbled the young railroader, with a troubled air. He
plucked a spear of tall grass and began biting it. "I can't see,
Scofield," he burst out (dropping the "Mr." this time), "why you stick
to that man against all your own interests and the interests of your
fellow-workmen. What's Hounshell compared with them?"
"He's my friend and benefactor; that's all. Didn't he take care o' my
poor wife the day she died? And when I come back from sea, after a long
cruise and a shipwreck, and my wife was dead, didn't I find that he had
taken my little girl in tow, and was eddicating her? Look here,"
Scofield pushed up the sleeve of his coat and shirt and displayed the
dim blue anchor on his fore-arm; "as long as that stays there I'm going
to be true to the man as was true to me," he said.
"I know all that," said Jonah. "He's done a lot. The others are a little
jealous of you, sometimes; and that's one reason I want you to be with
us. If you ain't, they'll say: 'Oh, yes, it's very fine for Scofield to
stay out! The boss helped him to a nice cottage, and give his daughter a
pianna. But the rest of us have got to look out for ourselves.' That's
what they'll say. And as for me, I say it's barter and trade; that's
what! Hounshell give Addie an education and a pianna, and now he wants
her to give herself in exchange."
"That ain't the way to look at it," retorted Scofield. "It ain't fair.
And if you mean to insult my daughter by your talk about barter and
trade, why, you'd better—"
"You're the first to say 'insult,'" Jonah answered, in an angry,
constrained tone. "I love Addie; and I don't believe she'd marry in any
such way. And what's more, I—I kind of hope she'll marry me. There
again, there's another reason why I wanted you to be on our side—now
that we've got everything together, and the railroad hands and mill
hands are ready to move at the same time. But I see it's no use; I've
done my best."
"No; it's no use," assented the weaver. "I'm doing my best, too."
Thus it happened that the young man took his departure in some heat; but
it was of her own accord that Addie followed this lover to the gate; and
she did not let him go without a few sweet words to comfort him.
Martin Hounshell had three good causes for wishing to marry Addie
Scofield. First, so far as in him lay, he loved her. Secondly, knowing
that opposition was afoot among the men, he feared the influence that
Jonah Brown might obtain over Scofield, should he succeed in his
courtship of the daughter; for he relied much on the sailor-weaver's
loyalty to fight off the trouble. Thirdly, he had some time since been
guilty of a secret misdeed, which he hoped to repair by bestowing
further benefits on the Scofields.
This evening, after going from the cottage and leaving his horse at
home, he went down to the deserted mill, entered the office, locked
himself in, and then spread out on his desk the discovered memorandum.
The words with which it began were these: "Martin E. Hounshell. Property
delivered, April 13th, 1877. Adelaide Scofield died same day. Husband
The date here was omitted. Below followed the names of certain persons
in California, and two or three other brief notes.
To the mill-owner, sitting there in the dim candlelight, with a hand
pressed nervously over his lips, this told the whole story. To any one
it would at least suggest suspicion. Should he destroy the paper? He
held it up toward the candle; then hesitated. It might be desirable
first to find out who had written it, and to do this he would keep it as
evidence. No place so unapproachable by others as his own pocket; so he
put it away again.
The injury he had done to the unsuspecting Scofield had been crowned
with success to himself, but it had tormented him, too. In spite of
having given the man employment and having assisted the daughter, he
could not escape his remorse. But when he should have wedded Addie, and
lifted the weaver into a subordinate partnership, he felt sure that his
mind would be at rest. "As it is," he muttered, "I have done more than
most would have done, to make amends. I can't give up all—the whole
thing. It ain't reasonable. And if I get to be his son-in-law, why,
we're all together, and that squares it."
But who and where was this other man, this unknown Piper, who carried
dangerous information which might at any moment, if disclosed, give a
sudden check to the comforting plan thus formed? That must be learned
It was not until the next afternoon that, looking over the Shagford
Minute-Hand more carefully than he had had time to do in the morning,
he saw an account of the accident at the railroad bridge, which
accounted for the floating hat. Simeon Piper, then, was in the very
town, at the hospital—perhaps at this instant telling some one the tale
which had come to his knowledge! Preposterous unkindness of fate, to
deal such a blow at this late day! Hounshell only half believed it could
be dealt him; yet when he rose from his chair he felt very weak, and the
solid walls of the mill as he passed outside seemed decidedly rickety.
He very nearly expected them to fall over upon him. As directly as he
could he made his way to the hospital, and by the time he reached it was
aware that his interest in the stranger might appear somewhat singular.
To prevent this he began carelessly, to the attendant:
"Queer sort of case, that one you had yesterday from the railroad."
"Yes, a very narrow escape."
"I read about it in the Minute-Hand. How's he getting along?"
"Very well indeed. He's left us."
"Left a'ready!" Hounshell wondered if his face looked as white as it
felt. "There's no chance, then—"
"No chance to see him now," said the attendant, far from suspecting the
anxiety under that word "chance," as used by Hounshell.
"He's lucky to get off so soon," remarked the latter, a cold
perspiration on his back. "Gone from town, I s'pose."
"I believe so."
Hounshell was afraid to ask anything more. He covered his retreat by
discussing his ostensible errand, which was to make arrangements for
possibly sending to the hospital the invalid wife of one of his men. He
had no intention of actually sending her, but he went away leaving an
impression of his remarkable kindness.
How dear to him was all this false reputation, which cost so little
except in secret mental twinges! He doubted whether a respectability
honestly worked for would have yielded him nearly so keen an enjoyment;
and he was determined to hold on to that which he had gained. Where to
look for Piper, and just how to dispose of him, was the problem now
before him. But he began to feel easier, and his thoughts returned to
the impending labor revolt.
It was desirable to see Scofield in private, and with this end in view
he drove out to the cottage again at evening.
On entering the little sitting-room he was annoyed to find a stranger
there comfortably adjusted in a rocking-chair.
"I didn't know you had company here," he observed frigidly, eying
"Oh, that won't interfere!" said Scofield. "It's only Mr. Piper; the man
"Piper!" ejaculated Hounshell, in a voice harsh with horror.
The stranger looked up at him astonished.
"Yes," said the weaver. "Mr. Piper, this is our boss, Mr. Hounshell."
It was all over—so the miller thought. He stood staring, waiting for
Simeon Piper to spring up with deadly denunciation on his lips. But that
individual merely bowed and inspected his vis-à-vis with a
good-natured air. The only thing worthy of remark about him was that
there was a sort of pained blankness in his face; and as he met
Hounshell's fixed gaze he lifted one hand and pressed his forehead
vaguely for an instant. The other man was quick to take the respite
"I'm glad to see you looking so well, Mr. Piper," he said, exhibiting
his smile with great success. "I've heard about your escape."
Then he looked at Scofield imperiously, and they went out together.
"What is that man there for?" he demanded, taking the weaver's arm
"Why, he's come out to board; that's all. Do you know him? You seemed a
good deal shaken up."
"No; I don't know him. I s'pose this labor combination is making me
nervous. I kind of suspect people."
"Pshaw! This man's an outsider; comes from California. He was a
rancheero, or something, out there, I believe. I can tell you how we
happen to have him here." And the explanation was given. "He's dropped
the bottom out of his memory, like, and wants to wait till he can fit a
new one to it."
"Oh, that's it!" exclaimed Hounshell, once more secure. He saw that his
name had not been recognized by his enemy; and perhaps the memorandum in
his pocket was the only connecting link that would ever lead to such a
recognition. "Still," he said, "I don't like Jonah's bringing him here.
It won't hurt if you let him go his way this side of next week."
They then proceeded to a discussion of the state of things in the mill;
and Hounshell went home without attempting an interview with Addie. But
first, after driving a little way, he stopped, went back on foot, and
stealthily looked through the vine-hung window. Addie was reading
something to the robust-looking invalid, who still sat in the
rocking-chair, his face as blank as ever. Her father occupied himself
with carving a small piece of wood, twisting his lips in sympathy with
the knife. Everything was placidly reassuring.
Hounshell wondered at the thinness of the partition that stood between
him and ruin; but he did not care if it was only an egg-shell, so long
as it did not break.
But while he was still gazing through the pane, the sound of a distant
train on the railroad came through the night. The watcher was scarcely
aware of it until he saw Piper start up in his chair, listening, with a
roused, intent expression. The girl ceased from her reading; Scofield
stopped his work and looked at their guest. No one spoke in the little
room. The noise of the train grew louder; now it became a rumbling hum
or a rattle—busy, swift, determined in character. It was as if a
gigantic shuttle were being driven through the woof of the darkness, to
carry one more strand into that great web of civilization, woven day and
night continually. But there was something mysterious and warning in the
sound besides. Under the general subdued roar could be heard the sharp
click of the wheels from rail to rail, in definite pulsations; the sound
thus grew so precise one might have suspected that it would break into
speech. Had it not some message to deliver of which this was the vague
That at least was what Piper seemed to hope as he rose excited, finally
gaining his feet, with a quicker intelligence in his face than had been
there before. As if it would be possible to catch the message more
distinctly should he look out, he turned his eyes toward the window.
Hounshell barely missed betraying himself there, but slid away into the
"Was that a face?" Simeon Piper demanded. "No; I see it must have been
an illusion," he added, despondently, once more putting his hand to his
The father and daughter exchanged looks of pity.
By this time the cars had got farther off and were less audible. Piper's
agitation died away proportionately, and he sank back into his seat.
But the same sort of thing happened on the following day when he heard
the distant movement of a train.
"Listen!" he cried to Addie, who was with him. "Don't you hear? It's
going to say something. I shall get hold of the idea and find out what
is the matter. Listen! listen!"
Then, as before, the hollow rumble diminished, gradually softened to a
stir no louder than a sigh, and finally was quite lost. Only the baffled
breeze continued its hopeless search among the leafy boughs by the
"What is it you think you might hear?" asked Addie, gently.
The strong man looked at her with tears in his eyes.
"A secret, young lady; a secret! I knew it, and now it is gone. It's
strange that cars should excite me this way, but something has hurt my
brain. You are very kind; and if you go on being so perhaps my mind will
get right again."
A week passed. Piper listened each day to the passing trains; sometimes
at night too, when he lay alone, and it seemed still more likely that
through its relation with this sound the lost clew might disclose
itself. But all in vain; he was unable to recover what had escaped him.
During these days Hounshell did not come out to the cottage, but the
labor movement culminated, and all the railroad and mill employés
demanded an advance of wages.
THE THIRD BRIDGE.
The employers met in conference, and agreed not to yield—so the strike
began. Scofield, however, and a small group with him, stoutly refused to
join the movement; and some work was still done at Hounshell's. This
encouraged the other mill-owners and directors, and exasperated the men
in revolt. At first everything was quiet and orderly; but as the success
of the laborers grew more doubtful to them, anger and excitement gained
"I feel almost afraid for father," said Addie to Simeon Piper, on the
fourth day of the strike. For, in fact, there were now serious threats
"I don't believe they would do him any harm," said the Californian,
easily. "The most they'll do will be to make him stop working, and then
he'll have a holiday."
"But he won't stop," the girl affirmed, excitedly. "I know father better
"Well, then," suggested Piper, still seeking an easy way out, "persuade
your friend Brown—my friend, too—to come over to father's side."
Piper, with a Western taste for convenience and cordiality, had adopted
this mode of referring to Scofield.
"But I—I don't want to," faltered Addie, with a soft blush.
"Hoity-toity!" cried Simeon. "What does that mean?"
"I want him—the strikers, that is—to win."
"Against father?" Piper raised his good-humored eyebrows.
"Oh dear, I wish they were on the same side! I only know I'm fearful.
They'll hurt him; I know they will."
"Oh, look here," said Piper, "that's all foolishness! But I'll tell you
what: we'll walk down to town and see how things are going."
"Shall we? Oh, how nice you are, Mr. Piper! Come on, then."
And they started.
A great many men were standing about the streets, looking ominous of
ill; but as yet no disturbance was made. The mill stood at one end of
the street-bridge; and as Piper and Addie came up to it they heard the
noise of a crowd approaching around one corner of it. A moment after
they had gained the entrance, this crowd, which numbered some
twenty-five men, armed with thick sticks and some heavy stones, arrayed
itself face to face with them.
"Where do you lot plan on going?" asked Piper, in a leisurely manner.
"In here," said some of the group, "to stop them working."
"I guess not," observed the Californian. His tone was even genial.
"We'll see," retorted a leader, moving forward.
The mill-door was fast, but at this moment the bolts were loosed, and
Scofield made his appearance.
"Addie," he commanded, sternly, "come in, and out of the muss! and you,
"You can send daughter in," answered Piper, indicating Addie, who—far
from quailing—looked as serene and fresh as ever. "But I'm going to
stand in front of this door. Now," he continued, with determination,
fronting the rioters, "you leave the old man and his girl alone. If you
don't you've got to fight me. One of your locomotives run me off the
bridge t'other day and didn't kill me; and I guess you can't, either. I
promise to corral the whole herd, if you try to come in here."
Some of the men showed defiance, but those nearest were in no hurry to
attack. It had suddenly become apparent to them that their antagonist's
shoulders were particularly square and rugged. Scofield wondered whether
his champion knew what he was about; the Piper certainly seemed to be in
possession of all his faculties.
The leaders began to confer.
As luck would have it, the owner of the mill, who had been absent, and
was not aware of the immediate danger, just then came up. He had not
seen the crowd until within a few yards. At once a threatening cry
A strange sensation came over Piper; a loud, tumultuous noise following
the word, filled his ears. Was it the rush of the river, or the thunder
of a railroad train? He could not tell; but he shouted suddenly with
"Hounshell—that's the name! Hounshell's the man!"
His memory had come back to him.
The strikers, diverted by this new object, turned as if to assault the
"boss;" but Piper was before them. He had darted forward and toward
Hounshell, who, blanched with fear, and thinking Piper in league with
the men, took flight, making for the bridge; the Californian after him.
The little mob, itself bewildered, followed; but Piper had already
clutched the fugitive when it caught up with them.
"I've got him," he cried. "This man's a fraud. Do you want to know why?
He took the money left to the other man—Scofield—hurrah! that's the
other name. He stole the money, I tell you, and bought that mill, and it
don't belong to him. The mill is Scofield's; d'you hear?"
"Let go," gurgled Hounshell, trying to wrench himself free. But his
captor shook him once, and he was quiet.
The workmen crowded up to get a clearer understanding of this
extraordinary statement; and as it broke fully upon them, "Throw him
over the bridge," became their watchword. But by this time several other
persons had advanced over the street bridge, among whom were Jonah and
"No violence, boys," said Jonah, lifting his voice, which had authority.
"You're disgracing the cause."
The men became silent, but Scofield was indignant with his ally of a
"What are you doing to the boss?" he demanded, hotly. "You must be
"Yes; he's crazy," said Hounshell, trying to assume the air of a
composed and meritorious person placed at a disadvantage.
"You must have been yourself," the Californian vehemently declared,
"when you took that legacy to pay to Mrs. Scofield, and then stole it
because she died and no one knew about it. The mill belongs to Scofield,
I say, and I can prove it in a little time."
"You've got no evidence," asserted Hounshell, very pale and a trifle
"Evidence! I've got you, and you're chock full of it. I believe I could
shake it right out of you if I tried."
Piper glared at him, and then, without releasing his hold, made a dive
with one hand at his captive's breast.
"It's gone," said Hounshell, huskily. "I've burned it."
"The paper," Hounshell muttered; "your memo—"
"Oh, you had it, then! You've convicted yourself by that, my fine
"I give up," said the wretched criminal. "Let's go. Take me away—the
mill! Bring Scofield. I give up."
Seeing that this was best, Simeon acceded.
"Come along, Scofield," he said.
Jonah pressed up to Scofield and congratulated him as they went, but the
older man scarcely responded. When they were again at the mill one
striker renewed the idea of coercing the workers. But Jonah imposed his
"Not now," he said.
And Scofield added:
"Boys, if the mill belongs to me it's settled beforehand. You get your
This sent them off with a cheer and the prophecy that the rest of the
bosses would have to follow suit.
The four men, left alone, entered the office.
"Is it true?" asked Scofield.
Hounshell winced, but replied steadily:
"It's all true."
The weaver went to the window and put his head on his arm. It was he,
the innocent man, who was overwhelmed by the disgrace of the one who had
"But how did you find it out?" Jonah asked of Piper.
"Roundabout," was the answer. "First off, from a man I was hiring on my
ranche. He came from here and spoke about Scofield; said he was a
weaver. I'd heard something about that rich brother in 'Frisco that
hadn't seen the rest of the Scofields for years, and left 'em his money;
so I saw there might be something wrong. I looked it up, and came on
Jonah took his hand.
"But you must have known the Scofields, or had some interest in them,"
he said, after a moment.
Simeon Piper looked down; then he looked away; finally he twirled his
"I could afford the time," he said. "Got money enough. Well, yes, I
suppose you might call it interest. Fact is, I knew Scofield's wife's
sister when she was young. I—didn't marry her. But, then, I never
married any one, you see."
And with this he faced his questioner, turning upon him a pair of eyes
that beamed as if he had just set forth a remarkably cheerful
On further inquiry it was understood how Piper had taken the wrong train
for Shagford, and, finding that it branched off, had started foolishly
to walk along the track when overtaken on the bridge. He was now
convinced that a hat was not a good place in which to deposit important
Finding that evidence for his conviction could soon be obtained, in
addition to his confession, Hounshell executed a deed of the mill to
"And what do you propose to do with me?" he asked. "Are you going to get
me locked up?"
The others held a conference, before answering. Scofield was in favor of
letting the malefactor go, but the decision was at last given to Piper,
"I'm sorry for you, Hounshell. It would have been better for you if you
had emigrated some time ago. But as it is, I guess the law'll have to
decide where you're to locate."
And, subsequently, it did so.
"Well," said the deposed malefactor, when sentence had been passed, "I'm
almost glad of it."
A soft summer rain was falling as they led him out of court to go to
prison; and, strangely enough, he had not felt so happy for years. Once
more he was open to the charm of the pattering drops, the sweetness of
refreshed flowers, the cool air, as he had been in boyhood.
"It's only fair to you," Scofield remarked, forgivingly, "to say that
you showed conscience."
"Yes—if I'd only followed it," Hounshell answered. "A man ought to
trust his conscience instead of letting it trust him. I tell 'ee it's an
awful sharp creditor when the time does come to pay up."
IN EACH OTHER'S SHOES.
John Crombie had taken a room at the new apartment building, The Lorne;
having advanced so far in his experience of New York as to be aware that
if he could once establish himself in a house associated by name with
foreign places and titles his chance of securing "position" would be
greatly increased. He did not, however, take his meals in the expensive
café of that establishment, finding it more economical to go to an
outlandish little French restaurant, some distance away, which had been
nicknamed among those of his acquaintance who resorted to it, "The Fried
Cat." This designation, based on a supposed resemblance to the name of
the proprietor, Fricat, was also believed to have value as a sarcasm.
It was with no pleasant sensations, therefore, that Crombie, waking on a
gray and drizzling morning of November, remembered that he must hie him
to the "Fried Cat" for an early breakfast. He was in a hurry that day;
he had a great deal to do. His room was very small and dark; he bounced
up and dressed himself, in an obscure sort of way, surreptitiously
opening the door and reaching vaguely for his shoes, which stood just
outside, ready blacked. Nor did it add to his comfort to know that the
shoes were very defective as to their soles, and would admit the water
freely from the accumulated puddles of the sidewalks. In fact, he had
been ashamed to expose their bad condition to the porter when he put
them out every night, as he was forced to do, since they were his only
pair. Drawing them on hastily, in order to conceal his mortification
from even his own mind, he sallied forth; and though at the moment of
putting them on a dim sense of something unfamiliar crossed his mind, it
was not until he reached "The Fried Cat" that he became fully aware that
he had carried off some one else's shoes. He turned up the soles,
privately, underneath the low-hanging table-cloth, and by a brief
examination convinced himself that the gaiters did not belong to him.
The test was simple: his feet were unaccountably dry, and there were
none of those breaks in the lower surface of their leather covering
which he had so often been obliged to contemplate.
He saw at once that the porter of The Lorne had made a mistake, and must
have deposited at another apartment his own very insufficient foot-gear;
but there was no chance now to remedy the confusion. Crombie had barely
time to reach the office where he was employed.
On an ordinary occasion he would perhaps have gone back to The Lorne and
effected an honorable exchange. This particular day, however, was by no
means an ordinary occasion. Crombie had made up his mind to take a
momentous step; and it was therefore essential that he should appear at
his desk exactly on time.
He was a clerk in an important engraving company. For several years he
had occupied that post, without any opportunity having presented itself
for a promotion. At the best, even should he rise, what could he expect?
To be cashier, perhaps, or possibly, under exceptional circumstances, a
confidential private secretary. This prospect did not satisfy him; he
was determined to strike for something higher.
It will naturally be inferred that he was ambitious. I am not in a
position to deny this; but all I can be certain of is, that he was in
love—which is often about the same thing.
Several times at The Lorne he had met in the hallways or in the elevator
a young lady, who was in no small degree beautiful, and charmed him
still more by her general presence, which conveyed the idea of a
harmonious and lovely character. She had light hair and blue eyes, but
these outward attributes were joined with a serenity and poise of manner
that indicated greater stability than is attributed, as a rule, to
individuals of her type.
Once he happened to arrive at the main entrance just as this vision of
beauty emerged to take her place in a coupé which was waiting by the
curbstone. She dropped her card-case upon the sidewalk, and Crombie's
heart throbbed with delight as he picked it up, gave it to her, and
received her smiling thanks for his little service. Another time, as he
was descending in the elevator, a door opposite the shaft, on the second
floor, stood open, and he caught a glimpse of the apartment to which it
gave access. The room was finished in soft tints, and was full of
upholstery and hangings that lent it a dim golden atmosphere. In the
middle of it stood the young girl, clad in the palest blue, above which
her hair shone like a golden cloud on some dim evening sky.
Slight occurrences of this sort had affected him. He learned that she
was the daughter of Littimer, the rich, widowed banker: her name was
In these new, stout shoes that did not belong to him Crombie trod with a
buoyancy and assurance strongly in contrast with the limp and
half-hearted pace to which his old, shabby gaiters had formerly inclined
him. He rattled down the stairs of the elevated station with an alacrity
almost bumptious; and the sharp, confident step that announced his
entrance into the company's office made the other clerks quite ashamed
of their own want of spirit.
He worked at his desk until noon; but when the bells of Trinity rang
twelve in solemn music over the busy streets, he dropped his pen, walked
with a decisive air the length of the room, and, opening a door at the
other end, presented himself before Mr. Blatchford, the treasurer, who
was also an influential director.
"Crombie, eh? Well, what is it?"
"I want to speak with you a moment, sir."
"Anything important? I'm busy."
"Yes, sir; quite important—to me. Possibly it may be to you."
"Fire away, then; but cut it short." Mr. Blatchford's dense, well-combed
gray side-whiskers were directed toward the young man in an aggressive
way, as if they had been some sort of weapon.
Crombie nonchalantly settled himself in a chair, at ease.
"I am tired of being a clerk," he said. "I'm going to be a director in
"I guess you're going to be an inmate of a lunatic asylum," Mr.
Blatchford remarked, with astonished cheerfulness.
"That seems as unlikely to me as the other thing does to you," said
Hereupon Mr. Blatchford became sarcastically deferential. "And just
about when do you propose to become a director?" he asked.
"In the course of a month. The election, I believe, takes place in
"Quite right," said his senior, whose urbanity was meant to be crushing.
"Meanwhile, you will need leisure to attend to this little matter.
Suppose I oblige you by saying that the company has no further need of
"Suppose you do. What then?"
Mr. Blatchford gave way to his anger. "What then? Why, then you would
have to go; that's all. You would be thrown out of employment. You would
have to live on your principal, as long as there was any; and afterward
you would be obliged to find some other work, or beg, or borrow, or—"
"That's enough," said Crombie, rising with dignity.
"No, it isn't," the treasurer declared, "for you don't seem to
understand even now. I discharge you, Mr. Crombie, on the company's
behalf, and you may leave this office at once."
Crombie bowed and went out. "I'm going to be a director, all the same,"
he told Mr. Blatchford before he closed the door. Then he collected the
few articles that belonged to him from his desk, and departed, a free
man. He had his future to himself; or else he had no future worth
speaking of; he wasn't sure which. Nevertheless, he felt quite happy.
Such a result as this had seemed to him, in the prospect, hardly
possible; but now that it had arrived he was not discomfited. Unbounded
courage seemed to rise from the stout soles of the alien boots,
percolating through his whole system. He was surprised at himself. He
had intended to use more diplomacy with Mr. Blatchford, and it was no
joke to him to lose his place. But instead of feeling despondent, or
going at once in search of new employment, he cheerfully went about
making calls on several gentlemen who, he thought, might be induced to
aid in his ambitious project. His manner was that of a person sure of
his powers and enjoying a well-earned leisure. It had its effect. Two or
three stockholders of the company joined in agreeing with him that
improved methods could be introduced into its management, and that it
would be a good thing to have in the board, say, two young, fresh,
active men—of whom Crombie, by reason of his experience and training,
should be one.
"I own a little stock," said the deposed clerk, who had taken the
precaution to obtain a couple of shares by great effort in saving.
"Besides, not having any other engrossing interests at present, I could
give my whole attention to the company's affairs."
"Quite so," said the merchant whom he was addressing, comfortably. "We
must see if we can get together a majority; no time to be lost, you
"No, sir. I shall go right to work; and perhaps you will speak to some
of your friends, and give me some names."
"Certainly. Come in again pretty soon; will you?"
Crombie saw that he had a good foundation to build upon already.
Blatchford was not popular, even among the other directors; and sundry
stockholders, as well as people having business with the company, had
conceived a strong dislike of him on account of his overbearing manners.
Therefore it would not be hard to enlist sympathy for a movement
obnoxious to him. But it was imperative that the self-nominated
candidate should acquire more of the stock; and to do this capital must
be had. Crombie did not see quite how it was to be got; he had no
sufficient influence with the bankers.
The afternoon was nearly spent, and he trudged up-town, thinking of the
ways and means. But though the problem was far from solved, he still
continued in a state of extraordinary buoyancy. Those shoes, those
shoes! He was so much impressed by their comfort and the service they
had done him in making a good appearance that he resolved to get a new
pair of his own. He stopped and bought them; then kept on toward The
Lorne, carrying his purchase under his arm without embarrassment. The
cold drizzle had ceased, and the sunset came out clear and golden,
dipping its bright darts into the shallow pools of wet on the pavement,
and somehow mingling with his financial dreams a dream of that fair hair
that gave a glory to Miss Blanche's face.
On regaining his modest apartment he sent for the boot-boy, and inquired
the whereabouts of his missing shoes.
"Couldn't tell you, sir," said the servant. "Pretty near all the men's
boots in the house has gone out, you see, and they'll only be coming
back just about now. I'll look out for 'em, sir, and nab 'em as soon as
they show up."
"All right. Whose are these that I've been wearing?"
The boy took them, turned them over, and examined them with the eye of a
connoisseur in every part.
"'Them?' I should say, sir, them was Mr. Littimer's."
Crombie blushed with mortification. Of all the dwellers in The Lorne,
this was the very one with whom it was the most embarrassing to have
such a complication occur; and yet, strange inconsistency! he had been
longing for any accident, no matter how absurd or fantastic, that could
bring him some chance of an acquaintance with Blanche.
"Take these boots, dry them right away, and give 'em a shine. Then carry
them up to Mr. Littimer's rooms." He gave the boy a quarter: he was
Now that he had embarked upon a new career, he perceived the impropriety
of a future director in the Engraving Company going to dine at the
"Fried Cat," and so resolved to take his dinner in the gorgeous café of
The Lorne. While he was waiting for the proper moment to descend
thither, he could not get the shoe question out of his mind. Surely, the
boot-boy could not have been so idiotic as to have left that ancient,
broken-down pair at Littimer's threshold! And yet it was possible.
Crombie felt another flush of humility upon his cheeks. Then he wandered
off into revery upon the multifarious errands of all the pairs of boots
and shoes that had gone forth from the great apartment-house that day.
Patter, patter, patter! tramp, tramp!—he imagined he heard them all
walking, stamping, shuffling along toward different parts of the city,
with many different objects, and sending back significant echoes.
Whither had his own ruinous Congress gaiters gone?—to what destination
which they would never have reached had he been in them? Had they
carried their temporary possessor into any such worriment and trouble as
he himself had often travelled through on their worn but faithful soles?
Breaking off from these idle fancies at length, he went down to the
café; and there he had the pleasure of dining at a table not far from
Blanche Littimer. But, to his surprise, she was alone. Her father did
not appear during the meal.
The fact was that the awful possibility, mere conjecture of which had
frightened Crombie, had occurred. Littimer had received the young man's
shoes in place of his own.
They happened to fit him moderately well; so that he, likewise, did not
notice the exchange until he had started for his office. He believed in
walking the entire distance, no matter what the weather; and to this
practice he made rare exceptions. But he had not progressed very far
before he became annoyed by an unaccustomed intrusion of dampness that
threatened him with a cold. He looked down, carefully surveyed the
artificial casing of his extremities, and decided to hail the first
unoccupied coupé he should meet. It was some time before he found one;
and when finally he took his seat in the luxurious little bank parlor at
Broad Street, his feet were quite wet.
His surprise at this occurrence was doubled when, on taking off the
shoes and scrutinizing them more closely, he ascertained that they were
the work of his usual maker. What had happened to him? Was he dreaming?
It seemed to him that he had gone back many years; that he was a poor
young man again, entering upon his first struggle for a foothold in the
crowded, selfish, unhomelike metropolis. He remembered the day when he
had worn shoes like these.
He sent out for an assortment of new ones, from which, with unnecessary
lavishness, he chose and kept three or four pairs. All the rest of the
day, nevertheless, those sorry Congress boots of Crombie's, which he had
directed his office-boy to place beside the soft-coal fire, for drying,
faced him with a sort of haunting look. However much he might be
occupied with weightier matters, he could not keep his eyes from
straying in that direction; and whenever they rested on that battered
"right" and that way-worn "left," turned up in that mute, appealing
repose and uselessness at the fender, his thoughts recurred to his early
years of trial and poverty. Ah! how greatly he had changed since then!
On some accounts he could almost wish that he were poor again. But when
he remembered Blanche, he was glad, for her sake, that he was rich.
But if for her sake, why not for others? Perhaps he had been rather
selfish, not only about Blanche, but toward her. His conscience began to
reproach him. Had he made for her a large life? Since her mother's
premature death, had he instilled into her sympathies, tastes,
companionships that would make her existence the richer? Had he not kept
her too much to himself? On the other hand, he had gratified all her
material wants; she could wear what she pleased, she could go where she
chose, she had acquaintances of a sort becoming to the daughter of a
wealthy man. Yet there was something lacking. What did she know about
old, used-up boots and all that pertains to them? What did she know
about indigence, real privation, and brave endurance, such as a hundred
thousand fellow-creatures all around her were undergoing?
Somehow it dawned upon the old banker that if she knew about all these
things and had some share in them, albeit only through sympathy and
helping, she might be happier, more truly a woman, than she was now.
As he sat alone, in revery, he actually heaved a deep sigh. A sigh is
often as happy a deliverance as a laugh, in this world of sorrows. It
was the first that had escaped Littimer in years. Let us say that it was
a breathing space, which gave him time for reflection; it marked the
turning of a leaf; it was the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
Before he left the bank he locked the door of the private parlor, and
was alone for two or three minutes. The office boy was greatly puzzled
the next morning, when he found all the new pairs of shoes ranged intact
in the adjoining cupboard. The old ones were missing.
Littimer had gone away in them, furtively. He was ashamed of his own
This time be resolutely remained afoot instead of hiring a carriage. He
despatched a messenger to Blanche, saying that sudden business would
prevent his returning to dinner, and continued indefinitely on his
way—whither? As to that he was by no means certain; he knew only that
he must get out of the beaten track, out of the ruts. For an hour or two
he must cease to be Littimer, the prosperous moneyed man, and must tread
once more the obscure paths through which he had made his way to
fortune. He could hardly have explained the prompting which he obeyed.
Could it have had anything to do with the treacherous holes in the
bottoms of those old shoes?
As it chanced, he passed by the "Fried Cat;" and, dingy though the place
was, he felt an irresistible desire to enter it. Seating himself, he
ordered the regular dinner of the day. The light was dim; the
table-cloth was dirty; the attendance was irregular and distracted.
Littimer took one sip of the sour wine—which had a flavor resembling
vinegar and carmine ink in equal parts—and left the further contents of
his bottle untasted. The soup, the stew, and the faded roast that were
set before him, he could scarcely swallow; but a small cup of coffee at
the end of the well-nigh Barmecide repast came in very palatably.
In default of prandial attractions, Littimer tried to occupy himself by
looking at the people around him. The omnifarious assembly included
pale, prim-whiskered young clerks; shabby, lonely, sallow young women,
whose sallowness and shabbiness stamped them with the mark of integrity;
other females whose specious splendor was not nearly so reassuring; old
men, broken-down men, middle-aged men of every description, except the
"Some of them," Littimer reflected, "are no worse than I am. But are any
of them really any better?"
He could not convince himself that they were; yet his sympathies,
somehow, went out toward this motley crowd. It appeared to him very
foolish that he should sympathize, but he could not help it. "And, after
all," was the next thought that came to him, "are we to give pity to
people, or withhold it, simply because they are better or worse than
ourselves? No; there is something more in it than that."
Leaving the "Fried Cat" abruptly, he betook himself to an acquaintance
who, he knew, was very active in charities—a man who worked
practically, and gave time to the work.
"Do you visit any of your distress cases to-night?" he asked.
"Yes, I shall make a few calls," answered the man of charity. "Would you
like to go along?"
So the two started out together. The places they went to were of various
kinds, and revealed a considerable diversity of misfortune. Sometimes
they entered tenement-houses of the most wretched character; but in
other instances they went to small and cheap but decent lodgings over
the shops on West Side avenues, or even penetrated into boarding-houses
of such good appearance that the banker was surprised to find his
friend's mission carrying him thither. All the cases, however, had been
studied, and were vouched for; and several were those of young men and
women having employment, but temporarily disabled, and without friends
who could help them.
"You do well to help these beginners, at critical times," said the
banker, with satisfaction, "I take a special interest in them."
It was almost the same as if he were receiving relief himself. Who
knows? Perhaps he was; but to the outward eye it appeared merely that,
with his friend's sanction, he was dispensing money and offers of good
will to the needy. What a strange freak it was, though, in Littimer! He
kept on with the work until quite late in the evening, regardless of the
risk he ran by continuing out-of-doors when so ill shod.
I think he had some idea in his mind that he was performing an act of
Having waited a reasonable length of time after dinner, Crombie again
left his room, resolved to make a call upon Mr. Littimer, on the plea of
apologizing for having marched away with his shoes.
He would not run the risk, by sending his card, of being denied as a
stranger; so, notwithstanding much hesitation and tremor, he approached
the door which he had once seen standing open, and knocked. A voice
which he now heard for the second time in his life, but which was so
sweet and crept so naturally into the centre of his heart that the
thought of it seemed always to have been there, answered: "Come in." And
he did come in.
"Is Mr. Lit—is your father at home?" It seemed to bring him a little
nearer to her to say "your father."
Blanche had risen from the chair where she was reading, and looked very
much surprised. "Oh," she exclaimed, with girlish simplicity, "I thought
it was the waiter! N-no; he hasn't come home yet."
"I beg pardon. Then perhaps I'd better call later." Crombie made a
feeble movement toward withdrawal.
"Did you want to see him on business? Who shall I tell him?"
"Mr. Crombie, please. It's nothing very important."
"Oh," said Blanche, with a little blush at her own deception, "haven't I
seen you in the house before? Are you staying here?"
She remembered distinctly the incident of the card-case, and how very
nice she had thought him, both on that occasion and every time she had
seen him. But as for him, his heart sank at the vague impersonality with
which she seemed to regard him.
"Yes, I'm here, and can easily come in again."
"I expect my father almost any moment," she said. "Would you like to
What an absurd question, to one in his frame of mind! "Well, really, it
is such a very small matter," he began, examining his hat attentively.
Then he glanced up at her again, and smiled: "I only wanted to—to make
"An apology!" echoed Blanche, becoming rather more distant. "Oh, dear!
I'm very sorry, I'm sure. I didn't know there'd been any trouble." She
began to look anxious, and turned her eyes upon the smouldering fire in
the grate. So this was to be the end of her pleasant, cheerful reveries
about this nice young man. And the reveries had been more frequent than
she had been aware of until now.
"There has been no trouble," he assured her, eagerly. "Just a little
mistake that occurred; and, in fact, I was hardly responsible for it."
Blanche's eyes began to twinkle with a new and amusing interpretation.
"Ah!" she cried, "are you the gentleman who—" Then she stopped short.
Crombie was placed in an unexpected embarrassment. How could he possibly
drag into his conversation with this lovely young creature so
commonplace and vulgar a subject as shoe-leather! Ignoring her
unfinished question, he asked: "Do you know, Miss Littimer, whether
the—a—one of the servants here has brought up anything for your
father—that is, a parcel, a—"
"A pair of shoes?" Blanche broke in, her eyes dancing, while her lips
parted in a smile.
"Yes, yes; that's what I meant."
"They came up just after dinner," Blanche returned. "Then you are the
"I'm afraid I am," Crombie owned, and they both laughed.
Blanche quietly, and with no apparent intention, resumed her chair; and
this time Crombie took a seat without waiting to be invited again. Thus
they fell to talking in the friendliest way.
"I can't imagine what has become of papa," said Blanche. "He sent word,
in the most mysterious manner, that he had an engagement; and it is so
unusual! Perhaps it's something about the new house he's
building—up-town, you know. Dear me! it does make so much trouble, and
I don't believe I shall like it half as well as these little, cosey
The little, cosey rooms were as the abode of giants compared with
Crombie's contracted quarters; but he drew comfort from what she said,
thinking how such sentiments might make it possible to win even so
unattainable an heiress into some modest home of his own.
"You don't know till you try it," he replied. "Just think of having a
place all to yourself, belonging to you."
Blanche lifted her eyebrows, and a little sigh escaped her. She was
reflecting, perhaps, that a place all to herself would be rather lonely.
"You have never met my father?" she asked.
"No. I have seen him."
"Well, I think you will like him when you know him."
"I don't doubt it!" Crombie exclaimed with fervor, worshipping the very
furniture that surrounded Blanche. "I hope we may become better
"Only I think, Mr. Crombie, he will owe you an apology now."
"For keeping your shoes out so late."
"My shoes!" said the young man, in vehement surprise.
"Why, yes. Didn't you know they came to him? The porter said so."
Crombie grew red with the sense of his disgrace in having his
poverty-stricken boots come to the knowledge of the banker. Really, his
mortification was so great that the accident seemed to him to put an end
to all his hopes of further relations with Blanche and her father.
"Oh, I assure you," he said, rising, "that makes no difference at all!
I'm sorry I mentioned the matter. Pray tell Mr. Littimer not to think of
it. I—I believe I'd better go now, Miss Littimer."
Blanche rose too, and Crombie was on the point of bowing a good-night,
when the door opened, and a weary figure presented itself on the
threshold; the figure of a short man with a spare face, and whiskers in
which gray mingled with the sandy tint. He had a pinched, half-growling
expression, was draped in a light, draggled overcoat, and carried an
umbrella, the ribs of which hung loose around the stick.
"There's papa this moment!" cried Blanche.
Crombie perceived that escape was impossible, and, in a few words, the
reason of his presence there was made known to the old gentleman.
Littimer examined the visitor swiftly, from head to foot—especially the
foot. He advanced to the fire, toasted first one and then the other of
the damp gaiters he had on, and at length broke out, in a tone bordering
on reproach: "So you are the owner, are you? Then my sympathy has all
been wasted! Why, I supposed, from the condition of these machines that
I've been lugging around with me half the day, that you must be in the
greatest distress. And, lo and behold! I find you a young fellow in
prime health, spruce and trim, doing well, I should say, and perfectly
"I can't help that, sir," retorted Crombie, nettled, but speaking with
respect. "I confess I was very happy until a moment or two ago."
"What do you mean by that?" the other demanded, with half-yielding
pugnacity. "Till I came in—is that the idea?"
"Oh, papa!" said Blanche, softly.
"Well, honey-bee, what's the matter?" her father asked, trying to be
gruff. "Can't I say what I like, here?" But he surrendered at once by
adding: "You may be sure I don't want to offend any one. Sit down, Mr.
Crombie, and wait just a few moments while I go into the other room and
rejuvenate my hoofs, so to speak—for I fear I've made a donkey of
He disappeared into an adjoining room with Blanche, who there informed
him artlessly of Crombie's consideration and attentiveness in restoring
the errant shoes. When they came back Littimer insisted upon having the
young man remain a little longer and drink a glass of port with him.
Before taking his departure, however, Crombie, who felt free to speak
since Blanche had retired, made a brief statement in satisfaction of
"You hinted," he said, "that you judged me to be doing well. I don't
want to leave you with a false impression. The truth is, I am not doing
well. I have no money to speak of, and to-day I lost the position on
which I depended."
"You don't tell me!" Littimer's newly roused charitable impulses came to
the fore. "Why, now you begin to be really interesting, Mr. Crombie."
"Thanks," said Crombie; "I'm not ambitious to interest people in that
way. I told you only because I thought it fair."
"Don't be touchy, my dear sir," answered the banker. "I meant what I
said. Come, let's see what can be done. Have you any scheme in view?"
"Yes, I have," said Crombie, with decision.
Littimer gave a grunt. He was afraid of people with schemes, and was
disappointed with the young man's want of helplessness. Dependence would
have been an easier thing to deal with.
"Well," said he, "we must talk it over. Come and see me at the bank
to-morrow. You know the address?"
The next day Crombie called at the bank; but Littimer was not there. He
was not very well, it was said; had not come down-town. Crombie did what
he could toward organizing his fight for a directorship, and then
returned to The Lorne, where he punctually inquired after Mr. Littimer's
health, and learned that the banker's ardor in making the rounds among
distressed people the night before had been followed by reaction into a
bad cold, with some threat of pneumonia. Blanche was plainly anxious.
The attack lasted three or four days, and Crombie, though the affair of
the directorship was pressing for attention, could not forbear to remain
as near as possible to Blanche, offering every aid within his power, so
far as he might without overstepping the lines of his very recent
acquaintance. But the Littimers did not, according to his observation,
number any very intimate companions in their circle, or at least had not
many friends who would be assiduous in such an emergency. Perhaps their
friends were too busy with social engagements. Consequently, he saw a
good deal of Blanche, and became to her an object of reliance.
Well, it was simply one of those things that happen only in fairy-tales
or in romances—or in real life. Littimer recovered without any serious
illness, and, after a brief conference with Crombie, entered heartily
into the young man's campaign. Crombie showed him just what combinations
could be formed, how success could be achieved, and what lucrative
results might be made to ensue. He conquered by figures and by lucid
common-sense. Littimer agreed to buy a number of shares in the Engraving
Company, which he happened to know could be purchased, and to advance
Crombie a good sum with which to procure a portion of the same lot. But
before this agreement could be consummated, Crombie, with his usual
frankness, said to the banker:
"I will conceal nothing from you, Mr. Littimer. I fell in love with
Blanche before I knew her, and if this venture of mine succeeds, I shall
ask her to become my wife."
"Let us attend to business," said Littimer, severely. "Sentiment can
take care of itself."
Their manœuvre went on so vigorously that Blatchford became alarmed,
and sent an ambassador to arrange a compromise; but by this time Crombie
had determined to oust Blatchford himself and elect an entirely new set
of men, to compose more than half the Board, and so control everything.
But Littimer did not forget the charitable enthusiasm which had been
awakened by a circumstance on the surface so trivial as the mistake of a
boot-boy. He did not desist from his interest in aiding disabled or
unfortunate people who could really be aided. Some time after Crombie
had achieved his triumph in the Engraving Company, and had repaid
Littimer's loan, he was admitted to a share in the banking business; and
eventually the head of the house was able to give a great deal of
attention to perfecting his benevolent plans.
When the details of their wedding were under discussion, Crombie said to
Blanche: "Oughtn't we to have an old shoe thrown after the carriage as
we drive away?"
She smiled; looked him full in the eyes with a peculiar tenderness in
which there was a bright, delicious sparkle of humor. "No; old shoes are
much too useful to be wasted that way."
Somehow she had possessed herself of that particular, providential pair;
and, though I don't want anybody to laugh at my two friends, I must risk
saying that I suspect Mrs. Crombie of preserving it somewhere, to this
day, in the big new house up-town.