Stories by American Authors,
Volume VII, by Various
THE BISHOP’S VAGABOND BY OCTAVE THANET
LOST BY EDWARD BELLAMY
KIRBY’S COALS OF FIRE BY LOUISE STOCKTON
PASSAGES FROM THE JOURNAL OF A SOCIAL WRECK BY MARGARET FLOYD
STELLA GRAYLAND BY JAMES T. McKAY
THE IMAGE OF SAN DONATO BY VIRGINIA W. JOHNSON
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
Copyright, 1885, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
The Stories in this Volume are protected by
copyright, and are printed here by authority of the authors or their representatives.
THE BISHOP’S VAGABOND.
By Octave Thanet.
⁂ Atlantic Monthly, January, 1884.
The Bishop was walking down the wide Aiken street. He was the only
bishop in Aiken, and they made much of him, accordingly, though his
diocese was in the West, which of course was a drawback.
He was a tall man, with a handsome, kind face under his shovel hat;
portly, as a bishop should be, and having a twinkle of humor in his
eye. He dressed well and soberly, in the decorous habiliments of his
office. “So English,” the young ladies of the Highland Park Hotel used
to whisper to each other, admiring him. Perhaps this is the time to
mention that the Bishop was a widower.
To-day he walked at a gentle pace, repeatedly lifting his hat in
answer to a multitude of salutations; for it was a bright April day,
and the street was thronged. There was the half-humorous incongruity
between the people and the place always visible in a place where two
thirds of the population are a mere pleasant-weather growth, dependent
on the climate. Groups of Northerners stood in the red and blue and
green doorways of the gay little shops, or sauntered past them; easily
distinguished by their clothing and their air of unaccustomed and
dissatisfied languor. One could pick out at a glance the new-comers
just up from Florida; they were so decorated with alligator-tooth
jewelry, and gazed so contemptuously at the oranges and bananas in the
windows. The native Southerners were equally conspicuous, in the case
of the men, from their careless dress and placid demeanor. A plentiful
sprinkling of black and yellow skins added to the picturesque
character of the scene. Over it all hung a certain holiday air, the
reason for which one presently detected to be an almost universal
wearing of flowers,—bunches of roses, clusters of violets or trailing
arbutus, or twigs of yellow jasmine; while bare-footed boys, with
dusky faces and gleaming teeth, proffered nosegays at every corner.
The Aiken nosegay has this peculiarity,—the flowers are wedged
together with unexampled tightness. Truly enough may the little
venders boast, “Dey’s orful lots o’ roses in dem, mister; you’ll fin’
w’en you onties ’em.” No one of the pedestrians appeared to be in a
hurry; and under all the holiday air of flowers there was a pathetic
disproportion of pale and weary faces.
But if they did not hurry on the sidewalk, there was plenty of motion
in the street; horses in Aiken being always urged to their full
speed,—which, to be sure, is not alarming. Now, carriages were
whirling by and riders galloping in both directions. The riders were
of every age, sex, and condition: pretty girls in jaunty riding
habits, young men with polo mallets, old men and children, and
grinning negroes lashing their sorry hacks with twigs. Of the
carriages, it would be hard to tell which was the more noticeable, the
smartness of the vehicles or the jaded depression of the thin beasts
that pulled them. Where Park and Ashland avenues meet at right angles
the crowd was most dense. There, on one side, one sees the neat little
post-office and the photographer’s gallery, and off in the distance
the white pine towers of the hotel, rising out of its green hills; on
the other, the long street slowly climbs the hill, through shops and
square white houses with green blinds, set back in luxuriant gardens.
At this corner two persons were standing, a young man and a young
woman, both watching the Bishop. The young woman was tall, handsome,
and—always an attraction in Aiken—evidently not an invalid. The
erect grace of her slim figure, the soft and varying color on her
cheek, the light in her beautiful brown eyes,—all were the
unmistakable signs of health. The young man was a good-looking little
fellow, perfectly dressed, and having an expression of indolent
amusement on his delicate features. He had light yellow hair, cut
closely enough to show the fine outline of his head, a slight mustache
waxed at the ends, and a very fair complexion.
The young woman was speaking. “Do you see to whom my father is
talking, Mr. Talboys?” said she.
“Plainly, he has picked up his vagabond.”
“Demming? Yes, it is Demming.”
“Now I wonder, do you know,” said the young man, “what induces the
Bishop to waste his time on such hopeless moral trash as that.” He
spoke in a pleasant, slow voice, with an English accent.
“It isn’t hopeless to him, I suppose,” she answered. Her voice also
was slow, and it was singularly sweet.
“I think it must be his sense of humor,” he continued. “The Bishop
loves a joke, and Demming is a droll fellow. He is a sort of grim joke
himself, you know, a high-toned gentleman who lives by begging. He
brings his bag to the hotels every day. Of course you have heard him
talk, Miss Louise. His strong card is his wife. ‘Th’ ole ’ooman’s nigh
blin’,’”—here Talboys gave a very good imitation of the South
Carolina local drawl—“’an’ she’s been so tenderly raised she cyan’t
live ’thout cyoffee three times a day!’”
“I have heard that identical speech,” said Louise, smiling as Talboys
knew she would smile over the imitation. “He gets a good deal from the
Northerners, I fancy.”
“Enough to enable him to be a pillar of the saloons,” said Talboys.
“He is a lavish soul, and treats the crowd when he prospers in his
profession. Once his money gave out before the crowd’s thirst. ‘Never
min’, gen’lemen,’ says our friend, ‘res’ easy. I see the Bishop
a-gwine up the street; I’ll git a dollar from him. Yes, wait; I won’t
be gwine long.’”
“And he got the money?”
“Oh, yes. I believe he got it to buy quinine for ‘th’ ole ’ooman,’ who
was down with the break-bone fever. He is like Yorick, ‘a fellow of
infinite jest’—in the way of lying. He talks well, too. You ought to
hear him discourse on politics. As he gets most of his revenue from
the North, he is kind enough to express the friendliest sentiments. ‘I
wuz opposed to the wah’s bein’’ is his standard speech, ‘an’ now I’m
opposed to its continnerin’.’ For all that, he was a mild kind of
“He did it for money, he says,” returned Louise. “The funniest thing
about him is his absolute frankness after he is found out in any
trick. He doesn’t seem to have any sense of shame, and will fairly
chuckle in my father’s face as he is owning up to some piece of
“You know he was in the Confederate army. Fought well, too, I’m told.
What does he do when the Northerners are gone? Aiken must be a pretty
bare begging ground.”
“Oh, he has a wretched little cabin out in the woods,” said Louise,
“and a sweet-potato patch. He raises sweet potatoes and persimmons—”
“And pigs,” Talboys interrupted. “I saw some particularly lean swine
grubbing about in the sand for snakes. They feed them on snakes, in
the pine barrens, you know, which serves two purposes: kills the
snakes and fills the pigs. Entertainment for man and beast, don’t you
see? By the way, talking of being entertained, I know of a fine old
Southern manor-house over the bridge.”
Louise shook her head incredulously. “I have lost faith in Southern
manor-houses. Ever since I came South I have sought them vainly. All
the way from Atlanta I risked my life, putting my head out of the car
windows, to see the plantations. At every scrubby-looking little
station we passed, the conductor would say, ‘Mighty nice people live
heah; great deal of wealth heah before the wah!’ Then I would
recklessly put my head out. I expected to see the real Southern
mansion of the novelists, with enormous piazzas and Corinthian pillars
and beautiful avenues; and the white-washed cabins of the negroes in
the middle distance; and the planter, in a white linen suit and a wide
straw hat, sitting on the piazza drinking mint juleps. Well, I don’t
really think I expected the planter, but I did hope for the house.
Nothing of the kind. All I saw was a moderate-sized square house, with
piazzas and a flat roof, all sadly in need of paint. Now, I’m like
Betsey Prig; ‘I don’t believe there’s no sich person.’ It’s a myth,
like the good old Southern cooking.”
“Oh, they do exist,” said Talboys, his eyes brightening over this long
speech, delivered in the softest voice in the world. “There are houses
in Charleston and Beaufort and on the Lower Mississippi that suggest
the novels; but, on the whole, I think the novelists have played us
false. We expect to find the ruins of luxury and splendor and all that
sort of thing in the South; but in point of fact there was very little
luxury about Southern life. They had plenty of service, such as it
was, and plenty of horses, and that was about all; their other
household arrangements were painfully primitive. All the same, sha’n’t
we go over the bridge?”
Louise assented, and they turned and went their way in the opposite
Meanwhile, the Bishop and his vagabond were talking earnestly. The
vagabond seemed to belong to the class known as “crackers.” Poverty,
sickness, and laziness were written in every flutter of his rags, in
every uncouth curve or angle of his long, gaunt figure and sallow
face. A mass of unkempt iron-gray hair fell about his sharp features,
further hidden by a grizzly beard. His black frock coat had once
adorned the distinguished and ample person of a Northern senator; it
was wrinkled dismally about Demming’s bones, while its soiled
gentility was a queer contrast to his nether garments of ragged
butternut, his coarse boots, and an utterly disreputable hat, through
a hole of which a tuft of hair had made its way, and waved plume-wise
in the wind. Around the hat was wound a strip of rusty crape. The
Bishop quickly noticed this woeful addition to the man’s garb. He
asked the reason.
“She’s done gone, Bishop,” answered Demming, winking his eyes hard
before rubbing them with a grimy knuckle; “th’ ole ’ooman’s done lef’
me ’lone in the worl’. It’s an orful ’fliction!” He made so pitiful a
figure, standing there in the sandy road, the wind fluttering his poor
token of mourning, that the Bishop’s kind heart was stirred.
“I am truly sorry, Demming,” said he. “Isn’t this very sudden?”
“Laws, yes, Bishop, powerful suddint an’ onprecedented. ’Pears ’s if I
couldn’t git myself to b’lieve it, nohow. Yes’day ev’nin’ she wuz
chipper’s evah, out pickin’ pine buds; an’ this mahnin’ she woked me
up, an’ says she, ‘I reckon you’d better fix the cyoffee yo’self,
Demming, I feel so cu’se,’ says she. An’ so I did; an’ when I come to
gin it ter her, oh, Lordy, oh, Lordy!—’scuse me, Bishop,—she wuz
cole an’ dead! Doctor cyouldn’t do nuthin’, w’en I brung ’im.
Rheumatchism o’ th’ heart, he says. It wuz turrible suddint, onyhow.
’Minded me o’ them thar games with the thimble, you know, Bishop,—now
ye see it, an’ now ye don’; yes, ’s quick ’s thet!”
The Bishop opened his eyes at the comparison; but Demming had turned
away, with a quivering lip, to bury his face in his hands, and the
Bishop was reproached for his criticism of the other’s naif
phraseology. Now, to be frank, he had approached Demming prepared to
show severity, rather than sympathy, because of the cracker’s last
flagrant wrong-doing; but his indignation, righteous though it was,
took flight before grief. Forgetting judgment in mercy, he proffered
all the consolations he could summon, spiritual and material, and
ended by asking Demming if he had made any preparations for the
“Thet thar’s w’at I’m yere for,” replied the man, mournfully. “You
know jes’ how I’m fixed. Cyoffins cost a heap; an’ then thar’s the
shroud, an’ I ain’t got no reg’lar fun’al cloze, an’ ’pears ’s ef ’t
’ud be a conserlation t’ have a kerridge or two. She wuz a bawn lady,
Bishop; we’re kin ter some o’ the real aristookracy o’ Carolina,—we
are, fur a fac’; an’ I’d kin’ o’ like ter hev her ride ter her own
“Then you will need money?”
“Not frum you, Bishop, not a red cent; but if you uns over thar,”
jerking his thumb in the direction of the white pine towers,—“if you
all ’d kin’ o’ gin me a small sum, an’ ef you’d jes’ start a paper, as
’twere, an’ al-so ef you yo’self ’ud hev the gre’t kin’ness ter come
out an’ conduc’ the fun’al obskesies, it ’ud gratify the corpse
powerful. Mistress Demming’ll be entered then like a bawn lady.
Yes, sir, thet thar, an’ no mo’, ’s w’at I’m emboldened ter ax frum
The Bishop reflected. “Demming,” said he, gravely, “I will try to help
you. You have no objection, I suppose, to our buying the coffin and
other things needed. We will pay the bills.”
Demming’s dejected bearing grew a shade more sombre: he waved his
hand, a gesture very common with him, and usually denoting affable
approval; now it meant gloomy assent. “No objection ’t all, Bishop,”
he said. “I knows my weakness, though I don’ feel now as ef I’d evah
want ter go on no carousements no mo’. I’m ’bliged ter you uns jes’
the same. An’ you won’t forget ’bout the cloze? I’ve been a right good
frien’ to th’ Norf in Aiken, an’ I hope the Norf’ll stan’ by me in the
hour o’ trubbel. Now, Bishop, I’ll be gwine ’long. You’ll fin’ me at
the cyoffin sto’. Mose Barnwell—he’s a mighty decent cullud
man—lives nigh me; he’s gwine fur ter len’ me his cyart ter tek the
cyoffin home. Mahnin’, Bishop, an’ min’, I don’ want money outen
you. No, sir, I do not!”
Then, having waved his hand at his hat, the cracker slouched away. The
Bishop had a busy morning. He went from friend to friend, until the
needed sum was collected. Nor did money satisfy him: he gathered
together a suit of clothes from the tallest Northerners of benevolent
impulses. Talboys was too short to be a donor of clothes, but he gave
more money than all the others united,—a munificence that rebuked the
Bishop, for he had sought the young Boston man last of all and
reluctantly; somehow, he could not feel acquainted with him,
notwithstanding many meetings in many places. Moreover, he held him in
slight esteem, as an idle fellow who did little good with a great
fortune. In his gratitude he became expansive: told Talboys about his
acquaintance with the cracker, described his experiences and
perplexities, and at last invited the young man to go to the funeral,
the next day. Talboys was delighted to accept the invitation; yet it
could not be said that he was often delighted. But he admired the
Bishop, and, even more warmly, he admired the Bishop’s daughter; hence
he caught at any opportunity to show his friendliness. Martin Talboys
was never enthusiastic, and at times his views of life might be called
cynical; but it would be a mistake to infer, therefore, that, as is
common enough, he, having a mean opinion of other people, struck a
balance with a very high one of himself. In truth, Martin was too
modest for his own peace of mind. For years he had contrived to meet
Louise, by accident, almost everywhere she went. She travelled a good
deal, and her image was relieved against a variety of backgrounds. It
seemed to him fairer in each new picture. His love for the Bishop’s
daughter grew more and more absorbing; but at the same time he became
less and less sanguine that she would ever care for him. Although he
was not enthusiastic, he was quite capable of feeling deeply; and he
had begun to suspect that he was capable of suffering. Yet he could
not force himself to decide his fate by speaking. It was not that
Louise disliked him; on the contrary, she avowed a sincere liking; she
always hailed his coming with pleasure, telling him frankly that no
one amused her as did he. There, alas! was the hopeless part of it; he
used to say bitterly to himself that he wasn’t a man, a lover, to her;
he was a mimic, a genteel clown, an errand boy, never out of temper
with his work; in short, she did not take him seriously at all. He
knew the manner of man she did take seriously,—a man of action, who
had done something in the world. Once she told Talboys that he was a
“capital observer.” She made the remark as a compliment, but it stung
him to the quick; he realized that she thought of him only as an
observer. When a trifling but obstinate throat complaint brought the
Bishop to Aiken, Talboys felt a great longing to win his approval.
Surely, Louise, who judged all men by her father’s standard, must be
influenced by her father’s favor. Unhappily, the Bishop had never, as
the phrase goes, “taken” to Talboys, nor did he seem more inclined to
take to him now, and Martin was too modest to persist in unwelcome
attentions. But he greeted the present opportunity all the more
In the morning, the three—the Bishop, Louise, and Talboys—drove to
the cracker’s cabin. The day was perfect, one of those Aiken days, so
fair that even invalids find no complaint in their wearisome list to
bring against them and can but sigh over each, “Ah, if all days might
only be like this!” Hardly a cloud marred the tender blue of the sky.
The air was divinely soft. They drove through the woods, and the
ground was carpeted with dry pine spikes, whereon their horses’ hoofs
made a dull and pleasant sound. A multitude of violets grew in the
little spaces among the trees. Yellow jasmine flecked the roadside
shade with gold, its fragrance blending with the keen odors of the
pine. If they looked up, they saw the pine tops etched upon the sky,
and a solemn, ceaseless murmur beat its organ-like waves through all
their talk. The Bishop had put on his clerical robes; he sat on the
back seat of the carriage, a superb figure, with his noble head and
imposing mien. As they rolled along, the Bishop talked. He spoke of
death. He spoke not as a priest, but as a man, dwelling on the mystery
of death, bringing up those speculations with which from the beginning
men have striven to light the eternal darkness.
“I suppose it is the mystery,” said the Bishop, “which causes the
unreality of death, its perpetual surprise. Now, behind my certainty
of this poor woman’s death I have a lurking expectation of seeing her
standing in the doorway, her old clay pipe in her mouth. I can’t help
“Though she was a ‘bawn lady,’ she smoked, did she?” said Talboys.
Then he felt the remark to be hopelessly below the level of the
conversation, and made haste to add, “I suppose it was a consolation
to her; she had a pretty hard life, I fancy.”
“Awfully,” said Louise. “She was nearly blind, poor woman, yet I think
she did whatever work was done. I have often seen her hoeing. I
believe that Demming was always good to her, though. He is a most
“Singular how a woman will bear any amount of laziness, actual
worthlessness, indeed, in a man who is good to her,” the Bishop
“Beautiful trait in her character,” said Talboys. “Where should we be
“Have the Demmings never had any children?” asked Louise, who did not
like the turn the talk was taking.
“Yes, one,” the Bishop answered, “a little girl. She died three years
ago. Demming was devotedly attached to her. He can’t talk of her now
without the tears coming to his eyes. He really,” said the Bishop,
meditatively, “seemed more affected when he told me about her death
than he was yesterday. She died of some kind of low fever, and was ill
a long time. He used to walk up and down the little path through the
woods, holding her in his arms. She would wake up in the night and
cry, and he would wrap her in an old army blanket, and pace in front
of the house for hours. Often the teamsters driving into town at break
of day, with their loads of wood, would come on him thus, walking and
talking to the child, with the little thin face on his shoulder, and
the ragged blanket trailing on the ground. Ah, Demming is not
altogether abandoned, he has an affectionate heart!”
Neither of his listeners made any response. Talboys, because of his
slender faith in Demming; Louise, because she was thinking that if the
Aiken laundresses were intrusted with her father’s lawn many more
times there would be nothing left to darn. They went on silently,
therefore, until the Bishop said, in a low voice, “Here we are!”
The negro driver, with the agility of a country coachman, had already
sprung to the ground, and was holding the carriage door open.
Before them lay a small cleared tract of land, where a pleasant
greenness of young potato vines hid the sand. In the centre was a
tumble-down cabin, with a mud chimney on the outside. The one window
had no sash, and its rude shutter hung precariously by a single
leathern hinge. The door was open, revealing that the interior was
papered with newspapers. Three or four yelping curs seemed to be all
There was nothing extraordinary in the picture; one could see fifty
such cabins, in a radius of half a mile. Nor was there anything of
mark in the appearance of Demming himself, dressed exactly as he was
the day before, and rubbing his eyes in the doorway. But behind him!
The coachman’s under jaw dropped beneath the weight of a loud “Fo’ de
Lawd!” The Bishop’s benignant countenance was suddenly crimsoned.
Talboys and Louise looked at each other, and bit their lips. It was
only a woman,—a tall, thin, bent woman in a shabby print gown, with a
faded sunbonnet pushed back from her gray head and a common clay pipe
between her lips. Probably in her youth she had been a pretty woman,
and the worn features and dim eyes still retained something engaging
in their expression of timid good-will.
“Won’ you all step in?” she said, advancing.
“Yes, yes,” added Demming, inclining his body and waving both hands
with magnificent courtesy; “alight, gen’lemen, alight! I’m sorry I
ain’t no staggah juice to offah ye, but yo’ right welcome to sweet
potatoes an’ pussimmon beah, w’ich’s all—”
“Demming,” said the Bishop, sternly, “what does this mean? I came to
bury Mrs. Demming, and—and here she is!”
“Burry me!” exclaimed the woman. “Why, I ain’t dead!”
Demming rubbed his hands, his face wearing an indescribable expression
of mingled embarrassment, contrition, and bland insinuation. “Well,
yes, Bishop, yere she is, an’ no mistake! Nuthin’ more ’n a swond, you
unnerstan’. I ’lowed ter notify you uns this mahnin’, but fac’ is I
wuz so decomposed, fin’in’ her traipsin’ ’bout in the gyardin an’ you
all ’xpectin’ a fun’al, thet I jes’ hed ter brace up; an’ fac’ is I
braced up too much, an’ ovahslep’. I’m powerful sorry, an’ I don’
blame you uns ef you do feel mad!”
The Bishop flung off his robes in haste and walked to the carriage,
where he bundled them in with scant regard for their crispness.
“Never heard of such a thing!” said Louise, that being her invariable
formula for occasions demanding expression before she was prepared to
commit herself. By this time a glimmering notion of the state of
things had reached the coachman’s brain, and he was in an ecstasy.
Talboys thought it fitting to speak. He turned to Mrs. Demming, who
was looking from one to another of the group, in a scared way.
“Were you in a swoon?” he asked.
“Oh, laws!” cried the poor woman. “Oh, Demming, what hev you gwine
an’ done now? Gentlemen, he didn’t mean no harm, I’m suah!”
“You were not, then?” said Talboys.
“Leave her ’lone, Cunnel,” Demming said, quietly. “Don’ yo’ see she
cyan’t stan’ no sech racket? ’Sence yo’ so mighty peart ’bout it, no,
she wahn’t, an’ thet thar’s the truf. I jes’ done it fur ter raise
money. It wuz this a way. Thet thar mahnin’, w’ile I wuz a-considerin’
an’ a-contemplatin’ right smart how I wuz evah to git a few dollars, I
seen Mose Barnwell gwine ’long,—yo’ know Mose Barnwell,” turning in
an affable, conversational way to the grinning negro,—“an’ he’d a
string o’ crape ’roun’ his hat ’cause he’d jes done los’ his wife, an’
he wuz purportin’ ter git a cyoffin. So I ’lowed I’d git a cyoffin fur
him cheap. An’ I reckon,” said Demming, smiling graciously on his
delighted black auditor,—“I reckon I done it.”
“Demming,” cried the Bishop, with some heat, “this exceeds patience—”
“I know, Bishop,” answered the vagabond, meekly,—“I know it. I wuz
tempted an’ I fell, as you talked ’bout in yo’ sermon. It’s orful how
I kin do sech things!”
“And those chickens, too!” ejaculated the Bishop, with rising wrath,
as new causes rushed to his remembrance. “You stole chickens,—Judge
Eldridge’s chickens; you who pretend to be such a stanch friend of the
“Chickens!” screamed the woman. “Oh, Lordy! Oh, he nevah done thet
afo’e! He’ll be took to jail! Oh, Demming, how cyould ye? Stealin’
chickens, jes’ like a low-down, no-’cyount niggah!” Sobs choked her
voice, and tears of fright and shame were streaming down her hollow
Demming looked disconcerted. “Now, look a yere!” said he, sinking his
voice reproachfully; “w’at wuz the use o’ bringin’ thet thar up befo’
th’ ole ’ooman? She don’ know nuthin’ on it, you unnerstan’, an’ why
mus’ you rile ’er up fur? I’d not a thought it o’ you, Bishop, thet I
wyouldn’t. Now, Alwynda,” turning to the weeping woman, who was wiping
her eyes with the cape of her sunbonnet, “jes’ you dry up an’ stop yo’
bellerin’, an’ I ’splain it all in a holy minit. Thar, thar,” patting
her on the shoulder, “’tain’t nuthin’ ter cry ’bout; ’tain’t no fault
o’ yourn, onyhow. Fac’ is, gen’lemen, ’twuz all ’long o’ my
’preciation o’ the Bishop. I’m a ’Piscopal, like yo’self, Bishop, an’
I tole Samson Mobley thet you overlaid all the preachers yere fur
goodness an’ shortness bofe. An’ he ’lowed, ‘Mabbe he may fur
goodness; I ain’t no jedge,’ says he; ‘but fo’ shortness, we’ve a
feller down at the Baptis’ kin beat ’im outen sight. They’ve jes’ gin
up sleepin’ down thar,’ says he, ‘’cause ’tain’t worth w’ile.’ So we
tried it on, you unnerstan’, ’cause thet riled me, an’ I jes’ bet on
it, I did; an’ we tried it on,—you in the mahnin’ and him in the
arternoon. An’ laws, ef didn’t so happen as how you’d a powerful flow
o’ speech! ’Twuz ’mazin’ edifyin’, but ’t los’ me the bet, you
unnerstan’; an’ onct los’ I hed ter pay; an’ not havin’ ary chick o’
my own I had ter confiscate some from th’ gineral public, an’ I tuk
’em ’thout distinction o’ party frum the handiest cyoop in the Baptis’
dernomination. I kin’ o’ hankered arter Baptis’ chickuns, somehow,
so’s ter git even, like. Now, Bishop, I jes’ leaves ter you uns,
cyould I go back on a debt o’ honah, like thet?”
“Honor!” repeated the Bishop, scornfully.
Talboys interposed again: “We appear to be sold, Bishop; don’t you
think we had better get out of this before the hearse comes?”
Demming waved his hand at Talboys, saying in his smoothest tones, “Ef
you meet it, Cunnel, p’raps you’d kin’ly tell ’em ter go on ter Mose
Barnwell’s. He’s ready an’ waitin’.”
“Demming—” began the Bishop, but he did not finish the sentence;
instead, he lifted his hat to Mrs. Demming, with his habitual stately
courtesy, and moved in a slow and dignified manner to the carriage.
Louise followed, only stopping to say to the still weeping woman, “He
is in no danger from us; but this trick was a poor return for my
Demming had been rubbing his right eyebrow obliquely with his hand,
thus making a shield behind which he winked at the coachman in a
friendly and humorous manner; at Louise’s words, his hand fell and his
face changed quickly. “Don’ say thet, miss,” he said, a ring of real
emotion in his voice. “I know I’m purty po’ pickings, but I ain’t
ongrateful. Yo’ par will remember I wyouldn’t tek no money frum
“I would have given fifty dollars,” cried the Bishop, “rather than
have had this—this scandalous fraud! Drive on!”
They drove away. The last they saw of Demming he was blandly waving
The drive back from the house so unexpectedly disclosed as not a house
of mourning was somewhat silent. The Bishop was the first to speak. “I
shall insist upon returning every cent of that money,” he said.
“I assure you none of us will take it,” Talboys answered; “and really,
you know, the sell was quite worth the money.”
“And you did see her, after all,” said Louise dryly, “standing in the
doorway, with her old clay pipe in her mouth.”
The Bishop smiled, but he sighed, too. “Well, well, I ought not to
have lost my temper. But I am disappointed in Demming. I thought I had
won his affection, and I hoped through his affection to reach his
conscience. I suppose I deceived myself.”
“I fear he hasn’t any conscience to reach,” Louise observed.
“I agree with Miss Louise,” said Talboys. “You see, Demming is a
“Ah! the cracker has his virtues,” observed the Bishop; “not the
cardinal New England virtues of thrift and cleanliness and energy; but
he has his own. He is as hospitable as an Arab, brave, faithful, and
honest, and full of generosity and kindness.”
“All the same, he isn’t half civilized,” said Talboys, “and as
ignorant morally as any being you can pick up. He doesn’t steal or lie
much, I grant you, but he smashes all the other commandments to
flinders. He kills when he thinks he has been insulted, and he hasn’t
the feeblest scruples about changing his old wife for a new one
whenever he feels like it, without any nonsense of divorce. The women
are just as bad as the men. But Demming is not only a cracker; he is a
cracker spoiled by the tourists. We have despoiled him of his
simplicity. He hasn’t learned any good of us,—that goes without
saying,—but he has learned no end of Yankee tricks. Do you suppose
that if left to himself he would ever have been up to this morning’s
performance? Oh, we’ve polished his wicked wits for him! Even his
dialect is no longer pure South Carolinian; it is corrupted by
Northern slang. We have ruined his religious principles, too. The
crackers haven’t much of any morality, but they are very
religious,—all Southerners are. But Demming is an unconscious
Agnostic. ‘I tell ye,’ he says to the saloon theologians, ‘thar ain’t
no tellin’. ’Ligion’s a heap like jumpin’ arter a waggin in th’ dark;
yo’ mo’n likely ter lan’ on nuthin’!’ And you have seen for yourselves
that he has lost the cracker honesty.”
“At least,” said Louise, “he has the cracker hospitality left; he made
us welcome to all he had.”
“And did you notice,” said the Bishop, who had quite smoothed his
ruffled brow by this time,—“did you notice the consideration,
tenderness almost, that he showed to his wife? Demming has his
redeeming qualities, believe me, Mr. Talboys.”
“I see that you don’t mean to give him up,” said Talboys, smiling; but
he did not pursue the subject.
For several days Demming kept away from Aiken. When he did appear he
rather avoided the Bishop. He bore the jokes and satirical
congratulations of his companions with his usual equanimity; but he
utterly declined to gratify public curiosity either at the saloon or
the grocery. One morning he met the Bishop. They walked a long way
together, and it was observed that they seemed to be on most cordial
terms. This happened on Tuesday. Friday morning Demming came to the
Bishop in high spirits. He showed a letter from a cousin in
Charleston, a very old man, with no near kindred and a comfortable
property. This cousin, repenting of an old injustice to Demming’s
mother, had bethought him of Demming, his nearest relative; and sent
for him, inclosing money to pay all expenses. “He is right feeble,”
said Demming, with a cheerful accent not according with his mournful
words, “an’ wants ter see me onct fo’ he departs. Reckon he means ter
do well by me.”
The Bishop’s hopeful soul saw a chance for the cracker’s reclamation.
So he spoke solemnly to him, warning him against perilling his future
by relapsing into his old courses in Charleston. Nothing could exceed
Demming’s bland humility. He filled every available pause in the
exhortation with “Thet’s so,” and “Shoo ’s yo’ bawn!” and answered,
“I’m gwine ter be ’s keerful ’s a ole coon thet ’s jes’ got shet o’
the dogs. You nevah said truer words than them thar, an’ don’ you
forget it! I’m gwine ter buy mo’ lan’, an’ raise hogs, an’ keep th’
ole ’ooman like a lady. Don’ ye be ’feard o’ me gwine on no’ mo’
tears. No, sir, none o’ thet in mine. ’Twuz on’y ’cause I wuz so low
in my min’ I evah done it, onyhow. Now, I’m gwine ter be ’s sober ’s
Notwithstanding these and similar protestations, hardly an hour was
gone before Demming was the glory of the saloon, haranguing the crowd
on his favorite topic, the Bishop’s virtues. “High-toned gen’leman,
bes’ man in the worl’, an’ nobody’s fool, either. I’m proud to call
him my frien’, an’ Aiken ’s put in its bes’ licks w’en it cured him.
Gen’lemen, he ’vised me ter fight shy o’ you all. I reckon as how I
mought be better off ef I’d allus have follered his ammonitions. Walk
up, gen’lemen, an’ drink his health! My ’xpens’.”
The sequel to such toasts may readily be imagined. By six o’clock,
penniless and tipsy, Demming was apologizing to the Bishop on the
hotel piazza. He had the grace to seem ashamed of himself. “Wust o’ ’tis
flingin’ away all thet money; but I felt kinder like makin’
everybody feel good, an’ I set ’em up. An’ ’t ’appened, somehow, they
wuz a right smart chance o’ people in, jes’ thet thar minit,—they
gen’rally is a right smart chance o’ people in when a feller sets
’em up! an’ they wuz powerful dry,—they gen’rally is dry, then; an’
the long an’ short o’ ’tis, they cleaned me out. An’ now, Bishop, I
jes’ feel nashuated with myself. Suah ’s yo’ bawn, Bishop, I’m gwine
ter reform. ‘Stop short, an’ nevah go on again,’ like thet thar clock
in the song. I am, fur a fac’, sir. I’m repentin’ to a s’prisin’
“I certainly should be surprised if you were repentant,” the Bishop
said, dryly; then, after a pause, “Well, Demming, I will help you this
once again. I will buy you a ticket to Charleston.”
Some one had come up to the couple unperceived; this person spoke
quickly: “Please let me do that, Bishop. Demming has afforded me
enough entertainment for that.”
“You don’ think no gre’t shakes o’ me, do you, Cunnel?” said Demming,
looking at Talboys half humorously, yet with a shade of something else
in his expression. “You poke fun at me all the time. Well, pleases
you, an’ don’ hurt me, I reckon. Mahnin’, Bishop; mahnin’, Cunnel.
I’ll be at th’ deppo.” He waved his hand and shambled away. Both men
looked after him.
“I will see that he gets off,” said Talboys. “I leave Aiken, myself,
in the morning.”
“Leave Aiken?” the Bishop repeated. “But you will return?”
“I don’t expect to.”
“Why, I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Talboys,—truly sorry.” The Bishop
took the young man’s hand and pressed it. “I am just beginning to know
you; I may say, to like you, if you will permit the expression. Won’t
you walk in with me now, and say good-by to my daughter?”
“Thanks, very much, but I have already made my adieux to Miss Louise.”
“Ah, yes, certainly,” said the Bishop, absently.
He was an absorbed clergyman; but he had sharp enough eyes, did he
choose to use them; and Talboys’s reddening cheeks told him a great
deal. It cannot be said that he was sorry because his daughter had not
looked kindly on this worldly and cynical young man’s affection; but
he was certainly sorry for the young man himself, and his parting
grasp of the hand was warmer than it would have been but for that
“Poor fellow, poor fellow!” soliloquized the Bishop, when, after a few
cordial words, they had parted. “He looks as though it had hurt him. I
suppose that is the way we all take it. Well, time cures us; but it
would scarcely do to tell him that, or how much harder it is to win a
woman, find how precious she is, and then to lose her. Ah, well, time
helps even that! ‘For the strong years conquer us.’”
But he sighed as he went back to his daughter, and he did not see the
beautiful Miss Reynolds when she bowed to him, although she was
smiling her sweetest and brightest smile.
Louise sat in her room. Its windows opened upon the piazza, and she
had witnessed the interview. She did not waver in her conviction that
she had done right. She could not wisely marry a man whom she did not
respect, let his charm of manner and temper be what it might. She
needed a man who was manly, who could rule other men; besides, how
could she make up her mind to walk through life with a husband hardly
above her shoulder? Still, she conceded to herself that, had Talboys
compelled one thrill of admiration from her by any mental or moral
height, she would not have caviled at his short stature. But there was
something ridiculous in the idea of Talboys thrilling anybody. For one
thing, he took everything too lightly. Suddenly, with the sharpness of
a new sensation, she remembered that he had not seemed to take the
morning’s episode lightly. Poor Martin!—for the first time, even in
her reveries, she called him by his Christian name,—there was an
uncomfortable deal of feeling in his few words. Yet he was
considerate; he made it as easy as possible for her.
Martin was always considerate; he never jarred on her; possibly, the
master mind might jar, being so masterful. He was always kind, too;
continually scattering pleasures about in his quiet fashion. Such a
quiet fashion it was that few people noticed how persistent was the
kindness. Now a hundred instances rushed to her mind. All at once,
recalling something, she blushed hotly. That morning, just as Talboys
and she were turning from the place where he had asked and she had
answered, she caught a glimpse of Demming’s head through the leaves.
He had turned, also, and he made a feint of passing them, as though he
were but that instant walking by. The action had a touch of delicacy
in it; a Northerner of Demming’s class would not have shown it. Louise
felt grateful to the vagabond; at the same time, it was hardly
pleasant to know that he was as wise as she in Talboys’s heart
affairs. As for Talboys himself, he had not so much as seen Demming;
he had been too much occupied with his own bitter thoughts. Again
Louise murmured, “Poor Martin!” What was the need, though, that her
own heart should be like lead? Almost impatiently, she rose and sought
The Bishop, after deliberation, had decided to accompany Demming to
Charleston. He excused his interest in the man so elaborately and
plausibly that his daughter was reminded of Talboys.
Saturday morning all three—the Bishop, the vagabond, and
Talboys—started for Charleston. Talboys, however, did not know that
the Bishop was going. He bought Demming’s ticket, saw him safely to a
seat, and went into the smoking-car. The Bishop was late, but the
conductor, with true Southern good-nature, backed the train and took
him aboard. He seated himself in front of Demming, and began to wipe
his heated brow.
“Why do they want to have a fire in the stove this weather?” said he.
“Well,” said the cracker, slyly, “you see we hain’t all been runnin’,
an’ we’re kinder chilly!”
“Humph!” said the Bishop. After this there was silence. The train
rolled along; through the pine woods, past small stations where rose
trees brightened trim white cottages, then into the swamp lands, where
the moisture painted the bark of tall trees, and lay in shiny green
patches among them. The Southern moss dripping from the giant
branches shrouded them in a weird drapery, soft as mist. There was
something dreary and painful to a Northern eye in the scene; the tall
and shrouded trees, the stagnant pools of water gleaming among them,
the vivid green patches of moss, the barren stretches of sand. The
very beauty in it all seemed the unnatural glory of decay, repelling
the beholder. Here and there were cabins. One could not look at them
without wondering whether the inhabitants had the ague, or its South
Carolina synonym, the “break-bone fever.” At one, a bent old woman was
washing. She lifted her head, and Demming waved his hat at her. Then
he glanced at the Bishop, now busy with a paper, and chuckled over
some recollection. He looked out again. There was a man running along
the side of the road waving a red flag. He called out a few words,
which the wind of the train tore to pieces. At the same instant, the
whistle of the engine began a shrill outcry. “Sunthin’ ’s bust, I
reckon,” said Demming. And then, before he could see, or know, or
understand, a tremendous crash drowned his senses, and in one awful
moment blended shivering glass and surging roof and white faces like a
The first thing he noticed, when he came to himself, was a thin ribbon
of smoke. He watched it lazily, while it melted into the blue sky, and
another ribbon took its place. But presently the pain in his leg
aroused him. He perceived that the car was lying on one side, making
the other side into a roof, and one open window was opposite his
eyes. At the other end the car was hardly more than a mass of broken
seats and crushed sides, but it was almost intact where he lay. He saw
that the stove had charred the wood-work near it; hence the smoke,
which escaped through a crack and floated above him. The few people in
the car were climbing out of the windows as best they might. A pair of
grimy arms reached down to Demming, and he heard the brakeman’s voice
(he knew Jim Herndon, the brakeman, well) shouting profanely for the
“Whar’s the Bishop?” said Demming.
“Reckon he’s out,” answered Jim. “Mought as well come yo’self! H——!
you’ve broke yo’ leg!”
“Pull away, jes’ the same. I don’ wanter stay yere an’ roast!”
The brakeman pulled him through the window. Demming shut his teeth
hard; only the fear of death could have made him bear the agony every
motion gave him.
The brakeman drew him to one side before he left him. Demming could
see the wreck plainly. A freight train had been thrown from the track,
and the passenger train had run into it while going at full speed.
“The brakes wouldn’t work,” Demming heard Jim say. Now the sight was a
sorry one: a heap of rubbish which had been a freight car; the
passenger engine sprawling on one side, in the swamp, like a huge
black beetle; and, near it, the two foremost cars of its train
overturned and shattered. The people of both trains were gathered
about the wreck, helplessly talking, as is the manner of people in an
accident. They were, most of them, on the other side of the track. No
one had been killed; but some were wounded, and were stretched in a
ghastly row on car cushions. The few women and children in the train
were collected about the wounded.
“Is the last man out?” shouted the conductor.
Jim answered, “Yes, all out—no, d—— it! I see a coat-tail down
“Look at the fire!” screamed a woman. “Oh, God help him! The car’s
“He’s gone up, whoever he is,” muttered Jim. “They ain’t an axe nor
nuthin’ on board, an’ he’s wedged in fast. But come on, boys! I’ll
drop in onct mo’!”
“You go with him,” another man said. “Here, you fellows, I can run
fastest; I’ll go to the cabin for an axe. Some of you follow me for
Demming saw the speaker for an instant,—an erect little figure in a
foppish gray suit, with a “cat’s eye” gleaming from his blue cravat.
One instant he stood on the piece of timber upon which he had jumped;
the next he had flung off his coat, and was speeding down the road
like a hare.
“D—— ef ’tain’t the Cunnel,” said Demming.
“Come on!” shouted Talboys, never slackening his speed. “Hurry!”
The men went. Demming, weak with pain, was content to look across the
gap between the trains and watch those left behind. The smoke was
growing denser now, and tongues of flame shot out between the joints
of wood. They said the man was at the other end. Happily, the wind
blew the fire from him. Jim and two other men climbed in again.
Demming could hear them swearing and shouting. He looked anxiously
about, seeking a familiar figure which he could not find. He thought
it the voice of his own fears, that cry from within the car. “Good
God, it’s the Bishop!” But immediately Jim thrust his head out of the
window, and called, “The Bishop’s in hyar! Under the cyar seats! He
ain’t hurt, but we cyan’t move the infernal things ter get him out!”
“Oh, Lordy!” groaned the vagabond; “an’ I’m so broke up I cyan’t lif’
a han’ ter help him!”
In desperation, the men outside tried to batter down the car walls
with a broken tree limb. Inside, they strained feverishly at the heavy
timbers. Vain efforts all, at which the crackling flames, crawling
always nearer, seemed to mock.
Demming could hear the talk, the pitying comments, the praise of the
Bishop: “Such a good man!” “His poor daughter, the only child, and her
mother dead!” “They were so fond of each other, poor thing, poor
thing!” And a soft voice added, “Let us pray!”
“Prayin’,” muttered Demming, “jes’ like wimmen! Laws, they don’ know
no better. How’ll I git ter him?”
He began to crawl to the car, dragging his shattered leg behind him,
reckless of the throbs of pain it sent through his nerves. “Ef I kin
on’y stan’ it till I git ter him!” he moaned. “Burnin’ alive’s harder
nor this.” He felt the hot smoke on his face; he heard the snapping
and roaring of the fire; he saw the men about the car pull out Jim and
his companions, and perceived that their faces were blackened.
“It’ll cotch me, suah ’s death!” said Demming, between his teeth.
“Well, ’tain’t much mattah!” Mustering all his strength he pulled
himself up to the car window below that from which Jim had just
emerged. The crowd, occupied with the helpless rescuers, had not
observed him before. They shouted at him as one man: “Get down, it’s
too late!” “You’re crazy, you ——!” yelled Jim, with an oath.
“Never you min’,” Demming answered, coolly. “I know what I’m ’bout, I
He had taken his revolver from his breast, and was searching through
his pockets. He soon pulled out what he sought, merely a piece of
stout twine; and the crowd saw him, sitting astride the trucks, while
he tied the string about the handle of the weapon. Then he leaned over
the prison walls, and looked down upon the Bishop. Under the mass of
wood and iron the Bishop lay, unhurt but securely imprisoned; yet he
had never advanced to the chancel rails with a calmer face than that
he lifted to his friend.
“Demming,” he cried, “you here! Go back, I implore you! You can’t save
“I know thet, Bishop,” groaned the cracker. “I ain’t tryin’ ter. But I
cyan’t let you roast in this yere d—— barbecue! Look a yere!” He
lowered the revolver through the window. “Thar’s a pistil, an’ w’en
th’ fire cotches onter you an’ yo’ gwine suah ’s shootin’, then put it
ter yo’ head an’ pull the trigger, an’ yo’ll be outen it all!”
The Bishop’s firm pale face grew paler as he answered, “Don’t tempt
me, Demming! Whatever God sends I must bear. I can’t do it!” Demming
paused. He looked steadily at the Bishop for a second; then he raised
the revolver, with a little quiver of his mouth. “And go away, for
God’s sake, my poor friend! Bear my love to my dear, dear daughter;
tell her that she has always been a blessing and a joy to me. And
remember what I have said to you, yourself. It will be worth dying for
if you will do that; it will, indeed. It is only a short pain, and
then heaven! Now go, Demming. God bless and keep you. Go!”
But Demming did not move. “Don’ you want ter say a prayer, Bishop?” he
said in a coaxing tone,—“jes’ a little mite o’ one fur you an’ me? Ye
don’ need ter min’ ’bout sayin’ ’t loud. I’ll unnerstan’ th’
intention, an’ feel jes’ so edified. I will, fur a fac’.”
“Go, first, Demming. I am afraid for you!”
“I’m a-gwine, Bishop,” said Demming, in the same soft, coaxing tone.
“Don’ min’ me. I’m all right.” He crouched down lower, so that the
Bishop could not see him, and the group below saw him rest the muzzle
of the pistol on the window-sill and take aim.
A gasp ran through the crowd,—that catching of the breath in which
overtaxed feeling relieves itself. “He’s doin’ the las’ kindness he
can to him,” said the brakeman to the conductor, “and by the Lord,
he’s giv’ his own life to do it!”
The flames had pierced the roof, and streamed up to the sky. Through
the sickening, dull roar they heard the Bishop’s voice again:
“Demming, are you gone?”
The cracker struck a loose piece of wood, and sent it clattering down.
“Yes, Bishop, that wuz me. I’m safe on th’ groun’. Good-by, Bishop. I
do feel ’bleeged ter you; an’, Bishop, them chickens wuz the fust
time. They wuz, on my honah. Now, Bishop, shet yo’ eyes an’ pray, fur
The Bishop prayed. They could not hear what he said, below. No one
heard save the uncouth being who clung to the window, revolver in
hand, steadily dying the creeping red death. But they knew that, out
of sight, a man who had smiled on them, full of life and hope, but an
hour ago was facing such torture as had tried the martyr’s courage,
and facing it with as high a faith.
With one accord men and women bent their heads. Jim, the brakeman,
alone remained standing, his form erect, his eyes fixed on the two
iron lines that made an angle away in the horizon. “Come on!” he
yelled, leaping wildly into the air. “Fo’ the Lord’s sake, hurry!
D—— him, but he’s the bulliest runner!”
Then they all saw a man flying down the track, axe in hand. He ran up
to the car side. He began to climb. A dozen hands caught him. “You’re
a dead man if you get in there!” was the cry. “Don’t you see it’s all
“Try it from the outside, Colonel!” said the conductor.
“Don’t you see I haven’t time?” cried Talboys. “He’ll be dead before
we can get to him. Stand back, my men, and, Jim, be ready to pull us
The steady tones and Talboys’s business-like air had an instantaneous
effect. The crowd were willing enough to be led; they fell back, and
Talboys dropped through the window. To those outside the whole car
seemed in a blaze, and over them the smoke hung like a pall; but
through the crackling and roaring and the crash of falling timber came
the clear ring of axe blows, and Talboys’s voice shouting, “I say, my
man, don’t lose heart! We’re bound to get you out!”
“Lordy, he don’t know who ’tis,” said Demming. “Nobody could see
through that thar smoke!”
All at once the uninjured side of the car gave way beneath the flames,
falling in with an immense crash. The flame leaped into the air.
“They’re gone!” cried the conductor.
“No, they’re not!” yelled Demming. “He’s got him, safe an’ soun’!” And
as he spoke, scorched and covered with dust, bleeding from a cut on
his cheek, but holding the Bishop in his arms, Talboys appeared at the
window. Jim snatched the Bishop, the conductor helped out Talboys, and
half a dozen hands laid hold of Demming. He heard the wild cheer that
greeted them; he heard another cheer for the men with the water, just
in sight; but he heard no more, for as they pulled him down a dozen
fiery pincers seemed tearing at his leg, and he fainted away.
The Bishop’s daughter sat in her room, making a very pretty picture,
with her white hands clasped on her knee and her soft eyes uplifted.
She looked sad enough to please a pre-Raphaelite of sentiment. Yet her
father, whom this morning she would have declared she loved better
than any one in the world, had just been saved from a frightful death.
She knew the story of his deliverance. At last she felt that most
unexpected thrill of admiration for Talboys; but Talboys had vanished.
He was gone, it was all ended, and she owned to herself that she was
wretched. Her father was with Demming and the doctors. The poor
vagabond must hobble through life on one leg, henceforward. “If he
lived,” the doctor had said, making even his existence as a cripple
problematic. Poor Demming, who had flung away his life to save her
father from suffering,—a needless, useless sacrifice, as it proved,
but touching Louise the more because of its very failure!
At this stage in her thoughts, she heard Sam, the waiter, knocking
softly, outside. Her first question was about Demming. “The
operation’s ovah, miss, an’ Mr. Demming he’s sinkin’,” answered Sam,
giving the sick man a title he had never accorded him before, “an’ he
axes if you’d be so kin’ ’s to step in an’ speak to him; he’s powerful
anxious to see you.”
Silently Louise rose and followed the mulatto. They had carried
Demming to the hotel; it was the nearest place, and the Bishop wished
it. His wife had been sent for, and was with him. Her timid,
tear-stained face was the first object that met Louise’s eye. She sat
in a rocking-chair close to the bed, and, by sheer force of habit, was
unconsciously rocking to and fro, while she brushed the tears from her
eyes. Demming’s white face and tangle of iron-gray hair lay on the
pillow near her.
He smiled feebly, seeing Louise. She did not know anything better to
do than to take his hand, the tears brightening her soft eyes. “Laws,”
said Demming, “don’ do thet. I ain’t wuth it. Look a yere, I got
sunthin’ ter say ter you. An’ you mustn’t min’, ’cause I mean well.
You know ’bout—yes’day mahnin’. Mabbe you done what you done not
knowin’ yo’ own min’,—laws, thet’s jes’ girls,—an’ I wants you ter
know jes’ what kin’ o’ feller he is. You know he saved yo’ pa, but you
don’ know, mabbe, thet he didn’t know ’twas the Bishop till he’d jump
down in thet thar flamin’ pit o’ hell, as ’twere, an’ fished him out.
He done it jes’ ’cause he’d thet pluck in him, an’—don’ you go fer
ter chippin’ in, Cunnel. I’m a dyin’ man, an’ don’ you forget it! Thar
he is, miss, hidin’ like behin’ the bed.”
Louise during this speech had grown red to the roots of her hair. She
looked up into Talboys’s face. He had stepped forward. His usual
composure had quite left him, so that he made a pitiful picture of
embarrassment, not helped by crumpled linen and a borrowed coat a
world too large for him. “It’s just a whim of his,” he whispered,
hurriedly; “he wanted me to stay. I didn’t know—I didn’t understand!
For God’s sake, don’t suppose I meant to take such an advantage of the
situation! I am going directly. I shall leave Aiken to-night.”
It was only the strain on her nerves, but Louise felt the oddest
desire to laugh. The elegant Martin cut such a very droll figure as a
hero. Then her eye fell on Demming’s eager face, and a sudden
revulsion of feeling, a sudden keen realization of the tragedy that
Martin had averted, brought the tears back to her eyes. Her beautiful
head dropped. “Why do you go—now?” said she.
“Hev you uns made it up, yet?” murmured Demming’s faint voice.
“Yes,” Talboys answered, “I think we have, and—I thank you, Demming.”
The vagabond waved his hand with a feeble assumption of his familiar
gesture. “Yo’ a square man, Cunnel. I allus set a heap by you, though
I didn’t let on. An’ she’s a right peart young lady. I’m glad yo’
gwine ter be so happy. Laws, I kind o’ wish I wuz to see it, even on a
wooden leg—” The woman at his side began to sob. “Thar, thar,
Alwynda, don’ take on so; cyan’t be helped. You mus’ ’scuse her,
gen’lemen; she so petted on me she jes’ cyan’t hole in!”
“Demming,” said the Bishop, “my poor friend, the time is short; is
there anything you want me to do?” Demming’s dull eyes sparkled with a
glimmer of the old humor.
“Well, Bishop, ef you don’ min’, I’d like you ter conduc’ the fun’al
services. Reckon they’ll be a genuwide co’pse this yere time, fo’
suah. An’, Bishop, you’ll kind o’ look arter Alwynda; see she gits her
cyoffee an’ terbacco all right. An’ I wants ter ’sure you all again
thet them thar chickens wuz the fust an’ on’y thing I evah laid han’s
on t’ want mine. Thet’s the solemn truf; ain’t it, Alwynda?”
The poor woman could only rock herself in the chair, and sob, “Yes,
’tis. An’, he’s been a good husband to me. I’ve allus hed the bes’ uv
everything! Oh, Lordy, ’pears ’s though I cyan’t bear it, nohow!”
Louise put her hand gently on the thin shoulder, saying, “I will see
that she never wants anything we can give, Demming; and we will try to
The cracker looked wistfully from her fresh, young face to the worn
face below. “She wuz ’s peart an’ purty ’s you, miss, w’en I fust
struck up with ’er,” said he, slowly. “Our little gal wuz her very
image. Alwynda,” in a singularly soft, almost diffident tone, “don’
take on so; mabbe I’m gwine fer ter see ’er again. ’Twon’t do no harm
ter think so, onyhow,” he added, with a glance at Talboys, as though
sure there of comprehension.
Then the Bishop spoke, solemnly, though with sympathy, urging the
dying man, whose worldly affairs were settled, to repent of his sins
and prepare for eternity. “Shall I pray for you, Demming?” he said, in
“Jes’ as you please, Bishop,” answered Demming, and he tried to wave
his hand. “I ain’t noways partickler. I reckon God a’mighty knows I’d
be th’ same ole Demming ef I could get up, an’ I don’ mean ter make no
purtenses. But mabbe it’ll cheer up th’ ole ’ooman a bit. So you
begin, an’ I’ll bring in an Amen whenever it’s wanted!”
So speaking, Demming closed his eyes wearily, and the Bishop knelt by
the bedside. Talboys and Louise left them, thus. After a while, the
wife stretched forth her toil-worn hand and took her husband’s. She
thought she was aware of a weak pressure. But when the prayer ended
there came no Amen. Demming was gone where prayer may only faintly
follow; nor could the Bishop ever decide how far his vagabond had
joined in his petitions. Such doubts, however, did not prevent his
cherishing an assured hope that the man who died for him was safe,
forever. The Bishop’s theology, like that of most of us, yielded,
sometimes, to the demands of the occasion.
By Edward Bellamy.
⁂ Scribner’s Monthly, December, 1877.
The 25th of May, 1866, was no doubt to many a quite indifferent date,
but to two persons it was the saddest day of their lives. Charles
Randall that day left Bonn, Germany, to catch the steamer home to
America, and Ida Werner was left with a mountain of grief on her
gentle bosom, which must be melted away drop by drop, in tears, before
she could breathe freely again.
A year before, Randall, hunting for apartments, his last term at the
university just begun, had seen the announcement, “Zimmer zu
vermiethen,” in the hall below the flat where the Werners lived. Ida
answered his ring, for her father was still at his government office,
and her mother had gone out to the market to buy the supper. She would
much rather her mother had been at home to show the gentleman the
rooms; but knowing that they could not afford to lose a chance to
rent them, she plucked up courage, and, candle in hand, showed him
through the suite. When he came next day with his baggage he learned
for the first time what manner of apartments he had engaged; for
although he had protracted the investigation the previous evening to
the furthest corner, and had been most exacting as to explanations, he
had really rented the rooms entirely on account of a certain light in
which a set of Madonna features, in auburn hair, had shown at the
first opening of the door.
A year had passed since this, and a week ago a letter from home had
stated that his father, indignant at his unexplained stay six months
beyond the end of his course, had sent him one last remittance, barely
sufficient for a steamer ticket, with the intimation that if he did
not return on a set day he must thenceforth attend to his own
exchequer. The 25th was the last day on which he could leave Bonn to
catch the requisite steamer. Had it been in November, nature at least
would have sympathized; it was cruel that their autumn time of
separation should fall in the spring, when the sky is full of
bounteous promise and the earth of blissful trust.
Love is so improvident that a parting a year away is no more feared
than death, and a month’s end seems dim and distant. But a week—a
week only—that even to love is short, and the beginning of the end.
The chilling mist that rose from the gulf of separation so near
before them, overshadowed all the brief remnant of their path. They
were constantly together. But a silence had come upon them. Never had
words seemed idler, they had so much to say. They could say nothing
that did not mock the weight on their hearts, and seem trivial and
impertinent because it was exclusive of more important matter. The
utmost they could do was to lay their hearts open toward each other to
receive every least impression of voice, and look, and manner, to be
remembered afterward. At evening they went into the minster church,
and sitting in the shadows listened to the sweet shrill choir of boys
whose music distilled the honey of sorrow, and as the deep bass organ
chords gripped their hearts with the tones that underlie all weal and
woe, they looked in each other’s eyes and did for a space feel so near
that all the separation that could come after seemed but a trifling
It was all arranged between them. He was to earn money, or get a
position in business, and return in a year or two at most and bring
her to America.
“Oh,” she said once, “if I could but sleep till thou comest again to
wake me, how blessed I should be; but, alas, I must wake all through
the desolate time!”
Although for the most part she comforted him rather than he her, yet
at times she gave way, and once suddenly turned to him and hid her
face on his breast, and said, trembling with tearless sobs:
“I know I shall never see thee more, Karl. Thou wilt forget me in thy
great far land and wilt love another. My heart tells me so.”
And then she raised her head and her streaming eyes blazed with anger.
“I will hover about thee, and if thou lovest another I will kill her
as she sleeps by thy side.”
And the woman must have loved him much, who, after seeing that look of
hers, would have married him. But a moment after she was listening
with abject ear to his promises.
The day came at last. He was to leave at three o’clock. After the
noontide meal Ida’s mother sat with them and they talked a little
about America, Frau Werner exerting herself to give a cheerful tone to
the conversation, and Randall answering her questions absently and
without taking his eyes off Ida, who felt herself beginning to be
seized with a nervous trembling. At last Frau Werner rose and silently
left the room, looking back at them as she closed the door with eyes
full of tears. Then as if by a common impulse they rose and put their
arms about each other’s necks, and their lips met in a long shuddering
kiss. The breath came quicker and quicker; sobs broke the kisses;
tears poured down and made them salt and bitter as parting kisses
should be in which sweetness is mockery. Hitherto they had controlled
their feelings, or rather she had controlled him; but it was no use
any longer, for the time had come, and they abandoned themselves to
the terrible voluptuousness of unrestrained grief, in which there is a
strange meaningless suggestion of power, as though it might possibly
be a force that could affect or remove its own cause if but wild and
“Herr Randall, the carriage waits and you will lose the train,” said
Frau Werner from the door, in a husky voice.
“I will not go, by God!” he swore, as he felt her clasp convulsively
strengthen at the summons. The lesser must yield to the greater, and
no loss or gain on earth was worth the grief upon her face. His father
might disinherit him; America might sink, but she must smile again.
And she did—brave, true girl and lover. The devotion his resolute
words proved was like a strong nervine to restore her self-control.
She smiled as well as her trembling lips would let her, and said, as
she loosed him from her arms:
“No, thou must go, Karl. But thou wilt return, nicht wahr?”
I would not venture to say how many times he rushed to the door, and
glancing back at her as she stood there desolate, followed his glance
once more to her side. Finally, Frau Werner led him as one dazed to
the carriage, and the impatient driver drove off at full speed.
It is seven years later, and Randall is pacing the deck of an ocean
steamer, outward bound from New York. It is the evening of the first
day out. Here and there passengers are leaning over the bulwarks
pensively regarding the sinking sun as it sets for the first time
between them and their native land, or may be taking in with awed
faces the wonder of the deep, which has haunted their imaginations
from childhood. Others are already busily striking up acquaintances
with fellow-passengers, and a bridal pair over yonder sit thrilling
with the sense of isolation from the world that so emphasizes their
mutual dependence and all-importance to each other. And other groups
are talking business and referring to money and markets in New York,
London, and Frankfort as glibly as if they were on land, much to the
secret shock of certain raw tourists, who marvel at the
insensitiveness of men who, thus speeding between two worlds, and
freshly in the presence of the most august and awful form of nature,
can keep their minds so steadily fixed upon cash-books and ledgers.
But Randall, as, with the habit of an old voyager, he already falls to
pacing the deck, is too much engrossed with his own thoughts to pay
much heed to these things. Only, as he passes a group of Germans, and
the familiar accents of the sweet, homely tongue fall on his ear, he
pauses, and lingers near.
The darkness gathers, the breeze freshens, the waves come tumbling out
of the east, and the motion of the ship increases as she rears upward
to meet them. The groups on deck are thinning out fast as the
passengers go below to enjoy the fearsome novelty of the first night
at sea, and to compose themselves to sleep as it were in the hollow of
God’s hand. But long into the night Randall’s cigar still marks his
pacing up and down as he ponders, with alternations of tender, hopeful
glow and sad foreboding the chances of his quest. Will he find her?
It is necessary to go back a little. When Randall reached America on
his return from Germany, he immediately began to sow his wild oats,
and gave his whole mind to it. Answering Ida’s letters got to be a
bore, and he gradually ceased doing it. Then came a few sad reproaches
from her, and their correspondence ceased. Meanwhile, having had his
youthful fling, he settled down as a steady young man of business. One
day he was surprised to observe that he had of late insensibly fallen
into the habit of thinking a good deal in a pensive sort of way about
Ida and those German days. The notion occurred to him that he would
hunt up her picture, which he hadn’t thought of in five years. With
misty eyes and crowding memories he pored over it, and a wave of
regretful, yearning tenderness filled his breast.
Late one night after long search he found among his papers a bundle of
her old letters already growing yellow. Being exceedingly rusty in his
German, he had to study them out word by word. That night, till the
sky grew gray in the east, he sat there turning the pages of the
dictionary with wet eyes and glowing face, and selecting definitions
by the test of the heart. He found that some of these letters he had
never before taken the pains to read through. In the bitterness of his
indignation he cursed the fool who had thrown away a love so loyal and
All this time he had been thinking of Ida as if dead, so far off in
another world did those days seem. It was with extraordinary effect
that the idea finally flashed upon him that she was probably alive and
now in the prime of her beauty. After a period of feverish and
impassioned excitement he wrote a letter full of wild regret and
beseeching, and an ineffable tenderness. Then he waited. After a long
time it came back from the German dead-letter office. There was no
person of the name at the address. She had left Bonn, then. Hastily
setting his affairs in order, he sailed for Germany on the next
The incidents of the voyage were a blank in his mind. On reaching Bonn
he went straight from the station to the old house in —— strasse. As
he turned into it from the scarcely less familiar streets leading
thither, and noted each accustomed landmark, he seemed to have just
returned to tea from an afternoon lecture at the university. In every
feature of the street some memory lurked, and as he passed threw out
delaying tendrils, clutching at his heart. Rudely he broke away,
hastening on to that house near the end of the street, in each of
whose quaint windows fancy framed the longed-for face. She was not
there, he knew, but for a while he stood on the other side of the
street, unmindful of the stares and jostling of the passers-by, gazing
at the house-front, and letting himself imagine from moment to moment
that her figure might flit across some window, or issue from the door,
basket in hand, for the evening marketing, on which journey he had so
often accompanied her. At length, crossing the street, he inquired for
the Werner family. The present tenants had never heard the name.
Perhaps the tenants from whom they had received the house might be
better informed. Where were they? They had moved to Cologne. He next
went to the Bonn police-office, and from the records kept there, in
which pretty much everything about every citizen is set down,
ascertained that several years previous Herr Werner had died of
apoplexy, and that no one of the name was now resident in the city.
Next day he went to Cologne, hunted up the former tenants of the
house, and found that they remembered quite distinctly the Werner
family, and the death of the father, and only bread-winner. It had
left the mother and daughter quite without resources, as Randall had
known must probably have been the case. His informants had heard that
they had gone to Düsseldorf.
His search had become a fever. After waiting seven years, a delay of
ten minutes was unendurable. The trains seemed to creep. And yet, on
reaching Düsseldorf, he did not at once go about his search, but said
“Let me not risk the killing of my last hope till I have warmed myself
with it one more night, for to-morrow there may be no more warmth in
He went to a hotel, ordered a room and a bottle of wine, and sat over
it all night, indulging the belief that he would find her the next
day. He denied his imagination nothing, but conjured up before his
mind’s eye the lovely vision of her fairest hour, complete even to the
turn of the neck, the ribbon in the hair, and the light in the blue
eyes. So he would turn into the street. Yes, here was the number. Then
he rings the bell. She comes to the door. She regards him a moment
indifferently. Then amazed recognition, love, happiness, transfigure
her face. “Ida!” “Karl!” and he clasps her sobbing to his bosom, from
which she shall never be sundered again.
The result of his search next day was the discovery that mother and
daughter had been at Düsseldorf until about four years previous, where
the mother had died of consumption, and the daughter had removed,
leaving no address. The lodgings occupied by them were of a wretched
character, showing that their circumstances must have been very much
There was now no further clew to guide his search. It was destined
that the last he was to know of her should be that she was thrown on
the tender mercies of the world—her last friend gone, her last penny
expended. She was buried out of his sight, not in the peaceful grave,
with its tender associations, but buried alive in the living world;
hopelessly hid in the huge, writhing confusion of humanity. He
lingered in the folly of despair about those sordid lodgings in
Düsseldorf as one might circle vainly about the spot in the ocean
where some pearl of great price had fallen overboard.
After a while he roused again, and began putting advertisements for
Ida in the principal newspapers of Germany, and making random visits
to towns all about to consult directories and police records. A
singular sort of misanthropy possessed him. He cursed the multitude of
towns and villages that reduced the chances in his favor to so small a
thing. He cursed the teeming throngs of men, women, and children, in
whose mass she was lost, as a jewel in a mountain of rubbish. Had he
possessed the power, he would in those days, without an instant’s
hesitation, have swept the bewildering, obstructing millions of
Germany out of existence, as the miner washes away the earth to bring
to light the grain of gold in his pan. He must have scanned a million
women’s faces in that weary search, and the bitterness of that
million-fold disappointment left its trace in a feeling of aversion
for the feminine countenance and figure that he was long in
Knowing that only by some desperate chance he could hope to meet her
in his random wanderings, it seemed to him that he was more likely to
be successful by resigning as far as possible all volition, and
leaving the guidance of the search to chance; as if fortune were best
disposed toward those who most entirely abdicated intelligence and
trusted themselves to her. He sacredly followed every impulse, never
making up his mind an hour before at what station he should leave the
cars, and turning to the right or left in his wanderings through the
streets of cities, as much as possible without intellectual choice.
Sometimes, waking suddenly in the middle of the night, he would rise,
dress with eager haste, and sally out to wander through the dark
streets, thinking he might be led of Providence to meet her. And once
out, nothing but utter exhaustion could drive him back; for, how could
he tell but in the moment after he had gone she might pass. He had
recourse to every superstition of sortilege, clairvoyance,
presentiment, and dreams. And all the time his desperation was
singularly akin to hope. He dared revile no seeming failure, not
knowing but just that was the necessary link in the chain of accidents
destined to bring him face to face with her. The darkest hour might
usher in the sunburst. The possibility that this was at last the
blessed chance lit up his eyes ten thousand times as they fell on some
But at last he found himself back in Bonn, with the feverish
infatuation of the gambler which had succeeded hope in his mind,
succeeded in turn by utter despair! His sole occupation now was
revisiting the spots which he had frequented with her in that happy
year. As one who has lost a princely fortune sits down at length to
enumerate the little items of property that happen to be attached to
his person, disregarded before but now his all, so Randall counted up
like a miser the little store of memories that were thenceforth to be
his all. Wonderfully the smallest details of those days came back to
him. The very seats they sat in at public places, the shops they
entered together, their promenades and the pausing-places on them,
revived in memory under a concentrated inward gaze like invisible
paintings brought over heat.
One afternoon, after wandering about the city for some hours, he
turned into a park to rest. As he approached his usual bench, sacred
to him because Ida and he in the old days had often sat there, he was
annoyed to see it already occupied by a pleasant-faced, matronly
looking German woman, who was complacently listening to the chatter of
a couple of small children. Randall threw himself upon the unoccupied
end of the bench, rather hoping that his gloomy and preoccupied air
might cause them to depart and leave him to his melancholy revery.
And, indeed, it was not long before the children stopped their play
and gathered timidly about their mother, and soon after the bench
tilted slightly as she relieved it of her substantial charms, saying
in a cheery, pleasant voice:
“Come, little ones, the father will be at home before us.”
It was a secluded part of the garden, and the plentiful color left her
cheeks as the odd gentleman at the other end of the bench turned with
a great start at the sound of her voice, and transfixed her with a
questioning look. But in a moment he said:
“Pardon me, madam, a thousand times. The sound of your voice so
reminded me of a friend I have lost, that I looked up involuntarily.”
The woman responded with good-natured assurances that he had not at
all alarmed her. Meanwhile, Randall had an opportunity to notice that
in spite of the thick-waisted and generally matronly figure, there
were, now he came to look closely, several rather marked resemblances
to Ida. The eyes were of the same blue tint, though about half as
large, the cheeks being twice as full. In spite of the ugly style of
dressing it, he saw also that the hair was like Ida’s, and as for the
nose, that feature which changes least, it might have been taken out
of Ida’s own face. As may be supposed, he was thoroughly disgusted to
be reminded of that sweet girlish vision by this broadly moulded,
comfortable-looking matron. His romantic mood was scattered for that
evening at least, and he knew he shouldn’t get the prosaic suggestions
of the unfortunate resemblance out of his mind for a week at least. It
would torment him as a humorous association spoils a sacred hymn.
He bowed with rather an ill grace, and was about to retire, when a
certain peculiar turn of the neck as the lady acknowledged his salute,
caught his eye and turned him to stone. Good God! this woman was Ida!
He stood there in a condition of mental paralysis. The whole fabric of
his thinking and feeling for months of intense emotional experience
had instantly been annihilated, and he was left in the midst of a
great void in his consciousness out of touching-reach of anything.
There was no sharp pang, but just a bewildered numbness. A few
filaments only of the romantic feeling for Ida that filled his mind a
moment before still lingered, floating about it, unattached to
anything, like vague neuralgic feelings in an amputated stump, as if
to remind him of what had been there.
All this was as instantaneous as a galvanic shock the moment he had
recognized—let us not say Ida, but this evidence that she was no
more. It occurred to him that the woman, who stood staring, was in
common politeness entitled to some explanation. He was in just that
state of mind when the only serious interest having suddenly dropped
out of the life, the minor conventionalities loom up as peculiarly
important and obligatory.
“You were Fraülein Ida Werner, and lived at No. —— —— strasse in
1866, nicht wahr?”
He spoke in a cold, dead tone, as if making a necessary but
distasteful explanation to a stranger.
“Yes, truly,” replied the woman, curiously; “but my name is now Frau
Stein,” glancing at the children, who had been staring open-mouthed at
the queer man.
“Do you remember Karl Randall? I am he.”
The most formal of old acquaintances could hardly have recalled
himself in a more indifferent manner.
“Herr Gott im Himmel!” exclaimed the woman with the liveliest
surprise and interest. “Karl! Is it possible. Yes, now I recognize
you. Surely! surely!”
She clapped one hand to her bosom, and dropped on the bench to recover
herself. Fleshy people, overcome by agitation, are rather disagreeable
objects. Randall stood looking at her with a singular expression of
aversion on his listless face. But after panting a few times the woman
recovered her vivacity and began to ply him vigorously with
exclamations and questions, beaming the while with delighted interest.
He answered her like a school-boy, too destitute of presence of mind
to do otherwise than to yield passively to her impulse. But he made no
inquiries whatever of her, and did not distantly allude to the reason
of his presence in Germany. As he stood there looking at her, the real
facts about that matter struck him as so absurd and incredible, that
he couldn’t believe them himself.
Pretty soon he observed that she was becoming a little conscious in
her air, and giving a slightly sentimental turn to the conversation.
It was not for some time that he saw her drift, so utterly without
connection in his mind were Ida and this comfortable matron before
him, and when he did, a smile at the exquisite absurdity of the thing
barely twitched the corners of his mouth, and ended in a sad, puzzled
stare that rather put the other out of countenance.
But the children had now for some time been whimpering for supper and
home, and at length Frau Stein rose, and, with an urgent request that
Randall should call on her and see her husband, bade him a cordial
adieu. He stood there watching her out of sight with an unconscious
smile of the most refined and subtle cynicism. Then he sat down and
stared vacantly at the close-cropped grass on the opposite side of the
path. By what handle should he lay hold of his thoughts?
That woman could not retroact and touch the memory of Ida. That dear
vision remained intact. He drew forth his locket and opening it gazed
passionately at the fair girlish face, now so hopelessly passed away.
By that blessed picture he could hold her and defy the woman.
Remembering that fat, jolly, comfortable matron, he should not at
least ever again have to reproach himself with his cruel treatment of
Ida. And yet why not? What had the woman to do with her? She had
suffered as much as if the woman had not forgotten it all. His
reckoning was with Ida—was with her. Where should he find her? In
what limbo could he imagine her? Ah, that was the wildering cruelty
of it. She was not this woman, nor was she dead in any conceivable
natural way so that her girlish spirit might have remained eternally
fixed. She was nothing. She was nowhere. She only existed in this
locket and her only soul was in his heart, far more surely than in
this woman who had forgotten her.
Death was a hopeful, cheerful state compared to that nameless
nothingness that was her portion. For had she been dead he could still
have loved her soul; but now she had none. The soul that once she had,
and if she had then died, might have kept, had been forfeited by
living on and had passed to this woman, and would from her pass on
further till finally fixed and vested in the decrepitude of age by
death. So then it was death and not life that secured the soul, and
his sweet Ida had none because she had not died in time. Ah! had not
he heard somewhere that the soul is immortal and never dies? Where
then was Ida’s? She had disappeared utterly out of the universe. She
had been transformed, destroyed, swallowed up in this woman, a living
sepulchre, more cruel than the grave, for it devoured the soul as well
as the body. Pah! this prating about immortality was absurd, convicted
of meaninglessness before a tragedy like this; for what was an
immortality worth that was given to her last decrepit phase of life,
after all its beauty and strength and loveliness had passed soulless
away? To be aught but a mockery immortality must be as manifold as
the manifold phases of life. Since life devours so many souls, why
suppose death will spare the last one?
But he would contend with destiny. Painters should multiply the face
in his locket. He would immortalize her in a poem. He would constantly
keep the lamp trimmed and burning before her shrine in his heart. She
should live in spite of the woman.
But he could now never make amends to her for the suffering his cruel,
neglectful youth had caused her. He had scarcely realized before how
much the longing to make good that wrong had influenced his quest of
her. Tears of remorse for an unatonable crime gathered in his eyes. He
might indeed enrich this woman, or educate her children, or pension
her husband; but that would be no atonement to Ida.
And then as if to intensify that remorse by showing still more clearly
the impossibility of atonement, it flashed on him that he who loved
Ida was not the one to atone for an offence of which he would be
incapable, which had been committed by one who despised her love.
Justice was a meaningless word, and amends were never possible, nor
can men ever make atonement; for, ere the debt is paid, the atonement
made, one who is not the sufferer stands to receive it, while, on the
other hand, the one who atones is not the offender, but one who comes
after him, loathing his offence and himself incapable of it. The dead
must bury their dead. And thus pondering from personal to general
thoughts, the turmoil of his feelings gradually calmed, and a restful
melancholy, vague and tender, filled the aching void in his heart.
KIRBY’S COALS OF FIRE.
By Louise Stockton.
⁂ Atlantic Monthly, December, 1875.
Considering it simply as an excursion, George Scott thought, leaning
over the side of the canal-boat and looking at the shadow of the hills
in the water, his plan for spending his summer vacation might be a
success, but he was not so sure about his opportunities for studying
human nature under the worst conditions. It was true that the
conditions were bad enough, but so were the results, and George was
not in search of logical sequences. He had been in the habit of saying
that nothing interested him as much as the study of his fellows; and
that he was in earnest was proved by the fact that even his college
experiences had not yet disheartened him, although they had cost him
not a few neckties and coats, and sometimes too many of his dollars.
But George had higher aspirations, and was not disposed to be
satisfied with the opportunities presented by crude collegians or
even learned professors, and so meant to go out among men. When he was
younger,—a year or two before,—he had dreamed of a mission among the
Indians, fancying that he would reach original principles among them;
but the Modocs and Captain Jack had lowered his faith, while the Rev.
Dr. Buck’s story of how the younger savages had been taught to make
beds and clean knives, until they preferred these civilized
occupations to their old habit of scampering through the woods, had
dispelled more of the glitter, and he had resolved to confine his
labors to his white brethren. He did not mean to seek his
opportunities among the rich, nor among the monotonously dreary poor
of the city, but in a fresher field. Like most theological students,
he was well read in current literature, and he had learned how often
the noblest virtues are found among the roughest classes. It was true,
they were sometimes so latent that like the jewel in a toad’s head
they had the added grace of unexpectedness, but that did not interfere
with the fact of their existence. He had read of California gamblers
who had rushed from tables where they had sat with bowie-knives
between their teeth, to warn a coming train of broken rails, and, when
picked up maimed and dying, had simply asked if the children were
saved, and then, content, had turned aside and died. He knew the story
of the Mississippi engineer who, going home with a long-sought fortune
to claim his waiting bride, had saved his boat from wreck by
supplying the want of fuel by hat, coat, boots, wedding-clothes,
gloves, favors, and finally his bag of greenbacks and Northern Pacific
bonds, then returning to his duty, sans money, sans wife, but plus
honor and a rewarding conscience. When men are capable of such
heroism, George would say, arguing from these and similar stories,
they are open to true reformation, all that is necessary being some
exercise of an influence that shall make such impulses constant
instead of spasmodic.
About noon he had not been quite so sanguine regarding his mission,
and had almost resolved that when they reached Springfield he would
return East and join some of his class who were going to the
Kaatskills. The sun was then pouring down directly on the boat, the
cabin was stifling, the horses crept sluggishly along, the men were
rude and brutal, and around him was an atmosphere of frying fish and
boiling cabbage. The cabbage was perhaps the crowning evil; for while
he found it possible to force his ear and eye to be deaf and blind to
the disagreeable, he had no amount of will that could conquer the
sense of smell. There seemed to be little, he thought, with some
contempt for his expectations, to reward his quest or maintain his
theory that every one had at least one story to tell. It was not
necessarily one’s own story, he had said, but lives the most barren in
incident come into contact with those more vehement, and have the
chance of looking into tragedies, into moral victories and fierce
conflicts, through other men’s eyes. He had hinted something of this
to Joe Lakin early in the morning, when the mist was rising off the
hills, when the air was fresh and keen, and the sun was making the
long lines of oil upon the river glitter like so many brilliant
snakes. Joe was the laziest and roughest of the men on the boat, but
he sometimes had such a genial and even superior manner, that George
had felt sure that he would comprehend his meaning. Thus when noon
came, hot, close, and heavy with prophecy of dinner, George had
sickened of human nature and of psychological studies; but now the sun
had set, and a golden glory lit the sky; the fields on one side of the
river rolled away green in clover and wavy in corn, the hills heavily
wooded rose high and picturesquely on the other side, and the little
island in the bend of the river seemed the home of quiet and of peace.
The horses plodded patiently through the water, going out on the
shallows and avoiding the deeper currents near the shore, and the
boys, forgetting to shout and swear, rode along softly whistling. Over
by the hills stood a cottage, and in the terraced garden a group of
girls with bright ribbons in their hair were playing quoits with
horseshoes. A rowboat was carrying passengers over the river to meet
the evening train, and under the sweetness of the twilight George’s
spirits arose lightly to their level, his old faith returned to him,
and he looked up with a new sense of fellowship to Joe, who was
filling a pipe with his favorite “towhead.”
“It’s a pity you don’t smoke,” said Joe, carefully striking a match
and holding his cap before it, “for it seems a gift thrown away; and
this tobacco is uncommon good, though you might fancy it a notion too
strong. I’ve noticed that most preachers smoke, although they don’t
take kindly to drinking. I suppose they think it wouldn’t seem the
proper thing, and perhaps it wouldn’t; but there’s Parson Robinson,—I
should think that a good, solid drink would be a real comfort to him
sometimes. He’s got a hard pull of it with a half share of victuals
and a double share of children, so the two ends hardly ever see each
other, much less think of meeting.”
George hesitated for reply. He thought Joe was unnecessarily rough at
times, and alluded to the ministry much too frequently. He had fancied
when he left home that his blue flannel and gray tweed, with rather a
jovial manner, would divest him of all resemblance to a theological
student, and enable him to meet his companions on the ground of a
common humanity, especially as he had at present no missionary
intentions excepting those that might flow indirectly from his
personal influence. Still, while he wanted Joe to recognize his broad
liberality, he owed it to himself not to be loose in his expression of
“Well, yes,” he said, slowly, “I suppose it would help a man to forget
his troubles for a time, but the getting over the spree and coming
back to the same old bothers, not a bit better for the forgetting,
would hardly be much comfort, even if the thing were right.”
“Maybe not,” replied Joe; “I s’pose it wouldn’t be comfortable if
those were your feelin’s, but I reckon you don’t know much about it
unless from hearsay. But I tell you one thing, whiskey’s a friend to
be trusted”—adding, slowly, with a glance at George’s face—“to get
you into trouble if you let it get the upper hand of you. It’s like a
woman in that! It begins with the same letter too, and that’s another
George made no answer to this joke, over which Joe chuckled enough for
both, and then returned to the charge:
“I’ve seen a good deal of life, one way and another,” Joe said, “but I
don’t know much of parsons. Somehow they haven’t been in my line; but
if I had to choose between being a parson or a doctor, I’d take the
doctor by long odds. You see the world’s pretty much of a hospital as
far as he’s concerned, and when he can’t tinker a man up, he lets him
slide off and nobody minds; but the parson’s different. When a man
takes sick he looks kind of friendly on the doctor, because, you see,
he expects him to cure him; but when the parson comes, he tells him
what a miserable sinner he is and what he’s coming to at last. Now, it
ain’t in nature to like that, and I don’t blame the fellows who say
they can stand a parson when they are well, but that he’s worse than
a break-bone fever and no water handy when they’re sick. And I
shouldn’t think any man would like to go about making himself
unpleasant to others! Leastways, I wouldn’t. Kicking Kirby used to say
that he’d rather be a woman than a parson, and the force of language
couldn’t go further than that! He knew what he was talking about, for
some of his folks were preachers; and there was good in Kirby, too!
People may say what they please, but I’ll allers hold to that!”
“Who was he?” asked George, happy to change the subject, being a
little uneasy in his hold upon it, and hopeful of a story at last.
Joe looked over the hills.
“Well, he was a friend of mine when I was prospecting for oil, once. I
allers liked Kicking Kirby.”
George sat patiently waiting, while Jim refilled his pipe and then
“There ain’t so much to tell, but men do curious things sometimes, and
Kirby, I guess, was a man few folks would have expected very much of.
There was hard things said of him, but he could allers strike a blow
for a friend, or hold his own with the next man, let him be who he
might. You see, there were a good many of us in camp, and we had fair
enough luck; for the men over at Digger’s Run had struck a good vein,
so money was plenty and changed hands fast enough. We’d all hung
together in our camp until Clint Bowers got into trouble. None of the
rest of us wanted to get mixed up in the fuss, but somehow we did, and
the other camp fought shy of us and played mostly among themselves;
and I’ve allers held that it is poor fun to take out of one pocket to
put into the other. Our boys had different opinions about it, and some
of them held that it wasn’t Clint’s awkward work that they’d got mad
at, but that they meant to shut down on Kirby. You see, Kirby was a
very lucky player, and although pretty rough things were said about
it, nobody ever got a clear handle against him, and he wasn’t the kind
of fellow that was pleasant to affront. Kirby used to say it was all
along of Clint; that he ought to have been kept from the cards, or
sent down the river; that we’d have had a good run of luck all winter
if it hadn’t been for him. I don’t know the rights properly, but I
allers thought it was about six of one and a half dozen of the other.
Anyhow, there was bad blood about it, and that don’t run up hill,
you know, and so there was trouble soon enough. The boys got into
words one night, and Kirby threw a mug at Clint, who out with his
knife and was at Kirby like a flash. Lucky for him Clint’s eyes
weren’t in good seeing order, and the liquor hadn’t made his arm any
the more steady, so Kirby only got a scratch on his arm. It showed
what Clint would like to do, though, and some of the boys made pretty
heavy bets on the end of it. I stuck up for Kirby, for you see I knew
him pretty well, and there was true grit in him; and then, too, he
was oncommon pleasant about it, and even stopped saying much about
Clint’s blocking up our luck over at the Run.
“Well, just about then Jack White came over from Cambria and told
Clint that he’d heard that his uncle was asking around where he was.
You see, Clint’s uncle had a store down there, and had made a tidy
pile of money, and as he hadn’t any children, he said he wouldn’t mind
leaving it to him if he was living respectable. Clint had lived with
him when he was a boy, but they hadn’t got along very well, so Clint
ran off. The old man didn’t mind this, though, and now he wanted to
find him. Jack said he was sure that if Clint was to go over and play
his cards right he’d get the money. You may be sure this was a stroke
of luck for Clint just then, and he didn’t like to lose it; but you
see he didn’t look very genteel, and he knew his uncle was sharp
enough to find it out. He was fat enough, for whiskey never made a
living skeleton of him, but it was plain that it wasn’t good health
that had made his nose so red, nor fine manners that had given him the
cut across his cheek and bruised up his eye. The boys all allowed that
he was the hardest-looking chap in the camp, and if his uncle left him
his money, it wouldn’t be on the strength of his good countenance! But
you know he had to do something right off, and so he wrote as pretty a
letter to the old man as ever I want to see; but when the answer came
it said his uncle was very sick, and as he had something particular
to say to him, wouldn’t Clint come over at once, and inclosed he’d
find the money for his fare. I tell you this stumped Clint, for he’d
had another fight, and was a picture to behold.
“But here’s where the surprise to us all came in. Clint was pretty
well puzzled what to do, and while all the boys were advising him,
Kirby spoke up. I’d noticed he was pretty quiet, but nobody could have
guessed what he was thinking about. He looked some like Clint, and
once had been pitched into by a new Digger Run boy for Clint. The
fellow never made the second mistake about them. It wasn’t as though
they were twins, but they both had brown hair and long beards, blue
eyes, and were about the same build, so you couldn’t have made a
descriptive list of the one that wouldn’t have done for the other.
What Kirby said was that Clint’s uncle hadn’t seen him since he was a
boy, and he’d expect to find him changed; and although he—that’s
Kirby, you know—had had hard feelin’s to Clint, he wasn’t a man to
hold a grudge, and he’d let bygones be bygones. So if Clint thought
well of it, he’d go over to Cambria, and if he found the land lay
right he’d pass off for him, and make things sure.
“This struck us all of a heap, for we knew Kirby could do it if he
choose and if nobody interfered with him, and that he really could
cajole the old man better than Clint could; for when that fellow got
wound up to talk he was allers going you five better. Some of the boys
thought it rather risky, and they wanted Clint to write and say he
had the typhoid fever, and so stave it off until he looked fit to go;
but he knew that if he crossed his uncle now he’d likely enough lose
everything, and so he thought it best to make sure and let Kirby go
and see, anyhow. One thing that helped Kirby along was that his first
wife had come from Cambria, and he’d heard her talk so much about the
people that he knew nearly as much of them as Clint did. To make the
matter sure, Clint stuffed him with all he remembered, and one night
we got up a-practising; and we made out that we were the folks, and
Kirby pow-wowed to the minister, and old Miss Cranby—that was
me!—and the doctor, until he knew his lesson and we’d nearly split
our sides laughing.
“Of course, seeing the interest we all took in it, we weren’t going to
do the thing half, so we clubbed together and got Kirby a suit of
store-clothes and a shiny valise, and he went off as proper as a
parson,—begging your pardon!—and we settled down again. He wrote
pretty prompt, and said everything was going on as smooth as oil. The
old man had called out that it was Clint as soon as he saw him, before
he’d said a word, and Kirby wrote it would have been kind of cruel to
have told him better. So he didn’t. He wrote several more letters, and
once Jack White had a letter from his sister saying that Clint Bowers
had come home, and it was said that the old man was tickled to death
with his manners, and meant to leave him all he had. This clinched it
sure enough, and Clint became tip-top among the boys, and his credit
was good for all the drinks he chose to order, and I must say he was
liberal enough, and nobody contradicted him. He wrote to Kirby,—he
was all the time writing to him,—but this time he told how handsome
he thought it was in him to do all this, considering everything. When
the answer came, Kirby said he didn’t profess much religion, and he
thought that generally speakin’ heaping coals of fire on any one’s
head was against the grain, but Clint was more than welcome to his
“He was a good fellow,” exclaimed George. “I don’t wonder you liked
“Yes, I allers stood up for Kirby when the boys were hardest on him.
But to finish up, for I’m telling an oncommon long yarn, at last a
letter came saying that the old man was dead and the money fixed. How
much it was Kirby couldn’t say yet, but he meant to hurry matters up,
he said. Of course he didn’t put all he meant into plain words, for it
wouldn’t do to trust it, and he was allers more careful than Clint,
who never knew when to hush. But now Kirby said he’d have everything
straight inside of two weeks, and we weren’t to look for another
letter from him.
“Well, it was surprisin’ how many birds Clint broiled for Kirby the
next few weeks! You see, Kirby allers was a gentleman in his tastes,
and had a particular liking for birds on toast, and of course Clint
wanted to give him a proper welcome home. We knew just when the boats
were likely to come, and Clint was allers ready for a surprise.”
“And he came just when he was least expected,” said George, with a
bright smile; “that is the way things always happen in this world. I
am sure of that!”
“Why, no, bless your heart, he never came back! I allers knew he
wouldn’t! He bought a share in a circus with the money, and went down
South. They said he married the girl who did the flying trapeze, but
I’m not sure about that. Anyway, it appears he’s done a good business,
and I’m sure he’s kept Clint’s letters to him. There was true grit in
Kirby, I’ve allers stuck to that! Does the pipe seem too strong for
you? The wind does blow it your way, that’s a fact.”
PASSAGES FROM THE JOURNAL OF A
By Margaret Floyd.
⁂ Harper’s Magazine, October, 1882.
January 13th, 188-.—Twenty-nine to-day, with two painful facts
staring me blankly in the face. I am reduced almost literally to my
last cent, and have no prospect of increasing this sum. For the first
time in my life I may as well examine the situation impartially. It is
not my fault that it is a physical impossibility for me to get up
early in the morning, and therefore that I never have stayed in any
office more than two or three weeks at the longest. It is
constitutional. I can’t write a good hand, or keep books correctly,
for the same reason. Mathematics were left out of my composition. I
must smoke, and it is impossible for me to smoke a poor cigar. If I
am in debt for cigars, as well as other necessities, how can I help
it? I would willingly work if I could only find the kind of work that
would suit me. I am not a fool. There is not a man in New York who
speaks French with a better accent than I do. I can sing better than
most amateurs. There is no vanity in saying that people consider me
good-looking. I don’t find it difficult to please when I make an
effort, and yet I am a complete failure. It is not my fault. I’m a
round peg in a square hole. I ought to have been the oldest son of a
duke, with a large allowance. Instead, I am a helpless orphan, with
nothing a year. I seem to joke; in reality I am in despair.
Fortunately, my landlady trusts me blindly, or I would be turned into
I have sold or pawned all my valuables. I might pawn my dress suit and
studs, but if I did, I couldn’t go out to dinner if I were asked, and
that is always a saving. I cannot get a place in an opera company,
because my voice has not been sufficiently trained. There always is
something to prevent my success, no matter what I try.
To-day I met Morton in the street. He stopped me and said: “By the
way, Valentine, your name will come up at the Amsterdam very soon. You
are sure to get in.”
Imagine paying club dues in my present condition! Yet to belong to the
Amsterdam has been one of my ambitions. I had to get out of it, and
said, in an offhand way: “Ah, thanks, Morton, but you may as well
take my name off the list. I’m thinking of living out of town.”
So I am—I think of occupying six feet of real estate in the country,
if something doesn’t happen soon. Morton always irritates me. He is
one of those prosperous, fortunate creatures, always so completely
the thing, that I feel hopelessly my own deficiencies.
January 15th.—Something has happened. I have an idea. It strikes
me as strange, yet feasible. When I came in this afternoon I found a
letter lying on my table. I opened it; it ran as follows:
“New York, January 14, 188-.
“Families who are about to give receptions, dinner parties,
or other entertainments will be gratified to know that
persons who will assist in making these events pleasant and
enjoyable can be obtained through the medium of the Globe
Employment Bureau. These persons will not be professionals,
but parties of culture and refinement, who will appear well,
dress elegantly, and mingle with the guests, while able and
willing to play, sing, converse fluently, tell a good story,
give a recitation, or anything that will help to make an
evening pass pleasantly.
“The Globe Employment Bureau in this plan simply complies
with the increasing demands of a large class of its patrons.
The attendance of these persons, young or old, can be had
for the sum of fifteen dollars per evening each. We will
guarantee them to be strictly honorable and reliable
persons. Respectfully yours,
“The Globe Employment Bureau.”
The idea amused me. I moralized on it as a phase of New York society;
wondered what sort of people would employ these individuals; wondered
what the individuals would feel like themselves; smiled grimly at the
inference that I could go to the expense of fifteen dollars to procure
the services of one of the persons. While I stood with the letter in
my hand, a thought flashed into my mind. It widened and developed,
until now it possesses my whole being. I can’t hire a Globe young man,
but anything is better than starvation: I will be a Globe young man!
January 18th.—It is all settled, and I am in the service of the New
York Globe. After two days of hesitation, I presented myself this
morning at the Globe office. I was shown to the Employment Bureau, and
there, through a little grating, I was interviewed by a young clerk of
supernatural composure. He had a cool discerning eye that seemed to
read my very soul, and take in my situation and errand at a glance. I
produced the Globe letter as the simplest method of introducing
He looked at me with his discriminating expression. “Let me
see,” he murmured. “We have had three thousand applications
since the day before yesterday, and our list is complete. But six
feet—blonde—good-looking—distinguished, in fact”—he bit the
handle of his pen meditatively. His air of reflection changed to one
of decision. “Just follow me, please,” he concluded.
I followed him through a dim passage to a little room where there was
a piano with some music on it. Standing beside the piano was a small
dark man, rubbing his hands and bowing politely as we entered. It
reminded me of one of the torture chambers of the Inquisition. What
were they going to do to me?
The chief inquisitor, in the shape of the clerk, began the ceremonies
by saying: “I suppose you would not have come here without being able
to fill the requirements of the Globe circular. Be kind enough to sit
down and sing and play that song.”
It proved to be “In the Gloaming.” I was in good voice, and managed to
sing it with some expression.
“Bravo!” said the second inquisitor, in the shape of the little dark
He then took me in hand. He proved to be an Italian, and asked me
questions in Italian and French, in both of which languages I answered
as well as I could. I was then obliged to sing pathetic songs,
drinking songs, comic songs, opéra bouffe, English ballads, and
then—worse than all—requested to recite some dramatic poetry. Here I
was at sea. I confessed that I knew none.
“Never mind,” said the clerk, encouragingly; “you have done remarkably
well in other respects, and you can easily learn the regulation
He handed me a list, beginning with “Curfew shall not ring To-night”
and “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” and ending with “Betsy and I
are Out” and “The May Queen.” I choked down my rising resentment. What
wouldn’t I do for fifteen dollars an evening, short of crime?
“Very well,” I said, obediently.
I was led out of the torture chamber, exhausted, but still living. It
is queer. I feel shaky. I had to give them my own name. I found that
there was no getting out of this. They said that the whole matter was
strictly in confidence. They required references, and I had taken the
precaution to bring several letters of recommendation from well-known
business men—letters that had been given to me a short while before
when I was trying to get a situation in a business house down town.
These were satisfactory as to my character.
I have put the halter around my own neck now.
N.B.—Suppose Morton were to find this out!
January 20th.—I have had my first experience in my new character. I
had been told to be ready every afternoon by five o’clock for orders.
Yesterday, about six in the afternoon, I received a message from the
Globe, directing me to go to a house in East Seventy-fourth Street,
near Fifth Avenue, at nine o’clock that evening, and submit myself to
the orders of Mr. Q. K. Slater. It was a consoling thought that I had
never heard of Mr. Q. K. Slater, and that East Seventy-fourth Street
was an unknown region to me.
Punctually at nine that evening I found myself in the large parlor of
a house in Seventy-fourth Street, brightly lighted, and filled with
people. The centre of the room was cleared, and several people were
dancing to the strains of a band. Near the door stood a tall imposing
gentleman with gray whiskers, and a lady in full evening dress.
Doubtless my hosts, or rather my proprietors.
What was I to do? How were they to know who and what I was? As I stood
hesitating, I found that their eyes were fixed upon me with a
significant glance. I immediately went toward them. To my astonishment
the lady greeted me by my name with the utmost suavity.
“Good-evening, Mr. Valentine,” she said. “I am delighted to see you.”
Mr. Slater murmured something that sounded like “How do you do?”
I said that I was delighted to meet—see them. Mrs. Slater turned to
another lady standing near her.
“Mrs. Raggles, do let me introduce Mr. Valentine. We were so afraid
that he would not be able to come.”
While I talked as well as I could to Mrs. Raggles, I surreptitiously
observed my host and hostess. Mr. Slater looked uncomfortable. There
was a consciousness in his uneasy manner that if I was a sham, so was
he. I feared that he might give us both away before the evening was over. Mrs. Slater, on the contrary, soared above any feeling of this
sort. Her party was to be a success; that was evidently her principal
object. What a comfort this was to me! I felt safe in her hands. Of
course it was as much of an object to her as to me to conceal the fact
that I was not a bona fide invited guest. I took my cue at once.
Avoid Mr. Slater; arrange matters in such a way that Mrs. Slater could
engineer me through the evening. All the time I had a sensation that
in avoiding Mr. Slater I was avoiding an old and tried friend. There
was something strangely familiar in his face; in the almost courtly
wave of his hand as he directed his guests to the refreshment-room; in
his protecting manner as he walked about, first with one lady, then
with another. I cannot recall distinctly the events of the evening. I
have a confused impression of lights, flowers, music, and people, much
like any other party, yet with certain differences. The dressing was
not in particularly good taste, and the German was managed in a most
extraordinary manner. At eleven o’clock the man who was to lead it
came forward with a hat containing scraps of paper. I noticed that all
the men went up and drew a slip of paper. They examined it, and
retired into the crowd. I couldn’t imagine what this ceremony meant,
and felt sure that when my turn came I should make some frightful
blunder. As I thought this, I found Mrs. Slater beside me. She
hurriedly explained to me that this party was one of a series of
Germans given at the houses of her friends, and that there had been
some feeling on the part of certain young ladies because others had
been oftener asked to dance the German and drive home afterward than
they had. In order to obviate this a system of lots had been arranged,
by which chance alone decided the matter. “Each young gentleman,”
concluded Mrs. Slater, “can bring any young lady that he wishes to the
party; but he is expected to go home with the lady whom he draws for
the German. I hope you understand what is expected of you. You dance,
of course?” she added, with a slightly stern manner—the manner of a
proprietor. I said that I could.
Accordingly I drew my lot, and found myself the partner of a pretty
girl, who proved to be the daughter of Mrs. Raggles.
This is my journal; no one will ever see it; I can be honest. I
impressed Miss Raggles. I think I impressed every one that I met. I
realized that on the mere making a good impression depended my success
in the future. To talk, to dance, to flirt, to eat ice-cream, at the
rate of three or four dollars an hour—for the present this was my
profession. Why not elevate it, glorify it, by doing these things
better than any one else had ever done them? There was an exhilaration
in the thought. It positively inspired me. I was in constant demand,
and was presented to almost every one. Toward the end of the evening
Mrs. Slater asked me to sing. I thought it odd for a large party, but
I sang my best. One thing damped my spirits. I had been standing in
the doorway, when I suddenly became aware of two waiters who were
whispering together at a short distance. In a lull of the music their
words reached me.
“Which did yer say he was?” said one in a loud whisper.
“That’s him—him there by the door, the good-lookin’ fellow. Looks as
if he didn’t have nothin’ in the world to do but stand there all the
evening,” answered the other.
“You don’t say!” ejaculated the first; “and he gets fifteen dollars
for doin’ the likes of that? You and me has missed our vocation,
I could have knocked down the impertinent fellows, but, after all,
what right had I to do it? It was all true. “Noblesse oblige,” I
muttered through my clinched teeth; and catching Mrs. Slater’s stern
glance, I went to do my duty by taking my partner to supper.
At the close of the evening Mr. Slater came up to me. He was certainly
a dignified-looking old fellow, but he seemed unhappy. “Well, Mr.
Valentine,” he said, with rather a melancholy smile, “you have done
remarkably well. Been quite the life of the evening. Trying thing to
entertain a party of this size. This is the first time we have done
it. How do you think it went off? Your candid opinion now.”
“Remarkably well,” I said.
I noticed that his manner to me was secret and confidential, as if we
had entered into some dark partnership of crime.
“Mrs. Slater,” he continued, “is an ambitious woman, and it was her
idea having you. She wanted a different style of young man from those
we have been accustomed to, and”—looking at me with a sad pride—“she
got it—she got it.”
As I looked at him his face seemed to grow more familiar. At this
moment Miss Raggles, who had gone up-stairs to get her cloak, made her
appearance. I bade a hurried good-night to Mr. and Mrs. Slater, and
accompanied the young lady home. She lived in that part of Fifth
Avenue which is on the confines of both New York and Harlem. She
treated me as a distinguished stranger, and ended by inviting me to
call. Unsuspecting Miss Raggles! Her mother had apparently gone home
hours before. In the Slater set they managed things in this way.
I wonder when I am to be paid.
January 22d.—I have discovered where I have seen Mr. Slater before.
I stopped at Stewart’s yesterday to buy some gloves (I was paid the
morning after the Slater party), and as I walked down the shop one of
the individuals popularly known as “walkers” approached me.
“What do you desire, sir?” I heard a pompous voice say. “Where may I
“Gloves,” I said, mechanically.
“Third section on the right hand, Fourth Avenue side, sir.”
I looked at my guide, as a familiar tone struck my ear. It was Mr.
Slater. At the same instant he recognized me. A moment before we had
been independent human beings—at the next our consciousness of the
mutual knowledge we possessed of each other destroyed our comfort. Mr.
Slater walked away in one direction and I in another. Still, it was a
comfort to know where I had seen him before.
January 27th.—I find that a whole week has elapsed since I have
written anything in my journal. The truth is, I have been too
miserable. This occupation is degrading. Everywhere I go some fresh
humiliation awaits me. The very servants look on me with suspicion. At
one place the butler followed me around all the evening as if I were a
thief. I don’t think any one noticed it, yet I could not rid myself of
the feeling that Morton, who happened to be there, looked at me
suspiciously once or twice. Suppose he were to discover everything,
and tell it at the club! It is too hideous to be thought of.
At another house, where I had been obliged to sing comic songs and
make a buffoon of myself for two hours, my host—an enormously rich
and illiterate person—presented me with a check for twenty-five
dollars as I left the house. I returned it indignantly, but he pressed
it into my hand, saying, heartily:
“I ain’t goin’ to take it back, so you may as well keep it. You done
first-rate this evening—first-rate! ’Tain’t charity, but because
what you done is worth more than fifteen dollars by a long shot; and
when I have pleasure, I expect to pay for it, like I do for everything
To avoid a scene, I had to keep the money. I am certainly richer than
I was. I have been able, by my honest exertions, to supply myself with
the luxuries without which I cannot exist; and when my present income
is doubled, I shall be able to pay something on account for my board
bill here, and settle some of my other bills. The question that now
troubles me is, Are they honest exertions?
Since the evening at Mr. Griddle’s (the rich manufacturer who gave me
the check) I have been to several places, at all of which, among
others that I knew, I saw Morton. His manner is becoming most
unpleasant. He said to me the other night, with that satirical grin of
“You’re getting to be quite a society man, Valentine. Never used to
see you about so much. It’s always been my way, but it’s something new
I felt sure he suspected something. Another time he said:
“By the way, I thought you were going out of town to live? As you seem
to have changed your mind, I suppose it is all right about the
I would not dare to join a club now. I stammered out something about
talking it over another time, and left the room. I begin to hate him.
He suspects the truth, and knows that I am in his power, and enjoys
February 4th.—Added to the mortifications I am exposed to, the
feeling that I am a sham grows on me. I impose on every one wherever I
go. This thought has robbed me of my peace of mind. However poor I was
before, I had nothing to be ashamed of. Now I am a man with a
February 5th.—I have realized this too late. Last night I was sent
for to fill a place at a dinner-table where fourteen had been
expected, and at the last minute one had failed. Mr. Courtland, the
gentleman at whose house the dinner was given, treated me politely
before his guests, yet with him I felt all the odium of my position. I
was there as a convenience, and nothing else. My relation to him was
purely a business one. The house was on Washington Square, and was
old-fashioned but magnificent. The dining-room was hung with tapestry,
and we sat around the dinner-table in carved arm-chairs. I made a
pretence of talking to the old lady whom I took in to dinner, and whom
I had met before, but in reality my attention was absorbed by a
beautiful young girl who sat opposite to me. She had dark hair,
brilliant coloring, and deep-set brown eyes. She wore an oddly
old-fashioned gown of yellow satin, cut square in the neck. I found
that she was Mr. Courtland’s niece and heiress, and lived with him. He
was a widower without any children. After dinner, when the men went
into the drawing-room, I determined to leave. Mr. Courtland’s manner
was too much for my self-respect. Miss Courtland stood by the piano,
and every one was begging her to sing.
“My music has gone to be bound,” she said, “and I cannot sing without
Her uncle would not accept this refusal, and produced a portfolio of
old music. His niece selected a duet for soprano and tenor, and said
that she would sing if any one would take the tenor; she stood with
the music in her hand, looking dubiously at the circle of men around
her. Not one could sing. Mrs. Delancey, my companion at the
dinner-table, looked at me.
“Mr. Valentine sings, Helen. I am sure he will be happy to sing with
Miss Courtland turned to me with a smile that was positively
bewildering. “Will you sing this duet with me, Mr. Valentine?”
Mr. Courtland flashed a furious glance at me, which said, “Don’t dare
to sing with my niece.” Of all my humiliations this stung me the most.
Mr. Courtland, however, seemed to regret having shown so much feeling,
for his manner changed.
“I hope you will oblige us by singing, Mr. Valentine,” he said,
Of course I sang, although I was tempted to refuse, and leave the
house instead. How could I refuse Miss Courtland? Her voice was
exquisite—sympathetic. It made me feel as though I could confide in
her. What if I should! Yes, and be cut the next time we met. I felt
painfully the chasm that divided us, gentle and cordial as she was,
and left as soon as the song was over. I wonder whether I shall see
February 13th.—I have been out several times this week, and twice
have met Miss Courtland. Her uncle never goes out, and Mrs. Delancey
chaperons her. She always seems glad to see me, and certainly has the
most charming manners. Never mind the fact of my being a whited
sepulchre. Let me enjoy the goods the gods have sent me. That
confounded Morton! he is always at Miss Courtland’s elbow, and when he
succeeds in engaging her to dance before I do, he looks at me with his
February 15th.—Morton’s malice is unspeakable. Feeling convinced as
I do that he suspects my secret, it is positive torture to see him
talk to Miss Courtland as he did last night. He evidently spoke of me,
and she listened to him, looking at me meanwhile with a surprised
expression. That man has me in his power.
February 20th.—I feel that it is unprincipled to send Miss
Courtland flowers, for two reasons—first, because I cannot do it and
pay my bills as well; secondly, because it adds to my deception in
making a friend of her, and yet I cannot resist the temptation to show
her my admiration.
February 21st.—Matters are coming to a climax. Last night Miss
Courtland said, with a dignified sweetness that was irresistible: “Mr.
Valentine, I have noticed that you have never been to see me. I have
not asked you, because I supposed you would feel at liberty to come
after having dined with my uncle.”
“I assure you, Miss Courtland,” I said, “I should of course have done
so, but the truth is I have had a slight misunderstanding with your
uncle, and I do not feel that I can go to his house.”
Of course I added a lie to the rest of my duplicity. Her face was
lighted with a charming smile. “That is no reason for not coming; you
owe my uncle a call at all events. I will be at home to-morrow—no,
Thursday afternoon. Come in about five o’clock, and I will give you a
cup of tea. My uncle is never at home until six o’clock, and when he
does come in, never sees visitors. Even if you do meet him, it will be
a good opportunity to make your peace with him.”
In a kind of dream I recklessly consented.
Morton came pushing up at that moment.
“By the way, Miss Courtland,” he said, “will you be at home Thursday
afternoon? If so, with your permission, I will call upon you.”
Of course he had overheard me, and wished to irritate me. Fortunately
some one spoke to Miss Courtland at that moment, and she turned away
without having heard Morton. For once my anger flamed out. I caught
him by the arm, and held it like a vise.
“Be careful,” I said, between my teeth. “This sort of thing may go too
He gave me a furious look, and shaking me off, left the room.
February 22d. Two a.m.—My brain is reeling. My world is upside
down. There is no use in trying to sleep. I will write down what has
happened. It may calm me. This evening when I entered the house where
I was to entertain others at the expense of my self-respect, I found I
was before the time. The rooms were empty, with the exception of my
hostess, a very old lady, who held a formidable ear-trumpet in her
hand. Preceding me down the brightly lighted room was a gentleman.
There was something unpleasantly familiar in the cut of his coat and
the carriage of his head. It was my evil genius, Morton. I made up my
mind to wait until some one else came, before going in. As I stood in
the background this scene was enacted before me:
Morton bowed. The old lady looked blankly at him.
“I am Mr. Morton, madam,” said he.
She continued to stare at him, and then held out her trumpet. Morton
took it, and repeated his words into its depths.
“Horton?” she said, interrogatively.
“Morton,” he called.
“Oh yes, Lawton—Mr. Lawton.”
“Morton!” he fairly shouted.
“Oh yes,” she said, intelligence breaking over her face. “Morton—Mr.
Morton, from the Globe office. Where’s the other? There were to have
been two. Just take care of yourself, please, for a moment. I have to
go and see about something.”
She tottered out of the room, and Morton, turning, confronted me. He
saw that I had overheard all. Before I could speak he came toward me
with an air of desperation.
“For Heaven’s sake don’t betray me, Valentine, now that you know my
secret,” he exclaimed. “I have felt from the first that you
suspected—that I was in your power. I throw myself on your mercy. In
your safe and prosperous condition you don’t know—you can’t
know—what a frightful position I am in.”
My face must have changed in some ghastly manner as he spoke, for he
stopped and looked at me with deepening consternation.
“What is it? What’s the matter?” he asked.
I saw my mistake, and tried to look unconcerned, but at that moment
the old lady came back into the room.
“Oh, there’s the other,” she said, as she saw me. “His name’s
Valentine, so that’s all right.”
Several people came into the room, and she went forward to greet them.
Morton looked at me in dazed silence for a minute; then he seemed to
master his astonishment by a mighty effort.
“So,” he said, huskily, “we are quits. I am in your power, but you are
equally in mine. Be careful how you interfere with me.”
We did not speak again together during the evening. What is to be the
end of this? To-morrow I go to see Miss Courtland, and I have made up
my mind to confess everything. Perhaps she will think no worse of me.
The queen still loved Ruy Blas after she found he was a lackey.
What nonsense am I dreaming of?
February 23d.—The game is up. I went this afternoon to Mr.
Courtland’s house, and found Miss Courtland at home, alone. She was in
a dim little room, with the firelight nickering on her beautiful face.
She saw that I was constrained and anxious, and at once asked me the
reason. Something in her kind manner broke down my composure.
“Miss Courtland,” I said, “how would you feel if I were to confess
that I have been deceiving you—that I am not what I seem to be?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, anxiously.
“Tell me first,” I said, “that whatever I tell you, you will still be
my friend, and will believe me when I say that I have not wished to
deceive you—that I have bitterly regretted it.”
She looked at me with a frank smile. “You may depend upon me.”
In a few words I told her everything from the time of my going to the
Globe office up to that moment. She listened gravely; then she turned
to me again with a smile.
“You have told me nothing dishonorable (although you can surely find
something better to do), and I will still be your friend. I am glad
you told me, for Mr. Morton said some things about you last night
that made me fear—”
This was too hard, and I interrupted her.
“Morton!” I said. “Morton is the last person to dare to say anything
Here I checked myself, but Miss Courtland’s curiosity was aroused.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “I will not talk of Morton; it is enough that you
are still my friend.”
“Certainly I am,” she said.
She held out her hand as she spoke, and I took it and raised it to my
lips. At the same moment two people entered the room by different
doors. One was Mr. Courtland; the other, Morton. Mr. Courtland seemed
stupefied with astonishment, for he stood motionless, but Morton
strode toward me.
“How dare you!” he gasped. “I will expose you.”
His audacity was too much for my self-control.
“Morton,” I said, in a low tone, “as your position is the same as
mine, I warn you to be careful of what you say.”
I spoke louder than I intended, and Miss Courtland heard my words. She
gave Morton a keen look.
“Ah! now I understand!” she exclaimed, as if involuntarily.
As she said this Morton became very white, and muttering something
about a broken engagement, with a hasty good-by to Mr. Courtland,
left the room. He had gone a step too far at last. Mr. Courtland had
by this time recovered from his astonishment.
“What do you mean by this astounding impertinence!” he exclaimed,
coming toward me. He turned to his niece: “Helen, do you know on what
terms this man first came here? I hired him—hired him from the Globe
Employment Bureau to fill an empty place at my dinner-table. I did not
warn you against him, for I thought you would not meet him again. I
trusted also to his sense of decency, but I was mistaken. Your honesty
was guaranteed, sir. You have not taken my silver, but you have done
worse. This shall be reported to the Globe Employment Bureau
immediately. First, leave this house. I shall go at once to the Globe
He paused for an instant.
“My dear uncle,” said Miss Courtland, quietly, “Mr. Valentine has just
told me all this himself. He only came here because I asked him to
Mr. Courtland would not listen to any explanations, but only repeated
his assertion that he would report me at the Globe office. There was
nothing for me to do but to go.
I gave Miss Courtland one look of gratitude, then I left the house. I
have but two consolations: one, that Miss Courtland still trusts me;
the other, that Morton is as badly off as I am—rather worse.
My dismissal from the Globe has just come. It is a relief to be free
from this bondage, but I am as much in debt as usual, and what am I to
do in the future?
February 24th.—A light is beginning to break on my dark horizon. I
have just received a note from Miss Courtland telling me that her
uncle has been pacified by her explanations; that as I am no longer in
the employ of the Globe, I am at liberty to come to his house; and
that she is sure I will find something better to do in the future.
I can’t help thinking of Ruy Blas and the queen again. I feel like Ruy
Blas come back to life, and my queen is not married.
By James T. McKay.
⁂ Scribner’s Monthly, March, 1877.
So Miss Brainard’s father’s gone, Doctor.” It was the young
minister’s clear, hearty voice that spoke. “I feel very sorry for Miss
Brainard, very sorry indeed. He has been a great care to her, and it’s
a release to both, no doubt; but it leaves a great void. She’s very
good and useful, and she has been a faithful daughter. She’s very much
overcome; it seems to her as if she were alone in the world.”
Dr. Enfield’s heart smote him. He knew Cora Brainard much better than
the minister, who had not been very long in the place, but his thought
of her had not been gentle of late. The picture of her in such trouble
affected him with a remorseful tenderness. He turned his horse and
drove to her door.
He found her alone; she had been crying, and looked tremulous and
downcast, but was trim and pretty, as always. She called him Lawrence
and asked him in, then nestled herself childishly in the corner of the
sofa and dried her eyes. Enfield stood before her, remembering many
“I am very sorry, Cora,” he said. “Can I do anything for you?”
He spoke low and with something like contrition.
“You’re long in coming to show it,” she complained. “You’ve been very
“I used to come quick enough and often enough,” he rejoined in the
“Yes, and then you stayed away of a sudden, and when I asked you the
reason, you laughed at me and deserted me altogether, when you knew I
looked to you for advice and assistance, and had most need of them.”
Her reproach stung him. The charge of unfaithfulness to a friend was
one he took keenly. There was a mingled sternness and entreaty in his
voice when he replied:
“Won’t you let that go now? This is no time for bandying reproaches. I
think I was your faithful friend for a long while. If I failed in my
duty to you, I am sure I did not know it. And if I changed, it was
because I thought I had been mistaken and had been going for years
with my eyes shut. I thought I had been a fool and it was time——but
that’s of no account now. I am your friend still; let me prove it.”
But she persisted in her high, child-like complaint.
“Was it my fault, then, you had not seen me, truly? I never tried to
deceive you. I always put confidence in you and talked frankly to you,
as I never did to any one else. And you know I’ve had a hard time. I
was never meant for the tiresome, lonely life I’ve had. I never wanted
to be a pattern and model of usefulness and self-forgetfulness, but
they would have me so, and I couldn’t go out in the streets and tell
them I was not. I’ve had to play the part till I’m tired. I’ve had to
walk demurely, and talk and smile to people I despised, and do all
sorts of miserable things. But I never pretended to you. You knew I
was not satisfied or happy. I used to tell you all my troubles and ask
your advice about everything. And you know you said harsh things to me
sometimes. You knew me better than any one else, and I did not think
you would ever treat me so. Did you think only of what was due to
yourself, and that our long friendship and the reliance you had
encouraged me to place in you gave me no claim upon you?”
Her words hurt and agitated him greatly. Was she right? and had he
been doubly blind? In this grieved, reproachful, petulant humor, she
seemed a different being from the Cora Brainard he had had in his
thought these last months; she was the little girl that the big boy,
Lawrence Enfield, had protected and drawn on his sled, the maiden he
had cherished in his heart for many a day; and he had been purer and
braver for the thought of her. Did he owe her nothing for that? He
was very sensitive to people’s claims upon him. His heart bled and was
afraid for her. He could not see her way. He knew she had had a hard
time,—harder than people dreamed. They thought her long service and
support of her invalid father were made easy by a love of duty and by
exceptional ability. Enfield knew that, though she had rare tact and
succeeded admirably, all sordid care and labor were extremely
repugnant to her. She had said she never had anything she liked; he
would have expressed it, that she never liked anything she had. He
thought that a very melancholy case. That she liked the society of
spirited young men, he had learned to his sorrow more than once or
twice; or, at least, that they were very apt to like her; but they
were all sent (or went) about their business one after another.
Enfield had a friend named Loramer, who had been one of the spirited
fellows at one time, and the episode had been a severe strain upon
their friendship. It was a summer vacation of Loramer’s, when he made
Miss Brainard’s acquaintance, and he had found her bright, piquant
face, and light, laughing chatter very appetizing. He met her upon
riding and sailing parties, sat and walked and drove with her. Enfield
avoided them both awhile, then spoke offensively to Loramer, and got
scornful laughter in reply. They did not meet again for some time.
One evening Loramer brought Cora home from a drive. He lifted her
out, and they stood talking there together under the trees. He made an
appointment to go rowing with her the next day, and they parted, with
some show of reluctance on his part, and low laughter on hers.
He scratched a match and lighted a cigar, as he drove down the street.
As he passed through the town, he saw some one going before him on the
foot-path. He let his horse walk, and watched the man till he turned a
corner. He turned the horse after him, overtook him, and stopped
opposite and said:
“Enfield, come and ride.”
He stood by a tree a minute or two, looking, then came and got in.
They rode along, each in his corner.
“Have a cigar?” said Loramer.
“No,” answered Enfield.
Loramer took his own from his mouth and flung it away. He struck the
horse with the whip, Enfield put his hand on the reins, and said,
“Don’t do that, the mare’s willing enough; she’s tired.”
Loramer pulled her up, and let her walk a mile or more, up among the
hills; then he turned her and rattled back toward the village, and
stopped before his own lodging. He asked Enfield to hold the horse and
went in. In a little while he came out and put a valise in the wagon.
“What time does the night train pass?”
He drove to the station, gave Enfield the reins, and put the valise on
the platform, then stood on the step of the wagon.
“Drive the horse to Mitchel’s for me and tell him to send me his
He lingered a moment, then offered his hand.
“Good-night!” and they held each other’s hands firmly but gravely.
“Will you take a cigar now, Lawrence?”
Loramer thrust his cigar-case into his hand, wheeled round and marched
into the waiting-room, holding the valise with a strong grasp, and
putting his head a little on one side.
That affair was a part of the long, slow process of Enfield’s
alienation from Cora, but only one of many steps. He was tenacious and
slow to change, and she held him by cords of memory and dependence as
well as affection. But by degrees he came to see clearly that he had
been wilfully blind, that he had always known but would not regard
that she was not at all the girl he had enshrined. The end was but a
trifle—the proverbial last straw. And though he laughed when she took
him to task and felt a barbarous enjoyment in their reversed
relations, and in her show of something like consternation, he more
than once afterward felt the yearning of the converted heathen toward
his broken gods.
Loramer and Enfield spent a week together on Cape Cod the same summer
and took refuge from a storm in one of the huts provided for
ship-wrecked people. Listening to the deafening roar of the wind and
the surf, they spoke of Cora Brainard. Loramer congratulated Lawrence
upon his freedom. And he went on:
“I don’t know what there is in the little minx. All the old ladies in
Elmtree think her a kind of saint, but she didn’t strike me in that
light. She came near making a —— fool of me, but I can’t remember
anything she said, only how she laughed and her eyes sparkled.”
“I can’t laugh at her,” Enfield answered. “She hasn’t made herself and
she hasn’t had a good time. She doesn’t know anything and doesn’t care
for anything. She has a wonderful tact, an eye for color, and an
instinct for the current fashion in what goes for literature and art.
But she has no appreciation of anything permanent and no lasting
enjoyment of anything. I think that is terrible. I can’t think of
anything much more pitiable.”
Enfield lounged against the wall; Loramer watched him awhile,
listening to the storm booming without, as he lay stretched on the
straw. Then he went on:
“Do you think she’s a good girl, Lawrence? It wouldn’t be quite safe
for her to run on with some fellows as she did with me.”
He caught Enfield’s eye.
“No, it wasn’t quite safe for her to run on so with me. She’s either
very innocent, or very artful, or very reckless, I don’t know which.
If she is good, she’s very, very good.”
He laughed, but Lawrence smoked soberly and silent.
“Young Harlow, the ensign, was her last capture, wasn’t he?”
Enfield nodded, gravely.
“They say he was over his head, and would have given up the navy and
flouted his people and everything, if she would have taken him, but
she wouldn’t let him sacrifice himself. That was a strange affair of
theirs—being lost on a sleigh-ride and snowed up two days across the
mountain. I never could understand it; both of them knew the country,
and none of the rest of the party found much trouble.”
“I don’t know,” Enfield answered, slowly. “I wasn’t taking as much
interest in her movements just then as I had been. I cut adrift about
the time she took Harlow in tow; I suppose she thought I was jealous,
and perhaps I was. I don’t know how they managed it, but he left very
suddenly, and she was sick about that time.”
All these things, and many more, surged through Enfield’s mind now, as
he stood before her and was swayed by her unrestrained upbraiding. She
said that he had stood in her way, that she had put her trust in him
and given him such a near place that others had been kept from her. He
found that hard to swallow. He turned from her and threw himself into
an arm-chair, with his face away from her, and chewed the bitter
Finally she came slowly and stood beside him a minute or two, then
said sadly, laying her hand on his arm:
“Forgive me, Lawrence, if I have said too much; I am in trouble; you
will help me, will you not?”
“Yes, I will do anything I can for you,” he answered. “Have you made
She shook her head slowly.
“No; I don’t know what I am to do. I can’t live alone, and there’s no
one here I can live with. They don’t know me and yet think they do,
and they expect me to be always playing the character they have
invented for me. I’m tired to death, and I want you to tell me what to
He sat with her awhile longer, then went away, and thought of her all
night, and went back to her in the morning.
Loramer made him a visit soon after that. They sat up late together.
When they were separating at Loramer’s door, he laid his arm across
Enfield’s shoulder, and they looked into each other’s eyes.
“Are you going to marry Cora Brainard, Lawrence?” he asked.
They continued to look at each other for a long breath.
“Are my eyes sound?” asked Enfield, but neither smiled.
“Yes, sound and true,” answered Loramer, “but too deep for me.”
The wedding came off a month later. Enfield had insisted upon Loramer
standing up with him. “This must make no difference between you and
me, Harry,” he had said. Cora looked very pretty, and bore herself
with a demure dignity which Loramer could not but admire. He got an
idea of her then which he found hard to reconcile with his
recollections. Enfield himself discovered an unsuspected capacity for
enjoyment in her.
They came back from the wedding-journey, and she took command of his
house. And as they settled into the routine of home life and
occupations, Enfield began to think of carrying out certain plans
which he had had in mind.
Two or three months before his return to Cora, he had met a young lady
whom he had known slightly for some years, named Stella Grayland. She
was not strikingly beautiful, but of very pleasing appearance, fresh,
rosy, and intelligent. But the charm Enfield found in her was her
manner and what it suggested. Though entirely simple, her walking,
standing, sitting, speaking, were perfectly poised. In all her motions
and attitudes she made you think of some smooth and balanced mechanism
which, however it turned, or went, or stopped, was still in no danger
of going awry. She could stand still and sit still, and to see her do
either was good for the eyes. She was not fluent in speech, but when
she began you might be sure she would get to the end of what she set
out to say and stop when she got to the end. The simplest things took
a rhythmical quality in her mouth, and clung to the memory with an
Happy, thoughtful, modest, steadfast Stella Grayland had struck
Enfield as the reverse of Cora Brainard, and he found the secret of
the salient difference in the fact that Stella had had a thorough
training in one direction. Her father was a musician, and his daughter
had inherited his faculty and cultivated it by assiduous study at home
and abroad. Coming away from her, Enfield had reflected how any
ennobling pursuit broadens and deepens the whole character, as a
journey up the latitudes on any side of the world gives one the main
features of all, and makes the rest intelligible.
If Cora had had the guidance of some strong, wise hand to set her
right at the start, and lead her along the arduous beginning of some
such path, until her feet found their strength and the growing joy of
walking, and her eyes learned the delight of the ever-widening and
brightening prospect!—the thought of what might have been filled him
with strong regret and pity. She had only had the training of sordid
care and uncongenial tasks and associations. He was estranged from her
then, and had been thinking hardly of her; but when he heard of her in
trouble at her father’s death, the pitiful yearning swept away all
unkindness, and brought him back to her side. And that night, after
she had appealed to him in such an abandoned humor, she seemed to him
quite the child still and fit to learn of one who understood her, and
had her confidence and the right to be with her a great deal. Who was
there that knew her or could help her but he? It was in no proud
spirit that he had answered. He wandered under the stars, and was
humble enough and lonely enough, God knew. He went back through the
years, and gathered all the forgotten tenderness and trust between
them. He felt again the purifying stimulus of his thought of her, and
perceived how it had fostered all of him that was brave and of good
report. Whether or not he had deceived himself; whether she were truly
the girl he had seen or not, the fact remained that he owed her, or
his thought of her, a great deal. What was truth? Are there not as
many worlds as eyes that see them? Are we sure there is any world
outside the eye? Does not truth consist in standing by what one’s eyes
report? What better proof could there be of a thing’s reality than
that it had held you long, shaped and lifted and led you? Cora
Brainard had been the most powerful modifying circumstance of his
It seemed to him that night that God had set before him a solemn
trust, and that there was every reason why he should assume it. And
slowly and reverently he took it up.
And now that she was his wife, he was anxious to begin the course he
had determined to pursue. Cora had received the ordinary schooling of
girls, but had somehow missed the true education. Her acquirements
were a surface gloss merely, Enfield knew. She had never been touched
by the sacred fire. She could not tell a good book from a poor one, he
had said to Loramer. But he had taken her, and his heart yearned
toward the companion of his choice. Yet there could be no true
companionship where there was no common view or interest. It seemed to
him that she had never learned the right use of her eyes, that the few
and little things close to her shut out the sight of the great and
innumerable company beyond, as if one reared among city streets should
never see either the earth or the sky. He would teach her to use them,
would show her the awe and beauty of the world. They would read
together; he would find a new charm and inspiration in his loved
books; she would catch his enthusiasm and insensibly learn the delight
and true cultivation of all that is great and good.
He found no chance to begin for a long time. She was very busy and
seemed very happy. There was the house to set in order, his friends
and hers to entertain; she was learning to ride. But by and by came
winter and shut them in more alone. He got out his books and proposed
their reading together, and was pleased to find she welcomed the plan.
She read with a clear intonation and a careful regard for pointing and
pronunciation; but somehow as he listened to her the strength and
flavor of his favorite authors escaped between the words. Her idea of
reading poetry seemed to be that it should sound exactly like prose.
She had apparently no conception of anything like rhythm, and seemed
to think it a special grace to avoid any slightest pause at the end of
a line when it could be done; so that the mind was kept on a strain to
catch at the rhyme and measure. He said nothing, but one night took
the book himself. He read things to her that had made his heart throb
and dimmed his eyes, or filled him with delightful laughter, and they
wearied or puzzled her, and seemed cold and sterile to himself. He
began to lose courage, but he persevered. One night he read to her in
Ruskin’s eloquent prose, and came to that powerful and impassioned, if
somewhat mystical, interpretation of the Laureate’s noble song:
“Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.”
He read on to the end. When he stopped he hoped she would not speak;
he felt by anticipation the jar of her clear cold voice. But she did
not speak. Her face was in the shadow, but he could see without
turning his head that her bosom heaved and heaved. She was
touched,—she understood. With a rush came a thought that the splendid
song symbolized their relation. It was he who stood at the gate,
alone, and called her out from “the dancers dancing in tune.” He had
almost wearied of calling, but she heard,—at last she heard!
“There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, ‘She is near, She is near,’
And the white rose weeps, ‘She is late;’
The larkspur listens, ‘I hear, I hear;’
And the lily whispers, ‘I wait!’”
There was silence a while in the room; then he moved very gently and
looked in her face. There was a smile on her lips, and her eyes were
closed. She was asleep.
He left her there and went out. It was cold and still; the stars
glittered, the earth was white. He walked far on the frozen snow, with
a feeling as hard and cold as the bitter air. Some impish sprite
seemed to mock him with the closing strain of the song:
“She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.”
All the charm had gone out of the words. Were such passionate
yearnings actual, or at best more than empty delusions? He had yearned
so toward her; she had been “his life, his fate.” His fate, truly, but
was she not rather his death? What kind of creature was it that words
like those could not move? She cast a blight upon the noblest things,
made him doubt and disbelieve where before he had walked with firm
feet. And she was his fate; he was bound to her by his own hand. She
sat there now by his table, and there she would sit and sit. The
picture made his house seem a prison. He must go back there by and by.
The thought of living at variance was very bitter to him, yet how
could they prevent it who had nothing in common, whose instincts drew
opposite ways. He was unequally yoked with an unbeliever.
The village clock recalled him from that dismal reverie. He had a call
to make at the Marlakes’; the children were all three sick. Kate
Marlake had been a Grayland, and her sister Stella was recently come
to stay with her through that trying time. Lawrence gave one of the
children a soothing potion, and said he would wait to see the effect.
He went down-stairs, and Kate sent Stella to keep him company. She
asked him about the children, and he explained to her the
“self-limited” character of the disease and the necessity that they
should grow worse before they could be better, but assured her there
was no present cause for alarm. And while he thus reassured her, she
was unconsciously exerting a more powerful influence upon him. Her
steady, balanced carriage, her quiet, straight, brief questions, her
direct glance, her strong but controlled interest, the simple grace
with which she sat afterward, altogether affected him with a great
tenderness, mingled with despair. Why could not Cora be like that? Was
it so hard to be simple, gracious, modestly satisfied? It seemed very
easy in Stella’s presence. She did not say much; her words were fit
and sincere, to be sure, but simple and few, and as like as not to end
with a depreciating, low, lapsing laugh. But somehow she made all
brave and gentle and generous things seem easy and very desirable.
Lawrence looked up from his abstraction and found her watching him.
“Don’t you miss your music?” he asked.
“Well,” she answered, with her low laugh, “it would hardly be gracious
to say I do, when Kate needs me so badly,—and hardly true to say no.”
Lawrence recalled a remark of Dr. Kane’s;—how when, on one of his
voyages, in their ice-girt winter quarters, the whole ship’s company,
save himself, were prostrate below decks, and he with incredible
strength and fortitude was literally doing everything, not even
omitting to register regular observations of the instruments;—in the
midst of that unsurpassable heroism among the polar solitudes, he felt
at night a dissatisfaction with the day as having been spent to
little purpose worthy of his powers.
Stella listened, and was still a moment before she answered:
“Yes, I can understand that.”
That was it. She could understand. She knew what he was talking about;
she knew and cared. He had always remarked her peculiarly melodious,
low voice; he thought now he had never heard one so expressive. It was
never either loud or faint, but exquisitely modulated, like all her
motions. He could say things to her; when he began to talk to Cora,
his words came back upon him as in an echoing hall, and smothered him
with the sound of his own voice. Stella Grayland, sitting composedly,
saying little, stirred him like noble music,—made him strong and
They talked of many things, the dark background of his thought giving
a sombre undertone to his part. They came back to music.
“You enjoy it as much as ever?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” she answered; “I think it grows constantly upon you. One’s
deficiencies become painfully clearer, and bad music seems to increase
and become more of a trial. But it is a satisfaction to feel that one
grows a little, taking the years together; and it is very pleasant to
know that there will always be plenty to learn and enjoy.”
She ended with a little sigh.
He was looking at her, but he only said:
Her words exactly expressed his feeling for literature. He felt as if
they two had been climbing the same hill by different paths, and stood
side by side for a moment looking up to the heights beyond that rose
one above another,—where over the dark pine forests the glittering
snow-peaks pierced the sky and the rivers of ice shone gloriously.
Kate came to tell them that Jenny was asleep, and they went up softly.
Lawrence wrote out his directions for the night and came down, Stella
accompanying him. At the door he paused a moment abstractedly.
“Don’t you think it’s a great loss for a person to miss the pleasure
and appreciation of a noble art?” he asked, seriously.
She looked at him questioningly, but replied:
“Yes, it makes me very sorry sometimes; it is a great loss. But I
reflect that there are a great many people who get on without it, and
they seem quite contented and happy. I think those who have the
advantage of the finer influences and delights should be very good and
try to prevent the younger ones from growing up without caring for
“Yes, that is true,” he replied, and he went on with suppressed
agitation: “But suppose one should grow up blind to all art and yet
not contented or happy, without any true knowledge, or faith, or
cultivation but the outward seeming, unsettled, unsatisfied, hungering
for one knows not what, despising all that one has?”
He leaned back, and neither spoke for a moment. She turned either way
with a shuddering movement.
“That would be terrible,” she answered. “But do you think there are
any so unfortunate?”
“Yes, there are some,” he returned; “I hope indeed not many.”
“And can nothing be done for them?”
“I don’t know. I am afraid not.”
“Oh, I think you should not say that,” she continued, warmly; “their
friends should not despair. It would be like saving a soul from
“Thank you,” he said. “Good-night!” He offered his hand, and she gave
him hers frankly.
He came away softened and humbled; the night was not so hard and cold
now. All that was compassionate and unselfish in him was re-enforced,
and the view of his better nature confirmed. His feeling toward Cora
was only gentle and pitiful.
But there was a difference between them thenceforth that he could not
equalize. He saw that the novelty and excitation of her altered
position were going from her and that the quiet of the early winter
was growing irksome. She said nothing, but he got the feeling of
having a child in the house whose playthings were worn out and whom he
felt bound to entertain. It unsettled and fretted him. He was
necessarily at the Marlakes’ a great deal for some time, and his
admiration for Stella grew with the sight of her unwearied and skilful
care of the little ones; through the most trying scenes she was
steadfast, though deeply concerned; she executed his directions with
exactness. She was never taken at a disadvantage; under all
circumstances she was the same simple, friendly, self-respectful,
admirable person. He was always the better for seeing her; however
confused and wrong-sided the world might seem, at sight or sound of
her all things fell into order and marched to unheard music. He did
not disguise from himself that he went to see the Marlake children
oftener than he would have gone to others; he knew he was glad to go
there and knew the reason. He asked himself why he should not. He did
not know how he should get on without this resource. His wife soon
wore out his better feelings; sometimes he was in a rage with her,
sometimes affected with a great melancholy; she could not rest at home
unless there were people there; she wanted to be at all meetings,
fairs, parties, lectures, concerts. She would talk with most people
glibly enough, catching the cue of each with wonderful adroitness and
echoing each after his kind. Most people thought her charming when she
cared to charm; to be confirmed in one’s opinions by such pretty,
vivacious eyes and lips few men would find distasteful. To Lawrence
she had nothing to say. She knew that he knew that she had nothing
worth saying. She resented his penetration; she resented his pity; and
pity was the only light in which he found the thought of her
tolerable. He had thought to show her through his eyes widening vistas
of beauty and grandeur; and instead he caught glimpses through hers
of awful heights and depths of vacancy, peopled only by thinly veiled
phantoms of darkness and horror. But she could not look with his eyes,
and if she caught sight of such dismal prospects now and then she
could not be expected to want to look that way; it was as if she
sailed with a strong swimmer to whom she instinctively looked for help
and succor when storms came, but who could do nothing in fair weather
but steer the boat. A cloud or a breaking wave might remind her of
tempest and dark depths full of cruel creatures, but while the sun
shone and the sea was smooth she could hardly be blamed for preferring
merrier company than one who was forever on the lookout for foul
weather, and whose gravity and very reserve power of succor were
suggestive of distasteful things.
They came to no open rupture; what was there to say? His prevailing
mood toward her was compassion as for a lost soul. But many times that
mood broke down by its own weight. Her light, child-like laugh, her
high, clear voice talking so glibly and cheerily to people whom, as
like as not, he knew she despised, came to him with a hollow,
heartless ring that was maddening. He could not study; he could think
of nothing worthy. He would rush away from the sound that he was
frightened to perceive was becoming hateful. And the unconscious
influence of Stella was always a steadying and restoring one. He
believed he should never have married Cora but for the stimulus to
his compassion that he got from her. He did not know what he should do
now but for her stimulus of his forebearance, his tenderness, his
whole better nature. But the children got well by and by, and Stella
went away. Then Enfield stumbled along as best he could.
Some time afterward Lawrence had a letter from a friend: “I have an
opening here for a young surgeon of parts and character. It will be
the making of some one. Can you send me the name of some young fellow
you can recommend?”
Now, Lawrence happened to know that Stella had a cousin, a young
surgeon; in fact, she had asked him about his chance of success in
that part of the country. He now invited young Winlock to come down
and make him a visit with a view to recommending him. He was a
handsome, lively young fellow, and Lawrence liked him from the first.
He and Cora got on well together, and Lawrence found the house
pleasanter than he had for a long time.
Stella came back to Elmtree two or three weeks later. Kate had felt
the long strain after it was over, and had stumbled and broken down.
Stella quickly perceived some things about her cousin that troubled
her. One morning he came on some errand, and she detained him. He was
a frank fellow, and he and Stella were good friends. She made him come
and sit with her. She talked to him and watched him. He took out his
watch and rose to go. She stood up before him.
“Eugene,” she said, “where are you going, now?”
The tall fellow looked down at her and changed color.
“I am going to ride.”
“With Mrs. Enfield?”
“Yes,” he answered, doggedly.
She looked away slowly and then back, till their eyes met again. She
spoke in a lower voice than usual, but steadily.
“What do you think of Mrs. Enfield?”
He did not turn away his eyes, but his face grew haggard.
“I think she’s an angel,” he said.
She threw herself into the chair beside her without moving her feet,
and sat with her hands together in her lap, and her face bent out of
his sight. He turned back, shaken and helpless. Her attitude affected
him more than any words. Presently he came round and took her head
between his hands.
“Don’t fret about me, Stel,” he said. “I’m not worth it.”
She sat up straight.
“Eugene, you must go away.”
He turned away his head.
“I can’t,” he said.
She stood up.
“Come here a moment.”
She led him to Kate’s sick-room.
“Awake, Katy? You slept nicely. You feel better now. Here’s Eugene
come to see you. I have got to go out, and Lizzie’s busy, so Eugene
will sit in the next room and call her if you want anything. Good-by,
She was gone before he could say a word. In fifteen minutes she was in
Dr. Enfield’s parlor. A riding whip and hat lay on a table. She walked
from them to the back of the room. Cora came down in her habit. She
had a cheerful greeting on her lips, and advanced toward Stella, but
stopped half way; and Stella backed a step.
“Will you take a seat, Miss Grayland?” Cora said, with cold
“No,” she answered, only half conscious of her words, a burning shame
and aversion enveloping her like a cloud and shutting out sight and
sound. “I have come to tell you that my cousin is not going to
Cora was staring with a horrified expression past Stella’s head. She
“That will do, Miss Grayland. Lawrence, you had better come in.”
Stella turned. The door behind her into Lawrence’s office stood open;
he had come in unheard, and was leaning against the door-post, white
in the face. Stella was startled, but she only bowed distantly and
came out of the house. This was not altogether new to Lawrence; he had
felt vaguely fearful before. Cora turned her back to him and looked
out of the window; the prospect was sunny and bright with spring’s
promise, but it did not look so to her. He came forward and stood
“So you are at the old game again,” he said. “What do you suppose will
be the end if you keep on?”
She answered without turning or lifting her head, and in a hard bitter
“You are both jealous. And it does not become you who wore such a long
face because she went away. I suppose you can see now that she cares
more for some one else.”
She caught sight of his face, and would have slipped past him, but he
stood before her. Then she was afraid. He was afraid of himself; he
had to keep back his hands from taking hold of her.
“Do not ever speak to me like that again,” he said, slowly, after a
little. “You are not fit—” but he broke off, and left her abruptly.
Stella sent Eugene away the same evening. After that she avoided
Lawrence; there was something abhorrent to all her instincts in
meeting him now with that repulsive understanding between them. And,
for his part, that detestable suggestion of Cora’s put upon Enfield a
kindred restraint and at the same time gave him the key to Stella’s
feeling, so that her influence upon him was rather strengthened than
otherwise by the reserve which came between them.
Enfield wrote to his medical friend soon afterward, recommending young
Winlock to his favorable notice; and in due time an arrangement was
made to the young surgeon’s advantage. When Stella knew that the
affair was pleasantly completed, she took the first opportunity to
thank Enfield frankly and warmly. And the warmth he brought away from
the brief interview was one that helped him to be gentle and
forbearing at home and altogether true; and it did not cease to help
him when Kate Marlake got up again and he saw Stella less and less
often, nor even when, by and by, she went away South again.
Months passed by and made a heavy drain on all his resources. He found
life hard to endure. One day, when it seemed quite intolerable and he
was casting vainly about, his heart went out to his old friend
Loramer. He went to see him. The grip and smile of the fellow warmed
him like wine. They spent the day together. He brought Loramer home
with him. They sat, walked, rode, talked together by day and by night,
and were happy. They said nothing about Cora, but thought many things.
The little that Loramer saw of her, he chaffed and made merry. One
day, looking for Lawrence, he found him out, and Cora alone. She bade
him come and sit down, and began a chat, but he would only laugh and
answer quizzingly, working cat’s cradles with her worsted and big
needles. She grew silent under his banter, eying him furtively and
stitching away with her head bent. After a while he held a comical
figure before her face. She could not help joining in his laugh, but
she stopped short, and began to sob and cry. She stood up, letting her
work go where it would.
“You’ve no business to laugh at me, Harry Loramer,” she complained.
“You and Lawrence are chatting and laughing all day and all night, and
have no more regard for my feelings than if I were wood or stone.”
She hid her face, and went out sobbing. Loramer laughed less after
that. Lawrence had to take a long ride, and Loramer proposed they
should all go together. He and Cora rode on a little way while
Lawrence made his call. They rode together every day after that, but
Lawrence could not always be one of the party.
Naturally, Lawrence and Loramer found less to talk about, and sat less
together. When his time came, Lawrence did not press Loramer to stay,
but he did not go. Three days later Lawrence came home and met Loramer
coming out of the house. Their greeting was brief and cold. Lawrence
went in and found Cora.
He could not speak at first.
“What deviltry are you at now?” he demanded.
She tried to pass out, but he took hold of her by the shoulders, and
made her hear.
“Listen to me,” he said. “Do you know what you are doing? If you have
no shame or pity, have you no fear? Don’t try me too far, I tell you
it’s not safe.”
His grasp hurt her cruelly, but she kept her head away, and made no
Two hours later, Lawrence came home again and found no one in his
house. He had a call to make to the west. Three miles out he turned
into a bridle-path that led up to a height. Presently he came in sight
of the top. The shadows were thick about him, but above the sunset
flushed splendidly. On the crest sat two riders, close together. He
bowed his head and rode away.
“Harry, you are a coward!” Cora was saying. “Oh, I wish I were a man!”
She raised her arm with a passionate gesture. “We loved each other
from the first, and he drove you away. I never cared for him; I had to
marry him. And I tell you we live in misery. We are nothing but a
torment to each other. And you do not know him. He is in love with
another woman, and he is cruel. Look here!”
She threw back her mantle and slid her supple shoulder out of her
“Those are the marks of his fingers!”
His gaze was bent upon her, his eyes seemed drawn beyond his control;
he trembled, and caught his breath. But he broke the spell. He sat up.
He found his voice, thick and low:
“Don’t tempt me. I am his friend; you are his wife.”
She looked to right and left, then turned and took hold of his arm.
“Listen to me!” she commanded. “Bend down your head,—lower, lower!”
She looked in his face intently; she put her own close and said, “I am
not his wife!”
A dumb, incredulous stare was his reply. He frowned and shook his
“You don’t believe me?” she cried. “Come home, I will show you.”
She turned her horse, struck him with the whip, and plunged recklessly
down the steep path. He could not overtake her till she reined up and
walked through the village street.
“Go into the parlor,” she said, “and wait till I come.”
She ran up-stairs. She asked for Lawrence. He was out,—would not be
back till eight. She looked at her watch. Not quite seven. From a
locked drawer she took a locked jewel-box and from under the lining a
written paper with a printed slip pinned to it.
She came down and into the parlor with her hand in her pocket, walked
up to Loramer where he stood before the fire, gave him the paper, and
sat down to watch him. It was a certificate of marriage between Cora
Brainard and Clarence A. Harlow, dated three years back, and signed by
an eccentric clergyman, across the mountain. A feeling of sickness
came over Loramer.
“Then you are Harlow’s wife,” he said.
“No, I am no man’s wife,” she answered, impatiently. “Read on; read
the newspaper slip.”
He read: “On board U. S. S. ‘Tuscaloosa,’ off Cherbourg, Oct. 20th,
Ensign Clarence A. Harlow, aged twenty-four, by the bursting of a
As Loramer lifted his eyes the door opened and Lawrence came in. Cora
uttered a low cry and reached for the paper, but Lawrence’s look
frightened her so that she fell back into her chair. He kept his eyes
upon her, but went toward Loramer and reached out a cigar-case which
he brought in his hand.
“Here’s your cigar-case,” he said. “You’d better take it back.”
Loramer swore at the case, and flung it into the fire.
“Look here!” he cried. “Read that.” He thrust it before his face. “Go
on! Do you see? She was his wife when she married you. You’re a free
A brutal exultation seized Lawrence. He shouted and laughed,—“Ha ha,
ha ha ha! She’s made fools of us both. You can have her, Harry, and
welcome. I wish you joy. Ha ha, ha ha ha! She’s the devil! she’s the
Loramer answered with harsh and scornful hilarity. Neither took any
other notice of her sitting there, sunken together, crushed, hiding
her face with her hands. Loramer turned away and ran tramping up the
stairs, crammed his things into his valise, and came tramping down.
Lawrence was backed against the post at the stair-foot. Loramer
grasped his arm in passing. “By-bye! Come and see us,” he called. He
went out and banged the door, and they heard his hoarse laughter far
down the quiet street.
To Cora that laughter sounded like the knell at the end of all things.
She sat as they had left her, and did not move for a long while after
Lawrence too had gone out.
Lawrence’s mirthful humor passed very quickly. He grew full of a most
delectable sense of freedom. It seemed as if a suffocating network had
been tightening about his heart and, now that it had burst, the joy of
the great and unexpected deliverance was more than his breast could
hold. He could not breathe in-doors,—he wanted all the air he could
get on the windy hills.
He had been true; he had been true, he cried out to himself—in
thought and deed he had been true! He tried to think: he could not
think nor reason. A flood that he had never acknowledged, that he had
hardly suspected, that he had set all his faculties to dam up and wall
over, had been suddenly let loose and overwhelmed him. He could see no
law or order in the world but in one place; to that place he must go,
for light, for understanding!
And his heart, like a bird set free,
That tarries not early or late,
But flies, over land, over sea,
Straight, straight to its home, to its mate!
All the night seemed to break out and sing. All the world yearned one
way; the stars leaned out of their courses and looked, not at him,
but south; the north wind went by him, crooning, hurrying, and the
moon sailed southward past the ragged clouds. All his soul went out
with them, and his body sickened to follow.
He came home and changed his dress. It was late. He lighted no lamp;
the ghostly moonlight streamed through the window, and a figure as
still and ghost-like stood at the door.
“Lawrence! Lawrence!” she called, despairingly. But he did not seem to
hear. He felt no hardness toward her; she had brought him the great
deliverance as well as the grievous bondage. But he could no more heed
her now than turn back if he were drawn by unbridled horses and some
one cried behind. But when at last he came to go out, he almost
stumbled upon her lying across the door. He stooped and picked her up;
she was as cold as stone. She clung about his neck. The tempest had
come; her ship was a wreck, the dark waves tumbling about her and
dashing her with their salt spray. She clung to the strong swimmer she
had flouted when winds were sweet, but was afraid she came too late.
“I could not help it; he deserted me basely. Oh, Lawrence, do not cast
me off!” she implored. “Do not go away. Pity me; I am very miserable.
I should not have done that if you had not forsaken me. No one ever
helped me but you, and I have not been happy, you know I have not. I
do not know what will become of me if you put me away. I won’t vex
you any more; before God I will not! You have me at your mercy; will
you not be merciful?”
He laid her on the bed and wrapped her up. He spoke in a deep, solemn
“Be still. I cannot hear you to-night. I have been merciful. I will
try to do what is right. I am going away now; wait till I come back.”
He took the midnight train south. Stella was out of town. He followed
her. He felt that he could not meet her before strangers with
self-control, or go through formalities. He wrote a brief note at the
hotel asking to see her alone. Then he shrank from the thought of
meeting her with detestable things to explain, and he added:
“I should like you to know my altered position before we meet. I
shrink from shocking you by a personal explanation painful to us both.
Forgive me, then, for inclosing papers which will inform you.”
The messenger brought back a note which showed marks of agitation:
“Please excuse me to-night. I will walk on the beach early in the
As the sun came up out of the sea, and he turned away from watching
the splendid vision, he saw one that affected him more. She stood a
little way off, looking intently seaward; and the morning took a new
grace from the flush on her cheek and the light in her clear, calm
eyes. His eyes grew dim as he looked at her. If she had felt any
agitation, it was gone when she turned and waited for him to
approach. She gave him her hand.
“Is it not a beautiful morning?” she said. “Don’t you think it should
make us very gentle and unselfish?”
The falling cadence of her voice was more musical than the waves that
babbled at her feet. They walked side by side along the sands.
“Yes,” he answered, “yes. If all mornings were like this——” he broke
off and looked out to sea.
They came among scattered bowlders, and stood still. With diffidence
she took out of his letter the paper with the printed slip attached,
and gave it to him.
“You were not offended at my sending them?”
“No, I was glad you sent them. It was thoughtful of you.” She spoke
low and seriously. “But do I quite understand?”
She asked him several questions, modest but straightforward, with her
grave eyes on his face. While he answered he was thinking, “To the
pure, all things are pure.”
She dropped her eyes and sighed.
“It is a dreadful story; it makes me very sad.”
Then after a minute she looked up again and asked:
“What are you going to do?”
He shook with vague apprehension, and leaned sidewise on the rock.
“With her?” he asked. “I hardly know. I thought you would advise me.
You cannot think I am under obligation to keep her any longer? I am
not bound to her by any law.”
She did not answer for a minute or look at him. When she did, there
was a strong fervor in her voice:
“We are all bound; we are all under obligation to help, to guard, to
seek and to save them that are lost.”
She stood before him. Her face was like the face of the angel of pity,
her tones full of passionate pleading.
“Did you take her ignorantly? Have you kept her only because the law
made you? I know you better. What will become of her if you cast her
off? She might be worse than she is.”
She turned away and shuddered. Her words pierced him the deeper
because they were the same Cora had used, because they were his own
He was silent, leaning against a great rock as he stood before her,
and she went on, with rising passion:
“And beware for your own sake. If you throw her off, she will draw you
down with her, you and all—” she caught her breath—“all connected
with you. You cannot punish her as a criminal. What could you say to
justify your action? Think of the position you would stand in before
the world, with your tongue tied. You could not bear it. In your heat
you may think you could, but you might as well think to resist the
sea. Beware lest in your haste you throw away the good you have
gained. For you have gained. Your power over her is multiplied
tenfold. Your freedom is your power. She must know she is in your
hands now; the fences are all down. She will know she can no longer
presume; her instincts of self-preservation will weigh on your side,
and your forbearance be a perpetual restraint upon her. I think you
have no good alternative, and that your duty is plain. Don’t think I
am hard; we have all our tasks that seem too heavy at times. We can’t
understand; ‘His ways are past finding out.’”
Her voice grew tremulous, and she held her face away a minute or two,
but then looked up and smiled faintly:
“‘Theirs not to make reply; theirs not to reason why.’ Who knows what
great things you may accomplish yet?”
All his sense went with her, down in some unseen depth; but above that
rolled a stream whose waves bore him past all resistance. And now the
billows swept over him and were bitter in his eyes and throat. He bent
backward and rested his head upon the high rock, and stretched up his
arms above him. The freshness of the morning turned to ashy pallor;
the land and the sea sickened with pain.
Slowly he bent forward again:
“All that is true, I have no doubt. You have clear eyes, and some day
I may see it so myself. But I can’t see, I can’t hear that now. There
is only one thing I can see or hear. I disowned it, I put it away, I
crushed it down; I was faithful to the galling bond; I did my duty!”
He raised his arms again; his voice was like a cry to heaven:
“She made my love her plaything; she wore it out with base uses. She
has used me despitefully; she has been the curse of my life!”
And the low answer came back steadfastly:
“‘Bless them that curse you; do good to them that despitefully use
you!’ You say you have done your duty; I know you have. Cleave fast to
that. Take care, lest you have not that to say by and by.”
Her voice faltered; there was a look of repressed tears about her
drooped eyes. She had plainly been over the first part of this path
before, but she was getting on untrodden ground.
“Duty is the principal thing; there is always some sweetness sooner or
later with that; but without it, the best things will turn to ashes
“I know, I know,” he cried. “But I can’t feel that now. I can only
feel one thing; I can only care for one thing. I only know that there
is but one person in all the world for me, and that duty, and reason,
and heaven itself, mean nothing beside her. And it is like death to
hear her say these things to me, and to know that she could not say
them if she cared for me as I do for her.”
He thought her as steady as the rocks, and to her the solid earth
seemed to heave round her more than the unstable sea. But she steadied
herself and replied:
“Ought you not to be glad if it is not so? It would not alter your
duty. Would it not make it the harder for you? Would it not make your
way darker than it is?”
“Glad!” he called out, despairingly. “Glad that the sun is put out in
the sky; that the earth is a desert and my heart an intolerable pang;
that there is no more purpose, or spring, or desire in my life! Oh,
yes, I am glad, glad! You can’t know what you say!”
She clasped her hands; she laid her shoulder and face against the
rock; she spoke bitterly:
“Oh, do not try me so. Do you suppose there is nothing hard for me
also? Yes, I know; I know!”
He bent toward her, but a horrible doubt seized him. He clasped his
hands behind his head; he swung from side to side.
“For another? Not for me?” he demanded, hoarsely.
She stood unsteadily; she lifted her joined hands; her upturned face
was aflame, but she could not speak. Then her self-repression broke
down. She sank upon the rock and covered her face, and wept
uncontrollably. He threw himself beside her.
“Oh, is it true?” he besought her. “Can it be true?”
“Yes!—yes!” she cried, sobbing vehemently. “I tried to keep it down;
I would not hear it. I tried to do right. But I can’t help it now.”
He turned his face up to the sky and groaned. “O God!” It was as if
heaven came within his reach, and resistless hands stretched out and
held him back. But it was too much. Fierce joy rushed upon him and
swept away everything else. He stretched out his arms; he bowed over
her; he caught her and held her fast. The sun leaped up in the sky.
The waves and the winds sang together. There was a new heaven and a
new earth! “O Stella!” was all he said.
She lay still; she had no strength. But soon she found faint voice:
“O Lawrence, I am so weak! You must help me to do right.”
“Help you!” he cried, piteously. “Help the angels of light! O Stella,
Stella! Don’t trust in me. I have no goodness but yours, no right but
you. I had rather the tide would rise over us here, than have to go
away from you.”
She sobbed, then turned her head with a long, long breath, and slowly,
steadily, with weak, limp fingers began to loosen his clasp and raise
herself up. He let her go. The world seemed slipping from him; the
shadows of night fell about him. They sat side by side and looked at
“Is there no way?” he asked.
“No,—no way but one.”
She tried to stanch her tears, but they would flow.
“Don’t cry, don’t cry!” he besought. “I can’t bear that.”
“Oh, never mind,” she replied. “It’s a relief to cry; I am not
altogether unhappy. It is very bitter at first, and chokes me.”
She bowed her face a moment, then lifted it and went on, with the
tears in her eyes and voice:
“No; there is only one way. Even if it were easier, I could not thrust
her out, I should hate myself if I did; you yourself would despise me.
If we could enter heaven by shutting the door upon her, could we be
happy walking together in the golden streets? Would not the thought of
her wandering in outer darkness come in and torment us and make us
afraid? I do not grudge her,—at least, at least——” Her voice
faltered, but rose again. “I ought not. I do pity her with all my
heart. If I should take away the only good she has, would it not turn
to my curse?”
They had risen and stood on the sand. His eyes were bent upon her; her
words played on him like the winds on a harp.
“Do right; do right?” he exclaimed. “Whatever you do or say is right
Her head dropped. She lifted her hands; she spoke brokenly.
“Do not speak so; help me; I am weak too.”
He caught her hands.
“Forgive me,—I will, I will, I know I could die for you. Can I not
live and endure for your sake? Look up! look up.”
She looked up and smiled through tears. He held her hands fast, she
stepped upon the low rock and stood upon his level.
“Why should we mourn?” she cried. “Have we not the best things?”
Her eyes turned from him and looked out across the sea. And her
thoughts went on beyond sea, and land, and sun. But he could only look
And presently her eyes came back to his. They looked in each other’s
faces long, but did not speak.
Then slowly, slowly and bitterly they drew their eyes away and set
their unwilling faces toward the north; and lingering, step by step,
they came side by side along the sands again, parted, and went their
allotted, divided ways.
THE IMAGE OF SAN DONATO.
By Virginia W. Johnson.
⁂ Harper’s Magazine, January, 1879.
“Buy the respect of the insolent.”—Turkish Proverb.
Down in the old Trastevere quarter of Rome the festa of St. Cecilia
was being celebrated in her church and convent.
The day was in harmony with the memory of the noble Roman lady—a sky
serenely blue, sunshine on fountain and temple ruin, the atmosphere
golden with autumn’s richness of coloring. The adjacent narrow streets
were deserted, swept by one of those waves of popular impulse so
characteristic of Italian cities; files of priestly students from the
colleges passed through the gateway, this band clad in black, that one
in scarlet or purple, and formed lines of wavering color in their
transition across the court to the shadowy portico, flanked by the
high, grim, convent wall—that modern reading of St. Cecilia’s
martyrdom. High above the surging crowd of devotees and beggars the
campanile soared into the sunny air, outlined against that azure Roman
sky, and sent forth its tinkling peal of summons to vespers, like the
silvery intonation of a benediction.
Two strangers entered the gate, the elder sombre and quiet, the
younger eager and delighted by the spectacle. Their respective
positions were apparent at a glance. Mademoiselle Durand, in her neat
black dress, with her thin sallow face and repressed expression, was a
French governess; the young American girl beside her, richly attired
in blue velvet, was her charge.
“I am a Cecilia, although far from a saint,” said the latter, gayly.
“Ah! how one loves to hear about her—the beautiful martyr of
Raphael’s pictures! Do you believe she is now singing among the
heavenly choirs up there, mademoiselle?” She paused a moment to gaze
at the sky, the sun-bathed campanile, with a wistfulness not
unfamiliar to her companion, and which she attributed to an
imaginative childhood. “Perhaps the evening bells of Rome are the
echoes of her voice in another world,” she added, musingly.
“Come,” said mademoiselle, dryly.
“When I am grown up perhaps I will build a convent of St. Cecilia in
America with my own money,” continued the girl, meditatively.
Mademoiselle’s eyes sparkled; she caressed the hand within her arm.
“Chère enfant! But I forget; it is not your faith.”
“My faith? I always go to mass with you; I am not only devout, je suis
bigote,” rejoined her pupil.
Then they entered the church. St. Cecilia’s statue, wrought in purest
marble, lay revealed beneath the altar on this one day of the year,
when her crypt in the catacomb also blooms with flowers. Transfigured
by the radiance of silver lamps and myriads of tapers, enshrined in
garlands of roses, veiled in clouds of incense, the statue in its
niche lent a charm to the gaudy ornaments of the high altar, and all
the tinsel draperies extending from column to column along the aisle.
On the right a star of light was visible in the miraculous bath-room,
with its dim frescoes and ancient pillars; the nuns flitted behind the
lattice of their gallery.
Mademoiselle, a devout Catholic, knelt at different shrines. Her pupil
also knelt. The music, the chant, the glow of those gilded and crimson
draperies overhead, seen through the wreaths of incense, all blended.
She closed her eyes. She also must pray. For what boon? She smiled
suddenly as she murmured:
“O God, please send my papa to Rome for Christmas-day.”
Then she rose to her feet, threaded her way among the ranks of
kneeling students, and mademoiselle found her in the court thrusting
money into the hands of a group of little boys, the true Trasteverini,
with large, liquid eyes.
“We shall be late, I fear,” admonished the governess, as they finally
quitted the church.
The young girl, Cecilia Denvil, had insisted on walking to this
particular sanctuary in the Trastevere quarter instead of on the
Pincian Hill. She was both winning and perverse.
At an angle of the crooked streets the window of a shop attracted her
attention. Instantly the shrine of St. Cecilia, with its flowers and
silver lamps, vanished from her mind. The shop was a mere niche in an
old palace wall, brimming over, as it were, into the street, with such
odds and ends as a bit of tapestry, a dark picture, a heap of ancient
books, a tray of coins and medals, an idol fashioned by Chinese skill.
“What is it?” cried Cecilia.
“Only an image,” replied mademoiselle.
The object of Cecilia’s interest was a figure on a bracket in the shop
window. She darted into the shop, her governess following with a
patient smile. What harm could result from her pupil’s chatting with
the old shop-keeper clad in shabby black, with a rusty satin stock
about his neck, and a face tinged yellow by age, as were those of the
dilapidated marble busts ranged above his head in the obscurity of the
shop? Ay, what harm indeed, mademoiselle? If one could read futurity!
The old man, without surprise at the advent of a young girl in blue
velvet, took down the image, and explained to her its history in his
slow, musical, Roman tongue. Even mademoiselle lent an ear of
unwilling fascination to the tale. The little wooden figure, a foot in
height, was San Donato. Behold, signorina mia, the beauty of the face,
the robes tinted a soft rose, with ample gold margin, the aureole and
palm of martyrdom in the hand. In the great Demidoff villa of San
Donato a patron saint was placed in a niche above the portal of
certain suites of apartments, as guardian spirit, by the builder. That
brought good luck. The Russian prince is dead, signorina, and the
nephew heir cast out the saints with quantities of other valuables for
sale. For this reason poor San Donato, patron of the whole place, is
now perched on a shelf in a little shop at Rome.
Cecilia listened with sparkling eyes, and her head a trifle on one
“San Donato shall be my saint,” she cried, extending her hands. “Two
hundred francs? I have more in my purse. You need not frown,
mademoiselle; it is my pocket-money from my papa in America, to spend
as I choose. Good-by, signor; I will come to see you again some time.”
The old shop-keeper looked after her a moment, then drew from under a
chair a repast of dry bread and an onion, interrupted by the
“After all, San Donato might have brought me luck had I kept him
longer,” he muttered, draining the little flask of wine as he sat on
the door-step, and musing with that curious mixture of avarice and
regret at losing a treasure peculiar to the connoisseur.
San Donato was carried along the street by his happy possessor
somewhat in the fashion of a new doll. Mademoiselle hid his light
under a bushel by laying a fold of shawl over his head and aureole.
Cecilia’s fancy was captivated by his history even more than by his
pensive face and gorgeous robes. San Donato, deposed from his lofty
estate in the palace of a Russian prince, should preside as guardian
spirit of her home. The image was invested with the gifts of the good
fairy as much as he embodied any religious symbol. His mission was to
avert evil. The saint passed to a new shrine without attendant
priests, acolytes, and banners, the swinging of censers, the tinkling
of bells, as in the fine old days before Rome was a modern European
capital. It was not even borne aloft on sailors’ shoulders, like the
silver statue of Our Lady at Marseilles, or the miracle-working black
Madonna of Montenero at Leghorn. Instead, San Donato moved under the
arm of a young girl, muffled in a shawl, skirting the bridge, the
quay, the square, now in sunshine, now in shadow, and finally gained
the Piazza di SS. Apostoli. Here he was conducted across a court
adorned with mouldy statues, and vanished up a broad stairway.
On the third story of the palazzo, shorn of its former papal glories,
and yet not degenerated to shabbiness, a door bore the card of Mrs.
Henry Denvil. Governess and pupil entered this apartment, and each
sought her respective chamber. Cecilia tossed aside her hat, placed
the image on the table, and, resting her chin on her hand, gazed at it
steadfastly. San Donato, with his aureole glistening, and holding his
palm branch, seemed to return her scrutiny mildly—even to interpret
her thought. She had never possessed a confidante other than a company
of dolls, now banished as too juvenile companions. “Do you see how it
will be?” she said aloud to the image. “You shall be placed in the
salon, and look down on us all. Nobody will ever banish you again to a
dirty little shop. Perhaps my papa will come over for Christmas. Do
not tell—I begged him to come in my last letter after mademoiselle
had corrected. I do not spell very well in English, you know, while
Jack has forgotten it altogether, mamma says. Jack is at school in
Switzerland, and I have not seen him for two years. He is my brother.”
She took up her saint again, and went along the corridor. Her head was
erect, and a soft smile played about her mouth. She peeped into the
salon, drew back, reflected a moment, and entered. This salon
possessed the charm for her of forbidden ground. She was rigidly
banished from it by her mother, who received here much company. Hence
the delight of seeking some niche up high, where San Donato could be
placed. Possibly a gay lady would peer at him through her lorgnette, and inquire, “Pray, my dear Mrs. Denvil, where did you get that
Mamma would seek her lorgnette, and reply: “A little statue? I rent
the apartment, furnished, of Monsignor N——. The count may know.”
Clearly, San Donato deserved a place of honor, and the salon alone was
sufficiently good for him. Cecilia traversed the room slowly, seeking
a shrine. The place was dark and silent; draperies of sombre damask
shrouded the windows and doorways; chandeliers of Venetian glass
swayed down from the vaulted ceiling like garlands of pale, frozen
flowers; the floor was of polished, inlaid woods; the bronze and green
tints of the wall were relieved by gilded cornices and columns bearing
the shield of the count’s ancestors. All was stately, impressive, if a
trifle tarnished; and the effect of patrician elegance, everywhere
apparent, was heightened by an occasional portrait—a Martellini in
cavalier hat, with an angel bearing heavenward the family emblem, a
hammer; a Martellini as a nun, with long, pale fingers clasped over a
Cecilia had not completed her survey when she was startled by the
tinkle of a bell and the approach of visitors. One glance assured her
that egress by means of the door was cut off. She darted behind a sofa
in the corner beside the window. Here she crouched on the floor,
holding San Donato in her arms, and laughed silently. She did not fear
to confront these guests. Who then? She dreaded the flash of her own
mother’s eye. Yes, indeed, her pretty mamma had ceased to love her,
banished her more and more from her presence, made sharp or dry
responses to her prattle. Cecilia sighed inaudibly as she crouched
there. Hark! The visitors approached the window; she could touch one
by extending her arm from her hiding-place. Who were they? Oh, some of
her mamma’s gentlemen friends lounging in for an afternoon call. They
spoke in a low, rapid tone, and their conversation only reached her
because of her propinquity.
Birds of prey sometimes pass over the blooming valleys, the waving
grain sown with wild flowers, the dove-cote beneath the cottage eaves,
uttering their harsh, discordant cries while on the wing.
The English voice, hoarse and deep: “It promises to be a slow
season—awfully dull. No English coming out this year, I hear. Have
you recently made the acquaintance of—la belle Américaine?”
The French voice, clear and crisp in utterance: “Yes, last week, at
the Spanish Embassy. She is really chic, mon ami.”
The English voice: “Her dinners are not at all bad. Lots of money, you
know, and the count manages the whole establishment, from renting her
the apartment of his uncle the Monsignor N—— to selecting the
governess of the daughter and the chef. Ha! ha! ha!”
The French voice: “Ah, the Count Martellini! And monsieur the husband
is at home in America making the money, I suppose. Mon Dieu! How those
men over yonder trust their wives! A charming arrangement for the
The English voice: “Have you heard the latest rumor? They are actually
going off together to the Nile after Christmas. A party is proposed,
and that sort of thing, but every one knows that it will result in a
dahabéeh to the cataract. Vive l’amour!”
The French voice, changing to a louder key: “Ah, madame is looking so
Then a soft rustling of silken draperies over the polished floor
announced the entrance of Mrs. Denvil, amiable greetings were
exchanged, and the gentlemen became deferential and courteous in
manner. Buy the respect of the insolent, by all means!
All the same, two birds of prey had wheeled in heavy and sluggish
flight over the valley where the grain ripened and the poppies
bloomed, uttering their discordant, mocking cry.
Cecilia crouched behind the sofa, bewildered and astonished. What did
they mean? She grew hot and cold, her heart throbbed violently, she
clinched her little hand. Why had these wicked creatures come here to
sing their dreary duet? How their tone changed when the hostess
appeared! She experienced the swift, intense indignation of youth at
hypocrisy, ignorant that these voices would sound the same notes in
every house to which they gained admission, after the manner of
society. Instinct taught her they alluded to her own mother, before
the allusion to the Nile voyage, of which she had already heard. Her
mamma and the count were going, with some friends, up the Nile after
Christmas. Why might not she go also? Her lips quivered resentfully.
Only that morning she had found the count in the aviary, petting the
birds; she had wound her arms about his neck, and said, “Oh, how
beautiful you are! When I have grown as tall and handsome as a woman
can be I shall marry you.”
The count had showered kisses on her fair hair, and pinched her cheek
in his caressing way.
“We need not wait long, carina,” he had replied.
Then mamma had appeared on the threshold, a bright spot on each cheek,
and that new flash in her eye.
“You are too old for such nonsense, Cecilia. Go back to mademoiselle
directly,” she had said, in her dry tones.
Cecilia had departed, crest-fallen, mortified, with some vague
remembrance of a father who had not thus dismissed her. To be sure,
the count had sent her, later in the day, a gift of bonbons as
atonement for mamma’s snubbing—one of those white satin boots,
mounted on a gilded rink skate, from Spillman’s, in the Via Condotti.
He was never cross, only a big playfellow, all amiability, little
clever tricks, frolic, easily tyrannized over, and serenely content
to spin balls or sift cards all day long for a child’s amusement. They
had known him two or three years; he was their oldest friend abroad;
he came and went at all hours. The count was a great gentleman, too,
of princely lineage, easy, graceful, and elegant. How kind he was to
interest himself in the Denvils, when they were strangers in a foreign
land! The young girl had ample leisure for these reflections in her
hiding-place. She whispered to the image, demanding what it thought of
these croakers. The world was so beautiful, and people so kind. Then
the two visitors were replaced by a bevy of ladies, and amid the
rustlings of more silken draperies on the floor and the taps of heeled
shoes, Cecilia heard her mother exclaim:
“What a horrid man! I am always relieved when he departs, and yet one
meets him everywhere. He told me that frightful scandal about Lady
B—— (and no doubt it is true, unfortunately) as if he enjoyed the
A moment before Mrs. Denvil had said:
“Going so soon, Major Kettledrum? I am always delighted to see you.”
Now the sofa creaked beneath the weight of two dowagers.
“How soon they lose their republican simplicity over here!” said one,
sipping a cup of tea.
“Oh, and they say the husband in America would not be presentable—a
common sort of man; a carpenter, I believe,” retorted the other.
“Hush! A little more sugar, dear Mrs. Denvil. Thanks.”
Finally the rustling of dresses and murmur of voices ceased; Cecilia
crept out of her retreat unperceived. She no longer sought a niche for
San Donato in the salon. It seemed to her that the statue did not
belong there. Mademoiselle had a headache; Cecilia ate her supper
alone. Heaven had given her the precious gift of a thoughtful
consideration for others. She took her own cologne flask to
mademoiselle’s room and bathed the sufferer’s temples.
“Mademoiselle, did St. Cecilia despise the world?”
“Surely. She was a holy woman.”
“Are there any living like her now?”
“God knows,” said mademoiselle, with a little bitterness.
Cecilia kissed her governess, and closed the door softly. Her mood was
a strange one. She no longer feared her mother. Something had escaped
from her nature, as if she had been touched by fire. It was that
subtle, perishable essence of being—childhood.
“I will play that I am a ghost, and walk through all the rooms,” she
said to herself.
Mrs. Denvil found her standing in her dressing-room, calmly regarding
her, as she made her toilet for a ball at the Quirinal Palace.
“Why are you not in bed? It is ten o’clock,” she said.
Cecilia made no reply. She was gazing at the picture reflected in the
cheval-glass of a very pretty woman in cream-tinted satin robe
scarcely retained on her dimpled shoulders by a strap, diamonds and
pearls twinkling about her throat and in her hair. The face of the
mother, round, soft, with small weak chin and bright eyes, appeared
more youthful than that of her child at the moment. The dressing-room
was littered with a rainbow of colors, wraps, dresses, cashmere,
laces, and jewelry. It smelled of mingled perfumes and singed hair.
Beauty, the poodle, lay coiled up in a tiny white ball on a velvet
cushion. How fashionable had Mrs. Denvil become! She never drove out
or received company without Beauty tucked under her left arm. At
length the daughter inquired in an odd, abrupt way: “Is it very
delightful to attend so many balls?”
Mrs. Denvil laughed nervously and adjusted a bracelet.
“I attend very few balls, my dear. You will like the dancing, I dare
say, when you come out as a young lady.” Her tone was propitiatory,
Cecilia did not smile.
“Why does not papa live here with us?” she pursued, steadily, after a
Mrs. Denvil was a weak woman; she moved uneasily, then took refuge in
“I am in Europe to educate Jack and yourself. Papa and I make the
sacrifice of being separated for your good, and that you may acquire
the foreign languages,” she explained, in an injured tone.
Cecilia’s eyebrows contracted.
“Are there no good schools or governesses, then, in America?”
“Go to bed, you impertinent child!” said Mrs. Denvil, sharply.
She was ruffled, embarrassed, strangely disturbed, by the curious
scrutiny of her daughter. She would have kissed her but for that last
question. Really it was too much to be asked if there were no schools
in America! She gave Cecilia a little tap with her fan, and floated
away, a lovely vision of glistening satin and jewels, enveloped in an
opera cloak, to be presented to the Princess Margherita.
The self-elected ghost was free to roam through the whole apartment,
to shed a few tears, and finally return to the small chamber
containing San Donato. She had intended to tell her mother about the
image, but the confidence had remained frozen on her lips. She did not
go to bed. She was lonely, miserable, and disquieted. What would her
mother have said if she knew of the hiding behind the sofa in the
salon? Cecilia now rested her arms on the table, and gazed at the
little wooden figure. Never had any toy possessed equal interest to
Suddenly a great light filled the room, and San Donato vanished. She
searched for the lost treasure in dismay, and beheld him enter the
door. O, great and glorious San Donato! O, serene and holy San
Donato! spurning the guise of the old shop, a thing of wood, and
appearing to a lonely, neglected child as a swift, strong angel, with
unfolded wings, in all thy wondrous celestial beauty! Cecilia fell on
her knees, not daring to lift her eyes to the golden pinions, the head
crowned with its aureole of martyrdom; but the glorious shape raised
her, the door and walls of her chamber vanished, and with a giddy rush
through the dark night, which deprived her of breath, she found
herself standing on a globe, a world, upheld by her guardian, as the
soul stands in Guido Reni’s picture of the Capitol. Her raiment was
also white and glistening; great pearls clasped her throat and wrists.
She was gravely chidden for touching these in wonder, and then she saw
other shapes, resembling San Donato, passing rank behind rank in the
“These through great affliction came, but they never swerved from
duty. Are you afraid?” His voice was like the chimes up in St.
Cecilia’s campanile ringing for vespers.
“Duty? What does it mean?” cried Cecilia, opening her eyes.
The image stood on the table, and the candle was flaring low in the
socket. Her arms were stiff, her body cold—hours must have elapsed.
She shivered, a sob burst from her throat, and she sought her bed.
Mrs. Denvil returned from her ball at that moment. The dressing-room
had been restored to order by the sleepy maid. The lady drew a slip
of perfumed note-paper from her glove. Her eyes were very bright, her
lips parched. The note implored her, in the most flowery Italian, to
consent to the Nile voyage, as the Countess di Moccoli would also go
in that case. Mrs. Denvil laughed her carefully acquired little laugh
of studied indifference, and glanced at herself in the mirror. She was
not too old to be admired, although her daughter was fifteen. The
dream of Alfredo, Count Martellini, was to make a Nile voyage in her
company. People would talk, of course. People always talk scandal
about somebody. The pretty woman, with her insatiable vanity, was
already drifting on a rapid current from which there was no escape.
Well, she was not alone. All the gay ladies and men of her
acquaintance were also afloat on the same perilous stream. By and by
they would reach the Niagara brink; then, with a dash and a plunge,
all would be over. The end? They would have lived, drained the goblet,
and flung it away. When it is fashionable to exaggerate sentiment in
every phase, women of Mrs. Denvil’s type, fond of luxury and
extravagance, intoxicated with dissipation in foreign cities, do not
place themselves in the rear ranks.
She tore the note into bits, and smiled again in the mirror. A pale
light passed over the glass surface, blue and ghostly; the reflected
face grew haggard; patches of rouge stood out on the cheeks; dark
shadows gathered beneath the eyes; even the careful coiffure was
dishevelled; a stain of wine was visible on the satin gown; powder
became glaringly apparent on the dimpled shoulder. The enemy was dawn
of a day destined to mark the crisis in Augusta Denvil’s life. She
shrank from it, without knowing why, and drew the heavy curtains.
Five o’clock on the Pincian Hill, with the setting sun casting its
ruddy rays over the city spires and roofs. The band was playing, the
carriages wending slowly up the drive, the children darting about the
flower beds, where the fountain sparkled. Mrs. Denvil’s maroon
liveries and spirited horses had already made the circuit, the lady in
pale turquoise blue betraying none of the fatigue of dawn, and
receiving complacently that homage of admiration which Italy never
fails to bestow on an attractive woman in a fine equipage. The
Countess di Moccoli had left her own phaeton for a seat beside Mrs.
Denvil—an attention the most gratifying in public—to discuss the
Nile voyage. Also the Count Martellini, in faultless attire, a jasmine
blossom in his buttonhole, and yellow gloves, having assisted at this
exchange, had consented to take a seat opposite the two ladies. He
seldom drove with Mrs. Denvil. The count punctiliously observed
appearances. He did not dislike the circulation of a rumor which
elected him as the devoted cavalier of the rich American lady—a
position which kept other men at a distance.
Cecilia darted forward from a sheltered path and laid her hand on the
carriage door. Her look was troubled and perplexed. Suspicion had
taken no positive form in her mind; she was merely striving to read
San Donato’s message, which had haunted her memory all day: “These
through great affliction came, but they never swerved from duty. Are
“Mamma, come home with me!” she cried, clinging to the door.
“You here, Cecilia!” the mother exclaimed.
“Yes; come home,” she reiterated.
“You must sit beside me and take a drive instead,” interposed the
count, quick to avert a scene.
“No; do not touch me,” said Cecilia, her large eyes flashing.
“Jealousy,” thought the Countess di Moccoli.
Mrs. Denvil shook her finger playfully at the intruder, and resumed
her conversation. She supposed mademoiselle was back among the trees.
Mademoiselle was at home; Cecilia had run away from her to follow her
mamma. This was the girl’s reading of San Donato’s message. She drew
back, hurt and offended. She had failed. The slight childish form
crossed to the parapet, and stood there, looking down on the Piazza
del Popolo, where the pedestrians were dwarfed to pigmies. She thought
of her absent father, who represented ever an earthly providence to
her, by reason of mademoiselle’s admonition, the supply of pin-money,
and the letters she wrote under dictation. She idealized this distant
yet benign influence. Behind her the crowd increased, the music rose
and fell, the carriages moved rapidly past each other in a maze of
wheels. On the horizon the red ball of a sun dipped, shedding a
tremulous rosy mist over St. Peter’s dome.
Cecilia turned, saw her mother’s landau again approaching, yielded to
a childish impulse, and ran toward it, repenting of her rudeness to
the count. He had always been so gentle, so tender with her, from the
first. Her eyes were fixed on the maroon liveries; she strove to
attract the count’s notice, approached the brink of gliding vehicles,
then her foot slipped on the freshly sprinkled gravel; she fell, and
the carriage passed over her.
A little heap lay in the road; other horses were reined in furiously,
not to trample on it as well. The American lady had run over her own
child. That blood-curdling shriek of horror! that jolt on a soft
yielding substance was the passage of her wheels on her flesh, the
additional weight of stout Countess di Moccoli and of Count Martellini
aiding, if possible, in crushing out a fragile existence.
Later the count was confronted by a white stricken woman. He was full
of sympathy and pity for his playmate; tears stood in his beautiful
“Leave us alone!” she said, fiercely, even wildly.
The count shrugged his shoulders, frowned, and departed. Palpable
injustice in the capricious creature woman. He was a philosopher, and
appeared at a diplomatic reception that evening. Matters might have
been worse. As a sentimentalist he had made as much love as he dared
to a pretty married woman whose husband was absent, while she was
manifestly flattered by his attentions. Practically speaking, he as an
impoverished noble had reaped advantage from his place as habitué of
the circle of a rich American in a land where a nice percentage exists
on custom. He had directed the money of Henry Denvil into those
channels of expenditure which would benefit himself by skilful advice.
The Nile voyage would set the world wholly at defiance.
Stout, good-natured Countess di Moccoli also appeared at the
diplomatic reception that evening, and we may rest assured no mention
was made of a young girl having been run over at the Pincio in the
gilded salons where both moved. One does not mention illness and death
in gilded salons, amid the ripple of music and laughter. One frequents
these resorts to forget, if possible, such grim and ghastly realities.
Thus closed the 23d of November, 18—.
“The house rests not on the earth, but on the
Mr. Henry Denvil arose at ten o’clock on the morning of the 24th of
November. His head ached; his recollections of the previous evening
were confused, further than a conviction that he had partaken of a
champagne supper at the hotel, and played cards for money afterward
with Jacques Robin and his wife. A man must occupy his evenings in
The habits of earlier life were still sufficiently strong to render
him ashamed of having slept until ten o’clock. He drank his coffee
hastily, pressed his slouch hat down over his brow, and did not glance
at the hotel as he walked along the village street to the foundry.
Eyes were watching him from a window of that same hotel, however—keen
eyes, given to studying the world for their own ends, and which now
observed the figure and gait of Henry Denvil as he passed with a
certain speculative interest. These eyes belonged to a woman, plain,
no longer young, her sole attractions a soft voice and pleasing
manner; and a small, meagre man, wiry as a grasshopper, with gray
hair, a yellow skin, large nose, and a peevish mouth. In the faces of
both husband and wife was a hungry, pinched look. Years of poverty
sometimes sets such a seal on the human countenance.
This couple were Monsieur Jacques Robin and his wife, emigrants from
Heaven knows what past life in their native land, and now dwelling
drearily, it must be confessed, in the one tavern of Foundryville—a
mere hamlet back among the mountains of Pennsylvania. A year
previously Monsieur Robin had applied for the post of clerk in the
foundry, and obtaining the modest situation, madame had subsequently
appeared on the scene. If existence had been dull for Mrs. Denvil up
here among the hills, how much more so was it likely to prove for a
woman of Madame Robin’s abilities! She took to studying Henry Denvil,
and her sky cleared. She knew every particular of his history and
family before he even saw her. When he did observe her, Madame Robin
made no impression on him beyond being genteel and modest in
appearance. Wait! A foreigner soured by poverty, endowed by nature
with artfulness, knowledge of humanity in its baser aspects, a certain
feline patience, may achieve much in a hamlet among the hills.
On this morning Monsieur Robin had run up from the foundry with a
letter for his wife. She read it eagerly.
“It is as I thought!” she exclaimed. “Gustave was always clever at
discovery. He has managed to communicate with Mrs. Denvil’s own maid
at Rome, and learned enough. She will always make excuse to live in
Europe, the people flatter her, and she is already much talked about
as having fallen in love with the Roman Count Martellini.”
“Well?” said the husband, doubtfully, irritably.
“I tell you I have them all here in the palm of my hand,” retorted
madame, with kindling excitement. “In another year I shall be
installed as housekeeper in the proprietor’s house. You will not only
amuse him with cards in the evening, but gain his confidence. Chut!
There are secrets to be sold in business to rival houses if necessary.
He is a stupid man, without intimate friends, and wholly unsuspicious.
He is no match for us. If madame deserts her home for Paris and Rome,
ma foi! it is our opportunity.”
The speaker’s dark face flushed, and her eyes glittered. Monsieur
Robin returned to the foundry with his figure rather more erect than
usual. Feminine enthusiasm is frequently contagious.
In the mean while Henry Denvil had reached his place of business. The
European mail also brought him a letter from his wife, inclosing
another from his little Cecilia. In this home correspondence Mrs.
Denvil always dwelt on the development of her children. Was she not
living abroad to educate them? Was she not wintering in Rome to
benefit Cecilia’s delicate throat? For this end she required more and
Mr. Denvil read his daughter’s note first, and smiled at the request
that he should come to Rome for Christmas-day. Then he leaned his head
on his hand, and tapped his desk with his penknife, absently. How the
years slipped away! What had he to anticipate in the clouded future?
Would these children, now receiving a foreign education, ever return
contentedly to live at Foundryville? Well, they were Augusta’s
children, and she was an ambitious mother. He made no complaint at
the prolonged absence of his family; he was used to it. He never
failed to send the required remittances. “The money belongs to
Augusta,” he always said to himself. Besides, his own expenses were
small. One by one the rooms of his large house had been closed through
disuse, and a half-grown boy waited on him in the wing. Dust had
settled on the rich furniture ordered years ago with such pride to
make a fitting nest for his bride; rust gnawed the mute strings of his
daughter’s piano; the conservatory had been abandoned; the garden was
neglected. Henry Denvil had never been an epicure; now he lived from
hand to mouth.
Seventeen years before, he had arrived at Foundryville, a man of
forty, who had worked hard for the money he was prepared to invest in
the foundry. The death of the previous owner compelled his widow to
sell out at a sacrifice. Henry Denvil made a good bargain, instituted
energetic reforms in the works, lived altogether at Foundryville,
gained the confidence of his miners and “hands” by being one of them,
and prospered. His predecessor’s widow adjusted the exchange of
property in the presence of her daughter Augusta, a beautiful girl of
eighteen. Plain Henry Denvil, accustomed to toil-worn women in calico
gowns, was dazzled by the graceful manners, white hands, and elegance
of these two fashionable ladies. He fell in love for the first time,
was encouraged to pay his addresses, married Augusta, and built the
large house at Foundryville. His wife was above him in birth,
education, and social position; his mother-in-law, during her
lifetime, never permitted him to forget this circumstance.
Augusta accepted his devotion at first very sweetly, as a matter of
course, then a little wearily. The climate of Foundryville gave her
neuralgia. She spent whole winters at Washington and in Florida. He
could not leave his business for a day without anxiety. The master’s
hand must never relax its hold of the helm. He was a proud husband and
father; his own nature, sound to the core, accepted without thought of
self-sacrifice the enjoyment of his wife in travel. He knew nothing of
society, or of the world in which she lived at present. That he placed
his family in the peril of evil association in Europe, without himself
there as the natural protector, had not once occurred to his mind.
Like all men who have earned their own fortune, his first aim had been
to bestow on his son and daughter those advantages of study in which
his own youth had been deficient. Hence his acquiescence in the plan
of sending Jack to Switzerland and Cecilia to Paris, Dresden, or Rome.
Mrs. Denvil’s arguments in favor of this arrangement had prevailed.
Would not the children have been sent away from Foundryville in any
The foundry absorbed his day as the great furnace devoured its fuel.
As for his evenings? He was not a reading man; his home was silent and
dull. He had acquired the habit of dropping in at the tavern and
playing cards with his clerk, M. Jacques Robin. He learned many new
games, écarté, baccarat, rouge et noir, among the number. The
diversion amused him. Often he found himself speculating as to a
mistake made the previous evening in the midst of daily business, or a
different plan of playing a winning card the ensuing night.
When the hearthstone is cold, a man seeks forgetfulness elsewhere.
The character of Henry Denvil was on the verge of rapid deterioration.
He failed to perceive it. He was puzzled to account for having lost so
much money in so short a space of time. That was all. Instinct was at
work in the little community, the foundry, where swarthy creatures
with bared arms flitted like demons about the great furnace, moulding
the fused metal into shapes. These found leisure to curse the
“sneaking Frenchman” at the hotel; but the imprecations were gathered
up in the whirl and clash of machinery, the din of bells, the hoarse
shouting of many voices, and went no further. Outside, the hills
towered high above the little hamlet, and the river foamed along the
valley. The world was very remote.
“Come to Rome for Christmas,” mused Henry Denvil, still resting his
head on his hand, and idly scrawling figures on the back of the letter
with a pencil.
The request stung him to the quick. He was not needed to complete the
happiness of a Roman Christmas. Was not Madame Robin always so
interested to hear about Cecilia? This poor mother had once possessed
such a daughter. From these conversations invariably resulted doubt,
cynicism, depression. Would his family dwell in peace at dull
Foundryville? Alas! no. The coming years were as blank in prospect as
was the present in reality, under the subtle suggestions of Madame
M. Jacques Robin quitted his desk in the corner of the office and
approached on tip-toe. Henry Denvil had drawn a card, the ace of
diamonds, on the back of his daughter’s letter. M. Robin smirked.
“If you are disengaged at eight o’clock, I should like to show you
another game,” he said, in a discreet and respectful tone.
“Yes,” assented the master, moodily.
The November night settled gloomily on Foundryville. Mist swathed the
hill-tops and rolled along the slopes, the rain fell monotonously, and
the river, invisible in the darkness, mingled its melancholy music
with the fitful soughing of the wind. Lights gleamed in the windows of
the houses; occasionally a great glare illuminated the whole village;
the withered foliage glowed in the shaft of crimson fire; far below,
the water twinkled and rippled as if reflecting a conflagration: it
was the hour of casting at the foundry, when the chimney belched its
volumes of smoke, and the molten iron poured forth in rivulets, like a
lava torrent, in the black void of the vast building.
Up in the master’s home a single feeble ray was visible in the
inhabited wing. Henry Denvil had fallen asleep in his chair. He awoke,
looked at his watch, and rose. Eight o’clock. He caught a glimpse of
his own face in the glass; it was pale and worn. He resumed his chair.
The clock ticked in-doors; the rain fell steadily out-of-doors. The
lamp had been so placed that its rays fell on a portrait opposite his
chair. This portrait represented his daughter Cecilia at the age of
ten—a charming blonde head, skilfully treated by the artist, and the
large eyes were turned full upon him with a frank intelligence. Henry
Denvil was not of an imaginative temperament; his prime had been too
fully occupied for idle reveries; but now solitude was rendering him
sensitive to morbid influences. When he awoke he became vividly,
intensely conscious of the gaze of this picture fixed on himself. He
sat motionless, and studied it, instead of going out. Nine o’clock. A
tap at the door, and M. Jacques Robin stood on the threshold,
deferential in manner, wet as to garments, having awaited his guest
for an hour. Henry Denvil laughed loudly, almost roughly, seized his
hat, and sought the village tavern.
The play was reckless that night. The visitor was in the mood for high
stakes. Monsieur Robin lost and won without the quiver of an eyelash
or a change of hue in the dull opacity of his complexion. Henry Denvil
lost and won with the veins growing knotted and prominent in forehead
and temple, and his color deepening from red to crimson. Madame
Robin, cool and quiet, crocheted little threads of silk together into
a golden mesh with a sharp and slender needle, and from time to time
served the gentlemen with wine.
Eleven o’clock. Some person tapped Henry Denvil on the shoulder. He
glanced up impatiently, with bloodshot eyes. The landlord of the
tavern gave him a telegram, while the official who had brought it
waited at the door. He read:
“Come to us immediately. Cecilia has been run over. Tell me
what to do.—Augusta Denvil.”
Then he was standing outside in the dark night, the rain, chill and
dreary as destiny, beating on his bare head, while the clouds rolled
low, and the river sent up its murmur from the valley below. His
little girl would be dead, he felt convinced, before he could reach
“The nest of the blind bird is made by God.”—Armenian
Christmas-day at Rome, as cold and crisp as any Northern festival,
with a piercing Tramontane wind sweeping across the piazza, the Alban
Hills snow-crested, as if cut in alabaster, and the fountains fringed
A gay and brilliant Christmas for a holiday world, with roses blooming
still in sheltered nooks; a devout Christmas for those prepared to
read its beautiful meaning in ancient churches, each of which had
found a voice in full choral harmonies on this day; a Christmas of
silent and devout thankfulness for those escaped the shadow of death.
Cecilia Denvil had been hovering on the borderland of feverish
delirium, where all is unreal, for weeks. Since the afternoon when the
carriage-wheels of her mother had passed over her, the present had
been blotted out. She was in her own home once more, she raved of her
father, her pet birds, the garden. When fever consumed her she was in
the foundry, the lava torrent of metal from the furnace mouth creeping
nearer and nearer, threatening to ingulf her. Gradually this tumult of
restless imagery subsided to a great calm. She wandered with San
Donato, the mighty angel, in fields of lilies so vast that they seemed
a sea of bloom. Then she became painfully aware of other shapes that
bent over her, touched her. A man and a woman met at her side and
clasped hands; their faces were vaguely familiar. Rome had vanished,
been obliterated; she only wandered among the lilies, guided by a
glorious angel, his robe rose-colored, with margin of gold, and a palm
branch in his hand. Certainly she must have passed away to another
Henry Denvil, on receipt of that telegram, had left Foundryville by
the first train, overtaken an outward-bound steamer by means of a
small boat, and traversed England and France without delay. Arrived at
the apartment in Rome which bore his wife’s name, he was met by her, a
pale, distraught creature, who clung to him with hysterical sobs, and
searched his face with anxious, terrified eyes.
“Is she dead?” he faltered, hoarsely.
“Oh no; but the surgeons think her limbs will be always useless, and
she a cripple.”
He soothed, but put her aside to seek his child instead. Augusta
Denvil was conscious, for the first time, of a dull pang of jealousy.
In the long and painful days which ensued Henry Denvil had eyes and
thoughts only for Cecilia, while the latter, by one of those curious
instincts of illness, would accept nothing from another hand after his
The mother’s ordeal began earlier, and her waning youth had shrivelled
in the anguish she was then compelled to endure. Cecilia, from the
first, had been deaf to her mother’s most tender tones, winced and
screamed at the touch of her fingers, even when lying with closed
eyes. Mrs. Denvil, in the awful and solemn watches of the night, read
in this aversion the doom of retribution. Her spirit succumbed in the
trial. The girl’s foot might indeed have slipped and she been run over
anywhere. True, but by her own mother’s wheels!
Christmas morning, so glorious and bright without, was gray and sober
within this apartment of a family of strangers, where each face bore
evidence of watching, care, grief.
Cecilia opened her eyes and glanced about her. She was lying on her
own bed in her little chamber at Rome, only some sharp sword-thrust of
circumstance had wholly severed her from the past. Her face was calm,
almost solemn in expression. It seemed natural that her father should
be sitting beside her holding her hand and striving to speak
cheerfully. She was not startled by the fact that brother Jack stood
at the foot of the bed. She noticed, entirely without responsive
emotion, that her mother had concealed her face on father’s shoulder,
shaken by uncontrollable sobs. Her first words were:
“Where is San Donato?”
Her family failed to understand her. Mademoiselle Durand, also
tremulous and in tears, heard and hastened away to her own room. She
returned with the little image.
“It is her fancy,” murmured the governess.
Cecilia indicated by a gesture that it was to be placed in her
father’s hands. Mr. Denvil held it carefully, while the invalid gazed
steadfastly at her saint. They waited for her next words in silence
and suspense. The joy of a convalescent is seldom demonstrative. She
did not speak again for an hour. Then she exclaimed suddenly, in
“It is Christmas-day and papa has come.”
Henry Denvil bent over and kissed the wasted little face, praying in
his heart it might only be spared to him.
Jack looked on, stiff and ill at ease, after the manner of boys in a
sick-chamber. He answered his father’s inquiries in constrained and
difficult English, with frequent lapses into French. Four years in a
Swiss school had wrought wonders for Jack, especially as his mother
had left him to take walking tours with his tutors during the summer
vacations. A foreign education had been Mrs. Denvil’s idea of
preparation for life as an American citizen, especially at
There was another lapse into stillness before Cecilia’s voice became
“If I had not—met with the accident on the Pincio, would you have
come to Rome for Christmas?”
“I fear not, my child.”
“Are we to go home with you now?”
Cecilia smiled and closed her eyes. Did she thus understand San
Donato’s message at last?
Madame Robin will not be installed as housekeeper in the master’s
house. In the future, Mrs. Denvil, with the reaction of a shallow
nature, may make trips to better climates for her neuralgia, or Jack
be absent at college; but Henry Denvil—nay, the very foundry—cannot
be more constant to the spot than his daughter. There will be no balls
for her, clad in satin, pearls and diamonds twinkling in her hair and
about her throat, no dancing days, no début in society as an heiress.
Instead, Cecilia will flit from room to room of the long silent home
in a wheel-chair, a presence bright, cheerful, watchful, now pausing
in the sunny conservatory where each unfolding flower seems aware of
her presence, now awaiting the father’s return from work.
Above the entrance door will be enshrined the image of San Donato,
guardian of the home, whose mission is to avert evil.