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´╗┐Title: Evelina's Garden
Author: Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Evelina's Garden" ***

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EVELINA'S GARDEN

by

MARY E. WILKINS



New York and London
Harper & Brothers
MDCCCXCIX



On the south a high arbor-vitae hedge separated Evelina's garden from
the road. The hedge was so high that when the school-children lagged
by, and the secrets behind it fired them with more curiosity than
those between their battered book covers, the tallest of them by
stretching up on tiptoe could not peer over. And so they were driven
to childish engineering feats, and would set to work and pick away
sprigs of the arbor-vitae with their little fingers, and make
peep-holes--but small ones, that Evelina might not discern them. Then
they would thrust their pink faces into the hedge, and the enduring
fragrance of it would come to their nostrils like a gust of aromatic
breath from the mouth of the northern woods, and peer into Evelina's
garden as through the green tubes of vernal telescopes.

Then suddenly hollyhocks, blooming in rank and file, seemed to be
marching upon them like platoons of soldiers, with detonations of
color that dazzled their peeping eyes; and, indeed, the whole garden
seemed charging with its mass of riotous bloom upon the hedge. They
could scarcely take in details of marigold and phlox and pinks and
London-pride and cock's-combs, and prince's-feather's waving overhead
like standards.

Sometimes also there was the purple flutter of Evelina's gown; and
Evelina's face, delicately faded, hung about with softly drooping
gray curls, appeared suddenly among the flowers, like another flower
uncannily instinct with nervous melancholy.

Then the children would fall back from their peep-holes, and huddle
off together with scared giggles. They were afraid of Evelina. There
was a shade of mystery about her which stimulated their childish
fancies when they heard her discussed by their elders. They might
easily have conceived her to be some baleful fairy intrenched in her
green stronghold, withheld from leaving it by the fear of some dire
penalty for magical sins. Summer and winter, spring and fall, Evelina
Adams never was seen outside her own domain of old mansion-house and
garden, and she had not set her slim lady feet in the public highway
for nearly forty years, if the stories were true.

People differed as to the reason why. Some said she had had an
unfortunate love affair, that her heart had been broken, and she had
taken upon herself a vow of seclusion from the world, but nobody
could point to the unworthy lover who had done her this harm. When
Evelina was a girl, not one of the young men of the village had dared
address her. She had been set apart by birth and training, and also
by a certain exclusiveness of manner, if not of nature. Her father,
old Squire Adams, had been the one man of wealth and college learning
in the village. He had owned the one fine old mansion-house, with its
white front propped on great Corinthian pillars, overlooking the
village like a broad brow of superiority.

He had owned the only coach and four. His wife during her short life
had gone dressed in rich brocades and satins that rustled loud in the
ears of the village women, and her nodding plumes had dazzled the
eyes under their modest hoods. Hardly a woman in the village but
could tell--for it had been handed down like a folk-lore song from
mother to daughter--just what Squire Adams's wife wore when she
walked out first as bride to meeting. She had been clad all in blue.

"Squire Adams's wife, when she walked out bride, she wore a blue
satin brocade gown, all wrought with blue flowers of a darker blue,
cut low neck and short sleeves. She wore long blue silk mitts wrought
with blue, blue satin shoes, and blue silk clocked stockings. And she
wore a blue crape mantle that was brought from over seas, and a blue
velvet hat, with a long blue ostrich feather curled over it--it was
so long it reached her shoulder, and waved when she walked; and she
carried a little blue crape fan with ivory sticks."  So the women and
girls told each other when the Squire's bride had been dead nearly
seventy years.

The blue bride attire was said to be still in existence, packed away
in a cedar chest, as the Squire had ordered after his wife's death.
"He stood over the woman that took care of his wife whilst she packed
the things away, and he never shed a tear, but she used to hear him
a-goin' up to the north chamber nights, when he couldn't sleep, to
look at 'em," the women told.

People had thought the Squire would marry again. They said Evelina,
who was only four years old, needed a mother, and they selected one
and another of the good village girls. But the Squire never married.
He had a single woman, who dressed in black silk, and wore always a
black wrought veil over the side of her bonnet, come to live with
them, to take charge of Evelina. She was said to be a distant
relative of the Squire's wife, and was much looked up to by the
village people, although she never did more than interlace, as it
were, the fringes of her garments with theirs. "She's stuck up," they
said, and felt, curiously enough, a certain pride in the fact when
they met her in the street and she ducked her long chin stiffly into
the folds of her black shawl by way of salutation.

When Evelina was fifteen years old this single woman died, and the
village women went to her funeral, and bent over her lying in a last
helpless dignity in her coffin, and stared with awed freedom at her
cold face. After that Evelina was sent away to school, and did not
return, except for a yearly vacation, for six years to come. Then she
returned, and settled down in her old home to live out her life, and
end her days in a perfect semblance of peace, if it were not peace.

Evelina never had any young school friend to visit her; she had
never, so far as any one knew, a friend of her own age. She lived
alone with her father and three old servants. She went to meeting,
and drove with the Squire in his chaise. The coach was never used
after his wife's death, except to carry Evelina to and from school.
She and the Squire also took long walks, but they never exchanged
aught but the merest civilities of good-days and nods with the
neighbors whom they met, unless indeed the Squire had some matter of
business to discuss. Then Evelina stood aside and waited, her fair
face drooping gravely aloof. She was very pretty, with a gentle
high-bred prettiness that impressed the village folk, although they
looked at it somewhat askance.

Evelina's figure was tall, and had a fine slenderness; her silken
skirts hung straight from the narrow silk ribbon that girt her slim
waist; there was a languidly graceful bend in her long white throat;
her long delicate hands hung inertly at her sides among her skirt
folds, and were never seen to clasp anything; her softly clustering
fair curls hung over her thin blooming cheeks, and her face could
scarce be seen, unless, as she seldom did, she turned and looked full
upon one. Then her dark blue eyes, with a little nervous frown
between them, shone out radiantly; her thin lips showed a warm red,
and her beauty startled one.

Everybody wondered why she did not have a lover, why some fine young
man had not been smitten by her while she had been away at school.
They did not know that the school had been situated in another little
village, the counterpart of the one in which she had been born,
wherein a fitting mate for a bird of her feather could hardly be
found. The simple young men of the country-side were at once
attracted and intimidated by her. They cast fond sly glances across
the meeting-house at her lovely face, but they were confused before
her when they jostled her in the doorway and the rose and lavender
scent of her lady garments came in their faces. Not one of them dared
accost her, much less march boldly upon the great Corinthian-pillared
house, raise the brass knocker, and declare himself a suitor for the
Squire's daughter.

One young man there was, indeed, who treasured in his heart an
experience so subtle and so slight that he could scarcely believe in
it himself. He never recounted it to mortal soul, but kept it as a
secret sacred between himself and his own nature, but something to be
scoffed at and set aside by others.

It had happened one Sabbath day in summer, when Evelina had not been
many years home from school, as she sat in the meeting-house in her
Sabbath array of rose-colored satin gown, and white bonnet trimmed
with a long white feather and a little wreath of feathery green, that
of a sudden she raised her head and turned her face, and her blue
eyes met this young man's full upon hers, with all his heart in them,
and it was for a second as if her own heart leaped to the surface,
and he saw it, although afterwards he scarce believed it to be true.

Then a pallor crept over Evelina's delicately brilliant face. She
turned it away, and her curls falling softly from under the green
wreath on her bonnet brim hid it. The young man's cheeks were a hot
red, and his heart beat loudly in his ears when he met her in the
doorway after the sermon was done. His eager, timorous eyes sought
her face, but she never looked his way. She laid her slim hand in its
cream-colored silk mitt on the Squire's arm; her satin gown rustled
softly as she passed before him, shrinking against the wall to give
her room, and a faint fragrance which seemed like the very breath of
the unknown delicacy and exclusiveness of life came to his bewildered
senses.

Many a time he cast furtive glances across the meeting-house at
Evelina, but she never looked his way again. If his timid boy-eyes
could have seen her cheek behind its veil of curls, he might have
discovered that the color came and went before his glances, although
it was strange how she could have been conscious of them; but he
never knew.

And he also never knew how, when he walked past the Squire's house of
a Sunday evening, dressed in his best, with his shoulders thrust
consciously back, and the windows in the westering sun looked full of
blank gold to his furtive eyes, Evelina was always peeping at him
from behind a shutter, and he never dared go in. His intuitions were
not like hers, and so nothing happened that might have, and he never
fairly knew what he knew. But that he never told, even to his wife
when he married; for his hot young blood grew weary and impatient
with this vain courtship, and he turned to one of his villagemates,
who met him fairly half way, and married her within a year.

On the Sunday when he and his bride first appeared in the
meeting-house Evelina went up the aisle behind her father in an array
of flowered brocade, stiff with threads of silver, so wonderful that
people all turned their heads to stare at her. She wore also a new
bonnet of rose-colored satin, and her curls were caught back a
little, and her face showed as clear and beautiful as an angel's.

The young bridegroom glanced at her once across the meeting-house,
then he looked at his bride in her gay wedding finery with a faithful
look.

When Evelina met them in the doorway, after meeting was done, she
bowed with a sweet cold grace to the bride, who courtesied blushingly
in return, with an awkward sweep of her foot in the bridal satin
shoe. The bridegroom did not look at Evelina at all. He held his chin
well down in his stock with solemn embarrassment, and passed out
stiffly, his bride on his arm.

Evelina, shining in the sun like a silver lily, went up the street,
her father stalking beside her with stately swings of his cane, and
that was the last time she was ever seen at meeting. Nobody knew why.

When Evelina was a little over thirty her father died. There was not
much active grief for him in the village; he had really figured
therein more as a stately monument of his own grandeur than anything
else. He had been a man of little force of character, and that little
had seemed to degenerate since his wife died. An inborn dignity of
manner might have served to disguise his weakness with any others
than these shrewd New-Englanders, but they read him rightly. "The
Squire wa'n't ever one to set the river a-fire," they said. Then,
moreover, he left none of his property to the village to build a new
meeting-house or a town-house. It all went to Evelina.

People expected that Evelina would surely show herself in her
mourning at meeting the Sunday after the Squire died, but she did
not. Moreover, it began to be gradually discovered that she never
went out in the village street nor crossed the boundaries of her own
domains after her father's death. She lived in the great house with
her three servants--a man and his wife, and the woman who had been
with her mother when she died. Then it was that Evelina's garden
began. There had always been a garden at the back of the Squire's
house, but not like this, and only a low fence had separated it from
the road. Now one morning in the autumn the people saw Evelina's
man-servant, John Darby, setting out the arbor-vitae hedge, and in
the spring after that there were ploughing and seed-sowing extending
over a full half-acre, which later blossomed out in glory.

Before the hedge grew so high Evelina could be seen at work in her
garden. She was often stooping over the flower-beds in the early
morning when the village was first astir, and she moved among them
with her watering-pot in the twilight--a shadowy figure that might,
from her grace and her constancy to the flowers, have been Flora
herself.

As the years went on, the arbor-vitae hedge got each season a new
growth and waxed taller, until Evelina could no longer be seen above
it. That was an annoyance to people, because the quiet mystery of her
life kept their curiosity alive, until it was in a constant struggle,
as it were, with the green luxuriance of the hedge.

"John Darby had ought to trim that hedge," they said. They accosted
him in the street: "John, if ye don't cut that hedge down a little
it'll all die out."  But he only made a surly grunting response,
intelligible to himself alone, and passed on. He was an Englishman,
and had lived in the Squire's family since he was a boy.

He had a nature capable of only one simple line of force, with no
radiations or parallels, and that had early resolved itself into the
service of the Squire and his house. After the Squire's death he
married a woman who lived in the family. She was much older than
himself, and had a high temper, but was a good servant, and he
married her to keep her to her allegiance to Evelina. Then he bent
her, without her knowledge, to take his own attitude towards his
mistress. No more could be gotten out of John Darby's wife than out
of John Darby concerning the doings at the Squire's house. She met
curiosity with a flash of hot temper, and he with surly taciturnity,
and both intimidated.

The third of Evelina's servants was the woman who had nursed her
mother, and she was naturally subdued and undemonstrative, and
rendered still more so by a ceaseless monotony of life. She never
went to meeting, and was seldom seen outside the house. A passing
vision of a long white-capped face at a window was about all the
neighbors ever saw of this woman.

So Evelina's gentle privacy was well guarded by her own household, as
by a faithful system of domestic police. She grew old peacefully
behind her green hedge, shielded effectually from all rough bristles
of curiosity. Every new spring her own bloom showed paler beside the
new bloom of her flowers, but people could not see it.

Some thirty years after the Squire's death the man John Darby died;
his wife, a year later. That left Evelina alone with the old woman
who had nursed her mother. She was very old, but not feeble, and
quite able to perform the simple household tasks for herself and
Evelina. An old man, who saved himself from the almshouse in such
ways, came daily to do the rougher part of the garden-work in John
Darby's stead. He was aged and decrepit; his muscles seemed able to
perform their appointed tasks only through the accumulated inertia of
a patiently toilsome life in the same tracks. Apparently they would
have collapsed had he tried to force them to aught else than the
holding of the ploughshare, the pulling of weeds, the digging around
the roots of flowers, and the planting of seeds.

Every autumn he seemed about to totter to his fall among the fading
flowers; every spring it was like Death himself urging on the
resurrection; but he lived on year after year, and tended well
Evelina's garden, and the gardens of other maiden-women and widows in
the village. He was taciturn, grubbing among his green beds as
silently as a worm, but now and then he warmed a little under a fire
of questions concerning Evelina's garden. "Never see none sech
flowers in nobody's garden in this town, not sence I knowed 'nough to
tell a pink from a piny," he would mumble. His speech was thick; his
words were all uncouthly slurred; the expression of his whole life
had come more through his old knotted hands of labor than through his
tongue. But he would wipe his forehead with his shirt-sleeve and lean
a second on his spade, and his face would change at the mention of
the garden. Its wealth of bloom illumined his old mind, and the roses
and honeysuckles and pinks seemed for a second to be reflected in his
bleared old eyes.

There had never been in the village such a garden as this of Evelina
Adams's. All the old blooms which had come over the seas with the
early colonists, and started as it were their own colony of flora in
the new country, flourished there. The naturalized pinks and phlox
and hollyhocks and the rest, changed a little in color and fragrance
by the conditions of a new climate and soil, were all in Evelina's
garden, and no one dreamed what they meant to Evelina; and she did
not dream herself, for her heart was always veiled to her own eyes,
like the face of a nun. The roses and pinks, the poppies and
heart's-ease, were to this maiden-woman, who had innocently and
helplessly outgrown her maiden heart, in the place of all the loves
of life which she had missed. Her affections had forced an outlet in
roses; they exhaled sweetness in pinks, and twined and clung in
honeysuckle-vines. The daffodils, when they came up in the spring,
comforted her like the smiles of children; when she saw the first
rose, her heart leaped as at the face of a lover.

She had lost the one way of human affection, but her feet had found a
little single side-track of love, which gave her still a zest in the
journey of life. Even in the winter Evelina had her flowers, for she
kept those that would bear transplanting in pots, and all the sunny
windows in her house were gay with them. She would also not let a
rose leaf fall and waste in the garden soil, or a sprig of lavender
or thyme. She gathered them all, and stored them away in chests and
drawers and old china bowls--the whole house seemed laid away in rose
leaves and lavender. Evelina's clothes gave out at every motion that
fragrance of dead flowers which is like the fragrance of the past,
and has a sweetness like that of sweet memories. Even the cedar chest
where Evelina's mother's blue bridal array was stored had its till
heaped with rose leaves and lavender.

When Evelina was nearly seventy years old the old nurse who had lived
with her her whole life died. People wondered then what she would do.
"She can't live all alone in that great house," they said. But she
did live there alone six months, until spring, and people used to
watch her evening lamp when it was put out, and the morning smoke
from her kitchen chimney. "It ain't safe for her to be there alone in
that great house," they said.

But early in April a young girl appeared one Sunday in the old
Squire's pew. Nobody had seen her come to town, and nobody knew who
she was or where she came from, but the old people said she looked
just as Evelina Adams used to when she was young, and she must be
some relation. The old man who had used to look across the
meeting-house at Evelina, over forty years ago, looked across now at
this young girl, and gave a great start, and his face paled under his
gray beard stubble. His old wife gave an anxious, wondering glance at
him, and crammed a peppermint into his hand. "Anything the matter,
father?" she whispered; but he only gave his head a half-surly shake,
and then fastened his eyes straight ahead upon the pulpit. He had
reason to that day, for his only son, Thomas, was going to preach his
first sermon therein as a candidate. His wife ascribed his
nervousness to that. She put a peppermint in her own mouth and sucked
it comfortably. "That's all 't is," she thought to herself. "Father
always was easy worked up," and she looked proudly up at her son
sitting on the hair-cloth sofa in the pulpit, leaning his handsome
young head on his hand, as he had seen old divines do. She never
dreamed that her old husband sitting beside her was possessed of an
inner life so strange to her that she would not have known him had
she met him in the spirit. And, indeed, it had been so always, and
she had never dreamed of it. Although he had been faithful to his
wife, the image of Evelina Adams in her youth, and that one love-look
which she had given him, had never left his soul, but had given it a
guise and complexion of which his nearest and dearest knew nothing.

It was strange, but now, as he looked up at his own son as he arose
in the pulpit, he could seem to see a look of that fair young
Evelina, who had never had a son to inherit her beauty. He had
certainly a delicate brilliancy of complexion, which he could have
gotten directly from neither father nor mother; and whence came that
little nervous frown between his dark blue eyes? His mother had blue
eyes, but not like his; they flashed over the great pulpit Bible with
a sweet fire that matched the memory in his father's heart.

But the old man put the fancy away from him in a minute; it was one
which his stern common-sense always overcame. It was impossible that
Thomas Merriam should resemble Evelina Adams; indeed, people always
called him the very image of his father.

The father tried to fix his mind upon his son's sermon, but presently
he glanced involuntarily across the meeting-house at the young girl,
and again his heart leaped and his face paled; but he turned his eyes
gravely back to the pulpit, and his wife did not notice. Now and then
she thrust a sharp elbow in his side to call his attention to a grand
point in their son's discourse. The odor of peppermint was strong in
his nostrils, but through it all he seemed to perceive the rose and
lavender scent of Evelina Adams's youthful garments. Whether it was
with him simply the memory of an odor, which affected him like the
odor itself, or not, those in the vicinity of the Squire's pew were
plainly aware of it. The gown which the strange young girl wore was,
as many an old woman discovered to her neighbor with loud whispers,
one of Evelina's, which had been laid away in a sweet-smelling chest
since her old girlhood. It had been somewhat altered to suit the
fashion of a later day, but the eyes which had fastened keenly upon
it when Evelina first wore it up the meeting-house aisle could not
mistake it. "It's Evelina Adams's lavender satin made over," one
whispered, with a sharp hiss of breath, in the other's ear.

The lavender satin, deepening into purple in the folds, swept in a
rich circle over the knees of the young girl in the Squire's pew. She
folded her little hands, which were encased in Evelina's
cream-colored silk mitts, over it, and looked up at the young
minister, and listened to his sermon with a grave and innocent
dignity, as Evelina had done before her. Perhaps the resemblance
between this young girl and the young girl of the past was more one
of mien than aught else, although the type of face was the same. This
girl had the same fine sharpness of feature and delicately bright
color, and she also wore her hair in curls, although they were tied
back from her face with a black velvet ribbon, and did not veil it
when she drooped her head, as Evelina's used to do.

The people divided their attention between her and the new minister.
Their curiosity goaded them in equal measure with their spiritual
zeal. "I can't wait to find out who that girl is," one woman
whispered to another.

The girl herself had no thought of the commotion which she awakened.
When the service was over, and she walked with a gentle maiden
stateliness, which seemed a very copy of Evelina's own, out of the
meeting-house, down the street to the Squire's house, and entered it,
passing under the stately Corinthian pillars, with a last purple
gleam of her satin skirts, she never dreamed of the eager attention
that followed her.

It was several days before the village people discovered who she was.
The information had to be obtained, by a process like mental
thumb-screwing, from the old man who tended Evelina's garden, but at
last they knew. She was the daughter of a cousin of Evelina's on the
father's side. Her name was Evelina Leonard; she had been named for
her father's cousin. She had been finely brought up, and had attended
a Boston school for young ladies. Her mother had been dead many
years, and her father had died some two years ago, leaving her with
only a very little money, which was now all gone, and Evelina Adams
had invited her to live with her. Evelina Adams had herself told the
old gardener, seeing his scant curiosity was somewhat awakened by the
sight of the strange young lady in the garden, but he seemed to have
almost forgotten it when the people questioned him.

"She'll leave her all her money, most likely," they said, and they
looked at this new Evelina in the old Evelina's perfumed gowns with
awe.

However, in the space of a few months the opinion upon this matter
was divided. Another cousin of Evelina Adams's came to town, and this
time an own cousin--a widow in fine black bombazine, portly and
florid, walking with a majestic swell, and, moreover, having with her
two daughters, girls of her own type, not so far advanced. This woman
hired one of the village cottages, and it was rumored that Evelina
Adams paid the rent. Still, it was considered that she was not very
intimate with these last relatives. The neighbors watched, and saw,
many a time, Mrs. Martha Loomis and her girls try the doors of the
Adams house, scudding around angrily from front to side and back, and
knock and knock again, but with no admittance. "Evelina she won't let
none of 'em in more 'n once a week," the neighbors said. It was odd
that, although they had deeply resented Evelina's seclusion on their
own accounts, they were rather on her side in this matter, and felt a
certain delight when they witnessed a crestfallen retreat of the
widow and her daughters. "I don't s'pose she wants them Loomises
marchin' in on her every minute," they said.

The new Evelina was not seen much with the other cousins, and she
made no acquaintances in the village. Whether she was to inherit all
the Adams property or not, she seemed, at any rate, heiress to all
the elder Evelina's habits of life. She worked with her in the
garden, and wore her old girlish gowns, and kept almost as close at
home as she. She often, however, walked abroad in the early dusk,
stepping along in a grave and stately fashion, as the elder Evelina
had used to do, holding her skirts away from the dewy roadside weeds,
her face showing out in the twilight like a white flower, as if it
had a pale light of its own.

Nobody spoke to her; people turned furtively after she had passed and
stared after her, but they never spoke. This young Evelina did not
seem to expect it. She passed along with the lids cast down over her
blue eyes, and the rose and lavender scent of her garments came back
in their faces.

But one night when she was walking slowly along, a full half-mile
from home, she heard rapid footsteps behind, and the young minister,
Thomas Merriam, came up beside her and spoke.

"Good-evening," said he, and his voice was a little hoarse through
nervousness.

Evelina started, and turned her fair face up towards his.
"Good-evening," she responded, and courtesied as she had been taught
at school, and stood close to the wall, that he might pass; but
Thomas Merriam paused also.

"I--" he began, but his voice broke. He cleared his throat angrily,
and went on. "I have seen you in meeting," he said, with a kind of
defiance, more of himself than of her. After all, was he not the
minister, and had he not the right to speak to everybody in the
congregation? Why should he embarrass himself?

"Yes, sir," replied Evelina. She stood drooping her head before him,
and yet there was a certain delicate hauteur about her. Thomas was
afraid to speak again. They both stood silent for a moment, and then
Evelina stirred softly, as if to pass on, and Thomas spoke out
bravely. "Is your cousin, Miss Adams, well?" said he.

"She is pretty well, I thank you, sir."

"I've been wanting to--call," he began; then he hesitated again. His
handsome young face was blushing crimson.

Evelina's own color deepened. She turned her face away. "Cousin
Evelina never sees callers," she said, with grave courtesy; "perhaps
you did not know. She has not for a great many years."

"Yes, I did know it," returned Thomas Merriam; "that's the reason I
haven't called."

"Cousin Evelina is not strong," remarked the young girl, and there
was a savor of apology in her tone.

"But--" stammered Thomas; then he stopped again. "May I--has she any
objections to--anybody's coming to see you?"

Evelina started. "I am afraid Cousin Evelina would not approve," she
answered, primly. Then she looked up in his face, and a girlish
piteousness came into her own. "I am very sorry," she said, and there
was a catch in her voice.

Thomas bent over her impetuously. All his ministerial state fell from
him like an outer garment of the soul. He was young, and he had seen
this girl Sunday after Sunday. He had written all his sermons with
her image before his eyes, he had preached to her, and her only, and
she had come between his heart and all the nations of the earth in
his prayers. "Oh," he stammered out, "I am afraid you can't be very
happy living there the way you do. Tell me--"

Evelina turned her face away with sudden haughtiness. "My cousin
Evelina is very kind to me, sir," she said.

"But--you must be lonesome with nobody--of your own age--to speak
to," persisted Thomas, confusedly.

"I never cared much for youthful company. It is getting dark; I must
be going," said Evelina. "I wish you good-evening, sir."

"Sha'n't I--walk home with you?" asked Thomas, falteringly.

"It isn't necessary, thank you, and I don't think Cousin Evelina
would approve," she replied, primly; and her light dress fluttered
away into the dusk and out of sight like the pale wing of a moth.

Poor Thomas Merriam walked on with his head in a turmoil. His heart
beat loud in his ears. "I've made her mad with me," he said to
himself, using the old rustic school-boy vernacular, from which he
did not always depart in his thoughts, although his ministerial
dignity guarded his conversations. Thomas Merriam came of a simple
homely stock, whose speech came from the emotions of the heart, all
unregulated by the usages of the schools. He was the first for
generations who had aspired to college learning and a profession, and
had trained his tongue by the models of the educated and polite. He
could not help, at times, the relapse of his thoughts, and their
speaking to himself in the dialect of his family and his ancestors.
"She's 'way above me, and I ought to ha' known it," he further said,
with the meekness of an humble but fiercely independent race, which
is meek to itself alone. He would have maintained his equality with
his last breath to an opponent; in his heart of hearts he felt
himself below the scion of the one old gentle family of his native
village.

This young Evelina, by the fine dignity which had been born with her
and not acquired by precept and example, by the sweetly formal
diction which seemed her native tongue, had filled him with awe. Now,
when he thought she was angered with him, he felt beneath her lady
feet, his nostrils choked with a spiritual dust of humiliation.

He went forward blindly. The dusk had deepened; from either side of
the road, from the mysterious gloom of the bushes, came the twangs of
the katydids, like some coarse rustic quarrellers, each striving for
the last word in a dispute not even dignified by excess of passion.

Suddenly somebody jostled him to his own side of the path. "That you,
Thomas? Where you been?" said a voice in his ear.

"That you, father? Down to the post-office."

"Who was that you was talkin' with back there?"

"Miss Evelina Leonard."

"That girl that's stayin' there--to the old Squire's?"

"Yes."  The son tried to move on, but his father stood before him
dumbly for a minute. "I must be going, father. I've got to work on my
sermon," Thomas said, impatiently.

"Wait a minute," said his father. "I've got something to say to ye,
Thomas, an' this is as good a time to say it as any. There ain't
anybody 'round. I don't know as ye'll thank me for it--but mother
said the other day that she thought you'd kind of an idea--she said
you asked her if she thought it would be anything out of the way for
you to go up to the Squire's to make a call. Mother she thinks you
can step in anywheres, but I don't know. I know your book-learnin'
and your bein' a minister has set you up a good deal higher than your
mother and me and any of our folks, and I feel as if you were good
enough for anybody, as far as that goes; but that ain't all. Some
folks have different startin'-points in this world, and they see
things different; and when they do, it ain't much use tryin' to make
them walk alongside and see things alike. Their eyes have got
different cants, and they ain't able to help it. Now this girl she's
related to the old Squire, and she's been brought up different, and
she started ahead, even if her father did lose all his property. She
'ain't never eat in the kitchen, nor been scart to set down in the
parlor, and satin and velvet, and silver spoons, and cream-pots
'ain't never looked anything out of the common to her, and they
always will to you. No matter how many such things you may live to
have, they'll always get a little the better of ye. She'll be 'way
above 'em; and you won't, no matter how hard you try. Some ideas
can't never mix; and when ideas can't mix, folks can't."

"I never said they could," returned Thomas, shortly. "I can't stop to
talk any longer, father. I must go home."

"No, you wait a minute, Thomas. I'm goin' to say out what I started
to, and then I sha'n't ever bring it up again. What I was comin' at
was this: I wanted to warn ye a little. You mustn't set too much
store by little things that you think mean consider'ble when they
don't. Looks don't count for much, and I want you to remember it, and
not be upset by 'em."

Thomas gave a great start and colored high. "I'd like to know what
you mean, father," he cried, sharply.

"Nothin'. I don't mean nothin', only I'm older'n you, and it's come
in my way to know some things, and it's fittin' you should profit by
it. A young woman's looks at you don't count for much. I don't s'pose
she knows why she gives 'em herself half the time; they ain't like
us. It's best you should make up your mind to it; if you don't, you
may find it out by the hardest. That's all. I ain't never goin' to
bring this up again."

"I'd like to know what you mean, father."  Thomas's voice shook with
embarrassment and anger.

"I ain't goin' to say anything more about it," replied the old man.
"Mary Ann Pease and Arabella Mann are both in the settin'-room with
your mother. I thought I'd tell ye, in case ye didn't want to see
'em, and wanted to go to work on your sermon."

Thomas made an impatient ejaculation as he strode off. When he
reached the large white house where he lived he skirted it carefully.
The chirping treble of girlish voices came from the open sitting-room
window, and he caught a glimpse of a smooth brown head and a high
shell comb in front of the candle-light. The young minister tiptoed
in the back door and across the kitchen to the back stairs. The
sitting-room door was open, and the candle-light streamed out, and
the treble voices rose high. Thomas, advancing through the dusky
kitchen with cautious steps, encountered suddenly a chair in the dark
corner by the stairs, and just saved himself from falling. There was
a startled outcry from the sitting-room, and his mother came running
into the kitchen with a candle.

"Who is it?" she demanded, valiantly. Then she started and gasped as
her son confronted her. He shook a furious warning fist at the
sitting-room door and his mother, and edged towards the stairs. She
followed him close. "Hadn't you better jest step in a minute?" she
whispered. "Them girls have been here an hour, and I know they're
waitin' to see you."  Thomas shook his head fiercely, and swung
himself around the corner into the dark crook of the back stairs. His
mother thrust the candle into his hand. "Take this, or you'll break
your neck on them stairs," she whispered.

Thomas, stealing up the stairs like a cat, heard one of the girls
call to his mother--"Is it robbers, Mis' Merriam? Want us to come an'
help tackle 'em?"--and he fairly shuddered; for Evelina's gentle-lady
speech was still in his ears, and this rude girlish call seemed to
jar upon his sensibilities.

"The idea of any girl screeching out like that," he muttered. And if
he had carried speech as far as his thought, he would have added,
"when Evelina is a girl!"

He was so angry that he did not laugh when he heard his mother answer
back, in those conclusive tones of hers that were wont to silence all
argument: "It ain't anything. Don't be scared. I'm coming right
back."  Mrs. Merriam scorned subterfuges. She took always a silent
stand in a difficulty, and let people infer what they would. When
Mary Ann Pease inquired if it was the cat that had made the noise,
she asked if her mother had finished her blue and white counterpane.

The two girls waited a half-hour longer, then they went home. "What
do you s'pose made that noise out in the kitchen?" asked Arabella
Mann of Mary Ann Pease, the minute they were out-of-doors.

"I don't know," replied Mary Ann Pease. She was a broad-backed young
girl, and looked like a matron as she hurried along in the dusk.

"Well, I know what I think it was," said Arabella Mann, moving ahead
with sharp jerks of her little dark body.

"What?"

"It was him."

"You don't mean--"

"I think it was Thomas Merriam, and he was tryin' to get up the back
stairs unbeknownst to anybody, and he run into something."

"What for?"

"Because he didn't want to see _us_."

"Now, Arabella Mann, I don't believe it! He's always real pleasant to
me."

"Well, I do believe it, and I guess he'll know it when I set foot in
that house again. I guess he'll find out I didn't go there to see
him! He needn't feel so fine, if he is the minister; his folks ain't
any better than mine, an' we've got 'nough sight handsomer furniture
in our parlor."

"Did you see how the tallow had all run down over the candles?"

"Yes, I did. She gave that candle she carried out in the kitchen to
him, too. Mother says she wasn't never any kind of a housekeeper."

"Hush! Arabella: here he is coming now."

But it was not Thomas; it was his father, advancing through the
evening with his son's gait and carriage. When the two girls
discovered that, one tittered out quite audibly, and they scuttled
past. They were not rivals; they simply walked faithfully side by
side in pursuit of the young minister, giving him as it were an
impartial choice. There were even no heart-burnings between them; one
always confided in the other when she supposed herself to have found
some slight favor in Thomas's sight; and, indeed, the young minister
could scarcely bow to one upon the street unless she flew to the
other with the news.

Thomas Merriam himself was aware of all this devotion on the part of
the young women of his flock, and it filled him with a sort of angry
shame. He could not have told why, but he despised himself for being
the object of their attention more than he despised them. His heart
sank at the idea of Evelina's discovering it. What would she think of
him if she knew all those young women haunted his house and lagged
after meeting on the chance of getting a word from him? Suppose she
should see their eyes upon his face in meeting time, and decipher
their half-unconscious boldness, as he had done against his will.
Once Evelina had looked at him, even as the older Evelina had looked
at his father, and all other looks of maidens seemed to him like
profanations of that, even although he doubted afterwards that he had
rightly interpreted it. Full it had seemed to him of that tender
maiden surprise and wonder, of that love that knows not itself, and
sees its own splendor for the first time in another's face, and flees
at the sight. It had happened once when he was coming down the aisle
after the sermon and Evelina had met him at the door of her pew. But
she had turned her head quickly, and her soft curls flowed over her
red cheek, and he doubted ever after if he had read the look aright.
When he had gotten the courage to speak to her, and she had met him
with the gentle coldness which she had learned of her lady aunt and
her teacher in Boston, his doubt was strong upon him. The next Sunday
he looked not her way at all. He even tried faithfully from day to
day to drive her image from his mind with prayer and religious
thoughts, but in spite of himself he would lapse into dreams about
her, as if borne by a current of nature too strong to be resisted.
And sometimes, upon being awakened from them, as he sat over his
sermon with the ink drying on his quill, by the sudden outburst of
treble voices in his mother's sitting-room below, the fancy would
seize him that possibly these other young damsels took fond liberties
with him in their dreams, as he with Evelina, and he resented it with
a fierce maidenliness of spirit, although he was a man. The thought
that possibly they, over their spinning or their quilting, had in
their hearts the image of himself with fond words upon his lips and
fond looks in his eyes, filled him with shame and rage, although he
took the same liberty with the delicately haughty maiden Evelina.

But Thomas Merriam was not given to undue appreciation of his own
fascination, as was proved by his ready discouragement in the case of
Evelina. He had the knowledge of his conquests forced upon his
understanding until he could no longer evade it. Every day were
offerings laid upon his shrine, of pound-cakes and flaky pies, and
loaves of white bread, and cups of jelly, whereby the culinary skill
of his devotees might be proved. Silken purses and beautiful socks
knitted with fancy stitches, and holy book-marks for his Bible, and
even a wonderful bedquilt, and a fine linen shirt with hem-stitched
bands, poured in upon him. He burned with angry blushes when his
mother, smiling meaningly, passed them over to him. "Put them away,
mother; I don't want them," he would growl out, in a distress that
was half comic and half pathetic. He would never taste of the
tempting viands which were brought to him. "How you act, Thomas!" his
mother would say. She was secretly elated by these feminine libations
upon the altar of her son. They did not grate upon her sensibilities,
which were not delicate. She even tried to assist two or three of the
young women in their designs; she would often praise them and their
handiwork to her son--and in this she was aided by an old woman aunt
of hers who lived with the family. "Nancy Winslow is as handsome a
girl as ever I set eyes on, an' I never see any nicer sewin'," Mrs.
Merriam said, after the advent of the linen shirt, and she held it up
to the light admiringly. "Jest look at that hem-stitchin'!" she said.

"I guess whoever made that shirt calkilated 't would do for a weddin'
one," said old Aunt Betty Green, and Thomas made an exclamation and
went out of the room, tingling all over with shame and disgust.

"Thomas don't act nateral," said the old woman, glancing after him
through her iron-bound spectacles.

"I dun'no' what's got into him," returned his mother.

"Mebbe they foller him up a leetle too close," said Aunt Betty. "I
dun'no' as I should have ventured on a shirt when I was a gal. I made
a satin vest once for Joshua, but that don't seem quite as p'inted as
a shirt. It didn't scare Joshua, nohow. He asked me to have him the
next week."

"Well, I dun'no'," said Mrs. Merriam again. "I kind of wish Thomas
would settle on somebody, for I'm pestered most to death with 'em,
an' I feel as if 't was kind of mean takin' all these things into the
house."

"They've 'bout kept ye in sweet cake, 'ain't they, lately?"

"Yes; but I don't feel as if it was jest right for us to eat it up,
when 't was brought for Thomas. But he won't touch it. I can't see as
he has the least idee of any one of them. I don't believe Thomas has
ever seen anybody he wanted for a wife."

"Well, he's got the pick of 'em, a-settin' their caps right in his
face," said Aunt Betty.

Neither of them dreamed how the young man, sleeping and eating
and living under the same roof, beloved of them since he entered
the world, holding himself coldly aloof from this crowd of
half-innocently, half-boldly ardent young women, had set up for
himself his own divinity of love, before whom he consumed himself
in vain worship. His father suspected, and that was all, and he
never mentioned the matter again to his son.

After Thomas had spoken to Evelina the weeks went on, and they never
exchanged another word, and their eyes never met. But they dwelt
constantly within each other's thoughts, and were ever present to
each other's spiritual vision. Always as the young minister bent over
his sermon-paper, laboriously tracing out with sputtering quill his
application of the articles of the orthodox faith, Evelina's blue
eyes seemed to look out at him between the stern doctrines like the
eyes of an angel. And he could not turn the pages of the Holy Writ
unless he found some passage therein which to his mind treated
directly of her, setting forth her graces like a prophecy. "The
fairest among women," read Thomas Merriam, and nodded his head, while
his heart leaped with the satisfied delight of all its fancies, at
the image of his love's fair and gentle face. "Her price is far above
rubies," read Thomas Merriam, and he nodded his head again, and saw
Evelina shining as with gold and pearls, more precious than all the
jewels of the earth. In spite of all his efforts, when Thomas Merriam
studied the Scriptures in those days he was more nearly touched by
those old human hearts which throbbed down to his through the ages,
welding the memories of their old loves to his living one until they
seemed to prove its eternity, than by the Messianic prophecies. Often
he spent hours upon his knees, but arose with Evelina's face before
his very soul in spite of all.

And as for Evelina, she tended the flowers in the elder Evelina's
garden with her poor cousin, whose own love-dreams had been
illustrated as it were by the pinks and lilies blooming around them
when they had all gone out of her heart, and Thomas Merriam's
half-bold, half-imploring eyes looked up at her out of every flower
and stung her heart like bees. Poor young Evelina feared much lest
she had offended Thomas, and yet her own maiden decorum had been
offended by him, and she had offended it herself, and she was faint
with shame and distress when she thought of it. How had she been so
bold and shameless as to give him that look at the meeting-house? and
how had he been so cruel as to accost her afterwards? She told
herself she had done right for the maintenance of her own maiden
dignity, and yet she feared lest she had angered him and hurt him.
"Suppose he had been fretted by her coolness?" she thought, and then
a great wave of tender pity went over her heart, and she would almost
have spoken to him of her own accord. But then she would reflect how
he continued to write such beautiful sermons, and prove so clearly
and logically the tenets of the faith; and how could he do that with
a mind in distress? Scarcely could she herself tend the flower-beds
as she should, nor set her embroidery stitches finely and evenly, she
was so ill at ease. It must be that Thomas had not given the matter
an hour's worry, since he continued to do his work so faithfully and
well. And then her own heart would be sorer than ever with the belief
that his was happy and at rest, although she would chide herself for
it.

And yet this young Evelina was a philosopher and an analyst of human
nature in a small way, and she got some slight comfort out of a
shrewd suspicion that the heart of a man might love and suffer on a
somewhat different principle from the heart of a woman. "It may be,"
thought Evelina, sitting idle over her embroidery with far-away blue
eyes, "that a man's heart can always turn a while from love to other
things as weighty and serious, although he be just as fond, while a
woman's heart is always fixed one way by loving, and cannot be turned
unless it breaks. And it may be wise," thought young Evelina, "else
how could the state be maintained and governed, battles for
independence be fought, and even souls be saved, and the gospel
carried to the heathen, if men could not turn from the concerns of
their own hearts more easily than women? Women should be patient,"
thought Evelina, "and consider that if they suffer 't is due to the
lot which a wise Providence has given them."  And yet tears welled up
in her earnest blue eyes and fell over her fair cheeks and wet the
embroidery--when the elder Evelina was not looking, as she seldom
was. The elder Evelina was kind to her young cousin, but there were
days when she seemed to dwell alone in her own thoughts, apart from
the whole world, and she seldom spoke either to Evelina or her old
servant-man.

Young Evelina, trying to atone for her former indiscretion and
establish herself again on her height of maiden reserve in Thomas
Merriam's eyes, sat resolutely in the meeting-house of a Sabbath day,
with her eyes cast down, and after service she glided swiftly down
the aisle and was out of the door before the young minister could
much more than descend the pulpit stairs, unless he ran an indecorous
race.

And young Evelina never at twilight strolled up the road in the
direction of Thomas Merriam's home, where she might quite reasonably
hope to meet him, since he was wont to go to the store when the
evening stage-coach came in with the mail from Boston.

Instead she paced the garden paths, or, when there was not too heavy
a dew, rambled across the fields; and there was also a lane where she
loved to walk. Whether or not Thomas Merriam suspected this, or had
ever seen, as he passed the mouth of the lane, the flutter of
maidenly draperies in the distance, it so happened that one evening
he also went a-walking there, and met Evelina. He had entered the
lane from the highway, and she from the fields at the head. So he saw
her first afar off, and could not tell fairly whether her light
muslin skirt might not be only a white-flowering bush. For, since his
outlook upon life had been so full of Evelina, he had found that
often the most common and familiar things would wear for a second a
look of her to startle him. And many a time his heart had leaped at
the sight of a white bush ahead stirring softly in the evening wind,
and he had thought it might be she. Now he said to himself
impatiently that this was only another fancy; but soon he saw that it
was indeed Evelina, in a light muslin gown, with a little lace
kerchief on her head. His handsome young face was white; his lips
twitched nervously; but he reached out and pulled a spray of white
flowers from a bush, and swung it airily to hide his agitation as he
advanced.

As for Evelina, when she first espied Thomas she started and half
turned, as if to go back; then she held up her white-kerchiefed head
with gentle pride and kept on. When she came up to Thomas she walked
so far to one side that her muslin skirt was in danger of catching
and tearing on the bushes, and she never raised her eyes, and not a
flicker of recognition stirred her sweet pale face as she passed him.

But Thomas started as if she had struck him, and dropped his spray of
white flowers, and could not help a smothered cry that was half a
sob, as he went on, knocking blindly against the bushes. He went a
little way, then he stopped and looked back with his piteous hurt
eyes. And Evelina had stopped also, and she had the spray of white
flowers which he had dropped, in her hand, and her eyes met his. Then
she let the flowers fall again, and clapped both her little hands to
her face to cover it, and turned to run; but Thomas was at her side,
and he put out his hand and held her softly by her white arm.

"Oh," he panted, "I--did not mean to be--too presuming, and offend
you. I--crave your pardon--"

Evelina had recovered herself. She stood with her little hands
clasped, and her eyes cast down before him, but not a quiver stirred
her pale face, which seemed turned to marble by this last effort of
her maiden pride. "I have nothing to pardon," said she. "It was I,
whose bold behavior, unbecoming a modest and well-trained young
woman, gave rise to what seemed like presumption on your part."  The
sense of justice was strong within her, but she made her speech
haughtily and primly, as if she had learned it by rote from some
maiden school-mistress, and pulled her arm away and turned to go; but
Thomas's words stopped her.

"Not--unbecoming if it came--from the heart," said he, brokenly,
scarcely daring to speak, and yet not daring to be silent.

Then Evelina turned on him, with a sudden strange pride that lay
beneath all other pride, and was of a nobler and truer sort. "Do you
think I would have given you the look that I did if it had not come
from my heart?" she demanded. "What did you take me to be--false and
a jilt? I may be a forward young woman, who has overstepped the
bounds of maidenly decorum, and I shall never get over the shame of
it, but I am truthful, and I am no jilt."  The brilliant color flamed
out on Evelina's cheeks. Her blue eyes met Thomas's with that courage
of innocence and nature which dares all shame. But it was only for a
second; the tears sprang into them. "I beg you to let me go home,"
she said, pitifully; but Thomas caught her in his arms, and pressed
her troubled maiden face against his breast.

"Oh, I love you so!" he whispered--"I love you so, Evelina, and I was
afraid you were angry with me for it."

"And I was afraid," she faltered, half weeping and half shrinking
from him, "lest you were angry with me for betraying the state of my
feelings, when you could not return them."  And even then she used
that gentle formality of expression with which she had been taught by
her maiden preceptors to veil decorously her most ardent emotions.
And, in truth, her training stood her in good stead in other ways;
for she presently commanded, with that mild dignity of hers which
allowed of no remonstrance, that Thomas should take away his arm from
her waist, and give her no more kisses for that time.

"It is not becoming for any one," said she, "and much less for a
minister of the gospel. And as for myself, I know not what Mistress
Perkins would say to me. She has a mind much above me, I fear."

"Mistress Perkins is enjoying her mind in Boston," said Thomas
Merriam, with the laugh of a triumphant young lover.

But Evelina did not laugh. "It might be well for both you and me if
she were here," said she, seriously. However, she tempered a little
her decorous following of Mistress Perkins's precepts, and she and
Thomas went hand in hand up the lane and across the fields.

There was no dew that night, and the moon was full. It was after nine
o'clock when Thomas left her at the gate in the fence which separated
Evelina Adams's garden from the field, and watched her disappear
between the flowers. The moon shone full on the garden. Evelina
walked as it were over a silver dapple, which her light gown seemed
to brush away and dispel for a moment. The bushes stood in sweet
mysterious clumps of shadow.

Evelina had almost reached the house, and was close to the great
althea bush, which cast a wide circle of shadow, when it seemed
suddenly to separate and move into life.

The elder Evelina stepped out from the shadow of the bush. "Is that
you, Evelina?" she said, in her soft, melancholy voice, which had in
it a nervous vibration.

"Yes, Cousin Evelina."

The elder Evelina's pale face, drooped about with gray curls, had an
unfamiliar, almost uncanny, look in the moonlight, and might have
been the sorrowful visage of some marble nymph, lovelorn, with
unceasing grace. "Who--was with you?" she asked.

"The minister," replied young Evelina.

"Did he meet you?"

"He met me in the lane, Cousin Evelina."

"And he walked home with you across the field?"

"Yes, Cousin Evelina."

Then the two entered the house, and nothing more was said about the
matter. Young Evelina and Thomas Merriam agreed that their affection
was to be kept a secret for a while. "For," said young Evelina, "I
cannot leave Cousin Evelina yet a while, and I cannot have her
pestered with thinking about it, at least before another spring, when
she has the garden fairly growing again."

"That is nearly a whole year; it is August now," said Thomas, half
reproachfully, and he tightened his clasp of Evelina's slender
fingers.

"I cannot help that," replied Evelina. "It is for you to show
Christian patience more than I, Thomas. If you could have seen poor
Cousin Evelina, as I have seen her, through the long winter days,
when her garden is dead, and she has only the few plants in her
window left! When she is not watering and tending them she sits all
day in the window and looks out over the garden and the naked bushes
and the withered flower-stalks. She used not to be so, but would read
her Bible and good books, and busy herself somewhat over fine
needle-work, and at one time she was compiling a little floral book,
giving a list of the flowers, and poetical selections and sentiments
appropriate to each. That was her pastime for three winters, and it
is now nearly done; but she has given that up, and all the rest, and
sits there in the window and grows older and feebler until spring. It
is only I who can divert her mind, by reading aloud to her and
singing; and sometimes I paint the flowers she loves the best on
card-board with water-colors. I have a poor skill in it, but Cousin
Evelina can tell which flower I have tried to represent, and it
pleases her greatly. I have even seen her smile. No, I cannot leave
her, nor even pester her with telling her before another spring, and
you must wait, Thomas," said young Evelina.

And Thomas agreed, as he was likely to do to all which she proposed
which touched not his own sense of right and honor. Young Evelina
gave Thomas one more kiss for his earnest pleading, and that night
wrote out the tale in her journal. "It may be that I overstepped the
bounds of maidenly decorum," wrote Evelina, "but my heart did so
entreat me," and no blame whatever did she lay upon Thomas.

Young Evelina opened her heart only to her journal, and her cousin
was told nothing, and had little cause for suspicion. Thomas Merriam
never came to the house to see his sweetheart; he never walked home
with her from meeting. Both were anxious to avoid village gossip,
until the elder Evelina could be told.

Often in the summer evenings the lovers met, and strolled hand in
hand across the fields, and parted at the garden gate with the one
kiss which Evelina allowed, and that was all.

Sometimes when young Evelina came in with her lover's kiss still warm
upon her lips the elder Evelina looked at her wistfully, with a
strange retrospective expression in her blue eyes, as if she were
striving to remember something that the girl's face called to mind.
And yet she could have had nothing to remember except dreams.

And once, when young Evelina sat sewing through a long summer
afternoon and thinking about her lover, the elder Evelina, who was
storing rose leaves mixed with sweet spices in a jar, said, suddenly,
"He looks as his father used to."

Young Evelina started. "Whom do you mean, Cousin Evelina?" she asked,
wonderingly; for the elder Evelina had not glanced at her, nor even
seemed to address her at all.

"Nothing," said the elder Evelina, and a soft flush stole over her
withered face and neck, and she sprinkled more cassia on the rose
leaves in the jar.

Young Evelina said no more; but she wondered, partly because Thomas
was always in her mind, and it seemed to her naturally that nearly
everything must have a savor of meaning of him, if her cousin Evelina
could possibly have referred to him and his likeness to his father.
For it was commonly said that Thomas looked very like his father,
although his figure was different. The young man was taller and more
firmly built, and he had not the meek forward curve of shoulder which
had grown upon his father of late years.

When the frosty nights came Thomas and Evelina could not meet and
walk hand in hand over the fields behind the Squire's house, and they
very seldom could speak to each other. It was nothing except a
"good-day" on the street, and a stolen glance, which set them both
a-trembling lest all the congregation had noticed, in the
meeting-house. When the winter set fairly in they met no more, for
the elder Evelina was taken ill, and her young cousin did not leave
her even to go to meeting. People said they guessed it was Evelina
Adams's last sickness, and they furthermore guessed that she would
divide her property between her cousin Martha Loomis and her two
girls and Evelina Leonard, and that Evelina would have the house as
her share.

Thomas Merriam heard this last with a satisfaction which he did not
try to disguise from himself, because he never dreamed of there being
any selfish element in it. It was all for Evelina. Many a time he had
looked about the humble house where he had been born, and where he
would have to take Evelina after he had married her, and striven to
see its poor features with her eyes--not with his, for which
familiarity had tempered them. Often, as he sat with his parents in
the old sitting-room, in which he had kept so far an unquestioning
belief, as in a friend of his childhood, the scales of his own
personality would fall suddenly from his eyes. Then he would see, as
Evelina, the poor, worn, humble face of his home, and his heart would
sink. "I don't see how I ever can bring her here," he thought. He
began to save, a few cents at a time, out of his pitiful salary, to
at least beautify his own chamber a little when Evelina should come.
He made up his mind that she should have a little dressing-table,
with an oval mirror, and a white muslin frill around it, like one he
had seen in Boston. "She shall have that to sit before while she
combs her hair," he thought, with defiant tenderness, when he stowed
away another shilling in a little box in his trunk. It was money
which he ordinarily bestowed upon foreign missions; but his Evelina
had come between him and the heathen. To procure some dainty
furnishings for her bridal-chamber he took away a good half of his
tithes for the spread of the gospel in the dark lands. Now and then
his conscience smote him, he felt shamefaced before his deacons, but
Evelina kept her first claim. He resolved that another year he would
hire a piece of land, and combine farming with his ministerial work,
and so try to eke out his salary, and get a little more money to
beautify his poor home for his bride.

Now if Evelina Adams had come to the appointed time for the closing
of her solitary life, and if her young cousin should inherit a share
of her goodly property and the fine old mansion-house, all necessity
for anxiety of this kind was over. Young Evelina would not need to be
taken away, for the sake of her love, from all these comforts and
luxuries. Thomas Merriam rejoiced innocently, without a thought for
himself.

In the course of the winter he confided in his father; he couldn't
keep it to himself any longer. Then there was another reason. Seeing
Evelina so little made him at times almost doubt the reality of it
all. There were days when he was depressed, and inclined to ask
himself if he had not dreamed it. Telling somebody gave it substance.

His father listened soberly when he told him; he had grown old of
late.

"Well," said he, "she 'ain't been used to living the way you have,
though you have had advantages that none of your folks ever had; but
if she likes you, that's all there is to it, I s'pose."

The old man sighed wearily. He sat in his arm-chair at the kitchen
fireplace; his wife had gone in to one of the neighbors, and the two
were alone.

"Of course," said Thomas, simply, "if Evelina Adams shouldn't live,
the chances are that I shouldn't have to bring her here. She wouldn't
have to give up anything on my account--you know that, father."

Then the young man started, for his father turned suddenly on him
with a pale, wrathful face. "You ain't countin' on that!" he shouted.
"You ain't countin' on that--a son of mine countin' on anything like
that!"

Thomas colored. "Why, father," he stammered, "you don't think--you
know, it's all for _her_--and they say she can't live anyway. I had
never thought of such a thing before. I was wondering how I could
make it comfortable for Evelina here."

But his father did not seem to listen. "Countin' on that!" he
repeated. "Countin' on a poor old soul, that 'ain't ever had anything
to set her heart on but a few posies, dyin' to make room for other
folks to have what she's been cheated out on. Countin' on that!"  The
old man's voice broke into a hoarse sob; he got up, and went
hurriedly out of the room.

"Why, father!" his son called after him, in alarm. He got up to
follow him, but his father waved him back and shut the door hard.

"Father must be getting childish," Thomas thought, wonderingly. He
did not bring up the subject to him again.

Evelina Adams died in March. One morning the bell tolled seventy long
melancholy tones before people had eaten their breakfasts. They ran
to their doors and counted. "It's her," they said, nodding, when they
had waited a little after the seventieth stroke. Directly Mrs. Martha
Loomis and her two girls were seen hustling importantly down the
road, with their shawls over their heads, to the Squire's house.
"Mis' Loomis can lay her out," they said. "It ain't likely that young
Evelina knows anything about such things. Guess she'll be thankful
she's got somebody to call on now, if she 'ain't mixed much with the
Loomises."  Then they wondered when the funeral would be, and the
women furbished up their black gowns and bonnets, and even in a few
cases drove to the next town and borrowed from relatives; but there
was a great disappointment in store for them.

Evelina Adams died on a Saturday. The next day it was announced from
the pulpit that the funeral would be private, by the particular
request of the deceased. Evelina Adams had carried her delicate
seclusion beyond death, to the very borders of the grave. Nobody,
outside the family, was bidden to the funeral, except the doctor, the
minister, and the two deacons of the church. They were to be the
bearers. The burial also was to be private, in the Squire's family
burial-lot, at the north of the house. The bearers would carry the
coffin across the yard, and there would not only be no funeral, but
no funeral procession, and no hearse. "It don't seem scarcely
decent," the women whispered to each other; "and more than all that,
she ain't goin' to be _seen_."  The deacons' wives were especially
disturbed by this last, as they might otherwise have gained many
interesting particulars by proxy.

Monday was the day set for the burial. Early in the morning old
Thomas Merriam walked feebly up the road to the Squire's house.
People noticed him as he passed. "How terribly fast he's grown old
lately!" they said. He opened the gate which led into the Squire's
front yard with fumbling fingers, and went up the walk to the front
door, under the Corinthian pillars, and raised the brass knocker.

Evelina opened the door, and started and blushed when she saw him.
She had been crying; there were red rings around her blue eyes, and
her pretty lips were swollen. She tried to smile at Thomas's father,
and she held out her hand with shy welcome.

"I want to see her," the old man said, abruptly.

Evelina started, and looked at him wonderingly. "I--don't believe--I
know who you mean," said she. "Do you want to see Mrs. Loomis?"

"No; I want to see her."

"_Her?_"

"Yes, _her_."

Evelina turned pale as she stared at him. There was something strange
about his face. "But--Cousin Evelina," she faltered--"she--didn't
want-- Perhaps you don't know: she left special directions that
nobody was to look at her."

"I _want to see her_," said the old man, and Evelina gave way. She
stood aside for him to enter, and led him into the great north
parlor, where Evelina Adams lay in her mournful state. The shutters
were closed, and one on entering could distinguish nothing but that
long black shadow in the middle of the room. Young Evelina opened a
shutter a little way, and a slanting shaft of spring sunlight came in
and shot athwart the coffin. The old man tiptoed up and leaned over
and looked at the dead woman. Evelina Adams had left further
instructions about her funeral, which no one understood, but which
were faithfully carried out. She wished, she had said, to be attired
for her long sleep in a certain rose-colored gown, laid away in rose
leaves and lavender in a certain chest in a certain chamber. There
were also silken hose and satin shoes with it, and these were to be
put on, and a wrought lace tucker fastened with a pearl brooch.

It was the costume she had worn one Sabbath day back in her youth,
when she had looked across the meeting-house and her eyes had met
young Thomas Merriam's; but nobody knew nor remembered; even young
Evelina thought it was simply a vagary of her dead cousin's.

"It don't seem to me decent to lay away anybody dressed so," said
Mrs. Martha Loomis; "but of course last wishes must be respected."

The two Loomis girls said they were thankful nobody was to see the
departed in her rose-colored shroud.

Even old Thomas Merriam, leaning over poor Evelina, cold and dead in
the garb of her youth, did not remember it, and saw no meaning in it.
He looked at her long. The beautiful color was all faded out of the
yellow-white face; the sweet full lips were set and thin; the closed
blue eyes sunken in dark hollows; the yellow hair showed a line of
gray at the edge of her old woman's cap, and thin gray curls lay
against the hollow cheeks. But old Thomas Merriam drew a long breath
when he looked at her. It was like a gasp of admiration and wonder; a
strange rapture came into his dim eyes; his lips moved as if he
whispered to her, but young Evelina could not hear a sound. She
watched him, half frightened, but finally he turned to her. "I 'ain't
seen her--fairly," said he, hoarsely--"I 'ain't seen her, savin' a
glimpse of her at the window, for over forty year, and she 'ain't
changed, not a look. I'd have known her anywheres. She's the same as
she was when she was a girl. It's wonderful--wonderful!"

Young Evelina shrank a little. "We think she looks natural," she
said, hesitatingly.

"She looks jest as she did when she was a girl and used to come into
the meetin'-house. She _is_ jest the same," the old man repeated, in
his eager, hoarse voice. Then he bent over the coffin, and his lips
moved again. Young Evelina would have called Mrs. Loomis, for she was
frightened, had he not been Thomas's father, and had it not been for
her vague feeling that there might be some old story to explain this
which she had never heard. "Maybe he was in love with poor Cousin
Evelina, as Thomas is with me," thought young Evelina, using her own
leaping-pole of love to land straight at the truth. But she never
told her surmise to any one except Thomas, and that was long
afterwards, when the old man was dead. Now she watched him with her
blue dilated eyes. But soon he turned away from the coffin and made
his way straight out of the room, without a word. Evelina followed
him through the entry and opened the outer door. He turned on the
threshold and looked back at her, his face working.

"Don't ye go to lottin' too much on what ye're goin' to get through
folks that have died an' not had anything," he said; and he shook his
head almost fiercely at her.

"No, I won't. I don't think I understand what you mean, sir,"
stammered Evelina.

The old man stood looking at her a moment. Suddenly she saw the tears
rolling over his old cheeks. "I'm much obliged to ye for lettin' of
me see her," he said, hoarsely, and crept feebly down the steps.

Evelina went back trembling to the room where her dead cousin lay,
and covered her face, and closed the shutter again. Then she went
about her household duties, wondering. She could not understand what
it all meant; but one thing she understood--that in some way this old
dead woman, Evelina Adams, had gotten immortal youth and beauty in
one human heart. "She looked to him just as she did when she was a
girl," Evelina kept thinking to herself with awe. She said nothing
about it to Mrs. Martha Loomis or her daughters. They had been in the
back part of the house, and had not heard old Thomas Merriam come in,
and they never knew about it.

Mrs. Loomis and the two girls stayed in the house day and night until
after the funeral. They confidently expected to live there in the
future. "It isn't likely that Evelina Adams thought a young woman no
older than Evelina Leonard could live here alone in this great house
with nobody but that old Sarah Judd. It would not be proper nor
becoming," said Martha Loomis to her two daughters; and they agreed,
and brought over many of their possessions under cover of night to
the Squire's house during the interval before the funeral.

But after the funeral and the reading of the will the Loomises made
sundry trips after dusk back to their old home, with their best
petticoats and cloaks over their arms, and their bonnets dangling by
their strings at their sides. For Evelina Adams's last will and
testament had been read, and therein provision was made for the
continuance of the annuity heretofore paid them for their support,
with the condition affixed that not one night should they spend after
the reading of the will in the house known as the Squire Adams house.
The annuity was an ample one, and would provide the widow Martha
Loomis and her daughters, as it had done before, with all the
needfuls of life; but upon hearing the will they stiffened their
double chins into their kerchiefs with indignation, for they had
looked for more.

Evelina Adams's will was a will of conditions, for unto it she had
affixed two more, and those affected her beloved cousin Evelina
Leonard. It was notable that "beloved" had not preceded her cousin
Martha Loomis's name in the will. No pretence of love, when she felt
none, had she ever made in her life. The entire property of Evelina
Adams, spinster, deceased, with the exception of Widow Martha
Loomis's provision, fell to this beloved young Evelina Leonard,
subject to two conditions--firstly, she was never to enter into
matrimony, with any person whomsoever, at any time whatsoever;
secondly, she was never to let the said spinster Evelina Adams's
garden, situated at the rear and southward of the house known as the
Squire Adams house, die through any neglect of hers. Due allowance
was to be made for the dispensations of Providence: for hail and
withering frost and long-continued drought, and for times wherein the
said Evelina Leonard might, by reason of being confined to the house
by sickness, be prevented from attending to the needs of the growing
plants, and the verdict in such cases was to rest with the minister
and the deacons of the church. But should this beloved Evelina love
and wed, or should she let, through any wilful neglect, that garden
perish in the season of flowers, all that goodly property would she
forfeit to a person unknown, whose name, enclosed in a sealed
envelope, was to be held meantime in the hands of the executor, who
had also drawn up the will, Lawyer Joshua Lang.

There was great excitement in the village over this strange and
unwonted will. Some were there who held that Evelina Adams had not
been of sound mind, and it should be contested. It was even rumored
that Widow Martha Loomis had visited Lawyer Joshua Lang and broached
the subject, but he had dismissed the matter peremptorily by telling
her that Evelina Adams, spinster, deceased, had been as much in her
right mind at the time of drawing the will as anybody of his
acquaintance.

"Not setting store by relations, and not wanting to have them under
your roof, doesn't go far in law nor common-sense to send folks to
the madhouse," old Lawyer Lang, who was famed for his sharp tongue,
was reported to have said. However, Mrs. Martha Loomis was somewhat
comforted by her firm belief that either her own name or that of one
of her daughters was in that sealed envelope kept by Lawyer Joshua
Lang in his strong-box, and by her firm purpose to watch carefully
lest Evelina prove derelict in fulfilling the two conditions whereby
she held the property.

Larger peep-holes were soon cut away mysteriously in the high
arbor-vitae hedge, and therein were often set for a few moments, when
they passed that way, the eager eyes of Mrs. Martha or her daughter
Flora or Fidelia Loomis. Frequent calls they also made upon Evelina,
living alone with the old woman Sarah Judd, who had been called in
during her cousin's illness, and they strolled into the garden,
spying anxiously for withered leaves or dry stalks. They at every
opportunity interviewed the old man who assisted Evelina in her care
of the garden concerning its welfare. But small progress they made
with him, standing digging at the earth with his spade while they
talked, as if in truth his wits had gone therein before his body and
he would uncover them.

Moreover, Mrs. Martha Loomis talked much slyly to mothers of young
men, and sometimes with bold insinuations to the young men
themselves, of the sad lot of poor young Evelina, condemned to a
solitary and loveless life, and of her sweetness and beauty and
desirability in herself, although she could not bring the old
Squire's money to her husband. And once, but no more than that, she
touched lightly upon the subject to the young minister, Thomas
Merriam, when he was making a pastoral call.

"My heart bleeds for the poor child living all alone in that great
house," said she. And she looked down mournfully, and did not see how
white the young minister's face turned. "It seems almost a pity,"
said she, furthermore--"Evelina is a good housekeeper, and has rare
qualities in herself, and so many get poor wives nowadays--that some
godly young man should not court her in spite of the will. I doubt,
too, if she would not have a happier lot than growing old over that
garden, as poor Cousin Evelina did before her, even if she has a fine
house to live in and a goodly sum in the bank. She looks pindling
enough lately. I'll warrant she has lost a good ten pound since poor
Evelina was laid away, and--"

But Thomas Merriam cut her short. "I see no profit in discussing
matters which do not concern us," said he, and only his ministerial
estate saved him from the charge of impertinence.

As it was, Martha Loomis colored high. "I'll warrant he'll look out
which side his bread is buttered on; ministers always do," she said
to her daughters after he had gone. She never dreamed how her talk
had cut him to the heart.

Had he not seen more plainly than any one else, Sunday after Sunday,
when he glanced down at her once or twice cautiously from his pulpit,
how weary-looking and thin she was growing? And her bright color was
wellnigh gone, and there were pitiful downward lines at the corners
of her sweet mouth. Poor young Evelina was fading like one of her own
flowers, as if some celestial gardener had failed in his care of her.
And Thomas saw it, and in his heart of hearts he knew the reason, and
yet he would not yield. Not once had he entered the old Squire's
house since he attended the dead Evelina's funeral, and stood praying
and eulogizing, with her coffin between him and the living Evelina,
with her pale face shrouded in black bombazine. He had never spoken
to her since, nor entered the house; but he had written her a letter,
in which all the fierce passion and anguish of his heart was cramped
and held down by formal words and phrases, and poor young Evelina did
not see beneath them. When her lover wrote her that he felt it
inconsistent with his Christian duty and the higher aims of his
existence to take any further steps towards a matrimonial alliance,
she felt merely that Thomas either cared no more for her, or had come
to consider, upon due reflection, that she was not fit to undertake
the responsible position of a minister's wife. "It may be that in
some way I failed in my attendance upon Cousin Evelina," thought poor
young Evelina, "or it may be that he thinks I have not enough dignity
of character to inspire respect among the older women in the church."
 And sometimes, with a sharp thrust of misery that shook her out of
her enforced patience and meekness, she wondered if indeed her own
loving freedom with him had turned him against her, and led him in
his later and sober judgment to consider her too light-minded for a
minister's wife. "It may be that I was guilty of great indecorum, and
almost indeed forfeited my claim to respect for maidenly modesty,
inasmuch as I suffered him to give me kisses, and did almost bring
myself to return them in kind. But my heart did so entreat me, and in
truth it seemed almost like a lack of sincerity for me to wholly
withstand it," wrote poor young Evelina in her journal at that time;
and she further wrote: "It is indeed hard for one who has so little
knowledge to be fully certain of what is or is not becoming and a
Christian duty in matters of this kind; but if I have in any manner,
through my ignorance or unwarrantable affection, failed, and so lost
the love and respect of a good man, and the opportunity to become his
helpmeet during life, I pray that I may be forgiven--for I sinned not
wilfully--that the lesson may be sanctified unto me, and that I may
live as the Lord order, in Christian patience and meekness, and not
repining."  It never occurred to young Evelina that possibly Thomas
Merriam's sense of duty might be strengthened by the loss of all her
cousin's property should she marry him, and neither did she dream
that he might hesitate to take her from affluence into poverty for
her own sake. For herself the property, as put in the balance beside
her love, was lighter than air itself. It was so light that it had no
place in her consciousness. She simply had thought, upon hearing the
will, of Martha Loomis and her daughters in possession of the
property, and herself with Thomas, with perfect acquiescence and
rapture.

Evelina Adams's disapprobation of her marriage, which was supposedly
expressed in the will, had indeed, without reference to the property,
somewhat troubled her tender heart, but she told herself that Cousin
Evelina had not known she had promised to marry Thomas; that she
would not wish her to break her solemn promise. And furthermore, it
seemed to her quite reasonable that the condition had been inserted
in the will mainly through concern for the beloved garden.

"Cousin Evelina might have thought perhaps I would let the flowers
die when I had a husband and children to take care of," said Evelina.
And so she had disposed of all the considerations which had disturbed
her, and had thought of no others.

She did not answer Thomas's letter. It was so worded that it seemed
to require no reply, and she felt that he must be sure of her
acquiescence in whatever he thought best. She laid the letter away in
a little rosewood box, in which she had always kept her dearest
treasures since her school-days. Sometimes she took it out and read
it, and it seemed to her that the pain in her heart would put an end
to her in spite of all her prayers for Christian fortitude; and yet
she could not help reading it again.

It was seldom that she stole a look at her old lover as he stood in
the pulpit in the meeting-house, but when she did she thought with an
anxious pang that he looked worn and ill, and that night she prayed
that the Lord would restore his health to him for the sake of his
people.

It was four months after Evelina Adams's death, and her garden was in
the full glory of midsummer, when one evening, towards dusk, young
Evelina went slowly down the street. She seldom walked abroad now,
but kept herself almost as secluded as her cousin had done before
her. But that night a great restlessness was upon her, and she put a
little black silk shawl over her shoulders and went out. It was quite
cool, although it was midsummer. The dusk was deepening fast; the
katydids called back and forth from the wayside bushes. Evelina met
nobody for some distance. Then she saw a man coming towards her, and
her heart stood still, and she was about to turn back, for she
thought for a minute it was the young minister. Then she saw it was
his father, and she went on slowly, with her eyes downcast. When she
met him she looked up and said good-evening, gravely, and would have
passed on, but he stood in her way.

"I've got a word to say to ye, if ye'll listen," he said.

Evelina looked at him tremblingly. There was something strained and
solemn in his manner. "I'll hear whatever you have to say, sir," she
said.

The old man leaned his pale face over her and raised a shaking
forefinger. "I've made up my mind to say something," said he. "I
don't know as I've got any right to, and maybe my son will blame me,
but I'm goin' to see that you have a chance. It's been borne in upon
me that women folks don't always have a fair chance. It's jest this
I'm goin' to say: I don't know whether you know how my son feels
about it or not. I don't know how open he's been with you. Do you
know jest why he quit you?"

Evelina shook her head. "No," she panted--"I don't--I never knew. He
said it was his duty."

"Duty can get to be an idol of wood and stone, an' I don't know but
Thomas's is," said the old man. "Well, I'll tell you. He don't think
it's right for him to marry you, and make you leave that big house,
and lose all that money. He don't care anything about it for himself,
but it's for you. Did you know that?"

Evelina grasped the old man's arm hard with her little fingers.

"You don't mean that--was why he did it!" she gasped.

"Yes, that was why."

Evelina drew away from him. She was ashamed to have Thomas's father
see the joy in her face. "Thank you, sir," she said. "I did not
understand. I--will write to him."

"Maybe my son will think I have done wrong coming betwixt him and his
idees of duty," said old Thomas Merriam, "but sometimes there's a
good deal lost for lack of a word, and I wanted you to have a fair
chance an' a fair say. It's been borne in upon me that women folks
don't always have it. Now you can do jest as you think best, but you
must remember one thing--riches ain't all. A little likin' for you
that's goin' to last, and keep honest and faithful to you as long as
you live, is worth more; an' it's worth more to women folks than 't
is to men, an' it's worth enough to them. My son's poorly. His mother
and I are worried about him. He don't eat nor sleep--walks his
chamber nights. His mother don't know what the matter is, but he let
on to me some time since."

"I'll write a letter to him," gasped Evelina again. "Good-night,
sir."  She pulled her little black silk shawl over her head and
hastened home, and all night long her candle burned, while her weary
little fingers toiled over pages of foolscap-paper to convince Thomas
Merriam fully, and yet in terms not exceeding maidenly reserve, that
the love of his heart and the companionship of his life were worth
more to her than all the silver and gold in the world. Then the next
morning she despatched it, all neatly folded and sealed, and waited.

It was strange that a letter like that could not have moved Thomas
Merriam, when his heart too pleaded with him so hard to be moved. But
that might have been the very reason why he could withstand her, and
why the consciousness of his own weakness gave him strength. Thomas
Merriam was one, when he had once fairly laid hold of duty, to grasp
it hard, although it might be to his own pain and death, and maybe to
that of others. He wrote to poor young Evelina another letter, in
which he emphasized and repeated his strict adherence to what he
believed the line of duty in their separation, and ended it with a
prayer for her welfare and happiness, in which, indeed, for a second,
the passionate heart of the man showed forth. Then he locked himself
in his chamber, and nobody ever knew what he suffered there. But one
pang he did not suffer which Evelina would have suffered in his
place. He mourned not over nor realized the grief of her tender heart
when she should read his letter, otherwise he could not have sent it.
He writhed under his own pain alone, and his duty hugged him hard,
like the iron maiden of the old tortures, but he would not yield.

As for Evelina, when she got his letter, and had read it through, she
sat still and white for a long time, and did not seem to hear when
old Sarah Judd spoke to her. But at last she rose and went to her
chamber, and knelt down, and prayed for a long time; and then she
went out in the garden and cut all the most beautiful flowers, and
tied them in wreaths and bouquets, and carried them out to the north
side of the house, where her cousin Evelina was buried, and covered
her grave with them. And then she knelt down there, and hid her face
among them, and said, in a low voice, as if in a listening ear, "I
pray you, Cousin Evelina, forgive me for what I am about to do."

And then she returned to the house, and sat at her needlework as
usual; but the old woman kept looking at her, and asking if she were
sick, for there was a strange look in her face.

She and old Sarah Judd had always their tea at five o'clock, and put
the candles out at nine, and this night they did as they were wont.
But at one o'clock in the morning young Evelina stole softly down the
stairs with her lighted candle, and passed through into the kitchen;
and a half-hour after she came forth into the garden, which lay in
full moonlight, and she had in her hand a steaming teakettle, and she
passed around among the shrubs and watered them, and a white cloud of
steam rose around them. Back and forth she went to the kitchen; for
she had heated the great copper wash-kettle full of water; and she
watered all the shrubs in the garden, moving amid curling white
wreaths of steam, until the water was gone. And then she set to work
and tore up by the roots with her little hands and trampled with her
little feet all the beautiful tender flower-beds; all the time
weeping, and moaning softly: "Poor Cousin Evelina! poor Cousin
Evelina! Oh, forgive me, poor Cousin Evelina!"

And at dawn the garden lay in ruin, for all the tender plants she had
torn up by the roots and trampled down, and all the stronger-rooted
shrubs she had striven to kill with boiling water and salt.

Then Evelina went into the house, and made herself tidy as well as
she could when she trembled so, and put her little shawl over her
head, and went down the road to the Merriams' house. It was so early
the village was scarcely astir, but there was smoke coming out of the
kitchen chimney at the Merriams'; and when she knocked, Mrs. Merriam
opened the door at once, and stared at her.

"Is Sarah Judd dead?" she cried; for her first thought was that
something must have happened when she saw the girl standing there
with her wild pale face.

"I want to see the minister," said Evelina, faintly, and she looked
at Thomas's mother with piteous eyes.

"Be you sick?" asked Mrs. Merriam. She laid a hard hand on the girl's
arm, and led her into the sitting-room, and put her into the
rocking-chair with the feather cushion. "You look real poorly," said
she. "Sha'n't I get you a little of my elderberry wine?"

"I want to see him," said Evelina, and she almost sobbed.

"I'll go right and speak to him," said Mrs. Merriam. "He's up, I
guess. He gets up early to write. But hadn't I better get you
something to take first? You do look sick."

But Evelina only shook her head. She had her face covered with her
hands, and was weeping softly. Mrs. Merriam left the room, with a
long backward glance at her. Presently the door opened and Thomas
came in. Evelina stood up before him. Her pale face was all wet with
tears, but there was an air of strange triumph about her.

"The garden is dead," said she.

"What do you mean?" he cried out, staring at her, for indeed he
thought for a minute that her wits had left her.

"The garden is dead," said she. "Last night I watered the roses with
boiling water and salt, and I pulled the other flowers up by their
roots. The garden is dead, and I have lost all Cousin Evelina's
money, and it need not come between us any longer."  She said that,
and looked up in his face with her blue eyes, through which the love
of the whole race of loving women from which she had sprung, as well
as her own, seemed to look, and held out her little hands; but even
then Thomas Merriam could not understand, and stood looking at her.

"Why--did you do it?" he stammered.

"Because you would have me no other way, and--I couldn't bear that
anything like that should come between us," she said, and her voice
shook like a harp-string, and her pale face went red, then pale
again.

But Thomas still stood staring at her. Then her heart failed her. She
thought that he did not care, and she had been mistaken. She felt as
if it were the hour of her death, and turned to go. And then he
caught her in his arms.

"Oh," he cried, with a great sob, "the Lord make me worthy of thee,
Evelina!"

There had never been so much excitement in the village as when the
fact of the ruined garden came to light. Flora Loomis, peeping
through the hedge on her way to the store, had spied it first. Then
she had run home for her mother, who had in turn sought Lawyer Lang,
panting bonnetless down the road. But before the lawyer had started
for the scene of disaster, the minister, Thomas Merriam, had
appeared, and asked for a word in private with him. Nobody ever
knew just what that word was, but the lawyer was singularly
uncommunicative and reticent as to the ruined garden.

"Do you think the young woman is out of her mind?" one of the deacons
asked him, in a whisper.

"I wish all the young women were as much in their minds; we'd have a
better world," said the lawyer, gruffly.

"When do you think we can begin to move in here?" asked Mrs. Martha
Loomis, her wide skirts sweeping a bed of uprooted verbenas.

"When your claim is established," returned the lawyer, shortly, and
turned on his heel and went away, his dry old face scanning the
ground like a dog on a scent. That afternoon he opened the sealed
document in the presence of witnesses, and the name of the heir to
whom the property fell was disclosed. It was "Thomas Merriam, the
beloved and esteemed minister of this parish," and young Evelina
would gain her wealth instead of losing it by her marriage. And
furthermore, after the declaration of the name of the heir was this
added: "This do I in the hope and belief that neither the greed of
riches nor the fear of them shall prevent that which is good and wise
in the sight of the Lord, and with the surety that a love which shall
triumph over so much in its way shall endure, and shall be a blessing
and not a curse to my beloved cousin, Evelina Leonard."

Thomas Merriam and Evelina were married before the leaves fell in
that same year, by the minister of the next village, who rode over in
his chaise, and brought his wife, who was also a bride, and wore her
wedding-dress of a pink and pearl shot silk. But young Evelina wore
the blue bridal array which had been worn by old Squire Adams's
bride, all remodelled daintily to suit the fashion of the times; and
as she moved, the fragrances of roses and lavender of the old summers
during which it had been laid away were evident, like sweet memories.





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