Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Between Whiles
Author: Jackson, Helen Hunt, 1830-1885
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 "Between Whiles" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Between Whiles.

by

Helen Jackson (H. H.)

Author of "Ramona," "A Century of Dishonor," "Verses," "Sonnets and
Lyrics," "Glimpses of Three Coasts," "Bits of Travel," "Bits of Travel
at Home," "Zeph," "Mercy Philbrick's Choice," "Hetty's Strange History,"
"Bits of Talk about Home Matters," "Bits of Talk for Young Folks,"
"Nelly's Silver Mine," "Cat Stories."

1888.



Contents.


The Inn of the Golden Pear
The Mystery of Wilhelm Rütter
Little Bel's Supplement
The Captain of the "Heather Bell"
Dandy Steve
The Prince's Little Sweetheart



Between Whiles.



The Inn of the Golden Pear.

I.


  Who buys? Who buys? 'Tis like a market-fair;
  The hubbub rises deafening on the air:
  The children spend their honest money there;
  The knaves prowl out like foxes from a lair.

  Who buys? Who sells? Alas, and still alas!
  The children sell their diamond stones for glass;
  The knaves their worthless stones for diamonds pass.
  He laughs who buys; he laughs who sells. Alas!


In the days when New England was only a group of thinly settled
wildernesses called "provinces," there was something almost like the old
feudal tenure of lands there, and a relation between the rich land-owner
and his tenants which had many features in common with those of the
relation between margraves and vassals in the days of Charlemagne.

Far up in the North, near the Canada line, there lived at that time an
eccentric old man, whose name is still to be found here and there on the
tattered parchments, written "WILLAN BLAYCKE, Gentleman."

Tradition occupies itself a good deal with Willan Blaycke, and does not
give his misdemeanors the go-by as it might have done if he had been
either a poorer or a less clever man. Why he had crossed the seas and
cast in his lot with the pious Puritans, nobody knew; it was certainly
not because of sympathy with their God-reverencing faith and God-fearing
lives, nor from any liking for hardships or simplicity of habits. He had
gold enough, the stories say, to have bought all the land from the St.
Johns to the Connecticut if he had pleased; and he had servants and
horses and attire such as no governor in all the provinces could boast.
He built himself a fine house out of stone, and the life he led in it
was a scandal and a byword everywhere. For all that, there was not a man
to be found who had not a good word to say for Willan Blaycke, and not a
woman who did not look pleased and smile if he so much as spoke to her.
He was generous, with a generosity so princely that there were many who
said that he had no doubt come of some royal house. He gave away a farm
to-day, and another to-morrow, and thought nothing of it; and when
tenants came to him pleading that they were unable to pay their rent, he
was never known to haggle or insist.

Naturally, with such ways as these he made havoc of his estates, vast as
they were, and grew less and less rich year by year. However, there was
enough of his land to last several generations out; and if he had
married a decent woman for his wife, his posterity need never have
complained of him. But this was what Willan Blaycke did,--and it is as
much a mystery now as it doubtless was then, why he did it,--he married
Jeanne Dubois, the daughter of a low-bred and evil-disposed Frenchman
who kept a small inn on the Canadian frontier. Jeanne had a handsome but
wicked face. She stood always at the bar, and served every man who came;
and a great thing it was for the house, to be sure, that she had such
bold black eyes, red cheeks, and a tongue even bolder than her glances.
But there was not a farmer in all the north provinces who would have
taken her to wife, not one, for she bore none too good a name; and men's
speech about her, as soon as they had turned their backs and gone on
their journeys, was quite opposite to the gallant and flattering things
they said to her face in the bar. Some people said that Willan Blaycke
was drunk when he married Jeanne, that she took him unawares by means of
a base plot which her father and she had had in mind a long time. Others
said that he was sober enough when he did it, only that he was like one
out of his mind,--he sorrowed so for the loss of his only son, Willan,
whom he had in the beginning of that year sent back to England to be
taught in school.

He had brought the child out with him,--a little chap, with marvellously
black eyes and yellow curls, who wore always the costliest of
embroidered coats, which it was plain some woman's hand had embroidered
for him; but whether the child's mother were dead or alive Willan
Blaycke never told, and nobody dared ask.

That the boy needed a mother sadly enough was only too plain. Riding
from county to county on his little white pony by his father's side,
sitting up late at roystering feasts till he nodded in his chair, seeing
all that rough men saw, and hearing all that rough men said, the child
was in a fair way to be ruined outright; and so Willan Blaycke at last
came to see, and one day, in a fit of unwonted conscientiousness and
wisdom, he packed the poor sobbing little fellow off to England in
charge of a trusty escort, and sternly made up his mind that the lad
should not return till he was a man grown. It was only a few months
after this that Jeanne Dubois became Mistress Willan Blaycke; so it
seemed not improbable that the bereaved father's loneliness had had much
to do with that extraordinary step.

Be that as it may, whether he were drunk or sober when he married her,
he treated her as a gentleman should treat his wife, and did his best to
make her a lady. She was always clad in a rich fashion; and a fine show
she made in her scarlet petticoat and white hat with a streaming scarlet
feather in it, riding high on her pillion behind Willan Blaycke on his
great black horse, or sitting up straight and stiff in the swinging
coach with gold on the panels, which he had bought for her in Boston at
a sale of the effects of one of the disgraced and removed governors of
the province of Massachusetts. If there had been any roads to speak of
in those days, Jeanne Dubois would have driven from one end to the other
of the land in her fine coach, so proud was she of its splendor; but
even pride could not heal the bruises she got in jolting about in it,
nor the terror she felt of being overturned. So she gradually left off
using it, and consoled herself by keeping it standing in all good
weather in full sight from the highway, that everybody might know she
had it.

It was a sore trial to Jeanne that she had no children,--a sore trial
also to her wicked old father, who had plotted that the great Blaycke
estates should go down in the hands of his descendants. Not so Willan
Blaycke. It was undoubtedly a consolation to him in his last days to
think that his son Willan would succeed to everything, and the Dubois
blood remain still in its own muddy channel. It is evident that before
he died he had come to think coldly of his wife; for his mention of her
in his will was of the curtest, and his provision for her during her
lifetime, though amply sufficient for her real needs, not at all in
keeping with the style in which she had dwelt with him.

The exiled Willan had returned to America a year before his father's
death. He was a quiet, well-educated, rather scholarly young man. It
would be foolish to deny that his filial sentiment had grown cool during
the long years of his absence, and that it received some violent shocks
on his return to his father's house. But he was full of ambition, and
soon saw the opening which lay before him for distinction and wealth as
the ultimate owner of the Blaycke estates. To this end he bent all his
energies. He had had in England a good legal education; he was a clear
thinker and a ready speaker, and speedily made himself so well known and
well thought of, that when his father died there were many who said it
was well the old man had been taken away in time to leave the young
Willan a property worthy of his talents and industry.

Willan had lived in his father's house more as a guest than as a son. To
the woman who was his father's wife, and sat at the head of his father's
table, he bore himself with a distant courtesy, which was far more
irritating to her coarse nature than open antagonism would have been.
But Jeanne Dubois was clever woman enough to comprehend her own
inferiority to both father and son, and to avoid collisions with either.
She had won what she had played for, and on the whole she had not been
disappointed. As she had never loved her husband, she cared little that
he did not love her; and as for the upstart of a boy with his fine airs,
well, she would bide her time for that, Jeanne thought,--for it had
never crossed Jeanne's mind that when her husband died she would not be
still the mistress of the fine stone house and the gilt panelled coach,
and have more money than she knew what to do with. Many malicious
reveries she had indulged in as to how, when that time came, she would
"send the fellow packing," "he shouldn't stay in her house a day." So,
when it came to pass that the cards were turned, and it was Willan who
said to her, on the morning after his father's funeral, "What are your
plans, Madame?" Jeanne was for a few seconds literally dumb with anger
and astonishment.

Then she poured out all the pent-up hatred of her vulgar soul. It was a
horrible scene. Willan conducted himself throughout the interview with
perfect calmness; the same impassable distance which had always been so
exasperating to Jeanne was doubly so now. He treated her as if she were
merely some dependant of the house, for whom he, as the executor of the
will, was about to provide according to instructions.

"If I can't live in my own house," cried the angry woman, "I'll go back
to my father and tend bar again; and how'll you like that?"

"It is purely immaterial to me, Madame," replied Willan, "where you
live. I merely wish to know your address, that I may forward to you the
quarterly payments of your annuity. I should think it probable," he
added with an irony which was not thrown away on Jeanne, "that you
would be happier among your own relations and in the occupations to
which you were accustomed in your youth."

Jeanne was not deficient in spirit. As soon as she had ascertained
beyond a doubt that all that Willan had told her was true, and that
there was no possibility of her ever getting from the estate anything
except her annuity, she packed up all her possessions and left the
house. No fine instinct had restrained her from laying, hands on
everything to which she could be said to have a shadow of
claim,--indeed, on many things to which she had not,--and even Willan
himself, who had been prepared for her probable greed, was surprised
when on returning to the house late one evening he found the piazza
piled high from one end to the other with her boxes. Jeanne stood by
with a defiant air, superintending the cording of the last one. She
anticipated some remonstrance or inquiry from Willan, and was half
disappointed when he passed by, giving no sign of having observed the
boxes at all, and simply lifting his hat to her with his usual
formality. The next morning, instead of the public vehicle which Jeanne
had engaged to call for her, her own coach and the gray horses she had
best liked were driven to the door. This unexpected tribute from Willan
almost disarmed her for the moment. It was her coach almost more than
her house which she had grieved to lose.

"Well, really, Mr. Willan," she exclaimed, "I never once thought of
taking that, though there's no doubt about its being my own, and your
father'd tell you so if he was here; and the horses too. He always said
the grays were mine from the day he bought them. But I'm much obliged to
you, I'm sure."

"You have no occasion to thank me, Madame," replied Willan, standing on
the threshold of the house, pale with excitement at the prospect of
immediate freedom from the presence of the coarse creature. "The coach
is your own, and the horses; and if they had not been, I should not have
permitted them to remain here."

"Oh ho!" sneered Jeanne, all her antagonism kindled afresh at this last
gratuitous fling. "You needn't think you can get rid of everything
that'll remind you of me, young man. You'll see me oftener than you
like, at the Golden Pear. You'll have to stop there, as your father did
before you." And Jeanne's black eyes snapped viciously as she drove off,
her piles of boxes following slowly in two wagon-loads behind.

Willan was right in one thing. After the first mortification of
returning to her father's house, a widow, disgraced by being pensioned
off from her old home, had worn away, Jeanne was happier than she had
ever been in her life. Her annuity, which was small for Mistress Willan
Blaycke, was large for Jeanne, daughter of the landlord of the Golden
Pear; and into that position she sank back at once,--so contentedly,
too, that her father was continually reproaching her with a great lack
of spirit. It was a sad come-down from his old air-castles for her and
for himself,--he still the landlord of a shabby little inn, and Jeanne,
stout and middle-aged, sitting again behind the bar as she had done
fifteen years before. It was pretty hard. So long as he knew that Jeanne
was living in her fine house as Mistress Blaycke he had been content,
in spite of Willan Blaycke's having sternly forbidden him ever to show
his face there. But this last downfall was too much. Victor Dubois
ground his teeth and swore many oaths over it. But no swearing could
alter things; and after a while Victor himself began to take comfort in
having Jeanne back again. "And not a bit spoiled," as he would say to
his cronies, "by all the fine ways, to which she had never taken; thanks
to God, Jeanne was as good a girl yet as ever."--"And as handsome too,"
the politic cronies would add.

The Golden Pear was a much more attractive place since Jeanne had come
back. She was a good housekeeper, and she had learned much in Willan
Blaycke's house. Moreover, she was a generous creature, and did not in
the least mind spending a few dollars here and there to make things
tidier and more comfortable.

A few weeks after Jeanne's return to the inn there appeared in the
family a new and by no means insignificant member. This was the young
Victorine Dubois, who was a daughter, they said, of Victor Dubois's son
Jean, the twin brother of Jeanne. He had gone to Montreal many years
ago, and had been moderately prosperous there as a wine-seller in a
small way. He had been dead now for two years, and his widow, being
about to marry again, was anxious to get the young Victorine off her
hands. So the story ran, and on the surface it looked probable enough.
But Montreal was not a great way off from the parish of St. Urbans, in
which stood Victor Dubois's inn; there were men coming and going often
who knew the city, and who looked puzzled when it was said in their
hearing that Victorine was the eldest child of Jean Dubois the
wine-seller. She had been kept at a convent all these years, old Victor
said, her father being determined that at least one of his children
should be well educated.

Nobody could gainsay this, and Mademoiselle Victorine certainly had the
air of having been much better trained and taught than most girls in her
station. But somehow, nobody quite knew why, the tale of her being Jean
Dubois's daughter was not believed. Suspicions and at last rumors were
afloat that she was an illegitimate child of Jeanne's, born a few years
before her marriage to Willan Blaycke.

Nothing easier, everybody knew, than for Mistress Willan Blaycke to
have supported half a dozen illegitimate children, if she had had them,
on the money her husband gave her so lavishly; and there was old Victor,
as ready and unscrupulous a go-between as ever an unscrupulous woman
needed. These rumors gained all the easier credence because Victorine
bore so striking a resemblance to her "Aunt Jeanne." On the other hand,
this ought not to have been taken as proof any more one way than the
other; for there were plenty of people who recollected very well that in
the days when little Jean and Jeanne toddled about together as children,
nobody but their mother could tell them apart, except by their clothes.
So the winds of gossiping breaths blew both ways at once in the matter,
and it was much discussed for a time. But like all scandals, as soon as
it became an old story nobody cared whether it were false or true; and
before Victorine had been a year at the Golden Pear, the question of her
relationship there was rarely raised.

One thing was certain, that no mother could have been fonder or more
devoted to a child than Jeanne was to her niece; and everybody said
so,--some more civilly, some maliciously. Her pride in the girl's beauty
was touching to see. She seemed to have forgotten that she was ever a
beauty herself; and she had no need to do this, for Jeanne was not yet
forty, and many men found her piquant and pleasing still. But all her
vanity seemed now to be transferred to Victorine. It was Victorine who
was to have all the fine gowns and ornaments; Victorine who must go to
the dances and fêtes in costumes which were the wonder and the envy of
all the girls in the region; Victorine who was to have everything made
easy and comfortable for her in the house; and above all,--and here the
mother betrayed herself, for mother she was; the truth may as well be
told early as late in our story,--most of all, it was Victorine who was
to be kept away from the bar, and to be spared all contact with the
rough roysterers who frequented the Golden Pear.

Very ingenious were Jeanne's excuses for these restrictions on her
niece's liberty. Still more ingenious her explanations of the occasional
exceptions she made now and then in favor of some well-to-do young
farmer of the neighborhood, or some traveller in whom her alert maternal
eye detected a possible suitor for Victorine's hand. Victorine herself
was not so fastidious. She was young, handsome, overflowing with
vitality, and with no more conscience or delicacy than her mother had
had before her. If the whole truth had been known concerning the last
four years of her life in the convent, it would have considerably
astonished those good Catholics, if any such there be, who still believe
that convents are sacred retreats filled with the chaste and the devout.
Victorine Dubois at the age of eighteen, when her grandfather took her
home to his house, was as well versed a young woman in the ways and the
wiles of love-making as if she had been free to come and go all her
life. And that this knowledge had been gained surreptitiously, in stolen
moments and brief experiences at the expense of the whole of her
reverence for religion, the whole of her faith in men's purity, was not
poor Victorine's fault, only her misfortune; but the result was no less
disastrous to her morals. She went out of the convent as complete a
little hypocrite as ever told beads and repeated prayers. Only a
certain sort of infantile superstitiousness of nature remained in her,
and made her cling to the forms, in which, though she knew they did not
mean what they pretended, she suspected there might be some sort of
mechanical efficacy at last; like the partly undeceived disciple and
assistant of a master juggler, who is not quite sure that there may not
be a supernatural power behind some of the tricks. Beyond an overflowing
animal vitality, and a passion for having men make love to her, there
really was not much of Victorine. But it is wonderful how far these two
qualities can pass in a handsome woman for other and nobler ones. The
animal life so keen, intense, sensuous, can seem like cleverness, wit,
taste; the passion for receiving homage from men can make a woman
graceful, amiable, and alluring. Some of the greatest passions the world
has ever seen have been inspired in men by just such women as this.

Victorine was not without accomplishments and some smattering of
knowledge. She had read a good deal of French, and chattered it like
the true granddaughter of a Normandy _propriétaire_. She sang, in a
half-rude, half-melodious way, snatches of songs which sounded better
than they really were, she sang them with so much heartiness and
abandon. She embroidered exquisitely, and had learned the trick of
making many of the pretty and useless things at which nuns work so
patiently to fill up their long hours. She had an insatiable love of
dress, and attired herself daily in successions of varied colors and
shapes merely to look at herself in the glass, and on the chance of
showing herself to any stray traveller who might come.

The inn had been built in a piecemeal fashion by Victor Dubois himself,
and he had been unconsciously guided all the while by his memories of
the old farmhouse in Normandy in which he was born; so that the house
really looked more like Normandy than like America. It had on one corner
a square tower, which began by being a shed attached to the kitchen,
then was promoted to bearing up a chamber for grain, and at last was
topped off by a fine airy room, projecting on all sides over the other
two, and having great casement windows reaching close up to the broad,
hanging eaves. A winding staircase outside led to what had been the
grain-chamber: this was now Jeanne's room. The room above was
Victorine's, and she reached it only by a narrow, ladder-like stairway
from her mother's bedroom; so the young lady's movements were kept well
in sight, her mother thought. It was an odd thing that it never occurred
to Jeanne how near the sill of Victorine's south window was to the stout
railing of the last broad platform of the outside staircase. This
railing had been built up high, and was partly roofed over, making a
pretty place for pots of flowers in summer; and Victorine never looked
so well anywhere as she did leaning out of her window and watering the
flowers which stood there. Many a flirtation went on between this
casement window and the courtyard below, where all the travellers were
in the habit of standing and talking with the ostlers, and with old
Victor himself, who was not the landlord to leave his ostlers to do as
they liked with horses and grain,--many a flirtation, but none that
meant or did any harm; for with all her wildness and love of frolic,
Mademoiselle Victorine never lost her head. Deep down in her heart she
had an ambition which she never confessed even to her aunt Jeanne. She
had read enough romances to believe that it was by no means an
impossible thing that a landlord's daughter should marry a gentleman;
and to marry a gentleman, if she married at all, Victorine was fully
resolved. She never tired of questioning her aunt about the details of
her life in Willan Blaycke's house; and she sometimes gazed for hours at
the gilt-panelled coach, which on all fine days stood in the courtyard
of the Golden Pear, the wonder of all rustics. On the rare occasions
when her aunt went abroad in this fine vehicle, Victorine sat by her
side in an ecstasy of pride and delight. It seemed to her that to be the
owner of such a coach as that, to live in a fine house, and have a fine
gentleman for one's husband must be the very climax of bliss. She
wondered much at her aunt's contentment in her present estate.

"How canst thou bear it, Aunt Jeanne?" she said sometimes. "How canst
thou bear to live as we live here,--to be in the bar-room with the men,
and to sit always in the smoke, after the fine rooms and the company
thou hadst for so long?"

"Bah!" Jeanne would reply. "It's little thou knowest of that fine
company. I had like to die of weariness more often than I was gay in it;
and as for fine rooms, I care nothing for them."

"But thy husband, Aunt Jeanne," Victorine once ventured to say,--"surely
thou wert not weary when he was with thee?"

Jeanne's face darkened. "Keep a civiller tongue in thy head," she
replied, "than to be talking to widows of the husbands they have buried.
He was a good man, Willan Blaycke,--a good man; but I liked him not
overmuch, though we lived not in quarrelling. He went his ways, as men
go, and I let him be."

Victorine's curiosity was by no means satisfied. She asked endless
questions of all whom she met who could tell her anything about her
aunt's husband. Very much she regretted that she had not been taken from
the convent before this strange, free-hearted, rollicking gentleman had
died. She would have managed affairs better, she thought, than Aunt
Jeanne had done. Romantic visions of herself as his favorite flitted
through her brain.

"Why didst thou not send for me sooner to come to thee, Aunt Jeanne,"
she said, "that I too might have seen the life in the great stone
house?"

A sudden flush covered Jeanne's face. Was she never to hear the end of
troublesome questions about the past?

"Wilt thou never have done with it?" she said, half angrily. "Has it
never been said in thy hearing how that my husband would not permit even
my father to come inside of his house, much less one no nearer than
thou?" And Jeanne eyed Victorine sharply, with a suspicion which was
wholly uncalled for. Nobody had ever been bold or cruel enough to
suggest to Victorine any doubts regarding her birth. The girl was
indignant. She had never known before that her grandfather had been thus
insulted.

"What had grandfather done?" she cried. "Was he not thy husband's
father, too, being thine? How dared thy husband treat him so?"

Jeanne was silent for a few moments. A latent sense of justice to her
dead husband restrained her from assenting to Victorine's words.

"Nay," she said; "there are many things thou canst not understand. Thy
grandfather never complained. Willan Blaycke treated me most fairly
while he lived; and if it had not been for the boy, I would have had
thee in the stone house to-day, and had all my rights."

"Why did the boy hate thee?" asked Victorine. "What is he like?"

"As like to a magpie as one magpie is to another," said Jeanne,
bitterly; "with his fine French cloth of black, and his white ruffles,
and his long words in his mouth. Ah, but him I hate! It is to him we owe
it all."

"Dwells he now in the great house alone?" said Victorine.

"Ay, that he does,--alone with his books, of which he has about as many
as there are leaves on the trees; one could not so much as step or sit
for a book in one's way. I did hear that he has now with him another of
his own order, and that the two are riding all over the country,
marking out the lines anew of all the farms, and writing new bonds which
are so much harder on men than the old ones were. Bah! but he has the
soul of a miser in him, for all his handsome face!"

"Is he then so very handsome, Aunt Jeanne?" said Victorine, eagerly.

"Ay, ay, child. I'll give him his due for that, evilly as he has treated
me. He is a handsomer man than his father was; and when his father and I
were married there was not a woman in the provinces that did not say I
had carried off the handsomest man that ever strode a horse. I'd like to
have had thee see me, too, in that day, child. I was counted as handsome
as he, though thou'dst never think it now."

"But I would think it!" cried Victorine, hotly and loyally. "What ails
thee, Aunt Jeanne? Did I not hear Father Hennepin himself saying to thee
only yesterday that thou wert comelier to-day than ever? and he saw thee
married, he told me."

"Tut, tut, child!" replied Jeanne, looking pleased. "None know better
than the priests how to speak idle words to women. But what was he
telling thee? How came it that he spoke of the time when I was married?"
added Jeanne, again suspicious.

"It was I that asked him," replied Victorine. "I wish always so much
that I had been with thee instead of in the convent, dear aunt. Does
this son of thy husband, this handsome young man who is so like unto a
magpie,--does he never in his journeyings come this way?"

"Ay, often," replied Jeanne. "I know that he must, because a large part
of his estate lies beyond the border and joins on to this parish. It was
that which brought his father here, in the beginning, and there is no
other inn save this for miles up and down the border where he can tarry;
but it is likely that he will sooner lie out in the fields than sleep
under this roof, because I am here. I had looked to say my mind to him
as often as he came; and that it would be a sore thing to him to see his
father's wife in the bar, I know beyond a doubt. I have often said to
myself what a comfortable spleen I should experience when I might
courtesy to him and say, 'What would you be pleased to take, sir?' But
I think he is minded to rob me of that pleasure, for it is certain he
must have ridden this way before now."

"I have a mind to burn a candle to the Virgin," said Victorine, slowly,
"that he may come here. I would like for once to set my eyes on his
face."

An unwonted earnestness in Victorine's tone and a still more unwonted
seriousness in her face arrested Jeanne's attention.

"What is it to thee to see him or not to see him, eh? What is it thou
hast in thy silly head. If thou thinkest thou couldst win him over to
take us back to live in his house again,--which is my own house, to be
sure, if I had my rights,--thy wits are wool-gathering, I can tell thee
that," cried Jeanne. "He has the pride of ten thousand devils in him.
There was that in his face when I drove away from the door,--and he
standing with his head uncovered too,--which I tell thee if I had been a
man I could have killed him for. He take us back! He! he!" And Jeanne
laughed a bitter laugh at the bare idea of the thing.

"I had not thought of any such thing, Aunt Jeanne," replied Victorine,
still speaking slowly, and still with a dreamy expression on her face,
as she leaned out of the window and began idly plucking the blossoms
from a bough of the big pear-tree, which was now all white with flowers
and buzzing with bees. "Dost thou not think the bees steal a little
sweet that ought to go into the fruit?" continued the artful girl, who
did not choose that her aunt should question her any further as to the
reason of her desire to see Willan Blaycke. "I remember that once Father
Anselmo at the convent said to me he thought so. There was a vine of the
wild grape which ran all over the wall between the cloister and the
convent; and when it was in bloom the air sickened one, and thou couldst
hardly go near the wall for the swarming bees that were drinking the
honey from the flowers. And Father Anselmo said one evening that they
were thieves; they stole sweet which ought to go into the grapes."

This was a clever diversion. It turned Jeanne's thoughts at once away
from Willan Blaycke, but it did not save Mademoiselle Victorine from a
catechising quite as sharp as she was in danger of on the other subject.

"And what wert thou doing talking with a priest in the garden at night?"
cried Jeanne, fiercely. "Is that the way maidens are trained in a
convent! Shame on thee, Victorine! what hast thou revealed?"

"The Virgin forbid," answered Victorine, piously, racking her brains
meanwhile for a ready escape from this dilemma, and trying in her fright
to recall precisely what she had just said. "I said not that he told it
to me in the garden; it was in the confessional that he said it. I had
confessed to him the grievous sin of a horrible rage I had been in when
one of the bees had stung me on the lip as I was gathering the cool vine
leaves to lay on the good Sister Clarice's forehead, who was ill with a
fever."

"Eh, eh!" said Jeanne, relieved; "was that it? I thought it could not be
thou wert in the garden in the evening hours, and with a priest."

"Oh no," said Victorine, demurely. "It was not permitted to converse
with the priests except in the chapel." And choking back an amused
little laugh she bounded to the ladder-like stairway and climbed up into
her own room.

"Saints! what an ankle the girl has, to be sure!" thought Jeanne, as she
watched Victorine's shapely legs slowly vanishing up the stair. "What
has filled her head so full of that upstart Willan, I wonder!"

A thought struck Jeanne; the only wonder was it had never struck her
before. In her sudden excitement she sprung from her chair, and began to
walk rapidly up and down the floor. She pressed her hand to her
forehead; she tore open the handkerchief which was crossed on her bosom;
her eyes flashed; her cheeks grew red; she breathed quicker.

"The girl's handsome enough to turn any man's head, and twice as clever
as I ever was," she thought.

She sat down in her chair again. The idea which had occurred to her was
over-whelming. She spoke aloud and was unconscious of it.

"Ah, but that would be a triumph!" she said. "Who knows? who knows?"

"Victorine!" she called; "Victorine!"

"Yes, aunt," replied Victorine.

"There's plenty of honey left in the flowers to keep pears sweet after
the bees are dead," said Jeanne, mischievously, and went downstairs
chuckling over her new secret thought. "I'll never let the child know
I've thought of such a thing," she mused, as she took her accustomed
seat in the bar. "I'll bide my time. Strange things have happened, and
may happen again."

"What a queer speech of Aunt Jeanne's!" thought Victorine at her
casement window. "What a fool I was to have said anything about Father
Anselmo! Poor fellow! I wonder why he doesn't run away from the
monastery!"



II.


  The south wind's secret, when it blows,
    Oh, what man knows?
  How did it turn the rose's bud
    Into a rose?
  What went before, no garden shows;
    Only the rose!

  What hour the bitter north wind blows,
    The south wind knows.
  Why did it turn the rose's bud
    Into a rose?
  Alas, to-day the garden shows
    A dying rose!


Jeanne had not to wait long. It was only a few days after this
conversation with Victorine,--the big pear-tree was still snowy-white
with bloom, and the tireless bees still buzzed thick among its
boughs,--when Jeanne, standing in the doorway at sunset, saw two riders
approaching the inn. At her first glance she recognized Willan Blaycke.
Jeanne's mind moved quickly. In the twinkling of an eye she had sprung
back into the bar-room, and said to her father,--

"Father, father, be quick! Here comes Willan Blaycke riding; and
another, an old man, with him. Thou must tend the bar; for hand so much
as a glass of gin to that man will I never. I shut myself up till he is
gone."

"Nay, nay, Jeanne," replied Victor; "I'll turn him from my door. He's to
get no lodging under this roof, he nor his,--I promise you that." And
Victor was bustling angrily to the door.

This did not suit Mistress Jeanne at all. In great dismay inwardly, but
outwardly with slow and smooth-spoken accents, as if reflecting
discreetly, she replied, "He might do me great mischief if he were
angered, father. All the moneys go through his hand. I think it is safer
to speak him fair. He hath the devil's own temper if he be opposed in
the smallest thing. It has cost him sore enough, I'll be bound, to find
himself here at sundown, and beholden to thee for shelter; it is none of
his will to come, I know that well enough. Speak him fair, father, speak
him fair; it is a silly fowl that pecks at the hand which holds corn. I
will hide myself till he is away, though, for I misgive me that I should
be like to fly out at him."

"But, Jeanne--" persisted Victor. But Jeanne was gone.

"Speak him fair, father; take no note that aught is amiss," she called
back from the upper stair, from which she was vanishing into her
chamber. "I will send Victorine to wait at the supper. He hath never
seen her, and need not to know that she is of our kin at all,"

"Humph!" muttered Victor. "Small doubt to whom the girl is kin, if a man
have eyes in his head." And he would have argued the point longer with
Jeanne, but he had no time left, for the riders had already turned into
the courtyard, and were giving their horses in charge to the
white-headed ostler Benoit. Benoit had served in the Golden Pear for a
quarter of a century. He had served Victor Dubois's father in Normandy,
had come with his young master to America, and was nominally his servant
still. But if things had gone by their right names at the Golden Pear,
old Benoit would not have been called servant for many a year back. Not
a secret in that household which Benoit had not shared; not a plot he
had not helped on. At Jeanne's marriage he was the only witness except
Father Hennepin; and there were some who recollected still with what
extraordinary chuckles of laughter Benoit had walked away from the
chapel after that ceremony had been completed. To the young Victorine
Benoit had been devoted ever since her coming to the inn. Whenever she
appeared in sight the old man came to gaze on her, and stood lingering
and admiring as long as she remained.

"Thou art far handsomer than thy mother ever was," he had said to her
one morning soon after her arrival.

"Oh, didst thou know my mother, then, when she was young?" cried
Victorine. "She is not handsome now, though she is newly wed; when she
came to see me in the convent, I thought her very ugly. When didst thou
know her, Benoit?"

Benoit was very red in the face, and began to toss straw vigorously as
he looked away from Victorine and answered: "It was but once that I had
sight of her, when Master Jean brought her here after they were married.
Thou dost not favor her in the least. Thou art like Master Jean."

"And the saints know that that last is the holy truth, whatever the
rest may be," thought Benoit, as he bustled about the courtyard.

"But thy tongue is the tongue of an imbecile," said Victor, following
him into the stable.

"Ay, that it is, sir," replied Benoit, humbly. "I had like to have
bitten it off before I had finished speaking; but no harm came."

"Not this time," replied Victor; "but the next thou might not be so well
let off. The girl has a sharper wit than she shows ordinarily. She hath
learned too well the ways of convents. I trust her not wholly, Benoit.
Keep thy eyes open, Benoit. We'll not have her go the ways of her mother
if it can be helped." And the worldly and immoral old grandfather turned
on his heel with a wicked laugh.

Benoit had never seen young Willan Blaycke, but he knew him at his first
glance.

"The son!" he muttered under his breath, as he saw him alight. "Is he to
be lodged here? I doubt." And Benoit looked about for Victor, who was
nowhere to be seen. Slowly and with a surly face he came forward to
take the horses.

"What're you about, old man? Wear you shoes of lead? Take our horses,
and see you to it they are well rubbed down before they have aught to
eat or drink. We have ridden more than ten leagues since the noon,"
cried the elder of the two travellers.

"And ought to have ridden more," said the younger in an undertone. It
was, as Jeanne had said, a sore thing to Willan Blaycke to be forced to
seek a night's shelter in the Golden Pear.

"Tut, tut!" said the other, "what odds! It is a whimsey, a weakness of
yours, boy. What's the woman to you?"

Victor Dubois, who had come up now, heard these words, and his swarthy
cheek was a shade darker. Benoit, who had lingered till he should
receive a second order from the master of the inn as to the strangers'
horses, exchanged a quick glance with Victor, while he said in a
respectful tone, "Two horses, sir, for the night." The glance said, "I
know who the man is; shall we keep him?"

"Ay, Benoit," Victor answered; "see that Jean gives them a good rubbing
at once. They have been hard ridden, poor beasts!" While Victor was
speaking these words his eyes said to Benoit, "Bah! It is even so; but
we dare not do otherwise than treat him fair."

"Will you be pleased to walk in, gentlemen; and what shall I have the
honor of serving for your supper?" he continued. "We have some young
pigeons, if your worships would like them, fat as partridges, and still
a bottle or two left of our last autumn's cider."

"By all means, landlord, by all means, let us have them, roasted on a
spit, man,--do you hear?--roasted on a spit, and let your cook lard them
well with fat bacon; there is no bird so fat but a larding doth help it
for my eating," said the elder man, rubbing his hands and laughing more
and more cheerily as his companion looked each moment more and more
glum.

"No, I'll not go in," said Willan, as Victor threw open the door into
the bar-room. "It suits me better to sit here under the trees until
supper is ready." And he threw himself down at the foot of the great
pear-tree. He feared to see Jeanne sitting in the bar, as she had
threatened. The ground was showered thick with the soft white petals of
the blossoms, which were now past their prime. Willan picked up a
handful of them and tossed them idly in the air. As he did so, a shower
of others came down on his face, thick, fast; they half blinded him for
a moment. He sprung to his feet and looked up. It was like looking into
a snowy cloud. He saw nothing. "Some bird flying through," he thought,
and lay down again.

  "Ah! luck for the bees,
    The flowers are in flower;
  Luck for the bees in spring.
    Ah me, but the flowers, they die in an hour;
  No summer is fair as the spring.
    Ah! luck for the bees;
  The honey in flowers
    Is highest when they are on wing!"

came in a gay Provençal melody from the pear-tree above Willan's head,
and another shower of white petals fell on his face.

"Good God!" said Willan Blaycke, under his breath, "what witchcraft is
going on here? what girl's voice is that?" And he sprang again to his
feet.

The voice died slowly away; the singer was moving farther off,--

  "Ah! woe for the bees,
    The flowers are dead;
  No summer is fair as the spring.
    Ah me, but the honey is thick in the comb;
  'Tis a long time now since spring.
    Ah, woe for the bees
  That honey is sweet,
    Is sweeter than anything!"

"Sweeter than anything,--sweeter than anything!" the voice, grown faint
now, repeated this refrain over and over, as the syllables of sound died
away.

It was Victorine going very slowly down the staircase from her room into
Jeanne's. And it was Victorine who had accidentally brushed the
pear-tree boughs as she watered her plants on the roof of the outside
stairway. She did not see Willan lying on the ground underneath, and she
did not think that Willan might be hearing her song; and yet was her
head full of Willan Blaycke as she went down the staircase, and not a
little did she quake at the thought of seeing him below.

Jeanne had come breathless to her room, crying, "Victorine! Victorine!
That son of my husband's of whom we were talking, young Willan Blaycke,
is at the door,--he, and an old man with him; and they must perforce
stay here all night. Now, it would be a shame I could in no wise bear to
stand and serve him at supper. Wilt thou not do it in my stead? there
are but the two." And the wily Jeanne pretended to be greatly
distressed, as she sank into a chair and went on: "In truth, I do not
believe I can look on his face at all. I will keep my room till he have
gone his way,--the villain, the upstart, that I may thank for all my
trouble! Oh, it brings it all back again, to see his face!" And Jeanne
actually brought a tear or two into her wily eyes.

The no less wily Victorine tossed her head and replied: "Indeed, then,
and the waiting on him is no more to my liking than to thine own, Aunt
Jeanne! I did greatly desire to see his face, to see what manner of man
he could be that would turn his father's widow out of her house; but I
think Benoit may hand the gentleman his wine, not I." And Victorine
sauntered saucily to the window and looked out.

"A plague on all their tempers!" thought Jeanne, impatiently. Her plans
seemed to be thwarted when she least expected it. For a few moments she
was silent, revolving in her mind the wisdom of taking Victorine into
her counsels, and confiding to her the motive she had for wishing her to
be seen by Willan Blaycke. But she dreaded lest this might defeat her
object by making the girl self-conscious. Jeanne was perplexed; and in
her perplexity her face took on an expression as if she were grieved.
Victorine, who was much dismayed by her aunt's seeming acquiescence in
her refusal to serve the supper, exclaimed now,--

"Nay, nay, Aunt Jeanne, do not look grieved. I will indeed go down and
serve the supper, if thou takest it so to heart. The man is nothing to
me, that I need fear to see him."

"Thou art a good girl," replied Jeanne, much relieved, and little
dreaming how she had been gulled by Mademoiselle Victorine,--"thou art a
good girl, and thou shalt have my lavender-colored paduasoy gown if
thou wilt lay thyself out to see that all is at its best, both in the
bedrooms and for the supper. I would have Willan Blaycke perceive that
one may live as well outside of his house as in it. And, Victorine," she
added, with an attempt at indifference in her tone, "wear thy white gown
thou hadst on last Sunday. It pleased me better than any gown thou hast
worn this year,--that, and thy black silk apron with the red lace; they
become thee."

So Victorine had arrayed herself in the white gown; it was of linen
quaintly woven, with a tiny star thrown up in the pattern, and shone
like damask. The apron was of heavy black silk, trimmed all around with
crimson lace, and crimson lace on the pockets. A crimson rose in
Victorine's black hair and crimson ribbons at her throat and on her
sleeves completed the toilet. It was ravishing; and nobody knew it
better than Mademoiselle Victorine herself, who had toiled many an hour
in the convent making the crimson lace for the precise purpose of
trimming a black apron with it, if ever she escaped from the convent,
and who had chosen out of fifty rose-bushes at the last Parish Fair the
one whose blossoms matched her crimson lace. There is a picture still to
be seen of Victorine in this costume; and many a handsome young girl,
having copied the costume exactly for a fancy ball, has looked from the
picture to herself and from herself to the picture, and gone to the ball
dissatisfied, thinking in her heart,--

"After all, I don't look half as well in it as that French girl did."

As Victorine came leisurely down the stairs, half singing, half
chanting, her little song, Jeanne looked at her in admiration.

"Well, and if either of the men have an eye for a pretty girl clad in
attire that becomes her, they can look at thee, my Victorine. That black
apron will go well with the lavender paduasoy also."

"That it will, Aunt Jeanne," answered Victorine, her face glowing with
pleasure. "I can never thank thee enough. I did not think ever to have
the paduasoy for my own."

"All my gowns are for thee," said Jeanne, in a voice of great
tenderness. "I shall presently take to the wearing of black; it better
suits my years. Thou canst be young; it is enough. I am an old woman."

Victorine bent over and kissed her aunt, and whispered: "Fie on thee,
Aunt Jeanne! The Father Hennepin does not think thee an old woman;
neither Pierre Gaspard from the mill. I hear the men when they are
talking under my window of thee. Thou knowest thou mightest wed any day
if thou hadst the mind."

Jeanne shook her head. "That I have not, then," she said. "I keep the
name of Willan Blaycke for all that of any man hereabouts which can be
offered to me. Thou art the one to wed, not I. But far off be that day,"
she added hastily; "thou art young for it yet."

"Ay," replied the artful young maiden, "that am I, and I think I will be
old before any man make a drudge of me. I like my freedom better. And
now will I go down and serve thy stepson,--the handsome magpie, the
reader of books." And with a mocking laugh Victorine bounded down the
staircase and went into the kitchen. Her grandfather was running about
there in great confusion, from dresser to fireplace, to table, to
pantry, back and forth, breathless and red in the face. The pigeons were
sputtering before the fire, and the odor of the frying bacon filled the
place.

"Diable! Girl, out of this!" he cried; "this is no place for thee. Go to
thine aunt."

"She did bid me come and serve the supper for the strangers," replied
Victorine. "She herself will not come down."

"Go to the devil! Thou shalt not, and it is I that say it," shouted
Victor; and Victorine, terrified, fled back to Jeanne, and reported her
grandfather's words.

Poor Jeanne was at her wit's end now. "Why said he that?" she asked.

"I know not," replied Victorine, demurely. "He was in one of his great
rages, and I do think that the pigeons are fast burning, by the smell."

"Bah!" cried Jeanne, in disgust. "Is this a house to live in, where one
cannot be let down from one's chamber except in sight of the highway?
Run, Victorine! Look over and see if the strangers be in sight. I must
go down to the kitchen. I would a witch were at hand with a broom or a
tail of a mare. I'd mount and down the chimney, I warrant me!"

Laughing heartily, Victorine ran to reconnoitre. "There is none in
sight," she cried. "Thou canst come down. A man is asleep under the
pear-tree, but I think not he is one of them."

Jeanne ran quickly down the stairs, followed by Victorine, who, as she
entered the kitchen again, took up her position in one corner, and stood
leaning against the wall, tapping her pretty little black slippers with
their crimson bows impatiently on the floor. Jeanne drew her father to
one side, and whispered in his ear. He retorted angrily, in a louder
tone. Not a look or tone was lost on Victorine. Presently the old man,
shrugging his shoulders, went back to the pigeons, and began to turn the
spit, muttering to himself in French. Jeanne had conquered.

"Thy grandfather is in a rage," she said to Victorine, "because we must
give meat and drink to the man who has treated me so ill; that is why he
did not wish thee to serve. But I have persuaded him that it is needful
that we do all we can to keep Willan Blaycke well disposed to us. He
might withhold from me all my money if he so chose; and he is rich, and
we are but poor people. We could not find any redress. So do thou take
care and treat him as if thou hadst never heard aught against him from
me. It will lie with thee, child, to see that he goes not away angered;
for thy grandfather is in a mood when the saints themselves could not
hold his tongue if he have a mind to speak. Keep thou out of his sight
till supper be ready. I stay here till all is done."

Between the kitchen and the common living-room, which was also the
dining-room, was a long dark passage-way, at one end of which was a
small storeroom. Here Victorine took refuge, to wait till her aunt
should call her to serve the supper. The window of this storeroom was
wide open. The shutter had fallen off the hinges several days before,
and Benoit had forgotten to put it up. Victorine seated herself on a
cider cask close to the window, and leaning her head against the wall
began to sing again in a low tone. She had a habit of singing at all
times, and often hardly knew that she sang at all. The Provençal melody
was still running in her head.

  "Ah! luck for the bees,
  The flowers are in flower;
  Luck for the bees in spring.
  Ah me, but the flowers, they die in an hour;
  No summer is fair as the spring.
  Ah! luck for the bees;
  The honey in flowers
  Is highest when they are on wing!"

she sang. Then suddenly breaking off she began singing a wild, sad
melody of another song:--

  "The sad spring rain,
  It has come at last.
  The graves lie plain,
  And the brooks run fast;
  And drip, drip, drip,
  Falls the sad spring rain;
  And tears fall fresh,
  In the sad spring air,
  From lovers' eyes,
  On the graves laid bare."

It was very dark in the storeroom; it was dark out of doors. The moon
had been up for an hour, but the sky was overcast thick with clouds.
Willan Blaycke was still asleep under the pear-tree. His head was only a
few feet from the storeroom window. The sound of Victorine's singing
reached his ears, but did not at first waken him, only blended
confusedly with his dreams. In a few seconds, however, he waked, sprang
to his feet, and looked about him in bewilderment. Out of the darkness,
seemingly within arm's reach, came the low sweet notes,--

  "And drip, drip, drip,
    Falls the sad spring rain;
  And tears fall fresh,
    In the sad spring air,
  From lovers' eyes,
    On the graves laid bare."

Groping his way in the direction from which the voice came, Willan
stumbled against the wall of the house, and put his hand on the
window-sill. "Who sings in here?" he cried, fumbling in the empty space.

"Holy Mother!" shrieked Victorine, and ran out of the storeroom, letting
the door shut behind her with all its force. The noise echoed through
the inn, and waked Willan's friend, who was also taking a nap in one of
the old leather-cushioned high-backed chairs in the bar-room. Rubbing
his eyes, he came out to look for Willan. He met him on the threshold.

"Ah!" he said, "where have you been all this time? I have slept in a
chair, and am vastly rested."

"The Lord only knows where I have been," answered Willan, laughing. "I
too have slept; but a woman with a voice like the voice of a wild bird
has been singing strange melodies in my ear."

The elder man smiled. "The dreams of young men," he said, "are wont to
have the sound of women's voices in them."

"This was no dream," retorted Willan. "She was so near me I heard the
panting breath with which she cried out and fled when I made a step
towards her."

"Gentlemen, will it please you to walk in to supper?" said Victor,
appearing in the doorway with a clean white apron on, and no trace, in
his smiling and obsequious countenance, of the rage in which he had been
a few minutes before.

A second talk with Jeanne after Victorine had left the kitchen had
produced a deep impression on Victor's mind. He was now as eager as
Jeanne herself for the meeting between Victorine and Willan Blaycke.

The pigeons were not burned, after all. Most savory did they smell, and
Willan Blaycke and his friend fell to with a will.

"Saidst thou not thou hadst some of thy famous pear cider left,
landlord?" asked Willan.

"Ay, sir, my granddaughter has gone to draw it; she will be here in a
trice."

As he spoke the door opened, and Victorine entered, bearing in her left
hand a tray with two curious old blue tankards on it; in her right hand
a gray stone jug with blue bands at its neck. Both the jug and the
tankards had come over from Normandy years ago. Victorine raised her
eyes, and looking first at Willan, then at his friend, went immediately
to the older man, and courtesying gracefully, set her tray down on the
table by his side, and filled the two tankards. The cider was like
champagne; it foamed and sparkled. The old man eyed it keenly.

"This looks like the cidre mousseux I drank at Littry," he said, and
taking up his tankard tossed it off at a draught. "Tastes like it, too,
by Jove!" he said. "Old man, out of what fruits in this bleak country
dost thou conjure such a drink?"

Victor smiled. Praise of the cider of the Golden Pear went to his heart
of hearts. "Monsieur has been in Calvados," he said. "It is kind of him
then to praise this poor drink of mine, which would be but scorned
there. There is not a warm enough sunshine to ripen our pears here to
their best, and the variety is not the same; but such as they are, I
have an orchard of twenty trees, and it is by reason of them that the
inn has its name."

Willan was not listening to this conversation. He held his fork, with a
bit of untasted pigeon on it, uplifted in one hand; with the other he
drummed nervously on the table. His eyes were riveted on Victorine, who
stood behind the old man's chair, her soft black eyes glancing quietly
from one thing to another on the table to see if all were right.
Willan's gaze did not escape the keen eyes of Victorine's grandfather.
Chuckling inwardly, he assumed an expression of great anxiety, and
coming closer to Willan's chair said in a deprecating tone,--

"Are not the pigeons done to your liking, sir? You do not eat."

Willan started, dropped his fork, then hastily took it up again.

"Yes, yes," he said, "that they are; done to a turn." And he fell to
eating again. But do what he would, he could not keep his eyes off the
face of the girl. If she moved, his gaze followed her about the room, as
straight as a steel follows on after a magnet; and when she stood still,
he cast furtive glances that way each minute. In very truth, he might
well be forgiven for so doing. Not often does it fall to the lot of men
to see a more bewitching face than the face of Victorine Dubois. Many a
woman might be found fairer and of a nobler cast of feature; but in the
countenance of Victorine Dubois was an unaccountable charm wellnigh
independent of feature, of complexion, of all which goes to the ordinary
summing up of a woman's beauty. There was in the glance of her eye a
something, I know not what, which no man living could wholly resist. It
was at once defiant and alluring, tender and mocking, artless and
mischievous. No man could make it out; no man might see it twice alike
in the space of an hour. No more was the girl herself twice alike in an
hour, or a day, for that matter. She was far more like some frolicsome
creature of the woods than like a mortal woman. The quality of wildness
which Willan had felt in her voice was in her nature. Neither her
grandfather nor her mother had in the least comprehended her during the
few months she had lived with them. A certain gentleness of nature,
which was far more physical than mental, far more an idle nonchalance
than recognition of relations to others, had blinded them to her real
capriciousness and selfishness. They rarely interfered with her, or
observed her with any discrimination. Their love was content with her
surface of good humor, gayety, and beauty; she was an ever-present
delight and pride to them both, and that she might only partially
reciprocate this fondness never crossed their minds. They did not
realize that during all these eighteen years that they had been caring,
planning, and plotting for her their names had represented nothing in
her mind except unseen, unknown relatives to whom she was indebted for
support, but to whom she also owed what she hated and rebelled
against,--her imprisonment in the convent. Why should she love them?
Blood tells, however; and when Victorine found herself free, and face to
face with the grandfather of whom she had so long heard and only once
seen, and the Aunt Jeanne who had been described to her as the loving
benefactress of her youth, she had a new and affectionate sentiment
towards them. But she would at any minute have calmly sacrificed them
both for the furtherance of her own interests; and the thoughts she was
thinking while Willan Blaycke gazed at her so ardently this night were
precisely as follows:--

"If I could only have a good chance at him, I could make him marry me. I
see it in his face. I suppose I'd never see Aunt Jeanne again, or
grandfather; but what of that? I'd play my cards better than Aunt Jeanne
did, I know that much. Let me once get to be mistress of that stone
house--" And the color grew deeper and deeper on Victorine's cheeks in
the excitement of these reflections.

"Poor girl!" Willan Blaycke was thinking. "I must not gaze at her so
constantly. The color in her cheeks betrays that I distress her." And
the honest gentleman tried his best to look away and bear good part in
conversation with his friend. It was a doubly good stroke on the part of
the wily Victorine to take her place behind the elder man's chair. It
looked like a proper and modest preference on her part for age; and it
kept her out of the old man's sight, and in the direct range of Willan's
eyes as he conversed with his friend. When she had occasion to hand
anything to Willan she did so with an apparent shyness which was
captivating; and the tone of voice in which she spoke to him was low and
timid.

Old Victor could hardly contain himself. He went back and forth between
the dining-room and kitchen far oftener than was necessary, that he
might have the pleasure of saying to Jeanne: "It works! it works! He
doth gaze the eyes out of his head at her. The girl could not do better.
She hath affected the very thing which will snare him the quickest."

"Oh no, father! Thou mistakest Victorine. She hath no plan of snaring
him; it was with much ado I got her to consent to serve him at all. It
was but for my sake she did it."

Victor stared at Jeanne when she said this. "Thou hast not told her,
then?" he said.

"Nay, that would have spoiled all; if the girl herself had it in her
head, he would have seen it."

Victor walked slowly back into the dining-room, and took further and
closer observations of Mademoiselle Victorine's behavior and
expressions. When he went next to the kitchen he clapped Jeanne on the
shoulder, and said with a laugh: "'Tis a wise mother knows her own
child. If that girl in yonder be not bent on turning the head of Willan
Blaycke before she sleeps to-night, may the devil fly away with me!"

"Well, likely he may, if thou prove not too heavy a load," retorted the
filial Jeanne. "I tell thee the girl's heart is full of anger against
Willan Blaycke. She is but doing my bidding. I charged her to see to it
that he was pleased, that he should go away our friend."

"And so he will go," replied Victor, dryly; "but not for thy bidding or
mine. The man is that far pleased already that he shifteth as if the
very chair were hot beneath him. A most dutiful niece thou hast,
Mistress Jeanne!"

When supper was over Willan Blaycke walked hastily out of the house. He
wanted to be alone. The clouds had broken away, and the full moon shone
out gloriously. The great pear-tree looked like a tree wrapped in cloud,
its blossoms were so thick and white. Willan paced back and forth
beneath it, where he had lain sleeping before supper. He looked toward
the window from whence he had heard the singing voice. "It must have
been she," he said. "How shall I bring it to pass to see her again? for
that I will and must." He went to the window and looked in. All was
dark. As he turned away the door at the farther end opened, and a ray of
light flashing in from the hall beyond showed Victorine bearing in her
hand the jug of cider. She had made this excuse to go to the storeroom
again, having observed that Willan had left the house.

"He might seek me again there," thought she.

Willan heard the sound, turned back, and bounding to the window
exclaimed, "Was it thou who sang?"

Victorine affected not to hear. Setting down her jug, she came close to
the window and said respectfully: "Didst thou call? What can I fetch,
sir?"

Willan Blaycke leaned both his arms on the window-sill, and looking into
the eyes of Victorine Dubois replied: "Marry, girl, thou hast already
fetched me to such a pass that thy voice rings in my ears. I asked thee
if it were thou who sang?"

Retreating from the window a step or two, Victorine said sorrowfully: "I
did not think that thou hadst the face of one who would jest lightly
with maidens." And she made as if she would go away.

"Pardon, pardon!" cried Willan. "I am not jesting; I implore thee, think
it not. I did sleep under this tree before supper, and heard such
singing! I had thought it a bird over my head except that the song had
words. I know it was thou. Be not angry. Why shouldst thou? Where didst
thou learn those wild songs?"

"From Sister Clarice, in the convent," answered Victorine. "It is only
last Easter that my grandfather fetched me from the convent to live with
him and my aunt Jeanne."

"Thy aunt Jeanne," said Willan, slowly. "Is she thy aunt?"

"Yes," said Victorine, sadly; "she that was thy father's wife, whom thou
wilt not have in thy house."

This was a bold stroke on Victorine's part. To tell truth, she had had
no idea one moment before of saying any such thing; but a sudden emotion
of resentment got the better of her, and the words were uttered before
she knew it.

Willan was angry. "All alike," he thought to himself,--"a bad lot. I
dare say the woman has set the girl here for nothing else than to try to
play on my feelings." And it was in a very cold tone that he replied to
Victorine,--

"Thou art not able to judge of such matters at thy age. Thy aunt is
better here than there. Thou knowest," he added in a gentler tone,
seeing Victorine's great black eyes swimming in sudden tears, "that she
was never as mother to me. I had never seen her till I returned a man
grown."

Victorine was sobbing now. "Oh," she cried, "what ill luck is mine! I
have angered thee; and my aunt did especially charge me that I was to
treat thee well. She doth never speak an ill word of thee, sir, never!
Do not thou charge my hasty words to her." And Victorine leaned out of
the window, and looked up in Willan Blaycke's face with a look which she
had had good reason to know was well calculated to move a man's heart.

Willan Blaycke had led a singularly pure life. He was of a reticent and
partly phlegmatic nature; though he looked so like his father, he
resembled him little in temperament. This calmness of nature, added to a
deep-seated pride, had stood him in stead of firmly rooted principles of
virtue, and had carried him safe through all the temptations of his
unprotected and lonely youth. He had the air and bearing, and had had in
most things the experience, of a man of the world; and yet he was as
ignorant of the wily ways of a wily woman as if he had never been out of
the wilderness. Victorine's tears smote on him poignantly.

"Thou poor child!" he said most kindly, "do not weep. Thou hast done no
harm. I bear no ill will to thine aunt, and never did; and if I had,
thou wouldst have disarmed it. This inn seems to me no place for a young
maiden like thee."

Victorine glanced cautiously around her, and whispered: "It were
ungrateful in me to say as much; but oh, sir, if thou didst but know how
I wish myself back in the convent! I like not the ways of this place;
and I fear so much the men who are often here. When thou didst speak at
first I did think thou wert like them; but now I perceive that thou art
quite different. Thou seemest to me like the men of whom Sister Clarice
did tell me." Victorine stopped, called up a blush to her cheeks, and
said: "But I must not stay talking with thee. My aunt will be looking
for me."

"Stay," said Willan. "What did the Sister Clarice tell thee of men? I
thought not that nuns conversed on such matters."

"Oh!" replied Victorine, innocently, "it was different with the Sister
Clarice. She was a noble lady who had been betrothed, and her betrothed
died; and it was because there were none left so noble and so good as
he, she said, that she had taken the veil and would die in the convent.
She did talk to me whole nights about this young lord whom she was to
have wed, and she did think often that she saw his face look down
through the roof of the cell."

Clever Victorine! She had invented this tale on the spur of the instant.
She could not have done better if she had plotted long to devise a
method of flattering Willan Blaycke. It is strange how like inspiration
are the impulses of artful women at times. It would seem wellnigh
certain that they must be prompted by malicious fiends wishing to lure
men on to destruction in the surest way.

Victorine had talked with Willan perhaps five minutes. In that space of
time she had persuaded him of four things, all false,--that she was an
innocent, guileless girl; that she had been seized with a sudden and
reverential admiration for him; that she had no greater desire in life
than to be back again in the safe shelter of the convent; and that her
aunt Jeanne had never said an ill-word of him.

"Victorine! Victorine!" called a sharp loud voice,--the voice of
Jeanne,--who would have bitten her tongue out rather than have broken
in on this interview, if she had only known. "Victorine, where art thou
loitering?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, sir, do not thou tell my grandfather that I have
talked with thee!" cried Victorine, in feigned terror. "Here I am, aunt;
I will be there in one second," she cried aloud, and ran hastily down
the storeroom. At the door she stopped, hesitated, turned back, and
going towards the window said wistfully: "Thou hast never been here
before all these three months. I suppose thou travellest this way very
seldom."

The full moon shone on Victorine's face as she said this. Her expression
was like that of a wistful little child. Willan Blaycke did not quite
know what he was doing. He reached his hand across the window-sill
towards Victorine; she did not extend hers. "I will come again sooner,"
he said. "Wilt thou not shake hands?"

Victorine advanced, hesitated, advanced again; it was inimitably done.
"The next time, if I know thee better, I might dare," she whispered, and
fled like a deer.

"Where hast thou been?" said Jeanne, angrily. "The supper dishes are
yet all to wash."

Victorine danced gayly around the kitchen floor. "Talking with the son
of thy husband," she said. "He seems to me much cleverer than a magpie."

Jeanne burst out laughing. "Thou witch!" she said, secretly well
pleased. "But where didst thou fall upon him? Thou hast not been in the
bar-room?"

"Nay, he fell upon me, the rather," replied Victorine, artlessly, "as I
was resting me at the window of the long storeroom. He heard me singing,
and came there."

"Did he praise thy voice?" asked Jeanne. "He is a brave singer himself."

"Is he?" said Victorine, eagerly. "He did not tell me that. He said my
voice was like the voice of a wild bird. And there be birds and birds
again, I was minded to tell him, and not all birds make music; but he
seemed to me not one to take jests readily."

"So," said Jeanne; "that he is not. Leaves he early in the morning?"

"I think so," replied Victorine. "He did not tell me, but I heard the
elder man say to Benoit to have the horses ready at earliest light."

"Thou must serve them again in the morning," said Jeanne. "It will be
but the once more."

"Nay," answered Victorine, "I will not."

Something in the girl's tone arrested her aunt's attention. "And why?"
she said sharply, looking scrutinizingly at her.

Victorine returned the gaze with one as steady. It was as well, she
thought, that there should be an understanding between her aunt and
herself soon as late.

"Because he will come again the sooner, Aunt Jeanne, if he sees me no
more after to-night." And Victorine gave a little mocking nod with her
head, turned towards the dresser piled high with dishes, and began to
make a great clatter washing them.

Jeanne was silent. She did not know how to take this.

Victorine glanced up at her mischievously, and laughed aloud. "Better a
grape for me than two figs for thee. Dost know the old proverb, Aunt
Jeanne? Thou hadst thy figs; I will e'en pluck the grape."

"Bah, child! thou talkest wildly," said Jeanne; "I know not what thou
'rt at."

But she did know very well; only she did not choose to seem to
understand. However, as she thought matters over later in the evening,
in the solitude of her own room, one thing was clear to her, and that
was that it would probably be safe to trust Mademoiselle Victorine to
row her own boat; and Jeanne said as much to her father when he inquired
of her how matters had sped.

In spite of Victorine's refusal to serve at the breakfast, she had not
the least idea of letting Willan go away in the morning without being
reminded of her presence. She was up before light, dressed in a pretty
pink and white flowered gown, which set off her black hair and eyes
well, and made her look as if she were related to an apple-blossom. She
watched and listened till she heard the sound of voices and the horses'
feet in the courtyard below; then throwing open her casement she leaned
out and began to water her flowers on the stairway roof. At the first
sound Willan Blaycke looked up and saw her. It was as pretty a picture
as a man need wish to see, and Willan gazed his fill at it. The window
was so high up in the air that the girl might well be supposed not to
see anything which was going on in the courtyard; indeed, she never once
looked that way, but went on daintily watering plant after plant,
picking off dead leaves, crumpling them up in her fingers and throwing
them down as if she were alone in the place; singing, too, softly in a
low tone snatches of a song, the words of which went floating away
tantalizingly over Willan's head, in spite of all his efforts to hear.

It was a great tribute to Victorine's powers as an actress that it never
once crossed Willan's mind that she could possibly know he was looking
at her all this time. It was equally a token of another man's estimate
of her, that when old Benoit, hearing the singing, looked up and saw her
watering her flowers at this unexampled hour, he said under his breath,
"Diable!" and then glancing at the face of Willan, who stood gazing up
at the window utterly unconscious of the old ostler's presence, said
"Diable!" again, but this time with a broad and amused smile.



III.


  The fountain leaps as if its nearest goal
  Were sky, and shines as if its life were light.
  No crystal prism flashes on our sight
  Such radiant splendor of the rainbow's whole
  Of color. Who would dream the fountain stole
  Its tints, and if the sun no more were bright
  Would instant fade to its own pallid white?
  Who dream that never higher than the dole
  Of its own source, its stream may rise?
                                          Thus we
  See often hearts of men that by love's glow
  Are sudden lighted, lifted till they show
  All semblances of true nobility;
  The passion spent, they tire of purity,
  And sink again to their own levels low!

The next time Willan Blaycke came to the Golden Pear he did not see
Victorine. This was by no device of hers, though if she had considered
beforehand she could not better have helped on the impression she had
made on him than by letting him go away disappointed, having come hoping
to see her. She was away on a visit at the home of Pierre Gaspard the
miller, whose eldest daughter Annette was Victorine's one friend in the
parish. There was an eldest son, also, Pierre second, on whom
Mademoiselle Victorine had cast observant glances, and had already
thought to herself that "if nothing else turned up--but there was time
enough yet." Not so thought Pierre, who was madly in love with
Victorine, and was so put about by her cold and capricious ways with him
that he was fast coming to be good for nothing in the mill or on the
farm. But he is of no consequence in this account of the career of
Mademoiselle, only this,--that if it had not been for him she had not
probably been away from the Golden Pear on the occasion of Willan
Blaycke's second visit. Pierre had not shown himself at the inn for some
weeks, and Victorine was uneasy about him. Spite of her plans about a
much finer bird in the bush, she was by no means minded to lose the bird
she had in hand. She was too clear-sighted a young lady not to perceive
that it would be no bad thing to be ultimately Mistress Gaspard of the
mill,--no bad thing if she could not do better, of which she was as yet
far from sure. So she had inveigled her aunt into taking the notion into
her head that she needed change, and the two had ridden over to
Gaspard's for a three days' visit, the very day before Willan arrived.

"I warrant me he was set aback when I did tell him as he alighted that I
feared me he would not be well served just at present, as there was no
woman about the house," said Victor, chuckling as he told Jeanne the
story. "He did give a little start,--not so little but that I saw it
well, though he fetched himself up with his pride in a trice, and said
loftily: 'I have no doubt all will be sufficient; it is but a bite of
supper and a bed that I require. I must go on at daybreak,' But Benoit
saw him all the evening pacing back and forth under the pear-tree, and
many times looking up at the shut casement of the window where he had
seen Victorine standing on the morning when he was last here."

"Did he ask aught about her?" said Jeanne.

"Bah!" said Victor, contemptuously. "Dost take him for a fool? He will
be farther gone than he is yet, ere he will let either thee or me see
that the girl is aught to him."

"I wish he had found her here," said Jeanne. "It was an ill bit of luck
that took her away; and that Pierre, he is like to go mad about her,
since these three days under one roof. I knew not he was so daft, or I
had not taken her there."

"She were well wed to Pierre Gaspard," said Victor; "mated with one's
own degree is best mated, after all. What shall we say if the lad come
asking her hand? He will not ask twice, I can tell you that of a
Gaspard."

"Trust the girl to keep him from asking till she be ready to say him yea
or nay," replied Jeanne. "I know not wherever the child hath learnt such
ways with men; surely in the convent she saw none but priests."

"And are not priests men?" sneered Victor, with an evil laugh. "Faith,
and I think there is nought which other men teach which they do not
teach better!"

"Fie, father! thou shouldst not speak ill of the clergy; it is bad
luck," said Jeanne. Jeanne was far honester of nature than either her
father or her child; she was not entirely without reverence, and as far
as she could, without too much inconvenience, kept good faith with her
religion.

When Victorine heard that Willan Blaycke had been at the inn in their
absence, she shrugged her pretty shoulders, and said, laughingly, "Eh,
but that is good!"

"Why sayest thou so?" replied Jeanne. "I say it is ill."

"And I say it is good," retorted Victorine; and not another word could
Jeanne get out of her on the matter.

Victorine was right. As Willan Blaycke rode away from the Golden Pear,
he was so vexed with the unexpected disappointment that he was in a mood
fit to do some desperate thing. He had tried with all his might to put
Victorine's face and voice and sweet little form out of his thoughts,
but it was beyond his power. She haunted him by day and by night,--worse
by night than by day,--for he dreamed continually of standing just the
other side of a window-sill across which Victorine reached snowy little
hands and laid them in his, and just as he was about to grasp them the
vision faded, and he waked up to find himself alone. Willan Blaycke had
never loved any woman. If he had,--if he had had even the least
experience in the way of passionate fancies, he could have rated this
impression which Victorine had produced on him for what it was worth and
no more, and taking counsel of his pride have waited till the discomfort
of it should have passed away. But he knew no better than to suppose
that because it was so keen, so haunting, it must last forever. He was
almost appalled at the condition in which he found himself. It more than
equalled all the descriptions which he had read of unquenchable love. He
could not eat; he could not occupy himself with any affairs: all
business was tedious to him, and all society irksome. He lay awake long
hours, seeing the arch black eyes and rosy cheeks and piquant little
mouth; worn out by restlessness, he slept, only to see the eyes and
cheeks and mouth more vividly. It was all to no purpose that he reasoned
with himself,--that he asked himself sternly a hundred times a day,--

"Wilt thou take the granddaughter of Victor Dubois to be the mother of
thy children? Is it not enough that thy father disgraced his name for
that blood? Wilt thou do likewise?"

The only answer which came to all these questions was Victorine's soft
whisper: "Oh, if thou didst but know, sir, how I wish myself safe back
in the convent!" and, "Thou seemest to me like the men of whom Sister
Clarice did tell me."

"Poor little girl!" he said; "she is of their blood, but not of their
sort. Her mother was doubtless a good and pure woman, even though she
had not good birth or breeding; and this child hath had good training
from the Sisters in the convent. She is of a most ladylike bearing, and
has a fine sense of all which is proper and becoming, else would she not
so dislike the ways of an inn, and have such fear of the men that gaze
on her there."

So touching is the blindness of those blinded by love! It is enough to
make one weep sometimes to see it,--to see, as in this instance of
Willan Blaycke, an upright, modest, and honest gentleman creating out of
the very virtues of his own nature the being whom he will worship, and
then clothing this ideal with a bit of common clay, of immodest and
ill-behaved flesh, which he hath found ready-made to his hand, and full
of the snare of good looks.

When Willan Blaycke rode away this time from the Golden Pear, he was, as
we say, in a mood ready to do some desperate thing, he was so vexed and
disappointed. What he did do, proved it; he turned his horse and rode
straight for Gaspard's mill. The artful Benoit had innocently dropped
the remark, as he was holding the stirrup for Willan to mount, that
Mistress Jeanne and her niece were at Pierre Gaspard's; that for his
part he wished them back,--there was no luck about a house without a
woman in it.

Willan Blaycke made some indifferent reply, as if all that were nothing
to him, and galloped off. But before he had gone five miles Benoit's
leaven worked, and he turned into a short-cut lane he knew which led to
the mill. He did not stop to ask himself what he should do there; he
simply galloped on towards Victorine. It was only a couple of leagues to
the mill, and its old tower and wheel were in sight before he thought of
its being near. Then he began to consider what errand he could make;
none occurred to him. He reined his horse up to a slow walk, and fell
into a reverie,--so deep a one that he did not see what he might have
seen had he looked attentively into a copse of poplars on a high bank
close to his road,--two young girls sitting on the ground peeling
slender willow stems for baskets. It was Annette Gaspard and Victorine;
and at the sound of a horse's feet they both leaned forward and looked
down into the road.

"Oh, see, Victorine!" Annette cried; "a brave rider goes there. Who can
he be? I wonder if he goes to the mill? Perhaps my father will keep him
to dinner."

At the first glance Victorine recognized Willan Blaycke, but she gave no
sign to her friend that she knew him.

"He sitteth his horse like one asleep," she said, "or in a dream. I call
him not a brave rider. He hath forgotten something," she added; "see, he
is turning about!" And with keen disappointment the girls saw the
horseman wheel suddenly, and gallop back on the road he had come. At the
last moment, by a mighty effort, Willan had wrenched his will to the
decision that he would not seek Victorine at the mill.

And this was why, when her aunt told her that he had been at the inn
during their absence, Victorine shrugged her shoulders, and said with so
pleased a laugh, "Eh! that is good." She understood by a lightning
intuition all which had happened,--that he had ridden towards the mill
seeking her, and had changed his mind at the last, and gone away. But
she kept her own counsel, told nobody that she had seen him, and said in
her mischievous heart, "He will be back before long."

And so he was; but not even Victorine, with all her confidence in the
strength of the hold she had so suddenly acquired on him, could have
imagined how soon and with what purpose he would return. On the evening
of the sixth day, just at sunset, he appeared, walking with his
saddle-bags on his shoulders and leading his horse. The beast limped
badly, and had evidently got a sore hurt. Old Benoit was standing in the
arched entrance of the courtyard as they approached.

"Marry, but that beast is in a bad way!" he exclaimed, and went to meet
them. Benoit loved a horse; and Willan Blaycke's black stallion was a
horse to which any man's heart might well go out, so knowing, docile,
proud, and swift was the creature, and withal most beautifully made. The
poor thing went haltingly enough now, and every few minutes stopped and
looked around piteously into his master's face.

"And the man doth look as distressed as the beast," thought Benoit, as
he drew near; "it is a good man that so loves an animal." And Benoit
warmed toward Willan as he saw his anxious face.

If Benoit had only known! No wonder Willan's face was sorrow-stricken!
It was he himself that had purposely lamed the stallion, that he might
have plain and reasonable excuse for staying at the Golden Pear some
days. He had not meant to hurt the poor creature so much, and his
conscience pricked him horribly at every step the horse took. He patted
him on his neck, spoke kindly to him, and did all in his power to atone
for his cruelty. That all was very little, however, for each step was
torture to the beast; his fore feet were nearly bleeding. This was what
Willan had done: the day before he had taken off two of the horse's
shoes, and then galloped fast over miles of rough and stony road. The
horse had borne himself gallantly, and shown no fatigue till nightfall,
when he suddenly went lame, and had grown worse in the night, so that
Willan had come very near having to lie by at an inn some leagues to the
north, where he had no mind to stay. A heavy price he was paying for the
delight of looking on Victorine's face, he began to think, as he toiled
along on foot, mile after mile, the saddle-bags on his shoulders, and
the hot sun beating down on his head; but reach the Golden Pear that day
he would, and he did,--almost as footsore as the stallion. Neither
master nor beast was wonted to rough ways.

"My horse is sadly lame," Willan said to Benoit as he came up. "He cast
two shoes yesterday, and I was forced to ride on, spite of it, for there
was no blacksmith on the road I came. I fear me thou canst not shoe him
to-night, his feet have grown so sore!"

"No, nor to-morrow nor the day after," cried Benoit, taking up the
inflamed feet and looking at them closely. "It was a sin, sir, to ride
such a creature unshod; he is a noble steed."

"Nay, I have not ridden a step to-day," answered Willan, "and I am
wellnigh as sore as he. We have come all the way from the north
boundary,--a matter of some six leagues, I think,--from the inn of Jean
Gauvois."

"But he is a farrier himself!" cried Benoit. "How let he the beast go
out like this?"

"It was I forbade him to touch the horse," replied the wily Willan. "He
did lame a good mare for me once, driving a nail into the quick. I
thought the horse would be better to walk this far and get thy more
skilful handling. There is not a man in this country, they tell me, can
shoe a horse so well as thou. Dost thou not know some secret of
healing," he continued, "by which thou canst harden the feet, so that
they will be fit to shoe to-morrow?"

Benoit shook his head. "Thy horse hath been too tenderly reared," he
said. "A hurt goes harder with him than with our horses. But I will do
my best, sir. I doubt not it will inconvenience thee much to wait here
till he be well. If thou couldst content thee with a beast sorry to look
at, but like the wind to go, we have a nag would carry thee along, and
thou couldst leave the stallion till thy return."

"But I come not back this way," replied Willan, strangely ready with his
lies, now he had once undertaken the rôle of a manoeuvrer. "I go far
south, even down to the harbors of the sound. I must bide the beast's
time now. He hath made time for me many a day, and I do assure you, good
Benoit, I love him as if he were my brother."

"Ay," replied the ostler; "so thought I when I saw thee bent under thy
saddle-bags and leading the horse by the rein. It's an evil man likes
not his beast. We say in Normandy, sir,--

  "'Evil master to good beast,
  Serve him ill at every feast!'"

"So he deserves," replied Willan, heartily; and in his heart he added,
"I hope I shall not get my deserts."

Benoit led the poor horse away toward the stables, and Willan entered
the house. No one was to be seen. Benoit had forgotten to tell him that
no one was at home except Victorine. It was a market-day at St. Urban's;
and Victor and Jeanne had gone for the day, and would not be back till
late in the evening.

Willan roamed on from room to room,--through the bar-room, the
living-room, the kitchen; all were empty, silent. As he retraced his
steps he stopped for a second at the foot of the stairs which led from
the living-room to the narrow passage-way overhead.

Victorine was in her aunt's room, and heard the steps. "Who is there?"
she called. Willan recognized her voice; he considered a second what he
should reply.

"Benoit! is it thou?" Victorine called again impatiently; and the next
minute she bounded down the stairway, crying, "Why dost thou terrify me
so, thou bad Benoit, not answering me when I--" She stopped, face to
face with Willan Blaycke, and gave a cry of honest surprise.

"Ah! but is it really thou?" she said, the rosy color mounting all over
her face as she recollected how she was attired. She had been asleep
all the warm afternoon, and had on only a white petticoat and a short
gown of figured stuff, red and white. Her hair was falling over her
shoulders. Willan's heart gave a bound as he looked at her. Before he
had fairly seen her, she had turned to fly.

"Yes, it is I,--it is I," he called after her. "Wilt thou not come
back?"

"Nay," answered Victorine, from the upper stair; "that I may not do, for
the house is alone." Victorine was herself now, and was wise enough not
to go quite out of sight. She looked entrancing between the dark wooden
balustrades, one slender hand holding to them, and the other catching up
part of her hair. "When my aunt returns, if she bids me to wait at
supper I shall see thee." And Victorine was gone.

"Then sing for me at thy window," entreated Willan.

"I know not the whole of any song," cried Victorine; but broke, as she
said it, into a snatch of a carol which seemed to the poor infatuated
man at the foot of the stairway like the song of an angel. He hurried
out, and threw himself down under the pear-tree where he had lain
before. The blossoms had all fallen from the pear-tree now, and through
the thinned branches he could see Victorine's window distinctly. She
could see him also.

"It would be no hard thing to love such a man as he, methinks," she said
to herself as she went on leisurely weaving the thick braids of her
hair, and humming a song just low enough for Willan to half hear and
half lose the words.

  "Once in a hedge a bird went singing,
    Singing because there was nobody near.
  Close to the hedge a voice came crying,
    'Sing it again! I am waiting to hear.
    Sing it forever! 'T is sweet to hear.'

  "Never again that bird went singing
    Till it was surer that no one was near.
  Long in that hedge there was somebody waiting,
    Crying in vain, 'I am waiting to hear.
    Sing it again! It was sweet to hear.'"

"I wonder if Sister Clarice's lover had asked her to sing, as Willan
Blaycke just now asked me, that she did make this song," thought
Victorine. "It hath a marvellous fitness, surely." And she repeated the
last three lines.

  "Long in that hedge there was somebody waiting,
    Crying in vain, 'I am waiting to hear.
    Sing it again! It was sweet to hear.'"

"But I should be silent like the bird, and not sing," she reflected, and
paused for a while. Willan listened patiently for a few moments. Then
growing impatient, he picked up a handful of turf and flung it up at the
window. Victorine laughed to herself as she heard it, but did not sing.
Another soft thud against the casement; no reply from Victorine. Then in
a moment more, in a rich deep voice, and a tune far sweeter than any
Victorine had sung, came these words:--

  "Faint and weary toiled a pilgrim,
    Faint and weary of his load;
  Sudden came a sweet bird winging
    Glad and swift across his road.

  "'Blessed songster!' cried the pilgrim,
    'Where is now the load I bore?
  I forget it in thy singing;
    Hearing thee, I faint no more,'

  "While he spoke the bird went winging
    Higher still, and soared away;
  'Cruel songster!' cried the pilgrim,
    'Cruel songster not to stay!'

  "Was the songster cruel? Never!
    High above some other road
  Glad and swift he still was singing,
    Lightening other pilgrims' load!"

Victorine bent her head and listened intently to this song. It touched
the best side of her nature.

"Indeed, that is a good song," she said to herself, "but it fitteth not
my singing. I make choice for whom I sing; I am not minded so to give
pleasure to all the world."

She racked her brains to recall some song which would be as pertinent a
reply to Willan's song as his had been to hers; but she could think of
none. She was vexed; for the romance of this conversing by means of
songs pleased her mightily. At last, half in earnest and half in fun,
she struck boldly into a measure on which she would hardly have ventured
could she have seen the serious and tender expression on the face of her
listener under the pear-tree. As Willan caught line after line of the
rollicking measure, his countenance changed.

"An elfish mood is upon her," he thought. "She doth hold herself so safe
in her chamber that she may venture on words she had not sung nearer at
hand. She is not without mischief in her blood, no doubt." And Willan's
own look began to grow less reverential and more eager as he listened.

  "The bee is a fool in the summer;
    He knows it when summer is flown:
  He might, for all good of his honey,
    As well have let flowers alone.

  "The butterfly, he is the wiser;
    He uses his wings when they 're grown;
  He takes his delight in the summer,
    And dies when the summer is done.

  "A heart is a weight in the bosom;
    A heart can be heavy as stone:
  Oh, what is the use of a lover?
    A maiden is better alone."

Victorine was a little frightened herself, as she sang this last stanza.
However, she said to herself: "I will bear me so discreetly at supper
that the man shall doubt his very ears if he have ever heard me sing
such words or not. It is well to perplex a man. The more he be
perplexed, the more he meditateth on thee; and the more he meditateth on
thee, the more his desire will grow, if it have once taken root."

A very wise young lady in her generation was this graduate of a convent
where no men save priests ever came!

Just as Victorine had sung the last verse of her song, she heard the
sound of wheels and voices on the road. Victor and Jeanne were coming
home. Willan heard the sounds also, and slowly arose from the ground and
sauntered into the courtyard. He had an instinct that it would be better
not to be seen under the pear-tree.

Great was the satisfaction of Victor and Jeanne when they found that
Willan Blaycke was a guest in the inn; still greater when they learned
that he would be kept there for at least two days by the lameness of his
horse.

"Thou need'st not make great haste with the healing of the beast," said
Victor to Benoit; "it might be a good turn to keep the man here for a
space." And the master exchanged one significant glance with his man,
and saw that he need say no more.

There was no such specific understanding between Jeanne and Victorine.
From some perverse and roguish impulse the girl chose to take no counsel
in this game she had begun to play; but each woman knew that the other
comprehended the situation perfectly.

When Victorine came into the dining-room to serve Willan Blaycke's
supper, she looked, to his eyes, prettier than ever. She wore the same
white gown and black silk apron with crimson lace she had worn before.
Her cheeks and her eyes were bright from the excitement of the
serenading and counter-serenading in which she had been engaged. Her
whole bearing was an inimitable blending of shyness and archness,
tempered by almost reverential respect. Willan Blaycke would have been
either more or less than mortal man if he had resisted it. He did
not,--he succumbed then and there and utterly to his love for Victorine;
and the next morning when breakfast was ready he electrified Victor
Dubois by saying, with a not wholly successful attempt at jocularity,--

"Look you! your man tells me I am like to be kept here a matter of some
three days or more, before my horse be fit to bear me. Now, it irks me
to be the cause of so much trouble, seeing that I am the only traveller
in the house. I pray you that I may sit down with you all at meal-times,
as is your wont, and that you make no change in the manner of your
living by reason of my being in the house. I shall be better pleased
so."

There was about as much command as request in Willan's manner; and after
some pretended hesitancy Victor yielded, only saying, by way of
breaking down the last barrier,--

"My daughter hath desired not to see thee. I know not how she may take
this request of thine; it seemeth but reasonable unto me, and it will be
that saving of work for her. I think she may consent."

Nothing but her love for Victorine would have induced Jeanne to sit
again at meat with her stepson, but for Victorine's sake Jeanne would
have done much harder things; and indeed, after the first few moments of
awkwardness had passed by, she found that she was much less
uncomfortable in Willan's presence than she had anticipated.

Willan's own manner did much to bring this about. He was so deeply in
love with Victorine that it had already transformed his sentiments on
most points, and on none more than in regard to Jeanne. He thought no
better of her character than he had thought before; but he found himself
frequently recollecting, as he had never done before, or at least had
never done in a kindly way, that, after all, she had been his father's
wife for ten years, and it would perhaps have been a more dignified
thing in him to have attempted to make her continue in a style of living
suitable to his father's name than to have relegated her, as he had
done, to her original and lower social station.

Jeanne's behavior towards him was very judicious. Affection is the best
teacher of tact in many an emergency in life; we see it every day among
ignorant and untaught people.

Jeanne knew, or felt without knowing, that the less she appeared to be
conscious of anything unusual or unpleasant in this resumption of
familiar relations on the surface, between herself and Willan, the more
free his mind would be to occupy itself with Victorine; and she acted
accordingly. She never obtruded herself on his attention; she never
betrayed any antagonism toward him, or any recollection of the former
and different footing on which they had lived. A stranger sitting at the
table would not have dreamed, from anything in her manner to him, that
she had ever occupied any other position than that of the landlord's
daughter and landlady of the inn.

A clear-sighted observer looking on at affairs in the Golden Pear for
the next three days would have seen that all the energies of both Victor
and Jeanne were bent to one end,--namely, leaving the coast clear for
Willan Blaycke to fall in love with Victorine. But all that Willan
thought was that Victor and his daughter were far quieter and modester
people than he had supposed, and seemed disposed to keep themselves to
themselves in a most proper fashion. It never crossed his mind that
there was anything odd in his finding Victorine so often and so long
alone in the living-room; in the uniform disappearance of both Victor
and Jeanne at an early hour in the evening. Willan was too much in love
to wonder at or disapprove of anything which gave him an opportunity of
talking with Victorine, or, still better, of looking at her.

What he liked best was silently to watch her as she moved about, doing
her light duties in her own graceful way. He was not a voluble lover; he
was still too much bewildered at his own condition. Moreover, he had not
yet shaken himself free from the tormenting disapproval of his
conscience; he lost sight of that very fast, however, as the days sped
on. Victorine played her cards most admirably. She did not betray even
by a look that she understood that he loved her; she showed towards him
an open and honest admiration, and an eager interest in all that he said
or did,--an almost affectionate good-will, too, in serving his every
want, and trying to make the time of his detention pass pleasantly to
him.

"It must be a sore trial, sir, for thee to be kept in a poor place like
this so many days. Benoit says that he thinks not thy horse can go
safely for yet some days," she said to Willan one morning. "Would it
amuse thee to ride over to Pierre Gaspard's mill to-day? If thou couldst
abide the gait of my grandfather's nag, I might go on my pony, and show
thee the way. The river is high now, and it is a fair sight to see the
white blossoms along the banks."

Cunning Victorine! She had all sorts of motives in this proposition. She
thought it would be well to show Willan Blaycke to Pierre. "He may
discover that there are other men beside himself in the world," she
mused; and, "It would please me much to go riding up to the door for
Annette to see with the same brave rider she did so admire;" and, "There
are many ways to bring a man near one in riding through the woods." All
these and many more similar musings lay hid behind the innocent look she
lifted to Willan's face as she suggested the ride.

It was only the third morning of Willan's stay at the inn; but the time
had been put to very good use. Already it had become natural to him to
come and go with Victorine,--to stay where she was, to seek her if she
were missing. Already he had learned the way up the outside staircase to
the platform where she kept her flowers and sometimes sat. He was living
in a dream,--going the way of all men, head-long, blindfold, into a life
of which he knew and could know nothing.

"Indeed, and that is what I should like best of all things," he replied
to Victorine. "Will thy aunt let thee go?"

"Why not?" asked Victorine, opening her eyes wide in astonishment. "I
ride all over the parish on my pony alone."

"Stupid of me!" ejaculated Willan, inwardly: "as if these people could
know any scruples about etiquette!"

"These people," as Willan contemptuously called them, stood at the door
of the inn, and watched him riding away with Victorine with hardly
disguised exultation. Not till the riders were fairly out of sight did
Victor venture to turn his face toward Jeanne's. Then, bursting into a
loud laugh, he clapped Jeanne on the shoulder, and said: "We'll see thee
grandmother of thy husband's grandchildren yet, Jeanne. Ha! ha!"

Jeanne flushed. She was not without a sense of shame. Her love for
Victorine made her sensitive to the stain on her birth.

"Thinkest thou it could ever be known?" she asked anxiously.

"Never," replied her father,--"never; 'tis as safe as if we were all
dead. And for that, the living are safer than the dead, if there be
tight enough lock on their mouths."

"He doth seem to be as much in love as one need," said Jeanne.

"Ay," said Victor, "more than ever his father was with thee."

"Canst thou not let that alone?" said Jeanne, angrily. "Surely it is
long enough gone by, and small profit came of it."

"Not so, not so, daughter," replied Victor, soothingly; "if we can but
set the girl in thy shoes, thou didst not wear thine for nought, even
though they pinched thee for a time."

"That they did," retorted Jeanne; "it gives me a cramp now but to
remember them."

Willan and Victorine galloped merrily along the river road. The woods
were sweet with spring fragrances; great thickets of dogwood trees were
white with flowers; mossy hillocks along the roadside were pink with the
dainty bells of the Linnaea. The road was little more than a woodman's
path, and curved now right, now left, in seeming caprice; now forded a
stream, now came out into a cleared field, again plunged back into dense
groves of larch and pine.

"Never knew I that the woods were so beautiful thus early in the year,"
said the honest Willan.

"Nor I, till to-day," said the artful Victorine, who knew well enough
what Willan did not know himself.

"Dost thou ride here alone?" asked Willan. "It is a wild place for thee
to be alone."

"If I came not alone, I could not come at all," replied Victorine,
sorrowfully. "My grandfather is too busy, and my aunt likes not to ride
except she must, on a market day or to go to church. No one but thou
hast ever walked or ridden with me," she added in a low voice, sighing;
"and now after two days or three thou wilt be gone."

Willan sighed also, but did not speak. The words, "I will always ride by
thy side, Victorine," were on his lips, but he felt himself still
withheld from speaking them.

The visit at the mill was unsatisfactory. The elder Gaspard was away,
and young Pierre was curt and surly. The sight of Victorine riding
familiarly, and with an evident joyous pride, by the side of one of the
richest men in the country, and a young man at that,--and a young man,
moreover, who looked and behaved as if he were in love with his
companion,--how could the poor miller be expected to be cordial and
unconstrained with such a sight before his eyes! Annette also was more
overawed even than Victorine had desired she should be by the sight of
the handsome stranger,--so overawed, and withal perhaps a little
curious, that she was dumb and awkward; and as for _Mère_ Gaspard, she
never under any circumstances had a word to say. So the visit was very
stupid, and everybody felt ill at ease,--especially Willan, who had lost
his temper in the beginning at a speech of Pierre's to Victorine, which
seemed to his jealous sense too familiar.

"I thought thou never wouldst take leave," he said ill-naturedly to
Victorine, as they rode away.

Victorine turned towards him with an admirably counterfeited expression
of surprise. "Oh, sir," she said, "I did think I ought to wait for thee
to take leave. I was dying with the desire I had to be back in the woods
again; and only when I could not bear it any longer, did I bethink me to
say that my aunt expected us back to dinner."

Long they lingered on the river-banks on their way home. Even the
plotting brain of Victorine was not insensible to the charm of the sky,
the air, the budding foliage, and the myriads of blossoms. "Oh, sir,"
she said, "I think there never was such a day as this before!"

"I know there never was," replied Willan, looking at her with an
expression which was key to his words. But the daughter of Jeanne Dubois
was not to be wooed by any vague sentimentalisms. There was one sentence
which she was intently waiting to hear Willan Blaycke speak. Anything
short of that Mademoiselle Victorine was too innocent to comprehend.

"Sweet child!" thought Willan to himself, "she doth not know the speech
of lovers. I mistrust that if I wooed her outright, she would be
afraid."

It was long past noon when they reached the Golden Pear. Dinner had
waited till the hungry Victor and Jeanne could wait no longer; but a
very pretty and dainty little repast was ready for Willan and Victorine.
As she sat opposite him at the table, so bright and beaming, her whole
face full of pleasure, Willan leaned both his arms on the table and
looked at her in silence for some minutes.

"Victorine!" he said. Victorine started. She was honestly very hungry,
and had been so absorbed in eating her dinner she had not noticed
Willan's look. She dropped her knife and sprang up.

"What is it, sir?" she said; "what shall I fetch?" Her instantaneous
resumption of the serving-maid's relation to him jarred on Willan at
that second indescribably, and shut down like a floodgate on the words
he was about to speak.

"Nothing, nothing," said he. "I was only going to say that thou must
sleep this afternoon; thou art tired."

"Nay, I am not tired," said Victorine, petulantly. "What is a matter of
six leagues of a morning? I could ride it again between this and sunset,
and not be tired."

But she was tired, and she did sleep, though she had not meant to do so
when she threw herself on her bed, a little later; she had meant only to
rest herself for a few minutes, and then in a fresh toilette return to
Willan. But she slept on and on until after sunset, and Willan wandered
aimlessly about, wondering what had become of her. Jeanne saw him, but
forebore to take any note of his uneasiness. She had looked in upon
Victorine in her slumber, and was well content that it should be so.

"The girl will awake refreshed and rosy," thought Jeanne; "and it will
do no harm, but rather good, if he have missed her sorely all the
afternoon."

Supper was over, and the evening work all done when Victorine waked. It
was dusk. Rubbing her eyes, she sprang up and went to the window. Jeanne
heard her steps, and coming to the foot of the stairs called: "Thou
need'st not to come down; all is done. What shall I bring thee to eat?"

"Why didst thou not waken me?" replied Victorine, petulantly; "I meant
not to sleep."

"I thought the sleep was better," replied her aunt. "Thou didst look
tired, and it suits no woman's looks to be tired."

Victorine was silent. She saw Willan walking up and down under the
pear-tree. She leaned out of her window and moved one of the
flower-pots. Willan looked up; in a second more he had bounded up the
staircase, and eagerly said: "Art thou there? Wilt thou never come
down?"

Victorine was uncertain in her own mind what was the best thing to do
next; so she replied evasively: "Thou wert right, after all. I did not
feel myself tired, but I have slept until now."

"Then thou art surely rested. Canst thou not come and walk with me in
the pear orchard?" said Willan.

"I fear me I may not do that after nightfall," replied Victorine. "My
aunt would be angry."

"She need not know," replied the eager Willan. "Thou canst come down by
this stairway, and it is already near dark."

Victorine laughed a little low laugh. This pleased her. "Yes," she said,
"I have often come down by, that post from my window; but truly, I fear
I ought not to do it for thee. What should I say to my aunt if she
missed me?"

"Oh, she thinks thee asleep," said Willan. "She told me at supper that
she would not waken thee."

All of which Mistress Jeanne heard distinctly, standing midway on the
wide staircase, with Victorine's supper of bread and milk in her hand.
She had like to have spilled the whole bowlful of milk for laughing. But
she stood still, holding her breath lest Victorine should hear her, till
the conversation ceased, and she heard Victorine moving about in her
room again. Then she went in, and kissing Victorine, said: "Eat thy
supper now, and go to bed; it is late. Good-night. I'll wake thee early
enough in the morning to pay for not having called thee this afternoon.
Good-night."

Then Jeanne went down to her own room, blew out her candle, and seated
herself at the window to hear what would happen.

"My aunt's candle is out; she hath gone to bed," whispered Victorine, as
holding Willan's hand she stole softly down the outer stair. "I do doubt
much that I am doing wrong."

"Nay, nay," whispered Willan. "Thou sweet one, what wrong can there be
in thy walking a little time with me? Thy aunt did let thee ride with me
all the day." And he tenderly guided Victorine's steps down the steep
stairs.

"Pretty well! pretty well!" laughed Mistress Jeanne behind her casement;
and as soon as the sound of Willan's and Victorine's steps had died
away, she ran downstairs to tell Victor what had happened. Victor was
not so pleased as Jeanne; he did not share her confidence in Victorine's
character.

"Sacre!" he said; "what wert thou thinking of? Dost want another niece
to be fetched up in a convent? Thou mayst thank thyself for it, if thou
art grandmother to one. I trust no man out of sight, and no girl. The
man's in love with the girl, that is plain; but he means no marrying."

"That thou dost not know," retorted Jeanne. "I tell thee he is an
honorable, high-minded man, and as pure as if he were but just now
weaned. I know him, and thou dost not. He will marry her, or he will
leave her alone."

"We shall see," muttered the coarse old man as he walked away,--"we
shall see. Like mother, like child. I trust them not." And in a thorough
ill-humor Victor betook himself to the courtyard. What he heard there
did not reassure him. Old Benoit had seen Willan and Victorine going
down through the poplar copse toward the pear orchard. "And may the
saints forsake me," said Benoit, "if I do not think he had his arm
around her waist and her head on his shoulder. Think'st thou he will
marry her?"

"Nay," growled Victor; "he's no fool. That Jeanne hath set her heart on
it, and thinketh it will come about; but not so I."

"He seems of a rare fine-breeding and honorable speech," said Benoit.

"Ay, ay," replied Victor, "words are quick said, and fine manners come
easy to some; but a man looks where he weds."

"His father did not have chance for much looking," sneered Benoit.

"This is another breed, even if his father begot him," replied Victor.
"He goeth no such way as that." And thoroughly disquieted, Victor
returned to the house to report to Jeanne what Benoit had seen. She was
still undisturbed.

"Thou wilt see," was her only reply; and the two sat down together in
the porch to await the lovers' return. Hour after hour passed; even
Jeanne began to grow alarmed. It was long after midnight.

"I fear some accident hath befallen them," she said at last. "Would it
be well, thinkest thou, to go in search of them?"

"Not a step!" cried Victor. "He took her away, and he must needs bring
her back. We await them here. He shall see whether he may tamper with
the granddaughter of Victor Dubois."

"Hush, father!" said Jeanne, "here they come."

Walking very slowly, arm in arm, came Willan and Victorine. They had
evidently no purpose of entering the house clandestinely, but were
approaching the front door.

"Hoity, toity!" muttered Victor; "he thinks he can lord it over us,
surely."

"Be quiet, father!" entreated Jeanne. Her quick eye saw something new in
the bearing of both Willan and Victorine. But Victor was not to be
quieted. With an angry oath, he sprung forward from the porch, and began
to upbraid Willan in no measured tones.

Willan lifted his right hand authoritatively. "Wait!" he said. "Do not
say what thou wilt repent, Victor Dubois. Thy granddaughter hath
promised to be my wife."

So the new generation avenged the old; and Willan Blaycke, in the prime
of his cultured and fastidious manhood, fell victim to a spell less
coarsely woven but no less demoralizing than that which had imbittered
the last years of his father's life.

[Footnote: Note.--"The Inn of the Golden Pear" includes three chapters
of a longer story entitled "Elspeth Pynevor,"--a story of such
remarkable vigor and promise, and planned on such noble and powerful
lines as to deepen regret that its author's death left it but half
finished. A single sentence has been added by another hand to round the
episode of Willan Blaycke's infatuation to conclusion.]



The Mystery of Wilhelm Rütter.



It was long past dusk of an August evening. Farmer Weitbreck stood
leaning on the big gate of his barnyard, looking first up and then down
the road. He was chewing a straw, and his face wore an expression of
deep perplexity. These were troublous times in Lancaster County. Never
before had the farmers been so put to it for farm service; harvest-time
had come, and instead of the stream of laborers seeking employment,
which usually at this season set in as regularly as river freshets in
spring, it was this year almost impossible to hire any one.

The explanation of this nobody knew or could divine; but the fact was
indisputable, and the farmers were in dismay,--nobody more so than
Farmer Weitbreck, who had miles of bottom-lands, in grain of one sort
and another, all yellow and nodding, and ready for the sickle, and
nobody but himself and his son John to swing scythe, sickle, or flail on
the place.

"Never I am caught this way anoder year," thought he, as he gazed
wearily up and down the dark, silent road; "but that does to me no goot
this time that is now."

Gustavus Weitbreck had lived so long on his Pennsylvania farm that he
even thought in English instead of in German, and, strangely enough, in
English much less broken and idiomatic than that which he spoke. But his
phraseology was the only thing about him that had changed. In modes of
feeling, habits of life, he was the same he had been forty years ago,
when he farmed a little plot of land, half wheat, half vineyard, in the
Mayence meadows in the fatherland,--slow, methodical, saving, stupid,
upright, obstinate. All these traits "Old Weitbreck," as he was called
all through the country, possessed to a degree much out of the ordinary;
and it was a combination of two of them--the obstinacy and the
savingness--which had brought him into his present predicament.

In June he had had a good laborer,--one of the best known, and eagerly
sought by every farmer in the county; a man who had never yet been
beaten in a mowing-match or a reaping. By his help the haying had been
done in not much more than two thirds the usual time; but when John
Weitbreck, like a sensible fellow, said, "Now, we would better keep Alf
on till harvest; there is plenty of odds-and-ends work about the farm he
can help at, and we won't get his like again in a hurry," his father had
cried out,--

"Mein Gott! It is that you tink I must be made out of money! I vill not
keep dis man on so big wages to do vat you call odd-and-end vork. We do
odd-and-end vork ourself."

There was no discussion of the point. John Weitbreck knew better than
ever to waste his time and breath or temper in trying to change a
purpose of his father's or convince him of a mistake. But he bided his
time; and he would not have been human if he had not now taken secret
satisfaction, seeing his father's anxiety daily increase as the August
sun grew hotter and hotter, and the grain rattled in the husks waiting
to be reaped, while they two, straining their arms to the utmost, and in
long days' work, seemed to produce small impression on the great fields.

"The women shall come work in field to-morrow," thought the old man, as
he continued his anxious reverie. "It is not that they sit idle all day
in house, when the wheat grows to rattle like the peas in pod. They can
help, the mütter and Carlen; that will be much help; they can do." And
hearing John's steps behind him, the old man turned and said,--

"Johan, dere comes yet no man to reap. To-morrow must go in the field
Carlen and the mütter; it must. The wheat get fast too dry; it is more
as two men can do."

John bit his lips. He was aghast. Never had he seen his mother and
sister at work in the fields. John had been born in America; and he was
American, not German, in his feeling about this. Without due
consideration he answered,--

"I would rather work day and night, father, than see my mother and
sister in the fields. I will do it, too, if only you will not make them
go!"

The old man, irritated by the secret knowledge that he had nobody but
himself to blame for the present dilemma, still more irritated, also, by
this proof of what was always exceedingly displeasing to him,--his son's
having adopted American standards and opinions,--broke out furiously
with a wrath wholly disproportionate to the occasion,--

"You be tam, Johan Weitbreck. You tink we are fine gentlemen and ladies,
like dese Americans dat is too proud to vork vid hands. I say tam dis
country, vere day say all is alike, an' vork all; and ven you come here,
it is dat nobody vill vork, if he can help, and vimmins ish shame to be
seen vork. It is not shame to be seen vork; I vork, mein vife vork too,
an' my childrens vork too, py tam!"

John walked away,--his only resource when his father was in a passion.
John occupied that hardest of all positions,--the position of a
full-grown, mature man in a father's home, where he is regarded as
nothing more than a boy.

As he entered the kitchen and saw his pretty sister Carlen at the high
spinning-wheel, walking back and forth drawing the fine yarn between
her chubby fingers, all the while humming a low song to which the
whirring of the wheel made harmonious accompaniment, he thought to
himself bitterly: "Work, indeed! As if they did not work now longer than
we do, and quite as hard! She's been spinning ever since daylight, I
believe."

"Is it hard work spinning, Liebchen?" he asked.

Carlen turned her round blue eyes on him with astonishment. There was
something in his tone that smote vaguely on her consciousness. What
could he mean, asking such a question as that?

"No," she said, "it is not hard exactly. But when you do it very long it
does make the arms ache, holding them so long in the same position; and
it tires one to stand all day!"

"Ay," said John, "that is the way it tires one to reap; my back is near
broke with it to-day."

"Has no one come to help yet?" she said.

"No!" said John, angrily, "and that is what I told father when he let
Alf go. It is good enough for him for being so stingy and short-sighted;
but the brunt of it comes on me,--that's the worst of it. I don't see
what's got all the men. There have always been plenty round every year
till now."

"Alf said he shouldn't be here next year," said Carlen, each cheek
showing a little signal of pink as she spoke; but it was a dim light the
one candle gave, and John did not see the flush. "He was going to the
west to farm; in Oregon, he said."

"Ay, that's it!" replied John. "That's where everybody can go but me!
I'll be going too some day, Carlen. I can't stand things here. If it
weren't for you I'd have been gone long ago."

"I wouldn't leave mother and father for all the world, John," cried
Carlen, warmly, "and I don't think it would be right for you to! What
would father do with the farm without you?"

"Well, why doesn't he see that, then, and treat me as a man ought to be
treated?" exclaimed John; "he thinks I'm no older than when he used to
beat me with the strap."

"I think fathers and mothers are always that way," said the gentle,
cheery Carlen, with a low laugh. "The mother tells me each time how to
wind the warp, as she did when I was little; and she will always look
into the churn for herself. I think it is the way we are made. We will
do the same when we are old, John, and our children will be wondering at
us!"

John laughed. This was always the way with Carlen. She could put a man
in good humor in a few minutes, however cross he felt in the beginning.

"I won't, then!" he exclaimed. "I know I won't. If ever I have a son
grown, I'll treat him like a son grown, not like a baby."

"May I be there to see!" said Carlen, merrily,--

  "And you remember free
  The words I said to thee.

"Hold the candle here for me, will you, that's a good boy. While we have
talked, my yarn has tangled."

As they stood close together, John holding the candle high over Carlen's
head, she bending over the tangled yarn, the kitchen door opened
suddenly, and their father came in, bringing with him a stranger,--a
young man seemingly about twenty-five years of age, tall, well made,
handsome, but with a face so melancholy that both John and Carlen felt a
shiver as they looked upon it.

"Here now comes de hand, at last of de time, Johan," cried the old man.
"It vill be that all can vel be done now. And it is goot that he is from
mine own country. He cannot English speak, many vords; but dat is
nothing; he can vork. I tolt you dere vould be mans come!"

John looked scrutinizingly at the newcomer. The man's eyes fell.

"What is your name?" said John.

"Wilhelm Rütter," he answered.

"How long have you been in this country?"

"Ten days."

"Where are your friends?"

"I haf none."

"None?"

"None."

These replies were given in a tone as melancholy as the expression of
the face.

Carlen stood still, her wheel arrested, the yarn between her thumb and
ringer, her eyes fastened on the stranger's face. A thrill of
unspeakable pity stirred her. So young, so sad, thus alone in the world;
who ever heard of such a fate?

"But there were people who came with you in the ship?" said John. "There
is some one who knows who you are, I suppose."

"No, no von dat knows," replied the newcomer.

"Haf done vid too much questions," interrupted Farmer Weitbreck. "I haf
him asked all. He stays till harvest be done. He can vork. It is to be
easy see he can vork."

John did not like the appearance of things. "Too much mystery here," he
thought. "However, it is not long he will be here, and he will be in the
fields all the time; there cannot be much danger. But who ever heard of
a man whom no human being knew?"

As they sat at supper, Farmer Weitbreck and his wife plied Wilhelm with
questions about their old friends in Mayence. He was evidently familiar
with all the localities and names which they mentioned. His replies,
however, were given as far as possible in monosyllables, and he spoke no
word voluntarily. Sitting with his head bent slightly forward, his eyes
fixed on the floor, he had the expression of one lost in thoughts of the
gloomiest kind.

"Make yourself to be more happy, mein lad," said the farmer, as he bade
him good-night and clapped him on the shoulder. "You haf come to house
vere is German be speaked, and is Germany in hearts; dat vill be to you
as friends."

A strange look of even keener pain passed over the young man's face, and
he left the room hastily, without a word of good-night.

"He's a surly brute!" cried John; "nice company he'll be in the field! I
believe I'd sooner have nobody!"

"I think he has seen some dreadful trouble," said Carlen. "I wish we
could do something for him; perhaps his friends are all dead. I think
that must be it, don't you think so, mütter?"

Frau Weitbreck was incarnate silence and reticence. These traits were
native in her, and had been intensified to an abnormal extent by thirty
years of life with a husband whose temper and peculiarities were such as
to make silence and reticence the sole conditions of peace and comfort.
To so great a degree had this second nature of the good frau been
developed, that she herself did not now know that it was a second
nature; therefore it stood her in hand as well as if she had been
originally born to it, and it would have been hard to find in Lancaster
County a more placid and contented wife than she. She never dreamed that
her custom of silent acquiescence in all that Gustavus said--of waiting
in all cases, small and great, for his decision--had in the outset been
born of radical and uncomfortable disagreements with him. And as for
Gustavus himself, if anybody had hinted to him that his frau could
think, or ever had thought, any word or deed of his other than right, he
would have chuckled complacently at that person's blind ignorance of the
truth.

"Mein frau, she is goot," he said; "goot frau, goot mütter. American
fraus not goot so she; all de time talk and no vork. American fraus,
American mans, are sheep in dere house."

But in regard to this young stranger, Frau Weitbreck seemed strangely
stirred from her usual phlegmatic silence. Carlen's appeal to her had
barely been spoken, when, rising in her place at the head of the table,
the old woman said solemnly, in German,--

"Yes, Liebchen, he goes with the eyes like eyes of a man that saw always
the dead. It must be as you say, that all whom he loves are in the
grave. Poor boy! poor boy! it is now that one must be to him mother and
father and brother."

"And sister too," said Carlen, warmly. "I will be his sister."

"And I not his brother till he gets a civiller tongue in his head," said
John.

"It is not to be brother I haf him brought," interrupted the old man.
"Alvays you vimmen are too soon; it may be he are goot, it may be he are
pad; I do not know. It is to vork I haf him brought."

"Yes," echoed Frau Weitbreck; "we do not know."

It was not so easy as Carlen and her mother had thought, to be like
mother and sister to Wilhelm. The days went by, and still he was as much
a stranger as on the evening of his arrival. He never voluntarily
addressed any one. To all remarks or even questions he replied in the
fewest words and curtest phrases possible. A smile was never seen on his
face. He sat at the table like a mute at a funeral, ate without lifting
his eyes, and silently rose as soon as his own meal was finished. He had
soon selected his favorite seat in the kitchen. It was on the right-hand
side of the big fireplace, in a corner. Here he sat all through the
evenings, carving, out of cows' horns or wood, boxes and small figures
such as are made by the peasants in the German Tyrol. In this work he
had a surprising skill. What he did with the carvings when finished, no
one knew. One night John said to him,--

"I do not see, Wilhelm, how you can have so steady a hand after holding
the sickle all day. My arm aches, and my hand trembles so that I can but
just carry my cup to my lips."

Wilhelm made no reply, but held his right hand straight out at arm's
length, with the delicate figure he was carving poised on his
forefinger. It stood as steady as on the firm ground.

Carlen looked at him admiringly. "It is good to be so steady-handed,"
she said; "you must be strong, Wilhelm."

"Yes," he said, "I haf strong;" and went on carving.

Nothing more like conversation than this was ever drawn from him. Yet he
seemed not averse to seeing people. He never left the kitchen till the
time came for bed; but when that came he slipped away silent, taking no
part in the general good-night unless he was forced to do so. Sometimes
Carlen, having said jokingly to John, "Now, I will make Wilhelm say
good-night to-night," succeeded in surprising him before he could leave
the room; but often, even when she had thus planned, he contrived to
evade her, and was gone before she knew it.

He slept in a small chamber in the barn,--a dreary enough little place,
but he seemed to find it all sufficient. He had no possessions except
the leather pack he had brought on his back. This lay on the floor
unlocked; and when the good Frau Weitbreck, persuading herself that she
was actuated solely by a righteous, motherly interest in the young man,
opened it, she found nothing whatever there, except a few garments of
the commonest description,--no book, no paper, no name on any article.
It would not appear possible that a man of so decent a seeming as
Wilhelm could have come from Germany to America with so few personal
belongings. Frau Weitbreck felt less at ease in her mind about him after
she examined this pack.

He had come straight from the ship to their house, he had said, when he
arrived; had walked on day after day, going he knew not whither, asking
mile by mile for work. He did not even know one State's name from
another. He simply chose to go south rather than north,--always south,
he said.

"Why?"

He did not know.

He was indeed strong. The sickle was in his hand a plaything, so
swift-swung that he seemed to be doing little more than simply striding
up and down the field, the grain falling to right and left at his steps.
From sunrise to sunset he worked tirelessly. The famous Alf had never
done so much in a day. Farmer Weitbreck chuckled as he looked on.

"Vat now you say of dat Alf?" he said triumphantly to John; "vork he as
dis man? Oh, but he make swing de hook!"

John assented unqualifiedly to this praise of Wilhelm's strength and
skill; but nevertheless he shook his head.

"Ay, ay," he said, "I never saw his equal; but I like him not. What
carries he in his heart to be so sour? He is like a man bewitched. I
know not if there be such a thing as to be sold to the devil, as the
stories say; but if there be, on my word, I think Wilhelm has made some
such bargain. A man could not look worse if he had signed himself away."

"I see not dat he haf fear in his face," replied the old man.

"No," said John, "neither do I see fear. It is worse than fear. I would
like to see his face come alive with a fear. He gives me cold shivers
like a grave underfoot. I shall be glad when he is gone."

Farmer Weitbreck laughed. He and his son were likely to be again at
odds on the subject of a laborer.

"But he vill not go. I haf said to him to stay till Christmas, maybe
always."

John's surprise was unbounded.

"To stay! Till Christmas!" he cried. "What for? What do we need of a man
in the winter?"

"It is not dat to feed him is much, and all dat he make vid de knife is
mine. It is home he vants, no oder ting; he vork not for money."

"Father," said John, earnestly, "there must be something wrong about
that man. I have thought so from the first. Why should he work for
nothing but his board,--a great strong fellow like that, that could make
good day's wages anywhere? Don't keep him after the harvest is over. I
can't bear the sight of him."

"Den you can turn de eyes to your head von oder way," retorted his
father. "I find him goot to see; and," after a pause, "so do Carlen."

John started. "Good heavens, father!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, you need not speak by de heavens, mein son!" rejoined the old man,
in a taunting tone. "I tink I can mine own vay, vidout you to be help. I
was not yesterday born!"

John was gone. Flight was his usual refuge when he felt his temper
becoming too much for him; but now his steps were quickened by an
impulse of terrible fear. Between him and his sister had always been a
bond closer than is wont to link brother and sister. Only one year apart
in age, they had grown up together in an intimacy like that of twins;
from their cradles till now they had had their sports, tastes, joys,
sorrows in common, not a secret from each other since they could
remember. At least, this was true of John; was he to find it no longer
true of Carlen? He would know, and that right speedily. As by a flash of
lightning he thought he saw his father's scheme,--if Carlen were to wed
this man, this strong and tireless worker, this unknown, mysterious
worker, who wanted only shelter and home and cared not for money, what
an invaluable hand would be gained on the farm! John groaned as he
thought to himself how little anything--any doubt, any misgiving,
perhaps even an actual danger--would in his father's mind outweigh the
one fact that the man did not "vork for money."

As he walked toward the house, revolving these disquieting conjectures,
all his first suspicion and antagonism toward Wilhelm revived in full
force, and he was in a mood well calculated to distort the simplest
acts, when he suddenly saw sitting in the square stoop at the door the
two persons who filled his thoughts, Wilhelm and Carlen,--Wilhelm
steadily at work as usual at his carving, his eyes closely fixed on it,
his figure, as was its wont, rigidly still; and Carlen,--ah! it was an
unlucky moment John had taken to search out the state of Carlen's
feeling toward Wilhelm,--Carlen sitting in a posture of dreamy reverie,
one hand lying idle in her lap holding her knitting, the ball rolling
away unnoticed on the ground; her other arm thrown carelessly over the
railing of the stoop, her eyes fixed on Wilhelm's bowed head.

John stood still and watched her,--watched her long. She did not move.
She was almost as rigidly still as Wilhelm himself. Her eyes did not
leave his face. One might safely sit in that way by the hour and gaze
undetected at Wilhelm. He rarely looked up except when he was addressed.

After standing thus a few moments John turned away, bitter and sick at
heart. What had he been about, that he had not seen this? He, the loving
comrade brother, to be slower of sight than the hard, grasping parent!

"I will ask mother," he thought. "I can't ask Carlen now! It is too
late."

He found his mother in the kitchen, busy getting the bountiful supper
which was a daily ordinance in the Weitbreck religion. To John's
sharpened perceptions the fact that Carlen was not as usual helping in
this labor loomed up into significance.

"Why does not Carlen help you, mütter?" he said hastily. "What is she
doing there, idling with Wilhelm in the stoop?"

Frau Weitbreck smiled. "It is not alvays to vork, ven one is young," she
said. "I haf not forget!" And she nodded her head meaningly.

John clenched his hands. Where had he been? Who had blinded him? How had
all this come about, so soon and without his knowledge? Were his father
and his mother mad? He thought they must be.

"It is a shame for that Wilhelm to so much as put his eyes on Carlen's
face," he cried. "I think we are fools; what know we about him? I doubt
him in and out. I wish he had never darkened our doors."

Frau Weitbreck glanced cautiously at the open door. She was frying sweet
cakes in the boiling lard. Forgetting everything in her fear of being
overheard, she went softly, with the dripping skimmer in her hand,
across the kitchen, the fat falling on her shining floor at every step,
and closed the door. Then she came close to her son, and said in a
whisper, "The fader think it is goot." At John's angry exclamation she
raised her hand in warning.

"Do not loud spraken," she whispered; "Carlen will hear."

"Well, then, she shall hear!" cried John, half beside himself. "It is
high time she did hear from somebody besides you and father! I reckon
I've got something to say about this thing, too, if I'm her brother.
By----, no tramp like that is going to marry my sister without I know
more about him!" And before the terrified old woman could stop him, he
had gone at long strides across the kitchen, through the best room, and
reached the stoop, saying in a loud tone: "Carlen! I want to see you."

Carlen started as one roused from sleep. Seeing her ball lying at a
distance on the ground, she ran to pick it up, and with scarlet cheeks
and uneasy eyes turned to her brother.

"Yes, John," she said, "I am coming."

Wilhelm did not raise his eyes, or betray by any change of feature that
he had heard the sound or perceived the motion. As Carlen passed him her
eyes involuntarily rested on his bowed head, a world of pity,
perplexity, in the glance. John saw it, and frowned.

"Come with me," he said sternly,--"come down in the pasture; I want to
speak to you."

Carlen looked up apprehensively into his face; never had she seen there
so stern a look.

"I must help mütter with the supper," she said, hesitating.

John laughed scornfully. "You were helping with the supper, I suppose,
sitting out with yon tramp!" And he pointed to the stoop.

Carlen had, with all her sunny cheerfulness, a vein of her father's
temper. Her face hardened, and her blue eyes grew darker.

"Why do you call Wilhelm a tramp," she said coldly.

"What is he then, if he is not a tramp?" retorted John.

"He is no tramp," she replied, still more doggedly.

"What do you know about him?" said John.

Carlen made no reply. Her silence irritated John more than any words
could have done; and losing self-control, losing sight of prudence, he
poured out on her a torrent of angry accusation and scornful reproach.

She stood still, her eyes fixed on the ground. Even in his hot wrath,
John noticed this unwonted downcast look, and taunted her with it.

"You have even caught his miserable hangdog trick of not looking anybody
in the face," he cried. "Look up now! look me in the eye, and say what
you mean by all this."

Thus roughly bidden, Carlen raised her blue eyes and confronted her
brother with a look hardly less angry than his own.

"It is you who have to say to me what all this means that you have been
saying," she cried. "I think you are out of your senses. I do not know
what has happened to you." And she turned to walk back to the house.

John seized her shoulders in his brawny hands, and whirled her round
till she faced him again.

"Tell me the truth!" he said fiercely; "do you love this Wilhelm?"

Carlen opened her lips to reply. At that second a step was heard, and
looking up they saw Wilhelm himself coming toward them, walking at his
usual slow pace, his head sunk on his breast, his eyes on the ground.
Great waves of blushes ran in tumultuous flood up Carlen's neck, cheeks,
forehead. John took his hands from her shoulders, and stepped back with
a look of disgust and a smothered ejaculation. Wilhelm, hearing the
sound, looked up, regarded them with a cold, unchanged eye, and turned
in another direction.

The color deepened on Carlen's face. In a hard and bitter tone she said,
pointing with a swift gesture to Wilhelm's retreating form: "You can see
for yourself that there is nothing between us. I do not know what craze
has got into your head." And she walked away, this time unchecked by her
brother. He needed no further replies in words. Tokens stronger than any
speech had answered him. Muttering angrily to himself, he went on down
to the pasture after the cows. It was a beautiful field, more like New
England than Pennsylvania; a brook ran zigzagging through it, and here
and there in the land were sharp lifts where rocks cropped out, making
miniature cliffs overhanging some portions of the brook's-course. Gray
lichens and green mosses grew on these rocks, and belts of wild flag and
sedges surrounded their base. The cows, in a warm day, used to stand
knee-deep there, in shade of the rocks.

It was a favorite place of Wilhelm's. He sometimes lay on the top of one
of these rocks the greater part of the night, looking down into the
gliding water or up into the sky. Carlen from her window had more than
once seen him thus, and passionately longed to go down and comfort his
lonely sorrow.

It was indeed true, as she had said to her brother, that there was
"nothing between" her and Wilhelm. Never a word had passed; never a look
or tone to betray that he knew whether she were fair or not,--whether
she lived or not. She came and went in his presence, as did all others,
with no more apparent relation to the currents of his strange veiled
existence than if they or he belonged to a phantom world. But it was
also true that never since the first day of his mysterious coming had
Wilhelm been long absent from Carlen's thoughts; and she did indeed find
him--as her father's keen eyes, sharpened by greed, had observed--good
to look upon. That most insidious of love's allies, pity, had stormed
the fortress of Carlen's heart, and carried it by a single charge. What
could a girl give, do, or be, that would be too much for one so
stricken, so lonely as was Wilhelm! The melancholy beauty of his face,
his lithe figure, his great strength, all combined to heighten this
impression, and to fan the flames of the passion in Carlen's virgin
soul. It was indeed, as John had sorrowfully said to himself, "too late"
to speak to Carlen.

As John stood now at the pasture bars, waiting for the herd of cows,
slow winding up the slope from the brook, he saw Wilhelm on the rocks
below. He had thrown himself down on his back, and lay there with his
arms crossed on his breast. Presently he clasped both hands over his
eyes as if to shut out a sight that he could no longer bear. Something
akin to pity stirred even in John's angry heart as he watched him.

"What can it be," he said, "that makes him hate even the sky? It may be
it is a sweetheart he has lost, and he is one of that strange kind of
men who can love but once; and it is loving the dead that makes him so
like one dead himself. Poor Carlen! I think myself he never so much as
sees her."

A strange reverie, surely, for the brother who had so few short moments
ago been angrily reproaching his sister for the disgrace and shame of
caring for this tramp. But the pity was short-lived in John's bosom. His
inborn distrust and antagonism to the man were too strong for any
gentler sentiment toward him to live long by their side. And when the
family gathered at the supper-table he fixed upon Wilhelm so suspicious
and hostile a gaze that even Wilhelm's absent mind perceived it, and he
in turn looked inquiringly at John, a sudden bewilderment apparent in
his manner. It disappeared, however, almost immediately, dying away in
his usual melancholy absorption. It had produced scarce a ripple on the
monotonous surface of his habitual gloom. But Carlen had perceived all,
both the look on John's face and the bewilderment on Wilhelm's; and it
roused in her a resentment so fierce toward John, she could not forbear
showing it. "How cruel!" she thought. "As if the poor fellow had not all
he could bear already without being treated unkindly by us!" And she
redoubled her efforts to win Wilhelm's attention and divert his
thoughts, all in vain; kindness and unkindness glanced off alike,
powerless, from the veil in which he was wrapped.

John sat by with roused attention and sharpened perception, noting all.
Had it been all along like this? Where had his eyes been for the past
month? Had he too been under a spell? It looked like it. He groaned in
spirit as he sat silently playing with his food, not eating; and when
his father said, "Why haf you not appetite, Johan?" he rose abruptly,
pushed back his chair, and leaving the table without a word went out and
down again into the pasture, where the dewy grass and the quivering
stars in the brook shimmered in the pale light of a young moon. To John,
also, the mossy rocks in this pasture were a favorite spot for rest and
meditation. Since the days when he and Carlen had fished from their
edges, with bent pins and yarn, for minnows, he had loved the place:
they had spent happy hours enough there to count up into days; and not
the least among the innumerable annoyances and irritations of which he
had been anxious in regard to Wilhelm was the fact that he too had
perceived the charm of the field, and chosen it for his own melancholy
retreat.

As he seated himself on one of the rocks, he saw a figure gliding
swiftly down the hill.

It was Carlen.

As she drew near he looked at her without speaking, but the loving girl
was not repelled. Springing lightly to the rock, she threw her arms
around his neck, and kissing him said: "I saw you coming down here,
John, and I ran after you. Do not be angry with me, brother; it breaks
my heart."

A sudden revulsion of shame for his unjust suspicion filled John with
tenderness.

"Mein Schwester," he said fondly,--they had always the habit of using
the German tongue for fond epithets,--"mein Schwester klein, I love you
so much I cannot help being wretched when I see you in danger, but I am
not angry."

Nestling herself close by his side, Carlen looked over into the water.

"This is the very rock I fell off of that day, do you remember?" she
said; "and how wet you got fishing me out! And oh, what an awful beating
father gave you! and I always thought it was wicked, for if you had not
pulled me out I should have drowned."

"It was for letting you fall in he beat me," laughed John; and they
both grew tender and merry, recalling the babyhood times.

"How long, long ago!" cried Carlen.

"It seems only a day," said John.

"I think time goes faster for a man than for a woman," sighed Carlen.
"It is a shorter day in the fields than in the house."

"Are you not content, my sister?" said John.

Carlen was silent.

"You have always seemed so," he said reproachfully.

"It is always the same, John," she murmured. "Each day like every other
day. I would like it to be some days different."

John sighed. He knew of what this new unrest was born. He longed to
begin to speak of Wilhelm, and yet he knew not how. Now that, after
longer reflection, he had become sure in his own mind that Wilhelm cared
nothing for his sister, he felt an instinctive shrinking from
recognizing to himself, or letting it be recognized between them, that
she unwooed had learned to love. His heart ached with dread of the
suffering which might be in store for her.

Carlen herself cut the gordian knot.

"Brother," she whispered, "why do you think Wilhelm is not good?"

"I said not that, Carlen," he replied evasively. "I only say we know
nothing; and it is dangerous to trust where one knows nothing."

"It would not be trust if we knew," answered the loyal girl. "I believe
he is good; but, John, John, what misery in his eyes! Saw you ever
anything like it?"

"No," he replied; "never. Has he never told you anything about himself,
Carlen?"

"Once," she answered, "I took courage to ask him if he had relatives in
Germany; and he said no; and I exclaimed then, 'What, all dead!' 'All
dead,' he answered, in such a voice I hardly dared speak again, but I
did. I said: 'Well, one might have the terrible sorrow to lose all one's
relatives. It needs only that three should die, my father and mother and
my brother,--only three, and two are already old,--and I should have no
relatives myself; but if one is left without relatives, there are always
friends, thank God!' And he looked at me,--he never looks at one, you
know; but he looked at me then as if I had done a sin to speak the word,
and he said, 'I have no friends. They are all dead too,' and then went
away! Oh, brother, why cannot we win him out of this grief? We can be
good friends to him; can you not find out for me what it is?"

It was a cruel weapon to use, but on the instant John made up his mind
to use it. It might spare Carlen grief, in the end.

"I have thought," he said, "that it might be for a dead sweetheart he
mourned thus. There are men, you know, who love that way and never smile
again."

Short-sighted John, to have dreamed that he could forestall any
conjecture in the girl's heart!

"I have thought of that," she answered meekly; "it would seem as if it
could be nothing else. But, John, if she be really dead--" Carlen did
not finish the sentence; it was not necessary.

After a silence she spoke again: "Dear John, if you could be more
friendly with him I think it might be different. He is your age. Father
and mother are too old, and to me he will not speak." She sighed deeply
as she spoke these last words, and went on: "Of course, if it is for a
dead sweetheart that he is grieving thus, it is only natural that the
sight of women should be to him worse than the sight of men. But it is
very seldom, John, that a man will mourn his whole life for a
sweetheart; is it not, John? Why, men marry again, almost always, even
when it is a wife that they have lost; and a sweetheart is not so much
as a wife."

"I have heard," said the pitiless John, "that a man is quicker healed of
grief for a wife than for one he had thought to wed, but lost."

"You are a man," said Carlen. "You can tell if that would be true."

"No, I cannot," he answered, "for I have loved no woman but you, my
sister; and on my word I think I will be in no haste to, either. It
brings misery, it seems to me."

If Carlen had spoken her thought at these words, she would have said,
"Yes, it brings misery; but even so it is better than joy." But Carlen
was ashamed; afraid also. She had passed now into a new life, whither
her brother, she perceived, could not follow. She could barely reach
his hand across the boundary line which parted them.

"I hope you will love some one, John," she said. "You would be happy
with a wife. You are old enough to have a home of your own."

"Only a year older than you, my sister," he rejoined.

"I too am old enough to have a home of my own," she said, with a gentle
dignity of tone, which more impressed John with a sense of the change in
Carlen than all else which had been said.

It was time to return to the house. As he had done when he was ten, and
she nine, John stood at the bottom of the steepest rock, with
upstretched arms, by the help of which Carlen leaped lightly down.

"We are not children any more," she said, with a little laugh.

"More's the pity!" said John, half lightly, half sadly, as they went on
hand in hand.

When they reached the bars, Carlen paused. Withdrawing her hand from
John's and laying it on his shoulder, she said: "Brother, will you not
try to find out what is Wilhelm's grief? Can you not try to be friends
with him?"

John made no answer. It was a hard thing to promise.

"For my sake, brother," said the girl. "I have spoken to no one else but
you. I would die before any one else should know; even my mother."

John could not resist this. "Yes," he said; "I will try. It will be
hard; but I will try my best, Carlen. I will have a talk with Wilhelm
to-morrow."

And the brother and sister parted, he only the sadder, she far happier,
for their talk. "To-morrow," she thought, "I will know! To-morrow! oh,
to-morrow!" And she fell asleep more peacefully than had been her wont
for many nights.

On the morrow it chanced that John and Wilhelm went separate ways to
work and did not meet until noon. In the afternoon Wilhelm was sent on
an errand to a farm some five miles away, and thus the day passed
without John's having found any opportunity for the promised talk.
Carlen perceived with keen disappointment this frustration of his
purpose, but comforted herself, thinking, with the swift forerunning
trust of youth: "To-morrow he will surely get a chance. To-morrow he
will have something to tell me. To-morrow!"

When Wilhelm returned from this errand, he came singing up the road.
Carlen heard the voice and looked out of the window in amazement. Never
before had a note of singing been heard from Wilhelm's voice. She could
not believe her ears; neither her eyes, when she saw him walking
swiftly, almost running, erect, his head held straight, his eyes gazing
free and confident before him.

What had happened? What could have happened? Now, for the first time,
Carlen saw the full beauty of his face; it wore an exultant look as of
one set free, triumphant. He leaped lightly over the bars; he stooped
and fondled the dog, speaking to him in a merry tone; then he whistled,
then broke again into singing a gay German song. Carlen was stupefied
with wonder. Who was this new man in the body of Wilhelm? Where had
disappeared the man of slow-moving figure, bent head, downcast eyes,
gloom-stricken face, whom until that hour she had known? Carlen clasped
her hands in an agony of bewilderment.

"If he has found his sweetheart, I shall die," she thought. "How could
it be? A letter, perhaps? A message?" She dreaded to see him. She
lingered in her room till it was past the supper hour, dreading what she
knew not, yet knew. When she went down the four were seated at supper.
As she opened the door roars of laughter greeted her, and the first
sight she saw was Wilhelm's face, full of vivacity, excitement. He was
telling a jesting story, at which even her mother was heartily laughing.
Her father had laughed till the tears were rolling down his cheeks. John
was holding his sides. Wilhelm was a mimic, it appeared; he was
imitating the ridiculous speech, gait, gestures, of a man he had seen in
the village that afternoon.

"I sent you to village sooner as dis, if I haf known vat you are like
ven you come back," said Farmer Weitbreck, wiping his eyes.

And John echoed his father. "Upon my word, Wilhelm, you are a good
actor. Why have you kept your light under a bushel so long?" And John
looked at him with a new interest and liking. If this were the true
Wilhelm, he might welcome him indeed as a brother.

Carlen alone looked grave, anxious, unhappy. She could not laugh. Tale
after tale, jest after jest, fell from Wilhelm's lips. Such a
story-teller never before sat at the Weitbreck board. The old kitchen
never echoed with such laughter.

Finally John exclaimed: "Man alive, where have you kept yourself all
this time? Have you been ill till now, that you hid your tongue? What
has cured you in a day?"

Wilhelm laughed a laugh so ringing, it made him seem like a boy.

"Yes, I have been ill till to-day," he said; "and now I am well." And he
rattled on again, with his merry talk.

Carlen grew cold with fear; surely this meant but one thing. Nothing
else, nothing less, could have thus in an hour rolled away the burden of
his sadness.

Later in the evening she said timidly, "Did you hear any news in the
village this afternoon, Wilhelm?"

"No; no news," he said. "I had heard no news."

As he said this a strange look flitted swiftly across his face, and was
gone before any eye but a loving woman's had noted it. It did not escape
Carlen's, and she fell into a reverie of wondering what possible double
meaning could have underlain his words.

"Did you know Mr. Dietman in Germany?" she asked. This was the name of
the farmer to whose house he had been sent on an errand. They were
new-comers into the town, since spring.

"No!" replied Wilhelm, with another strange, sharp glance at Carlen. "I
saw him not before."

"Have they children?" she continued. "Are they old?"

"No; young," he answered. "They haf one child, little baby."

Carlen could not contrive any other questions to ask. "It must have been
a letter," she thought; and her face grew sadder.

It was a late bedtime when the family parted for the night. The
astonishing change in Wilhelm's manner was now even more apparent than
it had yet been. Instead of slipping off, as was his usual habit,
without exchanging a good-night with any one, he insisted on shaking
hands with each, still talking and laughing with gay and affectionate
words, and repeating, over and again, "Good-night, good-night." Farmer
Weitbreck was carried out of himself with pleasure at all this, and
holding Wilhelm's hand fast in his, shaking it heartily, and clapping
him on the shoulder, he exclaimed in fatherly familiarity: "Dis is goot,
mein son! dis is goot. Now are you von of us." And he glanced meaningly
at John, who smiled back in secret intelligence. As he did so there went
like a flash through his mind the question, "Can Carlen have spoken with
him to-day? Can that be it?" But a look at Carlen's pale, perplexed face
quickly dissipated this idea. "She looks frightened," thought John. "I
do not much wonder. I will get a word with her." But Carlen had gone
before he missed her. Running swiftly upstairs, she locked the door of
her room, and threw herself on her knees at her open window. Presently
she saw Wilhelm going down to the brook. She watched his every motion.
First, he walked slowly up and down the entire length of the field,
following the brook's course closely, stopping often and bending over,
picking flowers. A curious little white flower called "Ladies'-Tress"
grew there in great abundance, and he often brought bunches of it to
her.

"Perhaps it is not for me this time," thought Carlen, and the tears came
into her eyes. After a time Wilhelm ceased gathering the flowers, and
seated himself on his favorite rock,--the same one where John and Carlen
had sat the night before. "Will he stay there all night?" thought the
unhappy girl, as she watched him. "He is so full of joy he does not want
to sleep. What will become of me! what will become of me!"

At last Wilhelm arose and came toward the house, bringing the bunch of
flowers in his hand. At the pasture bars he paused, and looked back over
the scene. It was a beautiful picture, the moon making it light as day;
even from Carlen's window could be seen the sparkle of the brook.

As he turned to go to the barn his head sank on his breast, his steps
lagged. He wore again the expression of gloomy thought. A new fear arose
in Carlen's breast. Was he mad? Had the wild hilarity of his speech and
demeanor in the evening been merely a new phase of disorder in an
unsettled brain? Even in this was a strange, sad comfort to Carlen. She
would rather have him mad, with alternations of insane joy and gloom,
than know that he belonged to another. Long after he had disappeared in
the doorway at the foot of the stairs which led to his sleeping-place in
the barn-loft, she remained kneeling at the window, watching to see if
he came out again. Then she crept into bed, and lay tossing, wakeful,
and anxious till near dawn. She had but just fallen asleep when she was
aroused by cries. It was John's voice. He was calling loudly at the
window of their mother's bedroom beneath her own.

"Father! father! Get up, quick! Come out to the barn!"

Then followed confused words she could not understand. Leaning from her
window she called: "What is it, John? What has happened?" But he was
already too far on his way back to the barn to hear her.

A terrible presentiment shot into her mind of some ill to Wilhelm.
Vainly she wrestled with it. Why need she think everything that happened
must be connected with him? It was not yet light; she could not have
slept many minutes. With trembling hands she dressed, and running
swiftly down the stairs was at the door just as her father appeared
there.

"What is it? What is it, father?" she cried. "What has happened?"

"Go back!" he said in an unsteady voice. "It is nothing. Go back to bed.
It is not for vimmins!"

Then Carlen was sure it was some ill to Wilhelm, and with a loud cry she
darted to the barn, and flew up the stairway leading to his room.

John, hearing her steps, confronted her at the head of the stairs.

"Good God, Carlen!" he cried, "go back! You must not come here. Where is
father?"

"I will come in!" she answered wildly, trying to force her way past
him. "I will come in. You shall not keep me out. What has happened to
him? Let me by!" And she wrestled in her brother's strong arms with
strength almost equal to his.

"Carlen! You shall not come in! You shall not see!" he cried.

"Shall not see!" she shrieked. "Is he dead?"

"Yes, my sister, he is dead," answered John, solemnly. In the next
instant he held Carlen's unconscious form in his arms; and when Farmer
Weitbreck, half dazed, reached the foot of the stairs, the first sight
which met his eyes was his daughter, held in her brother's arms,
apparently lifeless, her head hanging over his shoulder.

"Haf she seen him?" he whispered.

"No!" said John. "I only told her he was dead, to keep her from going
in, and she fainted dead away."

"Ach!" groaned the old man, "dis is hard on her."

"Yes," sighed the brother; "it is a cruel shame."

Swiftly they carried her to the house, and laid her on her mother's
bed, then returned to their dreadful task in Wilhelm's chamber.

Hung by a stout leathern strap from the roof-tree beam, there swung the
dead body of Wilhelm Rütter, cold, stiff. He had been dead for hours; he
must have done the deed soon after bidding them good-night.

"He vas mad, Johan; it must be he vas mad ven he laugh like dat last
night. Dat vas de beginning, Johan," said the old man, shaking from head
to foot with horror, as he helped his son lift down the body.

"Yes!" answered John; "that must be it. I expect he has been mad all
along. I do not believe last night was the beginning. It was not like
any sane man to be so gloomy as he was, and never speak to a living
soul. But I never once thought of his being crazy. Look, father!" he
continued, his voice breaking into a sob, "he has left these flowers
here for Carlen! That does not look as if he was crazy! What can it all
mean?"

On the top of a small chest lay the bunch of white Ladies'-Tress, with a
paper beneath it on which was written, "For Carlen Weitbreck,--these,
and the carvings in the box, all in memory of Wilhelm."

"He meant to do it, den," said the old man.

"Yes," said John.

"Maybe Carlen vould not haf him, you tink?"

"No," said John, hastily; "that is not possible."

"I tought she luf him, an' he vould stay an' be her mann," sighed the
disappointed father. "Now all dat is no more."

"It will kill her," cried John.

"No!" said the father. "Vimmins does not die so as dat. She feel pad
maybe von year, maybe two. Dat is all. He vas great for vork. Dat Alf
vas not goot as he."

The body was laid once more on the narrow pallet where it had slept for
its last few weeks on earth, and the two men stood by its side,
discussing what should next be done, how the necessary steps could be
taken with least possible publicity, when suddenly they heard the sound
of horses' feet and wheels, and looking out they saw Hans Dietman and
his wife driving rapidly into the yard.

"Mein Gott! Vat bring dem here dis time in day," exclaimed Farmer
Weitbreck. "If dey ask for Wilhelm dey must all know!"

"Yes," replied John; "that makes no difference. Everybody will have to
know." And he ran swiftly down to meet the strangely arrived neighbors.

His first glance at their faces showed him that they had come on no
common errand. They were pale and full of excitement, and Hans's first
word was: "Vere is dot man you sent to mine place yesterday?"

"Wilhelm?" stammered Farmer Weitbreck.

"Wilhelm!" repeated Hans, scornfully. "His name is not 'Wilhelm.' His
name is Carl,--Carl Lepmann; and he is murderer. He killed von
man--shepherd, in our town--last spring; and dey never get trail of
him. So soon he came in our kitchen yesterday my vife she knew him; she
wait till I get home. Ve came ven it vas yet dark to let you know vot
man vas in your house."

Farmer Weitbreck and his son exchanged glances; each was too shocked to
speak. Mr. and Mrs. Dietman looked from one to the other in
bewilderment. "Maype you tink ve speak not truth," Hans continued.
"Just let him come here, to our face, and you will see."

"No!" said John, in a low, awe-stricken voice, "we do not think you are
not speaking truth." He paused; glanced again at his father. "We'd
better take them up!" he said.

The old man nodded silently. Even his hard and phlegmatic nature was
shaken to the depths.

John led the way up the stairs, saying briefly, "Come." The Dietmans
followed in bewilderment.

"There he is," said John, pointing to the tall figure, rigid, under the
close-drawn white folds; "we found him here only an hour ago, hung from
the beam."

A horror-stricken silence fell on the group.

Hans spoke first. "He know dat we know; so he kill himself to save dat
de hangman have trouble."

John resented the flippant tone. He understood now the whole mystery of
Wilhelm's life in this house.

"He has never known a happy minute since he was here," he said. "He
never smiled; nor spoke, if he could help it. Only last night, after he
came back from your place, he laughed and sang, and was merry, and
looked like another man; and he bade us all good-night over and over,
and shook hands with every one. He had made up his mind, you see, that
the end had come, and it was nothing but a relief to him. He was glad to
die. He had not courage before. But now he knew he would be arrested he
had courage to kill himself. Poor fellow, I pity him!" And John smoothed
out the white folds over the clasped hands on the quiet-stricken breast,
resting at last. "He has been worse punished than if he had been hung in
the beginning," he said, and turned from the bed, facing the Dietmans as
if he constituted himself the dead man's protector.

"I think no one but ourselves need know," he continued, thinking in his
heart of Carlen. "It is enough that he is dead. There is no good to be
gained for any one, that I see, by telling what he had done."

"No," said Mrs. Dietman, tearfully; but her husband exclaimed, in a
vindictive tone:

"I see not why it is to be covered in secret. He is murderer. It is to
be sent vord to Mayence he vas found."

"Yes, they ought to know there," said John, slowly; "but there is no
need for it to be known here. He has injured no one here."

"No," exclaimed Farmer Weitbreck. "He haf harm nobody here; he vas goot.
I haf ask him to stay and haf home in my house."

It was a strange story. Early in the spring, it seemed, about six weeks
before Hans Dietman and his wife Gretchen were married, a shepherd on
the farm adjoining Gretchen's father's had been murdered by a
fellow-laborer on the same farm. They had had high words about a dog,
and had come to blows, but were parted by some of the other hands, and
had separated and gone their ways to their work with their respective
flocks.

This was in the morning. At night neither they nor their flocks
returned; and, search being made, the dead body of the younger shepherd
was found lying at the foot of a precipice, mutilated and wounded, far
more than it would have been by any accidental fall. The other
shepherd, Carl Lepmann, had disappeared, and was never again seen by any
one who knew him, until this previous day, when he had entered the
Dietmans' door bearing his message from the Weitbreck farm. At the first
sight of his face, Gretchen Dietman had recognized him, thrown up her
arms involuntarily, and cried out in German: "My God! the man that
killed the shepherd!" Carl had halted on the threshold at hearing these
words, and his countenance had changed; but it was only for a second. He
regained his composure instantly, entered as if he had heard nothing,
delivered his message, and afterward remained for some time on the farm
chatting with the laborers, and seeming in excellent spirits.

"And so vas he ven he come home," said Farmer Weitbreck; "he make dat ve
all laugh and laugh, like notings ever vas before, never before he open
his mouth to speak; he vas like at funeral all times, night and day. But
now he seem full of joy. It is de most strange ting as I haf seen in my
life."

"I do not think so, father," said John. "I do not wonder he was glad to
be rid of his burden."

It proved of no use to try to induce Hans Dietman to keep poor Carl's
secret. He saw no reason why a murderer should be sheltered from
disgrace. To have his name held up for the deserved execration seemed to
Hans the only punishment left for one who had thus evaded the hangman;
and he proceeded to inflict this punishment to the extent of his
ability.

Finding that the tale could not be kept secret, John nerved himself to
tell it to Carlen. She heard it in silence from beginning to end, asked
a few searching questions, and then to John's unutterable astonishment
said: "Wilhelm never killed that man. You have none of you stopped to
see if there was proof."

"But why did he fly, Liebchen?" asked John.

"Because he knew he would be accused of the murder," she replied. "They
might have been fighting at the edge of the precipice and the shepherd
fell over, or the shepherd might have been killed by some one else, and
Wilhelm have found the body. He never killed him, John, never."

There was something in Carlen's confident belief which communicated
itself to John's mind, and, coupled with the fact that there was
certainly only circumstantial evidence against Wilhelm, slowly brought
him to sharing her belief and tender sorrow. But they were alone in this
belief and alone in their sorrow. The verdict of the community was
unhesitatingly, unqualifiedly, against Wilhelm.

"Would a man hang himself if he knew he were innocent?" said everybody.

"All the more if he knew he could never prove himself innocent," said
John and Carlen. But no one else thought so. And how could the truth
ever be known in this world?

Wilhelm was buried in a corner of the meadow field he had so loved.
Before two years had passed, wild blackberry vines had covered the grave
with a thick mat of tangled leaves, green in summer, blood-red in the
autumn. And before three more had passed there was no one in the place
who knew the secret of the grave. Farmer Weitbreck and his wife were
both dead, and the estate had passed into the hands of strangers who had
heard the story of Wilhelm, and knew that his body was buried somewhere
on the farm; but in which field they neither asked nor cared, and there
was no mourner to tell the story. John Weitbreck had realized his dream
of going West, a free man at last, and by no means a poor one; he looked
out over scores of broad fields of his own, one of the most fertile of
the Oregon valleys.

Alf was with him, and Carlen; and Carlen was Alf's wife,--placid,
contented wife, and fond and happy mother,--so small ripples did there
remain from the tempestuous waves beneath which Carl Lepmann's life had
gone down. Some deftly carved boxes and figures of chamois and their
hunters stood on Carlen's best-room mantel, much admired by her
neighbors, and longed for by her toddling girl,--these, and a bunch of
dried and crumbling blossoms of the Ladies' Tress, were all that had
survived the storm. The dried flowers were in the largest of the boxes.
They lay there side by side with a bit of carved abalone shell Alf had
got from a Nez Perce Indian, and some curious seaweeds he had picked up
at the mouth of the Columbia River. Carlen's one gilt brooch was kept in
the same box, and when she took it out of a Sunday, the sight of the
withered flowers always reminded her of Wilhelm. She could not have told
why she kept them; it certainly was not because they woke in her breast
any thoughts which Alf might not have read without being disquieted. She
sometimes sighed, as she saw them, "Poor Wilhelm!" That was all.

But there came one day a letter to John that awoke even in Carlen's
motherly and contented heart strange echoes from that past which she had
thought forever left behind. It was a letter from Hans Dietman, who
still lived on the Pennsylvania farm, and who had been recently joined
there by a younger brother from Germany.

This brother had brought news which, too late, vindicated the memory of
Wilhelm. Carlen had been right. He was no murderer.

It was with struggling emotions that Carlen heard the tale; pride, joy,
passionate regret, old affection, revived. John was half afraid to go
on, as he saw her face flushing, her eyes filling with tears, kindling
and shining with a light he had not seen in them since her youth.

"Go on! go on!" she cried. "Why do you stop? Did I not tell you so? And
you never half believed me! Now you see I was right! I told you Wilhelm
never harmed a human being!"

It was indeed a heartrending story, to come so late, so bootless now, to
the poor boy who had slept all these years in the nameless grave, even
its place forgotten.

It seemed that a man sentenced in Mayence to be executed for murder had
confessed, the day before his execution, that it was he who had killed
the shepherd of whose death Carl Lepmann had so long been held guilty.
They had quarrelled about a girl, a faithless creature, forsworn to both
of them, and worth no man's love or desire; but jealous anger got the
better of their sense, and they grappled in fight, each determined to
kill the other.

The shepherd had the worst of it; and just as he fell, mortally hurt,
Carl Lepmann had come up,--had come up in time to see the murderer leap
on his horse to ride away.

In a voice, which the man said had haunted him ever since, Carl had
cried out: "My God! You ride away and leave him dead! and it will be I
who have killed him, for this morning we fought so they had to tear us
apart!"

Smitten with remorse, the man had with Carl's help lifted the body and
thrown it over the precipice, at the foot of which it was afterward
found. He then endeavored to persuade the lad that it would never be
discovered, and he might safely return to his employer's farm. But
Carl's terror was too great, and he had finally been so wrought upon by
his entreaties that he had taken him two days' journey, by lonely ways,
the two riding sometimes in turn, sometimes together,--two days' and two
nights' journey,--till they reached the sea, where Carl had taken ship
for America.

"He was a good lad, a tender-hearted lad," said the murderer. "He might
have accused me in many a village, and stood as good chance to be
believed as I, if he had told where the shepherd's body was thrown; but
he could be frightened as easily as a woman, and all he thought of was
to fly where he would never be heard of more. And it was the thought of
him, from that day till now, has given me more misery than the thought
of the dead man!"

Carlen was crying bitterly; the letter was just ended, when Alf came
into the room asking bewilderedly what it was all about.

The name Wilhelm meant nothing to him. It was the summer before Wilhelm
came that he had begun this Oregon farm, which he, from the first, had
fondly dedicated to Carlen in his thoughts; and when he went back to
Pennsylvania after her, he found her the same as when he went away, only
comelier and sweeter. It would not be easy to give Alf an uncomfortable
thought about his Carlen. But he did not like to see her cry.

Neither, when he had heard the whole story, did he see why her tears
need have flowed so freely. It was sad, no doubt, and a bitter shame
too, for one man to suffer and go to his grave that way for the sin of
another. But it was long past and gone; no use in crying over it now.

"What a tender-hearted, foolish wife it is!" he said in gruff fondness,
laying his hand on Carlen's shoulder, "crying over a man dead and buried
these seven years, and none of our kith or kin, either. Poor fellow! It
was a shame!"

But Carlen said nothing.



Little Bel's Supplement.



"Indeed, then, my mother, I'll not take the school at Wissan Bridge
without they promise me a supplement. It's the worst school i' a' Prince
Edward Island."

"I doubt but ye're young to tackle wi' them boys, Bel," replied the
mother, gazing into her daughter's face with an intent expression in
which it would have been hard to say which predominated,--anxiety or
fond pride. "I'd sooner see ye take any other school between this an'
Charlottetown, an' no supplement."

"I'm not afraid, my mother, but I'll manage 'em well enough; but I'll
not undertake it for the same money as a decent school is taught.
They'll promise me five pounds' supplement at the end o' the year, or
I'll not set foot i' the place."

"Maybe they'll not be for givin' ye the school at all when they see
what's yer youth," replied the mother, in a half-antagonistic tone.
There was between this mother and daughter a continual undercurrent of
possible antagonism, overlain and usually smothered out of sight by
passionate attachment on both sides.

Little Bel tossed her head. "Age is not everything that goes to the
makkin o' a teacher," she retorted. "There's Grizzy McLeod; she's
teachin' at the Cove these eight years, an' I'd shame her myself any day
she likes wi' spellin' an' the lines; an' if there's ever a boy in a
school o' mine that'll gie me a floutin' answer such's I've heard her
take by the dozen, I'll warrant ye he'll get a birchin'; an' the
trustees think there's no teacher like Grizzy. I'm not afraid."

"Grizzy never had any great schoolin' herself," replied her mother,
piously. "There's no girl in all the farms that's had what ye've had,
Bel."

"It isn't the schoolin', mother," retorted little Bel. "The schoolin' 's
got nothin' to do with it. I'd teach a school better than Grizzy McLeod
if I'd never had a day's schoolin'."

"An' now if that's not the talk of a silly," retorted the quickly
angered parent. "Will ye be tellin' me perhaps, then, that them that
can't read theirselves is to be set to teach letters?"

Little Bel was too loyal at heart to her illiterate mother to wound her
further by reiterating her point. Throwing her arms around her neck, and
kissing her warmly, she exclaimed: "Eh, my mother, it's not a silly that
ye could ever have for a child, wi' that clear head, and the wise things
always said to us from the time we're in our cradles. Ye've never a
child that's so clever as ye are yerself. I didn't mean just what I
said, ye must know, surely; only that the schoolin' part is the smallest
part o' the keepin' a school."

"An' I'll never give in to such nonsense as that, either," said the
mother, only half mollified. "Ye can ask yer father, if ye like, if it
stands not to reason that the more a teacher knows, the more he can
teach. He'll take the conceit out o' ye better than I can." And good
Isabella McDonald turned angrily away, and drummed on the window-pane
with her knitting-needles to relieve her nervous discomfort at this
slight passage at arms with her best-beloved daughter.

Little Bel's face flushed, and with compressed lips she turned silently
to the little oaken-framed looking-glass that hung so high on the wall
she could but just see her chin in it. As she slowly tied her pink
bonnet strings she grew happier. In truth, she would have been a maiden
hard to console if the face that looked back at her from the quaint oak
leaf and acorn wreath had not comforted her inmost soul, and made her
again at peace with herself. And as the mother looked on she too was
comforted; and in five minutes more, when Little Bel was ready to say
good-by, they flung their arms around each other, and embraced and
kissed, and the daughter said, "Good-by t' ye now, mother. Wish me well,
an' ye'll see that I get it,--supplement an' all," she added slyly. And
the mother said, "Good luck t' ye, child; an' it's luck to them that
gets ye." That was the way quarrels always ended between Isabella
McDonald and her oldest daughter.

The oldest daughter, and yet only just turned of twenty; and there were
eight children younger than she, and one older. This is the way among
the Scotch farming-folk in Prince Edward Island. Children come tumbling
into the world like rabbits in a pen, and have to scramble for a living
almost as soon and as hard as the rabbits. It is a narrow life they
lead, and full of hardships and deprivations, but it has its
compensations. Sturdy virtues in sturdy bodies come of it,--the sort of
virtue made by the straitest Calvinism, and the sort of body made out of
oatmeal and milk. One might do much worse than inherit both.

It seemed but a few years ago that John McDonald had wooed and won
Isabella McIntosh,--wooed her with difficulty in the bosom of her family
of six brothers and five sisters, and won her triumphantly in spite of
the open and contemptuous opposition of one of the five sisters. For
John himself was one of seven in his father's home, and whoever married
John must go there to live, to be only a daughter in a mother-in-law's
house, and take a daughter's share of the brunt of everything. "And
nothing to be got except a living, and it was a poor living the McDonald
farm gave beside the McIntosh," the McIntosh sisters said. And,
moreover: "The saint did not live that could get on with John McDonald's
mother. That was what had made him the silent fellow he was, always
being told by his mother to hold his tongue and have done speaking; and
a fine pepper-pot there'd be when Isabella's hasty tongue and temper
were flung into that batch!"

There was no gainsaying all this. Nevertheless, Isabella married John,
went home with him into his father's house, put her shoulder against her
spoke in the family wheel, and did her best. And when, ten years later,
as reward of her affectionate trust and patience, she found herself sole
mistress of the McDonald farm, she did not feel herself ill paid. The
old father and mother were dead, two sisters had died and two had
married, and the two sons had gone to the States to seek better fortunes
than were to be made on Prince Edward Island. John, as eldest son, had,
according to the custom of the island, inherited the farm; and Mrs.
Isabella, confronting her three still unmarried sisters, was able at
last triumphantly to refute their still resentfully remembered
objections to her choice of a husband.

"An' did ye suppose I did not all the time know that it was to this it
was sure to come, soon or late?" she said, with justifiable complacency.
"It's a good thing to have a house o' one's own an' an estate. An' the
linen that's in the house! I've no need to turn a hand to the flax-wheel
for ten years if I've no mind. An' ye can all bide your times, an' see
what John'll make o' the farm, now he's got where he can have things his
own way. His father was always set against anything that was new, an'
the place is run down shameful; but John'll bring it up, an' I'm not an
old woman yet."

This last was the unkindest phrase Mrs. John McDonald permitted herself
to use. There was a rebound in it which told on the Mclntosh sisters;
for they, many years older than she, were already living on tolerance
in their father's house, where their oldest brother and his wife ruled
things with an iron hand. All hopes of a husband and a home of their own
had quite died out of their spinster bosoms, and they would not have
been human had they not secretly and grievously envied the comely,
blooming Isabella her husband, children, and home.

But, with all this, it was no play-day life that Mrs. Isabella had led.
At the very best, and with the best of farms, Prince Edward Island
farming is no high-road to fortune; only a living, and that of the
plainest, is to be made; and when children come at the rate of ten in
twenty-two years, it is but a small showing that the farmer's bank
account makes at the end of that time. There is no margin for fineries,
luxuries, small ambitions of any kind. Isabella had her temptations in
these directions, but John was firm as a rock in withstanding them. If
he had not been, there would never have been this story to tell of his
Little Bel's school-teaching, for there would never have been money
enough in the bank to have given her two years' schooling in
Charlottetown, the best the little city afforded,--"and she boardin'
all the time like a lady," said the severe McIntosh aunts, who
disapproved of all such wide-flying ambitions, which made women
discontented with and unfitted for farming life.

"And why should Isabella be setting her daughters up for teachers?" they
said. "It's no great schoolin' she had herself, and if her girls do as
well as she's done, they'll be lucky,"--a speech which made John
McDonald laugh out when it was reported to him. He could afford to laugh
now.

"I mind there was a day when they thought different o' me from that," he
said. "I'm obliged to them for nothin'; but I'd like the little one to
have a better chance than the marryin' o' a man like me, an' if
anything'll get it for her, it'll be schoolin'."

The "boardin' like a lady," which had so offended the Misses Mclntosh's
sense of propriety, was not, after all, so great an extravagance as they
had supposed; for it was in his own brother's house her thrifty father
had put her, and had stipulated that part of the price of her board was
to be paid in produce of one sort and another from the farm, at market
rates; "an' so, ye see, the lass 'll be eatin' it there 'stead of here,"
he said to his wife when he told her of the arrangement, "an' it's a
sma' difference it'll make to us i' the end o' the two years."

"An' a big difference to her a' her life," replied Isabella, warmly.

"Ay, wife," said John, "if it fa's out as ye hope; but it's main
uncertain countin' on the book-knowledge. There's some it draws up an'
some it draws down; it's a millstone. But the lass is bright; she's as
like you as two peas in a pod. If ye'd had the chance she's had--"

Rising color in Isabella's face warned John to stop. It is a strange
thing to see how often there hovers a flitting shadow of jealousy
between a mother and the daughter to whom the father unconsciously
manifests a chivalrous tenderness akin to that which in his youth he had
given only to the sweetheart he sought for wife. Unacknowledged,
perhaps, even unmanifested save in occasional swift and unreasonable
petulances, it is still there, making many a heartache, which is none
the less bitter that it is inexplicable to itself, and dares not so much
as confess its own existence.

"It's a better thing for a woman to make her way i' the world on the
book-learnin' than to be always at the wheel an' the churn an' the
floors to be whitened," replied Isabella, sharply. "An' one year like
another, till the year comes ye're buried. I look for Bel to marry a
minister, or maybe even better."

"Ye'd a chance at a minister yersel', then, my girl," replied the wise
John, "an' ye did not take it." At which memory the wife laughed, and
the two loyal hearts were merry together for a moment, and young again.

Little Bel had, indeed, even before the Charlottetown schooling, had a
far better chance than her mother; for in her mother's day there was no
free school in the island, and in families of ten and twelve it was only
a turn and turn about that the children had at school. Since the free
schools had been established many a grown man and woman had sighed
curiously at the better luck of the youngsters under the new regime. No
excuse now for the poorest man's children not knowing how to read and
write and more; and if they chose to keep on, nothing to hinder their
dipping into studies of which their parents never heard so much as the
names.

And this was not the only better chance which Little Bel had had. John
McDonald's farm joined the lands of the manse; his house was a short
mile from the manse itself; and by a bit of good fortune for Little Bel
it happened that just as she was growing into girlhood there came a new
minister to the manse,--a young man from Halifax, with a young bride,
the daughter of an officer in the Halifax garrison,--gentlefolks, both
of them, but single-hearted and full of fervor in their work for the
souls of the plain farming-people given into their charge. And both Mr.
Allan and Mrs. Allan had caught sight of Little Bel's face on their
first Sunday in church, and Mrs. Allan had traced to her a flute-like
voice she had detected in the Sunday-school singing; and before long, to
Isabella's great but unspoken pride, the child had been "bidden to the
manse for the minister's wife to hear her sing;" and from that day there
was a new vista in Little Bel's life.

Her voice was sweet as a lark's and as pure, and her passionate love
for music a gift in itself. "It would be a sin not to cultivate it,"
said Mrs. Allan to her husband, "even if she never sees another piano
than mine, nor has any other time in her life except these few years to
enjoy it; she will always have had these, and nothing can separate her
from her voice."

And so it came to pass that when, at sixteen, Little Bel went to
Charlottetown for her final two years of study at the High School, she
played almost as well as Mrs. Allan herself, and sang far better. And in
all Isabella McDonald's day-dreams of the child's future, vague or
minute, there was one feature never left out. The "good husband" coming
always was to be a man who could "give her a piano."

In Charlottetown Bel found no such friend as Mrs. Allan; but she had a
young school-mate who had a piano, and--poor short-sighted creature that
she was, Bel thought--hated the sight of it, detested to practise, and
shed many a tear over her lessons. This girl's parents were thankful to
see their daughter impressed by Bel's enthusiasm for music; and so well
did the clever girl play her cards that before she had been six months
in the place, she was installed as music-teacher to her own
schoolfellow, earning thereby not only money enough to buy the few
clothes she needed, but, what to her was better than money, the
privilege of the use of the piano an hour a day.

So when she went home, at the end of the two years, she had lost
nothing,--in fact, had made substantial progress; and her old friend and
teacher, Mrs. Allan, was as proud as she was astonished when she first
heard her play and sing. Still more astonished was she at the forceful
character the girl had developed. She went away a gentle, loving,
clinging child; her nature, like her voice, belonging to the order of
birds,--bright, flitting, merry, confiding. She returned a woman, still
loving, still gentle in her manner, but with a new poise in her bearing,
a resoluteness, a fire, of which her first girlhood had given no
suggestion. It was strange to see how similar yet unlike were the
comments made on her in the manse and in the farmhouse by the two
couples most interested in her welfare.

"It is wonderful, Robert," said Mrs. Allan to her husband, "how that
girl has changed, and yet not changed. It is the music that has lifted
her up so. What a glorious thing is a real passion for any art in a
human soul! But she can never live here among these people. I must take
her to Halifax."

"No," said Mr. Allan; "her work will be here. She belongs to her people
in heart, all the same. She will not be discontented."

"Husband, I'm doubtin' if we've done the right thing by the child, after
a'," said the mother, tearfully, to the father, at the end of the first
evening after Bel's return. "She's got the ways o' the city on her, an'
she carries herself as if she'd be teachin' the minister his own self. I
doubt but she'll feel herself strange i' the house."

"Never you fash yourself," replied John. "The girl's got her head,
that's a'; but her heart's i' the right place. Ye'll see she'll put her
strength to whatever there's to be done. She'll be a master hand at
teachin', I'll wager!"

"You always did think she was perfection," replied the mother, in a
crisp but not ill-natured tone, "an' I'm not gainsayin' that she's not
as near it as is often seen; but I'm main uneasy to see her carryin'
herself so positive."

If John thought in his heart that Bel had come through direct heredity
on the maternal side by this "carryin' herself positive," he knew better
than to say so, and his only reply was a good-natured laugh, with:
"You'll see! I'm not afraid. She's a good child, an' always was."

Bel passed her examination triumphantly, and got the Wissan Bridge
school; but she got only a contingent promise of the five-pound
supplement. It went sorely against her will to waive this point. Very
keenly Mr. Allan, who was on the Examining Board, watched her face as
she modestly yet firmly pressed it.

The trustees did not deny that the Wissan Bridge school was a difficult
and unruly one; that to manage it well was worth more money than the
ordinary school salaries. The question was whether this very young lady
could manage it at all; and if she failed, as the last incumbent
had,--failed egregiously, too; the school had broken up in riotous
confusion before the end of the year,--the canny Scotchmen of the School
Board did not wish to be pledged to pay that extra five pounds. The
utmost Bel could extract from them was a promise that if at the end of
the year her teaching had proved satisfactory, the five pounds should be
paid. More they would not say; and after a short, sharp struggle with
herself Bel accepted the terms; but she could not restrain a farewell
shot at the trustees as she turned to go. "I'm as sure o' my five pounds
as if ye'd promised it downright, sirs. I shall keep ye a good school at
Wissan Bridge."

"We'll make it guineas, then, Miss Bel," cried Mr. Allan,
enthusiastically, looking at his colleagues, who nodded their heads, and
said, laughing, "Yes, guineas it is."

"And guineas it will be," retorted Little Bel, as with cheeks like
peonies she left the room.

"Egad, but she's a fine spirit o' her ain, an' as bonnie a face as I've
seen since I remember," cried old Mr. Dalgetty, the senior member of
the Board, and the one hardest to please. "I'd not mind bein' a pupil at
Wissan Bridge school the comin' term myself." And he gave an old man's
privileged chuckle as he looked at his colleagues. "But she's over-young
for the work,--over-young."

"She'll do it," said Mr. Allan, confidently. "Ye need have no fear. My
wife's had the training of the girl since she was little. She's got the
best o' stuff in her. She'll do it."

Mr. Allan's prediction was fulfilled. Bel did it. But she did it at the
cost of harder work than even she had anticipated. If it had not been
for her music she would never have pulled through with the boys of
Wissan Bridge. By her music she tamed them. The young Marsyas himself
never piped to a wilder set of creatures than the uncouth lads and young
men that sat in wide-eyed, wide-mouthed astonishment listening to the
first song their pretty young schoolmistress sang for them. To have
singing exercises part of the regular school routine was a new thing at
Wissan Bridge. It took like wild-fire; and when Little Bel, shrewd and
diplomatic as a statesman, invited the two oldest and worst boys in the
school to come Wednesday and Saturday afternoons to her boarding-place
to practise singing with her to the accompaniment of the piano, so as to
be able to help her lead the rest, her sovereignty was established. They
were not conquered; they were converted,--a far surer and more lasting
process. Neither of them would, from that day out, have been guilty of
an act, word, or look to annoy her, any more than if they had been rival
lovers suing for her hand. As Bel's good luck would have it,--and Bel
was born to good luck, there is no denying it,--one of these boys had a
good tenor voice, the other a fine barytone; they had both in their
rough way been singers all their lives, and were lovers of music.

"That was more than half the battle, my mother," confessed Bel, when, at
the end of the first term she was at home for a few days, and was
recounting her experiences. "Except for the singin' I'd never have got
Archie McLeod under, nor Sandy Stairs either. I doubt they'd have been
too many for me, but now they're like two more teachers to the fore. I'd
leave the school-room to them for a day, an' not a lad'd dare stir in
his seat without their leave. I call them my constables; an' I'm
teaching them a small bit of chemistry out o' school hours, too, an'
that's a hold on them. They'll see me out safe; an' I'm thinkin' I'll
owe them a bit part o' the five guineas when I get it," she added
reflectively.

"The minister says ye're sure of it," replied her mother. "He says ye've
the best school a'ready in all his circuit. I don't know how ever ye
come to't so quick, child." And Isabella McDonald smiled wistfully,
spite of all her pride in her clever bairn.

"Ye see, then, what he'll say after the examination at New Year's,"
gleefully replied Bel, "if he thinks the school is so good now. It'll be
twice as good then; an' such singin' as was never heard before in any
school-house on the island, I'll warrant me. I'm to have the piano over
for the day to the school-house. Archie and Sandy'll move it in a big
wagon, to save me payin' for the cartin'; an' I'm to pay a half-pound
for the use of it if it's not hurt,--a dear bargain, but she'd not let
it go a shilling less. And, to be sure, there is the risk to be
counted. An' she knew I 'd have it if it had been twice that. But I got
it out of her that for that price she was to let me have all the school
over twice a week, for two months before, to practise. So it's not too
dear. Ye'll see what ye'll hear then."

It had been part of Little Bel's good luck that she had succeeded in
obtaining board in the only family in the village which had the
distinction of owning a piano; and by paying a small sum extra, she had
obtained the use of this piano for an hour each day,--the best
investment of Little Bel's life, as the sequel showed.

It was a bitter winter on Prince Edward Island. By New Year's time the
roads were many of them wellnigh impassable with snow. Fierce winds
swept to and fro, obliterating tracks by noon which had been clear in
the morning; and nobody went abroad if he could help it. New Year's Day
opened fiercest of all, with scurries of snow, lowering sky, and a wind
that threatened to be a gale before night. But, for all that, the
tying-posts behind the Wissan Bridge school-house were crowded full of
steaming horses under buffalo-robes, which must stamp and paw and
shiver, and endure the day as best they might, while the New Year's
examination went on. Everybody had come. The fame of the singing of the
Wissan Bridge school had spread far and near, and it had been whispered
about that there was to be a "piece" sung which was finer than anything
ever sung in the Charlottetown churches.

The school-house was decorated with evergreens,--pine and spruce. The
New Year's Day having fallen on a Monday, Little Bel had had a clear
working-day on the Saturday previous; and her faithful henchmen, Archie
and Sandy, had been busy every evening for a week drawing the boughs on
their sleds and piling them up in the yard. The teacher's desk had been
removed, and in its place stood the shining red mahogany piano,--a new
and wonderful sight to many eyes there.

All was ready, the room crowded full, and the Board of Trustees not yet
arrived. There sat their three big arm-chairs on the raised platform,
empty,--a depressing and perplexing sight to Little Bel, who, in her
short blue merino gown, with a knot of pink ribbon at her throat, and a
roll of white paper (her schedule of exercises) in her hand, stood on
the left hand of the piano, her eyes fixed expectantly on the doors. The
minutes lengthened out into quarter of an hour, half an hour. Anxiously
Bel consulted with her father what should be done.

"The roads are something fearfu', child," he replied; "we must make big
allowance for that. They're sure to be comin', at least some one o'
them. It was never known that they failed on the New Year's examination,
an' it would seem a sore disrespect to begin without them here."

Before he had finished speaking there was heard a merry jingling of
bells outside, dozens and dozens it seemed, and hilarious voices and
laughter, and the snorting of overdriven horses, and the stamping of
feet, and more voices and more laughter. Everybody looked in his
neighbor's face. What sounds were these? Who ever heard a sober School
Board arrive in such fashion as this? But it was the School
Board,--nothing less: a good deal more, however. Little Bel's heart
sank within her as she saw the foremost figure entering the room. What
evil destiny had brought Sandy Bruce in the character of school visitor
that day?--Sandy Bruce, retired school-teacher himself, superintendent
of the hospital in Charlottetown, road-master, ship-owner,
exciseman,--Sandy Bruce, whose sharp and unexpected questions had been
known to floor the best of scholars and upset the plans of the best of
teachers. Yes, here he was,--Sandy Bruce himself; and it was his fierce
little Norwegian ponies, with their silver bells and fur collars, the
admiration of all Charlottetown, that had made such a clatter and
stamping outside, and were still keeping it up; for every time they
stirred the bells tinkled like a peal of chimes. And, woe upon woe,
behind him came, not Bel's friend and pastor, Mr. Allan, but the crusty
old Dalgetty, whose doing it had been a year before, as Bel very well
knew, that the five-pound supplement had been only conditionally
promised.

Conflicting emotions turned Bel's face scarlet as she advanced to meet
them; the most casual observer could not have failed to see that dismay
predominated, and Sandy Bruce was no casual observer; nothing escaped
his keen glance and keener intuition, and it was almost with a wicked
twinkle in his little hazel eyes that he said, still shaking off the
snow, stamping and puffing: "Eh, but ye were not lookin' for me,
teacher! The minister was sent for to go to old Elspie Breadalbane,
who's dyin' the morn; and I happened by as he was startin', an' he made
me promise to come i' his place; an' I picked up my friend Dalgetty here
a few miles back, wi' his horse flounderin' i' the drifts. Except for me
ye'd ha' had no board at all here to-day; so I hope ye'll give me no bad
welcome."

As he spoke he was studying her face, where the color came and went like
waves; not a thought in the girl's heart he did not read. "Poor little
lassie!" he was thinking to himself. "She's shaking in her shoes with
fear o' me. I'll not put her out. She's a dainty blossom of a girl.
What's kept her from being trodden down by these Wissan Bridge
racketers, I'd like to know."

But when he seated himself on the platform, and took his first look at
the rows of pupils in the centre of the room, he was near starting with
amazement. The Wissan Bridge "racketers," as he had mentally called
them, were not to be seen. Very well he knew many of them by sight; for
his shipping business called him often to Wissan Bridge, and this was
not the first time he had been inside the school-house, which had been
so long the dread and terror of school boards and teachers alike. A
puzzled frown gathered between Sandy Bruce's eyebrows as he gazed.

"What has happened to the youngsters, then? Have they all been convarted
i' this twelvemonth?" he was thinking. And the flitting perplexed
thought did not escape the observation of John McDonald, who was as
quick a reader of faces as Sandy himself, and had been by no means free
from anxiety for his little Bel when he saw the redoubtable visage of
the exciseman appear in the doorway.

"He's takin' it in quick the way the bairn's got them a' in hand,"
thought John. "If only she can hold hersel' cool now!"

No danger. Bel was not the one to lose a battle by appearing to quail in
the outset, however clearly she might see herself outnumbered. And
sympathetic and eager glances from her constables, Archie and Sandy,
told her that they were all ready for the fray. These glances Sandy
Bruce chanced to intercept, and they heightened his bewilderment. To
Archie McLeod he was by no means a stranger, having had occasion more
than once to deal with him, boy as he was, for complications with
riotous misdoings. He had happened to know, also, that it was Archie
McLeod who had been head and front of the last year's revolt in the
school,--the one boy that no teacher hitherto had been able to control.
And here stood Archie McLeod, rising in his place, leader of the form,
glancing down on the boys around him with the eye of a general, watching
the teacher's eye, meanwhile, as a dog watches for his master's signal.

And the orderly yet alert and joyously eager expression of the whole
school,--it had so much the look of a miracle to Sandy Bruce's eye,
that, not having been for years accustomed to the restraint and dignity
of school visitors, of technical official, he was on the point of giving
a loud whistle of astonishment Luckily recollecting himself in time, he
smothered the whistle and the "Whew! what's all this?" which had been on
his tongue's end, in a vigorous and unnecessary blowing of his nose. And
before that was over, and his eyes well wiped, there stood the whole
school on its feet before him, and the room ringing with such a chorus
as was never heard in a Prince Edward Island school-room before. This
completed his bewilderment, and swallowed it up in delight. If Sandy
Bruce had an overmastering passion in his rugged nature, it was for
music. To the sound of the bag-pipes he had often said he would march to
death and "not know it for dyin'." The drum and the fife could draw him
as quickly now as when he was a boy, and the sweet singing of a woman's
voice was all the token he wanted of the certainty of heaven and the
existence of angels.

When Little Bel's clear, flute-like soprano notes rang out, carrying
along the fifty young voices she led, Sandy jumped up on his feet,
waving his hand, in a sudden heat of excitement, right and left; and
looking swiftly all about him on the platform, he said: "It's not
sittin' we'es take such welcome as this, my neebors!" Each man and woman
there, catching the quick contagion, rose; and it was a tumultuous crowd
of glowing faces that pressed forward around the piano as the singing
went on,--fathers, mothers, rustics, all; and the children, pleased and
astonished, sang better than ever, and when the chorus was ended it was
some minutes before all was quiet.

Many things had been settled in that few minutes. John McDonald's heart
was at rest. "The music'll carry a' before it, no matter if they do make
a failure here 'n' there," he thought. "The bairn is a' right." The
mother's heart was at rest also.

"She's done wonders wi' 'em,--wonders! I doubt not but it'll go through
as it's begun. Her face's a picture to look on. Bless her!" Isabella was
saying behind her placid smile.

"Eh, but she's won her guineas out o' us," thought old Dalgetty,
ungrudgingly, "and won 'em well."

"I don't see why everybody is so afraid of Sandy Bruce," thought Little
Bel. "He looks as kind and as pleased as my own father. I don't believe
he'll ask any o' his botherin' questions."

What Sandy Bruce thought it would be hard to tell; nearer the truth,
probably, to say that his head was in too much of a whirl to think
anything. Certain it is that he did not ask any botherin' questions, but
sat, leaning forward on his stout oaken staff, held firmly between his
knees, and did not move for the next hour, his eyes resting alternately
on the school and on the young teacher, who, now that her first fright
was over, was conducting her entertainment with the composure and
dignity of an experienced instructor.

The exercises were simple,--declamations, reading of selected
compositions, examinations of the principal classes. At short intervals
came songs to break the monotony. The first one after the opening chorus
was "Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon." At the first bars of this Sandy
Bruce could not keep silence, but broke into a lone accompaniment in a
deep bass voice, untrained but sweet.

"Ah," thought Little Bel, "what'll he say to the last one, I wonder?"

When the time came she found out. If she had chosen the arrangement of
her music with full knowledge of Sandy Bruce's preferences, and with the
express determination to rouse him to a climax of enthusiasm, she could
not have done better.

When the end of the simple programme of recitations and exhibition had
been reached, she came forward to the edge of the platform--her cheeks
were deep pink now, and her eyes shone with excitement--and said,
turning to the trustees and spectators: "We have finished, now, all we
have to show for our year's work, and we will close our entertainment by
singing 'Scots wha ha' wi' Wallace bled!'"

"Ay, ay! that wi' we!" shouted Sandy Bruce, again leaping to his feet;
and as the first of the grand chords of that grand old tune rang out
full and loud under Little Bel's firm touch, he strode forward to the
piano, and with a kindly nod to her struck in.

With the full force of his deep, bass-like, violoncello notes, gathering
up all the others and fusing them into a pealing strain, it was
electin'. Everybody sang. Old voices, that had not sung for a quarter of
a century or more, joined in. It was a furor: Dalgetty swung his tartan
cap, Sandy his hat; handkerchiefs were waved, staves rang on the floor.
The children, half frightened in spite of their pleasure, were quieter
than their elders.

"Eh, but it was good fun to see the old folks gone crazy for once!" said
Archie McLeod, in recounting the scene. "Now, if they'd get that way
oftener they'd not be so hard down on us youngsters."

At the conclusion of the song the first thing Little Bel heard was
Dalgetty's piping voice behind her,--

"And guineas it is, Miss McDonald. Ye've won it fair an' square. Guineas
it is!"

"Eh, what? Guineas! What is 't ye're sayin'?" asked Sandy Bruce; his
eyes, steady glowing like coals, gazing at Little Bel.

"The supplement, sir," answered Little Bel, lifting her eyes roguishly
to his. "Mr. Dalgetty thought I was too young for the school, an' he'd
promise me no supplement till he saw if I'd be equal to 't."

This was the sly Bel's little revenge on Dalgetty, who began confusedly
to explain that it was not he any more than the other trustees, and he
only wished that they had all been here to see, as he had seen, how
finely the school had been managed; but nobody heard what he said, for
above all the humming and buzzing and laughing there came up from the
centre of the school-room a reiterated call of "Sirs!" "Trustees!" "Mr.
Trustee!" "Board!"

It was Archie McLeod, standing up on the backs of two seats, waving a
white paper, and trying frantically to make himself heard. The face of a
man galloping for life and death, coming up at the last second with a
reprieve for one about to be shot, could hardly be fuller of intense
anxiety than was Archie's as he waved his paper and shouted.

Little Bel gazed bewilderingly at him. This was not down on her
programme of the exercises. What could it be?

As soon as partial silence enabled him to speak, Archie proceeded to
read a petition, setting forth, to the respected Board of Trustees, that
the undersigned, boys and girls of the Wissan Bridge School, did hereby
unanimously request that they might have no other teacher than Miss
McDonald, "as long as she lives."

This last clause had been the cause of bitter disputing between Archie
and Sandy,--Sandy insisting upon having it in; Archie insisting that it
was absurd, because they would not go to school as long as Miss McDonald
lived. "But there's the little ones and the babies that'll be growin'
up," retorted Sandy, "an' there'll never be another like her: I say, 'as
long as she lives'"; and "as long as she lives" it was. And when Archie,
with an unnecessary emphasis, delivered this closing clause of the
petition, it was received with a roar of laughter from the platform,
which made him flush angrily, and say, with a vicious punch in Sandy's
ribs: "There, I told ye, it spoiled it a'. They're fit to die over it;
an' sma' blame to 'em, ye silly!"

But he was reassured when he heard Sandy Bruce's voice overtopping the
tumult with: "A vary sensible request, my lad; an' I, for one, am o' yer
way o' thinkin'."

In which speech was a deeper significance than anybody at the time
dreamed. In that hurly-burly and hilarious confusion no one had time to
weigh words or note meanings; but there were some who recalled it a few
months later when they were bidden to a wedding at the house of John
McDonald,--a wedding at which Sandy Bruce was groom, and Little Bel the
brightest, most winsome of brides.

It was an odd way that Sandy went to work to win her: his ways had been
odd all his life,--so odd that it had long ago been accepted in the
minds of the Charlottetown people that he would never find a woman to
wed him; only now and then an unusually perspicacious person divined
that the reason of his bachelorhood was not at all that women did not
wish to wed him, spite of his odd ways, but that he himself found no
woman exactly to his taste.

True it was that Sandy Bruce, aged forty, had never yet desired any
woman for his wife till he looked into the face of Little Bel in the
Wissan Bridge school-house. And equally true was it that before the last
strains of "Scots wha ha' wi' Wallace bled" had died away on that
memorable afternoon of her exhibition of her school, he had determined
that his wife she should be.

This was the way he took to win her. No one can deny that it was odd.

There was some talk between him and his temporary colleague on the
School Board, old Dalgetty, as they drove home together behind the brisk
Norwegian ponies; and the result of this conversation was that the next
morning early--in fact, before Little Bel was dressed, so late had she
been indulged, for once, in sleeping, after her hard labors in the
exhibition the day before--the Norwegian ponies were jingling their
bells at John McDonald's door; and John himself might have been seen,
with a seriously puzzled face, listening to words earnestly spoken by
Sandy, as he shook off the snow and blanketed the ponies.

As the talk progressed, John glanced up involuntarily at Little Bel's
window. Could it be that he sighed? At any rate, there was no regret in
his heart as he shook Sandy's hand warmly, and said: "Ye've my free
consent to try; but I doubt she's not easy won. She's her head now, an'
her ain way; but she's a good lass, an' a sweet one."

"An' I need no man to tell me that," said the dauntless Sandy, as he
gave back the hearty hand-grip of his friend; "an' she'll never repent
it, the longest day o' her life, if she'll ha' me for her man." And he
strode into the house, bearing in his hand the five golden guineas which
his friend Dalgetty had, at his request, commissioned him to pay.

"Into her own hand, mind ye, mon," chuckled Dalgetty, mischievously.
"Ye'll not be leavin' it wi' the mither." To which sly satire Sandy's
only reply was a soft laugh and nod of his head.

As soon as Little Bel crossed the threshold of the room where Sandy
Bruce stood waiting for her, she knew the errand on which he had come.
It was written in his face. Neither could it be truthfully said to be a
surprise to Little Bel; for she had not been woman, had she failed to
recognize on the previous day that the rugged Scotchman's whole nature
had gone out toward her in a sudden and overmastering attraction.

Sandy looked at her keenly. "Eh, ye know't a'ready," he said,--"the
thing I came to say t' ye." And he paused, still eying her more like a
judge than a lover.

Little Bel turned scarlet. This was not her ideal of a wooer. "Know
what, Mr. Bruce?" she said resentfully. "How should I know what ye came
to say?"

"Tush! tush, lass! do na prevaricate," Sandy began, his eyes gloating on
her lovely confusion; "do na preteend--" But the sweet blue eyes were
too much for him. Breaking down utterly, he tossed the guineas to one
side on the table, and stretching out both hands toward Bel, he
exclaimed,--"Ye're the sweetest thing the eyes o' a mon ever rested on,
lass, an' I'm goin' to win ye if ye'll let me." And as Bel opened her
mouth to speak, he laid one hand, quietly as a mother might, across her
lips, and continued: "Na! na! I'll not let ye speak yet. I'm not a silly
to look for ye to be ready to say me yes at this quick askin'; but I'll
not let ye say me nay neither. Ye'll not refuse me the only thing I'm
askin' the day, an' that's that ye'll let me try to make ye love me.
Ye'll not say nay to that, lass. I'll gie my life to it." And now he
waited for an answer.

None came. Tears were in Bel's eyes as she looked up in his face. Twice
she opened her lips to speak, and twice her heart and the words failed
her. The tears became drops and rolled down the cheeks. Sandy was
dismayed.

"Ye're not afraid o' me, ye sweet thing, are ye?" he gasped out. "I'd
not vex ye for the world. If ye bid me to go, I'd go."

"No, I'm not afraid o' ye, Mr. Bruce," sobbed Bel. "I don't know what it
is makes me so silly. I'm not afraid o' ye, though. But I was for a few
minutes yesterday," she added archly, with a little glint of a roguish
smile, which broke through the tears like an April sun through rain, and
turned Sandy's head in the twinkling of an eye.

"Ay, ay," he said; "I minded it weel, an' I said to myself then, in that
first sight I had o' yer face, that I'd not harm a hair o' yer head. Oh,
my little lass, would ye gie me a kiss,--just one, to show ye're not
afraid, and to gie me leave to try to win ye out o' likin' into lovin'?"
he continued, drawing closer and bending toward her.

And then a wonderful thing happened. Little Bel, who, although she was
twenty years old, and had by no means been without her admirers, had
never yet kissed any man but her father and brothers, put up her rosy
lips, as confidingly as a little child, to be kissed by this strange
wooer, who wooed only for leave to woo.

"An' if he'd only known it, he might ha' asked a' he wanted then as well
as later," said Little Bel, honestly avowing the whole to her mother.
"As soon as he put his hands on me the very heart in me said he was my
man for a' my life. An' there's no shame in it that I can see. If a man
may love that way in the lighting of an eye, why may not a girl do the
same? There's not one kind o' heart i' the breast of a man an' another
kind i' the breast of a woman, as ever I heard." In which Little Bel, in
her innocence, was wiser than people wiser than she.

And after this there is no need of telling more,--only a picture or two
which are perhaps worth sketching in few words. One is the expression
which was seen on Sandy Bruce's face one day, not many weeks after his
first interview with Little Bel, when, in reply to his question, "An'
now, my own lass, what'll ye have for your weddin' gift from me? Tell me
the thing ye want most i' a' the earth, an' if it's in my means ye shall
have it the day ye gie me the thing I want maist i' the whole earth."

"I've got it a'ready, Sandy," said Little Bel, taking his face in her
hands, and making a feint of kissing him; then withdrawing coquettishly.
Wise, innocent Bel! Sandy understood.

"Ay, my lass; but next to me. What's the next thing ye'd have?"

Bel hesitated. Even to her wooer's generosity it might seem a daring
request,--the thing she craved.

"Tell me, lass," said Sandy, sternly. "I've mair money than ye think.
There's no lady in a' Charlottetown can go finer than ye if ye've a
mind."

"For shame, Sandy!" cried Bel. "An' you to think it was fine apparel I'd
be askin'! It's a--a"--the word refused to leave her tongue--"a--piano,
Sandy;" and she gazed anxiously at him. "I'll never ask ye for another
thing till the day o' my death, Sandy, if ye'll gie me that."

Sandy shouted in delight. For a brief space a fear had seized him--of
which he now felt shame indeed--that his sweet lassie might be about to
ask for jewels or rich attire; and it would have sorely hurt Sandy's
pride in her had this been so.

"A piano!" he shouted. "An' did ye not think I'd that a'ready in my
mind? O' coorse, a piano, an' every other instrument under the skies
that ye'll wish, my lass, ye shall have. The more music ye make, the
gladder the house'll be. Is there nothin' else ye want, lass,--nothin'?"

"Nothing in all this world, Sandy, but you and a piano," replied Little
Bel.

The other picture was on a New Year's Day, just a twelvemonth from the
day of Little Bel's exhibition in the Wissan Bridge school-house. It is
a bright day; the sleighing is superb all over the island, and the
Charlottetown streets are full of gay sleighs and jingling bells,--none
so gay, however, as Sandy Bruce's, and no bells so merry as the silver
ones on his fierce little Norwegian ponies, that curvet and prance, and
are all their driver can hold. Rolled up in furs to her chin, how rosy
and handsome looks Little Bel by her husband's side, and how full of
proud content is his face as he sees the people all turning to look at
her beauty! And who is this driving the Norwegian ponies? Who but
Archie,--Archie McLeod, who has followed his young teacher to her new
home, and is to grow up, under Sandy Bruce's teachings, into a sharp and
successful man of the shipping business.

And as they turn a corner they come near running into another fur-piled,
swift-gliding sleigh, with a grizzled old head looking out of a tartan
hood, and eyes like hawks',--Dalgetty himself; and as they pass the head
nods and the eyes laugh, and a sharp voice cries, "Guineas it is!"

"Better than guineas!" answered back Mrs. Sandy Bruce, quick as a flash;
and in the same second cries Archie, from the front seat, with a saucy
laugh, "And as long as she lives, Mr. Dalgetty!"



The Captain of the "Heather Bell".



You might have known he was a Scotchman by the name of his little
steamer; and if you had not known it by that, you would have known it as
soon as you looked at him. Scotch, pure, unmitigated, unmistakable
Scotch, was Donald Mackintosh, from the crown of his auburn head down to
the soles of his big awkward feet. Six feet two inches in his stockings
he stood, and so straight that he looked taller even than that;
blue-gray eyes full of a canny twinkle; freckles,--yes, freckles that
were really past the bounds of belief, for up into his hair they ran,
and to the rims of his eyes,--no pale, dull, equivocal freckles, such as
might be mistaken for dingy spots of anything else, but brilliant,
golden-brown freckles, almost auburn like his hair. Once seen, never to
be forgotten were Donald Mackintosh's freckles. All this does not sound
like the description of a handsome man; but we are not through yet with
what is to be said about Donald Mackintosh's looks. We have said nothing
of his straight massive nose, his tawny curling beard, which shaded up
to yellow around a broad and laughing mouth, where were perpetually
flashing teeth of an even ivory whiteness a woman might have coveted.
No, not handsome, but better than handsome, was Donald Mackintosh; he
was superb. Everybody said so: nobody could have been found to dispute
it,--nobody but Donald himself; he thought, honestly thought, he was
hideous. All that he could see on the rare occasions when he looked in a
glass was an expanse of fiery red freckles, topped off with what he
would have called a shock of red hair. Uglier than anything he had ever
seen in his life, he said to himself many a time, and grew shyer and
shyer and more afraid of women each time he said it; and all this while
there was not a girl in Charlottetown that did not know him in her
thoughts, if indeed she did not openly speak of him, as that "splendid
Donald Mackintosh," or "the handsome 'Heather Bell' captain."

But nothing could have made Donald believe this, which was in one way a
pity, though in another way not. If he had known how women admired him,
he would have inevitably been more or less spoiled by it, wasted his
time, and not have been so good a sailor. On the other hand, it was a
pity to see him,--forty years old, and alone in the world,--not a chick
nor a child of his own, nor any home except such miserable makeshifts as
a sailor finds in inns or boarding-houses.

It was a wonder that the warm-hearted fellow had kept a cheery nature
and face all these years living thus. But the "Heather Bell" stood to
him in place of wife, children, home. There is no passion in life so
like the passion of a man for a woman as the passion of a sailor for his
craft; and this passion Donald had to the full. It was odd how he came
to be a born sailor. His father and his father's fathers, as far back as
they knew, had been farmers--three generations of them--on the Prince
Edward Island farm where Donald was born; and still more generations of
them in old Scotland. Pure Scotch on both sides of the house for
hundreds of years were the Mackintoshes, and the Gaelic tongue was
to-day freer spoken in their houses than English.

The Mackintosh farm on Prince Edward Island was in the parish of Orwell
Head, and Donald's earliest transgressions and earliest pleasures were
runaway excursions to the wharves of that sleepy shore. To him Spruce
Wharf was a centre of glorious maritime adventure. The small sloops that
plied up and down the coast of the island, running in at the inlets, and
stopping to gather up the farmers' produce and take it to Charlottetown
markets, seemed to him as grand as Indiamen; and when, in his twelfth
year, he found himself launched in life as a boy-of-all-work on one of
these sloops, whose captain was a friend of his father's, he felt that
his fortune was made. And so it was. He was in the line of promotion by
virtue of his own enthusiasm. No plank too small for the born sailor to
swim by. Before Donald was twenty-five he himself commanded one of these
little coasting-vessels. From this he took a great stride forward, and
became first officer on the iron-clad steamer plying between
Charlottetown and the mainland. The winter service on this boat was
terrible,--ploughing and cutting through nearly solid ice for long days
and nights of storm. Donald did not like it. He felt himself lost out in
the wild channel. His love was for the water near shore,--for the bays,
inlets, and river-mouths he had known since he was a child.

He began to think he was not so much of a sailor as he had supposed,--so
great a shrinking grew up in him winter after winter from the perils and
hardships of the mail-steamer's route. But he persevered and bided his
time, and in ten years had the luck to become owner and master of a trim
little coasting-steamer which had been known for years as the "Sally
Wright," making two trips a week from Charlottetown to Orwell
Head,--known as the "Sally Wright" no longer, however; for the first
thing Donald did was to repaint her, from stem to stern, white, with
green and pink stripes, on her prow a cluster of pink heather blossoms,
and "Heather Bell" in big letters on the side.

When he was asked where he got this fancy name, he said, lightly, he
did not know; it was a good Scotch name. This was not true. Donald knew
very well. On the window-sill in his mother's kitchen had stood always a
pot of pink heather. Come summer, come winter, the place was never
without a young heather growing; and the dainty pink bells were still to
Donald the man, as they had been to Donald the child, the loveliest
flowers in the world. But he would not for the profits of many a trip
have told his comrade captains why he had named his boat the "Heather
Bell." He had a sentiment about the name which he himself hardly
understood. It seemed out of all proportion to the occasion; but a day
was coming when it would seem more like a prophecy than a mere
sentiment. He had builded better than he knew when he chose that name
for the thing nearest his heart.

Charlottetown is not a gay place; its standards and methods of amusement
are simple and primitive. Among the summer pleasures of the young people
picnics still rank high, and picnic excursions by steamboat or sloop
highest of all. Through June and July hardly a daily newspaper can be
found which does not contain the advertisement of one or more of these
excursions. After Donald made his little boat so fresh and gay with the
pink and green colors, and gave her the winning new name, she came to be
in great demand for these occasions.

How much the captain's good looks had to do with the "Heather Bell's"
popularity as a pleasure-boat it would not do to ask; but there was
reason enough for her being liked aside from that. Sweet and fresh in
and out, with white deck, the chairs and settees all painted green, and
a gay streamer flying,--white, with three green bars,--and "Donald
Mackintosh, Captain," in green letters, and below these a spray of pink
heather, she looked more like a craft for festive sailing than for
cruising about from one farm-landing to another, picking up odds and
ends of farm produce,--eggs and butter, and oats and wool,--with now and
then a passenger. Donald liked this slow cruising and the market-work
best; but the picnic parties were profitable, and he took them whenever
he could. He kept apart, however, from the merry-makers as much as
possible, and was always glad at night when he had landed his noisy
cargo safe back at the Charlottetown piers.

This disposition on his part to hold himself aloof was greatly
irritating to the Charlottetown girls, and to no one of them so much as
to pretty Katie McCloud, who, because she was his second cousin and had
known him all her life, felt, and not without reason, that he ought to
pay her something in the shape or semblance of attention when she was on
board his boat, even if she were a member of a large and gay party, most
of whom were strangers to him. There was another reason, too; but Katie
had kept it so long locked in the bottom of her heart that she hardly
realized its force and cogency, and, if she had, would have laughed, and
put it as far from her thoughts as she could.

The truth was, Katie had been in love with Donald ever since she was ten
years old and he was twenty,--a long time, seeing that she was now
thirty and he forty; and never once, either in their youth or their
middle age, had there been a word of love-making between them. All the
same, deep in her heart the good little Katie had kept the image of
Donald in sacred tenderness by itself. No other man's love-making,
however earnest,--and Katie had been by no means without lovers,--had so
much as touched this sentiment. She judged them all by this secret
standard, and found them all wanting. She did not pine, neither did she
take a step of forwardness, or even coquettish advance, to Donald. She
was too full of Scotch reticence for that. The only step she did take,
in hope of bringing him nearer to her, was the going to Charlottetown to
learn the milliner's trade.

Poor Katie! if she had but known she threw away her last chance when she
did it. She reasoned that Donald was in Charlottetown far more than he
was anywhere else; that if she stayed at home on the farm she could see
him only by glimpses, when the "Heather Bell" ran in at their
landing,--in and out and off again in an hour. What was that? And maybe
a Sunday once or twice a year, and at a Christmas gathering. No wonder
Katie thought that in the town where his business lay and he slept
three nights a week she would have a far better chance; that he would be
glad to come and see her in her tidy little shop. But when Donald heard
what she had done, he said gruffly: "Just like the rest; all for ribbons
and laces and silly gear. I thought Katie'd more sense. Why didn't she
stay at home on the farm?" And he said as much to her when he first saw
her in her new quarters. She tried to explain to him that she wanted to
support herself, and she could not do it on the farm.

"No need,--no need," said her relentless cousin; "there was plenty for
all on the farm." And all the while he stood glowering at the counter
spread with gay ribbons and artificial flowers, and Katie was ready to
cry. This was in the first year of her life in Charlottetown. She was
only twenty-two then. In the eight years since then matters had quieted
down with Katie. It seemed certain that Donald would never marry.
Everybody said so. And if a man had lived till forty without it, what
else could be expected? If Katie had seen him seeking other women, her
quiet and unrewarded devotion would no doubt have flamed up in jealous
pain. But she knew that he gave to her as much as he gave to
any,--occasional and kindly courtesy, no less, no more.

So the years slipped by, and in her patient industry Katie forgot how
old she was growing, until suddenly, on her thirtieth birthday,
something--the sight of a deepened line on her face, perhaps, or a pang
of memory of the old childish past, such as birthdays always
bring--something smote her with a sudden consciousness that life itself
was slipping away, and she was alone. No husband, no child, no home,
except as she earned each month, by fashioning bonnets and caps for the
Charlottetown women, money enough to pay the rent of the two small rooms
in which she slept, cooked, and plied her trade. Some tears rolled down
Katie's face as she sat before her looking-glass thinking these
unwelcome thoughts.

"I'll go to the Orwell Head picnic to-morrow," she said to herself.
"It's so near the old place perhaps Donald'll walk over home with me.
It's long since he's seen the farm, I'll be bound."

Now, Katie did not say to herself in so many words, "It will be like
old times when we were young, and it may be something will stir in
Donald's heart for me at the sight of the fields." Not only did she not
say this; she did not know that she thought it; but it was there, all
the same, a lurking, newly revived, vague, despairing sort of hope. And
because it was there she spent half the day retrimming a bonnet and
washing and ironing a gown to wear to the picnic; and after long and
anxious pondering of the matter, she deliberately took out of her best
box of artificial flowers a bunch of white heather, and added it to the
bonnet trimming. It did not look overmuch like heather, and it did not
suit the bonnet, of which Katie was dimly aware; but she wanted to say
to Donald, "See, I put a sprig of heather in my bonnet in honor of your
boat to-day." Simple little Katie!

It was a large and noisy picnic, of the very sort Donald most disliked,
and he kept himself out of sight until the last moment, just before they
swung round at Spruce Wharf. Then, as he stood on the upper deck giving
orders about the flinging out of the ropes, Katie looked up at him from
below, and called, in a half-whisper: "Oh, Donald, I was thinking I'd
walk over home instead of staying here to the dance. Wouldn't ye be
goin' with me, Donald? They'd be glad to see ye."

"Ay, Katie," answered Donald; "that will I, and be glad to be out of
this." And as soon as the boat was safely moored, he gave his orders to
his mate for the day, and leaping down joined the glad Katie; and before
the picnickers had even missed them they were well out of sight, walking
away briskly over the brown fields.

Katie was full of happiness. As she glanced up into Donald's face she
found it handsomer and kinder than she had seen it, she thought, for
many years.

"It was for this I came, Donald," she said merrily. "When I heard the
dance was to be in the Spruce Grove I made up my mind to come and
surprise the folks. It's nigh six months since I've been home."

"Pity ye ever left it, my girl," said Donald, gravely. "The home's the
place for women." But he said it in a pleasant tone, and his eyes rested
affectionately on Katie's face.

"Eh, but ye're bonny to-day, Katie; do ye know it?" he continued, his
glance lingering on her fresh color and her smiling face. In his heart
he was saying: "An' what is it makes her so young-looking to-day? It was
an old face she had on the last time I saw her."

Happiness, Donald, happiness! Even those few minutes of it had worked
the change.

Encouraged by this praise, Katie said, pointing to the flowers in her
bonnet, "It's the heather ye're meanin', maybe, Donald, an' not me?"

"An' it's not," he replied earnestly, almost angrily, with a scornful
glance at the flowers. "Ye'll not be callin' that heather. Did ye never
see true heather, Katie? It's no more like the stalks ye've on yer head
than a barrow's like my boat yonder."

Which was not true: the flowers were of the very best ever imported into
Charlottetown, and were a better representation of heather than most
artificial flowers are of the blossoms whose names they bear. Donald was
not a judge; and if he had been, it was a cruel thing to say. Katie's
eyes drooped: she had made a serious sacrifice in putting so dear a
bunch of flowers on her bonnet,--a bunch that she had, in her own mind,
been sure Lady Gownas, of Gownas House, would buy for her summer bonnet.
She had made this sacrifice purely to please Donald, and this was what
had come of it. Poor Katie! However, nothing could trouble her long
to-day, with Donald by her side in the sunny, bright fields; and she
would have him to herself till four in the afternoon.

As they drew near the farm-house a strange sound fell on their ears; it
was as if a million of beehives were in full blast of buzzing in the
air. At the same second both Donald and Katie paused, listening. "What
can that be, now?" exclaimed Donald. Before the words had left his lips,
Katie cried, "It's a bee!--Elspie's spinning-bee."

The spinning-bees are great fêtes among the industrious maidens of
Prince Edward Island. After the spring shearings are over, the wool
washed and carded and made into rolls, there begin to circulate
invitations to spinning-bees at the different farm-houses. Each girl
carries her spinning-wheel on her shoulder. By eight o'clock in the
morning all are gathered and at work: some of them have walked ten miles
or more, and barefoot too, their shoes slung over the shoulder with the
wheel. Once arrived, they waste no time. The rolls of wool are piled
high in the corners of the rooms, and it is the ambition of each one to
spin all she can before dark. At ten o'clock cakes and lemonade are
served; at twelve, the dinner,--thick soup, roast meat, vegetables,
coffee and tea, and a pudding. All are seated at a long table, and the
hostesses serve; at six o'clock comes supper, and then the day's work is
done; after that a little chat or a ramble over the farm, and at eight
o'clock all are off for home. No young men, no games, no dances; yet the
girls look forward to the bees as their greatest spring pleasures, and
no one grudges the time or the strength they take.

It was, indeed, a big bee that Elspie McCloud was having this June
morning. Twenty young girls, all in long white aprons, were spinning
away as if on a wager when Donald and Katie appeared at the door. The
door opened directly into the large room where they were. Katie went
first, Donald hanging back behind. "I think I'll not go in," he was
shamefacedly saying, and halting on the step, when above all the
wheel-whirring and yarn-singing came a glad cry,--

"Why, there's Katie--Katie McCloud! and Donald Mackintosh! For pity's
sake!" (the Prince Edward Islander's strongest ejaculation.) "Come in!
come in!" And in a second more a vision, it seemed to the dazed
Donald,--but it was not a vision at all, only a buxom young girl in a
blue homespun gown,--had seized him with one hand and Katie with the
other, and drawn them both into the room, into the general whir and
_mêlée_ of wheels, merry faces, and still merrier voices.

It was Elspie, Katie's youngest sister,--Katie's special charge and care
when she was a baby, and now her special pet. The greatest desire of
Katie's heart was to have Elspie with her in Charlottetown, but the
father and mother would not consent.

Donald stood like a man in a dream. He did not know it; but from the
moment his eyes first fell on Elspie's face they had followed it as iron
follows the magnet. Were there ever such sweet gray eyes in the world?
and such a pink and white skin? and hair yellow as gold? And what, oh,
what did she wear tucked in at the belt of her white apron but a sprig
of heather! Pink heather,--true, genuine, actual pink heather, such as
Donald had not seen for many a year. No wonder the eyes of the captain
of the "Heather Bell" followed that spray of pink heather wherever it
went flitting about from place to place, never long in one,--for it was
now time for dinner, and Donald and the old people were soon seated at a
small table by themselves, not to embarrass the young girls, and Elspie
and Katie together served the dinner; and though Elspie never once came
to the small table, yet did Donald see every motion she made and hear
every note of her lark's voice. He did not mistake what had happened to
him. Middle-aged, inexperienced, sober-souled man as he was, he knew
that at last he had got a wound,--a life wound, if it were not
healed,--and the consciousness of it struck him more and more dumb, till
his presence was like a damper on the festivities; so much so, that when
at three in the afternoon he and Katie took their departure, the door
had no more than closed on them before Elspie exclaimed pettishly: "An'
indeed I wish Katie'd left Cousin Donald behind. I don't know what it is
she thinks so much of him for. She's always sayin' there's none like
him; an' it's lucky it's true. The great glowerin' steeple o' a man,
with no word in his mouth!" And the young maidens all agreed with her.
It was a strange thing for a man to come and go like that, with nothing
to say for himself, they said, and he so handsome too.

"Handsome!" cried Elspie; "is it handsome,--the face all a spatter with
the color of the hair? He's nice eyes of his own, but his skin's
deesgustin'." Which speech, if Donald had overheard it, would have
caused that there should never have been this story to tell. But luckily
Donald did not. All that he bore away from the McCloud farm-house that
June morning was a picture of a face and flitting figure, and the sound
in his ears of a voice,--a picture and a sound which he was destined to
see and hear all his life.

He scarcely spoke on his way back to the boat, and Katie perplexed
herself vainly trying to account for his silence. It must be, she
thought, that he had been vexed by the sight of so many girls and the
sound of their idle chatter. He would have liked it better if nobody but
the family had been at home. What a shame for a man to live alone as he
did, and get into such unsocial ways! He grew more and more averse to
society each year. Now, if he were only married, and had a bright home,
where people came and went, with a bit of a tea now and then, how good
it would be for him,--take the stiffness out of his ways, and make him
more as he used to be fifteen, or even ten years ago! And so the good
Katie went on in her placid mind, trotting along silently by his side,
waiting for him to speak.

"Where did she get the heather?"

"What!" exclaimed Katie. The irrelevant question sounded like the speech
of one talking in his sleep. "Oh," she continued, "ye mean Elspie!"

"Ay," said Donald. "She'd a bit of heather in her belt,--the true
heather, not sticks like yon," pointing a contemptuous finger toward
Katie's bonnet. "Where did she get it?"

"Mother's always the heather growing in the house," answered Katie. "She
says she's homesick unless she sees it. It was grandmother brought it
over in the first, and it's never been let die out."

"My mother the same," said Donald. "It's the first blossom I remember,
an' I'm thinking it will be the last," he continued, gazing at Katie
absently; but his face did not look as if it were absently he gazed.
There was a glow on his cheeks, and an intense expression in his eyes
which Katie had never seen there. They warmed her heart.

"Yes," she said, "one can never forget what one has loved in the youth."

"True, Katie, true. There's nothing like one's own and earliest,"
replied Donald, full of his new and thrilling emotion; and as he said it
he reached out his hand and took hold of Katie's, as if they were boy
and girl together. "Many's the time I've raced wi' ye this way, Katie,"
he said affectionately.

"Ay, when I was a wee thing; an' ye always let go my hand at last, and
pretended I could outrin ye," laughed Katie, blissful tears filling her
eyes.

What a happy day was this! Had it not been an inspiration to bring
Donald back to the old farm-house? Katie was sure it had. She was filled
with sweet reveries; and so silent on the way home that her merry
friends joked her unmercifully about her long walk inland with the
Captain.

It was late in the night, or rather it was early the next morning, when
the "Heather Bell" reached her wharf.

"I'll go up with ye, Katie," said Donald. "It's not decent for ye to go
alone."

And when he bade her good-night he looked half-wistfully in her face,
and said: "But it's a lonely house for ye to come to, Katie, an' not a
soul but yourself in it." And he held her hand in his affectionately, as
a cousin might.

Katie's heart beat like a hammer in her bosom at these words, but she
answered gravely: "Yes, it was sorely lonely at first, an' I wearied
myself out to get them to give me Elspie to learn the business wi' me;
but I'm more used to it now."

"That is what I was thinkin'," said Donald, "that if the two o' ye were
here together, ye'd not be so lonely. Would she not like to come?"

"Ay, that would she," replied the unconscious Katie; "she pines to be
with me. I'm more her mother than the mother herself; but they'll never
consent."

"She's bonny," said Donald. I'd not seen her since she was little."

"She's as good as she is bonny," said Katie, warmly; and that was the
last word between Katie and Donald that night.

"As good as she is bonny." It rang in Donald's ears like a refrain of
heavenly music as he strode away. "As good as she is bonny;" and how
good must that be? She could not be as good as she was bonny, for she
was the bonniest lass that ever drew breath. Gray eyes and golden hair
and pink cheeks and pink heather all mingled in Donald's dreams that
night in fantastic and impossible combinations; and more than once he
waked in terror, with the sweat standing on his forehead from some
nightmare fancy of danger to the "Heather Bell" and to Elspie, both
being inextricably entangled together in his vision.

The visions did not fade with the day. They pursued Donald, and haunted
his down-sitting and his uprising. He tried to shake them off, drive
them away; for when he came to think the thing over soberly, he called
himself an old fool to be thus going daft about a child like Elspie.

"Barely twenty at the most, and me forty. She'd not look at an old
fellow like me, and maybe't would be like a sin if she did," said Donald
to himself over and over again. But it did no good. "As good as she is
bonny, bonny, bonny," rang in his ears, and the blue eyes and golden
hair and merry smile floated before his eyes. There was no help for it.
Since the world began there have been but two roads out of this sort of
mystic maze in which Donald now found himself lost,--but two roads, one
bright with joy, one dark with sorrow. And which road should it be
Donald's fate to travel must be for the child Elspie to say. After a few
days of bootless striving with himself, during which time he had spent
more hours with Katie than he had for a year before,--it was such a
comfort to him to see in her face the subtle likeness to Elspie, and to
hear her talk about plans of bringing her to Charlottetown for a visit
if nothing more,--after a few days of this, Captain Donald, one Saturday
afternoon, sailing past Orwell Head, suddenly ran into the inlet where
he had taken the picnic party, and, mooring the "Heather Bell" at Spruce
Wharf, announced to his astonished mate that he should lie by there till
Monday.

It was a bold step of Captain Donald's. But he was not a man for
half-and-half ways in anything; and he had said grimly to himself that
this matter must be ended one way or the other,--either he would win the
child or lose her. He would know which. Girls had loved men twenty years
older than themselves, and girls might again.

The Sunday passed off better than his utmost hopes. Everybody except
Elspie was cordially glad to see him. Visitors were not so common at the
Orwell Head farm-houses that they could fail of welcome. The McCloud
boys were thankful to hear all that Donald had to tell, and with the old
father and mother he had always been a prime favorite. It had been a
sore disappointment to them, as year after year went by, to see that
there seemed no likelihood of his becoming Katie's husband. As the day
wore on, even Elspie relaxed a little from her indifferent attention to
him, and began to perceive that, spite of the odious freckles, he was,
as the girls had said, a handsome man.

Partly because of this, and partly from innate coquetry, she said, when
he was taking leave, "Ye'll not be comin' again for another year,
maybe?"

"Ye'll see, then!" laughed Donald, with a sudden wise impulse to refrain
from giving the reply which sprang to his lips,--"To-morrow, if ye'd ask
me!"

And from the same wise, strangely wise impulse he curbed his desire to
go again the next Sunday and the next. Not until three weeks had passed
did he go; and then Elspie was clearly and unmistakably glad to see him.
This was all Donald wanted. "I'll win her, the bonny thing!" he said to
himself. "An' I'll not be long, either."

And he was right. A girl would have been hard indeed that would not
have been touched by the beaming, tender face which Donald wore, now
that hope lighted it up. His masterful bearing, too, was a pleasure to
the spirited Elspie, who had no liking for milksops, and had sent off
more than one lover because he came crawling too humbly to her feet.
Elspie had none of the gentle, quiet blood which ran in Katie's veins.
She had even been called Firebrand in her younger, childish days, so hot
was her temper, so hasty her tongue. But the firm rule of the Scottish
household and the pressure of the stern Scotch Calvinism preached in
their kirk had brought her well under her own control.

"Eh, but the bonny lass has hersel' well in hand," thought the admiring
Donald more than once, as he saw her in some family discussion or
controversy keep silence, with flushing cheeks, when sharp words rose to
her tongue.

All this time Katie was plodding away at her millinery, inexpressibly
cheered by Donald's new friendliness. He came often to see her, and told
her with the greatest frankness of his visits at the farm. He would take
her some day, he said; the trouble was, he could never be sure
beforehand when it would answer for him to stop there. Katie sunned
herself in this new familiar intercourse, and the thought of Donald
running up to the old farm of a Sunday as if he were one of the brothers
going home. In the contentment of these thoughts she grew younger and
prettier,--began to look as she did at twenty. And Donald, gazing
scrutinizingly in her face one day, seeking, as he was always doing, for
stray glimpses of resemblance to Elspie, saw this change, and
impulsively told her of it.

"But ye're growin' young, Katie--d'ye know it?--young and bonny, my
girl."

And Katie listened to the words with such sweet joy she feared her face
would tell too much, and put up her hands to hide it, crying: "Ah, ye're
tryin' to make me silly, you Donald, with such flatterin'. We're gettin'
old, Donald, you an' me," she added, with a guilty little undercurrent
of thought in her mind. "D'ye mind that I was thirty last month?"

"Ay," replied Donald, gloomily, his face darkening,--"ay; I mind, by the
same token, I'm forty. It's no need ye have to be callin' yersel' old.
But I'm old, an' no mistake." The thought, as Katie had put it, had been
gall and wormwood to him. If Katie thought him old, what must he seem to
Elspie!

It was early in June that Elspie had had the spinning-bee to which Katie
had brought the unwelcome Donald. The summer sped past, but a faster
summer than any reckoned on the calendar of months and days was speeding
in Elspie's heart. Such great love as Donald's reaches and warms its
object as inevitably as the heat of a fire warms those near it. Early in
June the spinning-bee, and before the last flax was pulled, early in
September, Elspie knew that she was restless till Donald came, glad when
he was by her side, and strangely sorry when he went away. Still, she
was not ready to admit to herself that it was anything more than her
natural liking for any pleasant friend who broke in on the lonely
monotony of the farm life.

The final drying of the flax, which is an important crop on most of the
Prince Edward Island farms, is put off until autumn. After its first
drying in the fields where it grew, it is stored in bundles under cover
till all the other summer work is done, and autumn brings leisure. Then
the flax camp, as it is called, is built,--a big house of spruce boughs;
walls, flat roof, all of the green spruce boughs, thick enough to keep
out rain. This is usually in the heart of a spruce grove. Thither the
bundles of flax are carried and stacked in piles. In the centre of the
inclosure a slow fire is lighted, and above this on a frame of slats the
stalks of flax are laid for their last drying. It is a difficult and
dangerous process to keep the fire hot enough and not too hot, to shift
and turn and lift the flax at the right moment. Sometimes only a sudden
flinging of moist earth upon the fire saves it from blazing up into the
flax, and sometimes one careless second's oversight loses the
whole,--flax, spruce-bough house, all, in a light blaze, and gone in a
breath.

The McClouds' flax camp had been built in the edge of the spruce grove
where the picnickers had held their dance and merry-making on that June
day, memorable to Donald and Elspie and Katie. It was well filled with
flax, in the drying of which nobody was more interested than Elspie. She
had big schemes for spinning and weaving in the coming winter. A whole
piece of linen she had promised to Katie, and a piece for herself, and,
as Elspie thought it over, maybe a good many more pieces than one she
might require for herself before spring. Who knew?

It was October now, and many a Sunday evening had Elspie walked with
Donald alone down to Spruce Wharf, and lingered there watching the last
curl of steam from the "Heather Bell" as she rounded the point, bearing
Donald away. Elspie could not doubt why Donald came. Soon she would
wonder why he came and went so many times silent; that is, silent in
words, eloquent of eye and hand,--even the touch of his hand was like a
promise.

No one was defter and more successful in this handling of the flax over
the fire than Elspie. It had sometimes happened that she, with the help
of one brother, had dried the whole crop. It was not thought safe for
one person to work at it alone for fear of accident with the fire. But
it fell out on this October afternoon, a Saturday, that Elspie, feeling
sure of Donald's being on his way to spend the Sunday with her, had
walked down to the wharf to meet him. Seeing no signs of the boat, she
went back to the flax camp, lighted the fire, and began to spread the
flax on the slats. There was not much more left to be dried,--"not more
than three hours' work in all," she said to herself. "Eh, but I'd like
to have done with it before the Sabbath!" And she fell to work with a
will, so briskly to work that she did not realize how time was
flying,--did not, strangest of all, hear the letting off of steam when
the "Heather Bell" moored at the wharf; and she was still busily turning
and lifting and separating the stalks of flax, bending low over the
frame, heated, hurrying, her whole heart in her work, when Donald came
striding up the field from the wharf,--striding at his greatest pace,
for he was disturbed at not finding Elspie at the landing to meet him.
He turned his head toward the spruce grove, thinking vaguely of the June
picnic, and what had come of his walking away from the dance that
morning, when suddenly a great column of smoke and fire rolled up from
the grove, and in the same second came piercing shrieks in Elspie's
voice. The grove was only a few rods away, but it seemed to Donald an
eternity before he reached the spot, to see not only the spruce boughs
and flax on fire, but Elspie tossing up her arms like one crazed, her
gown all ablaze. The brave, foolish girl, at the first blazing of the
stalks on the slats, had darted into the corner of the house and
snatched an armful of the piled flax there to save it; but as she passed
the flaming centre the whole sheaf she carried had caught fire also, and
in a twinkling of an eye had blazed up around her head, and when she
dropped it, had blazed up again fiercer than ever around her feet.

With a groan Donald seized her. The flames leaped on him, too, as if to
wrestle with him; his brown beard crackled, his hair, but he fought
through it all. Throwing Elspie on the ground, he rolled her over and
over, crying aloud, "Oh, my darlin', if I break your sweet bones, it is
better than the fire!" And indeed it seemed as if it must break her
bones, so fiercely he rolled her over and over, tearing off his woollen
coat to smother the fire; beating it with his tartan cap, stamping it
with his knees and feet "Oh, my darlin'! make yourself easy. I'll save
ye! I'll save ye if I die for it," he cried.

And through the smoke and the fire and the terror Elspie answered back:
"I'll not leave ye, my Donald. We're gettin' it under." And with her own
scorched hands she pulled the coat-flaps down over the smouldering bits
of flax, and tore off her burning garments.

Not a coward thread in her whole body had little Elspie, and in less
time than the story could ever be told, all was over, and safely; and
there they sat on the ground, the two, locked in each other's
arms,--Donald's beard gone, and much of his hair; Elspie's pretty golden
hair also blackened, burned. It was the first thing Donald saw after he
made sure danger was past. Laying his hand on her head, he said, with a
half-sob,--he was hysterical now there was nothing more to be done: "Oh,
your bonny hair, my darlin'! It's all scorched away."

"It'll grow!" said Elspie, looking up in his eyes archly. Her head was
on his shoulder, and she nestled closer; then she burst into tears and
laughter together, crying: "Oh, Donald, it was for you I was callin'.
Did ye hear me? I said to myself when the fire took hold, 'O God, send
Donald to save me!'"

"An' he sent me, my darlin'," answered Donald. "Ye are my own darlin';
say it, Elspie, say it!" he continued. "Oh, ye bonny bairn, but I've
loved ye like death since the first day I set eyes on your bonny face!
Say ye're my darlin'!"

But he knew it without her saying a word; and the whispered "Yes,
Donald, I'm your darlin' if you want me," did not make him any surer.

There was a great outcrying and trembling of hearts at the farm-house
when Donald and Elspie appeared in this sorry plight of torn and burned
clothes, blackened faces, scorched and singed hair. But thankfulness
soon swept away all other emotions,--thankfulness and a great joy, too;
for Donald's second word was, turning to the old father: "An' it is my
own that I've saved; she's gien hersel' to me for all time, an' we'll
ask for your blessin' on us without any waitin'!" Tears filled the
mother's eyes. She thought of another daughter. A dire instinct smote
her of woe to Katie.

"Ay, Donald," she said, "it's a good day to us to see ye enter the
house as a son; but I never thought o'--" She stopped.

Donald's quick consciousness imagined part of what she had on her mind.
"No," he said, half sad in the midst of his joy, "o' course ye didn't;
an' I wonder at mysel'. It's like winter weddin' wi' spring, ye'll be
sayin'. But I'll keep young for her sake. Ye'll see she's no old man for
a husband. There's nothing in a' the world I'll not do for the bairn.
It's no light love I bear her."

"Ye'll be tellin' Katie on the morrow?" said the unconscious Elspie.

"Ay, ay," replied the equally unconscious Donald; "an' she'll be main
glad o' 't. It's a hundred times in the summer that she's been sayin'
how she longed to have you in the town wi' her. An' now ye're comin',
comin' soon, oh, my bonny. I'll make a good home for ye both. Katie's
the same's my own, too, for always."

The mother gazed earnestly at Donald. Could it be that he was so unaware
of Katie's heart? "Donald," she said suddenly, "I'll go down wi' ye if
ye'll take me. I've been wantin' to go. There's a many things I've to
do in the town."

It had suddenly occurred to her that she might thus save Katie the shock
of hearing the news first from Donald's lips.

It was well she did. When, with stammering lips and she hardly knew in
what words, she finally broke it to Katie that Donald had asked Elspie
to be his wife, and that Elspie loved him, and they would soon be
married, Katie stared into her face for a moment with wide, vacant eyes,
as if paralyzed by some vision of terror. Then, turning white, she
gasped out, "Mother!" No word more. None was necessary.

"Ay, my bairn, I know," said the mother, with a trembling voice; "an' I
came mysel' that no other should tell ye."

A long silence followed, broken only by an occasional shuddering sigh
from Katie; not a tear in her eyes, and her cheeks as scarlet as they
had been white a few moments before. The look on her face was
terrifying.

"Will it kill ye, bairn?" sobbed the mother at last. "Don't look so. It
must be borne, my bairn; it must be borne."

It was a shrill voice, unlike Katie's, which replied: "Ay, I'll bear
it; it must be borne. There's none knows it but you, mother," she added,
with a shade of relief in the tone.

"An' never will if ye're brave, bairn," answered the mother.

"It was the day of the picnic," cried Katie; "was't not? I remember he
said she was bonny."

"Ay, 'twas then," replied the mother, so sorely torn between her love
for the two daughters, between whom had fallen this terrible sword. "Ay,
it was then. He says she has not been out of his mind by the night or by
the day since it."

Katie shivered. "And it was I brought him," she said, with a tearless
sob bitterer than any loud weeping. "Ye'll be goin' back the night?" she
added drearily.

"I'll bide if ye want me," said the mother.

"I'm better alone, mother," said Katie, her voice for the first time
faltering. "I'll bear it. Never fear me, mother; but I'm best alone for
a bit. Ye'll give my warm love to Elspie, an' send her down here to me
to stay till she's married. I'll help her best if she's here. There'll
be much to be done. I'll do 't, mother; never fear me."

"Are ye countin' too much on yer strength, bairn?" asked the now weeping
mother. "I'd rather see ye give way like."

"No, no," cried Katie, impatiently. "Each one has his own way, mother;
let me have mine. I'll work for Donald and Elspie all I can. Ye know she
was always like my own bairn more than a sister. The quicker she comes
the better for me, mother. It'll be all over then. Eh, but she'll be a
bonny bride!" And at these words Katie's tears at last flowed.

"There, there, bairn! Have out the tears; they're healin' to grief,"
exclaimed her mother, folding her arms tight around her and drawing her
head down on her shoulder as she had done in her babyhood.

Katie was right. When she had Elspie by her side, and was busily at work
in helping on all the preparations for the wedding, the worst was over.
There was a strange blending of pang and pleasure in the work. Katie
wondered at herself; but it grew clearer and clearer to her each day
that since Donald could not be hers she was glad he was Elspie's. "If
he'd married a stranger it would ha' broke my heart far worse, far
worse," she said many a time to herself as she sat patiently stitching,
stitching, on Elspie's bridal clothes. "He's my own in a way, after a',
so long's he's my brother. There's nobody can rob me o' that." And the
sweet light of unselfish devotion beamed more and more in her
countenance, till even the mother that bore her was deceived, and said
in her heart that Katie could not have been so very much in love with
Donald after all.

There was one incident which for a few moments sorely tested Katie's
self-control. The spray of white heather blossom which she had worn to
the June picnic she had on the next day put back in her box of flowers
for sale, hoping that she might yet find a customer for it. The delicate
bells were not injured either in shape or color. It was a shame to lose
it for one day's wear, thought the thrifty Katie; and most surely she
herself would never wear it again. She could not even see it without a
flush of mortification as she recalled Donald's contempt for it. The
privileged Elspie, rummaging among all Katie's stores, old and new,
spied this white heather cluster one day, and snatching it up exclaimed:
"The very thing for my weddin' bonnet, Katie! I'll have it in. The bride
o' the master o' the 'Heather Bell' should be wed with the heather bloom
on her."

Katie's face flushed. "It's been worn, Elspie," she said; "I had it in a
bonnet o' my own. Don't ye remember I wore it to the picnic? an' then it
didna suit, an' I put it back in the box. It's not fit for ye. I've a
bunch o' lilies o' the valley, better."

"No; I'll have this," pursued Elspie. "It's as white's the driven snow,
an' not hurt at all. I'm sure Donald'll like it better than all the
other flowers i' the town."

"Indeed, then, he won't," said Katie, sharply; on which Elspie turned
upon her with a flashing eye, and said,--

"An' which 'll be knowin' best, do ye think? What is it ye mean?"

"Nothing," said Katie, meekly; "only he said, that day I'd the bonnet
on, it was no more than sticks, an' not like the true heather at all."

"All he knows, then! Ye'll see he'll not say it looks like sticks when
it's on the bonnet I'm goin' to church in," retorted Elspie, dancing to
the looking-glass, and holding the white heather bells high up against
her golden curls. "It's the only flower in all yer boxes I want, Katie,
and ye'll not grudge it to me, will ye, dear?" And the sparkling Elspie
threw herself on the floor by Katie, and flung her arms across her
knees, looking up into her face with a wilful, loving smile.

"No wonder Donald loves her so,--the bonny thing!" thought Katie. "God
knows I'd grudge ye nothing on earth, Elspie," she said, in a voice so
earnest that Elspie looked wonderingly at her.

"Is it a very dear flower, sister?" she said penitently. "Does it cost
too much money for Elspie?"

"No, bairn, it's not too dear," said Katie, herself again. "The lilies
were dearer. But ye'll have the heather an' welcome, if ye will; an' I
doubt not it'll look all right in Donald's eyes when he sees it this
time."

It was indeed a good home that Donald made for his wife and her sister.
He was better to do in worldly goods than they had supposed. His long
years of seclusion from society had been years of thrift and prosperity.
No more milliner-work for Katie. Donald would not hear of it. So she was
driven to busy herself with the house, keeping from Elspie's willing and
eager hands all the harder tasks, and laying up stores of fine-spun
linen and wool for future use in the family. It was a marvel how content
Katie found herself as the winter flew by. The wedding had taken place
at Christmas, and the two sisters and Donald had gone together from the
church to Donald's new house, where, in a day or two, everything had
settled into peaceful grooves of simple, industrious habit, as if they
had been there all their lives.

Donald's happiness was of the deep and silent kind. Elspie did not
realize the extent of it. A freer-spoken, more demonstrative lover would
have found heartier response and more appreciation from her. But she was
a loyal, loving, contented little wife, and there could not have been
found in all Charlottetown a happier household, to the eye, than was
Donald's for the first three months after his marriage.

Then a cloud settled on it. For some inexplicable reason the blooming
Elspie, who had never had a day's illness in her life, drooped in the
first approach of the burden of motherhood. A strange presentiment also
seized her. After the first brief gladness at the thought of holding a
child of her own in her arms, she became overwhelmed with a melancholy
certainty of her own death.

"I'll never live to see it, Katie," she said again and again. "It'll be
your bairn, an' not mine. Ye'll never give it up, Katie?--promise me.
Ye'll take care of it all your life?--promise." And Katie, terrified by
her earnestness, promised everything she asked, all the while striving
to reassure her that her fears were needless.

No medicines did Elspie good; mind and body alike reacted on each other;
she failed hour by hour till the last; and when her time of trial came,
the sad presentiment fulfilled itself, and she died in giving birth to
her babe.

When Katie brought the child to the stunned and stricken Donald,
saying, "Will ye not look at him, Donald? it is as fine a man-child's
was ever seen," he pushed her away, saying in a hoarse whisper,--

"Never let me see its face. She said it was to be your bairn and not
hers. Take it and go. I'll never look on it."

Donald was out of his reason when he spoke these words, and for long
after. They bore with him tenderly and patiently, and did as they could
for the best; Katie, the wan and grief-stricken Katie, being the chief
adviser and planner of all.

Elspie's body was carried home and buried near the spruce grove, in a
little copse of young spruces which Donald pointed out. This was the
only wish he expressed about anything. Katie took the baby with her to
the old homestead. She dared not try to rear it without her mothers
help.

It was many months before Donald came to the farm. This seemed strange
to all except Katie. To her it seemed the most natural thing, and she
grew impatient with all who thought otherwise.

"I'd feel that way mysel'," she repeated again and again. "He'll come
when he can, but it'll be long first. Ye none of ye know what a love it
was he'd in his heart for Elspie."

When at last Donald came, the child, the little Donald, was just able to
creep,--a chubby, blue-eyed, golden-haired little creature, already
bearing the stamp and likeness of his mother's beauty.

At the first sight of his face Donald staggered, buried his head in his
hands, and turned away. Then, looking again, he stretched out his arms,
took the baby in them, and kissed him convulsively over and over. Katie
stood by, looking on, silently weeping. "He's like her," she said.

"Ay," said Donald.

The healing had begun. "A little child shall lead them," is of all the
Bible prophecies the one oftenest fulfilled. It soon grew to be Donald's
chiefest pleasure to be with his boy, and he found more and more irksome
the bonds of business which permitted him so few intervals of leisure to
visit the farm. At last one day he said to Katie,--

"Katie, couldn't ye make your mind up to come up to Charlottetown? I'd
get ye a good house, an' ye could have who ye'd like to live wi' ye. I'm
like one hungry all the time I'm out o' reach o' the little lad."

Katie's eyes fell. She did not know what to reply.

"I do not know, Donald," she faltered. "It's hard for you having him
away, but this is my home now, Donald. I've a dread o' leavin' it. And
there is nobody I know who could come to live with me."

A strange thought shot through Donald's brain. "Katie," he said, then
paused. Something in the tone startled Katie. She lifted her eyes; read
in his the thought which had made the tone so significant to her ear.

Unconsciously she cried out at the sight, "Oh, Donald!"

"Ay, Katie," he said slowly, with a grave tenderness, "why might not I
come and live wi' ye? Are ye not the mother o' my child? Did she not
give him to ye with her own lips? An' how could ye have him without me?
I think she must ha' meant it so. Let me come, Katie."

It was an unimpassioned wooing; but any other would have repelled
Katie's sense of loyalty and truth.

"Have ye love for me, Donald?" she said searchingly.

"All the love left in me is for the little lad and for you, Katie,"
answered Donald. "I'll not deceive you, Katie. It's but a broken man I
am; but I've always loved ye, Katie. I'll be a good man t' ye, lass.
Come and be the little lad's mother, and let me live wi' my own once
more. Will ye come?" As he said these words, he stretched out his arms
toward Katie; and she, trembling, afraid to be glad, shadowed by the sad
past, yet trusting in the future, crept into them, and was folded close
to the heart she had so faithfully loved all her life.

"I promised Elspie," she whispered, "that I'd never, never give him to
another."

"Ay," said Donald, as he kissed her. "He's your bairn, my Katie. Ye'll
be content wi' me, Katie?"

"Yes, Donald, if I make you content," she replied; and a look of
heavenly peace spread over her face.

The next morning Katie went alone to Elspie's grave. It seemed to her
that only there could she venture to look her new future in the face. As
she knelt by the low mound, her tears falling fast, she murmured,--

"Eh, my bonny Elspie, ye'd the best o' his love. But it's me that'll be
doin' for him till I die, an' that's better than a' the love."



Dandy Steve.



Everything in this world is relative, and nothing more so than the
significance of the same word in different localities. If Dandy Steve
had walked Broadway in the same clothes which he habitually wore in the
Adirondack wilderness, not only would nobody have called him a dandy,
but every one would have smiled sarcastically at the suggestion of that
epithet's being applied to him. Nevertheless, "Dandy Steve" was the name
by which he was familiarly known all through the Saranac region; and
judging by the wilderness standard, the adjective was not undeserved. No
such flannel shirts, no such jaunty felt hats, no such neckties, had
ever been worn by Adirondack guides as Dandy Steve habitually wore. And
as for his buck-skin trousers, they would not have disgraced a Sioux
chief,--always of the softest and yellowest skins, always daintily made,
the seams set full of leather fringes, and sometimes marked by lines of
delicate embroidery in white quills. There were those who said that
Dandy Steve had an Indian wife somewhere on the Upper Saranac, but
nobody knew; and it would have been a bold man who asked an intrusive
question of Dandy Steve, or ventured on any impertinent jesting about
his private affairs. Certain it was that none but Indian hands
embroidered the fine buckskins he wore; but, then, there were such
buckskins for sale,--perhaps he bought them. A man who would spend the
money he did for neckties and fine flannel shirts would not stop at any
extravagance in the price of trousers. The buckskins, however, were not
the only evidence in this case. There was a well-authenticated tale of a
brilliant red shawl--a woman's shawl--and a pair of silver bangles once
seen in Dandy Steve's cabin. A man had gone in upon him suddenly one
evening without the formality of knocking. Such foolish
conventionalities were not in vogue on the Saranac; this was before
Steve took to guiding. It was in the first year after he appeared in
that region, while he was living like a hermit alone, or supposed to be
alone, in a tiny log cabin on an island not much bigger than his cabin.

This man--old Ben, the oldest guide there--having been hindered at some
of the portages, and finding himself too late to reach his destination
that night, seeing the glimmer of light from Steve's cabin, had rowed to
the island, landed, and, with the thoughtless freedom of the country,
walked in at the half-open door.

He was fond of telling the story of his reception; and as he told it, it
had a suspicious sound, and no mistake. Steve was sitting in a big
arm-chair before his table; over the arm of the chair was flung the red
shawl. On the table lay an open book and the silver bangles in it, as if
some one had just thrown them off. At sound of entering footsteps Steve
sprang up, with an angry oath, and hastily closing the book threw it and
the bangles into the chair from which he had risen, then crowded the
shawl down upon them into as small a compass as possible.

"His eyes blazed like lightnin', or sharper," said old Ben, "an' I
declare t' ye I was skeered. Fur a minut I thought he was a loonatic,
sure's death. But in a minut more he was all right, an' there couldn't
nobody treat a feller handsomer than he did me that night an' the next
mornin'; but I took notice that the fust thing he done was to heave a
big blanket kind o' careless like into the chair, an' cover the things
clean up; an' then in a little while he says, a-sweepin' the whole
bundle up in his arms, 'I'll just clear up this little mess, an' give ye
a comfortable chair to sit in;' an' he carried it all--blanket, book,
bracelets, shawl, an' all--into the next room, an' throwed 'em on the
floor in a pile in one corner. There wa'n't but them two rooms to the
cabin, so that wa'n't any place for her to be hid, if so be 's there was
any woman 'round; an' he said he was livin' alone, an' had been ever
since he come. An' it was nigh a year then since he come, so I never
know'd what to make on 't, an' I don't suppose there's anybody doos know
any more 'n I do; but if them wa'n't women's gear he had out there that
night I hain't never seen any women's gear, that's all! Whose'omeever
they was, I hain't no idea, nor how they got there; but they was women's
gear. Dandy's Steve is he couldn't ha' had any use for sech a shawl's
that, let alone sayin' what he'd wanted o' bracelets on his arms!"

"That's so," was the universal ejaculation of Ben's audience when he
reached this point in his narrative, and there seemed to be little more
to be said on either side. This was all there was of the story. It must
stand in each man's mind for what it was worth, according to his
individual bias of interpretation. But it had become an old story long
before the time at which our later narrative of Dandy Steve's history
began; so old, in fact, that it had not been mentioned for years, until
the events now about to be chronicled revived it in the minds of Steve's
associates and fellow-guides.

Before the end of Steve's first year in his wilderness retreat he had
become as conversant with every nook and corner of its labyrinthian
recesses as the oldest guides in the region. Not a portage, not a short
cut unfamiliar to him; not a narrow winding brook wide enough for a
canoe to float in that he did not know. He had spent all his days and
many of his nights in these solitary wanderings. Visitors to the region
grew wonted to the sight of the comely figure in the slight birch canoe,
shooting suddenly athwart their track, or found lying idly in some dark
and shaded stream-bed. On the approach of strangers he would instantly
away, lifting his hat courteously if there were ladies in the boats he
passed, otherwise taking no more note of the presence of human beings
than of that of the deer, or the wild fowl on the water. He was not a
handsome man, but there was a something in his face at which all looked
twice,--men as well as women. It was an unfathomable look,--partly of
pain, partly of antagonism. His eyes habitually sought the sky, yet they
did not seem to perceive what they gazed upon; it was as if they would
pierce beyond it.

"What a strange face!" was a common ejaculation on the part of those
thus catching glimpses of his upturned countenance. More than once
efforts were made by hunters who encountered him to form his
acquaintance; but they were always courteously repelled. Finally he
came to be spoken of as the "hermit;" and it was with astonishment,
almost incredulity, that, in the spring of his third year in the
Adirondacks, he was found at "Paul Smith's" offering his services as
guide to a party of gentlemen who, their guide having fallen suddenly
ill, were in sore straits for some one to take them down again through
the lakes.

Whether it was that he had grown suddenly weary of his isolation and
solitude, or whether need had driven him to this means of earning money,
no one knew, and he did not say. But once having entered on the life of
a guide, he threw himself into it as heartily as if it had been his
life-long avocation, and speedily became one of the best guides in the
region. It was observed, however, that whenever he could do so he
avoided taking parties in which there were ladies. Sometimes for a whole
season it would happen that he had not once been seen in charge of such
a party. Sometimes, when it was difficult, in fact impossible, for him
to assign any reason for refusing to go with parties containing members
of the obnoxious sex, he would at the last moment privately entreat some
other guide to take his place, and, voluntarily relinquishing all the
profits of the engagement, disappear and be lost for several days.
During these absences it was often said, "Steve's gone to see his wife,"
or, "Off with that Indian wife o' his up North;" and these vague, idle,
gossiping conjectures slowly crystallized into a positive rumor which no
one could either trace or gainsay.

And so the years went on,--one, two, three, four,--and Dandy Steve had
become one of the most popular and best-known guides in the Adirondack
country. His seeming effeminacy of attire had been long proved to mark
no effeminacy of nature, no lack of strength. There was not a better
shot, a stronger rower, on the list of summer guides; nor a better cook
and provider. Every party which went out under his care returned with
warm praise for Steve, with a friendly feeling also, which would in many
instances have warmed into familiar acquaintance if Steve would have
permitted it. But with all his cheerfulness and obliging good-will he
never lost a certain quantity of reserve. Even the men whose servant he
was for the time being were insensibly constrained to respect this, and
to keep the distance he, not they, determined. There remained always
something they could not, as the phrase was, "make out" about him. His
aversion to women was well known; so much so that it had come to be a
tacitly understood thing that parties of which women were members need
not waste their time trying to induce Dandy Steve to take them in
charge.

But fate had not lost sight of Steve yet. He had had his period of
solitary independence, of apparent absolute control of his own
destinies. His seven years were up. If he had supposed that he was
serving them, like Jacob of old, for that best-beloved mistress,
Freedom, he was mistaken. The seven years were up. How little he dreamed
what the eighth would bring him!

It was midsummer, and one of Steve's best patrons, Richard Cravath, of
Philadelphia, had not yet appeared. For three summers Mr. Cravath and
two or three of his friends had spent a month in the Adirondacks
hunting, fishing, camping under Steve's guidance. They were all rich
men, and generous, and, what was to Steve of far more worth than the
liberal pay, considerate of his feelings, tolerant of his reticence; not
a man of them but respected their queer, silent guide's individuality as
much as if he had been a man of their own sphere of life. Steve had
learned, by some unpleasant experience, that this delicate consideration
did not always obtain between employers and employed. It takes an
organization finer than the ordinary to perceive, and live up to the
perception, that the fact that you have hired a man for a certain sum of
money per month to cook your food or drive your horses gives you no
right to ask him in regard to his private, personal affairs prying
questions which you would not dare to put to common acquaintances in
society.

As week after week went by and no news came from Mr. Cravath, Steve
found himself really saddened at the thought of not seeing him. He had
not realized how large a part of his summer's pleasure, as well as
profit, came from the month's sport with this Philadelphia party.
Wistfully he scrutinized the lists of arrivals at the different houses
day after day, for the familiar names; but they were not to be found. At
last, after he had given over looking for them, he was electrified, one
evening in September, by having his name called from the piazza of one
of the hotels,--"Steve, is that you? You're just the man I want; I was
afraid we were too late to get you!"

It was Mr. Cravath, and with him the two friends whom Steve had liked
best of all who had been in Mr. Cravath's parties. It was the joy of the
sudden surprise which prevented Steve's giving his customary close
attention to Mr. Cravath's somewhat vague description of the party he
had brought this time.

"You must arrange for eight, Steve," he said. "There may not be quite so
many. One or two of the fellows I hoped for have not arrived, and it is
too late to wait long for any one. If they are not here by day after
to-morrow we will start.--And oh, Steve," he continued, with an affected
careless ease, but all the while eying Steve's face anxiously, "I
forgot to mention that I have brought my wife along this time. She
positively refused to let me off. She said she was tired of hearing so
much about the Adirondacks! She was coming this time to see for herself.
You needn't have the least fear about having her along! She's as good a
traveller as I am, every bit; I've had her in training at it for thirty
years, and I tell her, old as we are, we are better campers than most of
the young people."

"That's so, Mr. Cravath," replied Steve, his countenance clouded and his
voice less joyous, "I'll answer for it with you; but do you think, sir,
any lady could go where we went last year?"

In his heart Steve was saying to himself: "The idea of bringing an old
woman out here! I wouldn't do it for anybody in the world but Mr.
Cravath."

"My wife can go anywhere and do anything that I can, Steve," said Mr.
Cravath. "You need not begin to look blue, Steve; and if you back out,
or serve us any of your woman-hating tricks, such as I've heard of, I'll
never speak to you again,--never."

"I wouldn't serve you any trick, Mr. Cravath, you know that," replied
Steve, proudly; "and I haven't the least idea of backing out. But I am
afraid Mrs. Cravath will be disappointed," he added, as he went down the
steps, and luckily did not turn his head to see Mr. Cravath's face
covered with the laughter he had been restraining during the last few
moments.

"Caught him, by Jove!" he said, turning to his companion, a tall
dark-faced man,--"caught him, by Jove, Randall! He never once thought to
ask of what sex the other members of the party might be. He took it for
granted my wife was to be the only woman."

"Do you think that was quite fair, Cravath?" replied Mr. Randall. "He
would never have taken us in the world if he had known there were three
women in the party."

"Pshaw!" laughed Mr. Cravath. "Good enough for him for having such a
crotchet in his head. We'll take it out of him this trip."

"Or set it stronger than ever," said Mr. Randall. "My mind misgives me.
We shall wish we had not done it. He may turn sulky and unmanageable on
our hands when he finds himself trapped."

"I'll risk it," said Mr. Cravath, confidently. "If I can't bring him
around, Helen Wingate will. I never saw the man, woman, child, or dumb
beast yet that could resist her."

Mr. Randall sighed. "Poor child!" he said. "Isn't her gayety something
wonderful? One would not think to look at her that she had ever had an
hour's sorrow; but my wife tells me that she cannot speak of that
husband of hers yet without the most passionate weeping!"

"I know it! It's a shame," replied Mr. Cravath, "to see a glorious woman
like that throwing her life away on a memory. I did have a hope at one
time that she would marry again; but I've given it up. If she would have
married any one, it would have been George Walton last winter. No one
has ever come so near her as he did; but she sent him off at last, like
all the rest."

The "two fellows" on whom Mr. Cravath was counting to make up his party
of eight did not appear; and on the second morning after the above
conversations Steve received orders to have his boats in readiness at
ten o'clock to start with the Cravath party, only six in number.

Old Ben was on the wharf as Steve was making his final arrangements.

"Wall, Steve," he said, shifting his quid of tobacco in a leisurely
manner from one side of his mouth to the other, "you've got a soft thing
again. You're a damned lucky fellow, Steve; dunno whether you know it or
not."

"No, I don't know it," replied Steve, curtly; "and what's more, I don't
believe in luck."

"Don't yer?" said Ben, reflectively. "Wall, I do; an' Lord knows 't
ain't because I've seen so much of it. Say, Steve," he added, "how'd ye
come to take on such a lot o' women folks, this trip?"

"Lot o' women folks! what d' ye mean?" shouted Steve. "There's no
womenkind going except one,--Mr. Cravath's wife; and I wish to thunder
he'd left her behind."

"Oh, is that all?" said Ben, half innocently, half mischievously,--he
was not quite sure of his ground; "be the rest on 'em goin' to stay
here? There's three women in the party. Mr. Randall he's got his wife,
and there's a widder along, too; mighty fine-lookin' she is; aren't
nothin' old about her, I can tell yer!"

A flash shot from Steve's eyes. A half-smothered ejaculation came from
his lips as he turned fiercely towards Ben.

"There they be, now, all a-comin' down the steps," continued Ben,
chuckling. "I reckon ye got took in for onst; but it's too late now."

"Yes," thought Steve, angrily, as he looked at the smiling party coming
towards the landing,--three men and three women.

"It's too late now. If it had been a half-hour sooner 'twould have been
early enough. But it's the last time I'm caught in any such way. What a
blamed fool I was not to ask who they were! Never thought of the Cravath
set lumbering themselves up with women!" And a very unpromising
sternness settled down on Steve's expressive features as he stooped down
to readjust some of the smaller packages in the boat.

Meantime the members of the approaching party were not wholly at ease
in their minds. Mr. Cravath had confessed his suppression of the truth,
and Mr. Randall's evident misgiving as to the success of the experiment
had proved contagious. "If he's as queer as you say," murmured Mrs.
Cravath, "he can make it awfully disagreeable for us. I am almost afraid
to go."

"Nonsense!" cried Helen Wingate, merrily. "I'll take that out of him
before night. Who ever heard of a man's really disliking women! It is
only some particular woman he's disliked. He won't dislike us! He
sha'n't dislike me! I'm going to take him by storm! Let me run ahead and
jump in first." And she danced on in advance of the rest.

"Wait, Mrs. Wingate!" cried Mr. Cravath, hurrying after her. "Let me
come with you."

But he was too late; she ran on, and as she reached the shore, sprang
lightly on the plank, calling out: "Oh, there are all our things in
already! Guide, guide, please give me your hand, quick! I want to be the
first one in the boat."

Steve rose slowly,--turned. At the first glimpse of his face Helen
Wingate uttered a shriek which rang in the air, and fell backwards on
the sand insensible.

"Good God! she lost her footing!" exclaimed Mr. Cravath.

"She is killed!" cried the others, as they hurried breathlessly to the
spot. But when they reached it, there knelt Dandy Steve on the ground by
her side, his face whiter than hers, his eyes streaming with tears, his
arms around her, calling, "Helen! Helen!"

At the sound of footsteps and voices he looked up, and, instantly
seeking Mr. Cravath's face, gasped: "She is my wife, Mr. Cravath!"

The dumbness of unutterable astonishment fell on the whole party at
these words; but in another second, rallying from the shock; they knelt
around the seemingly lifeless woman, trying to arouse her. Presently she
opened her eyes, and, seeing Mrs. Randall's face bending above her, said
faintly: "It's Stephen! I always knew I should find him somewhere." Then
she sank away again into unconsciousness.

The party for the lakes must be postponed; that was evident. Neither
would it go out under the guidance of Dandy Steve, nor would Mrs.
Wingate go with it; those two things were equally evident.

Which facts, revolving slowly in Old Ben's brain, led him to seat
himself on the shore and abide the course of events. When, about noon,
Mr. Cravath appeared, coming to look after their hastily abandoned
effects, Old Ben touched his hat civilly, and said: "Good-day, sir; I
thought maybe I'd get this job o' guidin' now. Leastways, I'd stay by
yer truck here till somebody come to look it up."

Old Ben was the guide of all others Mr. Cravath would have chosen, next
to Dandy Steve.

"By Jove, Ben," he said, "this is luck! Can you go off with us at once?
Steve has got other business on hand. That lady is his wife, from whom
he has been separated many years."

"So I heerd him say, sir, when he was a-pickin' her up," answered Ben,
composedly, as if such things were a daily occurrence in the
Adirondacks.

"Can you go with us at once?" continued Mr. Cravath.

"In an hour, sir," said Ben.

And in an hour they were off, a bewildered but on the whole a relieved
and happier party than they had been in the morning. Helen Wingate's
long sorrow in the mysterious disappearance of her husband had ennobled
and purified her character, and greatly endeared her to her friends; but
that which had seemed to them to be explainable only by the fact of his
death or his unworthiness she knew was explainable by her own folly and
pride.

The end of the story is best told in Old Ben's words. He was never tired
of telling it.

"I never heered exactly the hull partikelers," he said, "for they'd gone
long before we got back, and the folks she was with wa'n't the kind that
talks much; but I could see they set a store by her. They'd always liked
Steve, too, up here's a guide. They niver know'd him while he was
a-livin' with her, else they'd ha' know'd him here; but he hadn't lived
with her but a mighty little while's near's I could make out. Yer see,
she was powerful rich, an' he hadn't but little; 'n' for all she was so
much in love with him, she couldn't help a-throwin' it up to him, sort
o', an' he couldn't stan' it. So he jest lit out; an' he'd never ha'
gone back to her,--never under the shining sun. He'd got jest that grit
in him. She'd been a-huntin' everywhere, they said,--all over Europe,
'n' Azhay, 'n' Africa, till she'd given up huntin'; an' he was right
close tu hum all the time. He was a first-rate feller, 'n' we was all
glad when his luck come ter him 't last. I wished I could ha' seen him
to 've asked him if he didn't b'leeve in luck now! Me 'n' him was
talkin' about luck that very mornin' while she was a-steppin' down the
landin' towards him's fast 's ever she could go! My eyes! how that woman
did come a runnin', an' a-callin', 'Guide! guide!' I sha'n't never
forgit it. I asked some o' the fellers how she looked when they went
off, an' they said her eyes was shinin' like stars; but there wasn't any
more of her face to be seen, for she was rolled up in a big red shawl,
It gits hoppin' cold here in September. I've always thought't was that
same red shawl he had in his cabin; but I dunno's 'twas."

"Wall, I bet they had a fust-rate time on that weddin' journey o'
theirn," said one of Ben's rougher cronies one day at the end of the
narrative; "'t ain't every feller gets the chance o' two honeymoons with
the same woman."

Old Ben looked at him attentively. "Youngster," said he, "'t ain't
strange, I suppose, young's you be, th't ye should look at it that way;
but ye're off, crony. Ye don't seem ter recolleck 'bout all them years
they'd lost out of their lives. I tell ye, it's kind o' harrowin' ter
me. Old's I am, and hain't never felt no call ter be married nuther,
it's kind o' harrowin' ter me yit ter think o' that woman's yell she
giv' when she seed Steve's face. If thar warn't jest a hull lifetime o'
misery in't, 'sides the joy o' findin' him, I ain't no jedge. I haven't
never felt no call ter marry, 's I sed; but if I had I wouldn't ha' been
caught cuttin' up no sech didos's that,--a-throwin' away years o' time
they might ha' hed together 'z well's not! Ther' ain't any too much o'
this life, anyhow; 't kinder looks ter you youngsters's ef 't 'd last
forever. I know how 'tis. I hain't forgot nothin', old's I am. But I
tell you, when ye're old's I am, 'n' look back on 't, ye'll be s'prised
ter see how short 'tis, an' ye'll reelize more what a fool a man is, or
a woman too,--an' I do s'pose they're the foolishest o' ther two,--ter
waste a minnit out on 't on querrils, or any other kind o' foolin'."



The Prince's Little Sweetheart.



She was very young. No man had ever made love to her before. She
belonged to the people,--the common people. Her parents were poor, and
could not buy any wedding trousseau for her. But that did not make any
difference. A carriage was sent from the Court for her, and she was
carried away "just as she was," in her stuff gown,--the gown the Prince
first saw her in. He liked her best in that, he said; and, moreover,
what odds did it make about clothes? Were there not rooms upon rooms in
the palace, full of the most superb clothes for Princes' Sweethearts?

It was into one of these rooms that she was taken first. On all sides of
it were high glass cases reaching up to the ceiling, and filled with
gowns and mantles and laces and jewels; everything a woman could wear
was there, and all of the very finest. What satins, what velvets, what
feathers and flowers! Even down to shoes and stockings,--every shade and
color of stockings of the daintiest silk. The Little Sweetheart gazed
breathless at them all. But she did not have time to wonder, for in a
moment more she was met by attendants, some young, some old, all dressed
gayly. She did not dream at first that they were servants, till they
began, all together, asking her what she would like to put on. Would she
have a lace gown, or a satin? Would she like feathers or flowers? And
one ran this way, and one that; and among them all, the Little
Sweetheart was so flustered she did not know if she were really alive
and on the earth, or had been transported to some fairy land. And before
she fairly realized what was being done, they had her clad in the most
beautiful gown that was ever seen,--white satin with gold butterflies on
it, and a white lace mantle embroidered in gold butterflies. All white
and gold she was, from top to toe, all but one foot; and there was
something very odd about that. She heard one of the women whispering to
the other, behind her back: "It is too bad there isn't any mate to this
slipper! Well, she will have to wear this pink one. It is too big; but
if we pin it up at the heel she can keep it on. The Prince really must
get some more slippers."

And then they put on her left foot a pink satin slipper, which was so
much too big it had to be pinned up in plaits at each side, and the
pearl buckle on the top hid her foot quite out of sight. But the Little
Sweetheart did not care. In fact, she had no time to think, for the
Queen came sailing in and spoke to her, and crowds of ladies in dresses
so bright and beautiful that they dazzled her eyes; and the Prince was
there kissing her, and in a minute they were married, and went floating
off in a dance, which was so swift it did not feel so much like dancing
as it did like being carried through the air by a gentle wind.

Through room after room,--there seemed no end to the rooms, and each one
more beautiful than the last,--from garden to garden,--some full of
trees, some with beautiful lakes in them, some full of solid beds of
flowers,--they went, sometimes dancing, sometimes walking, sometimes, it
seemed to the Little Sweetheart, floating. Every hour there was some new
beautiful thing to see, some new beautiful thing to do. And the Prince
never left her for more than a few minutes; and when he came back he
brought her gifts and kissed her. Gifts upon gifts he kept bringing,
till the Little Sweetheart's hands were so full she had to lay the
things down on tables or window-sills, wherever she could find place for
them,--which was not easy, for all the rooms were so full of beautiful
things that it was difficult to move about without knocking something
down.

The hours flew by like minutes. The sun came up high in the heavens, but
nobody seemed tired; nobody stopped,--dance, dance, whirl, whirl, song
and laughter and ceaseless motion. That was all that was to be seen or
heard in this wonderful Court to which the Little Sweetheart had been
brought.

Noon came, but nothing stopped. Nobody left off dancing, and the
musicians played faster than ever.

And so it was all the long afternoon and through the twilight; and as
soon as it was really dark, all the rooms and the gardens and the lakes
blazed out with millions of lamps, till it was lighter far than day; and
the ladies' dresses, as they danced back and forth, shone and sparkled
like butterflies' wings.

At last the lamps began, one by one, to go out, and by degrees a soft
sort of light, like moonlight, settled down on the whole place; and the
fine-dressed servants that had robed the Little Sweetheart in her white
satin gown took it off, and put her to bed in a gold bedstead, with
golden silk sheets.

"Oh," thought the Little Sweetheart, "I shall never go to sleep in the
world, and I'm sure I don't want to! I shall just keep my eyes open all
night, and see what happens next."

All the beautiful clothes she had taken off were laid on a sofa near the
bed,--the white satin dress at top, and the big pink satin slipper, with
its huge pearl buckle, on the floor in plain sight. "Where is the
other?" thought the Little Sweetheart. "I do believe I lost it off.
That's the way they come to have so many odd ones. But how queer! I lost
off the tight one! But the big one was pinned to my foot," she said,
speaking out loud before she thought; "that was what kept it on."

"You are talking in your sleep, my love," said the Prince, who was close
by her side, kissing her.

"Indeed, I am not asleep at all! I haven't shut my eyes," said the
Little Sweetheart.

And the next thing she knew it was broad daylight, the sun streaming
into her room, and the air resounding in all directions with music and
laughter, and flying steps of dancers, just as it had been yesterday.

The Little Sweetheart sat up in bed and looked around her. She thought
it very strange that she was all alone! the Prince gone,--no one there
to attend to her. In a few moments more she noticed that all her clothes
were gone, too.

"Oh," she thought, "I suppose one never wears the same clothes twice in
this Court, and they will bring me others! I hope there will be two
slippers alike, to-day."

Presently she began to grow impatient; but, being a timid little
creature, and having never before seen the inside of a Court or been a
Prince's sweetheart, she did not venture to stir, or to make any
sound,--only sat still in her bed, waiting to see what would happen. At
last she could not bear the sounds of the dancing and laughing and
playing and singing any longer. So she jumped up, and, rolling one of
the golden silk sheets around her, looked out of the window. There they
all were, the crowds of gay people, just as they had been the day before
when she was among them, whirling, dancing, laughing, singing. The tears
came into the Little Sweetheart's eyes as she gazed. What could it mean
that she was deserted in this way,--not even her clothes left for her?
She was as much a prisoner in her room as if the door had been locked.

As hour after hour passed, a new misery began to oppress her. She was
hungry,--seriously, distressingly hungry. She had been too happy to eat
the day before! Though she had sipped and tasted many delicious
beverages and viands, which the Prince had pressed upon her, she had not
taken any substantial food, and now she began to feel faint for the
want of it. As noon drew near,--the time at which she was accustomed in
her father's house to eat dinner,--the pangs of her hunger grew
unbearable.

"I can't bear it another minute," she said to herself. "I must, and I
will, have something to eat! I will slip down by some back way to the
kitchen. There must be a kitchen, I suppose."

So saying, she opened one of the doors, and timidly peered into the next
room. It chanced to be the room with the great glass cases, full of fine
gowns and laces, where she had been dressed by the obsequious attendants
on the previous day. No one was in the room. Glancing fearfully in all
directions, she rolled the golden silk sheet tightly around her, and
flew, rather than ran, across the floor, and took hold of the handle of
one of the glass doors. Alas! it was locked. She tried another,--another;
all were locked. In despair she turned to fly back to her bedroom, when
suddenly she spied on the floor, in a corner close by the case where hung
her beautiful white satin dress, a little heap of what looked like brown
rags. She darted toward it, snatched it from the floor, and in a second
more was safe back in her room; it was her own old stuff gown.

"What luck!" said the Little Sweetheart; "nobody will ever know me in
this. I'll put it on, and creep down the back stairs, and beg a mouthful
of food from some of the servants, and they'll never know who I am; and
then I'll go back to bed, and stay there till the Prince comes to fetch
me. Of course, he will come before long; and if he comes and finds me
gone, I hope he will be frightened half to death, and think I have been
carried off by robbers!"

Poor foolish Little Sweetheart! It did not take her many seconds to slip
into the ragged old stuff gown; then she crept out, keeping close to the
walls, so that she could hide behind the furniture if any one saw her.

She listened cautiously at each door before she opened it, and turned
away from some where she heard sounds of merry talking and laughing. In
the third room that she entered she saw a sight that arrested her
instantly and made her cry out in astonishment,--a girl who looked so
much like her that she might have been her own sister, and, what was
stranger, wore a brown stuff gown exactly like her own, was busily at
work in this room with a big broom killing spiders! As the Little
Sweetheart appeared in the doorway, this girl looked up, and said: "Oh,
ho! there you are, are you? I thought you'd be out before long." And
then she laughed unpleasantly.

"Who are you?" said the Little Sweetheart, beginning to tremble all
over.

"Oh, I'm a Prince's Sweetheart!" said the girl, laughing still more
unpleasantly; and, leaning on her broom, she stared at the Little
Sweetheart from top to toe.

"But--" began the Little Sweetheart.

"Oh, we're all Princes' Sweethearts!" interrupted several voices, coming
all at once from different corners of the big room; and, before the
Little Sweetheart could get out another word, she found herself
surrounded by half a dozen or more girls and women, all carrying brooms,
and all laughing unpleasantly as they looked at her.

"What!" she gasped, as she gazed at their stuff gowns and their brooms.
"You were all of you Princes' Sweethearts? Is it only for one day,
then?"

"Only for one day," they all replied.

"And always after that do you have to kill spiders?" she cried.

"Yes; that or nothing," they said. "You see it is a great deal of work
to keep all the rooms in this Court clean."

"Isn't it very dull work to kill spiders?" said the Little Sweetheart.

"Yes, very," they said, all speaking at once. "But it's better than
sitting still, doing nothing."

"Don't the Princes ever speak to you?" sobbed the Little Sweetheart.

"Yes, sometimes," they answered.

Just then the Little Sweetheart's own Prince came hurrying by, all in
armor from head to foot,--splendid shining armor, that clinked as he
walked.

"Oh, there he is!" cried the Little Sweetheart, springing forward; then
suddenly she recollected her stuff gown, and shrunk back into the group.
But the Prince had seen her.

"Oh, how d' do!" he said kindly. "I was wondering what had become of
you. Good-bye! I'm off for the grand review to-day. Don't tire yourself
out over the spiders. Good-bye!" And he was gone.

"I hate him!" cried the Little Sweetheart, her eyes flashing, and her
cheeks scarlet.

"Oh no, you don't!" exclaimed all the spider-sweepers. "That's the worst
of it. You may think you do; but you don't. You love him all the time
after you've once begun."

"I'll go home!" said the Little Sweetheart.

"You can't," said the others. "It is not permitted."

"Is it always just like this in this Court?" she asked.

"Yes; always the same. One day just like another,--all whirl and dance
from morning till night, and new people coming and going all the time,
and spiders most of all. You can't think how fast brooms wear out in
this Court!"

"I'll die!" said the Little Sweetheart.

"Oh no, you won't!" they said. "There are some of us, in some of the
rooms here, that are wrinkled and gray-haired. The most of the
Sweethearts live to be old."

"Do they?" said the Little Sweetheart, and burst into tears.

"Heavens!" cried I, "what a dream!" as I opened my eyes. There stood the
Little Sweetheart in my room, vanishing away, so vivid had been the
dream. "A most extraordinary dream!" said I. "I will write it out. Some
of the Princes may read it!"





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Between Whiles" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home