29-33 Richmond Street West.
Montreal: C.W. COATES. Halifax: S.F. HUESTIS.
Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the
year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven, by William
Briggs, at the Department of Agriculture.
To my mother
THIS MY FIRST BOOK
Beth at Eighteen
A Dream of Life
"For I Love You, Beth"
"For I Love You, Beth"
The Heavenly Canaan
BETH AT EIGHTEEN.
In the good old county of Norfolk, close to the shore of Lake Erie, lies
the pretty village of Briarsfield. A village I call it, though in truth
it has now advanced almost to the size and dignity of a town. Here, on
the brow of the hill to the north of the village (rather a retired spot,
one would say, for so busy a man), at the time of which my story treats,
stood the residence of Dr. Woodburn.
It was a long, old-fashioned rough-cast house facing the east, with
great wide windows on each side of the door and a veranda all the way
across the front. The big lawn was quite uneven, and broken here and
there by birch trees, spruces, and crazy clumps of rose-bushes, all in
bloom. Altogether it was a sweet, home-like old place. The view to the
south showed, over the village roofs on the hill-side, the blue of Lake
Erie outlined against the sky, while to the north stretched the open,
undulating country, so often seen in Western Ontario.
One warm June afternoon Beth, the doctor's only daughter, was lounging
in an attitude more careless than graceful under a birch tree. She, her
father and Mrs. Margin, the housekeeper—familiarly known as Aunt
Prudence—formed the whole household. Beth was a little above the
average height, a girlish figure, with a trifle of that awkwardness one
sometimes meets in an immature girl of eighteen; a face, not what most
people would call pretty, but still having a fair share of beauty. Her
features were, perhaps, a little too strongly outlined, but the brow was
fair as a lily, and from it the great mass of dark hair was drawn back
in a pleasing way. But her eyes—those earnest, grey eyes—were the most
impressive of all in her unusually impressive face. They were such
searching eyes, as though she had stood on the brink scanning the very
Infinite, and yet with a certain baffled look in them as of one who had
gazed far out, but failed to pierce the gloom—a beaten, longing look.
But a careless observer might have dwelt longer on the affectionate
expression about her lips—a half-childish, half-womanly tenderness.
Beth was in one of her dreamy moods that afternoon. She was gazing away
towards the north, her favorite view. She sometimes said it was prettier
than the lake view. The hill on which their house stood sloped abruptly
down, and a meadow, pink with clover, stretched far away to rise again
in a smaller hill skirted with a bluish line of pines. There was a
single cottage on the opposite side of the meadow, with white blinds and
a row of sun-flowers along the wall; but Beth was not absorbed in the
view, and gave no heed to the book beside her. She was dreaming. She had
just been reading the life of George Eliot, her favorite author, and the
book lay open at her picture. She had begun to love George Eliot like a
personal friend; she was her ideal, her model, for Beth had some repute
as a literary character in Briarsfield. Not a teacher in the village
school but had marked her strong literary powers, and she was not at all
slow to believe all the hopeful compliments paid her. From a child her
stories had filled columns in the Briarsfield Echo, and now she was
eighteen she told herself she was ready to reach out into the great
literary world—a nestling longing to soar. Yes, she would be
famous—Beth Woodburn, of Briarsfield. She was sure of it. She would
write novels; oh, such grand novels! She would drink from the very
depths of nature and human life. The stars, the daisies, sunsets,
rippling waters, love and sorrow, and all the infinite chords that
vibrate in the human soul—she would weave them all with warp of gold.
Oh, the world would see what was in her soul! She would be the bright
particular star of Canadian literature; and then wealth would flow in,
too, and she would fix up the old home. Dear old "daddy" should retire
and have everything he wanted: and Aunt Prudence, on sweeping days,
wouldn't mind moving "the trash," as she called her manuscripts. Daddy
wouldn't make her go to bed at ten o'clock then; she would write all
night if she choose; she would have a little room on purpose, and
visitors at Briarsfield would pass by the old rough-cast house and point
it out as Beth Woodburn's home, and—well, this is enough for a sample
of Beth's daydreams. They were very exaggerated, perhaps, and a little
selfish, too; but she was not a fully-developed woman yet, and the years
were to bring sweeter fruit. She had, undoubtedly, the soul of genius,
but genius takes years to unfold itself.
Then a soft expression crossed the face of the dreamer. She leaned
back, her eyes closed and a light smile played about her lips. She was
thinking of one who had encouraged her so earnestly—a tall, slender
youth, with light curly hair, blue eyes and a fair, almost girlish,
face—too fair and delicate for the ideal of most girls: but Beth
admired its paleness and delicate features, and Clarence Mayfair had
come to be often in her thoughts. She remembered quite well when the
Mayfairs had moved into the neighborhood and taken possession of the
fine old manor beside the lake, and she had become friends with the only
daughter, Edith, at school, and then with Clarence. Clarence wrote such
pretty little poems, too. This had been the foundation of their
friendship, and, since their tastes and ambitions were so much alike,
Her eyes grew brighter, and she almost fancied he was looking down into
her face. Oh, those eyes—hush, maiden heart, be still. She smiled at
the white cloud drifting westward—a little boat-shaped cloud, with two
white figures in it, sailing in the summer blue. The breeze ruffled her
dark hair. There fell a long shadow on the grass beside her.
"Clarence—Mr. Mayfair! I didn't see you coming. When did you get home?"
"Last night. I stayed in Toronto till the report of our 'exams' came
"I see you have been successful," she replied. "Allow me to congratulate
"Thank you. I hear you are coming to 'Varsity this fall, Miss Woodburn.
Don't you think it quite an undertaking? I'm sure I wish you joy of the
"Why, I hope you are not wearying of your course in the middle of it,
Mr. Mayfair. It is only two years till you will have your B.A."
"Two years' hard work, though; and, to tell the truth, a B.A. has lost
its charms for me. I long to devote my life more fully to literature.
That is my first ambition, you know, and I seem to be wasting so much
"You can hardly call time spent that way wasted," she answered. "You
will write all the better for it by and by."
Then they plunged into one of their old-time literary talks of authors
and books and ambitions. Beth loved these talks. There was no one else
in Briarsfield she could discuss these matters with like Clarence. She
was noticing meanwhile how much paler he looked than when she saw him
last, but she admired him all the more. There are some women who love a
man all the more for being delicate. It gives them better opportunities
to display their womanly tenderness. Beth was one of these.
"By the way, I mustn't forget my errand," Clarence exclaimed after a
He handed her a dainty little note, an invitation to tea from his sister
Edith. Beth accepted with pleasure. She blushed as he pressed her hand
in farewell, and their eyes met. That look and touch of his went very
deep—deeper than they should have gone, perhaps; but the years will
tell their tale. She watched him going down the hill-side in the
afternoon sunshine, then fell to dreaming again. What if, after all, she
should not always stay alone with daddy? If someone else should
come—And she began to picture another study where she should not have
to write alone, but there should be two desks by the broad windows
looking out on the lake, and somebody should—
"Beth! Beth! come and set the tea-table. My hands is full with them
Beth's dream was a little rudely broken by Mrs. Martin's voice, but she
complacently rose and went into the house.
Mrs. Martin was a small grey-haired woman, very old-fashioned; a prim,
good old soul, a little sharp-tongued, a relic of bygone days of
Canadian life. She had been Dr. Woodburn's housekeeper ever since Beth
could remember, and they had always called her "Aunt Prudence."
"What did that gander-shanks of a Mayfair want?" asked the old lady with
a funny smile, as Beth was bustling about.
"Oh, just come to bring an invitation to tea from Edith."
Dr. Woodburn entered as soon as tea was ready. He was the ideal father
one meets in books, and if there was one thing on earth Beth was proud
of it was "dear daddy." He was a fine, broad-browed man, strikingly like
Beth, but with hair silvery long before its time. His eyes were like
hers, too, though Beth's face had a little shadow of gloom that did not
belong to the doctor's genial countenance.
It was a pleasant little tea-table to which they sat down. Mrs Martin
always took tea with them, and as she talked over Briarsfield gossip to
the doctor, Beth, as was her custom, looked silently out of the window
upon the green sloping lawn.
"Well, Beth, dear," said Dr. Woodburn, "has Mrs. Martin told you that
young Arthur Grafton is coming to spend his holidays with us?"
"Arthur Grafton! Why, no!" said Beth with pleased surprise.
"He is coming. He may drop in any day. He graduated this spring, you
know. He's a fine young man, I'm told."
"Oh! Beth ain't got time to think about anything but that slim young
Mayfair, now-a-days," put in Mrs. Martin. "He's been out there with her
most of the afternoon, and me with all them cherries to tend to."
Beth saw a faint shadow cross her father's face, but put it aside as
fancy only and began to think of Arthur. He was an old play-fellow of
hers. An orphan at an early age, he had spent his childhood on his
uncle's farm, just beyond the pine wood to the north of her home. Her
father had always taken a deep interest in him, and when the death of
his uncle and aunt left him alone in the world, Dr. Woodburn had taken
him into his home for a couple of years until he had gone away to
school. Arthur had written once or twice, but Beth was staying with her
Aunt Margaret, near Welland, that summer, and she had seen fit, for
unexplained reasons, to stop the correspondence: so the friendship had
ended there. It was five years now since she had seen her old
play-fellow, and she found herself wondering if he would be greatly
After tea Beth took out her books, as usual, for an hour or two; then,
about eight o'clock, with her tin-pail on her arm, started up the road
for the milk. This was one of her childhood's tasks that she still took
pleasure in performing. She sauntered along in the sweet June twilight
past the fragrant clover meadow and through the pine wood, with the
fire-flies darting beneath the boughs. Some girls would have been
frightened, but Beth was not timid. She loved the still sweet solitude
of her evening walk. The old picket gate clicked behind her at the Birch
Farm, and she went up the path with its borders of four-o'clocks. It was
Arthur's old home, where he had passed his childhood at his uncle's—a
great cheery old farm-house, with morning-glory vines clinging to the
windows, and sun-flowers thrusting their great yellow faces over the
The door was open, but the kitchen empty, and she surmised that Mrs.
Birch had not finished milking; so Beth sat down on the rough bench
beneath the crab-apple tree and began to dream of the olden days. There
was the old chain swing where Arthur used to swing her, and the
cherry-trees where he filled her apron. She was seven and he was
ten—but such a man in her eyes, that sun-browned, dark-eyed boy. And
what a hero he was to her when she fell over the bridge, and he rescued
her! He used to get angry though sometimes. Dear, how he thrashed
Sammie Jones for calling her a "little snip." Arthur was good, though,
very good. He used to sit in that very bench where she was sitting, and
explain the Sunday-school lesson to her, and say such good things. Her
father had told her two or three years ago of Arthur's decision to be a
missionary. He was going away off to Palestine. "I wonder how he can do
it," she thought. "He has his B.A. now, too, and he was always so
clever. He must be a hero. I'm not good like that; I—I don't think I
want to be so good. Clarence isn't as good as that. But Clarence must be
good. His poetry shows it. I wonder if Arthur will like Clarence?"
Mrs. Birch, with a pail of fresh milk on each arm, interrupted her
Beth enjoyed her walk home that night. The moon had just risen, and the
pale stars peeped through the patches of white cloud that to her fancy
looked like the foot-prints of angels here and there on the path of the
infinite. As she neared home a sound of music thrilled her. It was only
an old familiar tune, but she stopped as if in a trance. The touch
seemed to fill her very soul. It was so brave and yet so tender. The
music ceased; some sheep were bleating in the distance, the stars were
growing brighter, and she went on toward home.
She was surprised as she crossed the yard to see a tall dark-haired
stranger talking to her father in the parlor. She was just passing the
parlor door when he came toward her.
"Well, Beth, my old play-mate!"
They would have made a subject for an artist as they stood with clasped
hands, the handsome dark-eyed man, the girl, in her white dress, her
milk-pail on her arm, and her wondering grey eyes upturned to his.
"Why, Beth, you look at me as if I were a spectre."
"But, Arthur, you're so changed! Why, you're a man, now!" at which he
laughed a merry laugh that echoed clear to the kitchen.
Beth joined her father and Arthur in the parlor, and they talked the old
days over again before they retired to rest. Beth took out her pale blue
dress again before she went to sleep. Yes, she would wear that to the
Mayfair's next day, and there were white moss roses at the dining-room
window that would just match. So thinking she laid it carefully away and
slept her girl's sleep that night.
A DREAM OF LIFE.
It was late the next afternoon when Beth stood before the mirror
fastening the moss roses in her belt. Arthur had gone away with her
father to see a friend, and would not return till well on in the
evening. Aunt Prudence gave her the customary warning about not staying
late and Beth went off with a lighter heart than usual. It was a
delightful day. The homes all looked so cheery, and the children were
playing at the gates as she went down the street. There was one her eye
dwelt on more than the rest. The pigeons were strutting on the sloping
roof, the cat dozed in the window-sill, and the little fair-haired girls
were swinging under the cherry-tree. Yes, marriage and home must be
sweet after all. Beth had always said she never would marry. She wanted
to write stories and not have other cares. But school girls change
their views sometimes.
It was only a few minutes' walk to the Mayfair residence beside the
lake. Beth was familiar with the place and scarcely noticed the great
old lawn, the trees almost concealing the house: that pretty fountain
yonder, the tennis ground to the south, and the great blue Erie
stretching far away.
Edith Mayfair came down the walk to meet her, a light-haired, winsome
creature, several years older than Beth. But she looked even younger.
Hers was such a child-like face! It was pretty to see the way she twined
her arm about Beth. They had loved each other ever since the Mayfairs
had come to Briarsfield three years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Mayfair were
sitting on the veranda. Beth had always loved Mrs. Mayfair; she was such
a bright girlish woman, in spite of her dignity and soft grey hair. Mr.
Mayfair, too, had a calm, pleasing manner. To Beth's literary mind there
was something about the Mayfair home that reminded her of a novel. They
were wealthy people, at least supposed to be so, who had settled in
Briarsfield to live their lives in rural contentment.
It was a pretty room of Edith's that she took Beth into—a pleasing
confusion of curtains, books, music, and flowers, with a guitar lying
on the coach. There was a photo on the little table that caught Beth's
attention. It was Mr. Ashley, the classical master in Briarsfield High
School, for Briarsfield could boast a High School. He and Edith had
become very friendly, and village gossip was already linking their
names. Beth looked up and saw Edith watching her with a smiling,
blushing face. The next minute she threw both arms about Beth.
"Can't you guess what I was going to tell you, Beth, dear?"
"Why, Edith, are you and Mr. Ashley—"
"Yes, dear. I thought you would guess."
Beth only hugged her by way of congratulation, and Edith laughed a
little hysterically. Beth was used to these emotional fits of Edith's.
Then she began to question—
"When is it to be?"
"September. And you will be my bridesmaid, won't you, dear?"
"Oh, Beth, I think marriage is the grandest institution God ever made."
Beth had a strange dream-like look in her eyes, and the tea-bell broke
Mr. Ashley had dropped in for tea, and Clarence sat beside Beth, with
Edith and her betrothed opposite. It was so pleasant and home-like,
with the pink cluster of roses smiling in at the window.
After tea, Edith and Mr. Ashley seemed prepared for a tête-à-tête, in
which Mrs. Mayfair was also interested; and Clarence took Beth around to
the conservatory to see a night-blooming cirius. It was not out yet, and
so they went for a promenade through the long grounds toward the lake.
Beth never forgot that walk in all her life to come. Somehow she did not
seem herself. All her ambition and struggle seemed at rest. She was a
child, a careless child, and the flowers bloomed around her, and
Clarence was at her side. The lake was very calm when they reached it;
the stars were shining faintly, and they could see Long Point Island
like a long dark line in the distant water.
"Arthur is going to take me over to the island this week," said Beth.
They had just reached a little cliff jutting out over the water. It was,
perhaps, one of the most picturesque scenes on the shores of Lake Erie.
"Wouldn't it be grand to be on this cliff and watch a thunderstorm
coming up over the lake?" said Beth.
"You are very daring Beth—Miss Woodburn. Edith would rather hide her
head under the blankets."
"Do you know, I really love thunderstorms," continued Beth. "It is such
a nice safe feeling to lie quiet and sheltered in bed and hear the
thunder crash and the storm beat outside. Somehow, I always feel more
deeply that God is great and powerful, and that the world has a live
ruler." She stopped rather suddenly. Clarence never touched on religious
subjects in conversation—
"Dear, what a ducking Arthur and I got in a thunderstorm one time. We
were out hazel-nutting and—"
"Do you always call Mr. Grafton Arthur?" interrupted Clarence, a little
"Oh, yes! Why, how funny it would seem to call Arthur Mr. Grafton!"
"Beth"—he grew paler and his voice almost trembled,—"Beth, do you love
"Love Arthur! Why, dear, no! I never thought of it. He's just like my
brother. Besides," she continued after a pause, "Arthur is going away
off somewhere to be a missionary, and I don't think I could be happy if
I married a man who wasn't a writer."
That was very naive of Beth. She forgot Clarence's literary
"Then can you love me, Beth? Don't you see that I love you?"
There was a moment's silence. Their eyes met in a long, earnest look. An
impulse of tenderness came over her, and she threw both arms about his
neck as he clasped her to his breast. The stars were shining above and
the water breaking at their feet. They understood each other without
"Oh, Clarence, I am so happy, so very happy!"
The night air wafted the fragrance of roses about them like incense.
They walked on along the shore, happy lovers, weaving their life-dreams
under the soft sky of that summer night.
"I wonder if anyone else is as happy as we are, Beth!"
"Oh, Clarence, how good we ought to be! I mean to always be kinder and
to try and make other people happy, too."
"You are good, Beth. May God bless our lives."
She had never seen Clarence so earnest and manly before. Yes, she was
very much in love, she told herself.
They talked much on the way back to the house. He told her that his
father was not so wealthy as many people supposed; that it would be
several years before he himself could marry. But Beth's brow was not
clouded. She wanted her college course, and somehow Clarence seemed so
much more manly with a few difficulties to face.
A faint sound of music greeted them as they reached the house. Edith was
playing her guitar. Mrs. Mayfair met them on the veranda.
"Why, Clarence, how late you've kept the child out," said Mrs. Mayfair
with a motherly air. "I'm afraid you will catch cold, Miss Woodburn;
there is such a heavy dew!"
Clarence went up to his mother and said something in a low tone. A
pleased look lighted her face.
"I am so glad, dear Beth, my daughter. I shall have another daughter in
place of the one I am giving away."
She drew the girl to her breast with tender affection. Beth had been
motherless all her life, and the caress was sweet and soothing to her.
Edith fastened her cape and kissed her fondly when she was going home.
Clarence went with her, and somehow everything was so dream-like and
unreal that even the old rough-cast home looked strange and shadowy in
the moon-light. It was perhaps a relief that her father had not yet
She was smiling and happy, but even her own little room seemed strangely
unnatural that night. She stopped just inside the door and looked at it,
the moonlight streaming through the open window upon her bed. Was she
really the same Beth Woodburn that had rested there last night and
thought about the roses. She took them out of her belt now. A sweetly
solemn feeling stole over her, and she crossed over and knelt at the
window, the withered roses in her hand, her face upturned to heaven.
Sacred thoughts filled her mind. She had longed for love, someone to
love, someone who loved her; but was she worthy, she asked herself, pure
enough, good enough? She felt to-night that she was kneeling at an
unseen shrine, a bride, to be decked by the holy angels in robes whiter
than mortal ever saw.
Waves of sweet music aroused her. She started up as from a dream,
recognizing at once the touch of the same hand that she had heard in the
distance the night before, and it was coming from their own parlor
window, right beneath hers! She held her breath almost as she stole out
and leaned over the balustrade to peer into the parlor. Why, it was
Arthur! Was it possible he could play like that? She made a striking
picture as she stood there on the stairs, her great grey eyes drinking
in the music: but she was relieved somehow when it ceased. It was
bright, quick, inspiring; but it seemed to make her forget her new-born
joy while it lasted.
Beth was lying in the hammock, watching the white clouds chase each
other over the sky. Her face was quite unclouded, though the morning had
not passed just as she had hoped. It was the next afternoon after she
had taken tea at the Mayfair's, and Clarence had come to see her father
that morning. They had had a long talk in the study, and Beth had sat in
her room anxiously pulling to pieces the roses that grew at her window.
After a little while she was called down. Clarence was gone, and she
thought her father did not look quite satisfied, though he smiled as she
sat down beside him.
"Beth, I am sorry you are engaged so young," he said gently. "Are you
sure you love him, Beth?"
"Oh, yes, papa, dear. You don't understand," and she put both arms
about his neck. "I am in love, truly. Believe me, I shall be happy."
"Clarence is delicate, too," said her father with a grave look.
They were both silent for a few minutes.
"But, after all, he cannot marry for three or four years to come, and
you must take your college course, Beth."
They were silent again for a moment.
"Well, God bless you, Beth, my darling child." There were tears in his
eyes, and his voice was very gentle. He kissed her and went out to his
What a dear old father he was! Only Beth wished he had looked more
hopeful and enthusiastic over the change in her life. Aunt Prudence had
been told before dinner, and she had taken it in a provokingly quiet
fashion that perplexed Beth. What was the matter with them all? Did they
think Clarence the pale-faced boy that he looked? They were quite
mistaken. Clarence was a man.
So Miss Beth reasoned, and the cloud passed off her brow, for, after
all, matters were about as they were before. The morning had been rather
pleasant, too. Arthur had played some of his sweet old pieces, and then
asked as a return favor to see some of her writing. She had given him
several copies of the Briarsfield Echo, and he was still reading. In
spite of her thoughts of Clarence, she wondered now and again what
Arthur would think of her. Would he be proud of his old play-mate? He
came across the lawn at last and drew one of the chairs up beside the
"I have read them all, Beth, and I suppose I should be proud of you. You
are talented—indeed, you are more than talented: you are a genius, I
believe. But do you know, Beth, I do not like your writings?"
He looked at her as if it pained him to utter these words.
"They are too gloomy. There is a sentimental gloom about everything you
write. I don't know what the years since we parted have brought you,
Beth, but your writings don't seem to come from a full heart,
overflowing with happiness. It seems to me that with your command of
language and flowing style you might bring before your reader such sweet
little homes and bright faces and sunny hearts, and that is the sweetest
mission a writer has, I believe."
Beth watched him silently. She had not expected this from Arthur. She
thought he would overwhelm her with praise; and, instead, he sat there
like a judge laying all her faults before her. Stern critic! Somehow he
didn't seem just like the old Arthur.
"I don't like him any more," she thought. "He isn't like his old self."
But somehow she could not help respecting him as she looked at him
sitting there with that great wave of dark hair brushed back from his
brow, and his soulful eyes fixed on something in space. He looked a
little sad, too.
"Still, he isn't a writer like Clarence," she thought, "and he doesn't
know how to praise like Clarence does."
"But Arthur," she said, finally speaking her thoughts aloud; "you speak
as though I could change my way of writing merely by resolving to. I can
write only as nature allows."
"That's too sentimental, Beth; just like your writing. You are a little
"But there are gloomy and visionary writers as well as cheerful ones.
Both have their place."
"I do not believe, Beth, that gloom has a place in this bright earth of
ours. Sadness and sorrow will come, but there is sweetness in the cup as
well. The clouds drift by with the hours, Beth, but the blue sky stands
firm throughout all time."
She caught sight of Clarence coming as he was speaking, and scarcely
heeded his last words, but nevertheless they fastened themselves in her
mind, and in after years she recalled them.
Clarence and Arthur had never met before face to face, and somehow there
was something striking about the two as they did so. Arthur was only a
few years older, but he looked so manly and mature beside Clarence. They
smiled kindly when Beth introduced them, and she felt sure that they
approved of each other. Arthur withdrew soon, and Beth wondered if he
had any suspicion of the truth.
Once alone with her, Clarence drew her to his heart in true lover-like
"Oh, Clarence, don't! People will see you."
"Suppose they do. You are mine."
"But you mustn't tell it, Clarence. You won't, will you?"
He yielded to her in a pleasant teasing fashion.
"Have you had a talk with your father, Beth?"
"Yes," she answered seriously, "and I rather hoped he would take it
"I had hoped so, too; but, still, he doesn't oppose us, and he will
become more reconciled after a while, you know, when he sees what it is
to have a son. Of course, he thinks us very young; but still I think we
are more mature than many young people of our age."
Beth's face looked changed in the last twenty-four hours. She had a more
satisfied, womanly look. Perhaps that love-craving heart of hers had
been too empty.
"I have been looking at the upstair rooms at home," said Clarence.
"There will have to be some alterations before our marriage."
"Why, Clarence!" she exclaimed, laughing; "you talk as though we were
going off to Gretna Green to be married next week."
"Sure enough, the time is a long way off, but it's well to be looking
ahead. There are two nice sunny rooms on the south side. One of them
would be so nice for study and writing. It has a window looking south
toward the lake, and another west. You were always fond of watching the
sun set, Beth. But you must come and look at them. Let's see, to-day's
Saturday. Come early next week; I shall be away over Sunday, you know."
"Yes, you told me so last night."
"Did I tell you of our expected guest?" he asked, after a pause. "Miss
Marie de Vere, the daughter of an old friend of my mother's. Her father
was a Frenchman, an aristocrat, quite wealthy, and Marie is the only
child, an orphan. My mother has asked her here for a few weeks."
"Isn't it a striking name?" said Beth, "Marie de Vere, pretty, too. I
wonder what she will be like."
"I hope you will like her, Beth. She makes her home in Toronto, and it
would be nice if you became friends. You will be a stranger in Toronto,
you know, next winter. How nice it will be to have you there while I am
there, Beth. I can see you quite often then. Only I hate to have you
study so hard."
"Oh, but then it won't hurt my brain, you know. Thoughts of you will
interrupt my studies so often" she said, with a coquettish smile.
Clarence told her some amusing anecdotes of 'Varsity life, then went
away early, as he was going to leave the village for a day or two.
Beth hurried off to the kitchen to help Aunt Prudence. It was unusual
for her to give any attention to housework, but a new interest in
domestic affairs seemed to have aroused within her to-day.
The next day was Sunday, and somehow it seemed unusually sacred to Beth.
The Woodburn household was at church quite early, and Beth sat gazing
out of the window at the parsonage across the road. It was so
home-like—a great square old brick, with a group of hollyhocks beside
the study window.
The services that day seemed unusually sweet, particularly the
Sunday-school hour. Beth's attention wandered from the lesson once or
twice, and she noticed Arthur in the opposite corner teaching a class of
little girls—little tots in white dresses. He looked so pleased and
self-forgetful. Beth had never seen him look like that before; and the
children were open-eyed. She saw him again at the close of the
Sunday-school, a little light-haired creature in his arms.
"Why, Arthur, I didn't think you were so fond of children."
"Oh, yes, I'm quite a grandfather, only minus the grey hair."
It was beautiful walking home that afternoon in the light June breeze.
She wondered what Clarence was doing just then. Home looked so sweet and
pleasant, too, as she opened the gate, and she thought how sorry she
should be to leave it to go to college in the fall.
Beth stayed in her room a little while, and then came down stairs.
Arthur was alone in the parlor, sitting by the north window, and Beth
sat down near. The wind had ceased, the sun was slowly sinking in the
west, a flock of sheep were resting in the shadow of the elms on the
distant hill-slope, and the white clouds paused in the blue as if moored
by unseen hands. Who has not been moved by the peace and beauty of the
closing hours of a summer Sabbath? Arthur and Beth were slow to begin
conversation, for silence seemed more pleasing.
"Arthur, when are you going out as a missionary?" asked Beth, at last.
"Not for three or four years yet."
"Where are you going, do you know?"
"To the Jews, at Jerusalem."
"Are you sure you will be sent just where you want to go?"
"Yes, for I am going to pay my own expenses. A bachelor uncle of mine
died, leaving me an annuity."
"Don't you dread going, though?"
"Dread it! No, I rejoice in it!" he said, with a radiant smile. "One has
so many opportunities of doing good in a work like that."
"Do you always think of what you can do for others?"
"That is the best way to live," he answered, a sweet smile in the depths
of his dark eyes.
"But don't you dread the loneliness?"
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
"Oh, Arthur!"—she buried her face for a moment in the cushions, and
then looked up at him with those searching grey eyes of hers—"you are
brave; you are good; I wish I were, too."
He looked down upon her tenderly for a moment.
"But, Beth, isn't your life a consecrated one—one of service?"
"It is all consecrated but one thing, and I can't consecrate that."
"You will never be happy till you do. Beth, I am afraid you are not
perfectly happy," he said, after a pause. "You do not look to be."
"Oh, yes, I am quite happy, very happy, and I shall be happier still by
and by," she said, thinking of Clarence. "But, Arthur, there is one
thing I can't consecrate. I am a Christian, and I do mean to be good,
only I can't consecrate my literary hopes and work."
"Oh, why not, Beth? That is the very thing you should consecrate. That's
the widest field you have for work. But why not surrender that, too,
"Oh, I don't know. I couldn't write like 'Pansy' does, it isn't natural
"You don't need to write like 'Pansy.' She has done splendid work,
though, and I don't believe there is a good home where she isn't loved.
But it may not be your place to be just like 'Pansy.'"
"No; I want to be like George Eliot."
A graver look crossed his face.
"That is right to a certain extent. George Eliot certainly had a grand
intellect, but if she had only been a consecrated Christian woman how
infinitely greater she might have been. With such talent as hers
undoubtedly was, she could have touched earth with the very tints of
heaven. Beth, don't you see what grand possibilities are yours, with
your natural gifts and the education and culture that you will have?"
"Ah, yes. Arthur, but then—I am drifting somehow. Life is bearing me
another way. I feel it within me. By-and-by I hope to be famous, and
perhaps wealthy, too, but I am drifting with the years."
"But it is not the part of noble men and women to drift like that, Beth.
You will be leaving home this fall, and life is opening up to you. Do
you not see there are two paths before you? Which will you choose, Beth?
'For self?' or 'for Jesus?' The one will bring you fame and wealth,
perhaps, but though you smile among the adoring crowds you will not be
satisfied. The other—oh, it would make you so much happier! Your books
would be read at every fire-side, and Beth Woodburn would be a name to
be loved. You are drifting—but whither, Beth?"
His voice was so gentle as he spoke, his smile so tender, and there was
something about him so unlike any other man, she could not forget those
The moon-beams falling on her pillow that night mingled with her dreams,
and she and Clarence were alone together in a lovely island garden. It
was so very beautiful—a grand temple of nature, its aisles carpeted
with dewy grass, a star-gemmed heaven for its dome, a star-strewn sea
all round! No mortal artist could have planned that mysteriously
beautiful profusion of flowers—lily and violet, rose and oleander,
palm-tree and passion-vine, and the olive branches and orange blossoms
interlacing in the moon-light above them. Arthur was watering the tall
white lilies by the water-side and all was still with a hallowed silence
they dared not break. Suddenly a wild blast swept where they stood. All
was desolate and bare, and Clarence was gone. In a moment the bare rocks
where she had stood were overwhelmed, and she was drifting far out to
sea—alone! Stars in the sky above—stars in the deep all round and the
winds and the waters were still! And she was drifting—but whither?
"Isn't she pretty?"
"She's picturesque looking."
"Pretty? picturesque? I think she's ugly!"
These were the varied opinions of a group of Briarsfield girls who were
at the station when the evening train stopped. The object of their
remarks was a slender girl whom the Mayfairs received with warmth. It
was Marie de Vere—graceful, brown-eyed, with a small olive face and
daintily dressed brown hair. This was the girl that Beth and Arthur were
introduced to when they went to the Mayfairs to tea a few days later.
Beth recalled the last evening she was there to tea. Only a few days had
since passed, and yet how all was changed!
"Do you like Miss de Vere?" asked Clarence, after Beth had enjoyed a
long conversation with her.
"Oh, yes! I'm just delighted with her! She has such kind eyes, and she
seems to understand one so well!"
"You have fallen in love at first sight. The pleasure on your face makes
up for the long time I have waited to get you alone. Only I wish you
would look at me like you looked at Miss de Vere just now," he said,
trying to look dejected.
She laughed. Those little affectionate expressions always pleased her,
for she wondered sometimes if Clarence could be a cold and unresponsive
husband. He was not a very ardent lover, and grey-eyed, intellectual
Beth Woodburn had a love-hungering heart, though few people knew it.
"Do you know," said Beth, "Miss de Vere has told me that there is a
vacant room at her boarding-house. She is quite sure she can get it for
me this winter. Isn't she kind? I believe we shall be great friends."
"Yes, you will enjoy her friendship. She is a clever artist and
musician, you know. Edith says she lives a sort of Bohemian life in
Toronto. Her rooms are littered with music and painting and literature."
"How nice! Her face looks as if she had a story, too. There's something
sad in her eyes."
"She struck me as being remarkably lively," said Clarence.
"Oh, yes, but there are lively people who have secret sorrows. Look,
there she is walking with Arthur toward the lake."
Clarence smiled for a moment.
"Perhaps fate may see fit to link them together," he said.
"Oh, no, I don't think so! I can't imagine it."
"Grafton's a fine fellow, isn't he?"
"I'm glad you like him so well, Clarence. He's just like my brother, you
know. We had such an earnest talk Sunday night. He made me feel, oh, I
don't know how. But do you know, my life isn't consecrated to God,
Clarence; is yours?"
They were walking under the stars of the open night, and Clarence looked
thoughtful for a moment, then answered unhesitatingly:
"No, Beth. I settled that long ago. I don't think we need to be
consecrated. So long as we are Christians and live fairly consistent
lives, I think that suffices. Of course, with people like Arthur Grafton
it is different. But as for us we are consecrated to art, you know, in
the shape of writing. Let us make the utmost of our talents."
"Yes, we are consecrated to art," said Beth with a sigh of relief, and
began talking of Marie.
Since Beth was to leave home in the fall, she did not go away during the
summer, and consequently saw much of Marie during the few weeks she
stayed at Briarsfield. It is strange how every life we come in contact
with leaves its impress upon ourselves! It was certainly so with Marie
and Beth. Marie had seen so much of the world and of human life, and
Beth had always lived so quietly there in her own village, that now a
restlessness took possession of her to get away far beyond the horizon
The days passed on as days will pass. Clarence was home most of the
time, and he and Beth had many walks together in the twilight, and
sometimes in the morning. What delightful walks they were in the cool of
the early summer morning! There was one especially pretty spot where
they used to rest along the country road-side. It was a little hill-top,
with the ground sloping down on either side, then rising again in great
forest-crowned hills. Two oak trees, side by side, shaded them as they
watched the little clouds sailing over the harvest fields.
Arthur was with them a great deal of the summer, and Beth was occupied
with preparations for leaving home. She used to talk to Arthur about
Marie sometimes, but he disappointed her by his coldness. She fancied
that he did not altogether approve of Marie.
"FOR I LOVE YOU, BETH."
It came soon, her last Sabbath at home, and the sun was sinking in the
west. Beth sat by her favorite window in the parlor. Do you remember
that last Sabbath before you left home? Everything, the hills outside,
the pictures on the walls, even the very furniture, looked at you in
mute farewell. Beth leaned back in her rocker and looked through the
open door into the kitchen with its maple floor, and the flames leaping
up in the old cook-stove where the fire had been made for tea. She had
always liked that stove with its cheery fire. Then she turned her eyes
to the window and noted that the early September frost had browned her
favorite meadow where the clover bloomed last June, and that the maples
along the road where she went for the milk every evening, were now all
decked in crimson and yellow.
Her father was sitting at the table reading, but when she looked around
she saw his eyes were fixed upon her with a tender look. Poor father! He
would miss her, she knew, though he tried not to let her see how much.
Aunt Prudence, too, dear old soul, seemed sorry to have her go, but she
had her own peculiar way of expressing it, namely, by getting crosser
every day. She did not approve of so much "larnin'" for girls,
especially when Beth was "goin' to be married to that puny Mayfair."
Aunt Prudence always said her "say," as she expressed it, but she meant
well and Beth understood.
Beth was not to go until Friday, and Clarence was to meet her at the
station. He had been called away to the city with his father on business
more than a week before. Arthur was with them to-day, but he was to
leave on the early morning train to join a college mate. He was to be at
Victoria University that winter and Beth expected to see him often.
They had an early supper, and the September sunset streamed through the
open window on the old-fashioned china tea-set. Beth was disappointed
after tea when her father's services were required immediately by a
patient several miles away. Arthur and she sat down by that same old
parlor window in the hush of the coming night; a few white clouds were
spread like angel wings above and the early stars were shining in the
west. They were silent for a while. Arthur and Beth were often silent
when together, but the silence was a pleasing, not an embarrassing one.
"Are you sorry to leave home, Beth?" asked Arthur.
"Yes, I am; and would you believe it, I thought I'd be so glad to have a
change, and yet it makes me sad now the time is drawing near."
They were silent again for a while.
"Arthur, do you know, I think it seems so hard for you to go away so far
and be a missionary when you are so fond of home and home life."
He smiled tenderly upon her, but she did not know the meaning of that
smile then as she knew a little later.
"It is my Father's will," he said with a sweeter, graver smile.
"Beth, do you not see how your talent could be used in the mission
"He does not know I am going to marry Clarence," she thought with a
smile, "and he is going to map out a life work for a maiden lady."
"No, I don't see how," she answered.
"You know there is a large proportion of the world that never read such
a thing as a missionary book, and that if more such books were read,
missions would be better supported. Now, if someone with bright talents
were to write fascinating stories of Arabian life or life in Palestine,
see how much interest would be aroused. But then you would need to live
among the people and know their lives, and who would know them so well
as a missionary?"
Beth smiled at his earnestness.
"Oh, no, Arthur; I couldn't do that."
His eyes filled in a moment with a sad, pleading look.
"Beth, can you refuse longer to surrender your life and your life's
toil? Look, Beth," he said, pointing upward to the picture of Christ
upon the wall, "can you refuse Him—can you refuse, Beth?"
"Oh, Arthur, don't," she said drooping her face.
"But I must, Beth! Will you enter your Father's service? Once again I
Her eyes were turned away and she answered nothing.
"Beth," he said softly, "I have a more selfish reason for urging
you—for I love you, Beth. I have loved you since we were children
together. Will you be my own—my wife? It is a holy service I ask you to
share. Are you ready, Beth?"
Her pale face was hidden in her hands. He touched her hair reverently.
Tick! tick! tick! from the old clock in the silence. Then a crimson
flush, and she rose with sudden violence.
"Oh, Arthur, what can you mean? I thought—you seemed my brother
almost—I thought you would always be that. Oh, Arthur! Arthur! how can
you—how dare you talk so? I am Clarence Mayfair's promised wife."
"Clarence Mayfair's—" The words died away on his white lips. He leaned
upon the mantel-piece, and Beth stood with her grey eyes fixed. His face
was so deathly white. His eyes were shaded by his hand, and his brow
bore the marks of strong agony. Oh, he was wounded! Those moments were
awful in their silence. The darkness deepened in the old parlor. There
was a sound of voices passing in the street. The church bell broke the
stillness. Softly the old calm crept over his brow, and he raised his
face and looked at her with those great dark eyes—eyes of unfathomable
tenderness and impenetrable fire, and she felt that her very soul stood
naked before him. She trembled and sank on the couch at her side. His
look was infinitely tender as he came toward her.
"I have hurt you—forgive me," he said gently, and he laid his hand on
her head so reverently for a moment. His white lips murmured something,
but she only caught the last words, "God bless you—forever. Good-bye,
He smiled back upon her as he left the room, but she would rather he had
looked sad. That smile—she could never forget it, with its wonderful
sweetness and sorrow.
She sat motionless for a while after he left the room. She felt thrilled
and numbed. There are moments in life when souls stand forth from their
clayey frames and touch each other, forgetful of time and space. It was
one of those experiences that Beth had just passed through. She went to
her room and crouched down at her window beneath the stars of that
autumn night. Poor Arthur! She was so sad over it all. And he had loved
her! How strange! How could it have been? Loved her since they were
children, he had said. She had never thought of love coming like that.
And they had played together upon that meadow out there. They had grown
up together, and he had even lived in her home those few years before he
went to college. No, she had never dreamed of marrying Arthur! But oh,
he was wounded so! She had never seen him look like that before. And he
had hoped that she would share his life and his labor. She thought how
he had pictured her far away under the burning sun of Palestine, bathing
his heated brow and cheering him for fresh effort. He had pictured,
perhaps, a little humble home, quiet and peaceful, somewhere amid the
snow-crested mountains of the East, where he would walk with her in the
cool of night-fall, under the bright stars and clear sky of that distant
land. Poor, mistaken Arthur! She was not fitted for such a life, she
thought. They were never made for each other. Their ambitions were not
the same. She had found her counterpart in Clarence, and he understood
her as Arthur never could have done. Arthur was a grand, good, practical
man, but there was nothing of the artist-soul in him, she thought. But
she had hoped that he would always be her own and Clarence's friend. He
was such a noble friend! And now her hope was crushed. She could never
be the same to him again, she knew, and he had said farewell.
"Good-bye, Beth—little Beth," he had said, and she lingered over the
last two words, "little Beth." Yes, she would be "little Beth" to him,
forever now, the little Beth that he had loved and roamed with over
meadow and woodland and wayside, in the sunny, bygone days.
"Good-bye, Beth—little Beth." Poor Arthur!
Friday morning came, the last day of September, and the train whistled
sharply as it steamed around the curve from Briarsfield with Beth at one
of the car-windows. It had almost choked her to say good-bye to her
father at the station, and she was still straining her eyes to catch the
last glimpse of home. She could see the two poplars at the gate almost
last of all, as the train bore her out into the open country. She looked
through her tears at the fields and hills, the stretches of woodland and
the old farm-houses, with the vines clambering over their porches, and
the tomatoes ripening in the kitchen window-sills. Gradually the tears
dried, for there is pleasure always in travelling through Western
Ontario, particularly on the lake-side, between Hamilton and Toronto.
Almost the first one Beth saw, as the train entered Toronto station,
was Clarence, scanning the car-windows eagerly for her face. Her eyes
beamed as he came toward her. She felt as if at home again. Marie had
secured her room for her, and Beth looked around with a pleased air when
the cab stopped on St. Mary's street. It was a row of three-storey brick
houses, all alike, but a cheery, not monotonous, row, with the maples in
front, and Victoria University at the end of the street. A plump, cheery
landlady saw Beth to her room, and, once alone, she did just what
hundreds of other girls have done in her place—sat down on that big
trunk and wept, and wondered what "dear old daddy" was doing. But she
soon controlled herself, and looked around the room. It was a very
pretty room, with rocker and table, and a book-shelf in the corner.
There was a large window, too, opening to the south, with a view of St.
Michael's College and St. Basil's Church. Beth realized that this room
was to be her home for the coming months, and, kneeling down, she asked
that the presence of Christ might hallow it.
She was not a very close follower of Christ, but the weakest child of
God never breathed a prayer unheard.
It was such a pleasant treat when Marie tapped at the door just before
tea. It would be nice to have Marie there all winter. Beth looked around
the tea-table at the new faces: Mrs. Owen, at one end of the table,
decidedly stout; Mr. Owen, at the other end, decidedly lean. There were
two sweet-faced children, a handsome, gloomy-browed lawyer, and Marie at
The next day, Clarence took Beth over to 'Varsity—as Toronto University
is popularly called—and she never forgot that bright autumn morning
when she passed under the arch of carved stone into the University
halls, those long halls thronged with students. Clarence left her in the
care of a gentle fourth-year girl. Beth was taken from lecturer to
lecturer until the registering was done, and then she stopped by one of
the windows in the ladies' dressing-room to gaze at the beautiful autumn
scenery around—the ravine, with its dark pines, and the Parliament
buildings beyond. Beth was beginning to love the place.
We must not pause long over that first year that Beth spent at 'Varsity.
It passed like a flash to her, the days were so constantly occupied. But
her memory was being stored with scenes she never forgot. It was so
refreshing on the brisk, autumn mornings to walk to lectures through
the crimson and yellow leaves of Queen's Park: and, later in the year,
when the snow was falling she liked to listen to the rooks cawing among
the pines behind the library. Sometimes, too, she walked home alone in
the weird, winter twilight from the Modern Language Club, or from a late
lecture, her mind all aglow with new thoughts. Then there were the
social evenings in the gymnasium, with its red, blue and white
decorations, palms and promenades, and music of the orchestra, and hum
of strange voices. It was all new to Beth; she had seen so little of the
world. There was the reception the Y.W.C.A. gave to the
"freshettes"—she enjoyed that, too. What kind girls they were! Beth was
not slow to decide that the "'Varsity maid" would make a model wife, so
gentle and kindly and with such a broad, progressive mind. Still Beth
made hardly any friendships worthy of the name that first year. She was
peculiar in this respect. In a crowd of girls she was apt to like all,
but to love none truly. When she did make friends she came upon them
suddenly, by a sort of instinct, as in the case of Marie, and became so
absorbed in them she forgot everyone else. This friendship with Marie
was another feature of her present life that pleased her. She had
dropped out of Sunday-school work. She thought city Sunday-schools
chilly, and she spent many a Sunday afternoon in Marie's room. She liked
to sit there in the rocker by the grate fire, and listen to Marie talk
as she reclined in the cushions, with her dark, picturesque face. They
talked of love and life and books and music, and the world and its ways,
for Marie was clever and thoughtful. In after years Beth looked back on
those Sunday afternoons with a shadow of regret, for her feet found a
sweeter, holier path. Marie prided herself on a little tinge of
scepticism, but they rarely touched on that ground. The twilight shadows
gathered about the old piano in the corner, and the pictures grew dimmer
on the wall, and Marie would play soft love-songs on her guitar, and
sometime Beth would recite one of her poems.
"Have you finished the novel you were writing last summer, Beth?" asked
Marie, one day.
"No, there are just three more chapters, and I am going to leave them
till holidays, next summer, so I can give them my full time and
"Tell me the story."
Then Beth sat by the fire with a dreamy look on her face and told the
plot of her story. Marie leaned forward, a bright, delighted sparkle in
her dark eyes. Beth had never interested her like that before. She felt
encouraged, and Marie was in raptures when she had finished.
"It's just splendid! Oh, Beth, how clever you are; you will be famous
soon. I shall be proud of your friendship."
Beth did not enjoy as much of the company of Clarence as she had hoped
during these days, though he always brought her home from church on
Sunday evening. Marie was always with them. Beth never thought of
leaving her, and Clarence, too, seemed to enjoy her company. Beth was
pleased at this; she liked to have Clarence appreciate her friends.
Then, they three often went to the musical concerts; Beth liked those
concerts so much, and Marie's face would fairly sparkle sometimes, and
change with every wave of music.
"Just look! Isn't Marie's face grand?" said Clarence one night in a
Beth only smiled. That night she sat in the rocker opposite her mirror
and looked at her own reflection.
"What a grave, grey-eyed face it is!" she thought. She loved music and
beautiful things, and yet she wondered why her eyes never sparkled and
glowed like Marie's. She wished they had more expression. And yet Marie
was not a pretty girl: no one would have thought for a moment of
calling her pretty.
But what of Arthur? Beth was surprised that during all this time she had
seen him but once, though she lived so near to Victoria. That once was
in the University hall. She had studied late one afternoon, in the
reading-room, after the other girls were gone, and it was just where the
two corridors met that she came face to face with Arthur. He stopped,
and inquired about her studies and her health, and his eyes rested
kindly upon her for a moment; but he did not speak to her just like the
old Arthur. "Good-bye, Beth—little Beth." She recalled the words as she
passed down the long, deserted hall, with its row of lights on either
There was another thing that touched Beth. It was when Marie left them
just before the examinations in the spring; she was going to visit some
friends. Sweet Marie! How she would miss her. She sat by the
drawing-room window waiting to bid her good-bye. It was a bright April
day, with soft clouds and a mild breeze playing through the budding
trees. Marie came down looking so picturesque under her broad-brimmed
hat, and lifted her veil to receive Beth's farewell kiss. Beth watched
her as she crossed the lawn to the cab. Clarence came hurrying up to
clasp her hand at the gate. He looked paler, Beth thought; she hoped he
would come in, but he turned without looking at her window and hurried
away. Beth felt a little sad at heart; she looked at the long, empty
drawing-room, and sighed faintly, then went back upstairs to her books.
And what had that winter brought to Beth? She had grown; she felt it
within herself. Her mind had stretched out over the great wide world
with its millions, and even over the worlds of the sky at night, and at
times she had been overwhelmed at the glory of earth's Creator. Yes, she
had grown; but with her growth had come a restlessness; she felt as
though something were giving way beneath her feet like an iceberg
melting in mild waters. There was one particular night that this
restlessness had been strong. She had been to the Modern Language Club,
and listened to a lecture on Walt Whitman, by Dr. Needler. She had never
read any of Whitman's poetry before, she did not even like it. But there
were phrases and sentences here and there, sometimes of Whitman's,
sometimes of Dr. Needler's, that awakened a strange incoherent music in
her soul—a new chord was struck. It was almost dark when she reached
her room, at the close of a stormy winter day. She stood at her window
watching the crimson and black drifts of cloud piled upon each other in
the west. Strife and glory she seemed to read in that sky. She thought
of Whitman's rugged manliness, of the way he had mingled with all
classes of men—mingled with them to do them good. And Beth's heart
cried out within her, only to do something in this great, weary
world—something to uplift, to ennoble men, to raise the lowly, to feed
and to clothe the uncared for, to brighten the millions of homes, to
lift men—she knew not where. This cry in Beth's heart was often heard
after that—to be great, to do something for others. She was growing
weary of the narrow boundaries of self. She would do good, but she knew
not how. She heard a hungry world crying at her feet, but she had not
the bread they craved. Poor, blinded bird, beating against the bars of
heaven! Clarence never seemed to understand her in those moods: he had
no sympathy with them. Alas, he had never known Beth Woodburn; he had
understood her intellectual nature, but he had never sounded the depths
of her womanly soul. He did not know she had a heart large enough to
embrace the whole world, when once it was opened. Poor, weak, blinded
Clarence! She was as much stronger than he, as the star is greater than
the moth that flutters towards it.
June was almost over, and Beth had been home a full month on that long
four months' vacation that university students are privileged to enjoy.
She was very ambitious when she came home that first vacation. She had
conceived a fresh ideal of womanhood, a woman not only brilliantly
educated and accomplished, but also a gentle queen of the home, one who
thoroughly understood the work of her home. Clarence was quite pleased
when she began to extol cooking as an art, and Dr. Woodburn looked
through the open kitchen-door with a smile at his daughter hidden behind
a clean white apron and absorbed in the mysteries of the pastry board.
Aunt Prudence was a little astonished, but she never would approve of
Beth's way of doing things—"didn't see the sense of a note-book and
lead-pencil." But Beth knew what she was doing in that respect.
Then there were so many books that Beth intended to read in that
vacation! Marie had come to the Mayfair's, too, and helped her to pass
some pleasant hours. But there was something else that was holding
Beth's attention. It was Saturday evening, and that story was almost
finished, that story on which she had built so many hopes. She sat in
her room with the great pile of written sheets before her, almost
finished; but her head was weary, and she did not feel equal to writing
the closing scene that night. She wanted it to be the most touching
scene of all, and so it had to be rolled up for another week. Just then
the door-bell rang and Mrs. Ashley was announced, our old friend Edith
Mayfair, the same sweet, fair girl under another name.
They sat down by the window and had a long chat.
"Have you seen the new minister and his wife yet?" asked Edith.
"No; I heard he was going to preach to-morrow."
The Rev. Mr. Perth, as the new Methodist minister, was just now
occupying the attention of Briarsfield.
"It's interesting to have new people come to town. I wonder if they
will be very nice. Are they young?" asked Beth.
"Yes. They haven't been married so very long."
"Edith"—Beth hesitated before she finished the quietly eager
enquiry—"do you still think marriage the best thing in the world?"
Edith gave her friend a warm embrace in reply. "Yes, Beth, I think it
the very best thing, if God dwell in your home."
"That sounds like Arthur," said Beth.
"Do you ever hear of him. Where is he?"
"I don't know where he is," said Beth, with a half sigh.
Clarence walked home with Beth to dinner, after church, the next
"How do you like the new minister?" Beth asked.
"Oh, I think he's a clever little fellow."
"So do I," said Beth. "He seems to be a man of progressive ideas. I
think we shall have bright, interesting sermons."
Marie was slightly ill that Sunday, and did not come out. Clarence and
Beth took a stroll in the moonlight. The world looked bright and
beautiful beneath the stars, but Clarence was quieter even than usual,
and Beth sighed faintly. Clarence was growing strangely quiet and
unconfidential. He was certainly not a demonstrative lover. Perhaps,
after all, love was not all she had dreamed. She had painted her
dreamland too bright. She did not acknowledge this thought, even to her
own soul; but her heart was a little hungry that summer night. Poor
Beth! Before another Sabbath she was to know a greater pain than mere
weariness. The flames were being kindled that were to scorch that poor
heart of hers.
It was about ten o'clock the next night when she finished her novel.
Somehow it gave her a grave feeling. Aunt Prudence was in bed, and Dr.
Woodburn had gone out into the country to a patient, and would not
return till midnight. The house was so still, and the sky and the stars
so beautiful; the curtains of her open window just moved in the night
air! It was all ended now—that dreamland which she had lived and loved
and gave expression to on those sheets of paper. Ended! And she was
sitting there with her pen in her hand, her work finished, bending over
it as a mother does over her child. She almost dreaded to resign it to a
publisher, to cast it upon the world. And yet it would return to her,
bringing her fame! She was sure of that. The last scene alone would make
her famous. She could almost see the sweet earnest-eyed woman in her
white robes at the altar; she could hear the sound of voices and the
tread of feet; she was even conscious of the fragrance of the flowers.
It was all so vivid to her!
Then a sudden impulse seized her. She would like so much to show it to
Clarence, to talk to him, and feel his sympathy. He never retired much
before midnight, and it was scarcely ten minutes' walk. She would get
back before her father returned, and no one would know. Seizing her hat,
she went quietly out. It was a freak, but then Beth had freaks now and
then. A great black cloud drifted over the moon, and made everything
quite dark. A timid girl would have been frightened, but Beth was not
She knew Clarence was likely to be in the library, and so went around to
the south side. The library window was quite close to the door of the
side hall, and as Beth came up the terrace, through the open window a
picture met her eyes that held her spell-bound.
Clarence and Marie were sitting side by side on the sofa, a few feet
from the window. Marie's dark face was drooping slightly, her cheeks
flushed, and her lips just parted in a smile. There was a picture of the
Crucifixion on the wall above them, and rich violet curtains hanging to
one side. One of Marie's slender olive hands rested on the crimson
cushions at her side, the other Clarence was stroking with a tender
touch. Both were silent for a moment. Then Clarence spoke in a soft, low
"Marie, I want to tell you something."
"Do you? Then tell me."
"I don't like to say it," he answered.
"Yes, do. Tell me."
"If I were not an engaged man,"—his voice seemed to tremble faintly,
and his face grew paler—"I should try and win you for my wife."
Beth drew back a step, her young cheek colorless as death. No cry
escaped her white lips, but her heart almost ceased its beating. It was
only a moment she stood there, but it seemed like years. The dark,
blushing girl, the weak, fair-haired youth in whom she had placed her
trust, the pictures, the cushions, the curtains, every detail of the
scene, seemed printed with fire upon her soul. She was stung. She had
put her lips to the cup of bitterness, and her face looked wild and
haggard as she turned away.
Only the stars above and the night wind sighing in the leaves, and a
heart benumbed with pain! A tall man passed her in the shadow of the
trees as she was crossing the lawn, but she paid no heed. The lights in
the village homes were going out one by one as she returned up the dark,
deserted street. The moon emerged from the clouds, and filled her room
with a flood of unnatural light just as she entered. She threw herself
upon her pillow, and a cry of pain went up from her wounded heart. She
started the next instant in fear lest some one had heard. But no, there
was no one near here, save that loving One who hears every moan; and
Beth had not learned yet that He can lull every sufferer to rest in His
bosom. The house was perfectly still, and she lay there in the darkness
and silence, no line changing in the rigid marble of her face. She heard
her father's step pass by in the hall; then the old clock struck out the
midnight hour, and still she lay in that stupor with drops of cold
perspiration on her brow.
Suddenly a change came over her. Her cheeks grew paler still, but her
eyes burned. She rose and paced the room, with quick, agitated steps.
"Traitress! Traitress!" she almost hissed through her white lips. "It is
her fault. It is her fault. And I called her friend. Friend!
Then she sank upon her bed, exhausted by the outburst of passion, for it
took but little of this to exhaust Beth. She was not a passionate girl.
Perhaps, never in her life before had she passed through anything like
passion, and she lay there now still and white, her hands folded as in
In the meantime something else had happened at the Mayfair dwelling. She
had not noticed the tall man that passed her as she crossed the lawn in
the darkness, but a moment later a dark figure paused on the terrace in
the same spot where she had stood, and his attention was arrested by the
same scene in the library. He paused but a moment before entering, but
even his firm tread was unheard on the soft carpet, as he strode up the
hall to the half-open curtains of the library. Marie's face was still
drooping, but the next instant the curtains were thrown back violently,
and they both paled at the sight of the stern, dark face in the
"Clarence Mayfair!" he cried in a voice of stern indignation. "Clarence
Mayfair, you dare to speak words of love to that woman at your side?
You! Beth Woodburn's promised husband?"
"Arthur Grafton!" exclaimed Clarence, and Marie drew back through the
A firm hand grasped Clarence by the shoulder, and, white with fear, he
stood trembling before his accuser.
"Wretch! unworthy wretch! And you claim her hand! Do you know her
"In the name of heaven, Grafton, don't alarm the house!" said Clarence,
in a terrified whisper. His lip trembled with emotion, and Arthur's dark
eyes flashed with fire. There was a shade of pitiful scorn in them, too.
After all, what a mere boy this delicate youth looked, he thought.
Perhaps he was too harsh. He had only heard a sentence or two outside
the window, and he might have judged too harshly.
"I know it, I know I have wronged her," said Clarence, in a choked
voice; "but don't betray me!"
There was a ring of true penitence and sorrow in the voice that touched
Arthur, and as he raised his face to that picture of the Crucifixion on
the wall, it softened gradually.
"Well, perhaps I am severe. May God forgive you, Clarence. But it is
hard for a man to see another treat the woman he—well, there, I'll say
no more. Only promise me you will be true to her—more worthy of her."
"I will try, Arthur. Heaven knows I have always meant to be honorable."
"Then, good-bye, Clarence. Only you need not tell Beth you have seen me
to-night," said Arthur, as he turned to leave; "I shall be out of
Briarsfield before morning."
Poor Arthur! Time had not yet healed his wound, but he was one of those
brave souls who can "suffer and be still." That night, as he was passing
through Briarsfield on the late train, a desire had seized him to go
back to the old place just once more, to walk up and down for a little
while before the home of the woman he loved. He did not care to speak to
her or to meet her face to face. She was another's promised wife. Only
to be near her home—to breathe one deep blessing upon her, and then to
leave before break of day, and she would never know he had been near. He
had come under cover of the darkness, and had seen her descending the
great wide stairway in her white muslin dress, and going down the dark
street toward the Mayfairs'. After a little while he had followed, even
approached the windows of Clarence Mayfair's home, hoping for one last
look. But he had passed her in the shadow of the trees, and had only
seen what filled his heart with sorrow. A meaner man would have taken
advantage of the sight, and exposed his rival. But Arthur had anything
but a mean soul. He believed Beth loved Clarence, as he thought a woman
should love the man to whom she gives her life. He believed that God was
calling him to the mission-field alone. He had only caught a few words
that Clarence had said to Marie, and he fancied it may, after all, have
been mere nonsense. Surely he could not have ceased to love Beth! Surely
he could not be blind to her merits! Arthur saw only too truly how weak,
emotional and changeable Clarence was, but it was not his place to
interfere with those whom God had joined. So he argued to himself.
But the night was passing, and Beth still lay there, no tear on her cold
white cheeks. The clock struck one, a knell-like sound in the night!
Beth lay there, her hands folded on her breast, the prayer unuttered by
her still lips—one for death. The rest were sleeping quietly in their
beds. They knew nothing of her suffering. They would never know. Oh, if
that silent messenger would but come now, and still her weary heart!
They would come in the morning to look at her. Yes; Clarence would come,
too. Perhaps he would love her just a little then. Perhaps he would
think of her tenderly when he saw her with the white roses in her hands.
Oh, was there a God in heaven who could look down on her sorrow
to-night, and not in pity call her home? She listened for the call that
would bear her far beyond this earthly strife, where all was such tangle
and confusion. She listened, but she heard it not, and the darkness
deepened, the moon grew pale and the stars faded away. The house was so
still! The whistle of a steam-engine broke the silence, and she saw the
red light as the train swept around the curve. It was bearing Arthur
away, and she did not know that one who loved her had been so near! Then
she saw a grey gleam in the east. Ah, no! she could not die. The day was
coming again, and she would have to face them all. She would sit in the
same place at the breakfast table. She would meet Clarence again, and
Marie—oh—oh, she could not bear the thought of it! She sat up on her
bedside with such a weary, anguished look in her eyes! Then she went to
kneel at the open window, where her mother had taught her to kneel long
years ago. Her sweet-faced, long-dead mother! When she raised her eyes
again the east was all aglow with the pink and purple dawn, and the
rooks were cawing in the pines across the meadow. She paced the floor
for a moment or two.
"Yes, it must be done. I will do it," she thought. "He loves her. I will
not stand in the way of his happiness. No; I had rather die."
And she took a sheet of note-paper, and wrote these simple words:
Dear Clarence,—I do not believe you love me any more. I
can never be your wife. I know your secret. I know you love Marie.
I have seen it often in your eyes. Be happy with her, and forget
me. May you be very happy, always. Good-bye.
She took it herself to the Mayfair home, knowing that her father would
only think she had gone out for a morning walk. The smoke-wreaths were
curling upward from the kitchen chimneys as she passed down the street,
and Squire Mayfair looked a little surprised when she handed him her
note for Clarence, and turned to walk away.
That sleepless, tearless night had told upon her, and she was not able
to come down to breakfast. Her father came in, and looked at her with a
"Just what I told you, Beth. You've worked too hard. You need rest.
That's just what's the matter," he said, in a brusque voice, as he put
some medicine on the table and left the room.
Rest! Yes, she could rest now. Her work was done. She looked at the
sheet of manuscript that she had taken last night to show Clarence. Yes,
the work was done. She had reached the end of her story—the end of her
prospect of marriage. Ended her labor—ended her life-dream!
As for Clarence, he read her note without any emotion.
"Humph! I didn't think Grafton was the fellow to make mischief so
quickly. A tale-bearer! Well, it's all for the best. I made a mistake. I
do not love Beth Woodburn. I cannot understand her."
Beth slept, and seemed much better in the afternoon, but she was still
quite pale when she went into her father's room after tea.
"Dear old daddy," she said, putting her arms about his neck, "you were
always so kind. You never refuse me anything if you can help it. I wish
you would let me go away."
"Why, certainly, Beth, dear!" he said briskly. "Isn't that just what
I've been telling you? Stop writing all day in that hot room up-stairs.
Go off and have a frolic. Go and see your Aunt Margaret."
And so it was settled that if Beth were well enough she should start for
Welland next afternoon. She did not see Clarence during the next
morning. It surprised her that he sought no explanation, and before
three o'clock Briarsfield was a mere speck in the distance.
THE HEAVENLY CANAAN.
Nearly two months later Beth returned home. Marie had broken off her
visit abruptly, and Clarence had gone away. It was a rainy Saturday, and
Beth sat waiting for her father to finish his rounds. Her visit had
refreshed her, and she looked fairly well again. After all, she had so
many bright prospects! She was young and talented. Her novel was
finished. She would read it through at once, making minor corrections,
and then publish it. With all youth's hopefulness, she was sure of fame
and worldly success, perhaps of wealth too. She seemed to see a rich
harvest-field before her as she sat listening to the rain beat on the
roof that summer afternoon. But, after all, she was not happy. Somehow,
life was all so hollow! So much tangle and confusion! Her young feet
were weary. It was not simply that her love was unreturned. That pained
her far less than she would have thought. It was that her idol was
shattered. Only in the last few weeks had she begun to see Clarence
Mayfair as he really was. It was a wonderfully deep insight into human
nature that Beth had; but she had never applied it where Clarence was
concerned before, and now that she did, what was it she saw?—a weak,
wavering, fickle youth, with a good deal of fine sentiment, perhaps, but
without firm, manly strength; ambitious, it was true, but never likely
to fulfil his ambitions. The sight pained her. And yet this was the one
she had exalted so, and had believed a soaring genius. True, his mind
had fine fibre in it, but he who would soar must have strength as well
as wings. Beth saw clearly just what Clarence lacked, and what can pain
a woman more deeply than to know the object she has idealized is
Beth had not told her father yet that all was at an end between her and
Clarence. She dreaded telling him that, but she knew he must have
learned it from the Mayfairs during her absence. She sighed as she
thought of it all, and just then Dr. Woodburn came in and sat down on
the couch beside her. They talked until the twilight of that rainy
afternoon began to deepen. Then they were silent for a while, and Beth
saw her father looking at her with a tender look in his eyes.
"Beth, my dear child, what is wrong between you and Clarence?"
She had believed she could tell him all with perfect calmness, but there
was something so very gentle in his look and voice that it disarmed her,
and she threw both arms about his neck, and burst into tears.
"Oh, father, dear, I could not marry him. It would not be right. He
loves Marie de Vere."
Dr. Woodburn turned away his face, tenderly stroking her hair as she
leaned upon his breast. He spoke no word, but she knew what he felt.
"Oh, daddy, dear, don't think anything about it," she said, giving him a
warm embrace as she looked up at him, smiling through her tears. "I'm
not unhappy. I have so many things to think of, and I have always you,
you dear old father. I love you better than anyone else on earth. I will
be your own little daughter always."
She pressed her arms about him more tightly, and there were tears in his
eyes as he stooped to kiss her brow.
Beth thought of all his tenderness that night as she lay in bed, and
then slept, with the rain beating on the roof overhead.
It was a bright sunshiny Sabbath morning when she awoke. She remembered
with pleasure how much she had liked Mr. Perth, the new minister, that
Sunday. She had heard him before she went away. He had seemed such an
energetic, wide-awake, inspiring man! Beth liked that stamp of people.
She meant to be a progressive girl. She meant to labor much and to have
She was quite early at church that morning, and interested herself by
looking at Mrs. Perth, whom she had never seen before. She was a fair,
slender, girlish creature—very youthful indeed for a married woman. She
had a great mass of light hair, drawn back plainly from a serenely fair
forehead. The fashion became her well, for, in fact, the most striking
thing about her face was its simplicity and purity. She was certainly
plain-looking, but Beth fancied her face looked like the white cup of a
lily. She had such beautiful blue eyes, too, and such a sweet smile.
"I think I shall love her. I believe we shall be great friends," thought
Beth, after she had had an introduction to Mrs. Perth; and they did
become fast friends.
Beth had seldom been at Sunday-school since she left home, but an
impulse seized her to go this afternoon. She was quite early, and she
sat down in a seat by herself to muse awhile. She gazed at the lilies
about the altar and the stained-glass windows above the organ. How long
it seemed to look back to that Sunday of two months ago! She shuddered
slightly, and tried to change her thoughts, but she could not help going
back to it. It seemed as though years had since passed. So it is always.
We go about our daily tasks, and the time passes swiftly or slowly,
according as our lives are active or monotonous. Then a crisis comes—an
upheaval—a turn in the current. It lasts but a moment, perhaps, but
when we look back, years seem to have intervened. Beth gave a half sigh,
and concluded she was a little weary, as the people poured into the
Bible-class. Mrs. Perth came and sat beside Beth. Is it not strange how,
in this world of formality and convention, we meet someone now and
again, and there is but a look, a word, a, smile, and we feel that we
have known them so long? There is something familiar in their face, and
we seem to have walked beside them all along the way. It was just so
with Beth and Mrs. Perth. Sweet May Perth! She soon learned to call her
Beth was never to forget that Sunday afternoon. Mr. Perth taught the
Bible-class. He was an enthusiastic man, reminding her somewhat of
Arthur. They were studying, that day, the approach of the Israelites to
Canaan, and as Mr. Perth grew more earnest, Beth's face wore a brighter
look of interest. Soon he laid aside historical retrospect, and talked
of the heavenly Canaan toward which Christ's people were journeying, a
bright land shining in the sunlight of God's love, joy in abundance, joy
overflowing! He looked so happy as he talked of that Divine love,
changeless throughout all time, throughout all eternity—a love that
never forsakes, that lulls the weary like a cradle-song, a love that
satisfies even the secret longings! Oh, that woman heart of hers, how it
yearned, yea, hungered for a love like that love, that could tread the
earth in humiliation, bearing the cross of others' guilt, dying there at
Calvary! She knew that old, old story well, but she drank it in like a
little wondering child to-day. What were those things He promised to
those who would tread the shining pathway? Life, peace, rest, hope, joy
of earth, joy of heaven! Oh, how she longed to go with them! The tears
were standing in her eyes, and her heart was beating faster. But this
one thing she must do, or turn aside from the promised land of God's
people. Down at the feet of Jesus she must lay her all. And what of that
novel she had written? Could she carry that over into this heavenly
Canaan? "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." Hers
would perish, she knew that well. Highly moral, highly refined and
scholarly, but what of its doubts, its shadows, its sorrows without
hope, its supernatural gloom? Beth was a master-artist in the field of
gloom. She knew how to make her readers shudder, but would that story of
hers bring more joy into the world? Would it sweeten life and warm human
hearts? Ah, no! And yet, could she destroy it now, before its
publication? Could she bear the thought of it? She loved it almost as a
mother loves her child. A look of indecision crossed her face. But, just
then, she seemed to hear the bells of heaven ringing forth their sweet
Gospel call. The bright sunshine and the angel voices of a higher life
seemed to break in on her soul. In a moment—she never knew how it
was—she became willing to surrender all. It was hardly a year since she
had said nay to Arthur, when he asked her to lay her life at the feet of
that same Jesus of Nazareth. She refused then, and even one hour ago
she would still have refused; but now she would have trudged the
highways, poverty-stricken, unknown and obscure, for His dear sake. She
would have gone forth, like St. Paul, to the uttermost ends of the
earth, she felt she loved Him so! There were tears in her eyes, and a
new joy seemed to throb in her heart. She felt so kindly to everyone
about her. Was it an impulse or what? She laid her hand softly on May
Perth's as she sat beside her, and May, looking into her eyes, seemed to
read her heart. She held her hand with a warm, loving pressure, and they
were friends from that hour.
Even the sunlight looked more golden when Beth stepped out into it that
afternoon. Everything had caught a tint from the pearly gates, for that
hour had been a turning-point in her life. She had found the secret of
life—the secret of putting self utterly into the background and living
for others' happiness; and they who find that secret have the key to
their own happiness. The old tinge of gloom in her grey eyes passed
away, and, instead, there came into them the warmth and light of a new
life. They seemed to reach out over the whole world with tender
sympathy, like a deep, placid sea, with the sunlight gilding, its
"Beth, you are growing beautiful," her father said to her one day; and
there were something so reverential in his look that it touched her too
deeply to make her vain.
The four weeks that remained before the first of October, when she was
to return to college, passed quickly. Clarence did not return, and she
heard that he had gone to England, intending to take his degree at
Cambridge. The Ashleys, too, had left Briarsfield, as Mr. Ashley had
secured a principalship east of Toronto. Beth heard nothing more of
Marie, though she would so gladly have forgiven her now!
Beth soon became quite absorbed in her new friend, May Perth. She told
her one day of her fancy that her face looked like a lily-cup. Mrs.
Perth only laughed and kissed her, in her sweet, unconscious way. Beth
always loved to kiss May Perth's brow; it was so calm and fair, it
reminded her of the white breast of a dove.
Just three or four days before Beth was to go away, Aunt Prudence came
into her room at a time when she was alone.
"Did you ever see this picture that Arthur left in his room when he went
away last fall?" she asked. "I don't know whether he did it himself or
She placed it in the light and left the room. Beth recognized it almost
"Why, it's that poem of mine that Arthur liked best of all!" she
Yes, it was the very same—the grey rocks rising one above another, the
broad white shore, and the lonely cottage, with the dark storm-clouds
lowering above it, and the fisherman's bride at the window, pale and
anxious, her sunny hair falling about her shoulders as she peered far
out across the sea—the black, storm-tossed sea—and far out among the
billows the tiny speck of sail that never reached the shore. Beth was no
connoisseur of art, but she knew the picture before her was intensely
beautiful, even sublime. There was something in it that made her feel.
It moved her to tears even as Arthur's music had done. No need to tell
her both came from the same hand. Besides, no one else had seen that
poem but Arthur. And Arthur could paint like this, and yet she had said
he had not an artist soul. She sighed faintly. Poor Arthur! Perhaps,
after all, she had been mistaken. And she laid the picture carefully
away among her treasures.
Her last evening at home soon came. It was a clear, chilly night, and
they had a fire in the drawing-room grate. It was so cosy to sit there
with her father, resting her head on his shoulders, and watching the
coals glowing in the twilight.
"Beth, my child, you look so much happier lately. Are you really so
happy?" he said, after they had been talking for a while.
"Oh, I think life is so very happy!" said Beth, in a buoyant tone. "And
when you love Jesus it is so much sweeter, and somehow I like everyone
so much and everybody is so kind. Oh, I think life is grand!"
Dr. Woodburn was a godly man, and his daughter's words thrilled him
sweetly. He brushed away a tear she did not see, and stooped to kiss the
young cheek resting on his coat-sleeve. They were silent for a few
"Beth, my dear," he said in a softer tone, "Do you know, I thought that
trouble last summer—over Clarence—was going to hurt you more. How is
She hesitated a moment.
"I don't believe I really loved him, father," she said, in a quiet tone,
"I thought I did. I thought it was going to break my heart that night I
found out he loved Marie. But, somehow, I don't mind. I think it is far
better as it is. Oh, daddy, dear, it's so nice I can tell you things
like this. I don't believe all girls can talk to their fathers this
way. But I—I always wanted to be loved—and Clarence was different from
other people in Briarsfield, you know, and I suppose I thought we were
meant for each other."
Dr. Woodburn did not answer at once.
"I don't think you would have been happy with him, Beth," he said, after
a little. "All has been for the best. I was afraid you didn't know what
love meant when you became engaged to him. It was only a school-girl's
"Beth, I am going to tell you something," he said a moment later, as he
stroked her hair. "People believe that I always took a special interest
in Arthur Grafton because his father saved my life when we were boys,
but that was not the only reason I loved him. Years ago, down along the
Ottawa river, Lawrence Grafton was pastor in the town where I had my
first practice. He was a grand fellow, and we were the greatest friends.
I used to take him to see my patients often. He was just the one to
cheer them up. Poor fellow! Let's see, it's seventeen years this fall
since he died. It was the first summer I was there, and Lawrence had
driven out into the country with me to see a sick patient. When we were
coming back, he asked me to stop with him at a farm-house, where some
members of his church lived. I remember the place as if I had seen it
yesterday, an old red brick building, with honeysuckle climbing about
the porch and cherry-trees on the lawn. The front door was open, and
there was a flight of stairs right opposite, and while we waited for an
answer to the bell a beautiful woman, tall and graceful, paused at the
head of the stairs above us, and then came down. To my eyes she was the
most beautiful woman I had ever seen, Beth. She was dressed in white,
and had a basket of flowers on her arm. She smiled as she came towards
us. Her hair was glossy-black, parted in the middle, and falling in
waves about her smooth white forehead; but her eyes were her real
beauty, I never saw anything like them, Beth. They were such great,
dark, tender eyes. They seemed to have worlds in them. It was not long
before I loved Florence Waldon. I loved her." His voice had a strange,
deep pathos in it. "She was kind to me always, but I hardly dared to
hope, and one day I saw her bidding good-bye to Lawrence. It was only a
look and a hand-clasp, but it was a revelation to me. I kept silent
about my love from that hour, and one evening Lawrence came to my rooms.
"'Congratulate me, Arthur!' he cried, in a tone that bubbled over with
joy. I knew what was coming, but the merciful twilight concealed my
face. 'Congratulate me, Arthur! I am going to marry Florence Waldon next
month, and you must be best man.'
"I did congratulate him from the depth of my heart, and I was best man
at the wedding; and when their little son was born they named him Arthur
after me. He is the Arthur Grafton you have known. But poor Lawrence!
Little Arthur was only a few months old when she took sick. They called
me in, and I did all I could to save her, but one night, as Lawrence and
I stood by her bedside—it was a wild March night, and the wind was
moaning through the shutters while she slept—suddenly she opened her
eyes with a bright look.
"'Oh, Lawrence, listen, they are singing!' she cried, 'it is so
beautiful; I am going home—good-bye—take care of Arthur,' and she was
Dr. Woodburn paused a moment, and his breath came faster.
"After that I came to Briarsfield and met your mother, Beth. She seemed
to understand from my face that I had suffered, and after we had become
friends I told her that story, that I had never told to mortal before or
since till now. She was so very tender, and I saw in her face that she
loved me, and by-and-by I took her to wife, and she healed over the
wound with her gentle hands. She was a sweet woman, Beth. God bless her
memory. But the strange part of the story is, Florence Waldon's brother,
Garth, had settled on that farm over there, the other side of the
pine-wood. She had two other brothers, one a talented editor in the
States, the other a successful lawyer. Garth, too, was a bright,
original fellow; he had a high standard of farm life, and he lived up to
it. He was a good man and a truly refined one, and when poor Lawrence
died he left little Arthur—he was three years old then—to him. The
dear little fellow; he looked so much like his mother. He used to come
and hold you in his arms when you were in long dresses, and then, do you
remember a few years later, when your own sweet mother died, how he came
to comfort you and filled your lap with flowers?"
Yes, Beth remembered it all, and the tears were running down her cheeks
as she drooped her head in silence. The door-bell broke the stillness
just then. Dr. Woodburn was wanted. Bidding Beth a hasty but tender
good-bye, he hurried off at the call of duty. Beth sat gazing at the
coal-fire in silence after her father left. Poor dear old father! What
a touching story it was! He must have suffered so, and yet he had buried
his sorrow and gone about his work with smiling face. Brave, heroic
soul! Beth fell to picturing it all over again with that brilliant
imagination of hers, until she seemed to see the tall woman, with her
beautiful dark eyes and hair, coming down the stairs, just as he had
seen her. She seemed to hear the March winds moan as he stepped out into
the night and left the beautiful young wife, pale in death. Then she
went to the window and looked out at the stars in the clear sky, and the
meadow tinged with the first frost of autumn; and the pine-wood to the
north, with the moon hanging like a crescent of silver above it. It was
there, at that window, Arthur had asked her to be his wife. Poor Arthur!
She was glad her father did not know. It would have pained him to think
she had refused the son of the woman he had loved.
Beth lingered a little, gazing at the clear frosty scene before her,
then rose with a firm look on her face and went up to her room. There
was one thing more to be done before she left home to-morrow. She had
resolved upon it. It was dark in her room, but she needed no light to
recognize that roll of manuscript in her drawer. She hesitated a moment
as she touched it tenderly. Must she do it? Yes, ah, yes! She could not
publish that story now. Just then the picture of Arthur seemed to flash
through her mind, reading it and tossing it down with that cold, silent
look she had sometimes seen on his face. It was dark in the hall as she
carried it down to the drawing-room grate. She crouched down on the
hearth-rug before the coals, and a moment later the flames that played
among the closely-written sheets lighted her face. Nothing but a
blackened parchment now for all that proud dream of fame! The room grew
dark again, and only the coals cracking and snapping, and the steady
ticking of the old clock on the mantel piece above her head, broke the
stillness. It was done. She went to the window and knelt down.
"Father, I have sacrificed it for Thee. Take this talent Thou hast given
me and use it for Thy honor, for I would serve Thee alone, Father."
She slept that night with a smile on her lips. Yes, friend, it was a
hero's deed, and He who alone witnessed it hath sealed her brow with a
light such as martyrs wear in heaven. As for the world, oh, that every
book filled with dark doubts and drifting fears and shuddering gloom had
perished, too, in those flames!
In a few days Beth was settled again at Mrs. Owen's, on St. Mary's
Street, and tripping to her lectures as usual. Marie was not there, of
course, and Beth knew nothing of her whereabouts. In fact, there had
been a complete change of boarders. The house was filled with 'Varsity
girls this year, with the exception of Marie's old room, a change which
Beth appreciated. One of the girls was a special friend of hers, a
plump, dignified little creature whom most people called pretty. Hers
was certainly a jolly face, with those rosy cheeks and laughing brown
eyes, and no one could help loving Mabel Clayton. She belonged to the
Students' Volunteer Movement, and as this was her last year at college,
Beth thought sometimes a little sorrowfully of the following autumn when
she was to leave for India.
Beth meant to have her spend a few days at Briarsfield with her next
summer. But a good many things were to happen to Beth before the next
summer passed. A Victoria student was occupying Marie's old room, but as
he took his meals out of the house Beth never even saw him. One of the
girls who saw him in the hall one day described him as "just too nice
looking for anything," but Beth's interest was not aroused in the
That was a golden autumn for Beth, the happiest by far she had ever
known. She was living life under that sweet plan of beginning every day
afresh, and thinking of some little act of kindness to be done. Beth
soon began to believe the girls of University College were the very
kindest in the world; but she would have been surprised, to hear how
often they remarked, "Beth Woodburn is always so kind!" There was
another treat that she was enjoying this year, and that was Dr. Tracy's
"I think he is an ideal man," she remarked once to Mabel Clayton. "I'm
not in love with him, but I think he's an ideal man."
Mabel was an ardent admirer of Dr. Tracy's, too, but she could not help
laughing at Beth's statement.
"You are such a hero-worshipper, Beth!" she said. "You put a person up
on a pedestal, and then endow him with all the virtues under the sun."
A peculiar look crossed Beth's face. She remembered one whom she had
placed on the pedestal of genius, and the idol had fallen, shattered at
She was still the same emotional Beth. There were times when without any
outward cause, seemingly from a mere overflow of happiness, she almost
cried out, "Oh stay, happy moment, till I drink to the full my draught
Arthur's painting hung above Beth's study table, and sometimes a shadow
crossed her face as she looked at it. She missed the old friendship, and
she wondered, too, that she never met him anywhere.
Beth did not go home at Thanksgiving that year, and she almost regretted
it the evening before. She was a little homesick for "daddy," and to
dispel her loneliness she shut up her books and went to bed early. Her
head had scarcely touched the pillow when, hark! there was a sound of
music in the drawing-room down-stairs. She rose in bed to listen, it was
so like Arthur's music. She was not at all familiar with the piece, but
it thrilled her somehow. There was a succession, of sweet, mellow notes
at first; then higher, higher, higher, broader, deeper, fuller, it was
bearing her very soul away! Then sweeter, softer, darker, tint of gold
and touch of shadow, the tears were standing in her eyes! Clearer again,
and more triumphant! Her lips parted as she listened. One sweet
prolonged swell, and it died away. She listened for more, but all was
silent. She looked out of the window at the stars in the clear sky, and
the dark shadow of St. Michael's tower on the snow-covered college roof,
then fell back among the pillows to sleep and dream.
She was walking again on the old path by the road-side at home, just as
she used to go every evening for the milk. The dusk was deepening and
she began to hurry, when she noticed a tall, dark figure ahead. As she
drew nearer she recognized Arthur's broad shoulders and well-set head.
Then a strange, indefinable fear seized her. She did not want to
overtake him, to meet him face to face. She tried to slacken her steps,
but a mysterious, resistless wind seemed to bear her forward against her
will. Not a leaf stirred. All was still around her, and yet that
uncanny, spirit-like wind urged her on. She struggled, and although
Arthur never looked back, she felt that he knew all about her struggles.
At last she made one mighty effort and tore herself free. She took the
path on the other side of the road. It was all quiet there, and she
walked on slowly. The darkness grew thicker, and she lost sight of
Arthur. Then the country became quite new to her. There were bridges
every little way—old rickety bridges, that creaked beneath her step,
with holes where she caught her feet, and she could hear the great wild
torrents rushing below in the darkness. She grew frightened. Oh, how she
wished Arthur were there! Then suddenly it grew lighter, and she saw
that her path was turning, and lo! there was Arthur! A moment more and
their paths would meet. He reached the spot a few steps before her, and
turning, looked at her just once, but she saw in his look that he knew
all that had passed in her heart. "Follow me," he said, with a tender
look; and she followed in silence where the path led between the steep,
high banks, where strange flowers were clinging in the dim light. She
was quite content now, not frightened any longer. Then the bank opened
by their pathway, and he led her into a strange, sandy, desert-looking
place. They entered a shadowy tent, and in the dim light she could see
strange faces, to whom Arthur was talking. No one noticed her, but she
did not feel slighted, for though he did not look at her, she felt that
he was thinking of her. Then suddenly the strange faces vanished, and
she was alone with Arthur. He came toward her with such a beautiful
smile, and there was something in his hand of bright gold—the brightest
gold she had ever seen. It was a golden spear with a tiny ring on one
end and a mass of chain hanging to it; but lo! when she looked around
her she saw it had filled the place with a beautiful mystic light, a
golden halo. Then he drew her nearer, nearer to his bosom, and in a
moment she felt the spear point touch her heart! An instant of pain,
then it pierced her with a deep, sweet thrill. She felt it even to her
finger tips. She awoke with a start, but she could almost feel that
thrill even after she was awake. She could not sleep again quickly, but
lay watching the stars and the moonlight growing paler on her book-case.
Sleep came at length, and when she awoke again it was at the sound of
Mr. Owen's jolly "Heigho! Everybody up! Everybody up!" This was a way he
had of waking the children in good time for breakfast, and it had the
merit of always arousing the boarders, too. Beth naturally supposed that
the musician she had heard the night before had been a caller, and so
made no enquiries.
The following Sunday evening Beth went to church alone. It was only
three or four blocks up to the Central, and Beth was never timid. She
did not look around the church much, or she would have recognized a
familiar face on the east side. It was Clarence Mayfair's; he was paler
than usual, and his light curly hair looked almost artificial in the
gaslight. There was something sadder and more manly in his expression,
and his eyes were fixed on Beth with a reverent look. How pure she was,
he thought, how serene; her brow looked as though an angel-hand had
smoothed it in her slumber. She seemed to breathe a benediction on
everything around her; she reminded him of an image of an angel bending
in prayer, that he had seen in one of the old cathedral windows across
the sea. And yet, after knowing a woman like that, he had fancied he
could—even fancied he did—love Marie de Vere. What folly had blinded
him then, he wondered? Marie had her charms, to be sure, with those
dark, bewitching eyes of hers, so kind and sympathetic, so bright and
witty and entertaining. But there was something about Marie that was
fleeting, something about Beth that was abiding; Marie's charms
bewitched while she was present and were soon forgotten, but Beth's
lingered in the memory and deepened with the years. It was well, after
all, he thought, that Marie had refused his offer of marriage that
morning he received Beth's note, and went to her in the heat of his
passion. He was but a boy then, and yet it was only a few months ago.
What was it that had changed him from boyhood to manhood so suddenly? He
did not try to answer the question, but only felt conscious of the
change within. He realized now that he had never known what it meant to
love. Marie had shed her lustre on him as she passed; Beth he had never
fully comprehended. He had a dim feeling that she was somehow too high
for him. But would this reverence he felt for her ripen into love with
the maturer years of his manhood? We never can tell the changes that
time will weave in these hearts of ours. It is to be feared Clarence was
not a very attentive listener throughout the service that night. At the
close he waited for Beth in the moonlight outside, but she did not
notice him till he was right beside her.
"Clarence!" she exclaimed, in a tone of astonishment. "Why, I thought
you were in England."
"So I was; but I am back, you see."
"I thought you were going to take a year at Cambridge."
"I did intend to, but I found it too expensive. Besides, I thought I
wouldn't bother finishing my course. I am doing some work along the
journalistic line at present. I just came to Toronto last night, and
intend to leave Tuesday or Wednesday."
In the first moment of her surprise she had forgotten everything except
that Clarence was an old friend from home; but now, as he walked beside
her, it all came back like a flash—the memory of that night last summer
when she had seen him last. She grew suddenly silent and embarrassed.
She longed to ask him about Marie; she wondered if they were engaged,
and if so where she was, but she soon controlled herself and asked him
about his trip to England, about his mother, about his work, about Edith
and everything else of possible or impossible interest. She was
relieved, without knowing why, that it was only a few blocks to her
boarding-place. He lingered a moment as he said good-night, and
something in his look touched her a little. Only the stirring of old
memories. She hardly knew whether she was pleased or not to meet him
again; but as she entered her room in the darkness her dream seemed to
flash across her memory and a tender voice said, "Follow me."
Clarence strolled a little way into the park, pondering on the past. He
had never asked Beth for an explanation of her farewell note. He
naturally supposed that Arthur Grafton had gone directly to her that
night and caused the rupture. He wondered if Arthur were in love with
her. Then he turned suddenly and walked back by St. Mary's Street to
Yonge. The street was almost deserted; there was only one figure in
sight, a tall man drawing nearer. There was No.——, where he had left
Beth at the door. He had just passed a few more doors when a familiar
voice startled him. It was Arthur Grafton! Clarence felt ill at ease for
a moment, but Arthur's tone was so kind it dispelled his embarrassment.
They talked for a few moments, then parted; and Clarence, looking back a
moment later, saw Arthur ring the bell at Beth's boarding-place. A
peculiar look, almost a sneer, crossed his face for a moment.
"Ah, he is going in to spend the evening with his beloved," he thought.
And Clarence resolved, then and there, not to call on Beth the following
day, as he had intended.
But Arthur proceeded absently to the room Marie had formerly occupied,
without the slightest idea that Beth had lived in the house with him
nearly two months. It was strange, but though he had seen all the other
girls in the house he had never seen Beth. He had not enquired her
address the year before, not wishing to know. He wished to have nothing
to do with Clarence Mayfair's promised wife. She was nothing to him.
Should he encourage the love he felt for another's wife? No! He had
loved with all the strength of that love that comes but once to any
human heart, and he had suffered as only the strong and silent can
suffer; but he had resolved to bury his pain, and it had given his face
a sterner look. So he lay down to rest that night all unconscious that
Beth was in the room just overhead; that he had heard her footsteps
daily, even listened to her humming little airs to unrecognizable tunes;
but the sight of Clarence Mayfair had aroused the past, and he did not
sleep till late.
The following afternoon, as Beth sat studying in her room after
lectures, she heard a faint tap at her door, a timid knock that in some
way seemed to appeal strangely to her. She opened the door—and there
stood Marie! In the first moment of her surprise Beth forgot everything
that had separated them, and threw both arms about her in the old
child-like way. She seated her in the rocker by the window and they
talked of various things for a while, but Beth noticed, now and then,
an uneasy look in her eyes.
"She has come to tell me she is going to marry Clarence, and she finds
it difficult, poor girl," thought Beth, with a heart full of sympathy.
"Beth," said Marie at last, "I have wronged you. I have come here to ask
you to forgive me."
Beth belonged to the kind of people who are always silent in
emergencies, so she only looked at her with her great tender eyes, in
which there was no trace of resentment.
"I came between you and Clarence Mayfair. He never loved me. It was only
a fancy. I amused and interested him, I suppose. That was all. He is
true to you in the depths of his heart, Beth. It was my fault—all my
fault. He never loved me. It was you he loved, but I encouraged him. It
was wrong, I know."
Something seemed to choke her for a moment.
"Will you forgive me, Beth? Can you ever forgive?"
She was leaning forward gracefully, her fur cape falling back from her
shoulders and her dark eyes full of tears.
Beth threw both arms about her old friend tenderly, forgetting all the
bitter thoughts she had once had.
"Oh, Marie, dear, I love you—I love you still. Of course I forgive
Then Beth told her all the story of the past, and of that night when she
had learned that Clarence did not love her, of her wounded vanity, her
mistaken belief in the genuineness of her own love for him, and her
gradual awakening to the fact that it was not love after all.
"Then it wasn't Mr. Grafton at all who made the trouble?" interrupted
"Mr. Grafton? Why, no! What could he have to do with it?"
"Oh, nothing. We thought, at least Clarence thought, he made the
Beth looked mystified, but Marie only continued in a softened tone:
"I am afraid you don't know your own heart, dear Beth. You will come
together again, and all will be forgotten."
"No, Marie, never! The past was folly. All is better as it is."
A pained look that Beth could not fathom drifted across Marie's brow.
"You think so now, but you will change," she said.
A knock at the door interrupted them just then, as Mrs. Owen announced a
friend of Beth's.
Marie kissed her gently.
"Good-bye, Beth," she said in her sweet low voice, and there was a
tender sadness in her dark eyes. Beth did not know its meaning at the
time, but a day was coming when she would know.
Beth saw nothing more of Clarence during his few days in the city. She
wondered sometimes if Marie had seen him, but though they saw each other
occasionally during the rest of the winter, neither of them mentioned
That week had seemed eventful in Beth's eyes, but it was more eventful
even than she thought. The following Saturday, after tea, as Beth and
Mabel Clayton were going back upstairs, Beth had seated Mabel by force
on the first step of the second flight to tell her some funny little
story. Beth was in one of her merry moods that night. Beth was not a
wit, but she had her vein of mirth, and the girls used to say she was
growing livelier every day. The gas was not lighted in the hall, but
Beth had left her door open and the light shone out on the head of the
stairs. A moment later they started up with their arms about each
"Oh, Beth, I left that note-book down stairs. Wait, I'll bring it up to
Beth waited, standing in the light as her friend scampered down again.
She heard the door of Marie's old room open, and a tall man stepped into
the hall, but as it was dark below she could not see his face. She
wondered, though, why he stood so still, and she had a consciousness
that someone was looking at her.
Arthur Grafton—for it was he—stood for a moment as if stunned. There
she was—Beth Woodburn! The woman he—hush! Clarence Mayfair's promised
wife! She looked even beautiful as she stood there in the light, with a
smile on her face and a pure white chrysanthemum at her throat.
"You needn't hurry so, Mabel dear. I can wait," she said as her friend
It was over a year since he had heard that voice, and he had tried to
believe his heart was deadened to its influence; but now to-night, at
the first sound, it thrilled him again with its old-time music. A moment
later she closed her door and the hall was dark, and his heart began to
beat faster now that he grasped the truth. He turned again to his room,
filled with the soft radiance of moonlight. He leaned back in his study
chair, his eyes closed; he could hear the students of St. Michael's
chanting an evening hymn, and an occasional cab rattled past in the
street below. He noted it as we note all little details in our moments
of high excitement. Then a smile gradually lighted up his face. Oh,
sweet love! For one moment it seemed to be mastering him. She was there.
Hark! Was that her footstep overhead? Oh, to be near her—to touch her
hand just once!
Then a stern, dark frown settled on his brow. He rose and paced the room
with a sort of frenzied step. What is she to you—Clarence Mayfair's
promised wife? Arthur Grafton, what is she to you? Oh, that love, deep
and passionate, that comes to us but once! That heart-cry of a strong
soul for the one being it has enshrined! Sometimes it is gratified and
bears in after years its fruits, whether sweet or bitter; or again, it
is crushed—blighted in one moment, perhaps—and we go forth as usual
trying to smile, and the world never knows, never dreams. A few years
pass and our hearts grow numb to the pain, and we say we have
forgotten—that love can grow cold. Cold? Yes; but the cold ashes will
lie there in the heart—the dust of our dead ideal! Would such a fate be
Arthur's? No. There was no room in that great pulsing heart of his for
anything that was cold—no room for the chill of forgetfulness. Strive
as he might, he knew he could never forget. What then remained? Even in
that hour a holier radiance lighted his brow. Strong to bear the
burdens and sorrows of others, he had learned to cast all his care upon
One who had never forsaken him—even his unrequited love. He laid it on
the altar of his God, to bloom afresh, a beauteous flower transplanted
by the River of Life, beyond the blight of envy and of care—beyond, yet
near enough to earth to scatter its fragrance in blessings down upon the
head of her whom he—loved! Dare he say that word? Yes, in a sweeter,
holier sense than before, as one might love the beings of another world.
His face was quite calm as he turned on the light to resume his studies,
but before beginning his work he looked a little sadly around the room.
Yes, he had spent pleasant hours there, but he must leave, now. It was
better that the same roof should not shelter them both. He did not wish
to see Beth Woodburn again; and he just remembered that a friend of his
was going to vacate a room on the other side of the park. He would take
it early next week.
It was a week later, one afternoon, just before tea, that Beth and Mabel
Clayton were sitting in the drawing-room with Mrs. Owen.
"Do you know any of the girls over at the college who would like to get
a room, Miss Clayton?"
"No, but I might find some one."
"Mr. Grafton has moved out of his room for some reason, I don't know
"Mr.—whom did you say?" asked Beth.
"Mr. Grafton. Did you know him? A tall, dark fellow! Goes to Victoria.
"Why, surely, can it be Arthur Grafton! That's just who it is! Why, how
funny we never met each other coming in and out!"
"Did you know him, Beth?" asked Mabel. "I met him once or twice in the
halls, but I didn't know you knew him."
"Yes, I have known him ever since we were children."
"Oh, then you have heard him play," said Mrs. Owens. "He played for us
Thanksgiving eve. He's a splendid musician."
Beth felt just a tinge of disappointment that night as she passed the
closed door of the room Arthur had occupied. She wondered why he never
tried to find her. It was unkind of him to break the old friendship so
coldly. It was not her fault she could not love him, she thought. She
could never, never do that! In fact, she did not believe she would ever
love any man.
"Some people are not made for marriage, and I think I'm one of them."
And Beth sighed faintly and fell asleep.
Christmas eve, and Beth was home for her two weeks' holidays. It was
just after tea, and she and her father thought the parlor decidedly
cosy, with the curtains drawn and the candles flaming among the holly
over the mantel-piece. It seemed all the cosier because of the storm
that raged without. The sleet was beating against the pane, and the wind
came howling across the fields. Beth parted the curtains once, and
peeped out at the snow-wreaths whirling and circling round.
"Dear! such a storm! I am glad you're not out to-night, daddy."
Beth came back to the fire-side, and passed her father a plate of
fruit-cake she had made herself.
"It's too fresh to be good, but you mustn't find any fault. Just eat
every bit of it down. Oh, Kitty, stop!"
They had been cracking walnuts on the hearth-rug, and Beth's pet kitten
was amusing itself by scattering the shells over the carpet.
Beth sat down on the footstool at her father's feet.
"You look well after your fall's work, Beth; hard study doesn't seem to
"I believe it agrees with me, father."
"Did you see much of Arthur while you were in Toronto, Beth? I was
hoping you would bring him home for the Christmas holidays."
"No, I never saw him once."
"Never saw him once!"
He looked at her a little sternly.
"Beth, what is the matter between you and Arthur?"
Ding! The old door-bell sounded. Beth drooped her head, but the bell had
attracted her father's attention, and Aunt Prudence thrust her head into
the parlor in her unceremonious way.
"Doctor, that Brown fellow, by the mill, is wuss, an' his wife's took
down, too. They think he's dyin'."
"Oh, daddy, I can't let you go out into this dreadful storm. Let me go
"Nonsense, child! I must go. It's a matter of life and death, perhaps.
Help me on with my coat, daughter, please, I've been out in worse storms
Beth thought her father looked so brave and noble in that big otter
overcoat, and his long white beard flowing down. She opened the door for
him, and the hall light shone out into the snow. She shuddered as she
saw him staggering in the wind and sleet, then went back into the
parlor. It seemed lonely there, and she went on to the kitchen, where
Aunt Prudence was elbow-deep in pastry. A kitchen is always a cheerful
place at Christmas time. Beth's fears seemed quieted, and she went back
to the parlor to fix another branch of holly about a picture. Ding! Was
any one else sick, she wondered, as she went to answer the bell. She
opened the door, and there stood Mrs. Perth! It was really she, looking
so frail and fair in her furs.
"Why, May, dear! What are you doing out in this storm?"
"Oh, I'm nearly half dead, Beth." She tried to laugh, but the attempt
was not exactly a success.
Beth took her in to the fire, removed her wraps, all matted with snow,
and called to Aunt Prudence for some hot tea.
"Is your father out to-night, Beth?" asked May.
"Yes, he went away out to the Browns'. But wherever have you been?"
"I've been taking some Christmas things to a poor family about two miles
out in the country, and I didn't think the storm so very bad when I
started; but I'm like the Irishman with his children, I've 'more'n I
want'—of sleet, at any rate. Walter is away to-night, you know."
"Mr. Perth away! Where?"
"Oh, he went to Simcoe. He has two weddings. They are friends of ours,
and we didn't like to refuse. But it's mean, though," she continued,
with a sweet, affected little pout; "he'll not get back till afternoon,
and it's Christmas, too."
"Oh, May dear, you'll just stay right here with us to-night, and for
dinner to-morrow. Isn't that just fine!" Beth was dancing around her in
child-like glee. Mrs. Perth accepted, smiling at her pleasure; and they
sat on the couch, chatting.
"Did you say Dr. Woodburn had gone to the Browns'."
"Yes, Mrs. Brown is sick, too."
"Oh, isn't it dreadful? They're so poor, too. I don't believe they've a
decent bed in the house."
"Eight! There, the clock just struck. Father ought to be back. It was
only a little after six when he went out."
She looked anxiously at the drawn curtains, but the sleet beating harder
and harder upon the pane was her only answer.
"There he is now!" she cried, as a step entered the hall, and she rushed
to meet him.
"Oh, daddy, dear—why, father!"
Her voice changed to wonder and fear. His overcoat was gone and he
seemed a mass of ice and snow. His beard was frozen together; his breath
came with a thick, husky, sound, and he looked so pale and exhausted.
She led him to the fire, and began removing his icy garments. She was
too frightened to be of much use, but May's thoughtful self was flitting
quietly around, preparing a hot drink and seeing that the bed was ready.
He could not speak for a few minutes, and then it was only brokenly.
"Poor creatures! She had nothing over her but a thin quilt, and the snow
blowing through the cracks; and I just took off my coat—and put it over
her. I thought I could stand it."
Beth understood it now. He had driven home, all that long way, facing
the storm, after taking off his warm fur overcoat, and he was just
recovering from a severe cough, too. She trembled for its effect upon
him. It went to her heart to hear his husky breathing as he sat there
trembling before the fire. They got him to bed soon, and Aunt Prudence
tramped through the storm for Dr. Mackay, the young doctor who had
started up on the other side of the town. He came at once, and looked
grave after he had made a careful examination. There had been some
trouble with the heart setting in, and the excitement of his adventure
in the storm had aggravated it. Beth remembered his having trouble of
that sort once before, and she thought she read danger in Dr. Mackay's
That was a long, strange night to Beth as she sat there alone by her
father's bedside. He did not sleep, his breathing seemed so difficult.
She had never seen him look like that before—so weak and helpless, his
silvery hair falling back from his brow, his cheeks flushed, but not
with health. He said nothing, but he looked at her with a pitying look
sometimes. What did it all mean? Where would it end? She gave him his
medicine from hour to hour. The sleet beat on the window and the heavy
ticking of the clock in the intervals of the storm sounded like
approaching footsteps. The wind roared, and the old shutter creaked
uneasily. The husky breathing continued by her side and the hours grew
longer. Oh, for the morning! What would the morrow bring? She had
promised May to awaken her at three o'clock, but she looked so serene
sleeping with a smile on her lips, that Beth only kissed her softly and
went back to her place. Her father had fallen asleep, and it was an hour
later that she heard a gentle step beside her, and May looked at her
reproachfully. She went to her room and left May to watch. There was a
box on her table that her father had left before he went out that
evening, and then she remembered that it was Christmas morning.
Christmas morning! There was a handsome leather-bound Bible and a gold
watch with a tiny diamond set in the back. She had a choked feeling as
she lay down, but she was so exhausted she soon slept. It was late in
the morning when she awoke, and May did not tell her of her father's
fainting spell. Aunt Prudence was to sit up that night. The dear old
housekeeper! How kind she was, Beth thought. She had often been amused
at the quaint, old-fashioned creature. But she was a kind old soul, in
spite of her occasional sharp words.
Dr. Woodburn continued about the same all the following day, saving that
he slept more. The next day was Sunday, and Beth slept a little in the
afternoon. When she awakened she heard Dr. Mackay going down the hall,
and May came in to take her in her arms and kiss her. She sat down on
the bed beside Beth, with tears in her beautiful eyes.
"Beth, your father has been such a good man. He has done so much! If God
should call him home to his reward, would you—would you refuse to give
Beth laid her head on May's shoulder, sobbing.
"Oh, May—is it—death?" she asked, in a hoarse whisper.
"I fear so, dear."
Beth wept long, and May let her grief have its way for a while, then
drew her nearer to her heart.
"If Jesus comes for him, will you say 'no'?"
"His will be done," she answered, when she grew calmer.
The next day lawyer Graham came and stayed with Dr. Woodburn some time,
and Beth knew that all hope was past, but she wore a cheerful smile in
her father's presence during the few days that followed—bright winter
days, with sunshine and deep snow. The jingle of sleigh-bells and the
sound of merry voices passed in the street below as she listened to the
labored breathing at her side. It was the last day of the year that he
raised his hand and smoothed her hair in his old-time way.
"Beth, I am going home. You have been a good daughter—my one great
joy. God bless you, my child." He paused a moment. "You will have to
teach, and I think you had better go back to college soon. You'll not
miss me so much when you're working."
Beth pressed back her tears as she kissed him silently, and he soon fell
asleep. She went to the window and looked out on it all—the clear, cold
night sky with its myriads of stars, the brightly lighted windows and
the snow-covered roofs of the town on the hill-slope, and the Erie, a
frozen line of ice in the distant moonlight. The town seemed unusually
bright with lights, for it was the gay season of the year. And, oh, if
she but dared to give vent to that sob rising in her throat! She turned
to the sleeper again; a little later he opened his eyes with a bright
"In the everlasting arms," he whispered faintly, then pointed to a
picture of Arthur on the table. Beth brought it to him. He looked at it
tenderly, then gave it back to her. He tried to say something, and she
bent over him to catch the words, but all was silent there; his eyes
were closed, his lips set in a smile. Her head sank upon his breast.
"Papa!" she cried.
No answer, not even the sound of heartbeats. There was a noiseless step
at her side, and she fell back, unconscious, into May's arms. When she
came to again she was in her own room, and Mr. Perth was by her side.
Then the sense of her loss swept over her, and he let her grief have its
way for a while.
"My child," he said at last, bending over her. How those two words
soothed her! He talked to her tenderly for a little while, and she
looked much calmer when May came back.
But the strain had been too much for her, and she was quite ill all the
next day. She lay listening to the strange footsteps coming and going in
the halls, for everyone came to take a last look at one whom all loved
and honored. There was the old woman whom he had helped and encouraged,
hobbling on her cane to give him a last look and blessing; there was the
poor man whose children he had attended free of charge, the hand of
whose dying boy he had held; there was the little ragged girl, who
looked up through her tears and said, "He was good to me." Then came the
saddest moment Beth had ever known, when they led her down for the last
time to his side. She scarcely saw the crowded room, the flowers that
were strewn everywhere.
It was all over. The last words were said, and they led her out to the
carriage. The sun was low in the west that afternoon when the Perths
took her to the parsonage—"home to the parsonage," as she always said
after that. Aunt Prudence came to bid her good-bye before she went away
to live with her married son, and Beth never realized before how much
she loved the dear old creature who had watched over her from her
childhood. Just once before she returned to college she went back to
look at the old home, with its shutters closed and the snow-drifts on
its walks. She had thought her future was to be spent there, and now
where would her path be guided?
"Thou knowest, Lord," she said faintly.
In the soft flush of the following spring Beth returned to the parsonage
at Briarsfield. It was so nice to see the open country again after the
city streets. Mr. Perth met her at the station just as the sun was
setting, and there was a curious smile on his face. He was a little
silent on the way home, as if he had something on his mind; but
evidently it was nothing unpleasant. The parsonage seemed hidden among
the apple-blossoms, and Mrs. Perth came down the walk to meet them,
looking so fair and smiling, and why—she had something white in her
arms! Beth bounded forward to meet her.
"Why, May, where did you—whose baby?" asked Beth, breathless and
"Who does she look like?"
The likeness to May Perth on the little one-month-old face was
"You naughty puss, why didn't you tell me when you wrote?"
"Been keeping it to surprise you," said Mr. Perth. "Handsome baby, isn't
it? Just like her mother!"
"What are you going to call her?"
"Beth." And May kissed her fondly as she led her in.
What a pleasant week that was! Life may be somewhat desert-like, but
there is many a sweet little oasis where we can rest in the shade by the
rippling water, with the flowers and the birds about us.
One afternoon Beth went out for a stroll by herself down toward the
lake, and past the old Mayfair home. The family were still in Europe,
and the place, she heard, was to be sold. The afternoon sunshine was
beating on the closed shutters, the grass was knee-deep on the lawn and
terraces, and the weeds grew tall in the flower-beds. Deserted and
silent! Silent as that past she had buried in her soul. Silent as those
first throbs of her child-heart that she had once fancied meant love.
That evening she and May sat by the window watching the sunset cast its
glories over the lake, a great sheet of flame, softened by a wrapping of
thin purplish cloud, like some lives, struggling, fiery, triumphant,
but half hidden by this hazy veil of mortality.
"Are you going to write another story, Beth?"
"Yes, I thought one out last fall. I shall write it as soon as I am
"What is it—a love story?"
"Yes, it's natural to me to write of love; and yet—I have never been
seriously in love."
May laughed softly.
"Do you know, I am beginning to long to love truly. I want to taste the
deep of life, even if it brings me pain."
It was a momentary restlessness, and she recalled these words before
Mr. Perth joined them just then. He was going away for a week's holiday
on the following day.
"I suppose you have a supply for Sunday," said Mrs. Perth.
"Yes, I have. I think he'll be a very good one. He's a volunteer
"Where is he going?" asked Beth.
"I don't know."
"I should like to meet him," and Beth paused before she continued, in a
quiet tone, "I am going to be a missionary myself."
"Beth!" exclaimed Mrs. Perth.
"I thought you were planning this," said Mr. Perth.
"Thought so? How could you tell?" asked Beth.
"I saw it working in your mind. You are easily read. Where are you
"I haven't decided yet. I only just decided to go lately—one Sunday
afternoon this spring. I used to hate the idea."
Perhaps it was this little talk that made her think of Arthur again that
night. Why had he never sent her one line, one word of sympathy in her
sorrow? He was very unkind, when her father had loved him so. Was that
what love meant?
The supply did not stay at the parsonage, and Beth did not even ask his
name, as she supposed it would be unfamiliar to her. The old church
seemed so home-like that Sunday. The first sacred notes echoed softly
down the aisles; the choir took their places; then there was a moment's
solemn hush,—and Arthur! Why, that was Arthur going up into the pulpit!
She could hardly repress a cry of surprise. For the moment she forgot
all her coldness and indifference, and looked at him intently. He seemed
changed, somehow; he was a trifle paler, but there was a delicate
fineness about him she had never seen before, particularly in his eyes,
a mystery of pain and sweetness, blended and ripened into a more perfect
manhood. Was it because Arthur preached that sermon she thought it so
grand? No, everybody seemed touched. And this was the small boy who had
gone hazel-nutting with her, who had heard her geography, and, barefoot,
carried her through the brook. But that was long, long ago. They had
changed since then. Before she realized it, the service was over, and
the people were streaming through the door-way where Arthur stood
shaking hands with the acquaintances of his childhood. There was a
soothed, calm expression on Beth's brow, and her eyes met Arthur's as he
touched her hand. May thought she seemed a trifle subdued that day,
especially toward evening. Beth had a sort of feeling that night that
she would have been content to sit there at the church window for all
time. There was a border of white lilies about the altar, a sprinkling
of early stars in the evening sky; solemn hush and sacred music within,
and the cry of some stray night-bird without. There were gems of poetry
in that sermon, too; little gleanings from nature here and there. Then
she remembered how she had once said Arthur had not an artist-soul. Was
she mistaken? Was he one of those men who bury their sentiments under
the practical duties of every-day life? Perhaps so.
The next day she and May sat talking on the sofa by the window.
"Don't you think, May, I should make a mistake if I married a man who
had no taste for literature and art?"
"Yes, I do. I believe in the old German proverb, 'Let like and like mate
Was that a shadow crossed Beth's face?
"But, whatever you do, Beth, don't marry a man who is all moonshine. A
man may be literary in his tastes and yet not be devoted to a literary
life. I think the greatest genius is sometimes silent; but, even when
silent, he inspires others to climb the heights that duty forbade him to
"You've deep thoughts in your little head, May." And Beth bent over, in
lover-like fashion, to kiss the little white hand, but May had dropped
into one of her light-hearted, baby moods, and playfully withdrew it.
"Don't go mooning like that, kissing my dirty little hands! One would
think you had been falling in love."
Beth went for another stroll that evening. She walked past the dear old
house on the hill-top. The shutters were no longer closed; last summer's
flowers were blooming again by the pathway; strange children stopped
their play to look at her as she passed, and there were sounds of mirth
and music within. Yes, that was the old home—home no longer now! There
was her own old window, the white roses drooping about it in the early
"Oh, papa! papa! look down on your little Beth!" These words were in her
eyes as she lifted them to the evening sky, her tears falling silently.
She was following the old path by the road-side, where she used to go
for the milk every evening, when a firm step startled her.
"Arthur! Good evening. I'm so glad to see you again!"
She looked beautiful for a moment, with the tears hanging from her
lashes, and the smile on her face.
"I called to see you at the parsonage, but you were just going up the
street, so I thought I might be pardoned for coming too."
They were silent for a few moments. It was so like old times to be
walking there together. The early stars shone faintly; but the clouds
were still pink in the west; not a leaf stirred, not a breath; no sound
save a night-bird calling to its mate in the pine-wood yonder, and the
bleat of lambs in the distance. Presently Arthur broke the silence with
sweet, tender words of sorrow for her loss.
"I should have written to you if I had known, but I was sick in the
hospital, and I didn't—"
"Sick in the hospital! Why, Arthur, have you been ill? What was the
"A light typhoid fever. I went to the Wesleyan College, at Montreal,
after that, so I didn't even know you had come back to college."
"To the Wesleyan? I thought you were so attached to Victoria! Whatever
made you leave it, Arthur?"
He flushed slightly, and evaded her question.
"Do you know, it was so funny, Arthur, you roomed in the very house
where I boarded last fall, and I never knew a thing about it till
afterward? Wasn't it odd we didn't meet?"
Again he made some evasive reply, and she had an odd sensation, as of
something cold passing between them. He suddenly became formal, and they
turned back again at the bridge where they used to sit fishing, and
where Beth never caught anything (just like a girl); they always went to
Arthur's hook. The two forgot their coldness as they walked back, and
Beth was disappointed that Arthur had an engagement and could not come
in. They lingered a moment at the gate as he bade her good-night. A
delicate thrill, a something sweet and new and strange, possessed her as
he pressed her hand! Their eyes met for a moment.
"Good-bye for to-night, Beth."
May was singing a soft lullaby as she came up the walk. Only a moment!
Yet what a revelation a moment may bring to these hearts of ours! A
look, a touch, and something live is throbbing within! We cannot speak
it. We dare not name it. For, oh, hush, 'tis a sacred hour in a woman's
Beth went straight to her room, and sat by the open window in the
star-light. Some boys were singing an old Scotch ballad as they passed
in the street below; the moon was rising silvery above the blue Erie;
the white petals of apple-blossoms floated downward in the night air,
and in it all she saw but one face—a face with great, dark, tender
eyes, that soothed her with their silence. Soothed? Ah, yes! She felt
like a babe to-night, cradled in the arms of something, she knew not
what—something holy, eternal and calm. And this was love. She had
craved it often—wondered how it would come to her—and it was just
Arthur, after all, her childhood's friend, Arthur—but yet how changed!
He was not the same. She felt it dimly. The Arthur of her girlhood was
gone. They were man and woman now. She had not known this Arthur as he
was now. A veil seemed to have been suddenly drawn from his face, and
she saw in him—her ideal. There were tears in her eyes as she gazed
heavenward. She had thought to journey to heathen lands alone,
single-handed to fight the battle, and now—"Arthur—Arthur!" she called
in a soft, sweet whisper as she drooped her smiling face. What mattered
all her blind shilly-shally fancies about his nature not being poetic?
There was more poetry buried in that heart of his than she had ever
dreamed. "I can never, never marry Arthur!" she had often told herself.
She laughed now as she thought of it, and it was late before she slept,
for she seemed to see those eyes looking at her in the darkness—so
familiar, yet so new and changed! She awoke for a moment in the grey
light just before dawn, and she could see him still; her hand yet
thrilled from his touch. She heard the hoarse whistle of a steamer on
the lake; the rooks were cawing in the elm-tree over the roof, and she
fell asleep again.
"Good-morning, Rip Van Winkle," said May, when she entered the
"Why, is that clock—just look at the time! I forgot to wind my watch
last night, and I hadn't the faintest idea what time it was when I got
up this morning!"
"Good-bye for to-night, Beth," he had said, and he was going away
to-morrow morning, so he would surely come to-day. No wonder she went
about with an absent smile on her face, and did everything in the
craziest possible way. It was so precious, this newly-found secret of
hers! She knew her own heart now. There was no possibility of her
misunderstanding herself in the future. The afternoon was wearing away,
and she sat waiting and listening. Ding! No, that was only a
beggar-woman at the door. Ding, again! Yes, that was Arthur! Then she
grew frightened. How could she look into his eyes? He would read her
secret there. He sat down before her, and a formal coldness seemed to
paralyze them both.
"I have come to bid you good-bye, Miss Woodburn!"
Miss Woodburn! He had never called her that before. How cold his voice
sounded in her ears!
"Are you going back to Victoria College?" she asked.
"No, to the Wesleyan. Are you going to spend your summer in
"Most of it. I am going back to Toronto for a week or two before
'Varsity opens. My friend Miss de Vere is staying with some friends
there. She is ill and—"
"Do you still call her your friend?" he interrupted, with a sarcastic
"Why, yes!" she answered wonderingly, never dreaming that he had
witnessed that same scene in the Mayfair home.
"You are faithful, Beth," he said, looking graver. Then he talked
steadily of things in which neither of them had any interest. How cold
and unnatural it all was! Beth longed to give way to tears. In a few
minutes he rose to go. He was going! Arthur was going! She dared not
look into his face as he touched her hand coldly.
"Good-bye, Miss Woodburn. I wish you every success next winter."
She went back to the parlor and watched him—under the apple trees,
white with blossom, through the gate, past the old church, around the
corner—he was gone! The clock ticked away in the long, silent parlor;
the sunshine slept on the grass outside; the butterflies were flitting
from flower to flower, and laughing voices passed in the street, but her
heart was strangely still. A numb, voiceless pain! What did it mean?
Had Arthur changed? Once he had loved her. "God have pity!" her white
lips murmured. And yet that look, that touch last night—what did it
mean? What folly after all! A touch, a smile, and she had woven her fond
hopes together. Foolish woman-heart, building her palace on the sands
for next day's tide to sweep away! Yet how happy she had been last
night! A thrill, a throb, a dream of bliss; crushed now, all but the
memory! The years might bury it all in silence, but she could never,
never forget. She had laid her plans for life, sweet, unselfish plans
for uplifting human lives. Strange lands, strange scenes, strange faces
would surround her. She would toil and smile on others, "but oh, Arthur,
All through the long hours of that night she lay watching; she could not
sleep. Arthur was still near, the same hills surrounding them both. The
stars were shining and the hoarse whistle of the steamers rent the
night. Perhaps they would never be so near again. Would they ever meet,
she wondered. Perhaps not! Another year, and he would be gone far across
the seas, and then, "Good-bye, Arthur! Good-bye! God be with you!"
Beth's summer at Briarsfield parsonage passed quietly and sweetly. She
had seemed a little sad at first, and May, with her woman's instinct,
read more of her story than she thought, but she said nothing, though
she doubled her little loving attentions. The love of woman for woman is
But let us look at Beth as she sits in the shadow of the trees in the
parsonage garden. It was late in August, and Beth was waiting for May to
come out. Do you remember the first time we saw her in the shadow of the
trees on the lawn at home? It is only a little over two years ago, but
yet how much she has changed! You would hardly recognize the immature
girl in that gentle, sweet-faced lady in her dark mourning dress. The
old gloom had drifted from her brow, and in its place was sunlight, not
the sunlight of one who had never known suffering, but the gentler,
sweeter light of one who had triumphed over it. It was a face that would
have attracted you, that would have attracted everyone, in fact, from
the black-gowned college professor to the small urchin shouting in the
street. To the rejoicing it said, "Let me laugh with you, for life is
sweet;" to the sorrowing, "I understand, I have suffered, too. I know
what you feel." Just then her sweet eyes were raised to heaven in holy
thought, "Dear heavenly Father, thou knowest everything—how I loved
him. Thy will be done. Oh, Jesus, my tender One, thou art so sweet! Thou
dost understand my woman's heart and satisfy even its sweet longings.
Resting in Thy sweet presence what matter life's sorrows!"
She did not notice the lattice gate open and a slender, fair-haired man
pause just inside to watch her. It was Clarence Mayfair. There was a
touching expression on his face as he looked at her. Yes, she was
beautiful, he thought. It was not a dream, the face that he had carried
in his soul since that Sunday night last fall. Beth Woodburn was
beautiful. She was a woman now. She was only a child when they played
their little drama of love there in Briarsfield. The play was past now;
he loved her as a man can love but one woman. And now—a shadow crossed
his face—perhaps it was too late!
"Clarence!" exclaimed Beth, as he advanced, "I'm glad to see you." And
she held out her hand with an air of graceful dignity.
"You have come back to visit Briarsfield, I suppose. I was so surprised
to see you," she continued.
"Yes, I am staying at Mr. Graham's."
She noticed as he talked that he looked healthier, stronger and more
manly. Altogether she thought him improved.
"Your father and mother are still in England, I suppose," said she.
"Yes, they intend to stay with their relatives this winter. As for me, I
shall go back to 'Varsity and finish my course."
"Oh, are you going to teach?"
"Yes; there's nothing else before me," he answered, in a discouraged
She understood. She had heard of his father's losses, and, what grieved
her still more, she had heard that Clarence was turning out a literary
failure. He had talent, but he had not the fresh, original genius that
this age of competition demands. Poor Clarence! She was sorry for him.
"You have been all summer in Briarsfield?" he asked.
"Yes, but I am going to Toronto to-morrow morning."
"Yes, I know. Miss de Vere told me she had sent for you."
"Oh, you have seen her then!"
"Yes, I saw her yesterday. Poor girl, she'll not last long. Consumption
has killed all the family."
Beth wondered if he loved Marie, and she looked at him, with her gentle,
sympathetic eyes. He caught her look and winced under it. She gazed away
at the glimpse of lake between the village roofs for a moment.
"Beth, have you forgotten the past?" he asked, in a voice abrupt but
She started. She had never seen his face look so expressive. The tears
rose to her eyes as she drooped her flushing face.
"No, I have not forgotten."
"Beth, I did not love you then; I did not know what love meant—"
"Oh, don't speak of it! It would have been a terrible mistake!"
"But, Beth, can you never forgive the past? I love you now—I have
loved you since—"
"Oh, hush, Clarence! You must not speak of love!" And she buried her
face in her hands and sobbed a moment, then leaned forward slightly
toward him, a tender look in her eyes.
"I love another," she said, in a low gentle voice.
He shielded his eyes for a moment with his fair delicate hand. It was a
hard moment for them both.
"I am so sorry, Clarence. I know what you feel. I am sorry we ever met."
He looked at her with a smile on his saddened face.
"I feared it was so; but I had rather love you in vain than to win the
love of any other woman. Good-bye, Beth."
He lingered a moment as he touched her hand in farewell.
"God bless you," she said, softly.
He crossed the garden in the sunshine, and she sat watching the fleecy
clouds and snatches of lake between the roofs. Poor Clarence! Did love
mean to him what it meant to her? Ah, yes! she had seen the pain written
on his brow. Poor Clarence! That night she craved a blessing upon him as
she knelt beside her bed. Just then he was wandering about the
weed-grown lawns of his father's house, which looked more desolate than
ever in the light of the full moon. It was to be sold the following
spring, and he sighed as he walked on toward the lake-side. Right there
on that little cliff he had asked Beth Woodburn to be his wife, and but
for that fickle faithlessness of his, who knew what might have been? And
yet it was better so—better for her—God bless her. And the thought
of her drew him heavenward that night.
The next day Beth was on her way to Toronto to see Marie. She was in a
pensive mood as she sat by the car window, gazing at the farm-lands
stretching far away, and the wooded hill-sides checkered by the sunlight
shining through their boughs. There is always a pleasant diversion in a
few hours' travel, and Beth found herself drawn from her thoughts by the
antics of a negro family at the other end of the car. A portly colored
woman presided over them; she had "leben chilen, four dead and gone to
glory," as she explained to everyone who questioned her.
It was about two o'clock when Beth reached Toronto, and the whirr of
electric cars, the rattle of cabs and the mixed noises of the city
street would all have been pleasantly exciting to her young nerves but
for her thoughts of Marie. She wondered at her coming to the city to
spend her last days, but it was quiet on Grenville Street, where she was
staying with her friends, the Bartrams. Beth was, indeed, struck by the
change in her friend when she entered the room. She lay there so frail
and shadow-like among her pillows, her dark cheeks sunken, though
flushed; but her eyes had still their old brilliancy, and there was an
indefinable gentleness about her. Beth seemed almost to feel it as she
stooped to kiss her. The Bartrams were very considerate, and left them
alone together as much as possible, but Marie was not in a talking mood
that day. Her breath came with difficulty, and she seemed content to
hold Beth's hand and smile upon her, sometimes through tears that
gathered silently. Bright, sparkling Marie! They had not been wont to
associate tears with her in the past. It was a pleasant room she had,
suggestive of her taste—soft carpet and brightly-cushioned chairs, a
tall mirror reflecting the lilies on the stand, and a glimpse of Queen's
Park through the open window. The next day was Sunday, and Beth sat by
Marie while the others went to church. They listened quietly to the
bells peal forth their morning call together, and Beth noted with
pleasure that it seemed to soothe Marie as she lay with closed eyes and
a half smile on her lips.
"Beth, you have been so much to me this summer. Your letters were so
sweet. You are a great, grand woman, Beth." And she stroked Beth's hair
softly with her frail, wasted hand.
"Do you remember when I used to pride myself on my unbelief?" Her breath
failed her for a moment. "It is past now," she continued, with a smile.
"It was one Sunday; I had just read one of your letters, and I felt
somehow that Jesus had touched me. I am ready now. It was hard, so hard
at first, to give up life, but I have learned at last to say 'His will
Beth could not speak for the sob she had checked in her throat.
"Beth, I may not be here another Sunday. I want to talk to you, dear.
You remember the old days when that trouble came between you and—and
Clarence. I was a treacherous friend to you, Beth, to ever let him speak
of love to me. I was a traitor to—"
"Oh, hush! Marie, darling, don't talk so," Beth pleaded in a sobbing
"I must speak of it, Beth. I was treacherous to you. But when you know
what I suffered—" Her breath failed again for a moment. "I loved
him, Beth," she whispered.
"Marie!" There was silence for a moment, broken only by Marie's labored
breathing. "I loved him, but I knew he did not love me. It was only a
fancy of his. I had charmed him for the time, but I knew when I was gone
his heart would go back to you—and now, Beth, I am dying slowly, I ask
but one thing more. I have sent for Clarence. Let everything be
forgotten now; let me see you happy together just as it was before."
"Oh, hush, Marie! It cannot be. It can never be. You know I told you
last fall that I did not love him."
"Ah, but that is your pride, Beth; all your pride! Listen to me, Beth.
If I had ten years more to live, I would give them all to see you both
happy and united."
Beth covered her face with her hands, as her tears flowed silently.
"Marie, I must tell you all," she said, as she bent over her. "I love
another: I love Arthur!"
"Arthur Grafton!" Marie exclaimed, and her breath came in quick, short
gasps, and there was a pained look about her closed eyes. Beth
understood she was grieved for the disappointment of the man she loved.
"And you, Beth—are you happy? Does he—Arthur, I mean—love you?" she
asked, with a smile.
"No. He loved me once, the summer before I came to college, but he is
changed now. He was in Briarsfield this summer for a few days, but I saw
he was changed. He was not like the same Arthur—so changed and cold."
She sat with a grave look in her grey eyes as Marie lay watching her.
"Only once I thought he loved me," she continued; "one night when he
looked at me and touched my hand. But the next day he was cold again,
and I knew then that he didn't love me any more."
Marie lay for a few moments with a very thoughtful look in her eyes, but
she made no remark, and, after a while, she slept from weakness and
Beth went out for a few hours next morning, and found her very much
weaker when she returned. Mrs. Bartram said she had tired herself
writing a letter. She had a wide-awake air as if she were watching for
something, and her ear seemed to catch every step on the stair-way. It
was toward the close of day.
"Hark! who's that?" she asked, starting.
"Only Mrs. Bartram. Rest, dearest," said Beth.
But the brilliant eyes were fixed on the door, and a moment later
Clarence entered the room. Marie still held Beth's hand, but her dark
eyes were fixed on Clarence with a look never to be forgotten.
"You have come at last," she said, then fell back on her pillows
exhausted, but smiling, her eyes closed.
He stood holding the frail hand she had stretched out to him, then the
dark eyes opened slowly, and she gazed on him with a yearning look.
"Put your hand upon my forehead, I shall die happier," she said, softly.
"Oh, Clarence, I loved you! I loved you! It can do no harm to tell you
now. Kiss me just once. In a moment I shall be with my God."
Beth had glided from the room, and left her alone with the man she
loved; but in a few minutes he called her and Mrs. Bartram to the
bed-side. Marie was almost past speaking, but she stretched forth her
arms to Beth and drew her young head down upon her breast. There was
silence for a few minutes, broken only by Marie's hoarse breathing.
"Jesus, my Redeemer," her pale lips murmured faintly, then the
heart-throbs beneath Beth's ear were still; the slender hand fell
helpless on the counterpane; the brilliant eyes were closed; Marie was
When Beth came to look at her again she lay smiling in her white,
flowing garment, a single lily in her clasped hands. Poor Marie! She had
loved and suffered, and now it was ended. Aye, but she had done more
than suffer. She had refused the man she loved for his sake and for the
sake of another. Her sacrifice had been in vain, but the love that
sacrificed itself—was that vain? Ah, no! Sweet, brave Marie!
Her friends thought it a strange request of hers to be buried at
Briarsfield, but it was granted. Her vast wealth—as she had died
childless—went, by the provisions of her father's will, to a distant
cousin, but her jewels she left to Beth. The following afternoon Mr.
Perth read the funeral service, and they lowered the lovely burden in
the shadow of the pines at the corner of the Briarsfield church-yard.
There in that quiet village she had first seen him she loved. After all
her gay social life she sought its quiet at last, and the stars of that
summer night looked down on her new-made grave.
The following day Mr. Perth laid a colored envelope from a large
publishing firm in Beth's lap. They had accepted her last story for a
good round sum, accompanied by most flattering words of encouragement.
As she read the commendatory words, she smiled at the thought of having
at least one talent to use in her Master's service. Yes, Beth Woodburn
of Briarsfield would be famous after all. It was no vain dream of her
Four weeks passed and Beth had finished her preparations for returning
to college in the fall. In a few weeks she would be leaving May and the
dear old parsonage, but she would be glad to be back at 'Varsity again.
There came a day of heavy rain, and she went out on an errand of charity
for May. When she returned, late in the afternoon, she heard Mr. Perth
talking to someone in the study, but that was nothing unusual. The rain
was just ceasing, and the sun suddenly broke through the clouds, filling
all the west with glory. Beth went down into the garden to drink in the
beauty. Rugged clouds stood out like hills of fire fringed with gold,
and the great sea of purple and crimson overhead died away in the soft
flush of the east, while the wet foliage of the trees and gardens shone
like gold beneath the clouds. It was glorious! She had never seen
anything like it before. Look! there were two clouds of flame parting
about the sunset like a gateway into the beyond, and within all looked
peaceful and golden. Somehow it made her think of Marie. Poor Marie!
Why had Clarence's love for her been unreal? Why could she not have
lived and they been happy together? Love and suffering! And what had
love brought to her? Only pain. She thought of Arthur, too. Perhaps he
was happiest of all. He seemed to have forgotten. But she—ah, she could
never forget! Yet, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy
sight." And she pulled a bunch of fall flowers from the bush at her
side, careless of the rain-drops that shook on her bare head as she
touched the branches. She did not know that she was being observed from
the study window.
"She is going to be a missionary, isn't she?" said the stranger who was
talking to Mr. Perth.
"Yes; she hasn't decided her field yet, but she will make a grand one
wherever she goes. She's a noble girl; I honor her."
"Yes, she is very noble," said the stranger slowly, as he looked at her.
She would have recognized his voice if she had been within hearing, but
she only pulled another spray of blossoms, without heeding the sound of
the study door shutting and a step approaching her on the gravelled
"Arthur! Why, I—I thought you were in Montreal!"
"So, I was. I just got there a few days ago, but I turned around and
came back to-day to scold you for getting your feet wet standing there
in the wet grass. I knew you didn't know how to take care of yourself."
There was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "Didn't I always take care
of you when you were little?"
"Yes, and a nice tyrant you were!" she said, laughing, when she had
recovered from her surprise, "always scolding and preaching at me."
He seemed inclined to talk lightly at first, and then grew suddenly
silent as they went into the drawing-room. Beth felt as though he were
regarding her with a sort of protecting air. What did it mean? What had
brought him here so suddenly? She was growing embarrassed at his
silence, when she suddenly plunged into conversation about Montreal, the
Wesleyan College, and other topics that were farthest away from her
present thought and interest.
"Beth," said Arthur suddenly, interrupting the flow of her remarks in a
gentle tone, "Beth, why did you not tell me last summer that you were
going to be a missionary?"
She seemed startled for a moment, as he looked into her flushed face.
"Oh, I don't know. I—I meant to. I meant to tell you that afternoon you
came here before you went away, but I didn't know you were going so
soon, and I didn't tell you somehow. Who told you?"
"Marie de Vere told me," he said, gently. "She wrote to me just a few
hours before she died; but I didn't get the letter till yesterday. She
left it with Clarence, and he couldn't find me at first."
They looked at each other a moment in silence, and there was a tender
smile in his eyes. Then a sudden flush crimsoned her cheek. How much did
he know? Had Marie told him that she—
"Beth, why did you not tell me before that you were free—that you were
not another's promised wife?" His voice was gentle, very gentle. Her
face drooped, and her hand trembled as it lay on her black dress. He
rose and bent over her, his hand resting on her shoulder. His touch
thrilled her, soothed her, but she dare not raise her eyes.
"I—I—didn't know it mattered—that; you cared," she stammered.
"Didn't know I cared!" he exclaimed; then, in a softer tone, "Beth, did
you think I had forgotten—that I could forget? I love you, Beth. Can
you ever love me enough to be my wife?"
She could not speak, but in her upturned face he read her answer, and
his lips touched her brow reverently. Closer, closer to his breast he
drew her. Soul open to soul, heart beating against heart! The old clock
ticked in the stillness, and the crimson glow of the sunset was
reflected on the parlor wall. Oh, what joy was this suddenly breaking
through the clouds upon them! Beth was the first to break the silence.
"Oh, Arthur, I love you so! I love you so!" she said, twining her arms
passionately about his neck, as her tears fell upon his breast. It was
the long pent-up cry of her loving womanhood.
"But Arthur, why were you so cold and strange that day we parted last
"I thought you were another's intended wife. I tried to hide my love
from you." His voice shook slightly as he answered.
One long, lingering look into each other's eyes, and, with one thought,
they knelt together beside the old couch and gave thanks to the
all-loving Father who had guided their paths together.
That night Beth lay listening as the autumn wind shook the elm-tree
over the roof and drifted the clouds in dark masses across the starry
sky. But the winds might rage without—aye, the storms might beat down,
if they would, what did it matter? Arthur was near, and the Divine
presence was bending over her with its shielding love. "Oh, God, Thou
art good!" She was happy—oh, so happy! And she fell asleep with a smile
on her face.
The autumn passed—such a gloriously happy autumn—and Christmas eve had
come. The snow lay white and cold on the fields and hills about
Briarsfield, but in the old church all was warmth and light. A group of
villagers were gathered inside, most of them from curiosity, and before
the altar Arthur and Beth were standing side by side. Beth looked very
beautiful as she stood there in her white bridal robes. The church was
still, sacredly still, but for the sound of Mr. Perth's earnest voice;
and in the rear of the crowd was one face, deadly pale, but calm. It was
Clarence. How pure she looked, he thought. Pure as the lilies hanging in
clusters above her head! Was she of the earth—clay, like these others
about her? The very tone of her voice seemed to have caught a note from
above. No, he had never been worthy of her! Weak, fickle, wave-tossed
soul that he was! A look of humiliation crossed his face, then a look of
hope. If he had never been worthy of her hand he would be worthy at
least to have loved her in vain. He would be what she would have had him
be. It was over; the last words were said; the music broke forth, and
the little gold band gleamed on Beth's fair hand as it lay on Arthur's
arm. He led her down the aisle, smiling and happy. Oh, joy! joy
everlasting! joy linking earth to heaven! They rested that night in
Beth's old room at the parsonage, and as the door closed behind them
they knelt together—man and wife. Sacred hour!
Out beneath the stars of that still Christmas eve was one who saw the
light shine from their window as he passed and blessed them. He carried
a bunch of lilies in his hand as he made his way to a long white mound
in the church-yard. Poor Marie! He stooped and laid them in the snow,
the pure white snow—pure as the dead whose grave it covered! pure as
the vows he had heard breathed that night!
Seven years have passed, and Beth sits leaning back in a rocker by the
window, in the soft bright moonlight of Palestine. And what have the
years brought to Beth? She is famous now. Her novels are among the most
successful of the day. She has marked out a new line of work, and the
dark-eyed Jewish characters in her stories have broadened the sympathies
of her world of readers. But the years have brought her something
besides literary fame and success in the mission-field. By her side is a
little white cot, and a little rosy-cheeked boy lies asleep upon the
pillow, one hand, thrown back over his dark curls—her little Arthur.
There is a step beside her, and her husband bends over her with a loving
"It is seven years to-night since we were married, Beth."
There are tears in her smiling eyes as she looks up into his face.
"And you have never regretted?" he asks.
"Oh, Arthur! How could I?" and she hides her face on his breast.
"My wife! my joy!" he whispers, as he draws her closer.
"Arthur, do you remember what a silly, silly girl I used to be when I
thought you had not enough of the artist-soul to understand my nature?
And here, if I hadn't had you to criticise and encourage me, I'd never
have succeeded as well as I have."
He only kisses her for reply, and they look out over the flat-roofed
city in the moonlight. Peace! peace! sweet peace! "Not as the world
giveth, give I unto you." And the stars are shining down upon them in
their love. And so, dear Beth, farewell!
The evening shadows lengthen as I write, but there is another to whom we
must bid farewell. It is Clarence. Father and mother are both dead, and
in one of the quiet parts of Toronto he lives, unmarried, in his
comfortable rooms. The years have brought him a greater measure of
success than once he had hoped. The sorrow he has so bravely hidden has
perhaps enabled him to touch some chord in the human hearts of his
readers. At any rate, he has a good round income now. Edith's children
come often to twine their arms about his neck; but there are other
children who love him, too. Down in the dark, narrow streets of the city
there is many a bare, desolate home that he has cheered with warmth and
comfort, many a humble fireside where the little ones listen for his
step, many little hands and feet protected from the cold by his
benefactions. But no matter how lowly the house, he always leaves behind
some trace of his artistic nature—a picture or a bunch of flowers,
something suggestive of the beautiful, the ideal. Sometimes, when the
little ones playing about him lisp their childish praises, a softness
fills his eyes and he thinks of one who is far away. Blessed be her
footsteps! But he is not sad long. No, he is the genial, jolly bachelor,
whom everybody loves, so unlike the Clarence of long ago; and so
farewell, brave heart—fare thee well!