ONLY AN INCIDENT
BY GRACE DENIO LITCHFIELD
IV. MRS. UPJOHN'S ENTERTAINMENT
VI. THE PICNIC
VII. TRIED AS BY FIRE
VIII. GERALD OBEYS ORDERS
IX. JOPPA'S MINISTRATIONS TO THE SICK
X. AN APOLOGY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
XI. "MY SON DICK"
XII. WHY DO SUMMER ROSES FADE?
XIII. JOPPA'S TRIAL
XIV. PHEBE'S GOOD-BY
XV. ONLY AN INCIDENT
GRACE HILL AND EDWIN C. LITCHFIELD.
TO HER FOR WHOSE DEAR SAKE THE STORY WAS PENNED, ALTHOUGH HER EYES HAVE
NEVER REST UPON ITS PAGES, AND TO HIM WHOSE TENDER WATCH OVER ITS GROWTH
HAS BEEN ITS VITAL INSPIRATION—TO THE TWO WHO ARE BUT ONE FOREVER IN THE
HEART OF THEIR DAUGHTER, THIS LITTLE FIRST BOOK IS MOST LOVINGLY
ONLY AN INCODENT
Joppa was the very centre of all things. That was the opening clause in
the creed of every well-educated and right-thinking Joppite.
Geographically, however, it was not the centre of any thing, being
considerably off from the great lines of railway travel, but possessing
two little independent branch roads of its own, that connected it with
all the world, or rather that connected all the world with it. For though
there were larger places than Joppa even in the county in which it
condescended to find itself, and though New York, and Philadelphia, and
even Boston, were undeniably larger, as its inhabitants reluctantly
admitted when hard pressed, yet they were unanimous in agreeing,
nevertheless, that the sun rose and set wholly and entirely for the
benefit of their one little aristocratic community.
Yes; the world was created for Joppa, that the Joppites might live, move,
and have their being with as much convenience and as little trouble as
possible. Bethany, a considerable town near by, was built to be its
shopping emporium; Galilee, a little farther off, to accommodate its art
needs; Morocco, a more considerable town still farther off, to be the
birthplace of those ancestors who were so unfortunate as to come into the
world before there was any Joppa to be born in. Even New York was erected
mainly to furnish it with a place of comfortable resort once a year, when
it transplanted itself there bodily in a clan, consoling itself for its
temporary aberration of body by visiting exclusively and diligently back
and forth among its own people, and conforming life in all particulars as
far as possible to home rules, still doing when in New York, not as the
New Yorkers but as the Joppites did, and never for a moment abandoning
its proud position as the one only place in the world worth living in.
There certainly was much to say in favor of Joppa. In the first place,
it was remarkably salubrious. Its inhabitants died only of old
age,—seldom even of that,—or of diseases contracted wholly in other
localities. Measles had indeed been known to break out there once in the
sacred person of the President of the village, but had been promptly
suppressed; besides, it was universally conceded that being in his second
childhood he should be considered liable. The last epidemic of small-pox
even had swept by them harmless. Only two old and extremely ugly women
took it, whereas Bethany and Upper Jordan were decimated. So Joppa was
decidedly healthy, for one thing. For another, it was moral. There had
not been a murder heard of in ever so long, or a forgery, and the last
midnight burglar was such a nice, simple fellow that he did not know real
silver when he saw it, and ran off with the plated ware instead. And
Joppa was not only moral, but religious; went to church no end of times
on Sundays, and kept as many of the commandments as it conveniently
could. It had four churches: one Methodist, frequented exclusively by the
plebeians; one Baptist, of a mixed congregation; one Presbyterian, where
three fourths of the best people went; and one Episcopal, which the best
quarter of the best people attended, and which among the Presbyterians
was popularly supposed to be, if not exactly the entrance to the infernal
regions, yet certainly only one short step removed from it. And added to
all these good traits, Joppa was a beautiful place. There were a few
common, ugly little houses in it, of course, but they were all tucked
away out of sight at one end, constituting what was known as "the
village," while the real Joppa meant in the thoughts of the inhabitants
only the West End so to speak, where was a series of pretty villas and
commodious mansions running along a broad, handsome street, and
stretching for quite a distance along the border of the lake. For, oh!
best of all, Joppa had a lake. To speak of Joppa in the presence of a
Joppite, and not in the same breath to mention the lake with an
appreciative adjective, was to make as irrevocable a mistake as to be in
conversation with a poet and forget to quote from his latest poem; for
next to their wives, their dinners, and their ease, the Joppites loved
their beautiful little lake. And they had cause thus to love it, for
apart from its exquisite charm as the main feature of their landscape, it
gave them a substantial reason for existence. What could they have done
with their dolce far niente lives, but for the fishing and rowing and
sailing and bathing and sliding and skating which it afforded them in
turn? It was all they had to keep them from settling down into a Rip Van
Winkle sleep, this dear little restless lake, that coaxed them out of
their land-torpor, and forced them occasionally to lend a manly hand to a
manly pursuit. For there was this distinguishing peculiarity about Joppa,
that no one in it seemed to need to work, or to have any manner of
business whatever. Its society, outside of the village, was formed wholly
of cultivated, refined, wealthy people, who had nothing in the world to
do, but idly to eat and drink up the riches of the previous generation.
It is a widely admitted truth, that one generation always gathers for
another, never for itself, and that the generation which is thus
generously gathered for, is invariably found willing to sacrifice without
a murmur any latent duty to harvest on its own account, consenting to
live out its life softly upon the hard-earned savings of its
predecessors, without regard to posterity, and calling itself "gentlemen"
where its fathers were content to be known as "men."
So this was Joppa, a place mighty in its own conceit, and high too in the
estimate of others, to whom it was becoming known as the gayest and the
prettiest of all dear little summer resorts; and thither strangers were
beginning to flock in considerable numbers each year, made warmly welcome
by the Joppites as an occasion for breaking out into an unending round of
parties and picnics and dinners and lunches and teas, and even breakfasts
when there was not room to crowd in any thing else. The summer was one
continual whirl from beginning to end. There were visitors and visits;
there was giving and receiving; there were flirtations and rumors of
flirtations; there was everything the human heart could desire in the way
of friendly hospitality and liveliest entertainment. Saratoga might be
well enough, and Newport would do in its way; but for solid perfection,
said the Joppites, there was no place in the world quite like Joppa.
But unknown to itself, Joppa nursed one apostate in its midst, one
unavowed but benighted little heretic, who so far from sharing these
sentiments and offering up nightly thanksgiving that despite her great
unworthiness she had been suffered to be born in Joppa, made it one of
her most fervent and reiterated petitions that she might not always have
to live there; that some time, if she were very good and very patient, it
might be granted her to go. She was so weary of it all: of the busy
idleness and the idle business, of the unthinking gayety and the gay
thoughtlessness, and of the nothingness that made up its all. She wanted,
she did not exactly know what, only something different; and to go, she
did not quite know where, only somewhere else. But she had been born in
Joppa, (quite without her permission,) and in Joppa she had lived for all
of twenty-four healthful, tranquil, uneventful years, spending
semi-occasional winters in New York, and, unlike all other Joppites,
returning always more and more discontented with her native place. Who
could ever have expected such treason in the heart of dear little Phebe
Lane? Of course it would not have mattered much had it been suspected,
since it was only Phebe Lane after all who entertained it,—little Phebe
Lane, whose ancestors, though good and well-born enough, did not hail
from Morocco, and who lived, not in the West End proper, but only on the
borders of it, in a street where one could not get so much as a side peep
at the lake. It was not a pretty house either where she lived. It was
square and clumsy and without any originality, and, moreover, faced plump
on the street, so that one could look right into its parlor and
sitting-room windows as one strolled along the wooden sidewalks. And
people were in the habit of looking in that way a good deal. Nothing was
ever going on in there that could not bear this sudden outside
inspection, and it was the shortest way to call Phebe when she was wanted
for any thing of a sudden,—to bear a fourth hand at whist, or to stone
raisins for Mrs. Adams the day before her luncheon, or to run on an
errand down town for some lazy body who preferred other people's legs to
her own for locomotion, or to relieve some wearied host in the
entertainment of his dull guest, or to help in some way or other, here,
there, and yonder. She was just the one to be called upon, of course, for
she was just the one who was always on hand, and always ready to go. She
never had any thing to keep her at home. Her father had long been dead,
and she lived alone with her step-mother and step-aunt in the house which
was left her by her mother, but in which the present Mrs. Lane still
ruled absolute, as she did when she first came into it in Phebe's
childish days. Mrs. Lane was strong and energetic and commonplace; and
she ran the little house from garret to cellar with a thoroughness that
left Phebe no part whatever to take in it, while the remainder of her
energy she devoted to nursing her invalid sister, Miss Lydia, a little
weak, complaining creature, who had had not only every ill that flesh is
heir to, but a great many ills besides that she was firmly persuaded no
other flesh had ever inherited, and who stood in an awe of her sister
Sophia only equalled by her intense admiration of her.
So what was there for Phebe to do? She was fond of music, and whistled
like a bird, but she had no piano and did not know one note from
another; and she did not care for books, which was fortunate, as their
wee library, all told, did not count a hundred volumes, most of which,
too, were Miss Lydia's, and were as weak and wishy-washy as that poor
little woman herself. And she did not care for sewing, though she made
nearly all her own clothes, besides attending at any number of
impromptu Dorcas meetings, where the needy were the unskilled rich
instead of the helpless poor, so that of course her labor did not count
at all as a virtue, since it was not doing good, but only obliging a
friend. And she did not care for parties, though she generally went and
was always asked, being such a help as regarded wall-flowers, while
none of the young girls dreaded her as a rival, it being a well known
fact that Phebe Lane, general favorite though she was, somehow or other
never "took" with the men, or at least not sufficiently to damage any
other enterprising girl's prospects. Why this was so, was hard to say.
Phebe was pretty, and lovable, and sweet tempered. If she was not
sparkling or witty, neither was she sarcastic; and bright enough she
was certainly, though not intellectual, and though she talked little
save with a few. It was strange. True as steel, possessed of that keen
sense of justice and honor so strangely lacking in many women, with a
passionate capability for love and devotion and self-sacrifice beyond
power of fathoming, and above all with a clinging womanly nature that
yearned for affection as a flower longs for light, she was yet the only
girl out of all her set who had never had any especial attention.
Perhaps it was because she was no flirt. Bell Masters said no girl
could get along who did not flirt. Perhaps because in her excessive
truthfulness she was sometimes blunt and almost brusque; it is
dreadfully out of place not to be able to lie a little at times. Even
Mrs. Upjohn, the female lay-head of the Presbyterians, who was a
walking Decalogue, her every sentence being a law beginning with Thou
shalt not, admitted practically, if not theoretically, that without
risk of damnation it was possible to swerve occasionally from a too
rigid Yea and Nay. Perhaps,—ah, well, there is no use in exhausting
the perhapses. The fact remained. Of girl-friends she had plenty, and
of men-friends she had plenty; but of lovers she had none.
And this was why when the Rev. Mr. Denham Halloway was called to the
vacant parish of St. Joseph's and fell down in its maidenly midst like a
meteor from an unexplored heaven,—a young, handsome divine, in every way
marriageable, though still unmarried, and in every way attractive, though
still to the best of hope and belief unattracted,—this was why no girl
of them all thought her own chances lessened in the least when he and
Phebe became such friends. No one gossiped. No one ah-ah'd, or oh-oh'd.
No one thought twice about it. What difference could it make? If it had
been anybody else now! But it was only Phebe Lane.
"Oh, Mr. Halloway!"
"Hush. Don't let them know I'm here. I couldn't help peeping in as I went
by. You look done up."
"What's going on?"
"Come in and see."
"Heaven forbid! Gracious! Mrs. Upjohn will think that's a swear.
Don't look this way, Miss Phebe. They'll discover me. What's Mr.
"The world is very evil."
"'The times are waxing late.' Why doesn't he add that and go?"
"He never goes. He only comes."
"What is Mrs. Upjohn so wrought up about?"
"She caught one of her Sunday-school boys breaking Sunday."
"Up in a tree."
"That's where the unpardonable comes in. Her tree."
"Poor boy; what a mistake! What are you doing with that hideous silk
"Picking up dropped stitches."
"Whose stitches? Yours?"
"Don't aid and abet her in creating that monstrosity. It's participation
in crime. It's worse than eating apples up a tree. Do you always have
such a crowd here in the morning?"
"How long have they been here?"
"Nearly two hours."
"What do they come for?"
"Miss Lydia's asleep."
"What shall you do when you are done with that odious stocking?"
"Sort crewels for Mrs. Upjohn."
"Iron out my dress for the party."
"Oh, at Mrs. Anthony's? Who'll be there?"
"Everybody who has dropped in here this morning."
"Those who dropped in yesterday."
"But what will you do to make it party-like?"
"Simper. Aren't you coming too?"
"Not if you think it would do for me to say that I held party-going wrong
for a clergyman. Could I? I might win over Mrs. Upjohn to the Church by
so holy a statement."
"You had better take to round-dancing instead, then, to keep her
out of it."
"Miss Phebe, is it possible you are severe on poor Mrs. Upjohn?"
"As your pastor I must admonish you. Don't be. Besides, it's safer to
keep on her blind side."
"She hasn't any."
"Unhappy woman! What a blaze of moral light she must live in! But I
ought to have been in my study an hour ago. I must tear myself away. I
wish you all ill-luck possible with those stitches."
"Ah, is that you, Mr. Halloway? I was wondering what kept Phebe so long
in the window. Good-morning, sir. Good-morning, sir. Pray, come in." And
having, by a turn of his slow old head, discovered the young man standing
just outside the window, Mr. Hardcastle came pompously forward, waving
his hand in a grand way he had, that seemed to bespeak him always the
proprietor, no matter in whose house he chanced to be.
"Thank you, Mr. Hardcastle, not this morning. I was just telling Miss
Phebe I ought to be at work. Good-morning, Mrs. Lane. Good-morning, Mrs.
Upjohn—Mrs. Hardcastle—Miss Delano—Miss Brooks."
And with a cheery bow to each individual head, craning itself forward to
have a look at the unusual young man who had work to do, the Rev. Mr.
Halloway walked off to his rectory, which was directly opposite, giving a
merry glance back at Phebe from the other side of the street. Phebe was
still smiling as she went with the stocking to its owner.
"Thank you, my dear," said Mrs. Hardcastle, taking it from her without
looking. "Oh, my child, how could you be so careless! You have let me
pull out one of the needles. Well—well."
Phebe took the work silently back, and sat herself down on a stool to
remedy the mischief.
"A nice young fellow enough," remarked Mr. Hardcastle,
condescendingly, returning to the group of ladies. "But he'll never
set the river on fire."
"No need he should, is there?" said Mrs. Upjohn, looking up sharply from
her embroidery. She always contradicted, if only for argument's sake, so
that even her assents usually took a negative form. "It's enough if he's
able to put out a fire in that Church. It doesn't take much of a man, I
understand, to fill an Episcopalian pulpit." (Nobody had ever yet been
able to teach the good dame the difference between Episcopal and
Episcopalian, and she preferred the undivided use of the latter word.)
"Any thing will go down with them."
"Yes, my dear Mrs. Upjohn. It's undeniably a poor Church, a poor Church,
and I hope we may all live to witness its downfall. It must have been a
hard day for you, Mrs. Lane, when Phebe went over to it. I never forgave
old Mr. White for receiving her into it; I never did, indeed."
Phebe only smiled.
"Humph!" said Mrs. Lane, biting off a thread. "Phebe may go where she
likes, for all me, so long as only she goes. Baptist I was bred, and
Baptist I'll be buried; but it's with churches as with teas, I say. One's
as good as another, but people may take green, or black, or mixed, as
best agrees with their stomachs."
"That's a very dangerous doctrine," said Mrs. Upjohn. "Push it a little
further, and you'll have babes and sucklings living on beef, and their
elders dining on pap."
"Humph!" ejaculated Mrs. Lane again. "If they like it, what's the odds?"
"He-he!" snickered Miss Brooks.
"Well, now," resumed Mr. Hardcastle, "it stands to reason children should
learn to like what their elders have liked before them. That's the only
decent and Christian way of living. And as I said to my son,—to my Dick,
you know" (Mr. Hardcastle had a son of whom he always spoke as if sole
owner of him, and indeed solely responsible for his being),—"'Dick,' I
said, when he spoke disrespectfully of Mr. Webb's prayers,—and Mr. Webb
is a powerful prayer-maker, to be sure,—'Dick,' I said, 'church is like
physic, and the more you don't like it, the more good it does you. And if
you think Mr. Webb's prayers are too long, it's a sign that for your
soul's salvation they ought to be longer.' And I said—"
Mrs. Lane knew by long experience that now or never was the time to stop
Mr. Hardcastle. Once fairly started on the subject of his supposed advice
to Dick on any given occasion, there was no arresting his eloquence. She
started up abruptly from her sewing-machine with her mouth full of pins,
emptying them into her hand as she went. "Those ginger-cookies—" she
mumbled as she passed Mr. Hardcastle. "They ought to be done by this."
A promissory fragrance caught the old gentleman's nostrils as she opened
the door, dispelling sterner thoughts. "Ah," he said, sniffing the air
with evident approbation, "I was about going, but I don't mind if I stay
and try a few. Your make, Phebe?"
"No," answered Phebe, shortly, moving just out of reach of the bland old
hand, which stretched itself out to chuck her under the chin, and was
left patting the air with infinite benevolence "mother made them."
"All wrong," commented Mrs. Upjohn. "All wrong. You should not leave your
mother any work that you could spare her. One of the first things I
taught our Maria" (Mrs. Upjohn in Mr. Hardcastle's presence always said
our Maria with great distinctness),—"one of the first things I taught
her was, that it was her privilege to save me in every thing. I don't
believe in idleness for girls. Aren't you ready yet to attend to these
crewels, Phebe? Miss Brooks is snarling them terribly."
"Phebe's really a very good girl in her way though," remarked Mrs.
Hardcastle, indulgently, from her easy chair. "I will testify that she
can make quite eatable cake at a pinch."
Phebe secretly thought Mrs. Hardcastle ought to know. She remembered her
once spoiling a new-made company loaf by slashing into it without so much
as a by-your-leave.
"That was very nice cake Miss Lynch gave us last night," piped in
"Too much citron," pronounced Mrs. Upjohn, decisively. "You should never
overload your cake with citron. It turns it out heavy, as sure as there's
a sun in the heavens."
"There isn't any to-day; it's cloudy," Phebe could not help putting in,
demurely, but no one paid any attention, except that Mrs. Upjohn turned
on her an unworded expression of: "If I say so, it is so whether or no."
An animated debate on cake followed, in the middle of which Mrs. Lane
reappeared with a trayful of cookies hot from the oven; and two more
callers came in, Bell Masters and Dick Hardcastle, which last first woke
up Miss Lydia with a boisterous kiss, frightening the poor soul half to
death by assuring her she had been snoring so that he heard her way down
street, and then devoted himself to the cookies with a good-will and
large capacity that filled one with compassionate feelings toward his
mother's larder. With these new and younger elements the talk varied a
little. They discussed last night's party, the supper, the dresses, the
people, and then the probabilities of to-night's party, the people, the
dresses, the supper. And then Dick made a sensation by saying right out,
that he had just met Mr. Upjohn on Main Street with Mrs. Bruce, holding a
parasol gallantly over her head. And everybody looked at once at Mrs.
Upjohn, and then back at the graceless Dick, and an awful silence
succeeded, broken by Mrs. Upjohn's reaching out her hand and saying in
the tone of a Miss Cushman on the stage: "Dick, dear, I'll take another
cookie." If Mr. Upjohn chose to walk down town shielding women's
complexions for them, why in the world should she trouble herself about
it, beyond making sure that he did not by mistake take her parasol for
the kindly office? And so the talk went on, people coming and people
going, and Mrs. Lane did up a whole basketful of work undisturbed, and
Phebe inwardly chafed and fumed and longed for dinner-time, that at last
the ceaseless, aimless chatter might come to an end.
She went to the party that night, because in Joppa everybody had to go
when asked. To refuse was considered tantamount to an open declaration of
war, unless in case of illness, and then it almost required a doctor's
certificate to get one off. It was a good law and ensured the suppers
being disposed of. There was no dancing to-night, it being an understood
thing that when Mrs. Upjohn was asked there should be none or she would
not come; but there was music. Bell Masters had a very nice contralto
voice, and was always willing to sing, thus sure of securing one of
Joppa's few young gentlemen to stand by and turn over her leaves; she
thoughtfully took her music on that account, giving out that she could
not play without notes. Phebe had been doing her best all unconsciously
to herself to help her hosts entertain, but when the singing began she
stole away to the nearly empty piazza, and stood leaning by the window,
enjoying the cool air and softly whistling an accompaniment to the song;
and there Mr. Halloway found her. She looked up at him and smiled as he
joined her, but went on with her low, sweet whistling all the same.
"I like that better than the singing," he said, when at last it came to
an end with the music.
"You ought not to, Mr. Halloway. Don't you know it's very unlady-like to
whistle? Mrs. Upjohn puts Maria to bed for it."
"Dear me. I must take care she doesn't ever catch me at it. Ah! the
dress has ironed nicely, hasn't it? Would you mind standing out a little
from the shadow?"
Phebe moved a step forward into the stream of light that shot across the
piazza from the open window, and stood so, looking up at him out of her
soft white muslin draperies and white ribbons, not a ray of color about
her anywhere, like a very material and sweet little ghost.
"Yes, you look very nice, very nice indeed," he said, after a grave
inspection that took in every detail of face and figure. A young,
innocent face it was, with soft brown hair as bright and as fine as silk,
all turned back from a low forehead, around which it grew in the very
prettiest way in the world, and gathered in loose braids in the neck; and
she had such a fresh, clear complexion, and such honest, loving, gray
eyes, and such a round, girlish figure,—how was it people never made
more of her prettiness?
"I think you look nicer than any one here," Mr. Halloway added, in
thorough conviction. "You must be an adept in ironing." Phebe laughed
softly in pure pleasure. It was so new to have such pretty things said to
her. "Would it be very wrong to slip away together for a rest?" he
continued, leading her a little farther along. "Let us sit down on the
steps here and recruit. I have talked my throat hoarse to each of the
very deafest old ladies in turn,—I suppose they came here purposely to
be screeched at,—and I saw you working valiantly among the old men. What
a place this is for longevity!"
"You are finding out its characteristics by degrees, I see."
"Yes, am I not?" said he, with his pleasant laugh. "I know intimately
every member of my parish and every member of every other parish by this
time from sheer hearsay. Each house I visit gives me no end of valuable
and minute information about all the other houses. I am waiting to come
out with a rousing sermon against gossip, till I shall have gained all
possible enlightenment and help from it. I mustn't kill my goose that
lays the golden eggs before I have all the eggs I want, must I?"
"And knowing us all so well, what do you think of Joppa as a whole?"
asked Phebe, curiously. "You always say it is too soon to judge, but
surely you must really know by this time."
He did not answer for a moment, then turned to her very seriously. "I
think," he said slowly, "it is a place that needs a much older, a much
better, and a much wiser man than I am to be among its leaders in any
sense. It is not at all what I thought it would be when I accepted the
trust. It is beyond me. But since the Bishop sent me here, I mean to stay
and do my best."
"How will you begin?"
"I will begin with you," he answered, lightly, with a smile that lit up
all his face, the moment's seriousness quite gone. "You were my first
friend, and I ought to take you first in hand, ought I not? I am going
to do you a great deal of good."
"I'm going to teach you to love books."
"Yes, I can. You don't know books, that is all. I intend to introduce you
to each other. I have some so interesting you can't help liking them, and
you'll find yourself crying for more before you know it. I am going to
bring them over to you. You shall have something better to do than fill
up all your mornings with promoting stockings of exasperating colors, and
listening to tales of Sabbath-breakers. Just wait and see. I am going to
"Oh, I wish you would!" sighed Phebe, clasping her hands and speaking so
earnestly that he looked at her in surprise. "I am so sick of myself. I
do want to be something better than I am. I am so dreadfully
common-place. I amount to so little. I know so little. I can do so
little. And there is no one here who cares to help me to any thing
better. I don't know enough even to know how to improve myself. But I do
want to. Will you help me, Mr. Halloway? Will you really help me?" She
positively had tears shining in her eyes.
Mr. Halloway leaned forward and gently took her hand. "Am I not here for
that?" he asked. "Here purposely to help you and all who need me in any
way? Will it not be my greatest pleasure to do so, as well as my best and
truest work? You may be sure, Miss Phebe, I will do all I can for you,
with God's help."
"Rather damp for you to be sitting there without a shawl, isn't it,
It was only Mrs. Anthony's friendly voice, as that lady passed
hurriedly by, intent on hospitable duties, but Phebe started guiltily.
What right had she to be out here with Mr. Halloway, keeping him from
the other girls, when she ought, of course, to be in the parlors seeing
that the old ladies got their ice-cream safely? "I'll go right in," she
said, rising hastily; but Mr. Halloway drew her hand through his arm to
"Why? Because it is damp?"
"No; because I ought not to be selfish, ought to go back and help."
"Ah," said he, "I am getting new lights every moment. Then you don't go
to parties just to enjoy yourself?"
She opened wide, serious eyes. "Oh, no." He smiled down at her very
kindly, "You shall go right away," he said, releasing her. "I will not
keep you another instant from dear Mr. Hardcastle and that nice Mrs.
Upjohn. But before you go let me tell you, Miss Phebe, that, if only in
view of your latest confession, I do not think you commonplace at all!"
It was another article of the Joppian creed, that there was no such thing
possible as a purely Platonic friendship between a young man and a young
woman; there must always be "something in it": either a mitten for him,
or a disappointment for her, or wedding-cake for all—generally and
preferably, of course, the wedding-cake;—and belonging to such
friendship as lawfully as a tail belongs to a comet, was a great,
wide-spreading area of gossip. It was only in the case of Phebe Lane that
this universal and common-sense rule had its one particular and
unreasonable exception; and it was acting upon a speedily acquired
knowledge of this by-law, that Mr. Halloway boldly pursued his plan for
metamorphosing his young friend, right under the open eyes and ears of
the Joppites. He lived so near that it was the most natural thing in the
world for him to stop for a moment's chat, as every one else did, either
inside or outside of the window as he went by; and as he was always sure
of meeting others, call when he would, it certainly never could have been
asserted of him that he went there only to see Phebe. Indeed, he often
scarcely spoke with her at all when he so dropped in, and yet out of
these frequent and informal meetings an intimacy had sprung up between
them such as Phebe at least had never known before. She submitted herself
to him docilely, reading his books patiently even when they bored her
unutterably, as not seldom happened, and endeavoring to form her opinion
straitly upon his on all intellectual questions, recognizing her own
fallibility with a humility that at once touched and charmed him. Real
humility is rare enough the world over, but nowhere is it less
conspicuously apparent than among the flourishing virtues of Joppa; and
it was not long before this fact was discovered by Denham Halloway, who,
with all his gayety and light-heartedness, was a keen and discriminating
observer of character. He was one of those interesting people whom all
other people interest; one of those who derive their peculiar charm more
from what they find in you than from what they show you of themselves,
though one might be ashamed to confess the truth so baldly. These are the
people who, without any especial gift of either mind or person, wheedle
your secrets out of you before you know it, possessing all your trust and
your liking before they have given any real evidence of deserving your
confidence, and yet, somehow or other, though rarely either great or
talented, or even heroically good, never for one moment abusing it. Such
characters are not at all unusual, yet are generally accounted so; one of
their chief qualities, according to their friends, being that they are so
unlike everybody else. But Phebe certainly had never met any one at all
like Mr. Halloway, and she was soon of the settled conviction that she
should never meet any one quite like him again. He was true to his
promise to help her; (he never made a promise that he did not honestly
try to keep;) and he applied himself to the by no means thankless task
with the good-humored directness and energy that characterized all his
actions. There was quite a number of young girls in his parish, more
proportionately than in the others. Bell Masters and Amy Duckworth had
long been hovering on its borders, and the advent of so young and
prepossessing a rector had instantly removed their last scruples as to
infant baptism, and settled forever their doubts as to the apostolic
succession. They had come in at once. It was even whispered that Maria
Upjohn had in an incautious moment confessed that she preferred the
litany to Mr. Webb's spontaneous effusions, and had been summarily sat
upon by her mother, whose Bible contained an eleventh commandment
curiously omitted from the twentieth chapter of Exodus in other versions,
and reading: "Thou shalt not become an Episcopalian, and if possible,
thou shalt not be born one." Then there were Nellie Atterbury, and Janet
Mudge, and Polly and Mattie Dexter; there certainly was no lack of active
young teachers for the Sunday-school, and Phebe was well content to
remain passively aside, as of old. But, as Mrs. Lane remarked, there were
no drones allowed in Mr. Halloway's hive, and before long Phebe found
herself insensibly drawn in to be one of the workers too, with any
amount of business growing upon her hands, and herself, under this new
and wise guidance, becoming more and more capable for it every day.
"A new broom sweeps clean," remarked Mrs. Upjohn, contemptuously, as she
heard of the stir and life in St. Joseph's heretofore-dull little parish.
"For my part, I would rather have Mr. White back—if he weren't dead. He
was a good, sensible old man, who knew his place, and was contented to
let his Church simmer in the background, where it belongs. He didn't go
flaunting his white gown in people's faces every Saint's day he could
trump up, let alone the Wednesday and Friday services. Who's Mr.
Halloway? What does anybody know about him beyond that the Bishop
recommended him, as if a Bishop must know what's what better than other
people, forsooth! Don't tell me!" said Mrs. Upjohn, in unutterable scorn.
"He's a new broom, and he's raising a big dust, and I would liefer have
Mr. White back and let the dust lie,—that's all!"
But the Joppites were far from sharing Mrs. Upjohn's sentiments. Mr.
Halloway did, it is true, belong to the wrong Church, but there was a
strong suspicion among them that neither had this man sinned, nor his
parents, that he was born to so grievous a fate. It was rather his
misfortune. And as for the rest, he was thoroughly a gentleman; was
excellently well educated; and was, moreover, comely to look upon, and
eminently agreeable in his bearing. No; Joppa was far from begrudging Mr.
White his departure to the land of the blessed. It was time the good old
man went to his reward, they said.
And as to Mrs. Whittridge, Mr. Halloway's sister, who kept house for him
at the rectory, through all the length and the breadth of Joppa there
were no two opinions with regard to her. She was a woman of about fifty,
enough older than her brother to have been his mother, and she seemed
indeed to cherish almost a mother's idolatrous affection for him. She had
lost her husband many years before, and had been left with considerable
fortune and no family besides this one brother. So much information,
after repeated and unabashedly point-blank questions, had the Joppites
succeeded in extracting from Mr. Halloway, who with all his apparent
frankness was the most difficult person in the world ever to be brought
to talk of himself and his own affairs. But just to see Mrs. Whittridge,
with her sweet face and perfect manners, was to recognize her at once for
a gentlewoman in every sense of the word, while to be in her society, if
but for ten minutes, was to come very nearly to loving her. The Joppites
saw but one fault in her; she did not and would not visit. All who sought
her out were made more than welcome; but whether from the extreme
delicacy of her health, which rendered visiting a burden, or because of
her widow's dress of deepest mourning, which she had never laid aside, it
came to be an accepted thing that she went nowhere. It was a great
disappointment in Joppa; nevertheless it was impossible to harbor
ill-will toward this lovely, high-bred lady, who drew all hearts to
herself by the very way she had of seeming never to think of herself at
all. She won Phebe Lane's affection at once and forever with almost her
first words, spoken in the low, clear, sweet tones that sounded always
like Sunday-night's music.
"Do you know, Mr. Halloway," Phebe said to him one day, "I think it does
me more good only to hear your sister's voice than to listen to the very
best sermon ever preached."
"Miss Phebe," he rejoined, with a merry twinkle in his brown eyes, "if
you propagate that doctrine largely, I am a ruined man. I must hold you
over to eternal secrecy. But as regards the fact,—there is my hand,—I
am quite of your way of thinking! I am persuaded an angel's voice got
into Soeur Angélique by mistake." Mrs. Whittridge's baptismal name was
Angelica, but to her brother she had always been "Soeur Angélique" and
"Yes, and an angel's soul too," said Phebe.
"Even that," replied Mr. Halloway. "She is all and more than you can
possibly imagine that she is. But I positively forbid your putting her up
on a pedestal and worshipping her. In the first place, too great a sense
of her own holiness might mar her present admirable but purely earthly
management of our little household, thus seriously interfering with my
comforts. And in the second place, I feel it my duty to warn you from a
habit of canonization, which, if too extensively indulged in, will
inevitably warp your powers of frank and right judgment."
Phebe laughed, but did not forget.
One afternoon, some time later, she was at the rectory, whither she had
gone, at Mrs. Whittridge's request, to explain a new and intricate
embroidery stitch. They were upstairs in that lady's charming little
sitting-room, Phebe on a low stool by her friend's side, and Halloway had
just come in from a round of parochial visits and joined them there.
"Mrs. Whittridge," said Phebe, suddenly, "do you think it is possible to
care too much for one's friends? Mr. Halloway says one can. I know he
means that I do."
Mrs. Whittridge laid her hand caressingly on the girl's bonny brown hair.
"How can I judge, my child? I do not even know who your friends are."
"Who are they, in fact?" said Denham, drawing up a chair and seating
himself in front of the group by the table. "Oh, Miss Phebe is friends
with the entire village in a way. They all call her 'Phebe,' and keep
accurate track of her birthdays, from Dick Hardcastle up. And I am sure
she hasn't an enemy in the world. But there is this remarkable feature in
the case, that you could go over the entire population of Joppa by name
without eliciting a single thrill of enthusiasm from this really
enthusiastic young lady."
"I cannot help it," Phebe murmured, a little shamefacedly. "I bore them,
and they bore me."
"That's a point in your education I am going to take up later," remarked
Mr. Halloway, cheerfully. "The art of not being bored by people. Once
acquired, the other, that of not boring them, follows of itself. Society
hangs on it."
"I wish you would teach me that right away," said Phebe, earnestly. "I
believe I need that more than any thing else."
"Well, I will, immediately,—after supper, that is. I am exhausted now
with ministerial duties. You have asked Miss Phebe to tea have you not,
Soeur Angélique? You cannot stay? Oh, but of course you must."
"Of course she will," said Mrs. Whittridge, with her tender smile.
"Phebe only lives to give pleasure to others. Now tell me something about
your friends. Who are they?"
"I haven't any here. Mr. Halloway is quite right," answered Phebe,
locking her hands over one of Mrs. Whittridge's. "Not real, real friends.
As a child I had ever so many, and Bell Masters and I quite grew up
together, but somehow we have all grown away from each other, and—oh, I
don't know!—it seems as if there wasn't any thing in the girls here. Not
that there's more in me. They are brighter and better than I in every
way, but we don't get on together; they don't seem to have any thing to
give me, any thing they can help me to. I can't get at them. Oh! Mr.
Halloway is quite right. In all Joppa I haven't a single friend—except
just you and him."
"We are indeed your friends," said Mrs. Whittridge. "You need never
The girl turned and threw her arms impulsively around the other's neck.
"Oh, no, no!" she said. "I could not doubt it. I know it. I feel it!
Oh, you can't guess what it is to me to know it! I have so little in my
life to make it grow to any thing, and I want so much! And you can give
me all I want—all, all; and it makes me so happy when I think of
it,—that I have got you and can have all I want!"
"And is this frantic outburst meant exclusively for Soeur Angélique?"
asked Denham. "I am green with unutterable jealousy. I thought I was your
friend too, Miss Phebe."
Phebe still knelt with her arms around Mrs. Whittridge, but she looked up
at him with her frank, loving eyes and smiled. "You know I meant you
both," she said softly.
An almost irresistible impulse came over the young man to lay his hand,
as his sister had done, on the soft, bright-brown hair. Clergymen are but
human after all. He bent forward, but only lifted one of his sister's
thin white hands and held it a moment between his. "We must both do our
best by this foolish little girl who trusts us so frankly with her
friendship, must we not, Soeur Angélique?" he said gravely.
"I for one am very glad to assume the trust," said Mrs. Whittridge.
"And won't you ever tire of me? ever? ever?" asked the girl.
"You won't ever be tired helping me, or tired of having me come to you
for help, or tired of my loving you?"
"Where is your faith gone, my child?"
Phebe drew a deep sigh of content. "I am just as happy as can be," she
said. "I don't want any thing else now in the world except just Gerald."
"Ah, Gerald again. I expected that," said Mr. Halloway, raising his
"Gerald? Pray, who is Gerald?" inquired Mrs. Whittridge.
Her brother lifted his hands in mock amazement. "Is it possible you know
Miss Phebe so long and need ask who Gerald is? I will tell you. Gerald is
perfection individualized. Gerald has all the qualities, mental,
physical, and spiritual, that it is possible to compress into the limited
compass of even an overgrown human frame. Gerald, you must know, is
intellectual to a degree, beautiful as an archangel, adorable as—as you,
Soeur Angélique, and clever—almost—as myself."
Phebe clapped her hands and nodded, "Yes, yes, all that!"
"I can tell you all about Gerald," continued Halloway. "I have heard of
nothing else since I came. Gerald, my dear sister, is Miss Phebe's idol;
I rather think she says her prayers before Gerald's picture every night."
"Oh, please!" cried Phebe.
"But who is this Gerald?" asked Mrs. Whittridge. "Does he live here?"
"No, Soeur Angélique, and by the way he is not he at all, but she, and
will be known in history as Miss Geraldine Vernor. She lives in New York,
rolls in wealth, and is one of a large family of whom she is the
sun-flower. Let me give you her portrait as I have it from fragmentary
but copious descriptions. She is, I should say, five feet eleven and
three quarter inches in height—don't shake your head, Miss Phebe,—and
slender in disproportion. She has the feet of a Chinese, the hands of a
baby, and the strength of a Jupiter Ammon. She has hair six yards long
and blacker than Egyptian darkness. She has a forehead so low it rests
upon her eyebrows, which, by the way, have been ruled straight across
the immeasurable breadth of it with a T square. She has eyes bluer one
minute than the grotto at Capri, greener the next than grass in June,
grayer the next than a November day, and so on in turn through all the
prismatic colors. Her eyelashes are only not quite so long as her hair.
She has a mouth which would strike you as large,—it is five and a half
inches across,—but when she speaks, and you hear the combined wisdom of
Solomon, and Plato, and Socrates, and Solon, and the rest of the ancients
(not to mention the moderns), falling from her lips, your only wonder is
that her mouth keeps within its present limits. Her nose—Miss Phebe, can
it be? Is it possible you have left out her nose? Soeur Angélique, I am
forced to the melancholy conclusion that Gerald has none. Miss Phebe
would never have omitted mentioning it."
"You may make all the fun of her and of me that you like," said Phebe,
half provoked. "But there is not anybody else in the world like Gerald
Vernor. Wait till you see her. You will say then that I was right, only
that I did not say enough."
"You shan't tease her, Denham. Tell me, Phebe, where did you know this
friend so well?"
"Three years ago, when she spent a summer here, I saw a great deal of
her,—oh, it made it such a happy summer, knowing her!—and I have
corresponded with her ever since."
"Without meeting her again?"
"Oh, no. I saw her twice last summer. I went to the train both times to
see her as she passed through."
"But our trains don't pass through; they stop here."
"Yes, I know; but I went to Galilee to meet her as she passed
"Would she have gone as far as that to meet you, Miss Phebe?"
"That is very different, Mr. Halloway," answered Phebe, simply. "I am not
worth going so far for. Besides, I don't expect people ever to do as much
for me as I would for them."
"Denham, you are cruel," said Mrs. Whittridge. "Phebe, my child, your
love for your friend is to me sufficient proof that she must be lovely. I
know I should love her too."
Phebe looked at her gratefully. "Oh, you would,—you would indeed!
You could not help it. You would admire her so much. There is so
much in her."
"Ah, yes, I forgot," interrupted Denham, "I did not finish my portrait.
This marvellous being is an athlete. She can ride any Bucephalus
produced, and rather prefers to do so bareback. She is a Michael Angelo
at painting, and has represented striking scenes from his 'Last Judgment'
on a set of after-dinner coffee cups. She drives, she skates, she swims,
she rows, she sails, has a thorough knowledge of business, and is up in
stocks, is femininely masculine and masculinely feminine, scorns novels,
and can order a dinner, is a churchwoman, and dresses always in the
latest style. Is there any thing else, Miss Phebe?"
"Only one thing else that I think you have rather forgotten, Mr.
Halloway: I love her and she is my friend."
"Miss Phebe," cried the young man in instant contrition, "have I hurt
you? Have I been thoughtless enough for that with my foolish fun? You
know I did not mean it. Will you forgive me?" He held out his hand.
Phebe hesitated. "Will you not make fun of her any more? And will you
like her if she comes? You know she may come here this summer; there is
just a chance of it. Will you promise?"
"I can safely promise to like any one whom you like, I know, Miss Phebe.
Soeur Angélique, make this stubborn child give me her hand. It is not
fitting that I crave absolution so abjectly."
"You are two silly children together," said Soeur Angélique, rising and
laughing. "You may settle your quarrels as you can while I order tea."
"Miss Phebe, have I really vexed you so much?" asked the young man,
earnestly, as his sister left the room. "You must know I would not do
that for the world."
"I don't think you could hurt or vex me in any way," said Phebe,
"excepting only through Gerald. For you don't know how I love her, Mr.
Halloway. I love her with all my heart and soul, I think, oh,
more—almost more—than any one else in the world."
"I know you do," he answered. "It is a love to envy her." Phebe was still
looking up at him from her low stool, her face raised as if in appeal.
She always looked very young for her years, and now she seemed not more
than a child of sixteen in the waning light. He could not help it this
time; he laid his hand very lightly for one briefest instant on her
pretty hair. "But you will not be less friends with me because I like
"I will not ever be less friends with you," Phebe replied, soberly. "I
don't change so."
"No," he said; "I know you do not. Nor do I."
And then he moved away from her, and began telling an irresistibly comic
story about a call he had made on a poor woman that afternoon (he could
not for the life of him help seeing the ludicrous side of every thing),
and from one subject they passed to another, and when Soeur Angélique
summoned them to tea, she found her reverend brother standing in the
middle of the room in the full swing of a chorus from "The Pirates," with
Phebe whistling the liveliest possible accompaniment, and both of them
gesticulating wildly. He stopped with a laugh as his sister appeared in
"Don't be shocked, Soeur Angélique. I shut the window lest Mrs. Upjohn
should chance to go by and hear me. She would telegraph the Bishop. I am
only resting. It wore me out working for Miss Phebe's pardon. No; wait a
moment, Soeur Angélique. Don't let's go to tea instantly. I would rather
quiet down a little before I go in and say grace." He took up a chance
book from the table, and turning to the window to catch the light, read a
few lines to himself, then threw it down, and came forward with a smile.
"There, I am ready now. Take my arm, Soeur Angélique. Miss Phebe, will
you come, please?"
MRS. UPJOHN'S ENTERTAINMENT.
Mrs. Upjohn was going to give an entertainment. She was about to open the
hospitable doors of the great house upon the hill, which seemed to have
chosen that pre-eminence that it might the better overlook the morals of
its neighbors. Joppa held its breath in charmed suspense. The question
was not, Will I be asked? that was affirmatively settled for every
West-End Joppite of party-going years; nor was it, What shall I wear?
which was determined once for all at the beginning of the season; but,
What will be done with me when I get there? For to go to Mrs. Upjohn's
was not the simple thing that it sounded. She wished it to be distinctly
understood that she did not ask people to her house for their amusement,
but for their moral and spiritual improvement; any one could be amused
anywhere, but she wished to show her guests that there were pleasanter
things than pleasure to be had even in social gatherings, and to teach
them to hunger and thirst after better than meat and drink, while at the
same time she took pains always to provide a repast as superior to the
general run as her sentiments, quite atoning to the Joppites for the
spiritual accompaniments to her feast by its material and solid
magnificence, which lingered appetizingly in their memories long after
they had settled their consequent doctors' bills. Yes, the Joppites were
not asked to Mrs. Upjohn's to eat and drink only, or merely to have a
good time, with whatever ulterior intentions of so doing they may have
gone thither. They were asked for a purpose,—a purpose which it was vain
to guess, and impossible to escape. Go they must, and be improved they
must, bon gré mal gré, and enjoy themselves they would if they could.
So there were mingled feelings abroad when Mrs. Upjohn's neatly written
invitations found their way into each of the West-End houses, embracing
natives and strangers alike in their all-hospitable sweep, and even
creeping into some outlying less aristocratic quarters, where confusion
worse confounded, in the shape of refurbishing and making over, followed
agonizingly in their wake. The invitations were indited by Miss Maria
Upjohn, it being an opportunity to improve that young lady's handwriting
which her mother could not have conscientiously suffered to pass, and
stated that Mr. and Mrs. Reuben O. Upjohn requested the honor of your
company on Thursday, July 14th, punctually at four o'clock. R.S.V.P.
Joppa immediately R.S.V.P.'d that it would feel flattered to present
itself at that hour, and then looked anxiously around and asked itself
"What will it be this time?" The day dawned, and still the great question
agitated public minds unsolved.
"There isn't a word to be coaxed or threatened out of Maria," said Bell
Masters. "I believe it's something too awful to tell. Mr. De Forest,
can't you hazard a guess?"
Mr. Ogden De Forest was lazily strolling past the Masters' front steps,
where a knot of girls had gathered after a game of lawn tennis, and were
imbibing largely of lemonade, which was being fabricated on the spot,
according to demand, by Phebe and Janet Mudge. The spoons stopped
clinking in the various glasses as Bell thus audaciously called out to
the gentleman. He was not a Joppite by either birth or education; indeed,
he had but lately arrived on his first visit as a summer guest, and was
hardly known to anybody personally as yet, though there was not a girl in
the place but was already perfectly well aware of his existence, and had
placed him instantly as "one of the very swellest of the swells." He was
a short, dark, well-dressed man, and so exceedingly handsome that every
feminine heart secretly acknowledged that only to have the right to bow
to him would be a joy and pride indescribable. And here was Bell, who had
accidentally been introduced to him the day before, calling to him as
unceremoniously as if he were Dick Hardcastle or Jake Dexter. He turned
at her voice and paused at the gate, lifting his hat. "I beg you pardon,
Miss Masters, you called me?"
"Yes," said Bell. "Have some lemonade?"
"Thanks, not this morning. I shall see you later at Mrs. Upjohn's,
"Yes, you'll see us all later," said Miss Bell, fishing out a lemon-seed
from her goblet. "We shall have on different dresses, and you'll be
offering us lemonade instead of our offering it to you. Take a good look
at us so as to see how much prettier we are now than we shall be then."
Mr. De Forest obeyed literally, staring tranquilly and critically at each
in turn, his glance returning slowly to the young lady of the house.
"Unless you introduce me to your friends I shall not be able to tell them
so," he replied, in the slow, deliberate voice that seemed always to have
a ring of suppressed sarcasm in it, no matter what he said.
"Then I'll certainly not introduce you," said Bell, composedly, with a
saucy shot at him from her handsome black eyes. "And so I'll be the only
girl to get the compliment. Phebe, more sugar, please."
"I will endeavor to work one up between now and then regardless of cost.
Four o'clock, I believe. What is it to be? A dance?"
"Holy Moses! at Mrs. Upjohn's!"
"Oh, she doesn't go in for that kind of thing? A card-party, then?"
"Great heavens! Mr. De Forest, are you mad? I don't doubt she struggles
with herself over every visiting card that she uses,—and
Bell gave a positive howl. "Theatricals! Hear him, girls!"
"We hear well enough. You don't give us a chance to do any thing but
listen," said Amy Duckworth, pointedly.
"My dear, you'll converse all the more brilliantly this afternoon for a
brief period of silence now," said Bell, sweetly. "Mr. De Forest, you are
not happy in your guesses."
"I have exhausted them, unless it is to be a musicale."
"No. That's what we are going to have to-morrow ourselves. I sing,
"Do you? Well, a garden party perhaps?"
"That's what the Ripleys are going to have Thursday."
"Then, so far as I can see, there is nothing left for it to be except a
failure," said De Forest, lifting his arms off the gate. "And, in view of
so much coming dissipation, I feel constrained to retire and seek a
little preparatory repose. Good-morning, Miss Masters."
"How hateful not to introduce him, Bell! And when he distinctly asked
you to! How abominably mean of you! How selfish, how horrid! I
wouldn't have done so," broke out in an indignant chorus, as the
gentleman walked off.
"Do you think I would be such a goose as to go shares in the handsomest
man Joppa ever laid eyes on, so long as I can keep him to myself?" said
Bell, honestly. "Fish for yourselves, girls. The sea is open to all, and
you may each land another as good."
Phebe's lip curled very disdainfully. What a fuss to make over a man, and
how Bell had changed in the last few years!
"Well, keep him, if you can, but I'll be even with you yet," said Amy,
with an ominous smile. "And what luck! Here comes Mr. Moulton now, and I
know him and you don't, and I'll pay you off on the spot. Good-morning,
The young gentleman stopped, in his turn, at the gate as Amy
spoke to him.
"Oh, Miss Duckworth, I was on my way to call on you."
"I will go home with you in a minute," said Amy, graciously. "I wouldn't
miss your call for any thing. But first let me introduce you to my
friends. Miss Mudge, Mr. Moulton,—Miss Lane, the Misses Dexter. You
will meet us all again at Mrs. Upjohn's. Of course, you are going?"
"Certainly, now I am told that I shall meet you there, and if you will
promise that I shan't be called upon to do any thing remarkable. I have
heard alarming reports."
"That is out of anyone's power to promise," replied Miss Duckworth. "No
genius is safe from her."
"Amy, love," broke in Bell, with infinite gentleness of tone and manner,
"you have forgotten to present your friend to me, and I cannot be so
impolite as to leave him standing outside my own gate. I am Miss Masters,
Mr. Moulton. Pray excuse the informality, and come in to share our
Mr. Moulton, nothing loath, accordingly came in, took his glass, and sat
himself just where Bell directed, on a step at her feet. Amy colored, and
there was a subdued titter somewhere in the background, and Bell calmly
resumed the reins of the conversation. "No, there is no knowing what we
shall be put through this afternoon. One time when Mrs. Upjohn had got us
all safely inside her doors, she divided us smartly into two classes, set
herself in the middle, and announced that we were there for a spelling
bee. We shouldn't say we hadn't learned something at her house. And upon
my word we did learn something. Never before or since have I heard such
merciless words as she dealt us out. My hair stands on end still when I
recollect the horrors I underwent that day."
"I'll smuggle in a dictionary," declared Mr. Moulton. "I'll be
ready for her."
"No use. She never runs twice in the same groove. It's only sure not to
be a spelling bee this time."
"When we last went there it turned out to be a French soirée," said one
of the Misses Dexter, "and she announced that there would be a penny's
fine collected at the end of the evening for each English word spoken."
"Proceeds to go to a lately imported poor family," added the sister
Dexter. "There was quite a sum raised, and the head of the family
decamped with it two days after, for Heaven knows where, leaving his wife
and infants on Mrs. Upjohn's hands poorer than ever."
But Mrs. Upjohn's entertainment proved to be neither orthographic nor
linguistic. The guests arrived punctually as bidden, and their hostess,
clad in her most splendid attire, received them with her most gracious
manner. There was nothing to foretell the fate that awaited them. Her
tall, awkward daughter stood nervously by her side. Mr. Upjohn, too, kept
there valiantly for a time, then his round, ample figure and jolly face
disappeared somewhere, under chaperonage of Mrs. Bruce, his latest
admiration. But no one ever thought of Mr. Upjohn as the host, any way;
beseemed rather to be a sort of favored guest in his own parlor; and his
place was more than made good by Mr. Hardcastle, who, standing in the
centre of the room, exactly as he always stood in the centre of
everybody's room on such an occasion, appeared himself to be quite master
of ceremonies, from the grand way in which he stepped forward to meet
each guest and hope he or she "would make out to enjoy it." The rooms
filled rapidly, and before long Mrs. Upjohn turned from the door and
stood an instant reviewing her guests with the triumphant mien of a
victorious general. Then she advanced solemnly to the middle of the room,
displacing Mr. Hardcastle, who graciously made way and waved his hand to
signify to her his permission to proceed.
"My friends," said the great lady, with her deep, positive voice, drawing
her imposing figure to its fullest height, "as you know, it is never my
way to give parties. I leave that for the rest of you to do. When I ask
you to my house, it is with a higher motive than to make a few hours lie
less heavily on your hands."
"Dear soul!" muttered Dick Hardcastle to his crony, Jake. "Nobody could
have the conscience to charge her with ever having lightened them to us."
"And therefore," continued the lady, gazing around upon her victims with
a benignant smile, "without further prelude, I will inform you for what
object I have asked you to honor me with your presence this afternoon."
She paused, and a cold chill ran through the company. What would she do?
Would she open on them with the Westminster Catechism this time, or set
them to shelling peas for some poor man's dinner, or would she examine
them in the multiplication table? A few had run it hastily over before
leaving home to make sure that they were ready for such an emergency.
"I had thought first," Mrs. Upjohn proceeded, "of a series of games as
instructive as delightful, games of history and geography, and one
particularly of astronomy, which I am persuaded would be very helpful. It
brought out the nature of the spectroscope in a remarkably clear and
intelligent light, and after a few rounds I am sure none of us could ever
again have forgotten those elusive figures relative to the distances and
proportions of the planets. However, that must be for another time. For
today I thought it would be a pleasure as well as a benefit to us all to
learn something about a gifted and noble person who, I am surprised to
find, is not so well known in Joppa as she should be, and whom, I am
convinced, we should all be infinitely the better and happier for
knowing. I have, therefore, persuaded Mr. Webb, with whose powers as a
reader long years of acquaintanceship have so pleasantly familiarized us,
to read to us this afternoon extracts from the 'Life and Letters of the
"Good Lord!" ejaculated Dick beneath his breath, "who's that?"
"Hush," whispered Jake. "I've got a novel of Miss Braddon's in my
pocket. I thought it might come in handy. That'll help us through till
"You are all familiar with the name, of course," pursued Mrs. Upjohn,
smiling graciously around the dismayed circle of her guests. "The book
has been in the library this long time past, and observing with regret
that only its first fifty pages had been cut, I caught at this invaluable
opportunity to make you further acquainted with it."
Mr. Webb now came forward, a thick, green-bound volume in his hand, and a
look on his face as if he were about to open the proceedings with a
prayer, but Mrs. Upjohn held up her hand.
"One moment, please, before we begin. We ladies are so unaccustomed to
sitting with idle hands, even when listening to so absorbing a theme as
the virtues of this truly excellent Christian wife and mother, that I
thought it would be a kindness to ourselves to provide some simple work
which should occupy our fingers and at the same time be in itself a
worthy object of industry. Maria, my dear."
The silence in the room was appalling; one could almost hear the shiver
of apprehension running down the silk-and muslin-clad backs. The sign was
given, however, by the docile Maria, and immediately two enormous baskets
were brought in: one, the smaller, containing every possible implement
for unlimited sewing by unlimited hands; the other, of alarming
dimensions, filled to overflowing with shapeless and questionable
garments of a canton-flannel coarse, so yellow, so indestructible, so
altogether unwearable and hideous, that had it been branded "charity" in
flaming letters, its object could not have been more plainly designated.
Mrs. Upjohn lifted the top article and unfolded it lovingly. It was a
night-dress, atoning in lavishness of material for deficiency in grace of
make, and would have been a loose fit for the wife of the giant Chang.
"These, ladies," she said, "as you will have guessed, are for the winter
wear of our parish poor. Though you are not all so fortunate as to belong
to our church, still I feel there is not one of you here but will be more
than glad to help forward so blessed a charity as clothing the naked"
(Mrs. Upjohn, in view of the nature of the garments, spoke even more
literally than she intended), "who none the less need your ministrations
whether you worship with us or apart. Maria, my child, Bell, Phebe,
Mattie, will you kindly distribute the work among the ladies? There is
another basket ready outside if the supply gives out. Dick, I would like
you to carry around the thimbles. Jake, here are the needles and the
spools and the scissors. If I may be permitted, ladies, I would suggest
that we should all begin with the button-holes."
Nothing but the thought of the recompense in the coming supper could
have sustained Mrs. Upjohn's doomed guests in the prospect before them.
Extracts from Baroness Bunsen, and buttonholes in canton-flannel charity
nightgowns, and a hot July afternoon, made a sum of misery that was
almost too great a tax upon even Joppian amiability.
"I say it's a shame!" cried Bell Masters, in unconcealed wrath. "The idea
of springing such a trap on us! Let Mrs. Upjohn's parish sew for its own
poor, I won't crease my fresh dress holding that great, thick lump on
my lap all the afternoon. I'm not going to be swindled into helping in
"Oh, yes you are," said Mr. Halloway, bubbling over with suppressed
merriment at the intense fun of it all. "There isn't one of you here who
will refuse. I never knew any thing so delightful and novel in my whole
life. This condensed combination, in one afternoon party of charity,
literature, and indigestion is masterly. Miss Mudge, here is a seat for
you right by Miss Masters. Miss Phebe, let me find you a chair."
And in a few moments, simply, it seemed, by the natural law of
gravitation, without any engineering whatever, Mrs. Upjohn's guests had
resolved themselves into two distinct parties, the elders all in the
drawing-room, the younger ones in the parlor across the hall, too far off
from Mr. Webb for their gay whispering to disturb that worthy as he
boldly plunged headlong at his work, to do or die written on every
feature of his thin, long face.
"So this is what the party turned out, Miss Masters, is it?" said
Moulton, pulling his moustache as he stood up beside her. "A first-class
"Charity covereth a multitude of sins," said Bell, crossly, giving a
vindictive snap with her scissors, "but it won't begin to cover the
enormity of Mrs. Upjohn's transgressions on this occasion. You gentlemen
must be very devoted to atone to us for the button-holes. There's Mr. De
Forest standing in the other room looking as if he wished he were dead.
Go and bring him here."
Thus summoned, Mr. De Forest came leisurely enough, looking, if possible,
a little more languid and blasé than he did in the morning. Bell
instantly made a place for him on the sofa by her side.
"Thanks, I would rather stand. I can take it all in better."
"Well?" asked Bell, after a pause, looking saucily up at him. "Was I
right this morning? Didn't we look prettier then?"
Bell colored rather angrily, and Phebe laughed outright. Mr. De Forest
favored her with a stare, chewed the end of his side-whiskers
reflectively a moment, then deliberately walked over to her. "Miss Lane,
Phebe bowed, but somewhat stiffly.
"Excuse me," continued De Forest, imperturbably. "There doesn't seem
to be any one to introduce us, and we know perfectly well who we each
are, you know, and I wanted to ask about a mutual friend of
Phebe brightened and softened instantly. "Oh!" she exclaimed, dropping
her work, "you know her? you have seen her? lately?"
"I know her, yes, quite well. I saw her some weeks since. I understood
then that there was a little talk of her coming up here this summer. One
of those fearful children, Olly, or Hal, or some one of the superfluous
young ones, was a little off condition,—not very well, you know,—and
the doctor said he mustn't go with the rest to the sea-shore, and she
mentioned bringing him up here to recruit. I heard her mention your name,
too, and didn't know but you might have heard something of it."
"I have, I have!" cried Phebe, her face all aglow, "She is coming,—she
and Olly. She is going to stay with me. I wrote and begged her to."
"Ah, that will be very pleasant for you. Do you expect her soon?"
"Ah!" Mr. De Forest ruminated silently a moment. "She'll be bored to
death up here, won't she?" he asked, presently.
"Then she can go home again," replied Phebe, shortly.
"True, true," said her companion, thoughtfully. "I forgot that. And she
probably will. It would be like her to go if it bored her."
"Only there's Olly," said Phebe, grimly, the light fading out of her
face a little. "She'll have to stay for him."
"Oh, no. She can put him to board somewhere and leave him. Miss Vernor
doesn't concern herself overmuch with the young ones. They are an awful
nuisance to her."
"She does every thing for them. You can't know her," said Phebe,
indignantly. "Did you say you knew her well, Mr. De Forest?"
"I don't remember just what I said, Miss Lane, but it would have been the
truth if I did, and I generally speak the truth when it's equally
convenient. Yes, I do know Miss Vernor very well, and I have worsted
her in a great many arguments,—you know her argumentative turn, perhaps?
If you will allow me, I will do myself the honor of calling upon her when
she comes,—and upon yourself, if I may have the pleasure."
"Not if you come with the intention of putting Gerald out of conceit with
Joppa. I want her to stay a long, long time."
"Don't be afraid, Miss Lane. I'll do my best to help keep her here, so
long, at least, as I stay myself. 'Aprés celà le déluge.'"
"I don't speak French."
"Ah? No? I regret it. You might have assisted me in my genders. I am
never altogether sure of them."
"Mr. De Forest," called Bell, imperatively, from the other side of the
room, displeased at the defalcation of her knight, "I want to introduce
you to Miss Mudge."
Miss Mudge tried to make Bell understand by frantic pantomime that she
hadn't meant just now,—any time would do,—but Bell chose it should be
just now; and slightly lifting his eyebrows, Mr. De Forest took his
handsome person slowly back to Bell to make an almost impertinently
indifferent bow to the new claimant upon him.
Mr. Halloway had been standing near Phebe, too near not to overhear the
conversation, and he turned to her now quickly.
"So this accounts for your beaming face," he said in a low tone, as he
took a seat just back of her in the window niche. "The mysterious Gerald
is really coming, then. I wondered what had happened as soon as I saw
you. Why did you not tell me?"
"I was only waiting till I had the chance," she answered, all the
brightness coming back into her bonny face as she smiled up at him.
"Do you think I could keep any thing so nice from you for long? It seems
to make every thing nicer when you know it too. She is coming
to-morrow,—only think,—to-morrow,—just twenty-one hours more now. I
can hardly wait!"
"It will be a great happiness to her, surely, to see you again,"
"That's what she writes in her letter. At least she says: 'I shall be
glad to see you again, Phebe, my dear' Isn't that nice? 'Phebe, my dear,'
she says. That is a great deal for Gerald to say."
"Is it? But I believe some young ladies are less effusive with their pens
than with their tongues."
"It isn't Gerald's nature ever to be effusive. But oh, I'm so glad she's
coming! I only got her letter last night. See, doesn't she write a nice
hand?" And cautiously, lest any one else should see too, Phebe slipped an
envelope into Denham's hand. He bent back behind the lace curtains to
"Do you generally carry about your letters in your pocket, Miss Phebe?"
"No, only Gerald's. I love so always to have something of hers near me.
Isn't it a nice hand?"
Halloway looked silently at the upright, angular, large script. "It's
"But you don't like it?"
"Miss Phebe, I am torn between conflicting truth and politeness. It is
like a man's hand, if I must say something."
"And so are her letters like a man's. Read it and see. Oh, she wouldn't
mind! There is nothing in it, and yet somehow it seems just like Gerald.
Do read it. Oh, I want you to. Please, please do."
And led half by curiosity, half by the eagerness in Phebe's pretty face,
Denham opened the letter and read, Phebe glancing over it with him as if
she couldn't bear to lose sight of it an instant.
"DEAR PHEBE," so ran the letter, "your favor of 9th inst. rec. I
had no idea of intruding ourselves upon you when I asked you to look
up rooms, but as you seem really to want us"—("seem!" whispered
Phebe, putting her finger on the word with a pout)—"I can only say
we shall be very glad to come to you. You may look for Olly and
myself Friday, July 15th, by the P.M. train. Olly isn't really ill, only
run down. He is as horrid a little bear as ever. All are well, and
started last week for Narragansett Pier. I shall rejoice to get away
from the art school and guilds, which keep on even in this intemperate
weather, and I shall be glad to see you again, Phebe, my dear,"
(Phebe looked up triumphantly in Denham's face as she reached the
words.) "Remember me to Mrs. Lane and Miss—, I can't think
of her name,—Aunt Lydia, I mean.
"P.S.—Olly only drinks milk."
Phebe took back the letter and folded it up. "Well?" she said.
"Well?" said Denham, looking at her and smiling.
"It's just like her," declared Phebe. "It's so downright and to the
point. Gerald never wastes words."
"You said it was like a man's letter," said Denham. "But I must beg leave
to differ with you there. I don't think it is at all such a letter as I
would have written you, for instance."
"Of course not. It wouldn't be proper for you to say 'Phebe, my dear,' as
Gerald does. Yours would have to be a very dignified, pastoral letter."
"Yes, addressed to 'My Lamb,' which you couldn't object to in a pastoral
letter of course, and which sounds nearly as affectionate, blaming you
for having caused me to lose the valuable information I might have gained
about the Baroness Bunsen. I never got much farther than her birth in
that famous history. I see poor Miss Delano casting longing glances in
here. I'll smuggle her in among you young people."
He departed on his errand of mercy, and soon had the timid little old
maid in the more congenial atmosphere of the parlor, where little by
little, though in a very stealthy and underhand way, the talk grew more
general, and the restraint slackened more and more, until sewing and
reading were both forgotten and the fun became fast and furious,
culminating in the sudden appearance of Jake Dexter dressed up as an
ancient and altogether unlovely old woman, whom Dick Hardcastle presented
in a stage whisper as "Baroness Bunsen in the closing chapter," and who
forthwith proceeded to act out in dumb show the various events of that
admirable woman's life, as judiciously and sonorously touched upon by Mr.
Webb in the drawing-room opposite. Jake was a born actor, and having
"done up" the Baroness, he proceeded to "do up" several other noted
historical characters, not omitting a few less celebrated contemporaries
of his own, each representation better and truer to life than the last;
and winding up with snatching away their work from the young ladies' not
unwilling hands, and piling it in heaps on the floor around him, he sat
himself in the middle with an armful hugged close and an air of comically
mingled resignation and opulence, and announced himself as "a photo from
life of ye destitute poor of Joppa."
Mrs. Upjohn may have had suspicions that all was not going on precisely
as she had planned in that other half of her domains which she had
surrendered to Maria's feeble guardianship, but it certainly could not
be laid to her blame if young people would amuse themselves even at her
house. If they wilfully persisted in neglecting the means of grace she
had conscientiously provided for them, so much the worse for them, not
for her; and if Mr. Upjohn found the contemplation of Mrs. Bruce's
profile, and her occasional smiles at him as she bent over her ugly
work, not sufficient of an indemnity for his enforced silence, and
chose to sneak over to the young people's side and enjoy himself too,
as an inopportune and hearty guffaw from thence testified just at the
wrong moment, when Mr. Webb had reached the culminating point of the
Baroness' death, and was drawing tears from the ladies' eyes by the
irresistible pathos of his voice,—why, Mrs. Upjohn owned in her heart
that it was only what might be expected of him, and that she couldn't
help that either.
So at last the reading came to an end. Everybody said it had been
unprecedentedly delightful, and they should never forget that dear
Baroness so long as they lived, and they thought Mrs. Upjohn herself
might have sat for the original of the biography, so identical were her
virtues with those of the departed saint, and so exactly did she resemble
her in every particular except just in the outward circumstances of her
life. And Mrs. Upjohn modestly entreated them to desist drawing so
unworthy a comparison, and said it was an example of a life they should
each and all do well to imitate so far as in them lay, and then she went
about collecting the nightgowns, and (oh, cruellest of all!) inspecting
the button-holes. It was an excellent day's work, she reported, fanning
herself vigorously, and Miss Brooks, as champion button-hole-maker,
having made three more than any one else, should have the post of honor
and be taken in to supper by Mr. Upjohn, who was routed out from the
parlor for the purpose, very red in the face, and still convulsed with
laughter. Mrs. Bruce may have suspected this to be designed as a neat way
of cutting her out, but there is no knowing to what lengths a flippant
widow's imagination will not go, and any way Mr. Upjohn quite atoned
afterward for any temporary neglect, by paying her the most assiduous
attentions right in the face of his wife, who apparently did not care a
straw, and only thought her husband a little more foolish than usual. Did
not everybody know that it was only Mr. Upjohn's way, and that it did not
mean any thing?
And so the doors were thrown open, supper was announced, and Joppa, as it
swarmed around the loaded tables, felt that its hour of merited reward
was come; and Mr. Hardcastle, when at last he could eat and drink no
more, stood up and pronounced, in the name of the united assembly, that
Mrs. Upjohn's entertainment had been a very, very great success, as all
that dear Mrs. Upjohn undertook always was sure to be, and particularly
those devilled crabs were unapproachable for perfection. Nobody could
make him believe that even the Baroness Bunsen with all her learning
could ever have spiced them better.
Several days later, as Mr. Halloway was leaving the rectory one
afternoon, he saw Phebe standing in her door-way, and crossed to
speak to her.
"Alone?" he asked, smiling. "I supposed that now you would never be
without a shadow."
"Gerald is up-stairs dressing. She is going to ride with Mr. De Forest.
He has been to see her twice already, and you have not called yet." There
was the faintest possible reproach in her voice and in her eyes.
"I have been really busy the last few days, Miss Phebe. You may know
there is always some desperate reason when I am long absent. But here I
am now. Shall I send in my card for Miss Vernor? Must I do it up in New
York or Joppa style?"
Phebe laughed. "Never mind the card, Gerald will be down soon. It is
nearly time, and she is always so punctual. What is it, Olly, dear?"
An ugly little boy, with a pale, pinched face and impish eyes, was
pulling smartly at her dress.
"I say, Pheeb, can I have a cookie?"
"Does Gerald let you have cookies between meals, Olly?"
"Yes," answered Olly, unhesitatingly. "Always."
"What's that?" broke in an unexpected voice behind,—a clear,
ringing, decided voice. "I will not have you tell such lies, Olly!
Why will you do it!"
"I'll have the cookie anyhow," said Olly, starting on a run. "Pheeb said
I could, and this is Pheeb's house, and I will."
"And you won't," said the voice, sharply. There was a scuffle, a rush,
the sound of a smart box on the ear, a sudden childish howl, and Olly
fled back to Phebe and buried his face in her dress. Phebe folded her
arms protectingly around him, and looked up appealingly at the tall,
slender figure approaching.
"Oh, Gerald, must you?"
"Phebe, I can't have you spoil that boy so. I won't have him a liar and a
gourmand; he's bad enough without that. Olly, stop bawling this moment."
"I won't," screamed Olly. "You hurt me, you did, and if I can't have a
cookie I'll cry just as loud as ever I can; so there!"
"Then you'll cry in the house and not on the front steps. I won't have
it. Come in immediately."
And holding up her habit with one hand, the young lady reached out with
the other,—a very small and white but determined-looking little hand
Denham noticed (from where he stood he could not see her face)—and
wrenching the child by no means gently away from Phebe, she dragged him
with her toward the parlor.
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" cried Olly, vociferously, doing
battle valiantly with hands and feet as he went. "I hate you every day
worse than ever!"
"Hate me all you like," said Gerald, with utmost coolness and disdain. "I
leave you perfectly free in that direction, but you shan't tell lies or
disobey me. Now stay in there and be still."
And closing the door on the sobbing culprit, she came slowly back to
Phebe, still scowling and pressing her lips firmly together as she drew
on her gauntlets. "Little wretch!" she muttered.
"Gerald, please," said Phebe, flushing scarlet with mortification, "here
is Mr. Halloway. I want to introduce him to you."
Gerald stopped abruptly and looked up. She had not seen him before. A
fleet, faint color tinged her clear cheeks an instant, but there was no
other sign of embarrassment or annoyance as her dark blue eyes met his
with the singularly penetrating gaze with which they looked out on all
the world. There was no denying it. With her clear-cut, aristocratic
face, and her slim, straight figure, stately perhaps rather than
graceful, and a trifle haughty in its unbending erectness, Gerald Vernor
was very, very handsome.
"I am happy to meet you at last, Miss Vernor," said Denham, with his
pleasant smile. "But you are no stranger to me, I assure you. Miss Phebe
made us all friends of yours long since."
Gerald's brows contracted. "Phebe is very kind," she said, with quite
the opposite from gratitude in her voice, "but I hate to be talked about
beforehand. One starts on a false basis from the first. Besides, it gives
every one else the advantage over one."
"To be sure," replied Denham, "we cannot expect you to know us as
well from hearsay. It would be too much to hope that Miss Phebe
should have had as much to say for any of the rest of us." He turned
laughingly to Phebe as he spoke, and she looked at him with eyes full
of implicit faith.
"No," she said, simply; "I haven't told Gerald any thing about you, only
your name. She will find it all out for herself so much better than I can
"I am afraid I am not very good at finding people out," remarked Gerald,
bluntly, "unless I am extraordinarily interested in them—"
"Which I imagine you generally are not," interrupted Denham.
"True," she answered, smiling a little, "which I generally am not; I am
content with a very superficial knowledge. The world is crowded so full,
where could one stop who set out to know thoroughly all he met?"
"It is a bitter thought that you will never know more of me than just the
color of my beard," said Denham, reflectively, "but if such is your habit
I suppose I must resign myself to it. Now, I am exactly the reverse from
you; I am always extraordinarily interested in everybody."
"Ah, because as a clergyman you must be."
"No; simply because it happens to be my nature. One has one's individual
characteristics, you know, quite independently of one's profession."
"Yes, in other professions; but in yours—"
"But we are men first, Miss Vernor, afterward clergymen. Why may we not
keep our distinct idiosyncrasies, even in our clerical uniform?"
Gerald slashed her dress gently with her riding whip. "It seems to me as
if you should all be clergymen first and men afterward, fitting
yourselves to the profession rather than the profession to you; and so by
all confessedly following one pattern, you would be necessarily drawn
into a greater similitude with each other than any other class of men.
Ah, here is Mr. De Forest at last."
"At last?" repeated that gentleman as he joined the group, or rather
paused just beyond it, surveying Gerald with a critical glance which
seemed to take in accurately at one swift sweep every least detail of her
dress. "My watch stands at the minute, Miss Vernor."
"And here come the horses," added Phebe.
"Not much to boast of," said De Forest, turning the severe criticism of
his look upon the animals as the boy brought them up. "I wouldn't let you
be seen in Central Park with them. However, they are the best Joppa can
do for us. They are not very good-natured brutes either, but I believe
you look to a horse's hoofs rather than his head."
"I do, decidedly," laughed Gerald, as De Forest raised her deftly to the
saddle and arranged bridle and girths to her liking, turning to tighten
his own before mounting, and kicking away a small dog that had run up to
sniff at his heels.
"What did you bring along this ugly little beast of yours for, Jim? I
"Tain't none of mine, Mister," said the stable-boy, grinning. "It's
one of them street dogs that ain't nobody's." And he in his turn gave
a push to the puppy, while Gerald leaned down and hit at it lightly
with her whip.
"Get away, my friend. There isn't room both for you and for us here," she
said, turning her horse toward it playfully as the little creature slunk
aside. In another instant her horse kicked violently, there was a single
sharp yelp, and the dog lay motionless in the road.
"Hi!" exclaimed Jim, quite in accents of admiration, as he ran up and
bent over the poor thing. "That was a good un! Right on the head! He
won't trouble any other genelman again, I'm thinking."
"What!" cried Gerald, sharply. "You don't mean the dog is dead?"
"Don't I?" said the boy, moving a little aside so that she should see.
"That was a neat un and no mistake."
Gerald looked down with a cry of horror; then suddenly sprang from her
horse and caught up the poor little limp animal in her arms.
"Take away the horse," she said to the boy, imperiously. "I shall not
"But, Miss Vernor!" expostulated De Forest, "for heaven's sake don't
take it so to heart. It's unfortunate, of course, but no one is to blame.
Do put the thing down. It's dead. You can't do any thing more for it."
"I know it," said Gerald. "I did all I could; I killed him. But you'll
have to excuse me, Mr. De Forest, I can't ride."
De Forest caught her by the arm impatiently, as she turned from him.
"What nonsense, Miss Vernor! What is the good of playing tragedy queen
over a dead dog? I'll have him buried in a silver coffin if you like and
raise a memorial to his inestimable virtues, but in the name of all that
is sensible, do get on the horse again and let us have our ride."
"Not to-day," replied Gerald. "I could not. It is impossible." She
looked up at him, holding the little victim pressed close in her arms,
utterly regardless of its rough and grimy coat. Her eyes were swimming
"As you decide, of course," said De Forest, sulkily, releasing her, and
tossing his bridle to the boy. "Here you, Sim, or Tim, or Jim, or
whatever you are, take away the horses, and as you value your tip, mind
you don't have any more dogs around the next time I want you."
Gerald turned away without another word, gathering up her dress as she
best could, and went into the house. Olly, who had witnessed the whole
proceeding enchantedly from the window, ran to meet her. "I say, let's
see him. My, ain't he dirty! Is he dead? just as dead as he can be?"
"Yes," answered his sister, very gently; "the poor thing is quite dead.
Come and help me bury him decently somewhere. No, Phebe, stay there. I
wish it. Don't let us have any more fuss about it, please."
De Forest lifted his hat and turned to leave as Gerald disappeared. "Pray
don't let me detain you from the interesting ceremony, Miss Lane," he
said, with his most cynical and mocking voice; "Miss Vernor as
high-priestess will be worth a full audience. Good-morning."
"Gerald wouldn't like it if I went to her when she said not; I must
stay here," said Phebe turning her distressed face to Halloway, who had
stood a silent spectator of it all. "Oh, I'm so sorry it happened!
Isn't it too bad?"
"It certainly is,—for the dog."
"She won't get over it for ever so long, and it wasn't really her fault.
She was only in fun when she turned her horse that way. Gerald is very
"I see she is,—toward dogs."
"Mr. Halloway, you don't like her!"
"Miss Phebe, I am madly in love with her."
"Don't laugh at me, please. Isn't she handsome?"
"Well, I couldn't judge of the length of her hair."
"Nonsense, tell me what you really think of her."
Denham pondered a moment. "I think all sorts of things," he answered
presently, with an amused laugh. "She is so contradictory she'll fit
almost any opinion, and the worst I can say of her is that she'll never
concern herself in the least to find out what my opinion may be."
"Ah," said Phebe, softly, "just wait. You don't either of you know each
Gerald's and Olly's visit was quite an event in the quiet Lane household.
Olly flagrantly broke every existing custom in it with the sublime
autocracy of childhood, and regained his health at the cost of the peace
of mind of every individual with whom he came in contact, from nervous
Miss Lydia down to the protesting servants; while Gerald was one of those
intense personalities whose influence seems to recreate the entire
atmosphere about them at once, go where they will. Poor Miss Lydia was
afraid of her quick speech and brusque ways and decided opinions, and
spent more hours than usual upstairs alone in her own little room, and
wore her best cap whenever she appeared below, as a sort of mute appeal
to the young lady's indulgence. But Gerald, in her robust health, had no
sympathy whatever with invalids as a class, and for "chronic nerves" she
had an absolute contempt, unmitigated by even the best cap's gay ribbons.
"It's altogether a matter of will," she asserted. "People needn't be ill
if they are only resolved not to be so."
"Humph!" said Mrs. Lane, who had chanced to overhear; and there was a
trifle more tenderness than usual in her manner when she went up later to
put the mid-day cup of beef-tea into her sister's thin hands, and stood
looking compassionately down at her. "Nothing is easier than to insist
that a thing is so and so, just because there's no way to prove that it
"How you do always talk in proverbs, Sister Sophy!" said Miss Lydia,
admiringly. "I only wish Solomon could have heard you. I do believe he
would have put some of them in."
"He would have been far too busy taking down Mrs. Upjohn's fine speeches
to mind me," grunted Mrs. Lane. "And I never did think much of Solomon,
anyway. He was too much of a Mormon with his hundred wives and that. Want
any thing else, Lyddy?"
"No, thank you. The house is very nice and still this morning. There's
a picnic up at the Dexter's farm, isn't there? I suppose they've all
gone to it."
"Of course. Who ever heard of a picnic unless Phebe went along to do all
the fussing and mussing that everybody else shirks? Don't tell me
there's any fun in a picnic,—going off in the woods like that, to do for
yourself what you'd sell the clothes off your back to have somebody else
do for you at home, and eating all kinds of heathenish messes with your
fingers because you've forgotten the forks. But what people like let them
have. They'll get experience out of it if nothing better. And of course
Phebe had to go."
True enough, Phebe was as essential to any picnic as the feast, though
much less obtrusively so, and Gerald watched her friend's quiet
helpfulness with lazy interest. She herself was stretched at ease on the
clean, fresh grass under some glorious old trees. The place chosen was a
lovely spot at the head of the lake; the drive there had been long and
hot, and now she lay enjoying to the full the refreshment of the shadow
and the breeze, and the perfection both of the view and of her immediate
surroundings. Bell Masters sat near her, having discovered that she was
generally surest of Mr. De Forest's company when in Gerald's
neighborhood. Nor had she been mistaken this time. He had openly
abandoned the greedy band of berry-pickers, and the artistic knot of
sketchers, and the noisy body of pleasure-seekers, who were paddling
frivolously around the shores of the lake and screaming with causeless
laughter, as soon as he found that Gerald did not intend attaching
herself to any of them but had struck out the new and independent line of
doing absolutely nothing at all. Halloway had been helping industriously
with the fire, but he came toward the group under the trees when his
services seemed no longer required.
"You look most invitingly comfortable," he said, fanning himself with his
hat. "We must try to coax Miss Phebe here for a rest."
"Pray don't," said De Forest, lifting a lazy hand with an air of finding
even that motion too great an effort. "At least not till the coffee is
well under way. I tasted a cup of her make yesterday. Don't call her off.
We are all benefiting in a manner by her absence."
"I can make good coffee too, when I choose," said Bell, biting at the
rim of her straw hat.
De Forest contemplated her with new interest. "Ah, can you. 'Tis a gift
of the gods given to few. And when do you choose, may I ask? Apparently
"'Tisn't my picnic."
"Oh! Is it Miss Lane's?"
"One would say it was, from the way she slaves for it," remarked Gerald.
"Why don't you help too?" asked De Forest, breaking off blades of grass
and flinging them out singly upon the air.
"For Miss Masters' excellent reason: it is not my picnic."
"You contribute your valuable aid solely to your own undertakings then?"
"Why am I called upon to contribute it to any other?"
"'Tis a problem for philosophers. But for argument's sake, let us say for
the good of humanity at large, and of the Dexters in particular."
"I am not bound to the Dexters by any obligation that I can see to help
them carry out their entertainment. If they are not equal to it, they
should not give it."
"Nothing Quixotic about you, is there?" said De Forest, looking at her
"Nothing whatever," replied Gerald, easily. "Why should there be? Let
every one look out for himself."
"And if some can't?"
"That is no business of mine. It's simply my business to make sure that I
can look after myself."
"What an outrageously frank exposure of a universally concealed
sentiment! Mr. Halloway is scandalized. He is thinking how he can fit a
scorching text to it to wither you with next Sunday."
"No; here is a sermon ready made on the spot," said Denham, as Phebe came
slowly toward them. "Miss Lane in herself is a sufficient illustration of
the opposite doctrine."
"Prove it," answered Gerald, shrugging her shoulders. "Prove that Phebe,
who toils for everybody, is any happier than I, who only follow my
"You certainly look vastly the more comfortable at present," said De
Forest, looking from Gerald's cool cheeks and unruffled muslin flounces
to Phebe's flushed face and tumbled cambric. "You are a practical
embodiment of the beauty and expediency of selfishness."
"What are you talking about?" asked Phebe, coming up and leaning wearily
against a tree.
"About you and Miss Vernor," explained Bell. "Which of you is happier?
I should say Miss Vernor decidedly."
A loving look came into Phebe's eyes, as she glanced down at Gerald.
"Miss Vernor, of course", she said, with a very tender inflection of
voice. "Being what she is, how can she help being the happier?"
"Virtue advocating vice," said De Forest. "Mr. Halloway, your sermon is a
dead failure,—as a sermon."
"By no means," answered Denham, smiling. "I don't expect to convert
you in a single lesson. Will you not sit down with us, Miss Phebe? You
"Not just yet, thank you."
"And why not?" asked Gerald.
"I want to see a little after Miss Delano first. She's off there all
alone hunting for ferns."
"Well," persisted Gerald, "what of it? Are you fonder of her society than
ours, that you must run after her?"
"I am not fonder of any one's society than of yours, Gerald."
"But are you fond of that tiresome creature at all? Confess it; doesn't
she bore you to death with her interminable grasshopper chatter?"
Phebe glanced at Halloway, and laughed a little as she moved away.
"Oh, I am learning by degrees not to be bored by people,—not even by
"Now, will any one explain why she should wish to teach herself not to
know a bore from a Christian?" exclaimed Gerald, impatiently. "It is
quite beyond me."
"But do you really never talk to anybody unless you want to, Miss
Vernor?" asked Bell, disagreeably conscious that Gerald had not
voluntarily addressed her once that morning.
"Never," replied Gerald, staring out at the lake.
"Don't you ever do any thing you don't want to, because you ought to?"
"I don't always see the ought. For instance, why should I put myself out
to entertain Miss Delano as Phebe does?"
"I don't know," muttered Bell. "I wouldn't, I am sure. She is
"One might imagine reasons for the self-sacrifice, I suppose," said De
Forest, making a languid snatch at a butterfly fluttering near. "The
possibility, we will say, that it might please the gentle old babbler
to come under the condescension of your notice. How would that do for
"Why should I want to please her?" insisted Gerald, removing a hideous
beetle from her dress with all possible care lest she should hurt it. "I
don't want to. I don't care for her, nor she for me. Why should I put
myself out for her? What claim has she on me that I should displease
myself to please her?"
"Let us see," said Denham, ruminatingly. "Miss Delano's pleasure against
Miss Vernor's displeasure, or _vice versa, Miss Vernor's pleasure against
Miss Delano's displeasure. Yes; the balance of pleasure remains quite
the same whichever lady has it. Apart from principle, the logic is
"It is admirable," commented De Forest. "I always did like logic so much
better than moral philosophy. Hello, what's the matter now?"
There was a wail of distress somewhere in the distance.
Gerald turned her shapely head and listened a moment. "It's only Olly,"
she said, composedly. "I recognize the cry. He isn't hurt. Oh, you
needn't go, Mr. Halloway; Olly never comes to any harm. He's only
quarrelling with some one."
De Forest raised himself on his elbow to listen, while Halloway walked
off in the direction of the outburst. "There are possibilities lurking in
picnics, you know," he remarked, resuming his recumbent position, "mad
bulls, and rabbit traps, and fine chances for a drown now and then. But I
suppose we needn't trouble ourselves, Mr. Halloway'll see to it. Besides,
Olly bears the charmed life of the wicked. Miss Masters, I hope you
remember to give daily thanks that you haven't any small brothers."
"I do devoutly give thanks that I haven't any sisters," said Bell, with
an unaffectionate glance toward Gerald. "I should hate them."
And so the desultory talk rambled on, the little group growing larger by
degrees as the approaching luncheon hour brought back the stragglers, and
with them Olly, trotting contentedly along, clinging to Halloway's hand,
meek as any lamb.
"What were you doing when you cried out so a little while ago?" asked
Gerald, going up to the child.
Olly looked at her with instant defiance in his eyes. "I hurt my foot."
"You know perfectly well you can't deceive me, Olly. Tell me the truth.
What mischief were you at?"
"I tell you I hurt my foot, and it hurt like mischief, and that's all the
mischief there was. I wish it had been your foot, and I wouldn't have
cried a bit."
Halloway was turning aside, but Gerald appealed to him. "Is he telling
"Yes," answered Denham, dryly. "He was racing with the Anthony boys and
fell, but, as you see, he's right enough now."
"Ya-ah!" said Olly, and leered into her face with brotherly disrespect.
"I'll tell you a lie next time if you'd rather. Ya-ah!"
Gerald looked as if she were going to shake him on the spot, and to
prevent any such catastrophe Denham suddenly seized the little fellow and
put him through a number of acrobatic feats in breathless succession,
till he was fairly hustled into good temper and everybody around was
laughing, even Gerald. Jake Dexter was instantly incited to display some
marvellous limber-jointed powers of his own, and had just demonstrated to
the assembled company, to his and their entire satisfaction, that the
impossible is after all sometimes possible, when luncheon was announced
by the ringing of a cow-bell, and a gay onslaught upon the usual picnic
table, rich in luxuries and poor in necessities, superseded for the nonce
all less material forms of amusement.
Later in the afternoon Halloway wandered off from the rest for one of the
solitary strolls that he preferred to companionship as being less
lonely,—a feeling often experienced when fate and not choice appoints
one's comrades,—and returning leisurely along the banks of the lake,
he came upon a little group of picnickers, and stopped unperceived beyond
them, to enjoy for a while that comfortable sense of being in the world
yet out of it, which is the birthright of all spectatorship. Gerald and
Phebe were skipping stones, thoroughly absorbed in energetic enjoyment of
the simple game; their two contrasting figures, Gerald dark and tall and
slim, and Phebe so round and fair and supple, making a pretty-enough
picture for any artist. Olly, little Maggie Dexter, and an assortment of
sturdy urchins known throughout Joppa only as the Anthony boys, were
dancing and chattering aimlessly around, and near by was drawn up a
clumsy old boat where Phebe had made a comfortable niche for Miss Delano,
who every day at about this hour was afflicted with a remarkable disorder
which had grown upon her wholly of late years, and whose symptoms, so far
as she was willing to admit them, consisted of a painful heaviness of the
eyelids, a weakness in the nape of the neck, and an irresistible tendency
to retire for a brief season within herself. A little farther off still,
having taken fortune at the flood and secured De Forest at last, Bell
Masters was embarked on another kind of craft, a thorough-going,
fully-freighted flirtation, all sails set; and through the trees were
glimpses of lazily moving figures beyond, generally in twos and twos,
following some occult rule of common division peculiar to picnics. By
degrees the children wandered off up the bank, and presently there came a
shout, followed by an evident squabble. Phebe looked around uneasily.
Gerald kept on with her sport.
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven times, Phebe. Now do better
At this juncture little Maggie ran up, her pretty brown eyes wide and her
red lips quivering. "Oh! Miss Vernor, Olly shan't do it, shall he? Do say
"Do what?" asked Gerald, pausing in the act of searching for
"Put it in the water to swim like a duck. It isn't a duck, it's a little,
little young bird he's found in a nest, and it can't swim, it can't
hardly fly. Oh, don't let him!"
"Let him!" echoed Gerald sharply. She sprang toward the children with a
bound, almost lifting Olly off his feet as she drew him back from the
water's edge. "You cruel boy!" she cried. "Give it to me directly."
"I won't!" answered Olly, trying to shake himself free from her grasp.
"It's mine, I found it."
But the small hands held him in a grip as strong as a man's, and in
another moment Gerald had taken the poor little half-feathered creature
from him, and bidden Maggie restore it carefully to its nest.
"It's mine! It's mine! I'll have it back!" shouted Olly, angrily, after
the little girl.
Gerald took hold of him by the shoulders and turned him round toward her.
There was a great deal of hatred for the sin, and not overmuch love for
the sinner, in her face, as she looked down at him. "If you dare touch
that bird again, Olly, I'll find a punishment for you that you will not
soon forget, do you hear?"
A hidden thought of revenge for the spoiled sport came into Olly's mind.
He twisted himself away from his sister with a little grunt, and stood
peevishly playing a moment with a couple of marbles; then suddenly
darting aside, seized the boat in which Miss Delano was established,
still struggling, but more feebly, with the mysterious trouble that held
her in thrall; and with a strength with which one would hardly have
credited his slight form, he pushed it off into the water. There was, of
course, not a particle of real danger for Miss Delano, even though this
chanced to be the only boat at that point, and she was no oarswoman; but
the poor little old lady, thus suddenly roused from the strange
hallucinations (as she called them) which were the most marked feature of
her complaint, and finding herself afloat upon the unstable deep,
instantly supposed that her last hour was come. She sprang up, too
terrified to scream, with a look of deadly horror in her face, and then
sank again all in a heap in the bottom of the boat. Olly gave a fiendish
laugh, but before any one else could move to the rescue, Gerald, with one
fierce, unutterable look at her brother, and no thought but how soonest
to end Miss Delano's speechless agony, quick as a flash, caught hold of
an overhanging bough and swung herself on to a rock quite far out in the
water, and thence, with a light, bold spring, landed safely in the middle
of the boat as it drifted past.
"All right, Miss Delano," she said, briskly, seating herself and laying
hold of the oars with accustomed hands; "I'm a born sailor, and we'll
have a little row first before we go back."
Had an angel visibly descended from heaven to assume the helm, Miss
Delano could not have been more grateful and overcome. "Oh, my dear, my
dear!" she said, and, in the intensity of her relief, began to cry a
little softly. Gerald pretended not to notice her emotion (she was very
awkward as a comforter, and as shy before tears as a man), and rowed
around for a while in utter silence; and then feeling that conversation
might aid in quieting her companion's unnecessarily excited nerves she
began abruptly charging her with questions as one loads a gun with
cartridges, dropping down one after another with cruel directness into
the harmless vacancy of Miss Delano's brain. How many inhabitants had
Joppa in precise figures? what was the height of those farther hills to
the left? upon what system was the village-school governed? what was the
mineral nature of the soil? what was the fastest time ever made by that
bay mare of Mr. Upjohn's with the white hind foot? etc. etc., etc., on
all which points poor Miss Delano could only assure her timidly: "I don't
know, dear; it would be well if I did," and relapsed into an alarmed and
most uncharacteristic silence.
Phebe stood watching the boat as Gerald rowed off, then, as if
recollecting some neglected duty, turned suddenly, and found herself face
to face with Mr. Halloway.
"No farther," he said, playfully barring her passage.
"Oh, but I must! I want to find Olly and talk him into a better frame of
mind before Gerald comes back."
"Leave Olly to me, please. I am a perfect child-tamer, and guarantee to
exorcise his seven evil spirits in less than no time. Meanwhile, sit you
down and rest."
"Oh, I don't need rest. If you'll undertake Olly I'll help put back the
lunch things. Picnics are quite like the Biblical feasts: five loaves and
two fishes somehow always make twelve basketfuls to take up."
"And you are always a true disciple at the feast, Miss Phebe, intent only
upon ministering to others."
Phebe laughed her own peculiarly light-hearted, gay laugh. "That is a
much prettier way of putting it than Gerald's. She says I make myself
"Miss Gerald, of course, doesn't approve of such service."
"But you do. So I needn't mind her blame."
"But I shall blame too, Miss Phebe, when you overdo yourself. I don't see
why others' recreation need be all work for you. Let each take his share
of both the pleasure and the toil."
"But you see this is my share, Mr. Halloway, because I can't help in
any better way. I don't know enough to entertain people's guests just by
talking to them, as Gerald does. You forget how dull I am."
"So I do," said Denham, gravely. "I forget it all the time. Indeed, the
forgetfulness has quite become chronic. Now I'll find Olly, and we'll all
go at the dishes together and make a game of it."
Certainly Denham Halloway must have possessed some secret charm in his
management of children, for by the time Gerald turned her boat to the
shore, he stood at the bank to meet them, with Olly by his side, as
amiable a little fellow as any Sunday-school-book hero ever born.
"I am glad your sail turned out such a success, Miss Delano," said
Halloway, cheerily, as he lifted the little old lady carefully out on to
the pebbles. "You have been envied of us all. But here is a little boy
come to tell you all the same how sorry he is that he gave you such a
fright. Olly, my lad, I think Miss Delano looks as if she had forgiven
you through and through."
"Oh, indeed, indeed yes," answered Miss Delano, hurriedly. "It was
only my silly way of being scared, particularly when I'm roused up so
sudden out of one of those turns of mine. And it's all right, my dear,
"But I'm sorry, real and honest," declared Olly, stoutly, looking
squarely in Miss Delano's kindly face. "And I didn't mean to scare you."
"You meant it for a revenge on me, I suppose," said Gerald, in a low,
harsh voice. She took hold of his arm as she spoke. "Give me those
marbles of yours."
Olly looked at her, hesitated, and then reluctantly produced three very
handsome agates from some outlying storehouse of his jacket.
"I bought you six," said Gerald. "Where are the rest?"
"I lost one," answered Olly, sullenly. "It fell down a hole."
"Then give me the other two."
Olly obeyed still more reluctantly, fixing great, anxious eyes upon his
treasures as he laid them, each one more slowly than the last, in his
"There," said Gerald. "Perhaps this will teach you to behave better
another time. I shall not buy you any more this summer." She flung out
her hand suddenly, and the five pretty stones fell with a splash far out
in the lake and disappeared forever, five little cruel sets of circles
instantly beginning to widen and widen over their graves in a perfect
mockery of roundness. Olly gave one sharp cry, and then stood
stock-still, a bitterly hard look coming over his face; those marbles had
been very, very dear to his heart. Halloway put his arm tenderly around
the little fellow, and drew him close in a very sympathetic way.
"Olly," he said, gently, "you know you deserved some punishment, but now
that your sister has punished you, I am sure she will forgive you too, as
Miss Delano has done, if you only ask her."
Olly buried his face in his friend's coat, and burst into a fit of
heart-broken tears. "I don't want her to forgive me," he sobbed. "I only
want my agates,—my pretty, pretty agates!"
"Surely you will forgive him?" pleaded Halloway, looking up at Gerald
over Olly's head, and holding out one of the boy's hands in his own. "He
was really penitent when you came up. Let me ask for him."
Gerald moved a step away, ignoring the hand. "Certainly, if you wish it,"
she said, coldly.
Halloway bent and kissed Olly's flushed face. "Do you hear, my boy? It is
all right now, and there is Maggie calling you to swing her. Don't forget
you promised to make me a visit at the rectory to-morrow."
Olly threw his arms around Denham's knees and gave him a convulsive hug.
"I like you though you are a minister," he said, through his tears. "I
just wish you were my sister!" And then he went slowly off to Maggie, and
Denham and Gerald stood silently where he had left them. Gerald was the
first to speak.
"You think I am hard on Olly. I see it in your face."
"I do think," replied Denham, slowly, with a faint smile curving his
well-cut lips, "that perhaps it might be happier for Olly if you would
try to consider him less in the light of a boy, and more as—as only a
little animal. You are so tender-hearted and pitiful toward animals."
Gerald flushed angrily. "I like plain speaking best. You think I am hard
on him. Why don't you say so?"
"I will if you prefer it. I do think so."
"Thanks. Is there any thing else you would like to say to me in your
capacity as clergyman before we join the others?"
"Yes, if I may really venture so far. Your hat is quite crooked."
Gerald straightened it without a smile. "Thanks again. Anything else?"
"Absolutely nothing." He turned to escort her back, but Gerald stood
still, frowning out at the lake.
"You don't know Olly," she said, curtly.
"Maybe not, but I know childish nature pretty well, perhaps because
I love it."
"Ah! I don't love it. It isn't lovable to me. It is all nonsense to call
it the age of innocence. It is vice in embryo instead of in full leaf,
that is all."
"But that is an inestimable gain of itself. A little of a bad thing is
surely much better than a great deal of it. For my part I confess to a
great partiality for children. There is something pathetic to me in the
little faults and tempers that irritate us now chiefly because they clash
against our own weaknesses, and yet on the right guidance of which lies
the whole making or marring of the child's life."
"Doesn't guidance include punishment?"
"Yes, it includes it. But it does not consist of it."
Gerald still stood half turned from him, frowning out over the placid
blue water. "Ah," she said, "it chiefly consists of good example and that
sort of thing, I suppose."
"I think it consists chiefly of love," said Halloway, simply.
Gerald made no answer at first, then turned and looked at him almost
defiantly. Her changeable eyes seemed black as she raised them to his.
"Would you have thrown Olly's marbles into the lake?"
"No," replied Halloway, looking steadily back at her.
"Then you would have been very foolish," said Gerald, haughtily. "It was
the only way to touch him. I was quite right to do it."
"You should be the best judge of your actions, Miss Vernor."
Gerald bowed without answer, and moved past him like an offended duchess.
Halloway stood looking after her with an amused sparkle in his eyes.
"Miss Geraldine Vernor," he said to himself, "with all your beauty and
your reputed accomplishments and intellect, you would yet do well to take
a few lessons of my little friend Phebe Lane."
TRIED AS BY FIRE.
"Gerald, what are you thinking of?"
"I was wondering how soon you would let us have the lamp."
"I'll get it immediately, if you like, but it's so pleasant talking in
the twilight. I could spend hours contentedly sitting here so with you."
"How reprehensibly idle!"
"No, I should be learning something all the time. You have always
something to teach me. Or if you didn't feel like talking, I could just
sit still and hold your hand and not need any thing more."
Gerald put her hand instinctively out of reach. "I beg you won't try it.
I hate having my hand held."
"Yes, I know you do. You hate being kissed, too. You hate being admired
and made a fuss over. I don't suppose any thing would induce you to let
me call you a pet name. O Gerald, I do wish you liked being loved!"
"But I do like it well enough. Of course every one likes being cared for
and all that sort of thing. It's only the gushing and spooning and
sentimentalizing that I can't endure. I never could, even as a child."
Phebe sat suddenly upright, away from Gerald. Perhaps even the mute
caress of her attitude jarred upon her friend. "To me the half of being
loved would be the being told so," she said. "I should never weary of
hearing it said over and over again."
"Bah!" ejaculated Gerald, "it would make me sick!" She got up as if the
very thought were too much for her, and going to the window stood still
there looking out. Phebe followed her with her eyes.
"I am afraid you are fated to be deadly sick all your life through,
Gerald. What will you do with your lovers?"
"All but one."
"What will you do with him?"
"Marry him, of course. That is what he will be there for, won't it? I
expect to marry some one some time. Marriage makes a woman's life fuller
and freer, though not necessarily happier. I want to get all into my life
that I can."
"I wonder whom you will marry," mused Phebe, where she sat curled up on
the sofa. "I wonder what he could be like. Gerald, how I should like to
see you in love!"
"You won't see it," replied Gerald. "No one will ever see it. It
wouldn't be my way to make a display of the insanity, supposing, that
is, that I have it."
"I hope at least you will show it to him."
"Not overmuch even to him. He'll have to take it on faith. I haven't
the faintest intention of informing any one of the state of my affections
a dozen times a day. Once for all ought to be sufficient with the
declaration, as it is with the marriage vow."
Phebe puckered up her forehead. "Ah, how different we are! If I am ever
engaged to any one I shall want to keep telling him all the time how much
I love him, for fear he wouldn't guess it."
"You will bore him to death then."
"I suppose I shall," replied Phebe, dejectedly. "I don't suppose any
one living wants to be loved so much as I would want to love him. I
couldn't be cool and deliberate and wise at loving as you would be. I
should have to do it with my whole heart and just give myself up to it
for good and all."
"That's the story-book way of loving," said Gerald. "I don't believe in
it for real life. Blind adoration doesn't do either the lover or the
loved any good. There should be sense in one's emotions as well as in
Phebe was silent a moment or two. "You are so self-possessed, and so
self-controlled, Gerald," she said at last. "It must be very nice to have
one's self so perfectly in command as you have. And yet I don't know. I
think it would be rather nice too to find one's self suddenly under the
power of some one a great deal better and stronger and wiser than one's
self, who compelled one to love him, not because one would, but just
because one could not help it."
The girls were alone in the sitting-room, Mrs. Lane having gone out to a
neighbor's, taking Olly with her, and Miss Lydia not having yet appeared
for her usual hour downstairs. It was a few days after the picnic, and
was one of those suddenly cool August evenings that sometimes drop down
so unexpectedly upon the summer heat, and a wood-fire lay upon the hearth
ready to light at the invalid's coming. Phebe too sprang from the sofa as
she spoke, as if her words had evoked too vivid a picture, and kneeling
down by the hearth, applied a match. The bright flame leaped swiftly up
and filled all the room with a flickering golden glow. Gerald turned in
the window to watch it. How quickly it had flushed Phebe's cheeks, and
how soft her eyes looked in its light!
"It's downright cruelty to spoil our first cool evening with a fire,
Phebe, but I'll forgive you, it makes you look so pretty," she said,
quite unconscious of her beauty as she stood against the dark background
of the curtain in picturesque stateliness, her dress of soft cream-white
cloth falling in clinging folds about her, and her clear pale face turned
dreamily toward the light, which gleamed out in fitful reflection from
the heavy gold ornaments at her throat and wrists.
"Ah, you do not see yourself!" murmured Phebe, looking adoringly back at
her. "No one else could look pretty to you if you did."
"How foolish!" said Gerald, scornfully. "Pray don't let us begin bandying
compliments back and forth. That's next worse to eternally discussing
love. Why it is that two girls seem never able to talk together half an
hour without lugging in that threadbare subject as if it were the one
most important thing in the world, I don't understand."
"Well, isn't love the most important thing,—to women?" asked Phebe,
sitting down on the floor to nurse the fire, her thin muslin making a
little ripple of pretty lightness around her.
"No, it isn't," replied Gerald. "It may be to some few perhaps, but
certainly not to all women. It isn't to me. It's one thing; not every
thing; and not even the best thing. Knowledge is better, and goodness is
better, and to come down to purely personal blessings, health is better,
and so is common-sense better, and in the long run there are dozens of
things infinitely better worth having and better worth aiming for. It's a
good enough thing to have in addition, but as to its being the sum and
substance, the Alpha and Omega, of any sensible woman's life, that's all
foolishness. Let's have done with it and order in the lights. I want to
get at Euclid again. It will never do for that conceited Yale brother of
mine to get ahead of me. Shall I call to Nancy?"
"No use. The servants are out. Wait a moment till the fire is well
started, and I'll bring in the lamp."
"The servants are out?" repeated Gerald. "Both? At the same time? Is that
the way you keep house in Joppa?"
"Oh, they like running out together, and we never want any thing in the
evenings, you know. The front door always stands ajar, and visitors let
"And you make your own fires and bring in your own oily lamps; or do your
evening guests assist you perhaps in lieu of the servants?"
"But we don't generally have fires," laughed Phebe, greatly amused at
Gerald's disgust. "Only to-night it would be too chilly for Aunt Lydia
here without one. I feel cool too. I was not so sensible as you, and put
on too thin a dress. Isn't it a pretty blaze? Wait just till I throw on
another log. How it snaps and crackles!"
"Take your time," said Gerald, turning back to the window. "But what
a way to manage! Why should you hire servants, if you do their work
Phebe only laughed, and a little shower of sparks flew over her from the
hearth as if the fire laughed too.
"It's being needlessly indulgent," pursued Gerald. "One can give servants
proper liberties without making one's self a slave to their caprices. If
you yield to them in one instance because it chances to be convenient,
they'll certainly exact it of you another time when it is not convenient.
Gracious heavens! Phebe, what is it?"
There was a sudden outburst of light behind her, and a sharp scream of
mingled terror and pain, and she turned to find Phebe standing the centre
of a pillar of fire. Her light dress had ignited from the flying sparks,
and the devouring flames seemed to burst forth in a hundred places at
once and rush exultantly together. Phebe gave another wild cry and
started for the door in that blind agony of despair which seems to hasten
people at such times to their doom, as if by aimless flight they could
escape the awful demon who possesses them. Too horror-stricken to utter a
sound, Gerald sprang at her, and seizing her with fearless hands, forced
the poor struggling girl by main strength down on to the floor. No one
near to help! No water at hand! Not so much as a rug or a shawl to throw
over her and stifle the flames! Yes! there was the table-cover, heavy and
thick, as if created for this very life-service. Gerald tore it
off,—books, boxes, china cups, and glass vases crashing to the ground
together,—and flinging it over Phebe, threw herself on top of it,
pressing it close in every direction with hands and limbs, and smothering
the flames resolutely beneath it. It was but a moment, though a moment of
lifetime horror, and all was over. There was only the fire on the hearth
hissing and leaping as if in anger at its defeated design.
"Phebe!" whispered Gerald, hoarsely; "Phebe!"
Phebe had ceased to struggle, and lay perfectly motionless, apparently
scarcely breathing, but she opened her eyes and smiled faintly as Gerald
called her. The fright and the pain had taken her speech away. She could
not find it at once. But the smile gave new hope and energy to Gerald.
"Never mind talking," she exclaimed, springing briskly to her feet.
"If you are only alive it's all right. Don't attempt to stir. I'll get
"Aunt Lydia—don't let her know," Phebe managed to gasp.
"No, no, of all people!" cried Gerald. She paused an instant. Not a
servant in the house! whom was she to summon? A vague idea seized her of
running into the street and catching hold of the first passer, when at
the moment the door opened, and Mr. Halloway appeared on the threshold.
"Is there any one at home? Shall I come in, please?" called the bright,
"Mr. Halloway! oh, thank Heaven!" And seizing him by the arm, Gerald
dragged him over to where Phebe lay. "Help me to take her up-stairs to
Denham staggered back unutterably shocked and horrified as he recognized
the prostrate form at his feet, the fire-light playing mockingly over it
and revealing the white face and loosened hair. For the instant he
thought her dead. He caught his breath and put his hand up over his eyes.
"My God! what has happened?"
"Her dress took fire—she is burned, no, not badly I am sure, but let us
get her up-stairs without losing time. Quick!"
Denham put Gerald aside almost roughly, and stooping down lifted Phebe
tenderly in his arms. She moaned as he touched her, but smiled up at him
as she had done at Gerald.
"Do I hurt you, dear?" he asked, with infinite pity and tenderness in his
voice. "I will be as gentle as I can. Poor child! poor child!"
"Let me help you," said Gerald. "The stairs are steep and I am
She came nearer, but he shook his head. "I need no help."
"This way, then," said Gerald, shortly. "And don't speak. Miss Lydia
She led the way to Phebe's room, and he followed slowly, laying his
burden carefully down on the bed and arranging the pillows under her head
with all of a woman's gentleness of touch.
"Now go for the doctor," ordered Gerald, turning to the bureau to light
the candles. "Dr. Dennis. If he is out, Dr. Harrison. Only find some one
Denham lingered an instant, bending down over the bed.
"I thought we had lost you to-night, Phebe," he said, so low the words
were but just audible. "God be thanked if only that you are still here!"
And stooping nearer yet he added: "We could not let you go, dear child."
Gerald came anxiously back to the bedside as he left the room. "Are you
in much pain now?" she asked, lifting off the heavy braid that lay across
Phebe's bosom like a great rope of loosely twisted silk. "You do not
think you are badly hurt, do you, dear?"
Phebe looked up at her, smiling strangely.
"Oh, Gerald," she whispered, while two big tears rolled slowly down on to
the pillow, "I wish I might die to-night! I don't think I can ever be so
"Nonsense!" said Gerald, with utmost sternness. "Don't talk about dying.
I won't allow it." And then she suddenly put down her head beside
Phebe's, and burst into tears.
GERALD OBEYS ORDERS.
In an incredibly short time Denham brought back not only Dr. Dennis, whom
he had caught just setting out for a stolen game of whist with Mr.
Upjohn, during the absence of that gentleman's wife at prayer-meeting,
but also Soeur Angélique, whose mere presence in a sick-room was more
than half the cure. And then he sat in the dark, disordered room below,
impatiently enough, anxiously waiting for news from Phebe. The time
seemed to him interminable before at last the door opened, and Gerald
entered, bearing a lamp. The vivid light, flung so full upon her, showed
traces of passionate weeping; and her white dress all scorched and burned
and hopelessly ruined, with the rich lace hanging in shreds from the
sleeves, made her a startling contrast indeed to the usually calm,
self-possessed, perfectly-dressed Gerald Vernor.
Denham sprang forward to take the heavy lamp from her. "How is
Gerald started. "What, you here?"
"Did you think I could leave till I knew?"
"Oh, of course not, I had forgotten you. I was only thinking of Phebe."
"But how is she?"
"Better. She is burned about the shoulders and a little on the arms, but
not seriously, and nothing that will disfigure. It is so fortunate. The
doctor is still with her, but she is much easier now, and there is
nothing to fear."
"Ah, what a relief! It seemed as if I should never hear. She is really in
no danger then?"
"Thank God! As you came in you looked so distressed I feared—"
"When it was all over and there was nothing to cry about, I cried,"
interrupted Gerald. "Women are always fools. I'll except Mrs. Whittridge,
however. She has been the greatest comfort to Phebe."
"It is Soeur Angélique's characteristic privilege always to be a comfort,
I believe," answered Denham, recovering his light-heartedness in a
flash. "Might I inquire if you have any especial object with this lamp?
Shall I do any thing particularly with it?"
"Let it down, please—anywhere. I remembered the room was dark, and ran
down to put it to rights before Mrs. Lane should comeback. Her orderly
soul would have a spasm if she came upon it suddenly like this."
"It was well I had no light," said Denham, looking around him. "It would
have frightened even me. Shan't I call some one?"
"It's the ridiculous fashion of the house to suppose it never needs
servants at this hour. There's not one within reach."
"You must let me help you then. Is this the table-cover?"
"Thanks. I am afraid the fire has done for it, but we can't help that.
Pull it a little farther to your side, please. Farther still. That's too
far. So. That's right. Now the lamp here. Now the books. Cover up the
holes with them."
"Ah, Miss Lydia's pet cup! and her little favorite statuette!"
"Hideous things! I'm glad they're smashed."
"Will you equally enjoy imparting to her the fact of their loss?"
"Somebody else may do that. I had my share telling her about Phebe."
"I suppose she was terribly shocked, poor old soul. I don't wonder."
"She had an instant attack of hysterics, and I did wonder," rejoined
Gerald, tartly. "But as I told you, women are always fools, and nervous
women the worst ones, I haven't any patience with them. I was vexed
enough with her for keeping me from Phebe. I don't believe she was ever
hurried so out of an attack before."
"I'm afraid there's need of a broom or something here, Miss Vernor. This
vase is in a thousand pieces."
Gerald seized the hearth-brush and was on her knees by him in a moment.
"The lamp, please, Mr. Halloway. Set it on the floor an instant."
Denham moved it as desired, and stood looking down at her as she began
deftly brushing up the scattered bits.
"Miss Vernor!" he suddenly exclaimed in a shocked voice. The bright
light, falling broadly across her hands, showed two great angry-red
blotches just above one of the delicate wrists. He stooped and laid
masterful hold of the long handle of the brush.
"Well?" she said, stopping perforce and looking up in surprise.
"What is it?"
"Your arm—you are burned, badly burned."
Gerald made a little sound of contempt for all reply.
"It should be dressed at once. How it must pain you!"
Gerald looked at her arm reflectively. "I haven't had time to feel," she
said, vainly trying to pull her sleeve over it. "It will make an ugly
scar, won't it? I shall have to abandon elbow sleeves. Now please let go
"Miss Vernor, why should you be so cruel to yourself? Do go up to the
doctor at once!"
"And take him away from Phebe? I will not. It won't hurt any more now
than it has done already. I must ask you to let me have the brush, Mr.
Halloway. I am losing time."
Halloway relinquished it without speaking, and went quietly out of the
room, and Gerald unconcernedly resumed her work, scarcely pausing to
wonder where he had gone or what he intended. He returned just as she had
finished, and lifting the lamp back to the table, called to her: "Will
you come here, please?"
"What in the world have you there?" she inquired, coming up to him in
"Soap. I found the way to the kitchen, you see. I had to bring the water
in this tin thing. I didn't know where to look for a cup."
"Pray what is it for?"
"For you. Soap is good for burns. Will you let me take your hand,
Gerald put the wounded member behind her. "Thank you. I neither require
nor desire assistance."
"Pardon me, you do require it, and if you refuse to see the doctor—"
"Is that any reason why I should resort to you—and kitchen soap?"
"I grant it is a very homely remedy, Miss Vernor, but it is an excellent
one and the only one I know."
"I daresay. It is one more than I know of."
"You will not try it?"
"Perhaps you are afraid of the pain attending the dressing?"
It was a masterly stroke. Gerald gave him one look of intense scorn,
almost of anger, and immediately reached out her hand. "I am afraid of
nothing—not even of your lack of skill."
Denham took her hand without further ceremony, and holding it firmly,
pushed back the hanging lace from her arm and began rubbing the soap over
the burns, without so much as a word of pity for the pain he knew he was
giving her. She winced involuntarily at the first touch, but set her
teeth tightly lest she should cry out. It hurt her cruelly. "I was not
aware before that the custody of souls extended to that of the temples
they inhabit," she said, when she could command herself sufficiently to
assume a supreme indifference of tone. "You believe in purely household
remedies, I see."
"I believe always in doing what I can with what means I have. One moment
more, please. I am not quite through."
Gerald held out her hand again. "Perhaps you had better try sandstone on
it this time, or a little burning oil."
Halloway did not answer, but hastily tearing his handkerchief into
strips, bound the arm as closely as he could. "There," he said, surveying
the bandages critically, and inwardly well pleased with his success; "at
least that will do till you can see the doctor."
"Are you sure you are quite through now?" asked Gerald, in mock
submission. "You don't think it necessary to put the arm in a splint, or
to fasten weights to it, or to amputate the first joint of the thumb?"
"I am sorry to say that is all I know how to do for you, Miss Vernor."
"Then I will go back to Miss Lydia. By the way, would you recommend soap
also for hysterics?"
"Applied with a close bandage over the mouth? Certainly, it will be both
effectual and immediate."
"Thank you. Good-night."
"Will you not shake hands with me?"
Gerald turned as she was moving off and held out her hand, more as a
queen might have extended it in motion of dismissal than as friend to
friend. Denham took it between both his. "Before you go, I want to thank
you in the name of all Miss Phebe's friends," he said, earnestly. "You
have saved her life to-night, and at the risk of your own."
"The table-cloth was her savior, not I," returned Gerald, lightly, but
with a softened voice. "And anyway, is it not quite thanks enough only to
know that Phebe is safe? Now good-night in earnest."
JOPPA'S MINISTRATIONS TO THE SICK.
All news, good, bad, and indifferent, flies equally fast in Joppa; and
had there been a town-crier deputed for the purpose, Phebe's accident
could not have sooner become a household tale in even the most distant
districts of the place. After a contradiction of the first rumor,
reporting her burned to a crisp and only recognizable by a ring of her
mother's on her left hand,—which ring by-the-way she never wore,—and
after a contradiction in due course of the second rumor, reporting Gerald
to be lying in the agonies of death and Phebe to have escaped without a
hair singed, followed a period of dire uncertainty, when nobody knew what
to believe, and felt only an obstinate conviction that everybody else had
got it entirely wrong. But at last the story straightened itself out into
something bearing a family resemblance to actual facts, and then Joppa
settled itself resolutely down to doing its duty. My duty toward my sick
neighbor in Joppa consists in calling twice a day, if not oftener, at his
house; in inquiring after his condition down to minutest and most sacred
details; in knowing accurately how many hours he slept last night, and
what he ate for breakfast, and what is paid the sick-nurse, and if it
includes her washing. My second duty toward my sick neighbor is to bring
him something to eat, on the supposition that "outside things taste
differently;" or something to look at; or, if nothing better, at least
something to refuse. My third and last duty toward my neighbor,—the well
neighbor who possesses the sick one,—is to narrate every somewhat
similar case on record, with all its circumstances and the ultimate
career of the sufferer; to prescribe remedies as infallible as the Pope;
to disapprove wholly, and on the best grounds, of those in actual use; to
offer every assistance in and out of my power; and to say at leaving that
I hope it may all turn out well, but that I should have called in the
other doctor. Joppa had learned by heart its duty toward its neighbor
from its earliest, stammering infancy, and it adhered strictly to the
path therein marked out. It inquired after Phebe diligently; it
thoroughly mastered all possible intricacies of her case; it made her
gifts digestible and indigestible; and it said that, by all odds, it was
Dr. Harrison who should have attended her from the first. Dr. Dennis took
very good care of her, nevertheless, and it was not long before he
pronounced that all she needed was quiet and rest to complete the cure.
"We shall have her out of bed in a few days now, Mrs. Lane; in a week or
so perhaps," he said, as he passed out at the front door where Mrs. Lane
was standing talking with Mrs. Hardcastle. "She is doing very well, as
well as I could wish. All she needs is rest. Keep her perfectly quiet."
And the doctor bowed himself off, first politely inquiring of Mrs.
Hardcastle after her husband's gout and her own dyspepsia.
"He is a fair-spoken man, certainly, very," said Mrs. Hardcastle, "though
I won't say that I shouldn't prefer Dr. Harrison in the long run as
surest to bring his patient through. I think I'll just go up with this
myself to Phebe, Mrs. Lane. I suppose she's longing for visitors by now,
"Well, I dare say. You know her room,—just at the head of the stairs. Go
right up, and I'll step out to market."
"Now, my dear," said Mrs. Hardcastle, rustling into Phebe's room, "I
thought I would come up and have a look at you myself to make sure how
you were. No, don't move. You do look pale, but that's all. Glad to see
your pretty face isn't harmed. Why, I heard one whole side of it was
about burned off. I've brought you some wine-jelly, my dear."
"She had a lot yesterday, Pheeb did," said Olly, who was curled up with a
geography in a corner of the room and furtively cutting Europe out of the
maps. "She doesn't need any more."
"Oh, but this is some of my own make. This is quite different from
anybody else's," declared Mrs. Hardcastle. "Phebe remembers my jelly of
old, don't you, dear?"
Phebe smiled faintly. All she remembered at the moment was being
invariably requested by the good lady to come and make it for her
whenever she gave a party.
"I thought I heard talking and so I ventured to come up too," said a
timid voice, and Miss Delano tiptoed softly in. "Phebe, my dear child, my
dear child!" and the soft-hearted little old maid stooped to kiss Phebe's
pale cheek, and straightway began to whimper.
"Come, none of that," said Mrs. Upjohn's peremptory tones, as that lady
swept into the little room, seeming to fill it all to overflowing. "I met
the doctor just now and he said Phebe was to be kept perfectly quiet.
Don't let's have any weeping over her. She wants cheering up, and she
isn't quite dead yet, you know, though really the evening before last,
Phebe, I heard that you weren't expected to live the night through."
"How ridiculous!" said Gerald, impatiently. "Miss Delano, will you
have a chair?"
"Thank you, no, dear. I'll just sit here on the bed," said the
little old dame, humbly, anxious not to make any one any trouble. "O
Phebe, my dear!"
Phebe smiled at her affectionately, and Mrs. Hardcastle, who was on the
point of leaving when Mrs. Upjohn came in, sat down again to ask that
lady about the character of a servant whom she had just engaged.
"I thought I should have died when I heard it," said Miss Delano, patting
Phebe's cheek. "Poor dear, poor dear! And they say you won't ever be able
to walk again!"
"Who says that?" asked Phebe, laughing. "I shall be a terrible
disappointment to them."
"'Tain't her legs at all; it's her shoulders," said Olly, as he emerged
from his corner, chewing Europe into a pasteboard bull. "What have you
got in that paper?"
"Oh, the blessed child, and I was forgetting it. My dear, it's just a
little sponge-cake I made free to bring you, it turned out so light.
Don't you think you could eat a bit perhaps?"
"My, but it looks good!" said Olly, approaching a hungry finger and
poking at it softly. "I'll get a knife."
"I hope you don't allow any such trash as that about, Miss Vernor," said
Mrs. Upjohn, sharply, in the middle of her discussion of Jane's demerits.
"Phebe ought to be exceedingly careful what she eats for a great while
to come. It's doubtful, indeed, whether her stomach ever recovers its
tone after such a shock. I knew one woman who died just of the shock
alone some two months after precisely such an accident as this, when
everybody thought she had got well, and Phebe must be very careful. Her
appetite is not to be tempted, but guided."
"Well, ladies, I must be going," announced Mrs. Hardcastle, rising. "You
really think I am safe, then, in engaging her, Mrs. Upjohn?" But just
then Mrs. Dexter came in with two of her daughters, and Mrs. Hardcastle
sat down again.
"There was no one downstairs, and as the doctor says Phebe is so much
better, we thought we might just come up," said the new comer. "Why,
Phebe, you are as blooming as a rose, and I understood you had lost all
your pretty hair. I've brought you some grapes, my dear, and a jar of
extra fine brandy peaches, and little Maggie insisted on sending some
molasses candy she had just made."
"Well, well, I did look for more sense from you," said Mrs. Upjohn,
tapping Mrs. Dexter rather smartly on the shoulder. "Where'll you sit?
Oh, on the bed. Yes, Phebe's had a narrow escape, and one she'll likely
bear the marks of to her dying day. Let it be a warning to you, young
ladies, to be prepared. There's no knowing how soon some one of you may
not be carried off in the same way,—just as you are dressed for a dance,
maybe." Her tone implied that death could not overtake them at a more
"Hullo, up there! I say!" shouted a voice in the hall below,
"Oh, it's Dick!" cried the Dexter girls in a breath. "You can't come
"Ain't a-going to. But a fellow can speak, can't he, without his body
a-following his voice? How's Phebe?"
"What's the doctor say?"
"He says she only needs to be kept perfectly quiet."
"Hooray!" said Dick, and apparently executed a war-dance on the
oil-cloth, while Olly profited by the general hubbub created by the
entrance of two more ladies, to satisfactorily investigate the
"Why, quite a levee, isn't it, Phebe?" said one of the last arrivals,
looking in vain for a chair, and forced to seat herself on a low table,
accidentally upsetting Phebe's medicines as she did so.
"Yes, altogether too much of one," said Gerald, knitting her brows as she
rescued a bottle just in time, and darted an angry glance around the
crowded room. "Phebe isn't at all equal to it yet."
"You are right, Miss Vernor," agreed Mrs. Upjohn, drawing out her
tatting from her pocket, and settling herself at it with an answering
frown. "There are quite too many here. Some people never know when to
"Oh, there's Bell. I hear her voice," called Mattie, running to look over
the banisters. "She's got both Mr. De Forest and Mr. Moulton with her."
There was a sound of many voices below, a giggling, a rush for the
stairs, and a playful scuffle.
"It's me" (Bell's voice); "Dick won't let me pass."
"Me is Bell" (Dick's voice); "she wouldn't pass if she could. Too many
fellows down here for her to want to leave 'em. Send us down a girl or
two from up there, can't you?"
A girl or two, however, apparently appeared from outside, greetings were
called up to Phebe, offerings of flowers and delicacies transmitted via
Dick on the stairs to Olly at the top (who took toll by the way), and the
liveliest kind of a time went on. It was quite like a party, Dick shouted
up, only that there was no ice-cream and a singular scarcity of girls.
"It's a shame," said Mrs. Upjohn, severely, in her chair, while Gerald
held her peace, too wrathful to speak, and conscious of her inability to
mend matters. "I should think people might have sense enough not to crowd
all the air out of a sick-room in this fashion."
"It's exceedingly inconsiderate of them, I am sure," answered Mrs.
Hardcastle, drawing a sofa cushion behind her back. "She ought to be
"Phebe!" shouted Dick. "Here's the parson. He wants to know if you're
dead yet. Shan't I send him up? It will be all right, you know, quite
the thing. He's a parson, and wears a gown on Sundays."
"Dick, Dick!" screamed his mother. "Was there ever such a lad!"
"He's coming. Get ready for him. Have out your Prayer-books,"
Phebe flushed crimson, and looked imploringly at Gerald. An indignant
murmur ran through the room. Mrs. Upjohn drew herself up to her severest
height. "What shameless impertinence! How dare he intrude!" A shout of
unholy laughter downstairs followed Dick's sally.
"Mr. Halloway isn't there at all," cried Olly, his fine, clear-voice
pitched high above the rest, "He only asked about Pheeb at the door, and
went right off."
"Well, he left this for her with his compliments, and this, and this,"
called Dick, rummaging in his pockets, and tossing up an apple, and then
a hickory nut, and last a good-sized and dangerously ripe tomato. Olly
caught them dexterously with a yell of delight, and was immediately
rushed at by three of the nearest ladies and ordered not to make a noise,
for Phebe was to be kept perfectly quiet.
"Such doings would never be permitted a moment if she had only been in
Dr. Harrison's hands," said Mrs. Upjohn, in denunciatory tones. "He would
have forbidden her to see any one. It is scandalous."
"It is outrageous," added Mrs. Hardcastle. "Most inconsiderate."
"Ah, I can't get over it that it isn't your legs, poor dear!" murmured
Miss Delano, still plaintively overcome. "And you will walk, after all?"
"Dr. Dennis is an excellent physician," said Mrs. Dexter, somewhat
defiantly. It was impossible not to enter the lists against Mrs. Upjohn.
This last lady was immediately up in arms, and a heated discussion as to
the respective skill of the two practitioners took place, everybody
gradually taking sides with one or the other of the leaders, and
forgetting both poor exhausted Phebe and the noise downstairs, which
finally culminated in a rousing lullaby led by Bell, and lustily seconded
by half a dozen others:
"Slumber on, Phebe dear;
Do not hear us fellows sigh!"
The song, however, suddenly stopped in the midst. Some one seemed
speaking very low and softly, and neither the chorus nor the laughter nor
the tumult was resumed. Phebe drew a deep breath. Was relief really
coming at last? Yes. Soeur Angélique stood in the door-way.
"Will you excuse me, ladies," she said, in that soft, irresistible voice
of hers, as she laid aside bonnet and shawl in a quiet, business-like
way. "I came to relieve Miss Vernor and play nurse for a while, and I
think Phebe looks as if she needed a little sleep. If you will kindly
take leave of her, I will darken the room at once."
She stood so evidently waiting for them to go, that in a few moments they
all found themselves somehow or other outside the door, with Gerald
politely escorting them down-stairs, and Olly dancing joyously ahead,
crying that Mr. Halloway had sent for him to the rectory. Left mistress
of the situation, Mrs. Whittridge proceeded to draw down the shades,
straighten the chairs, smooth the bedclothes and rearrange the pillows,
all with the noiseless, graceful movements peculiar to her. Then she drew
a low chair up to the bedside, and laid her cool hand soothingly on
Phebe's forehead. A great peace seemed suddenly to fill the room.
"Now, my darling, you must sleep. Between them they have quite
worn you out."
"Who told you I needed you?" asked Phebe, drawing the gentle hand down to
her lips. "How did you happen to come just when I wanted you so?"
"Denham sent me over," answered Soeur Angélique. "He thought perhaps I
could make it a little quieter for you."
"Ah," murmured Phebe. A faint tinge crept up into her white cheeks.
She turned her head away and closed her eyes. "I knew it was he who
AN APOLOGY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
It was some days after Phebe's accident before Halloway saw Gerald again.
She was generally upstairs when he called, or driving or sailing with De
Forest, who was in daily attendance upon her, paying her persistent,
blasé devotion. She was in the parlor one evening, however, sitting with
De Forest near the door, when Denham came in, but he merely bowed to her
and passed on to the other end of the room, where Mrs. Lane was seated
with Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle. Mr. Hardcastle rose at once to receive him.
"Ah, good-evening, good-evening. Pray take a seat. I am delighted to see
you. I suppose you came to ask after our little invalid. Sad accident,
sir; sad accident, very. It has kept us most anxious and busy seeing
after her. But she is doing nicely now. We shall have her about again
before we know it." He spoke as if her recovery were altogether due to
himself, for the regularity with which he had fulfilled his neighborly
duties toward her, and he paused and looked at Halloway for a recognition
of the same.
"It will be a bright day for us all when we have her among us once more,"
Halloway said in answer to the look. "You must tell her how much we miss
her, Mrs. Lane."
"Ah, that we do," murmured Mrs. Hardcastle. "My knitting has been at a
standstill ever since the poor dear child's misfortune. I have been so
thankful her hands were spared. There's always some cause for gratitude
in every evil, after all."
"That's one way of looking at it," said Mrs. Lane, turning up the lamp
and drawing her work-basket nearer. "The Lord make us thankful for all
our mercies, but a misfortune's a misfortune, and I don't know as we're
called upon to look at it as any thing else. Won't you sit down, Mr.
"Thank you, not this evening. It is nearly time for service. I only
wanted to know that Miss Phebe was doing well."
Mr. Hardcastle rose again to bow off the guest. "Sorry you can't stay,
sir. In spite of our difference of faith,—and how great it is I am in
hopes you will appreciate some day when you have come to see the errors
of the way you are walking in,—in spite of our material differences, I
say, you are always very welcome at any time. But pray don't let us
detain you from what you deem your duty."
"Mr. Halloway, a moment, please," said Gerald, rising as he was going by.
He stopped, and she came toward him holding out her hand. "I want to
thank you for your kindness of the other night. I believe I was
ungrateful and perhaps rude at the time, and I have not seen you since to
"Pray do not speak of it!" said Denham, flushing a little as he took her
hand. "There was no occasion whatever for gratitude, and therefore no
possible lack of it. I trust you are quite well now."
"There was occasion for gratitude," persisted Gerald, "or at least for
an acknowledgment of your kindness, and it is because I am ashamed of my
remissness that I take this first opportunity to thank you."
"You embarrass me," said Denham, laughingly. "I am not at all accustomed
to having public restitution made me in this manner, and especially for
purely imaginary slights. But may I not be permitted now—as a sort of
reward if you will—to inquire if you have quite recovered?"
"At least I have sufficiently recovered to retract my disbelief in
kitchen soap, and—and in your skill," she added, with a little
"You honor us above our deserts,—the soap and me," answered Denham,
playfully. "I don't know how deleteriously it may affect the soap, but as
for me I feel myself growing alarmingly conceited. So good-night."
"What a very elaborate apology," said De Forest, as Denham went out. "If
the offence were at all proportionate, I tremble to think of the enormity
of your crime; or is it because he is a Reverend, that you demean
yourself so humbly before him?"
Halloway was still hunting for his hat in the hall, and could scarcely
help overhearing De Forest's remark and Gerald's answer.
"I demean myself before nobody in seeking to make amends for a previous
neglect. The humiliation is in the misconduct, not in the confession of
it; and whether I owed the apology to Mr. Halloway or to a beggar in the
street, I should have made it quite the same, not at all for sake of his
pardon, but simply for sake of clearing my own conscience."
"Not at all for sake of my pardon," said Denham, as he strode on toward
the church, with the uncomfortable sensation of having been an
involuntary eavesdropper. "It is fortunate that my conceit was only
The following Sunday Gerald was in church both morning and evening,
sitting in Phebe's accustomed place. She was one of those noticeable
presences impossible to overlook, and as Denham mounted into the pulpit
he felt as if he were preaching solely to her, or rather as if hers were
the only criticism he feared in all the friendly congregation. He was
annoyed that he should feel so, and quite conscious at the same time that
he was far from doing his best, and once or twice he caught a flash in
the serious eyes fastened on his face, that seemed to say she knew this
last fact too, and was impatient with him for it. What excuse had any
one, in Gerald's eyes, for not doing his best always? De Forest was with
her in the evening, and as Halloway came out of the vestry after service,
he found himself directly behind them.
"He's not a mighty orator," De Forest was saying with his cynical drawl.
"I doubt if he is destined to be one of the pillars or even one of the
cushions of the church."
"He was not doing his best to-night," answered Gerald.
"Thank you," said Halloway, coming quickly to her side, anxious to
avoid further eavesdropping. "Thank you—I mean for thinking I might
"That is not much to be grateful for, I am afraid," replied Gerald,
"since it implies, you know, that you have not done well."
"I hope you like uncompromising truth, Mr. Halloway," said De Forest,
leaning forward to look at him across Gerald. "It's the only kind Miss
Vernor deals in."
"I prefer it infinitely to the most flattering falsehood imaginable,"
"I believe clergymen are usually the last people to hear the truth about
themselves," continued Gerald. "Their position at the head of a
community, pre-supposes their capability for the office, and naturally
places them outside of the criticism of those under their immediate
charge, who are nevertheless just the ones best qualified to judge them.
But of course scholars may not teach the teacher."
"What an invaluable opening for you who are not one of Mr. Halloway's
flock," said De Forest, "to undertake to remedy the deficiency, and to be
in yourself a whole critical public to him, a licensed Free Press as it
were, pointing out all his errors with the most unhesitating frankness
and unsparing perspicuity!"
"Do you think your love of truth would hold out long under such a crucial
test?" asked Gerald, turning quite seriously to Denham. The moonlight
shone full on her clear-cut, cameo-like face. Her eyes, with their
shadowy fringe, looked deeper and blacker than midnight. It did not seem
possible that truth spoken by her could be any thing but beautiful too.
Denham smiled down at her seriousness.
"Well, then, it seems to me you do not often enough try to do your best.
You are contented to do well, and not ambitious to do better. You are
quite satisfied, so I think, if your sermons are good enough to please
generally, instead of seeking to raise your standard all the time by hard
effort toward improvement, and I doubt, therefore, if at the end of a
year your sermons will show any marked change from what they are to-day.
Am I too hard?"
"You are very just," answered Denham, pleasantly, though the blood
mounted to his face. "You have found out my weak spot. I confess I am not
ambitious. I aspire to no greatness of any kind."
"You have discovered the secret of contentment," said De Forest, with
effusive approbation. "I am glad to have met you, Mr. Halloway. You are
the one happy man I know."
"The secret of contentment?" repeated Gerald. "Say rather the principle
of all stagnation, mental and spiritual. Not to aspire to become greater
than one can be is to fall short of becoming all that one may be; to
be satisfied with one's powers is to dwarf them hopelessly."
"A powerful argument against conceit," reflected De Forest. "Still, upon
my word, I think I would as lief be conceited in every pore as eternally
in a state of dissatisfaction with myself about every thing."
"It is well, above all, I think, to have a just appreciation of one's own
powers or lack of powers," said Denham, slowly. "Ambition, without the
corresponding strength to gratify it, is a cruel taskmaster."
"How can you tell, till you have tried, that there is no corresponding
strength?" asked Gerald, turning full upon him again. How marvellously
expressive her face was, with its earnest eyes and mobile mouth! "If I
were a man,—and great heavens! how I wish I were one!—I would create
the strength if it were not there of itself. I would force myself upward.
I would never rest till I had become something more than nature
originally made me."
"Then Heaven be thanked, who has spared us the monstrosity you would have
developed into under the harrowing circumstances of a reversal of your
sex," said De Forest, devoutly.
"I was always glad you were a woman. Now I am positively aglow with
gratitude for it."
Denham was silent. They had reached Mrs. Lane's now, and Gerald and her
"I have not hurt you, Mr. Halloway, have I?" said Gerald, more gently. "I
know I sometimes speak strongly where I am least qualified to do so."
"A very womanly trait," put in De Forest. "Don't apologize for your one
"No, you have not hurt me," said Denham, in a low voice. "I hope you have
done me good." And without adding even a good-night or a message for
Phebe, he lifted his hat and crossed over to the rectory. His sister was
not there as he entered her sitting-room, and throwing himself down on
the sofa, clasped his hands over his forehead and stared thoughtfully up
at the ceiling. She had been sitting with Phebe while the Lane household
went to its various churches, Phebe was tired, in consequence of the
entire population of Joppa having run in to ask after her between
services "on their way home," and she was not talking much. But only to
look up and smile into Soeur Angélique's sweet face was pleasure enough
for the girl, and she lay very quietly, holding a rose that Denham had
sent her over by his sister, and feeling supremely contented.
"How would you like me to read to you?" asked Mrs. Whittridge at last,
taking up a book. "Shall I try it?"
"No, thank you. I am afraid my thoughts would be louder than your words,
and I should be listening to them and losing what you are saying."
"And, pray, what are these remarkably noisy thoughts?" asked the lady.
"Let me listen and hear them too."
"I don't think I could say just what they are," replied Phebe, dreamily.
"They are running through my head more like indistinct music than like
real thoughts. And I never was clever at saying things, you know. But,
oh! I do feel very happy."
"You look so," said Soeur Angélique, tenderly. "You poor little one, is
it just the getting well again that makes you so?"
Phebe flushed ever so slightly. "I don't know just what it is," she
answered, lifting the rose to her face. "Perhaps it is only the listening
to that indistinct music. It seems to have put all my soul in tune. Oh,
dear Mrs. Whittridge, what a beautiful world this is, when only there are
no discords in one's own heart!"
A day or two went by, and Phebe, though rapidly convalescing, was still a
prisoner to her room.
"You're missing a lot of fun," said Bell Masters, sympathetically, as she
bustled in to see her one morning, and sat down by the window, pushing
back the curtain so that she could look out into the street and nod to
passers as she talked. "There's no end going on. Dear me, it's a shame to
come to you empty-handed, Phebe. I had two or three rosebuds for
you,—beauties they were too,—but the fact is I gave them away piecemeal
as I came along, and I haven't one left. It seemed as if I met every man
there was this morning. How soon do you think you'll be out again?"
"I don't know," answered Phebe, pushing a box of bonbons within reach of
Bell's easy-going fingers. "I think I might go down-stairs now, but Dr.
Dennis won't let me."
"Too bad. You'll miss Dick's coming of age, won't you? There are to
be high doings. Mr. Hardcastle is too mysterious and pompous to live.
One can't get any thing out of him but just 'My son Dick doesn't come
of age but once' (as if we thought it was a yearly occurrence), 'and
we don't celebrate it but once.' But I got hold of Dick privately and
wheedled it out of him in less than no time with a piece of soft
gingerbread. It's to be something stunning. His father wanted to do it
up in English style, dinner to the tenantry, and all that sort of thing,
only unluckily there wasn't any tenantry, and he had to abandon the
benevolent role and take to a jollier one. He won't show off as well, but
we'll have a deal more fun. It's to be a sort of royal picnic, but in the
evening, mind,—wasn't that a brilliant idea for the old gentleman? We
are all to go up in boats, and there are to be great rafts with blazing
torches, and a supper in the woods grander than any of Mrs. Upjohn's, and
bonfires, and the band from Galilee, and bouquets for the ladies, and I
don't know what not, and best of all, unlimited opportunities for
flirting. It's to be the affair of this and every other season past or
future. It's a crying shame you can't go."
"Oh! how I wish I could!" sighed poor Phebe.
"I made pa give me a new dress for it," continued Bell, leaning forward
to pick off the biggest grapes from a bunch on the table. "I mean to look
just too-too. Mr. De Forest is going to row me up. I don't know exactly
how I made him ask me, but I did. It's such a triumph to get him away
from Miss Vernor for once, though I suspect I'll have to pay for it by
doing more than half the rowing myself. I don't suppose he would exert
his precious self to pull an oar more than five minutes at a time. Amy
tried her best to get Mr. Halloway, and so did the Dexters. The way those
girls run after him is a caution even to me; but they didn't get him.
He's monstrously clever in keeping out of people's clutches. I gave him
up long ago as a bad job. Well, good-by, Phebe. Awfully sorry you can't
go. Everybody'll be there, and it's to be the biggest lark out."
During the few days that intervened before Dick's birthday, little else
was talked of anywhere than Mr. Hardcastle's party, which was never
spoken of, by the way, as Mrs. Hardcastle's party, though upon that good
lady devolved the onus of the weighty preparations. It seemed purely Mr.
Hardcastle's affair, just as every thing did in which he was in any way
concerned. Impromptu meetings were held at every house in turn to discuss
the coming event, and the latest bits of information regarding it were
retailed with embellishments proportionate to the imagination of the
accidental narrator. Not a soul in Joppa but knew every proposed feature
of the entertainment better than the hosts themselves. The old people
said it would be damp and rheumatic and would certainly be the death of
them. The young people said it would be divine, and quite worth dying
for. The people who were neither old nor young said nobody could tell how
it would be till after it was over, and they felt it their duty to go to
look after the others. The day came, brilliantly clear and soft and
warm: such a day, in short, as Mr. Hardcastle had felt to be his due, and
had expected of the elements all along as the one token of regard in
their power to accord him, and he accepted his friends' congratulations
upon it with a grave bow which seemed to say: "I ordered it so. Pray, did
you suppose I had forgotten to attend to the weather?" The sun set in a
cloudless heaven; the evening star hung quivering over the green-topped
hills; the twilight dropped noiseless and fragrant over earth and water,
and the long-dreamed-of moment had arrived at last.
"Just let me have one more look at you, Gerald, before you start," said
Phebe, wistfully. "Oh, how beautiful you look! Nobody's dresses ever fit
like yours, and that great dark-red hat and feather,—I thought I should
not like it,—but it makes a perfect picture of you."
"For pity's sake do stop!" begged Gerald. "You know of all things I hate
compliments. Where's that boy Olly?"
"He's coming to me later. I promised to make up to him for his not going
to the party, poor little fellow."
"Phebe, dear," said Gerald, suddenly stooping to give her one of her
rare kisses, "I cannot bear to leave you all alone so. That miserable
Miss Lydia and Olly aren't any sort of company. Let me stay with you. I
had a great deal rather."
"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Phebe, almost pushing her toward the door. "I
don't mind a bit being left, and I wouldn't have you stay for anything.
How lovely of you to propose it! You are an angel, Gerald, even though
you don't like being told so, Good-by. And—Gerald,"—she had followed
her friend out into the hall, and stood leaning against the
banisters,—"Gerald, dear, will you tell Mr. Halloway I am going
Halloway was to be Gerald's escort that evening, and stood waiting for
her now in the hall below, and looking up at sound of Phebe's voice, he
gave an exclamation of surprise and pleasure, and immediately sprang up
"Miss Phebe!" he said, taking both her hands in his. "How glad I am to
see you once more!"
Phebe shrank back from him with a little cry of dismay. Ah! when does
ever any thing happen exactly as we plan it shall? She had pictured this
meeting to herself over and over again during the long days of her
seclusion,—just what he would say and what she would say, and just how
she would dress on that first day when she went down-stairs. She meant
to look so particularly nice on that first day! And now to be caught in
her plain little gray flannel wrapper with its simple red trimmings, her
hair all loose and mussy, and even her very oldest slippers on,—and
with Gerald standing beside her in her rich, dainty, becoming attire as
if to make the contrast all the more painfully striking! Poor little
Cinderella Phebe! She looked up at Denham almost ready to cry, and said
never a word.
"It has been such a long, long time!" he said, still holding her hands.
"I do not know how we have made out to spare you."
"We shall not have to spare her much longer," said Gerald. "She is coming
And then Halloway dropped Phebe's hands, and turning to Gerald, held out
a hand to her.
"Forgive me for not even noticing you, Miss Vernor. At first I could
only see Miss Phebe."
"Doesn't Gerald look nice?" asked Phebe, trying to choke back the
uncomfortable lump rising so unreasonably in her throat. Halloway moved
back a little and looked at Gerald, who stood fastening her long glove,
utterly unconscious or unheedful of his scrutiny. The light in the niche
at the head of the stairs threw its full glow over both her and Phebe.
"Yes," he answered, quietly, after an imperceptible pause, and, as he
turned back to Phebe, it seemed to her that his eyes glanced over her
with a suddenly awakened consciousness of the wrapper and the tumbled
hair and even of the little worn-out slippers. "You look pale," he said,
kindly. "I know I am wrong to keep you standing here just because it is
so pleasant to see you again. And it is easier to say good-by, knowing I
have only till to-morrow to wait now. A demain."
"Good-night," murmured Phebe, without looking up; "good-night, Gerald."
And then she turned quickly into her room, and closed the door, and stood
stock-still behind it, holding her breath and listening intently till
she heard the front door close upon them and the last echo of their
footsteps die away in the street outside. Then she flung herself face
downward upon the bed and cried miserably to herself out of sheer
disappointment. Why did it have to be all so very, very different from
"MY SON DICK."
Never had there been a more perfect night than that whereon Dick
Hardcastle's coming of age was celebrated. Only enough wind stirred to
toy softly with the gay little pennons streaming from the many boats
winding their way to the rendezvous, and to throw dancing shadows of
light upon the water from the torches at their prow. All along the banks
of the lake, where high hills shut out the moonlight and bound the shore
in an almost Egyptian darkness, rafts were stationed at intervals,
blazing with colored lights. The sound of distant music floated far down
upon the air, mingled with the swish of steady oars and laughter and
happy voices as the occupants of the various boats called out merrily to
each other across the water, or here and there broke into light-hearted
song. Denham's boat glided stilly along through all this carnival-like
revelry. Gerald was not in a mood for talking, and he felt little
inclined to disturb her. It was companionship enough merely to glance at
her ever and anon as she sat silently in the stern, the red ropes of the
tiller drawn loosely around her slender waist like a silken girdle. He
wondered idly what she was thinking of. Her broad hat threw too deep a
shadow for him to see her face save when they neared one of the beacon
rafts; then it was suddenly in brilliant illumination, and it was
impossible not to watch for these moments of revelation, which lit her up
to such rare beauty. He fancied he could almost see her thoughts as there
flashed across her face some new, swift expression more speaking than
words,—now a noble thought, he was sure; now an odd fancy, now a serious
meditative mood, that held her every sense and faculty in thrall at once.
Through all her revery she never forgot her duty with the rudder, though
she quite forgot her oarsman. She made no effort whatever toward his
entertainment, and he felt sure that he could do no more toward hers than
simply not to obtrude himself upon her. Were there many, he wondered,
even among her chosen friends (in whose ranks he could not count
himself), who would have enjoyed this silent sail with her so much as he?
They neared the destined spot all too soon for him, and Gerald at last
"Are we there now? I had no idea it was so far."
"It is not far enough," answered Denham, resting a moment on his
oars as he looked around. "Nothing surely can be devised, even in
this pleasure-ingenious society, so enjoyable as I have found our
"Why do you go to the party at all then?" asked Gerald, abruptly. "It
isn't compulsory, is it? After you land me, are you not at liberty to row
off if you prefer?"
"Ah, but I don't prefer," Halloway said gayly, resuming his oars. "I
expect to be very greatly entertained there too. There is almost
always something to be got out of every thing, and anyway I
particularly like parties."
"I hate them."
"Yes, because you do not care for people. I like them just because I do
care for people, and parties are but people collectively instead of
individually, you know."
By this time Denham had shot the boat up to the landing, where the hosts
of the evening stood ready to receive them. Dick was in a wild state of
boyish hilarity, profiting by the novelty of his exalted position as hero
of the evening, boldly to take a kiss from every pretty girl in
succession as he swung her to the shore. "It's my right, to-night, you
know, or if it isn't, I'm major now and can make laws for myself," he
explained complacently to any expostulatory subject; and Mr. Hardcastle
rubbed his soft, plump hands, and added: "Never you mind, never you mind,
my dear; every dog must have his day, and this is Dick's day. And after
all it's my son Dick, you know, and that makes it all right. He doesn't
need any other guaranty than that he's my son, I'm sure, and seeing I'm
Dick's papa, my dear, why I'll just make bold to follow suit."
But Dick would as soon have thought of offering to kiss the polar star as
Gerald, and she was suffered to pass on unmolested to Mrs. Hardcastle,
who stood just beyond, looking fagged and jaded, and as if she were
heartily thankful that in all his life Dick could never come of age
again. One of the next arrivals was Bell Masters, very fine in her new
dress, but flushed and overheated to an unbecoming degree. She rowed up
smartly, shipped her oars in true nautical fashion, sprang from the boat,
and held out her hand to her companion with a hardly repressed sneer:
"Pray allow me to assist you, Mr. De Forest."
That gentleman got up leisurely from his cushioned seat in the stern, and
came forward cool and comfortable to an enviable degree. "Thanks," he
said, with even a little more drawl than usual as he took her proffered
hand. "This boat is a little teetery. You are uncommonly kind, and
quite a champion oarswoman."
"You ought to be a judge of my powers by this time certainly," said Bell,
snappishly. She had rowed the entire distance from Joppa unaided.
"Yes, I flatter myself that I am. People can always judge best of what
they don't do themselves. And I will say that you do row
well—uncommonly well—for a woman. I don't know a girl, except Miss
Vernor, fit to pull stroke oar to you. Ah, Mr. Hardcastle, what an
adorable evening you have provided for us! Mr. Dick Hardcastle, permit me
to congratulate you upon attaining your majority, than which, believe me,
there is but one greater blessing in the world—that of minority. I see
you have not yet abandoned all the privileges of the latter, however," he
added, as Dick caught Bell round the waist and gave her a sounding salute
on the cheek. "That is an alleviation it seems unfair to monopolize."
Bell laughed and boxed Dick's ears, whereupon he speedily kissed her
again, and Mr. Hardcastle chuckled and pulled one of the long, light
braids hanging over her back. Bell's blonde hair, with her black eyes,
was her strong point, and she invariably dressed it à la Kenwigs when she
wore a hat. None of Miss Bell's lights ran any danger of ever being
hidden under a bushel.
"Ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Hardcastle. "It's all right. It's only Dick, you
know, my son Dick; and bless my heart, the boy's good taste too. He
"Take my arm or let me take yours," muttered De Forest to Bell as Mr.
Hardcastle turned away, "and do let's get through it with his good
lady. Do you suppose she'll kiss me? Get her to make it easy for me,
"Where now?" asked Bell, undecidedly, after the due politenesses with the
hostess had been exchanged. The woods were fairly ablaze with bonfires
and hanging lanterns, making a strangely brilliant and fantastic scene.
Here and there rugs were spread out on the grass for the older people to
congregate upon in gossiping groups, while the young ones had speedily
converted a large, smooth spot of lawn into an impromptu dancing-ground,
and were whirling merrily away to the music of the band, in the very face
of the scandalized Mrs. Upjohn. This last field of action was the first
to attract Bell's quick eye. "Oh, come," she said. "Of course you dance?"
De Forest gave a shudder. "My dear young lady! no sane man ever dances.
But pray do not let me detain you. Where your heart is, there would your
feet be also." He dropped her arm as he spoke. Bell shrugged her
shoulders and put her arm back in his.
"'Tisn't fair to abandon you so soon after bringing you here. There's
Janet Mudge" (hastily selected as the plainest girl present and the
farthest from Gerald, toward whom De Forest's steps were manifestly
directing themselves); "let's go and speak to her."
"On the contrary, let us avoid her by every means in our power," said De
Forest, imperturbably, walking Bell off in the opposite direction. "I
never choose pearls when I may have diamonds. There's Miss Vernor. We'll
go and speak with her."
"But I don't want to," objected Bell, crossly. "I am not at all as fond
of Miss Vernor as you are."
"Naturally not," answered De Forest, pursuing his way undisturbed. "Men
always like girls better than girls do. I appreciate your feelings. But
she's got that good-looking young minister with her. You like him. All
feminine souls incline to clergymen next to officers. Buttons first; then
"Thirdly, For(r)esters, I suppose," suggested Bell, saucily.
"Undoubtedly," assented her companion. "Miss Vernor, your humble
servant." His glance, as it invaribly did when they met, seemed to make
swift, approbative note of every smallest particular of her appearance.
"Mr. Halloway, here is a young lady who has just openly informed me that
she prefers you to me, so I suppose I must resign her to you with what
grace I can. Don't you think, Miss Vernor, you might try to divert my
mind from dwelling too cruelly on Miss Masters' defalcation by showing me
what Mr. Hardcastle's grand intellect has devised for my entertainment?
That bonfire yonder has a sort of cannibalistic look about it suggestive
of dancing negroes and unmentionable feasts behind the flames. Shall we
inspect it nearer?" And he marched Gerald deliberately away, scarcely
remembering to bow to Bell. Still, to be left with Mr. Halloway was by no
means an unenviable fate, and Bell, like the wise girl she was, proceeded
to make the most of it without delay, and paraded her prey wherever she
chose, finding him much more tractable than her last companion, and not
in the least dictatorial as to the direction he went in.
That out-door evening party was long remembered as one of the most novel
and successful entertainments ever given in Joppa. Even Mrs. Upjohn
admitted it to be very well, very well indeed, all but the dancing, for
which, however, Mr. Hardcastle apologized to her handsomely as a quite
unexpected ebullition of youthful spirits which in his soul he was far
from countenancing, and upon which she resolutely turned her back all the
evening, so at least not to be an eye-witness of the indecorum. Of
course, therefore, she knew nothing whatever about it when Mr. Upjohn
toward the end of the evening, actually allowed himself to be decoyed
into the gay whirl by one of the youngest and most daring of the girls,
and galloped clumsily around like a sportive and giddy elephant set free
for the first time in its native jungle, and finding it very much to its
liking. His daughter Maria, faithfully at her mother's side, sat with one
ear grudgingly lent to the prosy heaviness of Mr. Webb's light talk, and
her whole face turned longingly toward the spot where the happy sinners
were gyrating, and, seeing her father there, her round eyes grew rounder
than ever, as she watched in breathless alarm lest the earth should open
under his feet in instant retribution. Gracious, if ma should turn her
head! But there are some wrongs it is best to ignore altogether, where
prevention is hopeless, and Mrs. Upjohn, like many another good woman,
always knew when not to see. So she persistently did not see now, and Mr.
Upjohn spun away to his heart's content (prudently keeping in the
remotest corner of the sward, to be sure), winking at Maria every now and
then in the highest glee, and once absolutely signing to her to sneak
over to him and try a turn too.
And then came supper-time, and such a supper, setting all confectioners
and doctors at defiance at once! Mr. Upjohn, red and perspiring, and
remarking how curiously hot the bonfires made the woods at night, waited
on his wife with gallant solicitude, lest she should leave a single dish
untasted. Mrs. Bruce had left town the day before, and in the absence of
any new admiration he always fell back with perfect content upon his old
allegiance. Mrs. Upjohn received his devotion as calmly as his
intermittent neglects, and only raised her eyebrows when he stooped to
whisper, "My love, you're the most handsomely dressed woman here!" which
was strictly true as regarded the materials of her attire, and
unblushingly false as regarded the blending of them. Dick had been in his
element all the evening. He had had a serio-comic flirtation with every
girl in turn. He had cut out Jake Dexter with Nellie Atterbury, and made
it up to his friend by offering him a lock of Bell's hair, which he had
surreptitiously cut from her hanging braids, and which Jake wore pinned
in his button hole as a trophy for the rest of the evening, to the
immense scandal of everybody. But with the supper-hour Dick's spirits
ebbed. He knew, poor fellow, what Fate held in store. His father intended
making a few remarks over him, as a sort of substitute for his defrauded
speech to the non-existing tenantry.
"Stand by me, Jake, there's a man!" whispered Dick, forlornly, to
"I will, Dick, like a woman!" Jake responded, tenderly, and the two stood
together just at Mr. Hardcastle's elbow, as that worthy advanced to a
central spot between the bonfires, cleared his throat ominously, and
pirouetted solemnly around, holding up his hand to attract general
"My friends," began Mr. Hardcastle, swelling with the importance of the
moment to even more than his usual rotundity, "this has been a day of
days to me. All of you who are parents will appreciate my feelings of
mingled pride and humility,—of pride and humility," repeated Mr.
Hardcastle, pleased with the antithesis, and swaying gently back and
forth, "as I stand here before you with my son, the boy whom I have
watched over from his cradle up with an unsleeping eye, and whose tender
feet"—Dick here stooped over to inspect those honest, able members. Jake
did the same with evident disapproval of them. Mr. Hardcastle raised his
voice—"whose tender feet I have endeavored from his youth up, so far as
lay in my limited power, to guide in the way that I hope he may never
depart from. This boy I now present to you, friends, a man,—this boy who
has grown up among you, whom you all know, and whom I hope you all harbor
some kindly feeling for,—this boy,"—he put out his hand to draw him
forward, Dick gave Jake a gentle push toward the hand and vanished, and
Mr. Hardcastle, quite unconscious of the manoeuvre, drew the grinning
Jake solemnly up to him, and casting around a look of triumph which
seemed to say: Do better than this, friends, if you can, placed his hand
on Jake's shoulder with his grandest air, and continued, sonorously,—"my
son, ladies and gentlemen,—my son Dick."
There was a moment's pause of consternation among the guests and a
suppressed scream from the defrauded Mother Dexter. Mr. Hardcastle
slowly turned his radiant face toward his supposed son, and immediately
dropped his hand and exclaimed, in entirely altered and most natural
tones of amazement: "Well, I never! How in the world did you get here,
A shout instantly went up all round; even Mr. Hardcastle himself was
overcome with the ludicrousness of the mistake, and further solemnity
being impossible, a signal was given, and from a barge far out on the
water a score of rockets shot hissing into the air, announcing the
beginning of fireworks. A brilliant display of these followed, closing
the evening's entertainment, and immediately afterward a large raft was
towed up to the landing, and the whole merry party embarked and returned
to Joppa together, the band following on another boat and treating them
to music all the way. Halloway stood near Gerald in the crowd, but he did
not attempt to join her until the raft reached the pier and was made
fast. Then he quietly went to her and offered his arm. De Forest stepped
up at the same moment. "Miss Vernor, will you condescend to accept of my
valuable escort home?"
"I beg your pardon," interrupted Denham, "I am Miss Vernor's escort
De Forest stood still. "I did not know it was a return-ticket
"It was," answered Denham, decidedly. "You can hardly expect me to
relinquish my rights."
"I should say your rights depended wholly on Miss Vernor's choice. Fair
lady, two hearts and four arms are at your immediate disposal. If you
could make up your volatile mind to determine between them—"
"There can be no question of choice," said Gerald, quietly. "I accepted
Mr. Halloway's escort yesterday; so good-night."
"You leave me a blighted being," said De Forest. "For the peace of my
soul, let me ascribe your decision to a love of justice rather than of
individual. Au revoir."
Halloway drew Gerald's hand through his arm with a very comfortable
feeling of possession, and they walked on some time in silence. "Are you
tired?" he asked at last.
"No—yes. Parties always tire me, and life in Joppa consists of parties.
Do you always go?"
"Your mental constitution must be robust to stand such a steady
strain upon it."
"The shepherd must keep by his sheep, you know," laughed Denham.
"I thought the shepherd was to lead the sheep, not to be led by them.
Don't you hope to inspire them with a love for better things? I
fancied the province of a clergyman was to improve people—not just to
preach to them."
A shadow crossed Denham's face. "There are many of them more fitted to
improve me than I them," he said, humbly. "How would you have me begin?"
"With making Mr. Hardcastle less offensively pompous, and Mrs. Hardcastle
less tedious, and Mrs. Upjohn less dogmatic, and Mrs. Anthony more
sincere, and Miss Delano less namby-pamby,—in short, by taking a little
of the superficiality and narrow-mindedness and provinciality out of the
place if possible."
Denham tossed back his head with a light laugh. "Ah, how you relieve my
mind! Most of those whom you have so scathingly described belong to other
congregations, and are therefore beyond my jurisdiction."
"Do you really feel so? Are you so like a physician?" asked Gerald,
quickly. "Do you seek to do good only to those who pay for the care you
give them? Is not your mission with all with whom you are thrown?"
"The days of single-handed combat against the world are over," answered
Denham. "You cripple a man by giving him too wide a field of action."
"I would not take less than the widest were I a man!" exclaimed
"Would you be a clergyman?"
"No. I have no talent for writing. I could not preach."
"Nay, I think you an admirable preacher," said Denham, gently, without
the faintest tinge of sarcasm in either tone or look. Gerald glanced at
him quickly and flushed slightly.
"I am too dogmatic myself," she said, biting her lip and turning away her
head. "I should not be so hard on Mrs. Upjohn."
"You do not intend to be hard on any one."
"But to be just is to seem hard," said Gerald.
"It is a divine prerogative to know just how far to temper justice with
mercy," Denham answered. "I suppose none of us can hope to attain to
perfect knowledge; but if there must be error, I would for myself rather
err in excess of mercy than of justice."
"In other words, between two evils you would choose the least," Gerald
replied. "That is the common way of getting out of the difficulty. But it
seems to me like compromising with evil. There ought to be always some
third, wholly right, way out of every dilemma, if only one sought
earnestly enough." She spoke more as if to herself than to him.
"Then perhaps," said Denham, pleasantly, "we may hope that you will in
time light upon the very kindliest and rightest way combined of judging
not only abstract subjects, but also the not altogether unworthy
inhabitants of even this little place of Joppa."
"Oh, Joppa!" cried Gerald, all the impatience instantly coming back to
her face and voice. As instantly too she frowned in self-conviction, and
turned almost contritely to Denham. "You see, Mr. Halloway, I shall have
to bring my own character first to that future Day of Judgment, and to be
very careful that I do not err on your side,—in being too merciful."
WHY DO SUMMER ROSES FADE?
A few more days slipped by, easily and swiftly, as all days did in
Joppa. The famous party was discussed and re-discussed down to its
minutest details. Mrs. Hardcastle recovered from her subsequent attack
of neuralgia. Mr. Hardcastle, who went from house to house, gathering
compliments as an assessor levies taxes, completed the round of the
village and began again. Mrs. Upjohn asked for and obtained the recipe
of a certain dish, the like of which had never before been seen in
Joppa, and the Joppites commended her boldness in asking and condemned
Mrs. Hardcastle's weakness in giving. The report that Mr. Upjohn had
apostatized from the Presbyterian Church, disapproving of its tenets as
regarded waltzing, was duly started, denied, violently adopted, and as
violently exploded. The statements that Jake Dexter was engaged to
Nellie Atterbury, that Bell Masters had offered herself to Mr. Halloway
and been declined with thanks, and that Gerald's hat had been imported
from Paris two days before, were also duly aired and evaporated. It had,
moreover, by this time become a town fact, that it was Bell Masters and
not Janet Mudge whom Halloway had rowed to the party, and that he had
walked home with Mrs. Lane. Miss Brooks overheard him taking leave of
her at her door, and fancied—but was not sure—that she told him to
change his boots lest his feet should be damp. Everybody had also found
out beyond discussion or doubt that De Forest was Gerald's escort home
on that occasion, but that the engagement between them was broken off.
It was definitely known that he had said he was a blighted being, and
should shortly take a return ticket to New York. Everybody said it was a
shame, when they were so manifestly cut out for each other. In fact,
every thing had been found out about every thing. The evening had been
talked threadbare, and, alas, there was nothing else to talk about.
Phebe's reappearance downstairs, unscarred and bonnie as ever, was
become an old story long since, and Dr. Dennis' treatment of the case
was now admitted to have been the very best possible next to what Dr.
Harrison's treatment would have been, though by all means, it was
decided, Dr. Dennis and not Dr. Harrison should have been called in
when Mr. Brown, the grocer, fell ill of a fever. Poor Joppa was indeed
fairly talked out. It had to settle down upon the fever and Mr. Brown
for lack of any thing else. It was really almost a godsend when Mrs.
Brown took the fever too, for it gave Joppa just twice as much to talk
about, and everybody said it was somebody's duty to see that the poor
souls had right advice in the matter. Jabez Brown, Jr., carried on the
business in his father's stead, and measured out his sugars and teas at
so much advice the pound, and did a thriving business, but the poor old
father died all the same. He was a respectable, honest man, and all his
customers attended his funeral in the most neighborly way in the world,
with a grim look upon their sympathetic countenances of "I told you so.
It should have been Dr. Dennis."
Yes, to all but Phebe, her illness and long imprisonment and her return
to matter-of-fact life downstairs, was a tame-enough story now. But to
her it was as the opening chapter of a new history. Life seemed changed
and strange to her when she stepped back into it, and took up again the
duties and labors that she had laid by only so lately. Had she dreamed
herself into another world, or why was it so hard to put herself back
into the place she had stepped out of? Everybody about her was the same;
nothing had really changed in any way, and certainly she had not. Neither
had Gerald. Neither had Mr. Halloway. What had she expected? What was it
she had vaguely looked forward to? What was it that was so different?
"Pray, what are you thinking of?" Denham asked suddenly one day, turning
to her with his bright, sweet smile. "You have been quiet for very long."
"So have you been quiet," returned Phebe. "I do not think I have been any
less talkative than you."
"Perhaps not," said Denham. "We are leaving Soeur Angélique and Miss
Vernor to have a regular tête-à-tête of it, are we not? But you evade my
question in a very unbecoming way, Miss Phebe. Tell me, what were you
"I don't quite know," answered Phebe, slowly. "But I think I was wishing
for impossibilities,—for things that can't possibly happen, just because
it would be so nice if they could."
"Ah," said Halloway, dreamily. "That is a very bad habit, a frightfully
unsatisfactory, delusive, and, indeed, an altogether pernicious habit,
Miss Phebe. It takes the taste out of every thing solid, and leaves one
an appetite only for indigestible sweets. I must correct you of it. I
will, just as soon, that is, as I have broken myself of it. Will you wait
till I have taken myself in hand?"
They were together sitting in a little recess of the rectory parlor,
while Mrs. Whittridge and Gerald were talking at the farther end of the
room. Soeur Angélique had invited the two girls to tea, and Halloway,
when he came in from his study, seated himself at once by Phebe, though
after his warm greeting and self-congratulations upon having her back
in her old haunts, he had fallen into quite an unusual silence. Phebe
was looking very sweet and fresh that afternoon. All the care that she
had meant to devote to her toilet upon the occasion of her first meeting
with Halloway, she had expended in dressing herself for this visit to
the rectory. Never had her shining hair been braided so glossily, or
coaxed into waving more prettily about her forehead; never had the
simple etceteras of her dress been more studiously selected and more
carefully put together. Looking in the glass when all was done, she had
been fain to confess that she really did look nice for once, though she
reproached herself immediately afterward in severest terms for the
unpardonable vanity of the thought, and made a little grimace at her own
image to effectually dispel the illusion. What could it ever matter how
she looked? And particularly how could it matter when Gerald was
by,—Gerald, who possessed that rare and enviable gift of always looking
her best? So Phebe put the subject of her looks entirely away from her
mind, and leaned back on the sofa, her hands folded idly in her lap,
feeling perfectly content with the passing moment, and asking nothing
from the future but that it might be always "now." What more could she
want? The room held her three dearest friends in the world,—Gerald,
Soeur Angélique, and Mr. Halloway;—of course one should always put
ladies before gentlemen even only in thought. How handsome Gerald looked
as she stood with her head slightly bent forward, listening to Mrs.
Whittridge. If Gerald did not choose to listen, no one could ever force
her to lend an ear. But when she did so choose, she listened with her
whole mind, and was lost to all else. Phebe smiled with quiet amusement
at her friend's intensity in every thing, and turned with the smile on
her face to Halloway. He was not smiling at all, but he too was looking
fixedly at Gerald.
"It has been lovely having her here, but how we shall miss her, shall we
not, when she goes?" said Phebe, softly.
"Goes?" repeated Halloway, blankly. "It is scarcely September yet."
"What, have you not heard?" exclaimed Phebe. "Do you not know? Gerald has
been sent for. She and Olly go back next Thursday."
"Thursday?" echoed Halloway, in a sort of stunned way. "So soon? Going
for good? Thursday?"
What closely guarded secret did the loving gray eyes, fastened upon him,
read in the swift, uncontrollable look that flashed suddenly across his
face, like the lightning that leaps out of the dark by night, laying all
earth bare in one brief, vivid glimpse? He was so taken by surprise as to
be completely off guard. It was but an instant, and with a start he
"I had not heard your news," he said, with perfect quiet, reaching out to
the table for an uncut magazine, and proceeding leisurely to open its
pages. "I suppose it is a sign that summer is over when the birds begin
to fly home."
Phebe did not answer immediately. In that one short moment, all her face
had changed also. As by the stroke of a wand, its brightness and sweet
content had given place to an expression of unutterable weariness. She
got up and went to the window, standing with her back to Halloway.
"We had our first cold night that evening of my accident," she
said, with an effort to speak very calmly. "I think the summer really
It was the night before Gerald's departure, and a number of people
strayed into Mrs. Lane's parlor to bid the fair traveller god-speed. She
had not been at all a popular guest, but that was no reason why Joppa
should lack in any possible courtesy toward her, little as she
appreciated the magnanimity of its conduct.
"Very sorry to lose you, very," said Mr. Hardcastle, taking her hand in
the soft, warm grasp that Gerald so particularly detested. "But maybe
it's as well you are going. Joppa isn't the place it used to be. Here's
Mr. Anthony's got the fever to-night, and there's a poor family down in
the village as have all got it, Dennis says; and I noticed that little
Nellie Atterbury had monstrous red cheeks when Dick and I passed her
to-night, and indeed I crossed the street to avoid her in case she might
be going to have the fever too. Where one has a family one has duties
one would never feel for one's self. So I say, my dear, it's as well
you're going, if only on account of that boy of yours. We must all learn
early to sacrifice ourselves for our children."
"Olly isn't my child," said Gerald, twisting her handkerchief around her
hand to efface the remembrance of Mr. Hardcastle's touch.
"Hey? Ah, yes, to be sure, he's your brother; but it's all one. You stand
in the light of a parent to him just now, my dear." He was actually going
to pat Gerald paternally on the shoulder, but she moved abruptly aside,
and he pulled Olly's ear instead. It was necessary to do something with
his outstretched hand before drawing it back. Olly was playing
cat's-cradle with the good-natured Mr. Upjohn, and merely kicked out at
his caresser, as a warning that he was not to be interrupted.
"Fine spirited boy," muttered Mr. Upjohn under his breath. "Very fine.
Will make a man some day."
"Not so big as you, though, I won't be when I'm a man," declared Olly.
"You're too fat."
"Now just hear him!" exclaimed Mr. Upjohn, shaking all over with
corpulent mirth. "Maybe you would rather be like Mr. Webb then?"
"No, I wouldn't neither," retorted Olly, nothing deterred by that
gentleman's presence from a frank exposure of his sentiments. "He's too
lean. He's leaner than any thing. He's just like the blade of my
pocket-knife with clothes on. Oh, crickey!"
It was conveniently discovered at this crisis that it was Olly's bedtime,
and he was with some difficulty conveyed from the parlor, followed by an
angry glare from Gerald and a severely truthful comment from Mrs. Upjohn.
De Forest outstayed the rest of the leave-takers. Phebe thought it hard,
when she so wanted to have Gerald all to herself on this last evening;
and she wondered too that Halloway had not come to say good-by. He came
in, however, at last, flushed and tired, apologizing for the lateness of
his call, saying he had been sent for by two of his parishioners who were
also down with the fever.
"It looks something like an epidemic," remarked Gerald. "I am really
rather glad we are going."
"You have no ambition to remain and turn Florence Nightingale then?"
asked De Forest.
"Not in the slightest. It is a role I am eminently unfitted for. I detest
"Not always, I think, Gerald," said Phebe, with a grateful glance, which
Gerald returned with one of real though undemonstrative tenderness.
"Your case was very different, Phebe."
"I should think it would be extremely difficult to detest Miss Phebe
under even the must aggravating circumstances," said Halloway, smiling
frankly at her. "Hallo, who is this?"
It was Olly, bootless and coatless, whom the sound of Halloway's voice
had brought down from the midst of his slow preparations for bed, to bid
his friend good-by, and who sprang upon him with a rush of suffocating
"What would Mrs. Upjohn say!" drawled De Forest.
Gerald rose at once to send off the child with a reprimand, and
remained standing after he had gone. De Forest rose too and slowly came
"I suppose I had better leave you to follow Olly up-stairs. I wish you
to be fresh to entertain me during to-morrow's tedious journey."
"What, do you go back to-morrow too?" asked Gerald, in surprise. "I
thought you were to stay till next week."
"I am afraid of the fever," pronounced De Forest with great gravity, his
handsome eyes fastened on her face. "I am running away from it. I don't
think it safe to stay another day in the place."
Gerald colored a little,—not at his words, but his look. "Then I suppose
I need not bid you good-by," she said, turning away. She seemed almost
"Oh, but Gerald,—Mr. Halloway, you must say good-by to him you know,"
said Phebe, distressed.
"Surely. I forgot," replied Gerald, with uncomplimentary sincerity. She
turned back, the faint shade of confusion quite disappearing. "Good-by,
Mr. Halloway. I wish you success in finding all the Nightingales that you
"Thank you," answered Denham, shortly. "Good-by."
Phebe glanced up at him quickly. She noticed a shade of bitterness in
his voice for the first time. He said nothing more, and dropped Gerald's
hand almost immediately. De Forest bent forward and raised it. "Am I to
be defrauded of a good-night, Miss Vernor, simply because it is not my
good-by? Au revoir."
It seemed to Phebe that he held Gerald's hand an instant longer when she
would have withdrawn it, and that she permitted or at least did not
resent it, and before releasing it he stooped and touched her fingers
lightly with his lips. "Au revoir," he said again.
Halloway turned abruptly to Phebe. "Good-night." He spoke almost
brusquely, and went directly away, without offering his hand or looking
at any of them again.
Phebe followed Gerald into her room when the two girls went up-stairs,
and sat watching her friend's quick movements as she completed some last
arrangements for the journey. It was strangely unlike Phebe not to offer
to help her, but somehow Gerald looked so strong and able and
self-sufficient, and she herself felt so tired and weak to-night.
"How quiet you are!" said Gerald, folding a soft shawl smoothly over the
top of a tray. "Haven't you any last message to give me? Isn't there any
thing you would like me to do for you in New York?"
"Nothing, thank you."
"You are sure? Well, now I am through and mustn't keep you up longer. You
have all been exceedingly kind, Phebe, both to myself and that
troublesome Olly. I appreciate it, even though I don't say as much about
it as perhaps some would."
"Have you really enjoyed it here, Gerald? Have you been happy? Will you
miss us a little—just a little—when you are gone?"
"I shall miss you, child, of course. You constitute Joppa to me, you
know. And indeed I have enjoyed it here very much, and it has done Olly a
world of good. Good-night, dear."
Phebe had her arms about her friend at once, clasping her close. "O
Gerald, Gerald, I think it is almost better to have no friends at all,
it is so hard—so cruelly hard—to part with them, and—and to lose
them! O Gerald!"
"Parting with them isn't losing them, you foolish sentimentalist,"
returned Gerald, gently unclasping Phebe's arms. "Now go to bed. You look
"Just tell me once first, Gerald, that you love me. I haven't many to
love me. I need all your love."
"Of course I love you," said Gerald. "You know it without my saying so.
And don't talk so foolishly. I never knew a girl with more friends. Now
Phebe kissed her very quietly, and then crept into Olly's room, and sat
down on his bed. "Olly, dear," she murmured, "are you asleep?"
The little fellow sprang up and flung his arms closely around her neck,
embracing collar, ruffles, and ribbon in one all-comprehensive
"Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?" whispered Phebe, half
laughing and half crying, as she strained him to her heart. "Oh, Olly
dear, I do want some one just to say so!"
"I do, I do, I do, and I do!" said Olly, with a bear's hug at each
assertion. "Blest if I don't. That's what Mr. Upjohn said when I asked
him if he didn't want some taffy. 'Blest if I don't.' I guess it's a
swear, 'cause he said I mustn't tell Mrs. Upjohn he said so, not to the
longest day I lived. The longest day won't come now till next year, the
twenty-first of June. That's the longest day, ain't it? Mr. Halloway
taught me that. My, don't he know a lot! I'm going to be like him when
I'm a man. That's who I'm going to be like. And I'm going to love you
always. He loves you too, doesn't he, Pheeb?"
"No, dear," answered Phebe, still laughing and crying together, and
rocking gently back and forth with the boy in her arms; "he doesn't at
all. There doesn't any body really love me, I think, but just you. But
you do, don't you, dear?"
"Bet on it!" said Olly, with forcible vulgarity.
"God bless you," said Phebe, very softly, as she put the boy back in the
bed, and laid her wet cheek on his. "God bless you now and always."
"Forever and ever, amen," whispered Olly back, with an impression that
Phebe was saying her prayers over him. "And oh, I say, Pheeb, can't you
let us have some of that jelly cake with raisins in it, to take with us
for luncheon to-morrow?"
And Phebe promised she would, and laughed and went away feeling, somehow,
a little comforted.
And so Gerald and Olly and De Forest all disappeared from the scene
together, and shortly after the Dexters went to Morocco on a visit, and
the Masters adjourned to Bethany to do their fall shopping; and there
were whisperings around that something was wrong; there was more and more
talk of the fever; of how it ought to be checked, and why it had not been
checked, and what would be the dire consequences if it were not checked.
The summer guests all slipped quietly away, leaving Joppa alone to its
growing trouble. Every day brought some new case, sometimes a death, and
people began to look suspiciously at each other in the streets and to
avoid each other on the flimsiest pretexts. Miss Lydia cried helplessly
in her room and said she was sure she should take it and die of it. Mr.
Hardcastle found he was too busy at home to have time for neighborly
visits, and went around the block rather than pass a door where he saw
the doctor's gig. When one has a family, one owes it duties that should
not be neglected. Mrs. Upjohn declared the panic to be ridiculous. She
shouldn't be scared away by a red flag, like a crow from a cornfield.
There had never been a case of typhoid known in Joppa, and places were
like people, they never broke out with diseases that were not already in
their constitutions. It was all arrant nonsense. However, she was
perfectly willing that Maria should make that proposed visit to her aunt
in Boston if she liked, and it was quite proper that Mr. Upjohn, in the
character of gallant father, should escort her there; the girl couldn't
go alone. So every day saw some new flight from the village. The doctors
began to look overworked and very grave, and Mr. Hardcastle appeared less
and less outside his gates, and took to walking always in the middle of
the streets, whence he could wave a salutation to his passing friends
without stopping to speak to them. Dick said he'd like to see the fever
catch him, and pursued the rough tenor of his ways fearlessly as of
old, though he assured his anxious father that it was wholly because
Nellie Atterbury lived in the healthiest quarter of the town, that he
spent so much of his time at her house. There was no use denying or
qualifying it. An epidemic of typhoid fever had stolen upon Joppa as a
thief in the night, and there was no knowing what house it would not
enter next, to rob it of its dearest and best.
Through all this slowly increasing alarm, Phebe Lane had been living as
in a dream. It was as if she found herself back in that old life before
she knew Halloway, when people bored her, and when there seemed nothing
worth doing or worth looking forward to, though the days were so full of
duties. She had been at the rectory but once since Gerald left, and that
was to the Bible-class, and when Mrs. Whittridge had tried to detain her
afterward, she had pleaded some pressing business at home, though
chancing to look out of her window a little later, Soeur Angélique was
almost sure that through the closed shutters in Phebe's room, she saw a
dim shadow of the girl's head laid down listlessly on her folded arms on
the sill. But when the epidemic reached its height, Phebe seemed
suddenly to awaken from her languor and rouse herself to action. Here was
something worth doing at last. Once more her soft, sweet whistling
sounded bird-like through the house. The spring came back to her step,
the brightness to her eyes, and more than the old tenderness to her
voice, as she went from one shunned sick-room to another like a living
sunbeam, bringing the freshness of a May morning with her, and seeming
always to come solely for her own pure pleasure. And when poor motherless
Janet Mudge was struck down too with the dreaded disease, and had no one
but servants to care for her, her own aunt, who lived in Joppa, being
afraid to so much as go to the house to ask after her, it seemed
perfectly natural to everybody that Phebe Lane, who had no cares at home
and no one really dependent upon her, should quietly install herself as
Janet's nurse. It was a very proper and natural thing for Phebe to do,
everybody said, and thought no more about it. It was so manifestly a duty
sent direct from Heaven, labelled "For Phebe Lane."
"I met Dr. Dennis to-day," said Halloway one afternoon, coming into his
sister's room and throwing himself wearily down on the sofa. "He says
Janet Mudge is better,—is really going to get well."
Soeur Angélique put aside her work and came to sit by the sofa and stroke
her boy's head. If the doctors were overworked and spent, so too was he.
The hour of trial had not found him wanting. His unambitious, simple
spirit, that sought no wider duty than merely to fulfil the moment's call
as he best could, met and conquered a stress of work that would have
disheartened many a bolder hero. He never thought of it in the light of
duty at all. There was nothing heroic or high-minded about it. It was
simply what in the nature of things he was bound to do. Wherever he was
wanted he went, and because where he went he brought such sunny cheer,
and such sympathetic help, and such bright, kindly ways, he was wanted
everywhere; not only those of his own parish, but those of the other
churches too came to look to Mr. Halloway as the one whose visit helped
them the most in any season of trial. Among the poor he was held a
ministering angel, and supplemented by Soeur Angélique as an unseen
force, often proved one in truth, while his bright face did them more
good, they said, than a power of sermons; and no one ever thought the
less of him because he seemed so much more the friend than the pastor,
and did no preaching at all.
"So Janet is better," said Soeur Angélique, toying caressingly with the
wavy brown hair tossed over his forehead. "Now I hope we shall see more
of our Phebe again. What a little heroine she is!"
"A perfectly unconscious one," answered Halloway, lazily submitting
himself to the fondling hand. "She thinks it the most matter-of-fact
thing in the world that she should play Sister of Charity to other
people's sick, and never expect so much as a thank-you from them."
"She is a lovely character," said Mrs. Whittridge, warmly.
"She is indeed," assented her brother. "A rare character. She is one in a
"I cannot but compare her sometimes with her friend, Gerald Vernor,"
continued Mrs. Whittridge. "And despite Miss Vernor's beauty and her
power, which makes itself felt even by me, still it is always to Phebe's
Halloway got up and began slowly pacing the room, with an odd smile upon
his lips. "Always to Phebe's advantage," he repeated. "Yes, she is by far
the more amiable, the more unselfish, the more lovable, the better worth
loving of the two. She is all heart. She is brimming over with affection,
and must speak it or die, while Gerald is colder than stone,—than ice.
She is so cold she burns. She reminds one of stars in mid-winter, of
icicles in the moonlight, of any thing eminently frigid and brilliant and
remote. I daresay, despite all her beauty and her talent and even with
her wealth thrown in, she will have comparatively few lovers, yet those
few will be truer to her through all her coldness and her disfavor than
the lovers of many a sweeter girl. Did I say Phebe was one in a thousand?
Well Miss Vernor is one in nine hundred and ninety-nine,—or one in ten
thousand,—I don't know which."
"You said Phebe was the better worth loving of the two," said Mrs.
Whittridge, coming to walk up and down the room with him and clasping
her hands over his arm. "I used to think,—I fancied you cared for the
child,—that you would care for her."
Denham stood still and faced his sister very gravely, "I was growing to
care for her, Soeur Angélique," he said. "I believe I would have loved
her if,—if Gerald Vernor had not come here when she did."
"Yes, Soeur Angélique. It is a humiliating confession, is it not, that
one has wilfully thrown away something that perhaps one might have had,
for something that one knows one can never have? It is sheerest folly.
And to do it with one's eyes open is the maddest folly of all. Gerald
Vernor is as indifferent to me as it is possible for one human creature
to be to another. I hold no more place in her thoughts than had I never
existed. And yet, Soeur Angélique, I am fool enough,—or helpless
enough,—whichever you please, to love her. I love her not for what she
is to me, but for what she is in herself, for what she really is, rather
than for what she seems,—for the strength and the heroism of her heart,
which I see through all the glaring, commonplace faults, which she is at
no pains to hide. Or perhaps I only love her because it was meant that I
should. Be it as it may, I do love her, and as passionately, as entirely,
and as hopelessly as it is possible for man to love."
"O Denham, Denham, my boy!"
Denham laid his hand lightly on his sister's lips. "Now we have had a
sufficiency of heroics for once, indeed for always," he said, with a
wholly altered voice. "Life has enough of solemnity in it and in spare,
without our adding aught to it. We will not speak of this again, if you
please. Folly is always best forgotten. But Soeur Angélique, if you
imagine me to be a blighted being, if you think I walk the floor in the
dead of night, tearing my hair and calling on all the stars to witness
the unearthly gloom in my racked bosom, you are utterly mistaken. I do
nothing of the kind. I am not blighted at all. My damask cheek is not
going to be preyed upon, nor shall I take to an excess of tobacco and
poetry. I have made a mistake, but I mean to sing over it,—not weep over
it,—and to become a stronger and better man, if possible, for having
been so weak a one."
"And Phebe?" said Soeur Angélique. Great tears stood in her eyes.
Denham placed both hands on his sister's shoulders. "Soeur Angélique, you
must bury those hopes in the grave. Loving Gerald Vernor, never, now, or
in the future, shall I have one word of love for any other woman. But for
her, I should have come perhaps to love Phebe with this same love;
perhaps,—who knows?—Phebe might so have loved me. As it is—Soeur
Angélique you know what I am. You know if I am likely to deceive myself.
Gerald Vernor has changed my life for always. What might have been, now
can never be."
He stood still a moment, looking full at her. It was wonderful how
resolute and firm and yet brave and gentle too those merry brown eyes of
his could become. Soeur Angélique sighed and shook her head softly. He
stooped and kissed her, then turned away saying: "Now that chapter has
been read through to the end. Woe be to him who turns back the page! And
it is time I went to call on poor Widow Brown."
Soeur Angélique stood in the window as a moment later he passed by. He
kissed his hand to her with a gay smile and went on. But she still stood
there with the tears welling and welling in her eyes till they fell
gently over upon her cheeks. She did not heed them, she was so busy with
her thoughts. "Poor Phebe," she said softly to herself. "My poor little
Phebe! But perhaps,—with time—"
When was it Phebe first fell ill? No one knew. Mr. Hardcastle had kept
cautiously out of her way this long time past, but nobody else suspected
that the brilliant cheeks and eyes which shone like stars were telltales
of a hidden fire burning her life away. The fever was abating in the
village. The doctors declared the epidemic virtually over, and mutually
congratulated each other upon the success of their measures. Mr.
Hardcastle returned to the sidewalks; Mr. Upjohn brought back Maria; Miss
Lydia said death had spared her this once, but next time it would be her
turn to go; Mrs. Lane said she needn't make her will yet for all that;
and everybody said how very much worse the fever would have been in any
less peculiarly healthy spot than Joppa. How was it that at the very
last, when there was no reason at all, when she had been apparently so
perfectly well all along, Phebe Lane should suddenly take to her bed? Not
only one doctor was called in, but both, and when they saw her they said
the fever had been running a long time already, and then they looked very
grave and shook their heads. She did not seem so ill. Most of their
patients had had far more aggravated symptoms yet still they shook their
heads as they looked at her, and murmured something about lack of
vitality, a general giving way, a complete want of will power, etc.
People looked at each other aghast. Was it possible that little Phebe
Lane was really going to die? Nobody really believed it could be,
excepting only Soeur Angélique. "Oh, my darling, my darling!" she cried
out when she first heard of it, and then she instantly went over and
installed herself in Phebe's room. And there she sat the slow days
through, waiting and waiting with a breaking heart. Phebe suffered very
little. She lay generally perfectly still, too weak to move, too weak to
care to speak. People came and went noiselessly below, but no one was
admitted to her room save her step-mother and Mrs. Whittridge. Mrs. Lane
watched her with growing anxiety. The fever was so slight, why did she
not rally from it? How was it credible she could fail so rapidly and so
causelessly? And Mrs. Whittridge sat by with despair in her heart.
One day, late in the afternoon, as she sat so watching, Phebe suddenly
opened her eyes. "Will you call him, please? I hear him."
"Who? Denham?" asked Soeur Angélique, with quick intuition. A finer
ear than hers had caught the light step and low voice in the narrow
"Yes, Denham," said Phebe, softly. "Denham. I want to see him."
It pleased her to say his name so. She said it to herself over and over
beneath her breath, while waiting for him to come. It was but a moment,
and he was kneeling by the bedside, holding both her hands in his. She
looked up in his face and smiled, and said his name again, lower still.
"Yes, Phebe—yes, dear," he answered, too moved to say more.
"I only wanted to say good-by," she continued, her eyes full of a love
unutterable that not even the shadow of coming death could wholly darken.
"Will you kiss me good-by please, this once, good-by—for always?"
A faint, soft flush crept up over her white face, and he bent down and
kissed her gently, as one would kiss the Madonna of a shrine.
"Phebe," he whispered, "not for always only for a time, dear—good-by."
"Yes," she said, with a glad smile lighting up all her sweet, pure face.
"Only for a time."
And them, still holding her hands tightly clasped in his, Denham bent
down his head upon them and prayed.
The sunset came and faded, and the twilight came and went, giving place
to the solemn stillness of the enduring night. The stars shone clear and
still. Not a breath stirred. In his study Denham knelt alone, praying for
a dear and lovely life, praying against hope, against belief—against all
but faith. He did not know what time it was—it seemed as if it might be
morning—-when at last the door opened and Soeur Angélique came in. He
got up and stood waiting, too agitated to speak. What news could she
bring him but the one? She came slowly up to him, then gave a little
gasp, and flinging her arms around his neck, burst into tears.
"O Denham, Denham, all is over! Phebe is dead!"
ONLY AN INCIDENT.
The morning sun was streaming brilliantly in through the richly curtained
windows of a handsome New York dwelling. Mr. and Mrs. De Forest were
about sitting down to breakfast, which waited for them ready served, and
which indeed had been so waiting for some minutes. The butler coughed
behind his hand as a discreet reminder of his presence, and so indirectly
of the cooling dishes. The gentleman looked up from his easy-chair by the
fire and yawned.
"My dear, I've been up so long I think it's getting bedtime again."
"Just one moment, Ogden," answered the lady, from her desk. "I must send
off this note by the first mail."
"Any thing important?"
"Yes. I will not be put on that new committee. They must find some one
else. My time is too full."
De Forest rose and stood with his back to the fire, looking complacently
at his wife. "What an odd sensation it must be—having one's time too
full! It's an experience I'm willing always to delegate to some one else.
Doesn't it feel rather like too tight shoes?"
Gerald laughed as she passed her husband to her seat at the table, and he
stood still watching her as she began pouring coffee. It was always a
pleasure to watch her. The butler drew out the gentleman's chair firmly.
It was time his master took his seat with his lady. There was too much of
this dilly-dallying. De Forest came lazily forward and seated himself.
"Any news?" asked Gerald.
"None whatever. It's a swindle to pay three cents for the Herald in
such monotonous times. I was reduced to searching in your church paper to
see if by any chance something new had gotten lost in there."
"I hope you found it."
"I didn't. Not so much even as the death of someone I knew to cheer me.
There would have been variety at least in that. By the way, though, I
did see a familiar name among the personals,—just a notice that the Rev.
Denham Halloway had accepted a call to some church or other in some place
or other. He was quite a friend of yours, wasn't he, that summer before
we were married, when we were all in that odious little Joppa together?
How bored I was there!"
"Denham Halloway," repeated Gerald, musingly. "Denham Halloway. Why, I
don't believe I have thought of him since. But he was never any especial
friend of mine, you know."
"Ah, there was somebody else who managed to engross a great deal of your
time and most of your thoughts that summer, was there not, my dear, while
nobody but myself was bold enough to suppose that any impression had been
made on that frigid heart of yours? Well, I was perfectly fair. I left
your friend, Phebe, for Halloway."
"Poor little Phebe!" said Gerald, with softened eyes. "How long ago it
all seems. Poor dear little Phebe! I have never wanted to hear of Joppa
since her death. I feel as if she had given her life for it. Yes; I
don't suppose I have thought twice of Denham Halloway since."
Ah, so it was! That brief summer meeting, which had had so potent an
influence on the lives of those other two, had in her life been only