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Title: Princess
Author: McClelland, M. G. (Mary Greenway), 1853-1895
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 "Princess" ***

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



American Authors' Series, No. 17.

PRINCESS

by

M. G. McCLELLAND

Author of "Oblivion," "Jean Monteith," "Eleanor Gwynn," Etc.



New York:
United States Book Company
Successors to
John W. Lovell Company
150 Worth St., Cor Mission Place
Copyright, 1886,
by
Henry Holt & Co.



With love and admiration,

I dedicate this book to the memory of my friend,


THOMAS ALEXANDER SEDDON.



PRINCESS.


CHAPTER I.

When the idea of a removal to Virginia was first mooted in the family
of General Percival Smith, ex-Brigadier in the United States service,
it was received with consternation and a perfect storm of disapproval.
The young ladies, Norma and Blanche, rose as one woman--loud in
denunciation, vehement in protest--fell upon the scheme, and verbally
sought to annihilate it.  The country!  A farm!!  The South!!!  The
idea was untenable, monstrous.  Before their outraged vision floated
pictures whereof the foreground was hideous with cows, and snakes, and
beetles; the middle distance lurid with discomfort, corn-bread, and
tri-weekly mails; the background lowering with solitude, ennui, and
colored servants.

Rusticity, nature, sylvan solitudes, and all that, were exquisite bound
in Russia, with gold lettering and tinted leaves; wonderfully alluring
viewed at leisure with the gallery to one's self, and the light at the
proper angle, charmingly attractive behind the footlights, but in
reality!--to the feeling of these young ladies it could be best
appreciated by those who had been born to it.  In their opinion, they,
themselves, had been born to something vastly superior, so they
rebelled and made themselves disagreeable; hoping to mitigate the gloom
of the future by intensifying that of the present.

Their mother, whose heart yearned over her offspring, essayed to
comfort them, casting daily and hourly the bread of suggestion and
anticipation on the unthankful waters, whence it invariably returned to
her sodden with repinings.  The young ladies set their grievances up on
high and bowed the knee; they were not going to be comforted, nor
pleased, nor hopeful, not they.  The scheme was abominable, and no
aspect in which it could be presented rendered its abomination less;
they were hopeless, and helpless, and oppressed, and there was the end
of it.

Poor Mrs. Smith wished it might be the end, or anywhere near the end;
for the soul within her was "vexed with strife and broken in pieces
with words."  The general could--and did--escape the rhetorical
consequences of his unpopular measure, but his wife could not: no club
afforded her its welcome refuge, no "down town" offered her sanctuary.
She was obliged to stay at home and endure it all.  Norma's sulks,
Blanche's tears, the rapture of the boys--hungering for novelty as boys
only can hunger--the useless and trivial suggestions of friends, the
minor arrangements for the move, the decision on domestic questions
present and to come, the questions, answers, futile conjectures, all
formed a murk through which she labored, striving to please her husband
and her children, to uphold authority, quell mutiny, soothe murmurs,
and sympathize with enthusiasm; with a tact which shamed diplomacy, and
a patience worthy of an evangelist.

After the indulgent American custom, she earnestly desired to please
_all_ of her children.  In her own thoughts she existed only for them,
to minister to their happiness; even her husband was, unconsciously to
her, quite of secondary importance, his strongest present claim to
consideration lying in his paternity.  Had it been possible, she would
have raised her tent, and planted her fig tree in the spot preferred by
each one of her children, but as that was out of the question, in the
mother's mind of course her sons came first.  And this preference must
be indulged the more particularly that Warner--the elder of her two
boys, her idol and her grief--was slowly, well-nigh imperceptibly, but
none the less surely, drifting away from her.  A boyish imprudence, a
cold, over-exertion, the old story which is so familiar, so hopeless,
so endless in its repetition and its pathos.  When interests were
diverse, the healthy, blooming daughters could hope to make little
headway against the invalid son.  _They_ had all the sunny hours of
many long years before them; he perhaps only the hurrying moments of
one.

For Warner a change was imperative--so imperative that even the
rebellious girls were fain to admit its necessity.  His condition
required a gentler, kindlier atmosphere than that of New York.  The
poor diseased lungs craved the elixir of pure air; panted for the
invigoration of breezes freshly oxygenized by field and forest, and
labored exhaustedly in the languid devitalized breath of a city.  The
medical fraternity copiously consulted, recognized their impotence, but
refrained from stating it; and availed themselves of their power of
reference to the loftier physician--the boy must be healed, if he was
to be healed, by nature.  The country, pure air, pure milk, tender
care; these were his only hope.

General Smith was a man trained by military discipline to be instant in
decision and prompt in action.  As soon as the doctors informed him
that his son's case required--not wanderings--but a steady residence in
a climate bracing, as well as mild, where the comforts of home could
supplement the healing of nature, he set himself at once to discover a
place which would fill all the requirements.  To the old soldier, New
England born and Michigan bred, Virginia appeared a land of sun and
flowers, a country well-nigh tropical in the softness of its climate,
and the fervor of its heat.  The doctors recommended Florida, or South
Carolina, as in duty bound, and to the suggestion of Virginia yielded
only a dubious consent; it was very far _north_, they said, but still
it might do.  To the general, it seemed very far _south_, and he was
certain it would do.

In the old time, he remembered, when he was in lower Virginia with
McClellan, he had reveled in the softness, the delight of that, to him,
marvelous climate.  He had found the nights so sweet; the air,
vitalized with the breath of old ocean, so invigorating, the heat at
noonday so dry, and the coolness at evening so refreshing.  There were
pines, too; old fields of low scrub, and some forests of the nobler
sort; that would be the thing for Warner.  He remembered how, as he sat
in the tent door, the breeze scented with resinous odors used to come
to him, and how, strong man though he was, he had felt as he drew it
into his lungs that it did him good.

In those old campaigning days, the fancy had been born in him that some
time in the future he would like to return and make his home here,
where "amorous ocean wooed a gracious land"--that when his fighting
days were over, and the retired list lengthened by his name, it would
be a pleasant thing to have his final bivouac among the gallant foes
who had won his admiration by their dauntless manner of giving and
taking blows.

The exigencies and absorptions of military life, in time, dimmed the
fancy, but it never altogether vanished.  Out on the plains with
Custer, away in the mountains and the Indian country, vegetating in the
dullness of frontier posts, amid the bustle, the luxury and excitement
of city life, the fancy would return; the memory of those soft starlit
Virginia evenings would infold him with a subtle spell.  In thought he
would again sit smoking in the tent door, the gray shadows stealing out
from their covert in the woods, reconnoitering all the country ere they
swept down and took possession, in the name of their queen--the night.
The air would grow cool with the fragrant breath of the ocean and the
pines; whip-poor-wills would chant in the tree tops, and partridges
sound their blithe note away in the fields.  It was not wonderful that
when the necessity of securing a country home arose, the fancy should
resume its sway, and that a meditated flitting southward should suggest
Virginia as its goal.

The idea that any portion of his family would be displeased by the
realization of his fancy, or feel themselves aggrieved by his
arrangements, never entered into the veteran's calculations; he
returned from the South with his purchase made, and his mind filled
with anticipations of the joy the unlading of this precious honey would
occasion in the domestic hive, and when he was met by the angry buzz of
discontent instead of the gentle hum of applause, his surprise was
great, and his indignation unbounded.

"What the devil are they grumbling about?" he demanded of his wife.
"Shirley's a fine plantation.  The water is good, the air superb; there
are excellent gardens and first-rate oyster beds.  The house is
old-fashioned, but it's comfortable, and a little money will make it
more so.  What's the matter with them?"

"The girls are young, Percival," explained the mother, putting in a
plea for her rebels.  "They are used to society and admiration.  They
don't take interest in gardens and oyster beds yet; they like variety
and excitement.  The country is very dull."

"Not at all dull," contradicted the general.  "You talk as if I were
requiring you all to Selkirk on a ten acre island, instead of going to
one of the pleasantest and most populous counties in the oldest state
in the Union.  Mr. Byrd, the former owner of Shirley, told me that the
neighborhood was very thickly settled and sociable.  I counted five
gentlemen's houses in sight myself.  Southerners, as a rule, are great
visitors, and if the girls are lonely it will be their own fault.
They'll have as much boating and dancing and tom-foolery as is good for
them."

"Are there any young men?" demanded Mrs. Smith, who recognized the
necessity of an infusion of the stronger element to impart to social
joys body and flavor.

"Yes, I guess so," replied her husband indifferently, masculinity from
over-association having palled on him; "there's always men about
everywhere, except back in the home villages in Maine--they're scarce
enough _there_, the Lord knows!  I saw a good many about in the little
village near Shirley--Wintergreen, they call it.  One young fellow
attracted my attention particularly; he was sitting on a tobacco
hogshead, down on the wharf, superintending some negroes load a wagon,
and I couldn't get it out of my head that I'd seen his face before.  He
was tall, and fair, and had lost an arm.  I must have met him during
the war, I think, although I'll be hanged if I can place him."

Mrs. Smith looked interested.  "Perhaps you formerly knew him," she
remarked, cheerfully; "it's a pity your memory is so bad.  Why didn't
you inquire his name of some one, that might have helped you to place
him?"

"My memory is excellent," retorted the general, shortly; for a man must
resent such an insinuation even from the wife of his bosom.  "I've
always been remarkable for an unusually strong and retentive memory, as
you know very well--but it isn't superhuman.  At the lowest
computation, I guess I've seen about a million men's faces in the
course of my life, and it's ridiculous to expect me to have 'em all
sorted out, and ticketed in my mind like a picture catalogue.  My
memory is very fine."

Mrs. Smith recanted pleasantly.  Her husband's memory _was_ good, for
his age, she was willing to admit, but it was not flawless.  About this
young man, now, it seemed to her that if she could remember him at all,
she could remember all about him.  These hitches in recollection were
provoking.  It would have been nice for the girls to find a young man
ready to their hands, bound to courtesy by previous acquaintance with
their father.

She regretted that her husband should fail to recall, and had neglected
to inquire, the name of this interesting person; but the knowledge that
he was _there_, and others besides him, ameliorated the rigor of the
situation.

Mrs. Smith did not care for the south or southern people; their
thoughts were not her thoughts, nor their ways, her ways.  In her
ignorance, she classed them low in the scale of civilization, deeming
them an unprofitable race, whose days were given over to sloth, and
their nights to armed and malignant prowling.  For the colored people
of the censured states, she had a profound and far-off sympathy,
viewing them from an unreal and romantic standpoint.  This tender
attitude was mental; physically she shrank from them with disgust, and
it was not the least of the crosses entailed by a residence in the
south that she would be obliged to endure colored servants.

But all this was trifling and unimportant in comparison with the main
issue, Warner's health.  To secure the shadow of hope for her boy, Mrs.
Smith decided that any thing short of cannibalism in her future
surroundings would be endurable.

The information gleaned from her husband was faithfully repeated by
Mrs. Smith to her daughters, with some innocent exaggeration and
unconscious embellishment.  She always wanted to make things pleasant
for the children.

Blanche looked up from her crewel sun-flowers with reviving interest,
but Norma walked over to the window, and stood drumming on the panes,
and regarding the passers with a lowering brow.

"I wonder what Nesbit Thorne will think of it all?" she remarked, after
an interval of silence, giving voice to the inwardness of her
discontent.

"He'll _hate_ it!" spoke Blanche, with conviction; "he'll abhor it,
just as we do.  I know he will."  Blanche always followed her sister's
lead, and when Norma was cross considered it her duty to be tearful.
She was only disagreeable now because Norma was.

Percival, the youngest of the family, a spoiled and lively lad of
twelve, to whom the prospect of change was rapture, took up the last
remark indignantly.

"Nesbit won't do anything of the kind," quoth he.  "Nesbit isn't a
spoiled, airified idiot of a girl.  He's got sense enough to appreciate
hunting and fishing and the things that are of importance to _men_.  I
guess he'll want to come to Shirley this autumn for his shooting,
instead of going down to North Carolina."  Norma stopped her tattoo and
turned her head slightly; the boy, observing that he had scored a
point, proceeded: "Just the minute he gets back from Montana, I'm going
to tell him all about Shirley and beg him to come.  And if he does, I'm
going gunning with him every day, and make him teach me how to
shoot--see if I don't," regarding his mother from under his tawny brows
threateningly.  Percival's nature was adventurous and unruly: he had
red hair.

"Nesbit got back last night," announced Warner from his sofa beside the
other window.  "I saw him pass the house this morning.  There he is
now, coming up the street.  If his opinion is a matter of such
importance, you can call him over and get it.  I don't see that it
makes any difference what he thinks, myself."  The latter part of the
sentence was muttered in an unheeded undertone.

Norma tapped sharply on the glass, and beckoned to a gentleman on the
opposite pavement, her brow clearing.  He nodded gayly in response, and
crossing, in obedience to her summons, entered the house familiarly
without ringing the bell.



CHAPTER II.

All turned expectantly toward the door, pausing in their several
occupations; even Warner's eyes were raised from his book, although his
attention was involuntary and grudging.  The attitude of the little
circle attested the influence which the coming man wielded over every
member of it; an influence which extended insensibly to every one with
whom Nesbit Thorne's association was intimate.  He was Mrs. Smith's
nephew, and much in the habit, whenever he was in New York, of making
her house his home--having none now of his own.

He was a slender, dark man, with magnificent dark eyes, which had a
power of expression so enthralling as to disarm, or defy, criticism of
the rest of his face.  Not one man in fifty could tell whether Nesbit
Thorne was handsome, or the reverse--and for women--ah, well! they knew
best what they thought.

In his air, his carriage, his expression, was that which never fails to
attract and hold attention--force, vitality, individuality.  He was
small, but tall men never dwarfed him; plain, but the world--his
world--turned from handsomer men with indifference, to heap
consideration upon him.  To borrow the forceful vernacular of the
street, there was "something in him."  There was no possibility of
viewing either him or his actions with indifference; of merging him in,
and numbering him with, the crowd.

There are men whose lives are intaglios, cut by the chisel of destiny
deep into the sard of their generations; every line and curve and
faintest tracing pregnant with interest, suggestion, and emotion.  Men
who are loved and hated, feared, adored and loathed with an intensity
that their commonplace fellows are incapable of evoking.  They are
loadstones which attract events; whirlpools which draw to themselves
excitement, emotion, and vast store of sympathy.

Some years previous to the opening of this story, Nesbit Thorne, then a
brilliant recent graduate of Harvard, a leader in society, and a man of
whom great things were predicted, whose name was in many mouths as that
of a man likely to achieve distinction in any path of life he should
select, made a hasty, ill-advised marriage with a Miss Ethel Ross, a
New York belle of surpassing beauty and acumen.  A woman whose sole
thought was pleasure, whose highest conception of the good of life was
a constantly varied menu of social excitement, and whose noblest
reading of the word duty was compassed in having a well ordered house,
sumptuous entertainments, and irreproachable toilets.  A wife to
satisfy any man who was unemotional, unexacting, and prepared to give
way to her in all things.

Nesbit Thorne, unfortunately, was none of these things, and so his
married life had come to grief.  The first few months were smoothed and
gilded by his passionate enjoyment of her mere physical perfection, his
pleasure in the admiration she excited, and in the envy of other men.
Life's river glided smoothly, gayly in the sunshine; then ugly snags
began to appear, and reefs, fretting the surface of the water, and
hinting of sterner difficulties below; then a long stretch of tossing,
troubled water, growing more and more turbulent as it proceeded,
boiling and bubbling into angry whirlpools and sullen eddies.  The boat
of married happiness was hard among the breakers, tossed from side to
side, the sport of every wind of passion; contesting hands were on the
tiller ropes.  The craft yawed and jerked in its course, a spectacle
for men to weep over, and devils to rejoice in; ran aground on
quicksands, tore and tangled its cordage, rent the planking, and at the
end of a cruise of as many months as it should have lasted years, it
lay a hopeless wreck on the grim bar of separation.

The affair was managed gracefully, and with due deference to the
amenities.  There was gossip, of course--there always is gossip--and
public opinion was many sided.  Rumors circled around which played the
whole gamut from infidelity to bankruptcy; these lived their brief
span, and then gave place to other rumors, equally unfounded, and
therefore equally enjoyable.  The only fact authenticated, was the fact
of separation, and the most lasting conclusion arrived at in regard to
the matter was that it had been managed very gracefully.

The divorce which seemed the natural outcome of this state of affairs,
and to which every one looked, as a matter of course, was delayed in
this instance.  People wondered a little, and then remembered that the
Thornes were a Roman Catholic family, and concluded that the young man
had religious scruples.  With Mrs. Thorne the matter was plain enough;
she had no reason, as yet, sufficiently strong to make her desire
absolute release, and far greater command over Thorne's income by
retaining her position as his wife.

When his domestic affairs had reached a crisis, Thorne had quietly
disappeared for a year, during which time people only knew that he was
enjoying his recovered freedom in distant and little frequented places.
There were rumors of him in Tartary, on the Niger, in Siberia.  At the
expiration of the year he returned to New York, and resumed his old
place in society as though nothing untoward had occurred.  He lived at
his club, and no man or woman ever saw him set foot within the
precincts of his own house.  Occasionally he was seen to stop the nurse
in the park, and caress and speak to his little son.  His life was that
of a single man.  In the society they both frequented, he often
encountered his wife, and always behaved to her with scrupulous
politeness, even with marked courtesy.  If he ever missed his home, or
experienced regret for his matrimonial failure, he kept the feeling
hidden, and presented to the world an unmoved front.

In default of nearer ties, he made himself at home in his aunt's house,
frequenting it as familiarly as he had done in the days before his
marriage.  In his strong, almost passionate nature, there was one great
weakness; the love and admiration of women was a necessity to him.  He
could no more help trying to make women love him, than the kingfisher
can help thrusting down his beak when the bright speckled sides of his
prey flash through the water.  It was from neither cruelty nor vanity,
for Thorne had less of both traits than usually falls to the lot of
men; it was rather from the restlessness, the yearning of a strong
nature for that which it needed, but had not yet attained; the
experimental searching of a soul for its mate.  That sorrow might come
to others in the search he scarcely heeded; was he to blame that fair
promises would bud and lead him on, and fail of fruition?  To himself
he seemed rather to be pitied; their loss was balanced by his own.
Thorne had never loved as he was capable of loving; as yet the _ego_
was predominant.

As he entered the room, after an absence of weeks, with a smile and a
pleasant word of greeting, the younger members of the circle fell upon
him clamorously; full of themselves and their individual concerns.
Even Warner, in whose mind lurked a jealousy of his cousin's influence,
forgot it for the nonce, and was as eager to talk as the rest.  Nesbit
found himself listening to a demand for advice, an appeal for sympathy,
and a paean of gratulation, before he had made his salutations, or
gotten himself into a chair.

"Hold on!" he cried, putting up his hand in protest.  "Don't all talk
at once.  I can't follow.  What's the matter, Norma?"

His eye turned to his favorite involuntarily, and an almost
imperceptible brightening, a lifting of the clouds on that young lady's
horizon, began to take place.  She answered his look, and (assisted by
the irrepressible Percival) unfolded to him the family plans.  Thorne,
with good-humored enthusiasm, threw himself into the scheme, pronounced
it delightful, and proceeded to indulge in all manner of cheerful
prognostications.  Percival was enchanted, and, establishing himself
close beside the arm of his cousin's chair, commenced a series of
vehement whispers, which lasted as long as the visit.  Norma's brow
cleared more and more, and when Thorne declared his intention of paying
them a long visit during the hunting season, she allowed a smile to
wreathe her full crimson lips, and snubbed poor little Blanche
unmercifully for still daring to be lachrymose.

The talk grew momentarily merrier, and the mother listened, smiling;
her eyes, with a tender glow in them, fixed on Warner's face.  The sick
boy was in raptures over the old house mossed over with history and
tradition, which would be his future home.  Noting the eagerness of his
interest, her heart gave a sudden bound, hope took her by the hand, and
she dreamed dreams.  There might come a reaction and improvement.  At
times the intuition of an invalid was the voice of nature, crying out
for that which she needed.  Warner's longing for this change might be
the precursor of his cure.  Who could read the future?



CHAPTER III.

Backward and forward, from pantry to sideboard, from sideboard to china
closet, flitted Pocahontas Mason setting the table for breakfast.
Deftly she laid out the pretty mats on the shining mahogany, arranged
the old-fashioned blue cups and saucers, and placed the plates and
napkins.  She sang at her work in a low, clear voice, more sweet than
powerful, and all that her hands found to do was done rapidly and
skillfully, with firm, accustomed touches, and an absence of jar and
clatter.  In the center of the table stood a corpulent Wedgwood
pitcher, filled with geraniums and roses, to which the girl's fingers
wandered lovingly from time to time, in the effort to coax each blossom
into the position in which it would make the bravest show.  On one
corner, near the waiter, stood a housewifely little basket of keys,
through the handle of which was thrust a fresh handkerchief newly
shaken out.

When all the arrangements about the table had been completed,
Pocahontas turned her attention to the room, giving it those manifold
touches which, from a lady's fingers, can make even a plain apartment
look gracious and homelike.  Times had changed with the Masons, and
many duties formerly delegated to servants now fell naturally to the
daughter of the house.  Perhaps the change was an improvement: Berkeley
Mason, the young lady's brother, maintained that it was.

Having finished her work, Pocahontas crossed the room to one of the
tall, old-fashioned windows, and pushed open the half-shut blinds,
letting a flood of sunshine and morning freshness into the room.  Under
the window stood an ottoman covered with drab cloth, on which the
fingers of some dead and gone Mason had embroidered a dingy wreath of
roses and pansies.  Pocahontas knelt on it, resting her arms on the
lofty window-sill, and gazed out over the lawn, and enjoyed the dewy
buoyance of the air.  The September sunshine touched with golden glory
the bronze abundance of her hair, which a joyous, rollicking breeze,
intoxicated with dew and the breath of roses, tangled and tumbled into
a myriad witcheries of curl and crinkle.  The face, glorified by this
bright aureole, was pure and handsome, patrician in every line and
curve, from the noble forehead, with its delicate brown brows, to the
well-cut chin, which spoke eloquently of breadth of character and
strength of will.  The eyes were gray, and in them lay the chief charm
of the face, for their outlook was as honest and fearless as that of a
child--true eyes they were, fit windows for a brave, true soul.

The house, neutral-tinted with years and respectability, stood well
back from the river, to whose brink the smooth, green lawn swept in
scarcely perceptible undulation.  The river here was broad, almost
resembling an arm of the sea it was moving languidly to join.  There
was no haste about it, and no fret of ever active current; as all large
bodies should, it moved slowly, and the eye rested gratefully on the
tranquil flow.  Across the water, apparently against the far horizon, a
dense line of trees, fringing the further shore, rose tall and dark,
outlined with picturesque distinctness against the soft, warm blue.
The surrounding country was flat, but relieved from monotony by a
certain pastoral peacefulness, and a look of careless plenty which,
with thrift, might have become abundance.  In the meadows the grass
grew rich and riotous between the tall stacks of cured hay, and the
fields of corn and tobacco gave vigorous promise of a noble harvest.
The water also teemed with life and a shiftless out-at-elbow energy.
Shabby looking fishing smacks, with dirty white wings, like birds too
indolent to plume themselves, passed constantly, and flat-bottomed
canoes, manned by good-humored negro oystermen, plied a lazy, thievish
trade, with passing steamers.

Presently a gate slammed somewhere in the regions back of the house,
and there was a sound of neighing and trampling.  Pocahontas leaned far
out, shading her eyes with her hands, to watch the colts career wildly
across the lawn, with manes and tails and capering legs tossed high in
air, in the exuberance of equine spirits.  Following them sedately came
a beautiful black mare, stepping high and daintily, as became a lady of
distinction.  She was Kentucky born and bred, and had for sire none
other than Goldenrod himself.  In answer to a coaxing whistle of
invitation, she condescended to approach the window and accept sugar
and caresses.  Pocahontas patted the glossy head and neck of the
beauty, chattering soft nonsense while the little heap of sugar she had
placed on the window-sill vanished.  Presently she laid an empty palm
against the nose pushed in to her, and dealt it a gentle blow.

"That's all, Phyllis; positively all this morning.  You would empty the
sugar bowl if I'd let you.  No, take your nose away; it's all gone;
eleven great lumps have you had, and the feast of the gods is over."

But Phyllis would not be convinced; she pushed her nose up over the
window ledge, and whinnied softly.  As plainly as a horse can beg, she
begged for more, but her mistress was obdurate.  Placing both hands
behind her, she drew back into the room, laughing.

"Not another lump," she called, "eleven are enough.  Greedy Phyllis, to
beg for more when you know I'm in earnest.  Go away and play with the
colts; you'll get no more to-day."

"You'll never make Phyllis believe that, my dear," remarked a tall,
gray-haired lady, in a pretty muslin cap, who had entered unperceived.

"Oh, yes, mother.  She understands quite well.  See, she's moving off
already.  Phyllis knows I never break my word, and that persuasion is
quite useless," replied Pocahontas, turning to give her mother the
customary morning kiss, to place her chair before the waiter for her,
and to tell her how becoming her new cap was.  The Masons never
neglected small courtesies to each other.

The branch of the Mason family still resident at the old homestead of
Lanarth had dwindled to four living representatives--Mrs. Mason, who
had not changed her name in espousing her cousin Temple Mason, of
Lanarth, and her son Berkeley, and daughters Grace and Pocahontas.
There had been another son, Temple, the younger, whose story formed one
of those sad memories which are the grim after-taste of war.  All three
of the Masons had worn gray uniforms; the father had been killed in a
charge at Malvern Hill, the elder son had lost his good right arm, and
the younger had died in prison.

Of the two daughters, Grace had early fulfilled her destiny in true
Virginian fashion, by marrying a distant connection of her family, a
Mr. Royall Garnett, who had been a playmate of her brothers, and whose
plantation lay in an adjoining county.  With praiseworthy conservatism,
Mrs. Garnett was duplicating the uneventful placidity of her parents'
early years, content to rule her household wisely, to love and minister
to her husband, and to devote her energies to the rearing of her
children according to time-honored precedent.  Pocahontas, the youngest
of the family, was still unmarried, nay, more--still unengaged.

They had called her "Pocahontas" in obedience to the unwritten law of
southern families, which decrees that an ancestor's sin of distinction
shall be visited on generations of descendants, in the perpetuation of
a name no matter what its hideousness.  It seems a peculiarity of
distinguished persons to possess names singularly devoid of beauty;
therefore, among the burdens entailed by pride upon posterity, this is
a grievous one.  Some families, with the forest taint in their blood,
at an early date took refuge in the softer, prettier "Matoaca;" but not
so the Masons.  It was their pride that they never shirked an
obligation, or evaded a responsibility: they did not evade this one.
Having accepted "Pocahontas" as the name by which their ancestress was
best known, they never swerved from it; holding to it undaunted by its
length and harshness, and unmoved by the discovery of historians that
Pocahontas is no name at all, but simply a pet sobriquet applicable to
all Indian girls alike, and whose signification is scarcely one of
dignity.  Historians might discover, disagree, wrangle and explain, but
Pocahontas followed Pocahontas in the Mason family with the undeviating
certainty of a fixed law.

To the present Pocahontas (the eighth in the line) it really seemed as
though the thing should stop.  She yielded to the family fiat her own
case, because not having been consulted she had no option in the
matter, but when Grace's little daughter was born she put in a plea for
the child.

"Break the spell," she entreated, "and unborn generations will bless
you.  We Virginians will keep on in one groove until the crack of doom
unless we are jerked out of it by the nape of the neck.  Your heart
ought to yearn over the child--mine does.  It's a wicked sin to call a
pretty baby by such a monstrous name."

Grace trampled on the protest: "Not name her Pocahontas?  Why, of
_course_ I shall!  If the name were twice as long and three times as
ugly my baby should bear it.  I wonder you should object when you know
that every Pocahontas in the family has invariably turned out an
exceptionally fine woman.  All have been noble, truthful, honorable;
quick to see the right and unswerving in pursuit of it.  I shall call
my baby by that name, and no other."

Pocahontas opened her eyes.  "Why, Grace," she said, "you talk as if
the name were a talisman; as if virtues were transmitted with it.
Isn't that silly?"

"Not at all," responded Grace promptly; "unless we cease to be
ourselves after death, we _must_ still take interest in the things of
this world, in our families and descendants.  We may not be able
actually to transmit our virtues to them, but surely by guardian
influence we can help them imitate ancestral good qualities.  Guardian
angels of our own blood are a great deal nearer than outside angels,
and I believe the dear Lord appoints them whenever he can; and if so,
why shouldn't the good women who are in heaven take interest in my baby
who will bear their name?  It _is_ their name still, and it must hurt
them to see it soiled; of course they must take interest.  Were I an
angel, the child on earth who bore my name should be my special charge."

"Then, according to your showing, Grace, six good women, now holy
angels, have baby and me in constant keeping for love of our ugly name.
The idea is fanciful, and I don't consider it orthodox: but it's
pretty, and I like it.  Miss Pocahontas the ninth, you and I must walk
with circumspection, if not to grieve the good ladies up above who are
kind enough to take such interest in us."

Pocahontas mocked at Grace's idea, but it pleased her all the same, and
unconsciously it influenced her more than she knew.  She loved the
legends of her house, delighted in the fact of descent from brave men
and true women.  The past held her more than is common with the young
people of the present day, and she sought out and treasured all the
records of the six women who had borne her name, from the swarthy
Indian princess down to the gentle gray-haired lady who held the place
of honor at the Lanarth breakfast table.

"Princess," said Mrs. Mason, as she distributed the sugar and cream, "I
wish you'd ring the bell.  Rachel must have breakfast ready by this
time, and I hear Berkeley's step outside."

Princess rang the bell quite meekly.  The pet sobriquet was in as
familiar use among them as her real name, but her touch on the bell did
not suggest the imperiousness of royalty.  Aunt Rachel was an old
family servant, faithful, fat, and important, and Aunt Rachel _hated_
to be hurried.  She said "it pestered her, an' made her spile the
vittles."  She answered promptly this time, however, entering with the
great waiter of hot and tasty dishes before the bell had ceased its
faint tintinnabulation.  Berkeley, a tall fair man, whose right sleeve
was fastened against his breast, entered also.

"I saw Jim Byrd this morning," he remarked as he seated himself, after
the customary greeting to his mother and sister.  "He called here on
his way over to Roy Garnett's, where he was going to bid good-by.  I
asked him in to breakfast, but he couldn't stop; said he had promised
Grace to take breakfast with them.  He has to make a farewell tour, or
old friends' feelings will be hurt.  It's rather awful, and hard on
Jim, but he couldn't bear the thought of the neighbors feeling
slighted.  I suggested a barbecue and a stump speech and bow, but the
idea didn't seem to appeal to Jim.  Poor old fellow!"

"Couldn't he contrive to hold Shirley, Berke?" questioned Mrs. Mason,
as she passed his cup.  "He had retained possession so long, there must
have been some way to hold it altogether."

"No; the thing was impossible," replied Berkeley; "the plantation was
mortgaged to the hub before Jim was born.  The Byrds have been
extravagant for generations, and a crash was inevitable.  Old Mr. Byrd
could barely meet the interest, even before the loss of Cousin Mary's
money.  During the last years of his life some of it was added to the
principal, which made it harder work for Jim.  But for Jim's
management, and the fact that the creditors all stood like a row of
blocks in which the fall of one would inevitably touch off the whole
line, things would have gone to smash long ago.  Each man was afraid to
move in the matter, lest by so doing he should invite his own creditors
to come down on him.  Until lately they haven't bothered Jim much
outside of wringing all the interest out of him they could get.  While
his sisters were single, he was obliged to keep a home together for
them, you know.  Nina's marriage last spring removed that
responsibility, and I reckon it's a relief to Jim to relinquish the
struggle."

"What a pity old Mr. Byrd persuaded Mary to sell out her bonds, and
invest the money in tobacco during the war!" observed Mrs. Mason,
regretfully.  "It would have been something for the children if she had
kept the bonds.  It was too bad that those great warehouses, full of
tobacco, belonging to the Byrds and Masons were burned in Richmond at
the evacuation.  Charlie Mason persuaded Mr. Byrd into that
speculation, and although Charlie is my own cousin and Mary's brother,
I must admit that he did wrong.  Your father always disapproved of the
sale of those bonds."

"The speculation was a good one, and would have paid splendidly had
events arranged themselves differently; even at the worst no one could
foresee the burning of Richmond.  Cousin Mary's money couldn't have
freed Shirley, but if things had gone well with the venture, that
tobacco would have done so, and left a handsome surplus.  Charlie Mason
is a man of fine judgment, and that he failed that time was through no
fault of his.  It was the fortunes of war."

Mrs. Mason sighed and dropped the subject.  She was unconvinced, and
continued to feel regret that Mr. Byrd had been allowed to work his
speculative will with his wife's little patrimony.  It would have been
a serviceable nest-egg for the children, and a help to Jim in his long
struggle.  All of her life, she had been accustomed to seeing husbands
assume full control of their wives' property, using it as their own,
and she had taken little thought of the equities of the matter.  To her
it appeared natural that a wife's surrender to her husband should
embrace things financial as well as things less material, but in this
case she had always felt it a trifle hard.  It would have been such a
pleasant thing for Jim to have had some money, and been able to hold
Shirley.

Pocahontas helped herself to hot waffles, and sugared them with a
liberal hand.

"Dear old Jim," she said, calmly, "I wish he had come in: you should
have insisted, Berkeley.  It's cruel for him to have to give up the old
home to strangers, and start life in a new place.  I can't bear to
think of it.  Jim's such a good fellow, and Mexico seems a long way
off.  When is he coming to say good-by to us, Berke?"

"This evening.  He is coming to tea; so mind you have something
special."

After a pause, Mrs. Mason resumed the subject with the inquiry whether
he had heard any thing relative to the purchaser of Shirley.  But
Berkeley only knew that the place had been bought by a northern man, a
retired army officer, and that his name was Smith.

After they rose from the table, he lingered awhile, watching his mother
gather the cups and saucers into the waiter in readiness for Aunt
Rachel, and Pocahontas collect scraps for the dogs, two of which were
already poking impatient, wistful noses into the room.  Beyond the
threshold they were not allowed to intrude, but they stood in the
passage outside the open door, and whined and indulged in sharp "yaps"
of protest against hope deferred.  When they saw their mistress
advancing with a heaped-up plate of food, both gave reins to their joy,
and jumped and barked around her with delight.  Pocahontas loved
animals; the nobleness and fidelity of their instincts, harmonized with
the large faithfulness of her own nature.

When his sister was out of hearing, Berkeley reopened the topic of Jim
Byrd.  He was standing at the mantle filling his pipe, which he
balanced dextrously against one of the ornaments, and his back was
toward his mother as he spoke.

"Mother," he questioned, "did it ever occur to you that Jim might grow
fond of Pocahontas--might want her for a wife, in fact?  I fancy
something of the sort has happened, and that he came to grief.  He has
been depressed and unhappy for months; and neither business, nor
trouble about the old place can account for his shunning us in the way
he has been doing lately.  I don't believe he's been inside this house
twice in the last three months."

"Yes, my dear, I used often to think of it--long before Jim thought of
it himself, I believe, Berkeley.  He spoke to Princess this summer, and
she refused him.  She did not tell me about it; but from little things
I could guess pretty accurately.  It's a great disappointment to me,
for I scarcely remember when the hope that they might love each other
first dawned on my mind.  Mary Mason and I were warm friends, as well
as cousins, and it seemed natural that our children should marry."

Berkeley knew that his mother had wished him to marry Belle or Susie,
and that this was not the first time that she had been disappointed in
her desire for another Byrd-Mason match.  Had Temple lived, Nina Byrd
would have been his wife: the two had been sweethearts from babyhood.

Mrs. Mason sighed regretfully.  "I wish it could have been," she said;
"Jim is such a good fellow, and was always gentle and careful with the
little girls, even when he grew a great rough lad; such a little
chevalier in his feelings, too.  I remember one Christmas just after
the war, when he was about fourteen, the children wanted some Christmas
green to decorate the parlor.  It was the fall you were in the South,
and they wanted to make the room pretty to welcome you home again.
Susie, Nina and my two girls, went over into the Shirley woods to get
it, and Jim went with them.  They found plenty of lovely holly, but no
mistletoe for a long time; you know how scarce it is around here.  At
last Pocahontas 'spied a splendid bunch, full of pure, waxen berries,
way up in the top of a tall oak tree, and she set her heart at once on
having it.  There had been heavy sleet the night before, and every limb
was caked with ice--slippery as glass.  Climbing was doubly dangerous,
and Grace begged him not to try, but that foolish Pocahontas looked
disappointed, and Jim dashed right at the tree.  It was a terribly
foolhardy thing to do, and Grace said it made her sick to watch him;
every minute she expected to see him slip and come crashing to the
ground.  The little girls all cried, and Grace boxed Jim's ears the
instant he was safe on the ground again with the mistletoe.  The
children came home in great excitement, Pocahontas with the mistletoe
hugged tight in her arms and tears pouring down her cheeks.  When I
scolded Jim for his recklessness, he opened those honest hazel eyes of
his at me in surprise and said, 'But Princess wanted it,' as if that
were quite sufficient reason for risking his life.  Poor little
Princess."

After a moment she resumed: "I wish she could have loved him in the way
we wish.  Marriage is a terrible risk for a girl like her.  She is too
straightforward, too uncompromisingly intolerant of every-day
littleness, to have a very peaceful life.  She has grown up so
different from other girls; so full of ideals and romance; she belongs,
in thought and motives, to the last century rather than to this, if
what I hear be true.  She is large-hearted and has a great capacity for
affection, but she is self-willed and she could be hard upon occasion.
If she should fall into weak or wicked hands she would both endure and
inflict untold suffering.  And there is within her, too, endless power
of generosity and self-sacrifice.  Poor child! with Jim I could have
trusted her; but she couldn't love him, so there's nothing to be done."

"Why couldn't she?" demanded Berkeley, argumentatively.  "She'll never
do any better; Jim's a handsome fellow, as men go, brave, honorable and
sweet-tempered.  What more does she want?  It looks to me like sheer
perversity."

Mrs. Mason smiled indulgently at her son's masculine obtuseness.  The
subtleties of women were so far beyond his comprehension that it was
hardly worth while to endeavor to make him understand.  She made the
effort, however, despite its uselessness.

"It isn't perversity, Berkeley," she said; "I hardly realize, myself,
why the thing should have seemed so impossible.  I suppose, having
always regarded Jim as a kindly old playmate, and big, brotherly
friend, the idea of associating sentiment with him appeared absurd.
Had they ever been separated the affair might have had a different
termination; but there has never been a break in their intercourse--Jim
has always been here, always the same.  That won't do with a girl like
Princess.  It is too commonplace, too devoid of interest and
uncertainty.  Yes, my dear, I know that in your eyes this is folly, but
at the same time it is nature.  You don't understand.  Princess, I
fear, sets undue value on intellect, holding less brilliant endowments
cheap beside it.  And we must admit, Berkeley, dearly as we love Jim
Byrd, and noble fellow as he is, he has not the intellectual power
which commands admiration.  With all my respect for intellect, I can
see that Princess greatly overrates it.  She has often declared that
unless a man were intellectually her superior, she could never love
him."

"Intellectually--a fiddle-stick!" scoffed Berkeley, contemptously.
"She don't know what she wants, or what is good for her.  Women rarely
do.  They make their matrimonial selections like the blindest of bats,
the most egregious of fools, and then, when the mischief is done, go in
for unending sackcloth, or a divorce court.  Pocahontas will get hold
of a fellow some day who will wring her heart--with her rubbishing
longing after novelty and intellect, and fine scorn of homespun truth
and loyalty.  Were I a woman, I should esteem the size of my husband's
heart, and the sweetness of his temper, matter of more importance than
the bigness of his brain, or the freshness of the acquaintance."

"Very true, my son," assented Mrs. Mason, gently, "but you are
powerless to alter women.  Their hearts must go as nature wills, and
lookers-on can only pray God to guide them rightly.  But, Berkeley, you
are unjust to your sister.  Pocahontas has sound discrimination, and a
very clear judgment.  Her inability to meet our wishes is no proof that
her choice will fall unworthily."

Berkeley made no response in words, but he looked unconvinced, and soon
withdrew to attend to the plantation, indulging in profound conclusions
about women, which were most of them erroneous.

In the afternoon Pocahontas, providing herself with a book and a gayly
colored feather fan, established herself comfortably in the old
split-bottomed rocking-chair in the deep shadow of the porch.  The day
had been close and sultry, and even the darkened rooms felt stifling;
outside it was better, although the morning freshness had evaporated,
and that of evening had not yet come.  The sun sank slowly westward,
sending long rays across the bosom of the river, whose waters were so
still that they gleamed with opalescent splendor.  The slender leaves
of the old willows at the foot of the lawn drooped exhaustedly, showing
all their silver linings; and the sky was one tawny blaze of color.
The sail-boats in sight rocked gently with the sluggish flow of the
current, and drifted rather than sailed on their course.  Once a noisy,
throbbing steamer, instinct with life and purpose, dashed by
tumultuously, churning the still water with impatient wheels, and
rupturing the slumberous air with its discordant whistle.  It jarred
upon the quiet beauty of the scene, and it was a relief when it swept
around a bend of the river, leaving only a trail of blue smoke, which
was harmonious.

One of the setters who had secreted himself in the house during the hot
hours, stepped out with overdone innocence, and stretched himself in a
shaded corner, panting and yawning dismally.

Pocahontas formed the only bit of coolness in the picture, sitting in
the shadow of the old porch, in her pretty white dress, with a cape
jessamine blossom showing purely against the bronze knot of her hair,
and another among the laces on her breast.  The volume of Emerson
selected for the enlargement of her mental vision lay unheeded in her
lap, and the big fan moved lazily, as the gray eyes gazed and gazed out
over the parched lawn and the glistening river until the glare nearly
blinded them.

She was thinking of Jim, and feeling pitiful and sad over her old
friend who must break away from every home association, and far from
kindred and family, among strange faces and unfamiliar surroundings,
make for himself a new life.  She was sorry for Jim--grieved for his
pain in parting, for his disappointment in regard to herself, for her
own inability to give him the love he longed for.  She would have loved
him had it been in her power; she honestly regretted that the calm,
true sisterly affection she felt for him could not be converted into
something warmer.  Her friends wished it; his friends wished it.  It
was the natural and proper thing to have happened, and yet with her it
had not happened.  With Pocahontas, marriage was a very sacred thing,
not to be contemplated lightly, or entered into at all without the
sanctification of a pure, unselfish love.  If she should marry Jim now,
it would be with the knowledge that the depths of her nature were
unstirred, the true rich gold still hidden.  It did not seem to her
that her old playfellow's hand was the one destined to stir the one, or
discover the other.  She might judge wrongly, but so it appeared to
her, and she was too loyal to Jim to imagine for an instant that he
would be satisfied with aught save her very best.

The evening freshened as the sun went down, a vagrant breeze stole out
from some leafy covert and disported itself blithely.  The big Irish
setter moved from the corner to the top step, and ceased yawning.  An
old colored man appearing from behind the house took his way across the
lawn in quest of the colts.  The dog, with his interest in life
reawakened, bounded off the steps prepared to lend valuable assistance,
but was diverted from this laudable object by the approach of two
gentlemen who must be welcomed riotously.

Pocahontas, rising, advanced out of the shadow to meet them--Jim Byrd,
and a tall broad-shouldered man with a great silky red beard, her
brother-in-law, Mr. Royall Garnett.



CHAPTER IV.

After a joyous exchange of greeting with her brother-in-law, of whom
she was unusually fond, and a sweet, gracious welcome to her old
play-fellow, Pocahontas withdrew to tell her mother of their arrival,
and to assure herself that every thing was perfectly arranged for Jim's
last meal among them.

Through some strange deficiency in herself, she was unable to give him
what he most desired, but what she could give him she lavished royally.
She wore her prettiest dress in his honor, and adorned it with his
favorite flowers, forgetful in her eagerness to please him, that this
might make things harder for him.  She ordered all the dishes she knew
he liked for tea, and spent a couple of hours in the hot kitchen that
scorching morning preparing a cake that he always praised.  With eager
haste she took from its glass-doored cabinet the rare old Mason china,
and rifled the garden of roses to fill the quaint century old
punch-bowl for the center of the table.  All things possible should be
done to make Jim feel himself, that night, the honored guest, the
person of most importance in their world.  It was an heirloom--the
Mason china--quaint and curious, and most highly prized.  There was a
superstition--how originated none knew--that the breakage of a piece,
whether by design or accident, foreboded misfortune to the house of
Mason.  Very carefully it was always kept, being only used on rare
occasions when special honor was intended.  During the civil war it had
lain securely hidden in a heavy box under the brick pavement of one of
the cellar rooms, thereby escaping dire vicissitudes.  Many pieces had
been broken, said to have been followed in every case by calamities
harder to endure than the loss of precious porcelain, but much of it
still remained.  In design it was unique, in execution wonderful, and
its history was romantic.

In the olden time a rich and fanciful Mason had visited the colonies
with one of the expeditions sent out by the Virginia Company of London.
He was an artist of no mean repute, and during his stay in the new
world had made sketches of the strange beautiful scenery, and studies
from the wild picturesque life which captivated his imagination.

After his return to England, he perfected these drawings from memory,
and some years later crossed over to France, and had them transferred
to china at fabulous cost.  The result was very beautiful, for each
piece showed small but exquisite portrayals of life and scenery in the
new world.  The scenes were varied, and depicted in soft, glowing
colors, and with a finish that made each a gem.

On one cup a hunter followed the chase through the silent forest;
another showed a dusky maiden dreaming beside a waterfall; a third, a
group of deer resting in a sunny valley; a fourth, a circle of braves
around a council fire.

When, in after years, the grandson of the artist had married a bride
with Indian blood in her veins, the punch-bowl had been added as a
special compliment to the lady, and the china had been sent a wedding
gift from the Masons of England, to the Masons of Virginia.  The bowl
was very graceful, and contained on one side a lovely representation of
the landing at Jamestown, with the tranquil, smiling river, the vessel
in the offing, and the group of friendly red men on the shore; on the
other was, of course, depicted the rescue of Captain John Smith by the
Indian girl.  The bowl was finished at top and bottom with wreaths of
Virginia creepers, forest leaves and blossoms.

To bring out this precious heirloom in honor of a guest was making him
of consequence indeed.

Jim knew all about it, and when he caught sight of the pretty tea-table
he understood the girl's intention and shot a quick, grateful glance
across to her from his brown eyes.  A whimsical memory of a superb
breakfast he had once seen served to a man about to be hanged obtruded
itself, but he banished it loyally.  As betook the cup with the
dreaming maiden on it from Mrs. Mason's hand, he said gratefully:

"How good of you to have out the beautiful old china in my honor.  When
I was a boy, I always imagined that coffee from these cups tasted
different--had a woodsy, adventurous flavor.  I think so still."

It was a merry meal, despite the shadow in the background, for the
gentlemen taking their cue from Pocahontas vied with each other in
talking nonsense, and depicting ridiculous phases of camp life in the
tropics with Jim always for the hero of the scene.  And Jim, shaking
off the dismal emotions peculiar to farewell visits, responded
gallantly, defending himself from each sportive attack, and illumining
his exile with such rays of promise as occurred to him.  He knew these
old friends were sorry to lose him, and trying to lessen the wrench of
parting; and being a quiet, self-controlled man--more given to action
than speech, and with a deep abhorrence of scenes, he appreciated their
efforts.

After tea, Berkeley and Royall lit their pipes and strolled out toward
the stables, leaving Jim and Pocahontas alone together on the porch.
The girl leaned back in her chair silently, not trying to make
conversation any more, and Jim sat on the steps at her feet, letting
his eyes follow wistfully the slope of the lawn, and the flow of the
river.  Presently, without turning his head, he asked her to walk with
him down to the old willows by the riverside, for a farewell look on
the scene so dear to him, and Pocahontas rose instantly and slipped her
hand within his proffered arm.

Down by the river, where the lawn bent softly to the wooing of the
water, stood two ancient willows of unusual size: they were gnarled
with age, but vigorous and long limbed.  The story ran that once a
Pocahontas Mason, the lady of the manor here, had lovers twain--twin
brothers who being also Masons were her distant cousins.  One she
loved, and one she did not, but both loved her, and being passionate
men both swore that they would have her, come what might; and cause any
man that came between, most bloodily to rue it.  Between the brothers
there arose quarrels, and ill feeling, which afflicted the lady, who
was a good woman, and averse to breaking the peace of families.  That
brothers--twin-brothers, should be scowling venomously at each other
because of her, appeared a grievous thing, and she set herself to mend
it.  By marrying the man she loved, she could end the affair at once,
but his brother would never forgive him, and before love had maddened
them the men had been friends as well as brothers.  She gauged their
characters thoughtfully, and hit upon a plan--which, at the expense of
some self-sacrifice, would arrange the matter peacefully.  Bidding both
lovers attend her one day, she brought them to this spot, and cutting
two willow wands of exactly the same length and thickness she stuck
them deep into the moist soil, and announced her decision.  They would
wait three years, she said, and at the end of that time the man whose
tree had grown the strongest, should come and claim his answer.  She
would attend to both willows herself, giving to each the same care, and
treating them with equal fairness.  Then she made the men shake hands
in amity once more, and swear to abide by her decision.

The story further tells that both willows flourished finely, but that
in the last year the true love's tree outstripped its mate, as was
right and proper.  As the lady had anticipated, when the term of
probation expired only one of the twins appeared to claim an answer to
his suit.  And in the pocket of the constant man, when he kissed his
own true love, lay a letter, from across the seas, full of brotherly
affection and congratulation.

This little story was a favorite with Pocahontas, and she was fond of
relating how her great-great-grandmother by a little wit and generous
self-sacrifice, averted a feud between brothers, and kept family peace
unbroken.

The trees were always called "The Lovers," and under their sweeping
branches the young people were fond of gathering on moonlit summer
evenings.

Pocahontas seated herself under the larger tree on the dry, warm grass,
and Jim leaned against the rugged trunk, silently drinking in, with his
eyes, the still beauty of the night--the silvery sheen of the water,
the pure bend of the sky, the slope of the lawn, and the gray
tranquillity of the old house in the background.  And as he gazed,
there awoke in his breast, adding to its pain, that weary yearning
which men call home-sickness.

With a shuddering sigh and a movement of the strong shoulders as though
some burden were settling down upon them, Jim dropped himself to the
ground beside his companion, and suffered her gently to possess herself
of his tobacco pouch and pipe.  The girl felt that the peacefulness of
the scene jarred upon his mood, and set herself to soothe him into
harmony with himself and nature.  Jim watched the white fingers deftly
fill the bowl, and strike the match for him; then he took it from her
hand and breathed softly through the curved stem until the fire circled
brightly round, and the tobacco all was burning.  He leaned back on his
elbow and sent the smoke out in long quiet wreaths, and Pocahontas,
with her hands folded together in her lap, watched it rise and vanish
dreamily.

"I wonder," she murmured presently, "if the nights out there--in
Mexico, I mean--can be more beautiful than this.  I have read
descriptions, and dreamed dreams, but I can't imagine any thing more
perfect than that stretch of water shimmering in the moonlight, and the
dark outline of the trees yonder against the sky."

"It's more than beautiful; it's _home_."  Jim's voice shook a little.
"Do you know, Princess, that whenever the memory of home comes to me
out yonder in the tropics, it will be just this picture, I shall always
see.  The river, the lights and shadows on the lawn, the old gray
house, and _you_, with the flowers on your breast, and the moonlight on
your dear face.  Don't be afraid, or move away; I'm not going to make
love to you--all that is over; but your face must always be to me the
fairest and sweetest on earth."  He paused a moment, and then added,
looking steadily away from her; "I want to tell you--this last time I
may ever have an opportunity of speaking to you alone--that you are
never to blame yourself for what has come and gone.  It's been no fault
of yours.  You could no more help my loving you than I could help it
myself; or than you could make yourself love me in return."

"Oh, Jim, dear!" spoke the girl, quickly and penitently, "I do love
you.  I do, indeed."

"I know it, Princess, in exactly the same way you love Roy Garnett, and
immeasurably less than you love Berkeley.  That isn't what I wanted,
dear.  I'm a dull fellow, slow at understanding things, and I can't put
my thoughts into graceful, fluent language; but I know what love is,
and what I wanted you to feel is very different.  Don't be unhappy
about it--or me.  I'll worry through the pain in time, or grow
accustomed to it.  It's tough, just at first, but I'll pull through
somehow.  It shall not spoil my life either, although it must mar it; a
man must be a pitiful fellow, who lets himself go to the bad because
the woman he loves won't have him.  God means every man to hold up his
own weight in this world.  I'd as soon knock a woman down as throw the
blame of a wasted life upon her."

Pocahontas listened with her eyes on the folded hands in her lap,
realizing for the first time how deeply the man beside her loved her.
Would any other man ever love her with such grand unselfishness, she
wondered, ever give all, receive nothing in return, and still give on.
_Why_ could not she love him?  Why was her heart still and speechless,
and only her mind responsive.  He was worthy of any woman's love; why
could not she give him hers?

Ask the question how she would, the answer was always the same.  She
did not love him; she could not love him; but the reason was beyond her.

After a little while Jim spoke again: "When you were a little girl," he
said, "I always was your knight.  In all our plays, and troubles, it
was always _me_ you wanted.  My boat was the one you liked best, and my
dog and horse would come to your whistle as quickly as to mine.  I was
the one always to care for you and carry out your will.  That can never
be again, I know, but don't forget me, Princess.  Let the thought of
your old friend come to you sometimes, not to trouble you, only to
remind you when things are hard and rough, and you need comfort, that
there's a heart in the world that would shed its last drop to help you."

With quick impulse Pocahontas leaned forward and caught his hand in
hers, and before he could divine her intention, bent her head and laid
her soft, warm lips against it.  When she lifted her eyes to his there
were tears in them, and her voice trembled as she said: "I will think
of you often, old friend; of how noble you are, and how unselfish.  You
have been generous to me all my life; far more generous than I have
ever deserved."

As they arose, to return to the house, the jasmin blossom fell from the
girl's hair to the ground at Jim's feet; he stooped and raised it.
"May I keep it?" he said.

She bowed her head, silently.



CHAPTER V.

In the dining-room at Lanarth stood Pocahontas, an expression of
comical dismay upon her face, a pile of dusty volumes on the floor at
her feet.  The bookcase in the recess by the fireplace, with yawning
doors and empty shelves, stood swept and garnished, awaiting
re-possession.  In a frenzy of untimely cleanliness, she had torn all
the books from the repose of years, and now that the deed was beyond
recall, she was a prey to disgust, and given over to repentance.  The
morning promised to be sultry, and the pile was very big; outside bugs
and bees and other wise things hummed and sang in leafy places; the
leaves on the magnolias were motionless, and the air asleep.  A
butterfly, passing to his siesta on the bosom of a rose, paused an
instant on the window ledge to contemplate her foolishness; the flowers
in the borders hung their heads.  Berkeley passed the open window,
looking cool and fresh in summer clothing, and Pocahontas, catching
sight of him, put her fingers to her lips and whistled sharply to
attract his attention, which being done, she followed up the advantage
with pantomimic gestures, indicative of despair, and need of swift
assistance.  Berkeley turned good-naturedly, and came in to the rescue,
but when he discovered the service required of him, he regarded it with
aversion, and showed a mean desire to retreat, which unworthiness was
promptly detected by Pocahontas, and as promptly frustrated.

"Do help me, Berkeley," she entreated.  "They must all be put in place
again before dinner, and it only wants a quarter to one now.  I can't
do it all before half-past two, to save my life, unless you help me.
You know, mother dislikes a messy, littered room, and I've got your
favorite pudding for dessert.  Oh, dear!  I'm tired to death already,
and it's _so_ warm!"  The rising inflection of her voice conveyed an
impression of heat intense enough to drive an engine.

"What made you do it?" inquired Berkeley, in a tone calculated to make
her sensible of folly.

"Mother asked me to dust the books sometime ago, but I neglected it,
and this morning when the sun shone on them I saw that their condition
was disgraceful.  I was so much disgusted with my untidiness, that I
dragged them all out on the impulse of the moment, and only realized
how hot it was, and how I hated it, after the deed was done.  Come,
Berke, do help me.  I'm so tired."

Thus adjured, Berkeley laid aside his coat, for lifting is warm work
with the sun at the meridian.  The empty shirt sleeve had a forlorn and
piteous look as it hung crumpled and slightly twisted by his side.
Berkeley caught it with his other hand and thrust the cuff in the
waistband of his trowsers.  He was well used to his loss, and
apparently indifferent to it, but the dangling of the empty sleeve
worried him; the arm was gone close up at the shoulder.

Then the pair fell to work briskly, dusting, arranging, re-arranging
and chatting pleasantly.  Pocahontas plied the duster and her brother
sorted the books and replaced them on the shelves.  The sun shone in
royally, until Pocahontas served a writ of ejectment on his majesty by
closing all the shutters; and the sun promptly eluded it by peeping in
between the bars.  A little vagrant breeze stole in, full of idleness
and mischief, and meddled with the books--fluttering the leaves of "The
Faery Queen," which lay on its back wide open, lifting up the pages,
and flirting them over roguishly as though bent on finding secrets.
The little noise attracted the girl's attention, and she raised the
book and wiped the covers with her duster.  As she slapped it lightly
with her hand to get out all the dust, a letter slipped from among the
leaves and fell to the floor near Berkeley's feet.

"Where did this come from?" he inquired, as he picked it up.

"Out of this book," she answered, holding up the volume in her hand.
"It fell out while I was dusting; some one must have left it in to mark
a place.  It must have been in the book for years; see how soiled it
is.  Whose is it?"

There is something in the unexpected finding of a stray letter which
stimulates curiosity, and Berkeley turned it in his hand to read the
address.  The envelope was soiled like the coat of a traveler, and the
letter was crumpled as though a hand had closed over it roughly.  The
writing was distinct and clerkly.  "Berkeley Mason, Esq., Wintergreen,
---- Co., Virginia."  Mr. Mason examined the blurred, indistinct
postmark.  "Point"--something, it seemed to be; and on the other side,
Washington, plain enough, and the date, May, 1865.  What letter had
been forwarded him from the seat of government in the spring of '65?
Then memory unfolded itself like a map whose spring is loosened.

Seating himself in an easy chair, he drew the letter from its envelope,
unfolding it slowly against his knee.  It was a half-sheet of ordinary
commercial paper and the lines upon it numbered, perhaps, a dozen.
Mason winced at sight of the heading as though an old wound had been
pressed.  His sister, leaning over the back of his chair, read with
him; putting out a hand across his shoulder to help him straighten the
page.  It ran thus:


POINT LOOKOUT,

May --, 1865.

TO BERKELEY MASON, ESQ., Virginia.

SIR--A Confederate soldier, now a prisoner of war at this place, giving
his name as Temple Mason, is lying in the prison hospital at the point
of death.  He was too ill to be sent south with the general transfer,
and in compliance with his urgent request, I write again--the third
time, to inform you of his condition.  He can't last much longer, and
in event of his dying without hearing from his friends, he will be
buried in the common cemetery connected with the prison, and his
identity, in all probability, lost.  This is what he appears to dread,
and he entreats that you will come to him, in God's name, if you are
still alive.  The utmost dispatch will be necessary.

Respectfully,

PERCIVAL SMITH, B. G. U. S. A.

Comdt., U. S. P., Point Lookout.


Mason returned the letter to its envelope and leaned back in his chair
thinking.  It was one of the many messages of sorrow that had winged
their way through the country in the weeks following the close of the
war; one of the murmurs of pain that had swelled the funeral dirge
vibrating through the land.

Pocahontas came and seated herself on her brother's knee, gazing at him
with wide gray eyes filled with inquiry.  "When did this come?  I never
saw it before," she questioned, gravely.

Then with troubled brow, and voice that grew husky at times, he went
over for her the sad story of the last months of the last year of that
unhappy and fateful struggle.  In the autumn of '64 their brother
Temple, a lad of seventeen, had been taken prisoner, with others of his
troop, while making a reconnoissance, and they had been unable to
discover either his condition or place of incarceration.  Mason,
himself, had been at home on sick leave, weak and worn with the loss of
his arm and a saber cut across his head.  All through the winter and
spring, while calamity followed calamity with stunning rapidity, the
wearing anxiety about Temple continued, made more intolerable by the
contradictory reports of his fate brought by passing soldiers.
Finally, this letter had arrived and converted a dread fear into a
worse certainty.

It had been handed to Roy Garnett by a Federal officer at Richmond, and
Roy had ridden straight down with it all those weary miles, feeling
curiously certain that it contained news of Temple, and sharing their
anxiety to the full.  Roy had been stanch and helpful in their trouble,
aiding in the hurried preparations for the journey, and accompanying
the wounded man, and the pale, resolute mother on their desperate
mission.  Then came the hideous journey, the arrival at the prison, the
fearful questioning, the relief akin to pain of the reply; the
interview with the bluff, kindly commandant, who took their hands
heartily and rendered them every assistance in his power.  Then, in the
rough hospital of the hostile prison, the strange, sad waiting for the
end, followed by the stranger, sadder home-coming.  It was a pitiful
story, common enough both north and south--but none the less pitiful
for its commonness.

With her head down on her brother's shoulder, Pocahontas sobbed
convulsively.  She was familiar with the outlines of the tale, and knew
vaguely of the weeks of anxiety that had lined her mother's gentle face
and silvered her brown hair, but of all particulars she was ignorant.
She had been very young at the time these sad events occurred; the
young brother sleeping in the shadow of the cedars in the old
burying-ground was scarcely more than a name to her, and the memories
of her childhood had faded somewhat, crowded out by the cheerful
realities of her glad girl-life.

When she broke the silence, it was very softly.  "Berkeley," she said,
"it was kindly done of that Federal officer to let us know.  This is
the third letter he wrote about poor Temple; the others must have
miscarried."

"They did; and this one only reached us just in time.  You see,
communication with the south in those early days was more than
uncertain.  If Roy hadn't happened to be in Richmond, it's a question
whether I should have received this one.  It was kindly done, as you
say, and this General Smith was a kindly man.  I shall never forget his
consideration for my mother, nor the kindness he showed poor Temple.
But for his aid we could hardly have managed at the last, in spite of
Roy's efforts.  We owe him a debt of gratitude I'd fain repay.  God
bless him!"

"Amen!" echoed Pocahontas, softly.



CHAPTER VI.

One bright, crisp morning about the middle of October, Pocahontas stood
in the back yard surrounded by a large flock of turkeys.  They were
handsome birds of all shades, from lightish red to deep glossy black;
the sunlight on their plumage made flashes of iridescent color, green,
purple, and blue, and that royal shade which seems to combine and
reflect the glory of all three.  Their heads were bent picking up the
corn their mistress threw from the little basket in her hand, but
occasionally the great gobblers would pause in their meal, and puff
themselves out and spread their tails and throw their crimson heads
back against their shining feathers, and proudly strut backward and
forward, to the admiration, doubtless, of their mates.

Turkeys were the young lady's specialty, and on them alone of all the
denizens of the poultry yard did she bestow her personal attention.
From the thrilling moment in early spring when she scribbled the date
of its arrival on the first egg, until the full-grown birds were handed
over to Aunt Rachel to be fattened for the table, the turkeys were her
particular charge, and each morning and afternoon saw her sally forth,
armed with a pan full of curds, or a loaf of brown bread, for her flock.

Her usual attendant, on these occasions, was a little colored boy named
Sawney--the last of a line of Sawneys extending back to the dining-room
servant of Pocahontas's great-grandmother.  The economy in nomenclature
on a southern plantation in the olden time was worthy of Dandie Dinmont
himself.  The Sawney in question was a grandson of Aunt Rachel, and an
utterly abominable little darkey, inky black, grotesque, and spoiled to
a degree.  He was devoted to Pocahontas, and much addicted to following
her about, wherever she would allow him.  At feeding-time he always
appeared as duly as the turkeys, for Pocahontas never forgot to put a
biscuit, or a lump of sugar, in her pocket for him.

With the largest black gobbler Sawney was on terms of deadly enmity;
for on more than one occasion had his precious biscuit been plucked
from his unsuspicious hand, and borne away in triumph by the wily bird.
Half of feeding time was usually consumed by Sawney in throwing small
stones at his enemy, who, as he was never by any chance smitten, would
raise his head from time to time and gobble his assailant to scorn.

On this particular morning there had been a lull in the feud.  Sawney
had devoured his biscuit unmolested, and had offered no gratuitous
insults to his foe.  Pocahontas, having emptied her basket, was
watching her flock with interest and admiration, when Berkeley made his
appearance on the porch with a letter in his hand.  He seemed in a
hurry, and called to his sister impatiently.

"Look here, Princess," he said, as she joined him, "here's a letter
from Jim to old Aunt Violet, his 'mammy.'  He told me he had promised
the old woman to write to her.  It came with my mail this morning, and
I haven't time to go over to Shirley and read it to her; I wish you
would.  She's too poorly to come after it herself, so put on your
bonnet and step over there now, like a good girl."

"Step over there, indeed!" laughed Pocahontas.  "How insinuatingly you
put it.  Aunt Vi'let's cabin is way over at Shirley; half a mile beyond
Jim Byrd's line fence."

"General Smith's line fence, you mean.  I wish you'd go, Princess.
There's money in the letter, and I don't want to send it by the
negroes.  I promised Jim we'd look after the old woman for them.  The
girls want her to come to Richmond, but she won't consent to quit the
old place.  She hasn't any children of her own, you know."

Pocahontas extended her hand for the letter.  "She ought to go to
Richmond and live with Belle or Nina," she said, slipping it into her
pocket.  "She'd die of homesickness way out in California with Susie.
I wonder whether the new people will let her stay at Shirley?"

"Oh, yes; Jim made every arrangement when he found she wouldn't consent
to move.  He had an understanding with General Smith about the corner
of land her cabin stands on; reserved it, or leased it, or something.
It's all right."

Always kind, always considerate, thought the girl, wistfully, even amid
the pain and hurry of departure--the sundering of old ties, finding
time to care for the comfort of his old nurse.  Good, faithful Jim.

"Have the new people come?" she called after her brother, as he
disappeared within the house.

"I don't know.  I rather think they have," he answered.  "I noticed
smoke rising from the kitchen chimney this morning.  Ask Aunt
Rachel--the negroes are sure to know."

Pausing a moment at the kitchen door to request the servants to inform
her mother that she had walked over to Shirley to read a letter to old
Aunt Vi'let, and would be home in an hour or so, Pocahontas set out on
her expedition, never noticing that little Sawney, with a muttered "Me
d'wine too," was resolutely following her.  The way led along a
pleasant country road, as level as a table, which ran, with scarcely a
bend, or turning, straight from the Masons' back gate over to the
ancient home of the Byrd family at Shirley.  Overhead the interlacing
branches of oak and magnolia trees made a gorgeous canopy of glossy
green and russet, and the sunshine filtering through the leaves
embroidered the old road with an intricate pattern of light and shadow.
Now and then a holly tree, or bush, bright with berries, made a lovely
dash of color, and glowed all over with suggestions of Christmas and
rejoicing.

Pocahontas sauntered slowly, enjoying the beauty of the morning, and
thinking happy thoughts of the past, in which were mingled memories of
the three Byrd girls, who had been her playmates, and of Jim.  It was
just beside that holly that Nina Byrd, an enterprising child, had
fallen over the fence into a mud puddle, while in pursuit of a little
striped ground squirrel, and soiled her hands and dress, and afterward
shook her and Susie because they laughed at her.  Nina was always
passionate.  And over in that meadow, she had once been forced to take
refuge in a tree from the hostile demonstrations of an unruly heifer
whose calf she had annoyed with overtures of friendship.  She had sat
among the branches, forlorn and frightened, for more than an hour,
feeling that each moment was a month, and that such a thing as
forgetfulness was impossible to the bovine mind, when Jim, cantering
home from school over in the village, had spied her out and rescued her.

Passing from retrospect to anticipation, the girl's mind wandered to
the new arrivals, and idle speculations about them filled it.
Naturally, her thoughts were colored by her wishes, and she pleased
herself with fancying them agreeable people, refined and cultured, with
whom association would be pleasant.  Her fancy was untrammeled, for her
facts were few, and the name afforded no clew whatever.  People named
"Smith" might be any thing--or nothing, regarded socially.  The name
was non-committal, but it suggested possibilities, and its range was
infinite.  Wits, felons, clergymen, adventurers, millionaires and
spendthrifts, all had answered to the unobtrusive cognomen.  It was
plain and commonplace, but as baffling as a disguise.  With Talbot,
Meredith, or Percival, the case is different, such nomenclature
presupposes gentility.  As the name "Percival" crossed the girl's mind
in her whimsical musings, her thoughts seized upon it and fitted it
instantly to the name which had preceded it, Percival--and Smith!
Percival Smith!  That was the name signed to the letter they had
re-discovered after its sleep of years--the letter telling them of
Temple.  This newcomer was, or had been, an army officer--a general.
Suppose it should be the same person?  Nay; it must be--it _was_!  Her
mind leaped to the delightful conclusion impetuously, and before she
had proceeded ten yards further, Pocahontas was fully convinced of the
correctness of her conclusion, and busy with plans for returning the
kindness they had received.

Filled with pleasure in her thought, her steps quickened, as though her
feet were trying to keep pace with her bright imaginings.  And so
engrossed was she with castle-building, that it was only when she
stopped to climb a fence separating the road from a field through which
lay a short cut to Aunt Violet's cabin, that she became aware of her
small attendant.

"Why, Sawney, who told you to come?" she questioned, as she sprang to
the ground on the other side.  The little fellow slowly and carefully
mounted the fence, balancing his fat body on the top rail as he turned
circumspectly in order to scramble down.  When the landing had been
safely effected, he peered up at her with twinkling eyes, and
announced, with the air of one imparting gratifying intelligence:
"Nobody.  I tum myse'f.  I dwine long-er you."

"There are sheep in this field; you'd better run home.  They'll scare
you to death."

"Ain't 'feard," was the valiant response.

Pocahontas wrinkled up her brows; it was almost too far to send him
back alone, and there was no one passing along the road who could
escort him to the home gate--even if he would go, which was unlikely.
It would not do to start him home with the certainty that he would
return, the instant her eye was off him, and stand by the fence,
peeping through the cracks until she should get back to him.  Since he
had followed her so far, it would be better to let him go all the way.

"Come, then," she said, doubtfully, "I suppose I must take you,
although you had no business to follow me.  If the sheep come after us,
Sawney, remember that you're not afraid.  You must not cry, or hold on
to my dress with your dirty little hands.  Do you hear?"

"Ya-m," acquiesced Sawney, with suspicious readiness, resuming his line
of march behind her.

They pursued their way uneventfully until they had reached the middle
of the field when the catastrophe, which Pocahontas had anticipated,
occurred.  A flock of sheep peacefully grazing at a little distance,
suddenly raised their heads, and advanced with joyful bleating,
evidently regarding the pair as ministering spirits come to gratify
their saline yearning.  Sawney--perjured Sawney! all unmindful of his
promise, no sooner beheld their advance, than he halted instantly, the
muscles of his face working ominously.

"Come on, Sawney," urged the young lady, encouragingly, "the sheep
won't hurt you: they think we have salt for them; come on."

But Sawney had no confidence in the explanation, and plainly
discredited the statement of the animals' lack of hostile intention.
He refused to stir: nay, more, he dropped himself solidly to the earth
with an ear-splitting howl, and grabbed tight hold of Pocahontas's
dress with both grimy paws; the sheep, meanwhile, came hurrying up at a
sharp trot, pushing against each other in their haste, and bleating in
glad anticipation of a treat.  Some of the boldest ventured near enough
to sniff the girl's dress, gazing up at her expectantly, with their
soft, pretty eyes; a proceeding which evoked redoubled yells from
Sawney.  They were perfectly harmless; even the rams were peaceful,
which made the child's conduct the more provoking.  In vain Pocahontas
coaxed, threatened and commanded, in vain she assured him solemnly that
the sheep would not hurt him, and acrimoniously that if he did not hush
instantly and get up, she would leave him alone for the sheep to eat
up.  Sawney would not stir.  The more she talked the louder he howled
and the more obstinately he clung to her dress.  Then she took off her
hat and waved it at the animals who sprang aside, startled at first,
but returned in closer ranks with more insistent bleating.  Losing
patience at last, Pocahontas stooped and caught the boy by his
shoulders and shook him soundly.  She was about to proceed to more
violent measures when a voice at her elbow said quietly:

"Perhaps I can be of service to you."

She started, and glanced round quickly.  A slender, dark, young man, a
stranger, was standing beside her, glancing, with unconcealed
amusement, from her flushed, irate countenance to the sulky, streaming
visage at her feet.

"Oh, thank you; you can indeed," accepting his proffered aid with
grateful readiness.  "If you will kindly drive these sheep away, I'll
be much indebted to you.  This provoking little boy is afraid of them,
or pretends to be, and I can't induce him to stir.  Now, Sawney, hush
that abominable noise this instant!  The gentleman is going to drive
all the sheep away."

With perfect gravity, but his eyes full of laughter, Nesbit Thorne
flourished his cane and advanced on the flock menacingly.  The animals
backed slowly.  "Will that do?" he called, when he had driven them
about a hundred yards.

"A little further, please," she answered.  "No, a great deal further;
quite to the end of the field.  He won't move yet!"  Her voice quivered
with suppressed mirth.

Feeling like "Little Boy Blue" recalled to a sense of duty, Thorne
pursued the sheep remorselessly; the poor beasts, convinced at last
that disappointment was to be their portion, trotted before him meekly,
giving vent to their feelings in occasional bleats of reproach.

Meanwhile, Pocahontas lifted Sawney forcibly to his feet, and led him
across to the opposite fence, over which she helped him to climb, being
determined that no more scenes should be inflicted on her that morning.
When she had put a barrier between him and danger, she ordered him to
sit down and calm his shattered nerves and recover his behavior.  She
remained within the field, herself, leaning against the fence and
awaiting the gentleman's return, that she might thank him.

By the time he rejoined her, Nesbit Thorne had decided that his new
acquaintance was a very handsome, and unusually attractive woman.  The
adventure amused him, and he had a mind to pursue it further.  As he
approached, he removed his hat courteously, with a pleasant,
half-jocular remark about the demoralized condition of her escort, and
a word indicative of his surprise at finding a country child, of any
color, afraid of animals.

"Yes; it is unusual," she assented, smiling on him with her handsome
gray eyes, "I can't account for his terror, for I'm sure no animal has
ever harmed him.  If he were older I'd accuse him of trying to earn a
cheap notoriety, but he's almost too little to pretend.  He's a
troublesome monkey, and if I'd noticed he was following me, I'd have
forbidden him.  I'm much indebted for your kindly service; without your
assistance, Sawney would have sat there screaming until they organized
an expedition at home to cruise in search of us, or the sheep had
retired of their own accord."

"Not as bad as that, I guess," he returned, extending his hand to aid
her in mounting the fence, noticing that the one she gave him was
delicate and shapely, and that the foot, of which he caught a glimpse,
was pretty, and well-arched.  He would gladly have detained her talking
in the pleasant sunshine, or even--as time was no object, and all ways
alike--have liked to saunter on beside her, but there was no mistaking
the quiet decision of her manner as she repeated her thanks and bade
him good morning.

"Who the dickens was she?" he wondered idly as he leaned on the fence
in his turn, and watched the graceful figure disappearing in the
distance.  She walked well, he noticed, without any of the ugly tricks
of gait so many women have; firm and upright, with head finely poised,
and every movement a curve.  Her look and voice harmonized with her
carriage; she pleased his artistic sense, and he lowered his lids a
little as he watched her, as one focuses a fine picture, or statue.

The aesthetic side of Thorne's nature was cultured to the extreme of
fastidiousness; ugly, repulsive, even disagreeable things repelled him
more than they do most men.  He disliked intensely any thing that
grated, any thing that was discordant.  If "taste is morality," Thorne
had claims to be considered as having attained an unusual development.
His taste ruled him in most things, unless, indeed, his passions were
aroused, or his will thwarted, in which case he could present
angularities of character in marked contrast to the smoothness of his
ordinary demeanor.

Women amused him, as a rule, more than they interested him.  He
constantly sought among them that which, as yet, he had never
found--that which he was beginning to think he never should find,
originality combined with unselfishness.

Even in that brief interview, Pocahontas had touched a chord in his
nature no woman had ever touched before; it vibrated--very faintly, but
enough to arrest Thorne's attention, for an instant, and to cause him
to bend his ear and listen.  In some subtle way, a difference was
established between her and all other women.  Her ready acceptance of
his aid, her absolute lack of self-consciousness, even her calmly
courteous dismissal of him, piqued Thorne's curiosity and interest.  He
reflected that in all probability he would meet her soon again, and the
idea pleased him.

As he selected a cigar, the grotesque side of the adventure touched
him; he smiled, and the smile broadened into a laugh as he recalled his
own part in the performance.  What would Norma have said, could she
have beheld him heading off sheep from a squalling little African at
the command of an utterly strange young woman?

Pocahontas related her adventure gleefully when they were all assembled
at dinner; and the amusement it excited was great.  Berkeley insisted
teasingly that her deliverer would develop into one of the workmen from
Washington, employed by General Smith in the renovation of Shirley.
One of the carpenters, or--as he looked gentlemanly and wore a coat, a
fresco man, abroad in search of an original idea for the dining-room
ceiling.  This idea she had obligingly furnished him, and he would be
able to make a very effective ceiling of her, and Sawney, and the
sheep, if he should handle them rightly.  These suggestions Pocahontas
scouted, maintaining gayly that the dark stranger was none other than
her "Smith," the very identical John of her destiny.

Later she confided to her brother her conjecture relative to the
identity of their new neighbor, and was more delighted than surprised
to learn from him that her surmise had been correct.  Berkeley had
obtained the information from the solicitor in Wintergreen, who had
been employed in the transfer of the estate.



CHAPTER VII.

The Smith family speedily settled down into their new home, and after
the first feeling of strangeness had worn off, were forced to
acknowledge that the reality of country living was not so disagreeable
as they had anticipated.  The neighborhood was pleasantly and thickly
settled, the people kind-hearted and hospitable.  True, Mrs. Smith
still secretly yearned for modern conveniences and the comforts of a
daily market, and felt that time alone could reconcile her to the
unreliability and inefficiency of colored servants, but even she had
compensation.  Her husband--whose time, since his retirement, had hung
like lead upon his hands, was busy, active and interested, full of
plans, and reveling in the pure delight of buying expensive machinery
for the negroes to break, and tons of fertilizers for them to waste.
The girls were pleased, and Norma happier and less difficult than she
had been for years.  And, best and most welcome of all, Warner appeared
to strengthen.  As for Percival, his satisfaction knew no bounds; his
father had given him a gun and Nesbit Thorne was teaching him how to
use it.

At the eleventh hour Nesbit Thorne had decided to accompany his
relatives in their flitting, instead of waiting to visit them later in
the season.  He was incited thereto by idleness and ennui, leavened by
curiosity as to the manner in which their future life would be ordered,
and also by a genuine desire to be of service to them in the
troublesome move.  Perhaps there was, besides, an unacknowledged
feeling in his breast, that with the departure of his kindred, New York
would become lonelier, more wearisome than ever.  They had given him a
semblance of a home, and there was in the man's nature an undercurrent
of yearning after love and the rounding out of true domestic life, that
fretted and chafed in its obstructed channel, and tried here and there
blindly for another outlet.

Thorne's coming with them seemed to the Smiths a very natural
proceeding.  His aunt proposed it one day, when he had been more than
usually helpful, vowing that she scarcely knew how to get along without
him, and Thorne fell in with the proposal at once; it made little
difference, since he was coming for the shooting anyway.  If Norma had
another theory in regard to his unwillingness to be separated from
them, she was careful to keep it hidden.

The country gentry, led and influenced by the Masons, extended the
right hand of fellowship to the new-comers, and wrapped the folds of
the social blanket cordially around them.  The worldly affairs of the
Virginians, like their surroundings, were in a more or less perceptible
state of dilapidation, and their means frequently failed to match their
hospitality.  But their intentions were the best, and the Smiths
(well-bred people, neither arrogant, nor purse-proud) speedily became
reconciled to informality and lack of system, and learned to overlook
deficiencies, or to piece them out with kindness.

From the first they were thrown much into the society of the Lanarth
family, for the Masons at once assumed right of property in them, being
bent with simple loyalty on defraying some portion of their debt of
gratitude.  When their loved one was "sick and in prison" these
strangers had extended to him kindness, and now that opportunity
offered, that kindness should be returned, full measure, pressed down
and running over.  For the general, Pocahontas conceived a positive
enthusiasm, a feeling which the jolly old soldier was not slow in
discovering, nor backward in reciprocating; the pair were the best of
friends.

Ever since the finding of the letter, the girl's mind had been filled
with the story of the brother whom she scarcely remembered.  With
tender imagination, she exaggerated his youth, his courage, his
hardships, and glorified him into a hero.  Every thing connected with
him appeared pitiful and sacred; his saber hung above the mantle,
crossed with his father's, and she took it down one morning and
half-drew the dulled blade from the scabbard.  The brass of the hilt,
and the trimmings of the belt and scabbard were tarnished, and even
corroded in places.  She got a cloth and burnished them until they
shone like gold.  When she replaced it, the contrast with the other
sword hurt her, and a rush of remorseful tenderness made her take that
down also, and burnish it carefully.  Poor father! almost as unknown as
the young brother, she was grieved that he should have been the second
thought.

She was restoring her father's sword to its place, and re-arranging the
crimson sash, faded and streaked in its folds, from wear and time, when
Norma and Blanche arrived, escorted by Nesbit Thorne.  Little Sawney
had been sitting on the hearth-rug watching her polish the arms, and
offering suggestions, and Pocahontas dispatched him to invite her
guests into the parlor, while she ran up-stairs to remove the traces of
her work.  The young people from Shirley often walked over in the
afternoons; the way was short and pleasant, and the brother and sister
usually accompanied them part of the way home.

Thorne was fond of these informal visits; his interest in Pocahontas
had increased; the chord, instead of merely vibrating, was beginning to
give out faint, sweet notes, like a far-off dream of music, just
stirring toward embodiment.  He took a keen artistic pleasure in her,
she satisfied him, and at first he was almost shy of pressing the
acquaintance lest she should fail somewhere.  He had been disappointed
so many times, had had so many exquisite bubbles float before him, to
break at a touch and leave only dirty soap-suds.  He let himself be
interested slowly, drawing out the pleasure, and getting its full
flavor.  Then, when he found that it was true metal and might be worked
at will without fear of baseness, or alloy, he gave himself up to the
pleasure of it.  Then, his instinct being always to draw to himself
what he desired, he strove to awaken an interest in her.  He was a man
of unusually brilliant attainments, and he spared no pains.  He began
to seek her society, and, when in it, to exert himself and appear
always at his best, trying to fascinate her as she was, unconsciously,
beginning to fascinate him.  He would entrap her into ventilating her
old-fashioned ideas and prejudices; her primitive notions of life and
conduct.  Her straightforwardness, simplicity, absolute truthfulness,
struck him as quaint and delicious; even her romance and almost German
sentiment were attractive to him.  He felt like a scientist, who
discovers old truths in an absolutely new development.  Early in their
acquaintance he discovered her fondness for old legends, and her
perfect acceptance of, and faith in them; and it was his delight to
beguile her into relating tales of her kindred, and of the olden times
so dear to the hearts of Virginians.  Her remarks and comments often
touched, always interested him, although sometimes they well-nigh
convulsed him with amusement.  To the mind of the man of the world they
appeared so--almost obsolete.

Pocahontas was generally willing enough to tell her stories, unless
indeed Norma happened to be present, and then the improvisatrice was
dumb.  Pocahontas was not in sympathy with Norma.  Norma thought old
stories great rubbish, and did not scruple to show that such was her
opinion, and Pocahontas resented it.  One evening, in the beginning of
their acquaintance, the three girls had walked down to the old willows
at the foot of the lawn, and Pocahontas, for the amusement of her
guests, had related the little story connected with them.

"I think it was all great foolishness," Norma declared.  "If she loved
the man, why not marry him at once like a sensible woman?  The idea of
making him wait three years, and watch a rubbishing little tree, just
because his brother would have made a scene.  What if he did make a
scene?  He would soon have submitted to the inevitable, and made
friends.  The lady couldn't have cared much for her lover, to be
willing to put up with that driveling probation."

"She did love him," retorted Pocahontas, with annoyance, "and she
proved it by being willing to sacrifice a little of her happiness to
spare him the bitterness of a quarrel with his own brother.  The men
were twins, and they loved one another, until unnatural rivalry pushed
family affection into the background.  If the matter had been settled
when both were at white heat, an estrangement would have ensued which
it would have taken years to heal--if it ever _was_ healed.  There's no
passion so unyielding as family hate.  They were her kinsmen, too, men
of her own blood; she must think of _them_, outside of herself.  The
welfare of the man she didn't love must be considered as well as that
of the man she did love--more, if any thing, because she gave him so
much less.  How could she come between twin brothers, and turn their
affection to hatred?  She knew them both--knew that her own true lover
would hold firm for all the years of his life, so that she could safely
trust him for three.  And she knew that the lighter nature would, in
all probability, prove inconstant; and if he left her of his own
freewill, there could be no ill-feeling, and no remorse."

Norma laughed derisively.  "And in this fine self-sacrifice she had no
thought of her lover," quoth she.  "_His_ pain was nothing.  She
sacrificed him, too."

"And why not?  Surely no man would grudge a paltry three years out of
his whole life's happiness to avoid so dreadful a thing as ill blood
between twin brothers.  If _she_ could wait for his sake, _he_ could
wait for hers.  A woman must not cheapen herself; if she is worth
winning, she must exact the effort."

"I think it is a lovely story," Blanche interposed, decidedly.  "The
lady behaved beautifully; just exactly as she should have done.  A
quarrel between brothers is awful, and between twin brothers would be
awfuler still."

In her eager partisanship, Blanche's language was more concise than
elegant, but she wanted Pocahontas to know that she sided with her.

Norma regarded her sister with amusement not unmixed with chagrin.
These new friends were stealing away her follower.  Blanche was
becoming emancipated.

"Any woman who trifles with her happiness, because of a scruple, is a
fool," she repeated, dogmatically.

Pocahontas held back the angry retort that was burning on the tip of
her tongue, and let the subject drop.  Norma was her guest, and, after
all, what did it matter what Norma thought?  But after that she
refrained from repeating old stories before her; and of the two
sisters, Blanche became her favorite.

As she entered the parlor with smiles and words of welcome, Blanche
held out her hands filled with late roses and branches of green holly,
bright with berries.

"See," she said, "two seasons in one bouquet.  The roses are for your
mother.  I found them on a bush in a sheltered corner; and as we came
along I made Nesbit cut the holly for me.  I never can resist holly.
That tree by your gate is the loveliest thing I have ever seen; just
like those in the store windows at home for Christmas.  Only we never
had such a profusion of berries, and I don't think they were as bright.
Do you think the holly we get at home is as bright, Norma?"

"Oh, yes; it looked always pretty much the same.  We got beautiful
holly every Christmas," replied Norma, who did not like Virginia
exalted at the expense of her native place.

"But not with such masses of berries.  Just look at this branch; was
there ever any thing more perfect?  Princess, please give me something
to put it in.  It's far too pretty to throw away.  Can I have that vase
on the piano?"

Pocahontas smiled assent.  She could have holly by the cart-load, but
she liked Blanche's enthusiasm.  While the others chatted, Blanche
decked the vase with her treasure; then two others which she found for
herself on a table in the corner.  There were still some lovely rich
bits, quite small twigs, left when she had finished, and she once more
clamored for something to put them in.

Pocahontas, in the midst of an eager discussion with Thorne and Norma,
in which both were arrayed against her, glanced around carelessly.
There was a cup and saucer on a small stand near her, and she picked up
the cup thoughtlessly and held it out to Thorne.  Just as their hands
met in the transfer, both of them talking, neither noticing what they
were doing, Berkeley entered suddenly and spoke, causing them to start
and turn.  There was a quick exclamation from Pocahontas, a wild clutch
into space from Thorne, and on the floor between them lay the fragile
china in half a dozen pieces.

Pocahontas bent over them regretfully.  It was the cup with the
dreaming Indian maiden on it--the cup from which Jim Byrd had taken his
coffee on that last evening.  There were tears in her eyes, but she
kept her head bent so that no one should see them.  She would rather
any cup of the set should have come to grief than that one.

She had brought it into the parlor several days before to show to a
visitor, who wished a design for a hand-screen for a fancy fair, and
had neglected to replace it in the cabinet.  She reproached herself for
her carelessness as she laid the fragments on the piano, and then the
superstition flashed across her mind.  Could it be an omen?  The idea
seemed foolish, and she put it aside.

"Don't feel badly about it," she said to Thorne, who was humbly
apologetic for his awkwardness, "it was as much my fault as yours; we
neither of us were noticing.  Indeed, it's more my fault, for if I
hadn't neglected to put it away, the accident could not have happened.
You must not blame yourself so much."

"In the actual living present, I'm the culprit," observed Berkeley,
"since my entrance precipitated the catastrophe.  I startled you both,
and behold the result!  Nobody dreamed of convicting me, and this is
voluntary confession, so I expect you all to respect it; the smallest
unkindness will cause me to leave the room in a torrent of tears."

Every one laughed, and Pocahontas put the fragments out of sight behind
a pile of music books.  She could not put the subject out of her mind
so easily, although she exerted herself to an unusual degree to prevent
her guests from feeling uncomfortable; the superstition rankled.

As they took leave, Thorne held her hand in a warmer clasp than he had
ever before ventured on, and his voice was really troubled as he said:

"I can't tell you how worried I am about your beautiful cup.  I never
had a small accident trouble me to the same extent before.  I feel as
though a serious calamity had befallen.  There was no tradition, no
association, I hope, which made the cup of special value, beyond its
beauty, and the fact of its being an heirloom."

Pocahontas was too truthful for evasion.

"There were associations of course," she answered gently, "with that
cup as well as with the rest of the china.  It has been in the family
so many generations, you know.  Don't reproach yourself any more,
please--remember 'twas as much my fault as yours.  And broken things
need not remain so," with an upward glance and a bright smile, "they
can be mended.  I shall have the cup riveted."

She would not tell him of the superstition; there was no use in making
him feel worse about the accident than he felt already.  She did not
wish him to be uncomfortable, and had gladly assumed an equal share of
blame.  It was extremely silly in her to allow her mind to dwell on a
foolish old tradition.  How could the breakage of a bit of china, no
matter how precious, presage misfortune?  It was ill doing that
entailed ill fortune, not blind chance, or heathen fate.  She would
think no more of foolish old portents.

Still!--she wished the cup had not been broken--wished with all her
heart that it had not been _that_ cup.



CHAPTER VIII.

Blanche Smith was not at all a clever girl--not like Norma.  Norma had
always stood first in her classes, had borne off prizes and medals, but
with Blanche it was otherwise.  No amount of coaching ever sufficed to
pull her through ah examination, or to remove her from the middle of
her class.  Blanche was a dunce confessedly; she hated books, and the
acquisition of knowledge by labor.  If people told her things and took
the trouble to explain them, she remembered them sometimes; sometimes
not.  To accomplishments she took as a duck to water--danced
beautifully, was a fair musician, sang with taste and sweetness, and
chattered French with absolute self-confidence and a tolerable accent,
although her rudimentary knowledge of the tongue was of the vaguest.

At school she had been more popular than her cleverer sister; the girls
affirmed that she was sweeter tempered and more obliging.  At home
also, she was the favorite.  Her father idolized her, her brothers
domineered over, and petted her; even the mother made an unconscious
difference between the girls; she admired Norma more--was prouder of
her, but she depended upon Blanche.  Norma saw the difference, and
sometimes it vexed her, but generally she was indifferent to it.  Her
people did not understand her; she was not like them; when barn-door
fowls unwittingly hatched eaglets, it was natural that the phenomenon
should be beyond their comprehension, and that their ignorance should
prefer the tamer members of their brood.  Not that Norma actually
instituted such comparison, and deliberately set herself above her
kindred; she simply acted upon the hypothesis unconsciously, and when
the warmest of the family affection settled around Blanche, felt sure
that it was due to natural difference, and could be no fault of hers.

Little Blanche, in her deep content with her new surroundings, wondered
how she could ever have been so besotted as to object to the move.  The
place, the people, the mode of life were all delicious to her, and for
the family at Lanarth, her enthusiasm was touching.  Mrs. Mason was
just her idea of "Mrs. Washington, or Cornelia, or Lady de
Bourgainville," she explained to Norma, mixing history and fiction, as
usual, and was laughed at for her pains.

Pocahontas never laughed at her--at least not offensively, or in a way
to make her feel her ignorance.  She thought sometimes that her foolish
society was preferred by her new friend to that of her clever sister;
certainly the quaint old tales which Pocahontas poured unreservedly
into her delighted ears were never told to Norma.  What impression lay
in the girl's mind of handsome Berkeley Mason, had best remain
uncanvassed.  It is ill work, violating feminine sanctuaries unless the
need be urgent; an empty coat-sleeve, carelessly carried, is a powerful
agent for converting a man into a hero.

Christmas, the grand high festival of the year, was approaching, and
all the community was stirred with deep desire for its worthy
celebration.  Sociability ceased, or at best was sustained in limp,
half-hearted fashion by the men.  The ladies had other things to think
of; for on them rested the sole responsibility of the Christmas
preparations--the providing of copious lodging for expected guests, the
bedecking of rooms with evergreens and holly, the absorption of
store-room and kitchen, the never-ending consultations with the
cook--all the wonderful machinations, the deep mysteries and
incantations, which would result in glittering hospitality later on.
Realizing this, they suffered lesser matters to pass unheeded, caring
naught for social converse, intellectual pleasures, or intelligence of
church or state.  Women might elope, men embezzle, dynasties fall,
ministries change, or public faith be broken, and they viewed the
result, if indeed they noted it, with absolute composure.  But let eggs
be unattainable, jellies become murky, the fruit in cake or pudding
sink hopelessly to the bottom, and Rachel weeping for her children
could not have made more wild acclaim.

At Lanarth, the week of preparation (good old Virginia housekeepers
always allowed a week at least, and Mrs. Mason adhered to the
time-honored custom) passed busily.  Every thing turned out unusually
well, and the store-room was a picture.  Jellies, in slender glasses,
glittered in exquisite amber perfection, or glowed warmly crimson, with
points of brighter hue where the sun fell on them.  Heaps of
old-fashioned "snowballs" hid golden hearts under a pure white
frosting, and cakes, baked in fantastic shapes, like Turks' heads and
fluted melons, were rich, warm, brown, or white and gleaming as
Christmas snow.  The pastry showed all shades from palest buff to
tender delicate brown, and for depth of tone there were their rich
interiors of dark mincemeat and golden custards.  Of the pleasures of
this beautiful world not the least is the sight of beautiful food.

And it was Christmas eve.

The shadows were gathering, and the sun sending in his resignation to
the night, when Pocahontas, tying on her pretty scarlet hood and
wrappings, armed herself with a small basket of corn, and proceeded to
the poultry yard to house her turkeys for the night.  They usually
roosted in an old catalpa tree near the back gate, earlier in the
season; but as Christmas approached Pocahontas found it expedient to
turn the key upon them, since leaving them out caused weaker brothers
to offend.  As she passed the kitchen door she called to little Sawney,
whose affection for his grandmother increased at Christmas, to come out
and help her.

The little fellow had that morning been invested by a doting parent
with a "pa'r o' sto' boots" purchased entirely with reference to the
requirements of the future.  They were many sizes too large for him:
the legs adorned with flaming scarlet tops, reached nearly to his
middle; they flopped up and down at every step, and evinced an evil
propensity for wabbling, and bringing their owner with sorrow to the
ground.  They were hard-natured, stiff-soled, uncompromising--but! they
were _boots_!--"sto' boots, whar cos' money!"--and Sawney's cup of
bliss was full.

Any one who has experience in the ways and wiles of the domestic
treasure, must be aware of the painful lack of consideration sometimes
evinced by turkeys in this apparently simple matter of allowing
themselves to be housed.  Some evenings, they march straight into their
apartment with the directness and precision of soldiers filing into
barracks; on others the very Prince of Darkness, backed by the three
Fates and the three Furies, apparently takes possession of the
perverse, shallow-pated birds.  They wander backward and forward, with
an air of vacancy as though they knew not what to do; they pass and
repass the yawning portal of the turkey house, with heads erect and
eyes fixed on futurity, not only as if they did not see the door, but
actually as if there were no door there to see.  And when the maddened
driver, wrought to desperation, hurls into their midst a stick or
stone, hoping fervently and vengefully that it may break a neck or a
leg, they leap nimbly into the air with "put-putterings" of surprise
and rebuke, and then advance cautiously upon the missile and examine it.

The Lanarth turkeys were behaving in just this reprehensible manner,
and Pocahontas was working herself into a frenzy over them.  Three
times she engineered the flock successfully up to the open door, and
three times the same old brown hen advanced, peered cautiously into the
house, started tragically aside as though she beheld some evil thing,
and produced a panic and a stampede.

"You miserable wretch!" exclaimed Pocahontas, hurling her empty basket
impotently at the dusky author of her woe, "I could kill you!  Shoo!
shoo!  Sawney, why don't you help me?  Head them!  Run round them!
Shoo! shoo! you abominable creatures!"

Sawney essayed to obey, grasping the straps of his boots, and lifting
his feet very high.

"Take them off and run," commanded Pocahontas.  But Sawney would as
soon have parted with his skin.  "I dwine ter run," he responded, and
gripped his boots valiantly.  It was of no use.  Sawney had gotten too
much boot for his money, and if walking in them was difficult, running
was impossible.  He held on to them bravely, but that only impeded
progress further; the faithless cowhides wabbled, twisted, and finally
landed him sprawling on his back in the middle of the flock, which
promptly retired to distant parts of the poultry yard, "puttering" and
dodging.

"Sawney proves a broken reed, as usual," called a pleasant voice from
somewhere in the background; "here, let me help you," and Nesbit Thorne
leaped over the fence, and advanced, gun in hand, to the rescue.

"It's the fault of his 'sto' boots,'" Pocahontas explained, laughing,
as she extended her hand.  "Sawney's intentions were honorable enough.
I shall be glad of your assistance--as usual," with a merry glance,
"for these aggravating birds are shattering my nerves, and ruining my
temper."

Then, together, the pair pursued the unruly fowls, and pressed upon
them and buffeted them, until the turkeys were right glad to defy the
vision of the old brown sensationalist, and take refuge in their house.
Pocahontas closed the door with a sharp bang almost upon the tail of
the hindmost one, locked it, and then turned cordially to her companion
and invited him to remain and take tea with them.

Thorne glanced down at his splashed boots and corduroys.  "I'm scarcely
in trim for a lady's tea table," he said, smiling, "you must excuse me,
and let me come some other time.  I met your brother on the low grounds
as I came up.  I've been shooting over his land, and called to leave
your mother a few birds."

"Had you good sport?" inquired Pocahontas, with interest, watching him
empty the pockets of his shooting-coat on the top of an adjacent
chicken-coop, and admiring the soft shades, and exquisite markings of
the plumage of the dead birds.

"Here's old 'bur-rabbit,'" said Thorne, reaching his hand behind his
back, and drawing out the pretty brown beast by the legs.  "I knocked
him over just below your garden fence in a little patch of briers.  It
was a pretty shot; see, right through the head.  I hate to mangle my
game.  I'd pretty fair sport; the birds are a little wild, though, and
I had no dog.  I lost a fine duck--a canvas-back, this afternoon, by
its falling into deep water.  I must send North for a brace of good
dogs."

"That isn't necessary," said Pocahontas, touching the birds gently, and
stroking their soft feathers.  "Berke and Royall both have good dogs,
trained retrievers, and used to the country.  Strange dogs don't do so
well over unaccustomed ground.  It's a shame that you had no dog, and
dreadfully neglectful of the boys not to have noticed.  No, no!" as
Thorne moved away from the coop, "you must not leave all those; you
have none for yourself, and you'll be disgraced as a sportsman if you
go home empty-handed.  They won't believe you've killed a thing.  We
_never_ do, when our men come home with nothing to show.  Jim Byrd
never dared face Nina, or me, without, at least, half a dozen birds."

"Who is Jim Byrd?" demanded Thorne quickly.  "I never heard you mention
him before."

"Haven't you?" regarding him with great surprise.  "Well that is
curious, for he is one of our oldest, dearest friends, Berke's and
mine.  A year ago I couldn't have imagined life possible without Jim's
dear old face near us.  He formerly lived at Shirley; it was the Byrd
patrimony for generations.  His sisters were the closest girl-friends
Grace and I ever had, and for years the two families were as one.
There were financial troubles handed down from father to son, growing
always greater; the old place had finally to be sold, and your uncle
bought it.  Jim is in Mexico now, engineering, and the girls are all
married.  I wonder you have never heard me mention Jim.  I think, and
speak of him frequently.  We all do."

So perfectly unembarrassed was the girl's manner, that despite a faint
wistfulness discernible in her face, Thorne put aside the half-thought
formulated in his brain by the familiar mention of Jim Byrd's name.  He
allowed himself to be persuaded to re-pocket part of the game,
particularly a brace of ducks, which the soul of the general loved.  As
he rose from his seat on the chicken-coop, Pocahontas noticed the
handsome gun beside him, and leaning forward with a woman's instinctive
desire to handle dangerous things, she took it in her hands with an
exclamation of admiration.

"Is it loaded?" she inquired, raising it to her shoulder, and laying
her finger lightly on the trigger.

"Yes," Thorne answered, drawing nearer, "take care, Miss Mason.  It
always makes me nervous to see a gun in a woman's hands.  Don't pull
the trigger, please; the charge is heavy and the recoil will hurt you."

But the warning came too late; intentionally, or unintentionally, she
_did_ pull the trigger, and the gun carelessly held, recoiled sharply,
striking against her shoulder with such force that she staggered and
would have fallen, if Thorne had not caught her in his arms.  The gun
slipped to the ground, but fortunately did not discharge the second
barrel.

Thorne regarded the white face upon his breast with trepidation, amazed
even amid his anxiety at the fierce pang that shot through his heart at
the sight of its pallor.  Suppose she should be seriously hurt!  Brute
that he had been, not to have taken better care of her.  Fool! _fool_!
to have let her touch that accursed gun!  His hand trembled as he
loosened her cloak, and passed it tenderly over her shoulder.
Dislocated?  No; such cruel harm had not befallen her: a bruise, a
little stiffness was the worst in store.  A passionate relief,
bewildering in its intensity, thrilled through him; his dark cheek
rivaled hers in pallor; his eyes glowed.

Then her lids quivered, the gray eyes unclosed, and the color flushed
back warmly, covering cheek and brow and neck with a mighty surge of
crimson.  With a quick effort, Pocahontas disengaged herself from his
arms, and leaned against the fence, a few steps away from him.
Struggling for self-mastery, Thorne made his anxious inquiries,
striving by a fierce exercise of will to still his bounding pulses, and
banish from his eyes the expression he felt glowing within them.  And
Pocahontas, with her paleness in force again, replied to his inquiries
with tremulous but determined lightness, putting aside his self
reproaches, and assuming the blame with eager incoherence.  She made a
terrible mess of it, but Thorne was past all nicety of observation; his
only thought, now that he was assured of her safety, was to get himself
away without further betrayal of his feelings.  His mind was in a
tumult, and his heart rose up and choked him.  For a moment he held the
small, tremulous fingers in a strong, warm clasp, then with a quick
"good-night" relinquished them, sprang over the fence and walked
rapidly away in the direction of Shirley.



CHAPTER IX.

Walking home in the still dusk of the winter gloaming, Thorne found
himself compelled at last to look the situation in the face without
disguise or subterfuge; to "take stock" of it all, as it were, and ask
himself what should be the result.  He had lingered in Virginia,
lengthening his stay from week to week, because the old world
quaintness of the people, the freshness and yet antiquity of thought
prevalent among them, charmed him, pleased the aesthetic side of his
nature, as the softness of their voices pleased his ear, and the
suavity of their manners, his taste.  He was tired to death of the old
routine, weary beyond expression of the beaten track, of the sameness
of the old treadmill of thought.  Here he had found variety.

For somewhat the same reason he had sought Pocahontas, charily at
first, dreading disappointment, but finally, as his interest deepened,
without reserve.  She was different from other women, more candid, less
impressible.  He could not discover what she thought of him, beyond her
surface interest in his talents and conversation.  She piqued and
stimulated him; in her presence he exerted himself and appeared at his
best, which is always pleasant to a man.  Even old thoughts, and
hackneyed theories donned new apparel when about to be presented to her
notice.

He had played with fire, and was forced now to admit that the fate of
the reckless had overtaken him.  He loved her.  The truth had been
dawning on his mind for weeks past, but he had put it aside, willfully
blinding himself because of his contentment with the present.  Now,
self delusion was no longer possible; the report of his gun had blown
away the last rays of it forever.  When Pocahontas lay well-nigh
senseless in his arms, when her fair face rested on his breast and her
breath touched his cheek, he knew, and acknowledged to himself that he
loved her with a passionate intensity such as in all his careless,
self-indulgent life he had never before felt for a woman.

And he had no right to love her; he was a married man.

When this idea flashed across his mind it almost stunned him.  He had
been free in heart and mind so long that he had ceased to remember that
he was bound in fact.  The substance had so withdrawn itself into the
background of his life that he had forgotten that the shadow still
rested on him.  He was free, and he was bound.  Thorne turned the idea
over in his mind, as one turns a once familiar thing that has grown
strange from being hidden long from sight.  Was he a married
man?--undoubtedly--the idea appalled him.

Two years had passed since the separation and there had been no
divorce.  Thorne had thought the matter out at the time, as a man must,
and had decided to wait, and to let any initial steps be taken by his
wife.  He had no love left for her, and he realized with grim intensity
that their marriage had been a terrible mistake, but there was
sufficient chivalry if his nature to make him feel that the mother of
his child had claims upon him--to make him willing, for the child's
sake, to leave her the protection of his home and name as long as she
cared to keep it.  Then, too, the habit of thought in his family, and
all his early influences were against divorce.  The idea had not
presented itself spontaneously, as the natural solution of his domestic
difficulties; he had been obliged to familiarize himself with it.  His
family had been Catholics for generations, his mother had become one on
her marriage, and had been ardent and devout, as is usual with
proselytes.  Thorne was not a religious man himself, but he respected
religion, and in an abstract way considered it a beautiful and holy
thing.  He had never thought of it with any reference to his own life,
but it made a halo around the memory of his mother.  Her views had
influenced him in his decision in the matter of a divorce.  The world
had given him credit for religious scruples of his own, but the world
had done him more than justice; he was only haunted by the ghosts of
his mother's scruples.

Thorne leaned on the fence of the field where he had first seen
Pocahontas, and went over his former experience of love.  What a
miserable thing it had been, at best!  How feverish, vapory and
unsatisfying!  What a wretched fiasco his marriage had proved!  And yet
he had loved his wife!  Her beauty was of a type that insures its
possessor love of a certain sort--not the best, but strong enough to
stand the wear and tear of well-to-do existence, if only it is
returned.  If Ethel had loved him, Thorne would have held to his lot,
and munched his husks, if not with relish, certainly with decency and
endurance.  But Ethel did not love him.

Their marriage, from Ethel's standpoint, had been mercantile; for his
wealth and position, she had willingly bartered her youth and beauty,
and if he would have been content with face value, she would have been
content.  Why should people trouble the depths of life when the surface
was so pleasant and satisfying?  She liked Thorne well enough, but his
ceaseless craving for congeniality, deep affection, community of
interest, and the like, wearied, bored and baffled her.  Why should
they care for the same things, cultivate similar tastes, have
corresponding aspirations?  If they differed in thought and life and
expression, let them differ--it was of no consequence.  She found her
husband's exactions tiresome.  He had her birthright, she had his
pottage; let the matter end there, and each be satisfied.

But Thorne was _not_ satisfied.  He had married a transcendently
beautiful woman, but he had no wife.  Half the men of his acquaintance
envied him, but he did not rejoice, nor plume himself.  He wanted his
wife to lean on him, to clothe the strength of his manhood with the
grace of her womanhood--and his wife showed herself not only capable of
standing alone, but of pushing him away with both hands.  His mood
underwent many changes, and finally he let her go, with some disgust,
and a deep inward curse at his past folly.  It was not a pleasant
retrospect.

Night had fallen; the air was still and brooding; across the sky
scudded ragged masses of clouds, advanced guard of the storm that was
mustering along the horizon; everywhere there was a feeling that
foreboded snow.  In the sky, few stars were visible, and those
glimmered with a cold, wan light; at the zenith a solitary planet
burned steadfastly.  The road stretched away into the night; it was
dark under the trees beside the fence; away in the distance the echo of
footsteps sounded.

Thorne thought of Pocahontas.  His face softened, and his eyes shone
tenderly.  How true she was, how thorough and noble.  Her pure face and
fearless gray eyes rose before him; with the love of such a woman to
bless him, her hand in his, her influence surrounding him, to what
might not a man aspire!  There were no insincerities, no half-truths,
no wheels within wheels, such as Ethel delighted in, about this other
woman.  Even her occasional fits of impatience and temper were indulged
in frankly--a sudden flurry of tempest and then the bright, warm
sunshine; no long-continued murkiness, and heavy sodden depression for
hours and days.

Did she love him?  As he asked himself the question, Thorne's heart
bounded, and the blood coursed hotly through his veins.  He had tried
to make her love him--had he succeeded?  Thorne was no fatuous fool,
blinded by his own vanity, but his power over women had been often
tried, fully proven, and he had confidence in himself.  Once only had
he failed of securing the love he sought, and it was the memory of that
failure which made him pause and question now.  He was not sure.  She
liked him, was pleasant and gracious, but he had seen her so to other
men.  Never until this evening had she changed color at his touch.  She
liked him--and Thorne felt within him a fierce desire to change her
passivity of regard into wild activity of passion.  He could do it.
That tide of crimson, a vague terror and awakening in the gray eyes, as
they met his gaze on re-opening to consciousness, had shown him a tiny
cleft which his hand might broaden, until it should flood their two
lives with the light of love.

The echo of the footsteps deepened, merged into actual sound, drew
nearer.  Thorne, in the deep obscurity of the trees, listened, moving
near to the dusky, trunk of an old magnolia; he was in no mood for
passing civilities, and in this friendly country all wayfarers
exchanged greetings.  In the sound of the advancing steps, he could
distinguish an unmistakable shuffle which proclaimed race--two negroes
returning from the little village, beyond Shirley, whither they had
gone to make Christmas purchases.  They walked by the light of a
flaring pine knot, which was encouraged to burn by being swung around
violently from time to time; it lighted the men's dark faces, and
reflected itself in intermittent flashes on the sides of a bright tin
bucket which the younger man carried, but it intensified the gloom
around them.  Both had on their backs bags filled with lumpy things,
like bundles.  They were talking cheerfully, and the sound of their
rough voices and guttural laughter reached Thorne before the men
themselves came abreast of his position.  The negro with the bucket was
relating an anecdote.  Thorne caught part of it.

"Yes, sar," he was saying, "dat was de fust ov it.  Mars Jim, he clumb
right spang up to de tip-top de tree, an' de ice was cracklin', an'
slippin', an' rattlin' down like broke up lamp chimblys.  De little
gals was 'pon de groun' watchin' him, an' hollerin' an' wringin' deir
han's.  I was loadin' de ox-cart wid pine kindlin's back in de woods,
an' when I hearn de chil'en hollerin', I came runnin' to see what was
de matter wid 'em."

"What he clumb arter?" questioned the other negro; "hit's mighty
dangersome gittin' up trees when dey got sleet 'pon 'em."

"Mighty dangersome," acquiesced the narrator, "dat's what I 'lowed ter
myse'f when I seed him.  He was arter a lump o' dat green truck wid
white berries 'pon it--mizzletoe, dey calls its name.  When I got dar,
he was comin' down de tree holdin' it by de stem wid he teef.  He
wouldn't fling it down, kase he's feard he'd spile de berries.  Time he
totch de groun' good, Miss Grace, she hauled off, she did, an' smacked
his jaws ez hard ez she could stave, an' axed him how _dar'ed_ he skeer
'em like dat?  An' Mars Jim, he larfed out loud, and said: 'Princess
wanted it,' an' den he put de truck he'd resked his nake ter git in
Miss Pocahontas's arms, an' she hugged it up tight, an' went long to de
house cryin'."

Thorne moved involuntarily, and the gun in his hand struck against the
trunk of the tree behind which he stood.  The negroes paused and
glanced around alertly, the man with the torch swinging it backward and
forward, with a muttered "What's dat?"  Nothing of any consequence; a
bird, or a rabbit, perhaps--nothing worth investigation.  The man with
the bucket set his burden on the ground, and opened and shut his hand
rapidly several times.  The wire of the handle had cramped his fingers.
Both men transferred their bags from the right shoulder to the left,
and leaned against the tree stems to rest themselves a moment.

The elder man resumed the subject.

"Love her!  Lord-er-mussy 'pon me!  Jim Byrd was fa'rly _foolish_ wid
love.  De groun' warn't fitten fur Miss Pocahontas ter set her foots
'pon in his notion; he'd er liked ter spread _hissef_ down to save her
slippers.  T'want no question 'bout lovin' wid Mars Jim!"

"But he gone away," objected the torch-bearer.  "I reckon Miss
Pocahontas done kick him; dat how come he lef.  What he doin' in
Nexican ef he kin get what he want here?  He _gone_!"

"_Dat_ ain't nothin'.  He was bleeged ter go out yander ter git money
ter buy back de old place.  Money mighty plentiful out dar, Aunt Vi'let
say.  Gwine way ain't nothin' ter a _man_; he kin come back 'gin.  I
went 'way ter Richmond onct myse'f ter rake up money 'nouf ter buy one
mule, an' rent er scrop o' lan', so ez I could marry Sarah.  Mars Jim's
comin' back; las' word he sed ter Aunt Vi'let, was _dat_.  Miss
Pocahontas ain't kick him n'other.  What she gwine kick him fur?  Mars
Jim's er likely man, an' all de ginnerashuns o' de Byrds an' Masons bin
marryin' one n'other ever sence Virginny war er settle_mint_.  My ole
gran'daddy, whar war ole Mr. Dabney Byrd's kyar'ege driver, allus
sed--Lord, a-mussy! what DAT!!"

The speaker paused with his mouth open and a chilly sensation about the
back, as though a lump of ice were traveling down his spine.  A sound,
as of scriptural denunciation, low, but intense, had caught his ear.  A
bat, circling low, had grazed Thorne's face and caused him to throw up
his hand with an impatient oath.  The wisdom of the defunct "kyar'ege
driver" was overwhelmed in the flood of perturbation which seized his
descendant.  The man swung his torch around nervously and peered into
the darkness, conscious of a distrust of his surroundings that amounted
to positive pain.  The other negro said nothing; but addressed himself
to the adjustment of his burden in the manner least likely to impede
retreat.

Among the colored folks this portion of the road enjoyed an evil
reputation, particularly after nightfall, for in a field near by there
was an ancient graveyard, and the rumor went, that the denizens thereof
were of a specially unruly, not to say malicious spirit, and found pure
delight in ambuscades along the road side, and in sallies upon
unsuspecting travelers with results too painful for description.

"Haunts was mighty rank 'bout dar," the negroes said, and after sundown
that part of the road was destitute of attractions.  The graveyard had
not been used for many years; but that only made the danger greater,
for ghosts, grown bold with long immunity of office, were held capable
of deeper malignity, than would be within the range of ghosts oppressed
with the modesty of debutants.  The fact that the occupants of the
place had, in life, been of their own race, inspired the negroes with
no feeling of kinship or confidence.  They were earnestly afraid of all
spirits, be they white, black, or red; but most of all of black ones,
because they seemed most in league with the devil.

When, therefore, the light of the flickering pine torch fell obliquely
on Thorne's dark figure and caught a gleam from the polished mountings
of his gun, and another from the brass of the cartridge belt, which to
the terrified darkeys looked like a cincture of fire, they became
possessed with the idea that the most malevolent of all the spirits,
perhaps the devil himself, was upon them.  Calling on their Maker with
more urgence than they ever did at "pray'r meetin'," they grabbed up
their belongings and addressed themselves to flight.  The bags,
flopping up and down on their backs, held them to their speed, by
corporeal reminder of what they had to lose if the devil should
overtake them, and the molasses in the bucket slopped over the sides
and sweetened the dust at every jump.  The bucket top had bounced off
in the first burst and sped down the road before them, and the owner,
feeling that he had no time to lose, never dreamed of stopping to look
for it.  Every now and then the bucket banged against his leg causing
him to feel that the evil one might be gaining, and to yell "Oh, Lawdy!
Oh, Lawdy!!" at the top of his lungs.  The torch-bearer had flung away
his light, thinking to elude the devil in the darkness, and all his
soul was in his heels.

Thorne laughed a little, in a mirthless fashion; but he was too
miserable to be amused.  While the men talked, black jealousy had crept
around the old magnolia and linked arms with him.  Twice in the same
evening this name had crossed him.  Who the devil _was_ this Jim Byrd?
These men had spoken of him as the avowed lover of Pocahontas, the man
she would eventually marry.  The girl herself had admitted him to be a
dear and valued friend--a friend so dear that his going had left a
blank in her life.  The power he had but now felt to be his own,
suddenly appeared to be slipping into other hands.  Another sickle was
sharpening for the harvest; other eyes had recognized the promise of
the golden grain; other hands were ready to garner the rich sheaves.

Thorne's heart grew hot; angry blood surged from it and inflamed his
system; every nerve tingled; his eyes glowed, and his fingers tightened
on the barrel of the gun beside him.  His consciousness of antagonism
grew so intense that it seemed to annihilate space and materialize his
distant rival into an actual presence; his feeling was that which
animates brutes when they lock horns, or fly at each other's throats;
and, could the emotional force which swayed his soul have been
converted into physical force and projected through space, Jim would
never have seen the light of another day.

Poor Thorne!  If suffering may be pleaded in extenuation of moods whose
cause is mingled love and pain, he certainly was not without excuse.
Imagination, wounded by jealousy, leaped forward into the future and
ranged amid possibilities that made him quiver--noble, beautiful
possibilities, filled with joy and light and sweetness--and filled for
his rival--not for him.  As in a mirror he beheld his love in his
rival's arms, resting on his bosom, as an hour ago she had rested on
his own; only in this man's embrace, he pictured her glowing, sentient,
responsive to look and caress; not cold, lifeless and inanimate.
Should this thing be?  No! a thousand times no!  Must he always have a
stone for bread?  Must his garners always stand empty while other men's
overflowed with corn?

Deeply the man cursed his past folly; bitterly he anathematized the
weakness which had allowed shadowy scruples and a too fastidious taste
to rule his judgment in the matter of a divorce.  He would wait no
longer; he would break at once and forever the frail fetter that still
bound him to a union from which all reality, all sanctity had fled.  He
would be free in fact, as he was in heart and thought, to pit his
strength against that of his rival.  This prize should not slip from
his grasp uncontested.  No man should approach the shrine unchallenged.

The wind rose, sighing fitfully; the clouds gathered and formed an army
which stormed the zenith and threatened to overwhelm the pure light of
the planet.  The lesser stars vanished, two or three falling in their
haste and losing themselves forever in infinity.  The night thickened;
snow began to fall.



CHAPTER X.

The Christmas festivities were to close on
New Year's Eve with a grand ball at Shirley.
It was to be a sumptuous affair with unlimited
Chinese lanterns, handsome decorations, a
magnificent supper, and a band from Washington.
The Smiths were going to requite the neighborhood's
hospitality with the beating of drums, the
clashing of cymbals, and the flowing of
champagne.  This cordial friendly people had
welcomed them kindly, and must have their courtesy
returned in fitting style.  Mrs. Smith suggested a
simpler entertainment, fearing contrast, and any
appearance of ostentation, but the general gauged
his neighbors better.  They were at once too well
bred, and too self-satisfied for any idea of
comparison to occur to them.  They would eat his
fruit-cake, or make him welcome to their
corn-bread with the same hearty unconcern.  His
wealth, and their own poverty troubled them
equally little; they were abstract facts with
which hospitality had nothing to do.  But in their
way they were proud; having given their best
without grudge or stint, they would expect his
best in return, and the general was determined
that they should have it.  The risk of offense lay
in simplicity, not grandeur.

Mrs. Royall Garnett came over to Lanarth a day
or so before the grand event, bearing her family
in her train, to assist in the weighty matter of a
suitable toilet for Pocahontas.  She was a tall,
handsome woman, with a noble bearing, and great
decision of character; and on most matters--notably
those pertaining to the sacred mysteries
of the wardrobe, her word with her family was
law.  Grace's taste was admitted to be perfect.

After an exhaustive discussion of the subject, at
which both Berke and Royall ignorantly and
gratuitously assisted, and were flouted for their
pains, it was irrevocably decided that Pocahontas
should appear in pure white unrelieved by a
single dash of color.

"She looks cheap and common in any thing but
dead black, or pure white, at a party," pronounced
Grace with sisterly frankness, and of course that
settled the matter, although Mrs. Mason did
venture on the modest protest that it would look
"bride-like and unusual."

"I want her to look unusual," declared Grace;
"to make her so, is at present the object of my
being.  I shall hesitate at nothing short of cutting
off her nose to secure that desirable result.  To
be admired, a woman must stand out distinctly
from the throng; and I've set my heart on
Princess's being the belle of the ball.  Have you
plenty of flowers, dear?  As flowers are to be
your sole garniture, you must have a profusion.
I can't tolerate skimpy, rubbishing bouquets."

"None at all, Grace," confessed Pocahontas,
ruefully, "except a single calla.  I cut my last
white rosebuds and camellias to send to Nina
Byrd Marion the very day before I heard about
the Shirley ball.  Isn't it provoking?"

"Then somebody must get you some," Grace
responded promptly, pausing in her preparations,
and regarding her sister with the air of an autocrat;
"if the men are not lost to all sense of honor and
decency, you'll have plenty.  Of course you _must_
have plenty.  If only they will have sufficient
intellect to select white ones!  But they won't.
I'd better instruct Roy and Berkeley at once."

On the morning of the ball, Berkeley entered
his mother's room, where the three ladies sat in
solemn conclave regarding with discontent a
waiter full of colored flowers which a thoughtful
neighbor had just sent over to Pocahontas.  He
held in his hand a good-sized box which he
deposited in his sister's lap with the remark:

"Look, Princess!  Here's a New Year's gift
just come for you.  I don't know the writing.  I
wonder what it is!"

"A subtle aroma suggests--fruit," hazarded
Grace, sniffing curiously.

"Perhaps flowers," suggests Mrs. Mason, who
that morning was a woman with one idea.

Pocahontas wrestled with the cords, unfolded
the wrappers, and lifted the cover.  Then she
uttered a long drawn "oh" of satisfaction.

"What is it?" demanded the others with lively impatience.

Pocahontas lifted a card and turned it in her
hand, and a smile broke over her face as she
answered: "Flowers; from Jim Byrd."

Then she removed the damp moss and cotton,
and lifted spray after spray of beautiful snowy
jasmin--Cape Jasmin, pure and powerful, and
starry wreaths of the more delicate Catalonian.
Only white flowers--all jasmin, Jim's favorite
flower; and with them were tropical ferns and
grasses.  As she held the exquisite blossoms in
her hands and inhaled their rich perfume, the girl
was conscious that when her old friend penned
the order for the fragrant gift, his heart had been
full of home, and of the evening beside the river
when she had worn his flowers in hair and dress,
and had bidden him farewell.

"How beautiful they are!" exclaimed Grace,
excitedly, "and just in time for to-night.  To
think of the way I've made that wretched
husband of mine charge through the country since
day-break, this morning, in pursuit of white
flowers, and here they come like a fairy story.  It was
very nice of Jim.  I'd no idea there was so poetical
an impulse in the old fellow; as the selection
of these flowers appears to indicate."

"You don't appreciate Jim, Grace.  You do
him injustice.  If thought and care and love for
others, combined with tenderness, and delight
in giving pleasure, constitutes poetical impulses,
then Jim Byrd is the noblest poet we are
likely ever to meet."  Pocahontas spoke warmly,
the color flushing to her cheeks, the light
coming to her eyes.  Poor Jim!--so far away.
Was it disloyal to her old friend to go that
night to dance among strangers in the rooms
that had been his,--that were full of associations
connected with him?  At all events, no flowers
would she wear save his; no other ornaments of
any kind.  It would seem, then, as though he
participated in her pleasure; rejoiced in her joy.
Jim loved always to see her happy.  For reasons
of their own, the two elder ladies had decided on
remaining at home, so that Pocahontas repaired
to the ball in male custody alone.  Blanche, who
was on the watch for the Lanarth party, came
forward the instant of their arrival, accompanied
by her father, to welcome them, and to bear
Pocahontas away to the upper regions to warm
herself and remove her wrappings.  The rooms
were a little chill, she explained, with a shiver,
in spite of the splendid fires the general had
kept roaring in them all day.  Pocahontas must
remain where she was and warm herself
thoroughly, and she would send one of the boys for
her presently.  And after a little girlish gossip
and mutual admiration of each others' appearance,
the small maiden tripped away to her duties below.

Soon there was a knock at the door, and
Pocahontas, catching up fan, bouquet and handkerchief,
opened it and stepped into the hall.  Nesbit
Thorne, slender and distinguished looking, was
awaiting her, Blanche having encountered and
dispatched him immediately on her return to the
parlors.  As the girl stood an instant framed by
the open door, thrown into relief by the soft
glowing background of the warmly lighted room,
Thorne's heart swelled with mingled gladness and
impatience.  Joy in the pure perfection of her
beauty; impatience at the restraint circumstances
forced him still to put upon his love.

At the foot of the stairs they were pounced
upon by Percival, who had selected that coigne of
vantage as least likely to attract his mother's
attention, there to lay in wait for the cards of the
unwary.  He had been strictly forbidden to
importune grown young ladies for dances unless
they happened to be wall-flowers, and the injunction
lay heavy on his soul.  "I _will_ ask girls other
men ask," he muttered, darkly, "I hate putting
up with refuse and leavings.  I'm going to ask
the ones I want to ask," and he intrenched
himself beside the stairway with intent to black-mail
such girls as he should fancy.

Pocahontas, who had a natural affinity for boys,
and a great fondness for Percival, yielded to his
demand readily enough, surrendering her card to
him in gay defiance of Thorne's outspoken
reprobation, and laughing mischievously as the boy
scrawled his name triumphantly opposite a waltz.

"B.M.!  Who's B.M., Miss Princess?" he
questioned, as he dextrously avoided Thorne's
extended hand, and placed the card in Pocahontas's.

"You've got him down just above me, and you
wrote it yourself.  Who is he?  Benevolent
Missionary?  Brother Mason?"

"Exactly!" she answered, smiling, and watching
Thorne scribble his name in several places on
her card.  "It is Berkeley.  The Byrd girls and I
always saved a waltz for him to prevent his feeling
left out.  He don't like to ask girls generally;
his one arm makes it look awkward, and he knows
they wouldn't like to refuse, because they all feel
sorry for him.  _We_ put a hand on each shoulder,
and don't care how it looks.  Berke is adroit, and
manages quite nicely.  Often, too, it's an
advantage to have a dance you can dispose of later
on, so I continue to put the initials, although
Berke seldom dances now.  He liked waltzing
with the Byrd girls best."

"You were very intimate with the Byrds, I
think you said," Thorne remarked idly, bowing
to an acquaintance as he spoke.

"Very intimate.  See what came to me this
morning; all these exquisite flowers, just when I
needed them for to-night.  Roy searched the
neighborhood through for white flowers without
success, and then these came.  Aren't they
beautiful?"  And she lifted her bouquet toward his face.

"Extremely beautiful!" he assented, bending
his head to inhale their fragrance.  "It was very
kind and thoughtful of your friends to send them.
I suppose, from the connection, that they are a
Byrd offering."

Pocahontas laughed softly.  "Yes," she said,
"but they did not come from Belle, or Nina, and
Susie is in California.  Jim ordered them for me.
I am so pleased."

Thorne instantly raised his head and stiffened
his back as though the delicate perfume were
some noxious poison, and moved on with her
toward the parlors in silence.

"I wish you knew Jim, Mr. Thorne," pursued
the happy voice at his side; "he's such a good
fellow, so noble, generous, and unselfish; we're all
so fond of Jim.  I wish he were here to-night to
tread a measure with me in the old rooms.  You
would be sure to fraternize with Jim.  You could
not help liking him."

Thorne drew in his lips ominously.  He could
help liking Jim Byrd well enough, and felt not
the faintest desire for either his presence or his
friendship.  The intervention of a woman with
whom two men are in love has never yet established
amity between them; the very suggestion
of such a thing on her lips is sufficient to cause
an irruption of hatred, malice and all unkindness.

Moreover, Thorne was in a fury with himself.
He had thought of sending for flowers for
Pocahontas at the same time he dispatched the order
to the Richmond florist for his aunt.  He had
feverishly longed to do it, and had pondered the
matter fully half an hour before deciding that he
had better not.  He had not scrupled to pay
Pocahontas attentions _before_ he realized that he
was in love with her, but that fact, once established
in his mind, placed her in a different
position in regard to him.

She was no longer the woman he wished to
draw into a flirtation _pour passer le temps_; she was
the woman he wished to marry--was determined
to marry, if possible.  The instinct, common to
every manly man, to hold in peculiar respect the
woman whom he wishes to make his wife, led
Thorne to feel that, until he should be free from
the fetter that bound him, he should abstain from
paying Pocahontas marked attention; to feel that
she would have cause of complaint against him if
he did not abstain.

So he argued the case in cold blood; but now
his blood was boiling and he dubbed himself fool
in language concise and forcible.  See what had
come of his self-denial?  Another man had done
what he had left undone; another hand had laid
in hers the fragrant offering it should have been
his to bestow.  Fool that he had been, to
stand aside and let another man seize the opportunity!

Jasmin, too!  Pah!  The heavy perfume made
him ill.  He was conscious of a fierce longing to
snatch the blossoms from her hand and crush
them down into the heart of the fire and hold
them there--the pale, sickly things.  _He_ would
have given her roses, passionate, glorious roses,
deep-hearted and crimson with the wine of love.

Pocahontas had small time for wondering over
her cavalier's sudden moroseness, for no sooner
had she entered the parlors than old friends
crowded forward to speak to her and claim a
dance; the girl was popular among the young
people of the vicinity.  She was a wonderful
success that night.  Not even Norma, for all her rich
tropical beauty, was more admired.

"Our little squaw is smashing things, Berke,"
remarked Roy Garnett, later in the evening, as he
joined his brother-in-law in the recess by the
fireplace.  "The men all swear she's the handsomest
woman in the room--and on my soul I believe
they're right."

"She does look well," responded Mason with
all a brother's calm moderation.  "Her dress
is in good taste, and she moves gracefully.  But
she isn't the handsomest woman in the room by
long odds.  Look at Norma Smith."

"I have looked at her," retorted Roy shortly,
"and so I suppose have the other men.  There's
no more comparison between her and Princess
than there is between a gorgeous, striped tulip, and
a white tea rose."  (For some inscrutable reason
Roy had never been able to endure Norma, and
even grudged acknowledgment of her undeniable
beauty).  "Look at that fellow Thorne, now!"
he added, with the pleased alacrity of one producing
an unexpected trump, "I should say that _he_
shared my opinion.  He hasn't danced voluntarily
with another woman in the room, nor left her side
a moment that he could help.  It looks as though
he were pretty hard hit, doesn't it?"

Garnett was right; for after the episode with Jim
Byrd's flowers, Thorne had thrown self-control to
the winds.  He danced with Pocahontas as
frequently as she would allow him, hovered constantly
in her vicinity, and only lost sight of her when
dragged off by his aunt for duty dances.  Twice
during the evening--and only twice--did he leave her
voluntarily, and then it was to dance with Norma,
whose suspicions he did not wish to arouse.  The
instinct of rivalry had overthrown all restraint and
for this evening he was madly determined to let
things take their course.  They were here, he and
his family, in Jim Byrd's place; living in the
house that had been his, entertaining the friends
that had been his, in the very rooms that so short
a time ago had echoed to his footsteps and
resounded with his laugh.  He had been thrust
aside, and must continue to stand aside; the past
had been his, let him keep out of the present;
let him beware how he marred the future.
And for the bond that held himself, Thorne had
forgotten all about it.  In his passion and
excitement it was a thing without existence.

Later in the evening, there came a gleam of
brightness for little Blanche; a blissful hour which
indemnified her for the boredom so unflinchingly
endured.  As Norma only did what pleased her,
most of the drudgery of entertaining fell upon
Blanche, whose grievous portion it was to attend
to the comfort of dowagers; to find partners for
luckless damsels unable to find them for
themselves, and to encourage and bring out bashful
youths.  As the latter considered that the true
expression of their gratitude lay in devoting
themselves exclusively and eternally to their
pretty little preceptress, Blanche had lately come
to hold this part of her duty a wearisome affliction.

She was seated on a tiny sofa surrounded by a
band of uneasy and enamored youths ranging in
age from sixteen to twenty, when Mason caught
sight of her pretty, fatigued, but resolutely
courteous face, and came instantly to her rescue.  He
was very fond of Blanche, and teased and petted
her with almost cousinly freedom.  He felt
himself a middle-aged man beside her, and admired
her sweet face, and gentle unselfishness as
unreservedly as he would have done those of a child.
Moving her draperies aside with a kindly, if
unceremonious hand, he ensconced himself beside
her right willingly and devoted his best energies
to her amusement, and that of her small court;
lifted the burden of their entertainment from her
shoulders with ready tact, and waked the boys up
vigorously, causing them to enjoy themselves, and
forget that they were _young_; and lonesome, and
foolish.  Kind, thoughtful Berkeley!  No wonder
the silly little heart beside him fluttered joyously,
and the shy blue eyes were raised to his grave
handsome face with full measure of content.

And so the hours sped, golden-footed,
silver-footed; and the pipers piped and the men and
maidens danced and the elders gossiped, drank
champagne, and reveled in the fleshpots, yawning
surreptitiously behind fans and handkerchiefs as
the evening waned.

Pocahontas, roused from a dream of enjoyment
by Roy's mandate, sped lightly up stairs to the
dressing-room, and arrayed herself hastily in her
mufflings.  At the stairway Thorne joined her, and
as her foot touched the lowest step he took her
unresisting hand and raised it to his lips murmuring
softly; "A happy New Year to you--my darling! my queen!"

Then good-night to host and hostess, a swift,
impulsive kiss to Blanche, and Berkeley put her
into the carriage; Roy tightened the reins and
they drove rapidly away in the chill gray of the
January dawn.  The ball was over; the New Year begun.

Thorne, standing by the steps watching the
receding carriage, noticed the bouquet of
half-faded jasmin blossoms, which had slipped
unheeded from the girl's hand, and lay neglected
and forgotten on the frozen ground.  The impulse
came to him to raise them tenderly because her
hands had touched them, and then the thought
of who had given them arose and struck down the
impulse.  He set his heel upon them.

For him also, the New Year had begun.



CHAPTER XI.

The day after a ball is always a languid, wearisome period, to be dozed
or yawned through, on bed or sofa, in a state of total collapse.  Life
for the time is disorganized, disenchanted; there is a feeling of
flatness everywhere, the rooms lately brilliant and joyous with light
and color; fade out in the chilling glare of day, and appear like
"banquet halls deserted," which each individual "treads alone,"
surrounded by an atmosphere of fatigue, _ennui_ and crossness.  In the
country the flatness falls with full perfection, for there is seldom
the anticipation of more excitement to buoy one up and keep the
effervescence of the cup of pleasure up to the proper sparkle.

At a late--a very late breakfast, the morning after the Shirley ball,
the Smiths were assembled with the exception of Blanche, who had
entreated to be left undisturbed, since she must sleep or die, and
Percival, who had breakfasted sketchily on scraps and confectionery,
hours before, and was away in the woods with his gun.

The mail, always deposited in a little heap beside the general's plate,
had been distributed.  There was very little--two newspapers, a couple
of letters for Nesbit Thorne, and one for Norma from a New York friend,
claiming a promised visit, and overflowing with gossip and news of
Gotham, full of personalities also, and a faint lady-like suspicion of
wickedness--a racy, entertaining letter.  The writer, a Mrs. Vincent,
was Norma's most intimate friend, and she often sacrificed an hour of
her valuable time to the amusement of the girl, whom she felt convinced
was bored to death down in that country desert.  The letter in question
was unusually diffuse, for Mrs. Vincent was keeping her room with a
heavy cold, and had herself to amuse as well as Norma.  Norma read
scraps of it aloud for the edification of her mother, and the young
men; the general, with his nose in his paper, let the tide of gossip
pass.

Thorne, after a comprehensive glance at his own correspondence, slipped
his letters quietly into his pocket, and gave his best attention to his
cousin's.  He had a rooted objection to reading even indifferent
letters under scrutiny, and these he felt convinced were not
indifferent; for one was addressed in the handsome large hand of his
wife, and the writing on the other was unknown to him--it had a legal
aspect.  They were letters whose perusal might prove unpleasant; so
Thorne postponed it.

There is an old adage relative to thoughts of the power of darkness
being invariably followed by the appearance of his emissaries, and
although Mrs. Thorne was far from being the devil, or her letter one of
his imps, the arrival of the one, so promptly upon the heels of
thoughts of the other, was singular; her husband felt it so.

"Mamma," observed Norma, glancing up from her letter, "Kate says that
Cecil Cumberland is engaged, or going to be engaged, I can't exactly
make out which.  Kate words it a little ambiguously; at all events
there appears to be considerable talk about it.  Kate writes: 'Cecil
looks radiantly worried, and sulkily important.  His family are ranged
in a solid phalanx of indignant opposition, which, of course, clinches
the affair firmly.  Eva Cumberland was here this morning in a white
heat of passion over it; and I believe apoplexy or hydrophobia is
imminent for the old lady.  The fact of Mrs.----'"  Norma's voice
trailed off into an unintelligible murmur, and she read on silently.

"Mrs.--who, my dear?" questioned her mother, with lively interest.  "Is
Cecil going to marry an objectionable widow?"

"Wait a moment, mamma.  Kate writes so indistinctly, I'll be able to
tell you presently," there was a shade of reserve perceptible in
Norma's voice.

"But why do the family oppose it?" persisted Mrs. Smith.  A warning
look from her daughter admonished her to let the matter rest; that
there were facts connected with Mr. Cumberland's marriage, the
investigation and discussion of which had better be postponed.  Mrs.
Smith's tongue burned with inquiries, but she bravely held them back,
and sought to produce a diversion by idle conjectures about Percival.

Norma parried the curiosity of the others adroitly, and declining any
more breakfast, betook herself and her letter to the back parlor, where
she drew a deep arm-chair to the fire, and settled herself comfortably
to re-peruse that portion of her friend's epistle, which related to
Cecil Cumberland's affairs.

Thorne presently followed her, and established himself opposite.  He
was great friends with Norma; once, in the days before his marriage,
there had appeared a likelihood of their becoming more than friends.
All that had been forgotten by the man; the woman's memory was more
tenacious.  They were wonderfully good friends still, these two; they
never worried or jarred on one another.

Thorne, having no special desire to read his own letters, lighted a
cigar, stirred the fire to a glorious blaze, and waxed conversational.
The theme he selected for discussion was the topic introduced and
interdicted at the breakfast table a few moments previously--the
debatable engagement of their New York acquaintance.  On this subject
he chose to exhibit an unusual--and as Norma felt, unnecessary, degree
of curiosity.  He cross-questioned the girl vigorously, and failing to
elicit satisfactory replies, laughingly accused her of an attempt to
earn a cheap notoriety by the elaboration of a petty mystery.

"I wish you'd stop trying to put me on the witness stand, Nesbit!" she
exclaimed in vexation; "why don't you read your own letters?  One is
from Ethel, I know.  See what she says."

Thorne took his wife's missive from his pocket, opened, and glanced
through it hurriedly; then turned back to the first page, and re-read
it more carefully, the expression of his face hardening into cynicism,
slightly dashed with disgust.  The letter was penned in a large running
hand and covered eight pages of dainty cream-laid paper.  It was
rambling in phraseology, and lachrymose in tone, but it indicated a
want, and made that want clear.

It was--divorce.

Mrs. Thorne gave no special reason for desiring release from her
marriage vows; she dwelt at length on her "lonely and unprotected"
condition, and was very sorry for herself, and considered her case a
hard one; suggesting blame to her husband in that he had not taken the
necessary steps for her release long before.  She intimated that he had
been selfish and lacking in proper consideration for her in leaving it
to her to take the initial steps in the matter.  He should have
arranged about the divorce at the time of the separation, she said, and
so have spared her annoyance.  As he had not done so, she hoped he
would show some consideration for her now, and help her to arrange the
disagreeable business as speedily and privately as possible.  He really
owed her indulgence "after all that had passed"; the last words were
heavily underscored.

Thorne, conscious that the present position of matters between them, as
well as the past unhappiness, was quite as much her fault as his, and
the act of separation more so--he having been the passive and
consenting party, did not consider it specially incumbent on him to
make things easy for his wife.  In his irritation and disgust at her
heartless selfishness, he half determined to make them very much the
reverse.  He was not surprised at his wife's communication; he knew
perfectly well that she would seek a divorce sooner or later, as the
liberality of the world in such matters made it natural that she should
do.  He also knew that it was the larger command of the income which he
had allowed her for his child's sake, combined with the lack of strong
personal motive, which had prevented her from getting a divorce before.
Her letter irritated him, not because she desired to break the shadowy
bonds which still held her, but because he had behaved well to her, and
she had taken it as her right with careless ingratitude.  What he had
done, he had done for his son's sake, but he was none the less provoked
that Ethel had failed of appreciation and acknowledgment.

"Read _that_!" he said, and tossed the letter into Norma's lap.  While
she was doing so, he broke the seal of the other letter which proved to
be a communication from a firm of solicitors in a small town in
Illinois, in whose hands Mrs. Thorne had placed her case.  It was
delicately and ambiguously worded, as became the nature of the
business, and contained simply a courteous notification of their
client's intentions.

Norma had been prepared for Mrs. Thorne's letter by that of her friend
Mrs. Vincent; and perhaps also by a secret hope on which she had fed
for years--a hope that this _would_ happen.  She read the letter
therefore without emotion, and returned it without comment.

"Well?" he queried impatiently.

"Well!" she echoed.

"What do you think of it?"

"I think that Mrs. Thorne wishes to marry again."

"No!--do you?"  The tone was thoughtful; the interrogation delivered
slowly.  The idea was a new one, and it put a different complexion upon
the matter, because of the child; there were still several years during
which the personal custody of the boy was the mother's of right.  It
behooved him to look into this matter more closely.

"Yes, I'm sure of it," responded Norma; "it's town talk.  See what Kate
Vincent says about it."

She handed him her letter folded down at this paragraph: "People have
been mildly excited, and the gossips' tongues set wagging by a rumor
which floated down from the Adirondacks last summer, and has been
gaining body and substance ever since.  You remember how Cecil
Cumberland philandered after a certain lady of our acquaintance last
winter, and how unremitting were his attentions?  Friendship, my dear!
Harmless friendship on a pure platonic platform; you understand--_honi
soit qui mal y pense_.  Well this autumn the plot thickened; the
platonism became less apparent; the friendship more pronounced.
Nothing painfully noticeable--oh no; the lady is too clever--still, the
gossips began to take a contract, and work on it in slack seasons, and
latterly with diligence.  It is openly predicted that madam will seek a
divorce, and then!--we shall see what we shall see.  Cecil looks
radiantly worried and sulkily important.  His family are ranged in a
solid phalanx of indignant opposition, which of course clinches the
matter firmly.  Eva Cumberland was here this morning in a white heat of
passion over it, and I believe apoplexy or hydrophobia is imminent for
the old lady.  The fact of Mrs. Thorne's being still a married woman
gives the affair a queer look to squeamish mortals, and the Cumberland
women are the quintessence of conservative old-fogyism; they might be
fresh from the South Carolina woods for all the advancement they can
boast.  It's wicked, and I'm ashamed of myself, but whenever I think of
Ethel Thorne trying conclusions with those strait-laced Cumberlands,
I'm filled with unholy mirth."  Then followed belated apologies for
this careless handling of a family matter, and copious explanations.
Mrs. Vincent was a wordy woman, fond of writing and apt to be diffuse
when not pressed for time.

Thorne returned the letter to his cousin, and announced his intention
of returning to New York immediately.

"By using dispatch I can catch the boat at Wintergreen this afternoon,"
he said.  "I wish you'd tell your mother, Norma, only your mother,
please; it will be time enough to acquaint the others when the whole
affair is out.  And, Norma, I can trust you, I know; keep the matter
quiet here as long as possible.  These people are strangers; they know
nothing.  I don't want to be in every body's mouth--a nine days'
wonder, _here_ as well as in New York.  It will be bad enough there.
Promise me to keep it quiet, Norma."

Thorne had reasons for the request.  He had ascertained, beyond all
doubt, that no hint of his story had as yet reached Pocahontas.  He was
surprised at first, for he thought all women gossiped, and the affair
had never been a secret.  He did not conceive for a moment, that the
fact of his divorce would be a permanent stumbling block in the way of
his happiness, but he realized something of the conservatism of her
surroundings, and the old world influences and prejudices amid which
she had been reared.  She would be shocked and startled at first; she
would have to grow accustomed to the idea, then reconciled to it.  He
recognized at a glance the immense advantage it would be to him to tell
his story himself, and, in his own way, to enlist her sympathy and to
arouse her indignation and her partisanship.

The explanation of the girl's ignorance is simple and natural.  The
intercourse between the two families was cordial and frequent, but
there were reservations--tracts of territory which were never trenched
on.  There was about the Masons a certain fine reserve which
discouraged promiscuous and effusive confidences.  Exhaustive
investigation of their neighbors' affairs had never been their
practice; it was a proud family; a conservative family.

The Smiths had seen no reason to give publicity to their _own_
particular family scandal.  Other people's skeletons were interesting,
but the rattling of the bones of their own annoyed them.  Then, too, it
was such an old story, its interest as gossip had passed, its piquancy
had evaporated.  These people knew none of the parties; it could be to
them of no possible interest even as narrative.  There had been no
definite determination on the part of the Smiths to say nothing of the
affair; but nothing had been said.  Thorne did not correspond with his
wife, nor did any member of his family, so there were no tell-tale
letters to excite comment or curiosity at the village post-office.  How
was Pocahontas to know?

With Thorne's good pleasure, her ignorance would remain until he
himself should lift it.

Norma gave the required promise willingly.  She, too, objected to this
affair obtaining publicity.  While Thorne sought her father to explain
a sudden call to New York "on business," she communicated the contents
of Mrs. Vincent's letter to her mother, and informed her of Thorne's
determination.  Then leaving the good lady to get the better of her
consternation by herself, and to make impossible suggestions, to the
empty air, she repaired to her cousin's room, and assisted him in his
hurried preparations.



CHAPTER XII.

Norma was exultant.  The thing she had longed, thirsted and well-nigh
prayed for, was coming to pass.  Thorne would be a free man once more,
free to come back to her, free to bring again the old sweetness to her
life, free to renew the spring of years ago.  Sitting by the library
fire in the gloaming after her cousin's departure, Norma dreamed dreams
and was happy--her eyes softened, and her lips smiled.  Then her face
darkened slowly, and the hands in her lap clinched themselves.  In her
fierce joy in the possibility of her reward coming to her at last, was
mingled a dread that the cup might be dashed from her lips a second
time.

During the first couple of months after the removal to Virginia, Norma
had relaxed her constant, imperceptible watch over Thorne.  He had
accompanied them to the new home unsolicited; and having come, he had
remained.  Small wonder that Norma had been deceived; for vanity aside,
she could not help but know that no woman in that region--not even
Pocahontas Mason--was her peer in beauty, wit, or accomplishments.
What had she to fear, with habit and contrast both in her favor?  Norma
neglected to provide against one subtle and most powerful
element--novelty.

For the past few weeks, first one thing, then another; trifles light as
air, but forging a chain heavy enough to link suspicion with certainty,
had filled the girl with the old fever of unrest.  Was she never to be
at rest?  Would the glory of the past never shine upon the present?

Like most women who allow their minds to dwell constantly on one theme,
Norma exaggerated the past.  When she first left school there had been
a little semi-sentiment and a good deal of rather warm cousinly
attentions on Thorne's part, but without serious intention.  As has
been stated, Thorne liked women; he sought their society and was apt to
endeavor to awaken their interest, to gain their affection.  He thought
that the restless craving of his nature was for love to be given him.
It was not.  It was the wild passion in his breast seeking to give
_itself_.  What he needed was not more love drawn into the reservoir of
his heart, but an outlet for that already accumulated.  This he had
never had since he had reached manhood, save only in his affection for
his child, and that was as yet too small a channel to afford vent for
the power of love behind.  And so it came to pass that in his need for
an outlet, he had made a great deal of love to a great many women, and
had looked more than he made.

As Norma budded into beautiful womanhood, he had been attracted by her,
and had yielded to the attraction, intending no harm but accomplishing
a good deal.  He had liked and admired his cousin then, and in exactly
the same manner and degree, he liked and admired her now.

To the young lady, the affair wore a totally different aspect; the
flirtation, which had meant nothing to him and had been long ago
effaced from his memory, meant every thing of value on earth to _her_,
and was as fresh in her mind as though the years that had passed had
been days or hours.  Thorne's marriage had been a great blow to
her--great and unexpected.  She had observed his attentions to Ethel
Ross, and raged at them in secret; but she had seen him equally devoted
to a score of other women, and the devotion had been evanescent; with
her rage and jealousy, had mingled no definite alarm.  The
engagement--an affair of six weeks, had been contracted while she was
away from home, and the first intimation she had of it came through a
letter from Ethel Ross inviting her to officiate as bridesmaid.  Norma
read and the heart within her died, but she made no sound, for she was
a proud woman--as proud as she was passionate.  She even acceded to the
bride's request and, as Thorne's next of kin, led the bevy of girls
selected, from the fairest of society to do honor to the occasion; her
refusal would have excited comment.  But as she stood behind the woman,
who she felt had usurped her place, a fierce longing was in her heart
to strike her rival dead at her feet.

After the marriage she continued her intimacy with Mrs. Thorne--and
with Mr. Thorne.  When clouds began to gather along the matrimonial
horizon, and "rifts within the lute" to make discord of life's music,
she beheld the one, and hearkened to the other with savage thrills of
satisfaction.  She did nothing to widen the breach--Norma was too proud
to be a mischief-maker, but she did nothing to lessen it.  She watched
with sullen pleasure the cleft increase to a crack, the crack to a
chasm.  When the separation became an accomplished fact, it found
Norma, of course, ranged strongly on the husband's side.

During the year which had elapsed since Thorne's return from abroad,
Norma had contrived to establish considerable influence over her
cousin.  She studied him quietly, and adapted herself to his moods,
never boring him with an over-display of interest, never chilling him
with an absence of it.  Her plan was to make herself necessary to him,
and in part she succeeded.  Thorne, lonely and cut adrift, came more
and more frequently to his aunt's house and exhibited more and more
decidedly his preference for his cousin's society.  The thin end of the
wedge was in, and but for the move to Virginia, and its ill-starred
consequences, the inevitable result must have followed.

Would it follow now?  A vision of Pocahontas, with her fair face, and
her sweet gray eyes framed in a soft cloud of white, standing on the
lower step of the stairway, with Thorne beside her, his head bent low
over the hand he clasped, rose before Norma's eyes and caused them to
burn with jealous anger.  Here was the old thing repeating itself; here
was flirtation again, the exact extent of which she could not
determine.  It must be stopped at once, trampled out ere the flame
should do irremediable damage.

But how?  With the question came the answer.  Norma was sure that, as
yet, no knowledge of Thorne's marriage had ever reached Pocahontas.
She would enlighten her; and in such a way that, if there had been
aught of love-making on the gentleman's part (and Norma, knowing her
cousin, thought it probable there had been), every look and word and
tone should seem a separate insult.

She also decided that it would be better to accept Mrs. Vincent's
invitation, and return to New York for awhile.  She knew very well why
the invitation had been given, and saw through the shallow maneuvers to
win her acceptance of it.  Hugh Castleton, Mrs. Vincent's favorite
brother, was in New York again, and she had not abandoned her old
scheme of a match between him and her friend.  Norma felt quite
competent to foil her friend's plans in the present as she had foiled
them in the past, so had no hesitation, on that score, in accepting the
invitation.  It would be better to be in New York--on the spot, while
this matter should be pending.  Thorne might need advice, certainly
would need sympathy and petting; he must not learn to do without her.
Even if he had only been amusing himself here, after his reprehensible
wont, her presence in New York could do no harm and might be productive
of good.



CHAPTER XIII.

One afternoon, several days after Thorne's departure, Norma donned her
warmest wraps and set out for a walk over to Lanarth.  It was a dull
afternoon following on a morning of uncertain brightness; dark clouds,
heavy with snow, hung sullenly along the horizon; and above, the sky
was of a somber, leaden hue.  The air felt chill and clinging, like
that of a vault; and heaven above, and earth beneath betrayed a
severity of mood infinitely depressing.  Norma shivered in spite of her
heavy furs, and hurried on, burying her hands in her muff.

Pocahontas, duly notified of Norma's approach by the vigilant Sawney,
met her guest at the door, and drew her in with words of welcome, and
praises of her bravery in venturing abroad in such gloomy weather.  The
girls did not kiss each other--as is too much the custom with their
sex.  Pocahontas did not like effusive embraces; a kiss with _her_
meant a good deal.

In the sitting-room Mrs. Mason and Berkeley added their welcome, and
established Norma in the coziest corner of the hearth, where the fire
would comfort without scorching her.  Pocahontas stooped to remove her
furs and wraps, but Norma staid her hand; it would not be worth while,
she said; she had only come to call.

"Do stay to tea!" entreated Pocahontas.  "Berke will take you home
afterward.  We haven't looked on a white face except our own for two
whole days.  We are pining for change and distraction, and beginning to
hate each other from very _ennui_.  Take pity on us and stay."

"Yes, my dear, you must consent," added Mrs. Mason.  "You haven't taken
tea with us for a long time.  Berkeley, help Norma with her wrappings.
And, Princess, suppose you run and tell Rachel to make waffles for tea.
Norma is so fond of them."

Norma yielded to their persuasions, feeling a little curiously, but
hardening her heart.  What she had come to say, she intended to say;
but it would be best to wait an opportunity.  She let Berkeley take her
wraps, and established herself comfortably, bent on making the time
pass pleasantly, and herself thoroughly agreeable.

The meal was a merry one, for Norma exerted herself unusually, and was
ably seconded by Pocahontas, who, for some reason, appeared in
brilliant spirits.  After tea they discovered that it was snowing
heavily.  The threatened storm had come--evenly, slowly, in a thick,
impenetrable cloud, the white flakes fell, without haste, excitement or
the flurry of wind.  Already the ground was covered and the trees were
bending with the weight of the white garment the sky was throwing over
them.  It was unfit weather for a lady to encounter, or indeed for
anything feminine to be abroad in, save a witch on a broomstick.  Norma
was fain to accept Mrs. Mason's invitation and remain for the night at
Lanarth.

When the two girls, in dressing gowns and slippers, sat over the fire
in Pocahontas's room, brushing out their long hair, Norma found the
opportunity for which she had lain in wait the entire evening.  It was
the hour for confidences, the house was quiet, the inmates all
dispersed to their several couches.  Norma, brush in hand and hair
flowing in a heavy, black veil around her, had quitted her own room
across the passage, and established herself in a low rocking-chair
beside Pocahontas's bright fire.  She was far too clever a diplomatist
to introduce her subject hastily; she approached it gradually from long
range--stalked it delicately with skillful avoidance of surprise or
bungling.  The game must be brought down; on that she was determined;
but there should be no bludgeon blows, no awkward carnage.  The
death-stab should be given clean, with scientific skill and swiftness,
and the blow once given, she would retire to her own room and let her
victim find what solace she could in solitude.  Norma was not wantonly
cruel; she could impale a foe, but she had no desire to witness his
contortions.  After a death-scene she shrank from the grewsomeness of
burial; she preferred a decent drop-curtain and the grateful darkness.

After some idle conversation, she deftly turned the talk upon New York,
and the life there, and rallied all her powers to be picturesque and
entertaining.  She held her listener entranced with rapid, clever
sketches of society and the men and women who composed it, drawing
vivid pictures of its usages, beliefs, and modes of thought and
expression.  Gradually she glided into personalities, giving some of
her individual experiences, and sketching in an acquaintance or two,
with brilliant, caustic touches.  Soon Thorne's name appeared, and she
noticed that the listener's interest deepened.  She spoke of him in
warm terms of admiration--dwelt on his intellect, his talents and the
bright promise of his manhood; and then, observing that the brush had
ceased its regular passes over the bright brown hair, and that the gray
eyes were on the fire, without pause or warning she spoke of his
hurried courtship and sudden marriage.  She winced involuntarily as she
saw the cold, gray pallor creep slowly over the girl's face, and noted
the sudden tremor that passed through her limbs; but she steeled
herself against compassion, and proceeded with her brushing and her
narrative like one devoid of sight and understanding.

"I can not expect you, who know Nesbit so slightly, to be much
interested in all this," she said, watching Pocahontas through her
lashes; "I fear I only bore you with my story, but my mind has been so
exercised over the poor fellow's troubles again lately, that I must
unburden it to some one.  You have no personal interest in the matter,
therefore you will forgive my trespassing on your courtesy--especially
when I tell you that I've no one at home to talk to.  Nesbit wishes
particularly that his story shouldn't get abroad here, and if I should
revive it in Blanche's mind, she might mention it to others.  Mamma
would not; but unfortunately mamma and I rarely look at a thing from
the same standpoint.  It's been a relief to speak to you--far greater
than speaking to Blanche.  Blanche is so excitable."

Yes; Blanche was excitable, Pocahontas assented absently; she was
bracing her will, and steeling her nerves to endure without flinching.
Not for worlds would she--even by the quivering of an eyelash--let
Norma see the torture she was inflicting.  She felt that Norma had an
object in this disclosure, and was dimly sure that the object was
hostile.  She would think it all out later; at present Norma must not
see her anguish.  A woman would sooner go to the stake and burn slowly,
than allow another woman, who is trying to hurt her, to know that she
suffers.

Norma continued, speaking gently, without haste or emotion, telling of
the feverish brightness of those early days of marriage, and of the
clouds that soon obscured the sunshine--telling of the _ennui_ and
unhappiness, gradually sprouting and ripening in the ill-assorted
union--shielding the man, as women will, and casting the blame on the
woman.  Finally she told of the separation, lasting now two years, and
of the letter from his wife which had caused Thorne's precipitate
departure the day after the Shirley ball.

But of the divorce now pending she said never a word.

"Have they any children?" questioned Pocahontas steadily.

And was told that there was one--a little son, to whom the father was
attached, and the mother indifferent.  It was a strange case.

Again Pocahontas assented.  Her voice was cold and even; its tones low
and slightly wearied.  To herself it appeared as though she spoke from
a great distance, and was compelled to use exertion to make herself
heard.  She was conscious of two distinct personalities--one prostrate
in the dust, humiliated, rent and bleeding, and another which held a
screen pitifully before the broken thing, and shielded it from
observation.  When Norma bid her good-night she responded quietly, and
rising accompanied her guest to her room to see that every arrangement
was perfect for her comfort.

Far into the night she sat beside her dying fire trying to collect her
faculties, and realize the extent of the calamity which had befallen
her.  The first, and, for the time, dominant emotion was a stinging
sense of shame, an agony of rage and humiliation which tingled hotly
through her, and caused her cheek to flame, and her body to writhe as
from the lash of a whip.  She had been degraded; an insult had been put
upon her.  Her eyes blazed, and her hands clinched.  Oh, for strength
to hurl the insult back--for a man's arm and a man's power to avenge
the foul affront!  He--a married man--to come, concealing his bonds,
and playing the part of a lover free to woo--free to approach a woman
and to win her heart!  The proud head bent to meet the hands upraised
to cover the pale, drawn face.  She loved him and he was unworthy.  He
had deceived and lied to her, if not in words, then in actions; knowing
himself bound to another woman, he had deliberately sought her out and
made her love him.  It was cruel, cruel!  All along she had played
virgin gold against base metal, and now she was bankrupt.

When the burning, maddening sense of outrage had passed, and pride
stood with lowered crest and listless hands, love lifted its head and
tried to speak.  He was not without excuse, love pleaded; his life had
been miserable; his lot hard and unendurable; he had been given a stone
for bread, and for wine, the waters of Marah.  Until the night of the
ball he had retained mastery over himself--had held his love in check.
Then memory roused herself and entered testimony--words, looks, tender,
graceful attentions thronged back upon her, and pride caught love by
the throat and cried out that there was no excuse.

Perhaps, she pondered heavily, he, too, writhed beneath this avalanche
of pain; perhaps remorse and the consciousness of the anguish he had
entailed upon them both tore and lacerated him.  He had gone away at
last, out of her life, back to the home and the ties that were hateful
to him.  He had gone away to take up his share of their joint burden,
and he would be merciful, and never cross her path again.

But would he?  The girl quivered, her hand sought the pocket of her
dress, and her eyes glanced forlornly around the room like the eyes of
a hunted creature.  She recalled something that the morning's post had
brought her--something that had seemed sweet and fair, something that
had caused her pulses to thrill, all day, with exultant happiness.

Only a New Year card; a graceful white-fringed thing, showing a handful
of blue forget-me-nots, thrown carelessly beside an old anchor on a bit
of golden sand.  Pocahontas laid it on her lap and gazed at it with
strained, tearless eyes, and read anew its sweet message of remembrance
and hope.  She had been startled by Thorne's sudden departure, but had
quietly accepted the message of explanation and farewell sent her by
Blanche; she trusted him too implicitly to doubt that what he did was
best and wisest, and was happy in the knowledge that he would return.

How long ago it appeared to her already, since this pretty card had
come; she looked at it strangely, with eyes in which there was longing,
renunciation, and a wild hopelessness of love.  She must not keep it;
it was not hers; it belonged of right to that other--the woman who was
his wife.  No, she must not keep it--the beautiful, tender thing.  With
steady hand, but blanched, quivering lips, she reached over and made a
little grave among the dying embers, in which a sullen spark glowed
like baleful eye.  Quietly, with the feeling that she was burying all
of youth and hope and joy her life would ever know, she kissed the card
with dumb, clinging, passionate kisses, and then with a low, dry sob,
covered it from sight.

As she raised herself up, her eyes fell on the little box lying on her
desk in which she had placed the fragments of the cup they had broken
between them--the cup that her old play-fellow had used on that last
evening.  With the impulse of habit and association, her mind turned
wearily to Jim.  He was so true; he had never failed her.  Had _he_
suffered as she was suffering?  Poor Jim!  Was this ceaseless, gnawing
agony that had usurped _her_ life no stranger to _his_?  If so--God
pity him!--and her!



CHAPTER XIV.

On the way up from Virginia, Nesbit Thorne ran over in his mind the
possibilities opened by this new move of his wife's, and, on the whole,
he was satisfied.  The divorce had become as much an object with him as
with her, and if she had remained quiescent in the matter, he must have
moved.  He was glad to have been spared this--very glad that the
initial steps had been of her taking.  It put him in a good position
with himself.  The _manes_ of his mother's scruples would be satisfied,
and would never cause him discomfort since the fault did not rest with
him.  And then the boy--never could his son cast word or thought of
blame to the father who had behaved so well; who had given every
chance, foregone every advantage; acted not only the part of a
gentleman, but of a generous, long-suffering man.  Thorne felt a glow
of satisfaction in the knowledge that in years to come his son would
think well of him.

But this supposition of Norma's in regard to a second marriage put the
whole matter in a new light in regard to the child.  If such a change
should be in contemplation, other arrangements must be made about the
boy; he could no longer remain in the custody of his mother.  _His_ son
could not remain under the roof of his wife's second husband during his
own lifetime.  The line must be drawn somewhere.  It did not occur to
Thorne that his wife, with equal justice, might raise similar
objections.

He determined to see Ethel at once and discover whether or not there
was truth in the reports that had reached him anent Cecil Cumberland.
If there should be, he would bring such pressure as lay in his power to
bear on her, in order to obtain immediate possession of the boy.  The
child was still so young that the law gave the mother rights which
could only be set aside at the expense of a disagreeable suit; but
Thorne thought he could manage Ethel in such a way as to make her
voluntarily surrender her rights.  He knew that her affection for the
child was neither deep nor strong.

He ascended the steps of his own house and rang the bell sharply.  It
was answered by a strange servant who regarded him with interest;
evidently a gentleman caller at that hour of the morning was unusual.
Was Mrs. Thorne at home?  The man would inquire.  Would the gentleman
walk in.  What name should he say?  Mr. Thorne--and his business was
pressing; he must see her at once.

The man opened the door of the back parlor and stood aside to let Mr.
Thorne pass; then he closed it noiselessly and proceeded up-stairs to
inform his mistress.

Thorne glanced around the room curiously; it was two years since he had
seen it.  On the marble hearth burned a bright wood-fire, and the
dancing flames reflected themselves in the burnished brasses.  The
tiles around the fireplace were souvenirs of his wedding, hand-painted
by the bevy of bridesmaids to please a fancy of Ethel's.  Norma's was
in the center--the place of honor.  It was a strange thing that Norma
had selected to paint; heavy sprays of mingled nightshade and monkshood
on a ground the color of a fading leaf; but, strange as it was, it was
the most beautiful of them all.  There were flowers in the room and the
perfume of heliotrope and roses filled the air.  The piano was open and
on it one of the popular songs of the day; a loud, garish thing.  Ethel
liked what she called "bright music;" on the keys lay a tumbled lace
handkerchief, and on the floor, close to the pedal of the instrument,
was a man's driving glove.

Over the piano hung the portrait of a lady with soft, gray hair, and
the expression of purity and love which medieval painters gave to their
saints.  It was a picture of Thorne's mother and it hurt him to see it
there.  He determined to have it removed as soon as possible.

The door opened and Mrs. Thorne entered, feeling herself terribly
ill-used and persecuted, in that her husband had elected to come to her
in person, instead of availing himself of the simpler and more
agreeable mode of communication through their lawyers.  It was quite
possible that he would make himself disagreeable.  Mrs. Thorne shrank
from any thing disagreeable, and had no tolerance for sarcasms
addressed to herself.  She would have refused the interview had she
dared, but in her heart she was dimly afraid of her husband.

Thorne bowed coldly, and then placed a chair for her on the hearth-rug.
"Sit down," he said, "I want to talk to you," and then he seated
himself opposite her.

For awhile he did not speak; somehow the words he had come to say stuck
in his throat; it was so cold-blooded for them, husband and wife, to
sit there beside their own hearth and discuss their final separation.
A log, which had burned in half, fell and rolled forward on the marble
hearth, sending little puffs of gray smoke into the room.  He reached
past her for the tongs and laid the log back in its place, and the
little action seemed to seal his lips more closely.  The tiny clock on
the carved oak mantle chimed the hour in soft, low tones; he counted
the strokes as they fell, one, two, and so on up to twelve.  The winter
sunshine streamed in between the parting of the curtains and made a
glory of his wife's golden hair.

Ethel was the first to speak.  "You got my letter?" she questioned,
keeping her eyes fixed on the fire.

"Yes; that is the reason I'm here."

The broken log was blazing again quite merrily, the two ends far apart.

"Why not have written instead of coming?" she demanded, as one who
protested against some grievous injury; "it would have been far
pleasanter for both.  There's no sense in our harassing ourselves with
personal interviews."

"I preferred a personal interview."

Ethel lapsed into silence; the man was a hopeless brute, and it was
useless to expect courtesy from him.  She tapped her foot against the
fender, and a look of obstinacy and temper disfigured the soft outlines
of her face.  The silence might remain unbroken until the crack of doom
for any further effort she would make.

Thorne broke it himself.  He was determined to carry his point, and in
order to do so strove to establish ascendency over his wife from the
start.

"What's the meaning of this new move, Ethel?" he demanded,
authoritatively.  "I want to understand the matter thoroughly.  Why do
you want a divorce?"

Mrs. Thorne turned her face toward him defiantly.

"Because I'm tired of my present life, and I want to change it.  I'm
sick of being pointed at, and whispered about, as a deserted wife--a
woman whose husband never comes near her."

"Whose fault is that?" he retorted sharply; "this separation is none of
my doing, and you know it.  Bad as things had become, I was willing to
worry along for the sake of respectability and the child; but you
wouldn't have it so.  You insisted on my leaving you--said the very
sight of me made your chains more intolerable.  Had I been a viper, you
could scarcely have signified your desire for my absence in more
unmeasured terms."

"I know I desired the separation," Mrs. Thorne replied calmly, "I
desire it still.  My life with you was miserable, and my wish to live
apart has only increased in intensity.  You never understood me."

Thorne might have retorted that the misunderstanding had been mutual,
and also that _all_ the wretchedness had not fallen to her share; but
he would not stoop to reproaches and vituperation.  It was a natural
peculiarity of her shallow nature to demand exhaustive comprehension
for quite commonplace emotions.

"It's useless debating the past, Ethel.  We've both been too much to
blame to afford the luxury of stone-throwing.  What we must consider
now is the future.  Is your mind quite made up?  Are you determined on
the divorce?"

"Quite determined.  I've given the matter careful consideration, and am
convinced that entire separation, legal as well as nominal, is
absolutely necessary to my happiness."

"And your reasons?"

"Haven't I told you, Nesbit?" using his name, for the first time, in
her anger.  "Why do you insist on my repeating the same thing over and
over, eternally?  I'm sick of my life, and want to change it."

"But how?" he persisted.  "Your life will be the same as now, and your
position not so assured.  The alimony allowed by law won't any thing
like cover your present expenditures, and you can hardly expect me to
be more generous than the law compels.  The divorce can make little
difference, save to diminish your income and deprive you of the
protection of my name.  You will not care to marry again, and the
divorce will be a restricted one."  Thorne was forcing his adversary's
hand.

"Why will it be restricted?" she demanded, her color and her temper
rising.  "It shall _not_ be restricted, or hampered in any way, I tell
you, Nesbit Thorne!  Am I to be fettered, and bound, and trammeled by
you forever?  I will _not_ be.  The divorce shall give me unlimited
power to do what I please with my life.  It shall make me as free as
air--as free as I was before I married you."

"You would not wish to marry again?" he repeated.

"Why not?" rising to her feet and confronting him in angry excitement.

"Because, in that case, you would lose your child.  I neither could nor
would permit my son to be brought up in the house of a man who stood to
him in the relationship you propose."

"You cannot take him from me," Mrs. Thorne retorted in defiant
contradiction; her ideas of the power of men and lawyers hopelessly
vague and bewildered.  "No court on earth would take so small a child
from his mother."

"Ah! you propose having the case come into court then?  I misunderstood
you.  I thought you wished the affair managed quietly, to avoid
publicity and comment.  Of course, if the case comes into court, I
shall contest it, and try to obtain possession of the boy, even for the
time the law allows the mother, on the ground of being better able to
support and educate him."

"I do not want the case to come into court here, Nesbit, and you know
that I do not!  Why do you delight in tormenting me?"

"Listen to me, Ethel.  I've no wish to torment you.  I simply wished to
show you that I would abide by my rights, and that I have some
power--all the power which money can give--on my side.  Our marriage
has been a miserable mistake from the first; we rushed into it without
knowledge of each other's characters and dispositions, and, like most
couples who take matrimony like a five-barred gate, we've come horribly
to grief.  I shall not stand in your way; if you wish to go, I shall
not hinder you.  This is what I propose: I'll help you in the matter,
will take all the trouble, make the arrangements, bear all the expense.
It will be necessary for one of us to go to Illinois, and see these
lawyers, if the divorce is to be gotten there.  It may be necessary to
undergo a short residence in the state in order to simulate
citizenship, and make the divorce legal.  I'll find out about this, and
if it's necessary I will do it.  After the divorce, I'll allow you the
use of this house, and a sufficient income to support it; and also the
custody of our son as long as you remain unmarried.  In return, you
must waive all right to the boy for the years you can legally claim
him, and must bind yourself to surrender him to me, or any person I
appoint, at least a month before any such marriage, and never, by word
or act, to interfere in his future life, or any disposition I may think
best to make of him.  I should also strongly object to any future
marriage taking place from my house, and should expect legal notice in
ample time to make arrangements about the boy."

"Would you allow me to see the child whenever I wished?"

"Certainly.  I'm no brute, and you are his mother.  I shall only
stipulate that the meetings take place in some other house than yours.
You are at liberty to visit him as often as you like, so long as you
are faithful to our agreement and leave his mind unbiased.  I will
never mention you unkindly to him, and shall expect the same
consideration from you.  When he is old enough to judge between us, he
will decide as he thinks right."

"Suppose you marry again, yourself.  What about the child then?  You
are very hard and uncompromising in your dictation to me, Nesbit, but I
can have feelings and scruples as well as you."

Thorne was startled.  He considered that he was behaving well to his
wife.  He wanted to behave well to her; to let the past go generously,
so that no shadow of reproach from it might fall upon the future.  Her
tart suggestion set the affair in a new light.  It was an unpleasant
light, and he turned his back on it, thinking that by so doing he
disposed of it.  There was the distance of the two poles between
Pocahontas Mason and Cecil Cumberland.  _He_ surely was the best judge
of what would conduce to the welfare of his son.

"We were discussing the probability of your re-marriage, not mine," he
responded coldly; "the reports in circulation have reached even me at
last."

"What reports?" with defiant inquiry.

"That you are seeking freedom from your allegiance to one man, in order
to swear fealty to another.  That your vows to me are irksome because
they prevent your taking other vows to Cecil Cumberland.  I pass over
the moral aspect of the affair; that must rest with your own
conscience," (it is astonishing how exemplary Thorne felt in
administering the rebuke); "that rests with your conscience," he
repeated, "and with that I've nothing to do.  The existence of such
reports--which lays your conduct as a married woman open to
censure--gives me the right to dictate the terms of our legal
separation.  I'm obliged to speak plainly, Ethel.  You brought about
the issue, and must abide by the consequences.  I've stated my terms
and it's for you to accept or decline them."

Thorne leaned back in his chair and watched the flames eat into the
heart of the hickory logs.  He had no doubt of her decision, but he
awaited it courteously.  The broken log had burned completely away, and
a little heap of whity-gray ashes lay on each side of the hearth.

Ethel sat and pondered, weighing at full value all the advantages and
disadvantages of the proposal and deciding that the former outweighed
the latter.  The object on which she was bent--the thing which appeared
the greatest earthly good, was the divorce.  At any cost, she would
obtain _that_, and obtain it as quickly and quietly as possible; no
talk, no exposure, no disagreeable comments.  This was the main point,
and to carry it, Ethel Thorne felt herself capable of more than the
surrender of one small child.  The separation at worst would only be
partial; she could see the boy every day if she wished--even after her
marriage with Cecil Cumberland.  Nesbit had promised, and in all her
experience of him she had never known him break his word.  Then she
could retain the little fellow until all these troublesome affairs
should be settled, which would disarm criticism and save appearances,
and appearances _must_ be preserved on account of the Cumberlands.

That a divorced daughter-in-law would be none too welcome in that
stately, old-fashioned family, Mrs. Thorne was well aware.  Perhaps it
would be as well to be unhampered by such a forcible reminder of her
former state as the child, while she was winning the Cumberland heart
and softening the Cumberland prejudice.  Cecil, she knew already,
regarded the baby with scant favor, and would be unfeignedly rejoiced
to be quit of him.  On the whole, Nesbit was behaving well to her.  She
had expected far more difficulty, infinitely more bitterness, for, like
the world, she gave her husband credit for the scruples of his father's
faith.  Her heart softened toward him a little for the first time in
years--or would have softened, but for the blow he had dealt her
egregious self-love in letting her go so easily.

She signified her acceptance of his proposal in a few brusque,
ungracious words, for she considered it due to her dignity to be
disagreeable, in that she was acceding to terms, not dictating them.

Thorne rose from his chair with a deep breath of relief.  The interview
had been intolerable to him, and although he had carried his point and
acquitted himself well, his prominent feeling was one of unqualified
disgust.  What a lie his married life had been!  What a sepulcher
filled with dead, dry bones!  For the moment all womanhood was lowered
in his eyes because of his wife's heartless selfishness.  Had she shown
any feeling about the boy--any ruth, or mother-love, Thorne knew that
he would not have driven so hard a bargain; felt that he might even
have let his compassion rule his judgment.  But she had shown none; all
her thought and care had been for herself, and herself alone.  And for
her, and such as her, men wrecked their lives.  A flood of anger at his
past folly, of resentful bitterness at the price he had been forced to
pay for it, passed over Thorne.  He could scarcely constrain himself to
the formal bow which courtesy required.

As he left the room, the sound of a child's wailing came down to him,
mingled with the sound of a woman's voice soothing it.  He glanced back
at his wife; she had moved nearer the fire, her fair head with its
golden glory of hair was thrown back against the dark velvet of the
chair; she was smiling and the sound of the child's grief fell on
heedless ears.



CHAPTER XV.

Thorne had even less difficulty with his legal arrangements than he had
anticipated.  He had, hitherto, relegated the subject of divorce to the
limbo of things as little thought and spoken of as possible by
well-bred people.  He knew nothing of the _modus operandi_, and was
surprised at the ease and celerity with which the legal machine moved.

"I'll have to prove my identity, and the truth of my statements to the
men out there, I suppose," he remarked to the lawyer, from whom he
obtained all necessary information.

The lawyer laughed; he was a Southerner by birth, and his voice was
gentle, his manner courteous.

"Of your identity, Mr. Thorne, these men will take excellent care to
inform themselves, and of your responsibility also," he answered.  "For
the truth of your statements, they are apt to take your word, and the
depositions of your witnesses, without troubling themselves about
substantiating the facts.  The soundness of your evidence is your
lookout, not theirs.  If the case were to be contested, it would be
different, but, in this instance, there is consent of both parties,
which simplifies matters.  This case is reduced to a matter of mere
form and business."

"Apparently, then, my statements may be a tissue of lies from beginning
to end, for all the difference it makes," observed Thorne, curious to
discover how small a penknife could now cut the bond which once the
scythe of death alone was held to be able to sever.

"For your veracity, Mr. Thorne, your appearance is a sufficient
voucher," responded the lawyer, with a ready courtesy.  "And the
looseness on which you comment, recollect, is all in your favor.  When
a man has an unpleasant piece of business in hand, it's surely an
immense advantage to be able to accomplish it speedily and privately."

Thorne walked in the direction of his hotel in a state of
preoccupation.  He was sore and irritated; he disliked it all
intensely; it jarred upon him and offended his taste.  Over and over he
cursed it all for a damnable business from beginning to end.  He was
perfectly aware, reasoning from cause to effect, that the situation
was, in some sort, his own fault; but that was a poor consolation.
That side of the question did not readily present itself; his horizon
was occupied by the nearer and more personal view.  He loathed it all,
and was genuinely sorry for himself and conscious that fate was dealing
hardly by him.

As he turned a corner, he ran against a tall, handsome young lady, who
put out her hand and caught his arm to steady herself, laughing gayly:

"Take care, Nesbit!" she exclaimed, "you nearly knocked me down.  Since
when have you taken to emulating Mrs. Wilfer's father, and 'felling'
your relatives to the earth?"

"Why, Norma! is it really you?" he questioned, refusing to admit the
evidence of sight and touch unfortified by hearing.

He was genuinely delighted to see her, and foresaw that she would be a
comfort to him during the days that must elapse before it became
possible for him to start for Illinois.  He needed sympathy and some
one to make much of him.  And Norma, with her lustrous eyes aglow with
the pleasure of the meeting, appeared to divine it, for she set herself
to entertain him with little incidents and adventures of her journey
from Virginia, and with scraps of intelligence of the people at home.
She did not mention Pocahontas, save in reply to a direct inquiry, and
then simply stated that she had spent a night at Lanarth a day or so
before coming North, and that the family were all well.

She cheered Thorne wonderfully, for she seemed to bring Virginia and
the life of the last few months nearer to him--the peaceful life in
which new hopes had budded, in which he had met, and known, and loved
Pocahontas.  Norma did him good, raised his spirits, and made the
future look bright and cheerful; but not in the way she hoped and
intended.  She had come North with the hope of furthering her own
plans, of making herself necessary and agreeable, of keeping the old
days fresh in his memory.  And she _was_ necessary to him, as a trusted
comrade who had never failed him; a clever adviser in whose judgment he
had confidence; a charming friend who was fond of him, and who had, but
now, come from the enchanted land where his love dwelt.  Of her plans
he knew nothing, suspected nothing; and the days she brought fresh to
his thoughts were days in which she had no part.

In a little while, he went West, and there was a period of uneventful
waiting; after which Norma received a Western paper containing a short
and unobtrusive notice of the granting of a divorce to Nesbit Thorne
from Ethel, his wife.

She bore it away to her room and gloated over it greedily.  Then she
took her pen and ran it around the notice, marking it heavily; this
done, she folded, sealed and directed it in a clear, bold hand--General
Percival Smith,--Wintergreen Co., Virginia.  It would save elaborate
explanations.



CHAPTER XVI.

Spring opened very late that year in Virginia--slowly and regretfully,
as though forced into doing the world a favor against its will, and
determined to be as grudging and disagreeable over it as possible.  The
weather was cold, wet, and unwholesome--sulking and storming
alternately, and there was much sickness in the Lanarth and Shirley
neighborhood.  The Christmas had been a green one--only one small spurt
of snow on Christmas eve, which vanished with the morning.  The negroes
were full of gloomy prognostications in consequence, and shook their
heads, and cast abroad, with unction, all sorts of grewsome prophecies
anent the fattening of the church-yard.

All through the winter, Mrs. Mason had been ailing, and about the
beginning of March she succumbed to climatic influences, backed by
hereditary tendency, and took to her bed with a severe attack of
inflammatory rheumatism.  Pocahontas had her hands full with household
care and nursing, and perhaps it was as well, for it drove self into
the background of her mind, for a part of the time at least, and filled
with anxiety the empty days.  Grace, living five miles away and loaded
down with family cares and duties of her own, could be of little
practical assistance.

The winter had been a hard one for Pocahontas, harder, perhaps, for the
gallant nature which forbade her to bewail herself.  She suffered
deeply and dumbly through all the weary nights and days.  Pride and
womanly reserve precluded all beating of the breast, and forced
principle and nature to the ceaseless fight.  Right gallantly she bore
herself.  The mortification, the anguish, the love, must be met, hand
to hand, eye to eye, foot to foot.  She endeavored to keep cheerful--to
take the same interest in life as formerly, and in the main she
succeeded; but there would come times when the struggle would seem
greater than she could bear, and being a woman, with a woman's heart,
and a woman's nerves, she would be irritable and difficult.  But these
moods were never of long duration, any more than the more desperate
ones, when she would lock herself in her chamber and cast herself on
the floor and lie there prone and quivering--heart and conscience
utterly at variance--heart crying out with mad insistence that the
struggle was in vain; for love was strengthened by repression; and
conscience sternly replying that it should not be; the struggle should
continue until the last vestige of love should be expunged from heart
and life.  It was no wonder, as time went on, that the girl's cheek
paled and that a dumb pleading came into the pure gray eyes.

Sometimes the thought of Jim would come and place itself in contrast to
the thought of the other man, for, unconsciously to her, her old friend
was her standard in many things.  Her recognition of the nobility of
Jim's love would force, in some sort, recognition of the selfishness of
Thorne's love.  She put such thoughts from her fiercely, and girded at
Jim in her aching, unreasonable heart, because his love was grander and
truer than the love she craved.  Once, when old Sholto--the great red
setter--came and laid his head lovingly upon her lap, she frowned and
pushed him roughly away, because he looked up at her with eyes whose
honest faithfulness reminded her of Jim.

And the mother watched her child silently; conscious, through the
divination of unselfish mother-love, that her daughter suffered, yet
powerless to help her, save by increased affection and the intangible
yet perceptible comfort of a delicate respect.  She could trust her
child and would not force her confidence; if spoken sympathy were
needed, Pocahontas knew that her mother's heart was open to her, and if
to her silence should seem best, she should have her will.  From long
experience Mrs. Mason knew that some sorrows must be left quietly to
time.

When at length the news of Thorne's divorce reached them, she warded
off with tender consideration all remark or comment likely to hurt the
girl, and gave straight-forward, hot-tempered Berkeley a hint which
effectually silenced him.  In sooth, the honest fellow had small liking
for the subject.  He bitterly resented what he considered Thorne's
culpable concealment of the fact of his marriage.  He remembered the
night of the ball at Shirley, and the memory rankled.  It did not occur
to him that the matter having remained a secret might have been the
natural result of an unfortunate combination of circumstances, and in
no sort the consequence of calculation or dishonor on Thorne's part.
Neither did it occur to him, large-minded man though he was, to try to
put himself in Thorne's place and so gain a larger insight into the
affair, and the possibility of arriving at a fairer judgment.
Berkeley's interest in the matter was too personal to admit of
dispassionate analysis, or any impulse toward mercy, or even justice.
His anger burned hotly against Thorne, and when the thought of him rose
in his mind it was accompanied by other thoughts which it is best not
to put into words.

During Mrs. Mason's illness, little Blanche was unremitting in her
attentions, coming over daily with delicacies of her own concoction,
and striving to help her friends with a sweet, unobtrusive kindness
which won hearty response from both ladies, and caused them to view
Berkeley's increasing attentions to the little maid with pleasure.
They even aided the small idyl by every lawful means, having the girl
with them as often as they could and praising her judiciously.

With her winsome, childish ways and impulsiveness, Blanche formed a
marked contrast to grave, reserved Berkeley Mason, and was perhaps
better suited to him on that account.  When their engagement was
announced, there was no lack of congratulation and satisfaction in both
families.  The general, as he gave his hearty approbation to her
choice, pinched her ears and asked what had become of her objections to
Virginia; and Percival tormented her unceasingly, twitting her with her
former wails of lamentation.  Blanche did not care.  She took their
teasing in good part, and retorted with merry words and smiles and
blushes.  She had made her journey to the unknown, and returned with
treasure.

Mrs. Smith, in her chamber, smiled softly, and thought on muslin and
lace and wedding favors.



CHAPTER XVII.

The weeks rolled by, and gradually Mrs. Mason grew convalescent.  She
was still confined to her room, but the worst of the pain was over, and
she could lie on the sofa by the fireside and have Berkeley read aloud
to her in the evenings.  Blanche, if she happened to be there, would
sit on a low chair beside the sofa, busy with some delicate bit of
fancy work, and later in the evening Berke would take her home.
Sometimes Pocahontas would bring her work and listen, or pretend to
listen, with the rest, but oftener she would go into the parlor and
play dreamily to herself for hours.  She had taken up her music
industriously and practiced hard in her spare moments.

She had been playing a long time one evening in April, and had left the
piano for a low chair beside the open fire.  She was tired.  Although
spring had come, the evenings were chill and the room was large.  Her
hands were cold and she spread them out to the blaze.  The heavy
curtains billowed and sank and billowed again, as intrusive puffs of
wind crept officiously through the crevices of the old casements.
Blanche and Berkeley were with her mother, and they were reading "Lorna
Doone."  She had read the book a week ago, and did not care to hear it
over.

The front door opened quietly--it was always on the latch--and
footsteps came along the hall; quick, eager footsteps, straight to the
parlor door; the knob turned.  No need to turn her head, no need to
question of her heart whose step, whose hand that was, to guess whose
presence filled the room.

Thorne came across the room, and stood opposite, a great light of joy
in his eyes, his hands outstretched for hers.  Benumbed with many
emotions, Pocahontas half-rose, an inarticulate murmur dying on her
lips.  Thorne put her gently back into her chair, and drew one for
himself up to the hearth-rug near her; he was willing to keep silence
for a little space, to give her time to recover herself; he was
satisfied for the moment with the sense of her nearness, and his heart
was filled with the joy of seeing her once more.  The lamps were lit,
but burning dimly.  Thorne rose and turned both to their fullest
brilliancy; he must have light to see his love.

"I want to look at you, Princess," he said gently, seeking her eyes,
with a look in his not to be misunderstood; "it has been so long--so
cruelly long, my darling, since I have looked on your sweet face.  You
must not call the others.  For this first meeting I want but you--you
only, my love!  my queen!"  His voice lingered over the terms of
endearment with exquisite tenderness.

Pocahontas was silent--for her life she could not have spoken then.
Her gray eyes had an appealing, terrified look as they met his; her
trembling hands clasped and unclasped in her lap.

"How frightened you look, my darling," Thorne murmured, speaking softly
and keeping a tight rein over himself.  "Your eyes are like a startled
fawn's.  Have I been too abrupt--too thoughtless and inconsiderate?
You would forgive me, love, if you knew how I have longed for you; have
yearned for this meeting as Dives yearned for water--as the condemned
yearn for reprieve.  Have you no smile for me, sweetheart?--no word of
welcome for the man whose heaven is your love?  You knew I would come.
You knew I loved you, Princess."

"Yes;"--the word was breathed, rather than uttered, but he heard it,
and made a half movement forward, the light in his eyes glowing more
passionately.  Still, he held himself in check; he would give her time.

"You knew I loved you, Princess," he repeated.  "Yes, you must have
known.  Love like mine could not be concealed; it _must_ burn its way
through all obstacles from my heart to yours, melting and fusing them
into one.  Don't try to speak yet, love, there is no need to answer
unless you wish.  I can wait--for I am near you."

Pocahontas rallied her forces resolutely, called up her pride, her
womanhood, her sense of the wrong he had done her.  If she should give
way an instant--if she should yield a hair's breadth, she would be
lost.  The look in his eyes, the tenderness of his voice, appeared to
sap the foundations of her resolution and to turn her heart to wax
within her.

"Why have you come?" she wailed, her tone one of passionate reproach.
"Had you not done harm enough?  Why have you come?"

Thorne started slightly, but commanded himself.  It was the former
marriage; the divorce; she felt it keenly--every woman must; some
cursed meddler had told her.

"My darling," he answered, with patient tenderness, "you know why I
have come--why it was impossible for me to keep away.  I love you,
Princess, as a man loves but once in his life.  Will you come to me?
Will you be my wife?"

The girl shook her head, and moved her hand with a gesture of denial;
words she had none.

"I know of what you are thinking, Princess.  I know the idea that has
taken possession of your mind.  You have heard of my former marriage,
and you know that the woman who was my wife still lives.  Is it not
so?"  She bent her head in mute assent.  Thorne gazed at her pale,
resolute face with his brows knit heavily, and then continued:

"Listen to me, Princess.  That woman--Ethel Ross--is my wife no longer,
even in name; she ceased to be my wife in fact two years ago.  Our
lives have drifted utterly asunder.  It was her will, and I acquiesced
in it, for she had never loved me, and I--when my idiotic infatuation
for her heartless, diabolical beauty passed, had ceased to love her.
At last, even my presence became a trouble to her, which she was at no
pains to conceal.  The breach between us widened with the years, until
nothing remained to us but the galling strain of a useless fetter.  Now
that is broken, and we are free,"--there was an exultant ring in his
voice, as though his freedom were precious to him.

"Were you bound, or free, that night at Shirley?" questioned the girl,
slowly and steadily.

A flush crept warmly over Thorne's dark face, and lost itself in the
waves of his hair.  He realized that he would meet with more opposition
here than he had anticipated.  No matter; the prize was worth fighting
for--worth winning at any cost.  His determination increased with the
force opposed to it, and so did his desire.

"In heart and thought I was free, but in _fact_ I was bound," he
acknowledged.  "The words I spoke on the steps that night escaped me
unaware.  I was tortured by jealousy, and tempted by love.  I had no
right to speak them then; nothing can excuse or palliate the weakness
which allowed me to.  I should have waited until I could come to you
untrammeled--as now.  I attempt no justification of my madness,
Princess.  I have no excuse but my love, and can only sue for pardon.
You will forgive me, sweetheart"--using the old word tenderly--"for the
sake of my great love.  It's my only plea"--his voice took a pleading
tone as he advanced the plea hardest of all for a woman to steel her
heart against.

Pocahontas gazed at him in bewilderment, her mind grappling with an
idea that appalled her, her face blanching with apprehension, and her
form cowering as from an expected blow.

"Must I understand, Mr. Thorne, that love for _me_ suggested the
thought of divorcing your wife?" she questioned hoarsely--"that _I_
came between you and caused this horrible thing?  It is _not_--it _can
not_ be true.  God above!  Have I fallen so low?--am I guilty of this
terrible sin?"

Thorne's quick brain recognized instantly the danger of allowing this
idea to obtain possession of her mind.  Fool! he thought furiously, why
had not he been more cautious, more circumspect.  Dextrously he set
himself to remove the idea or weaken its force--to prove her guiltless
in her own eyes.

"Princess," he said, meeting the honest, agonized eyes squarely, "I
want to tell you the story of my marriage with Ethel Ross, and of my
subsequent life with her.  I had not intended to harass you with it
until later--if at all; but now, I deem it best you should become
acquainted with it, and from my lips.  It will explain many things."

Then he briefly related all the miserable commonplace story.  He
glossed over nothing, palliated nothing; bearing hardly now on his
wife, and again on himself, but striving to show throughout how opposed
to true marriage was this marriage, how far removed from a perfect
union was this union.  Pocahontas listened with intense, strained
interest, following every word, sometimes almost anticipating them.
Her heart ached for him--ached wearily.  Life had been so hard upon
him; he had suffered so.  With a woman's involuntary hardness to woman,
she raised the blame from Thorne's shoulders and heaped it upon those
of his wife.  Her love and her sympathy became his advocates and
pleaded for him at the bar of her judgment.  Her heart yearned over him
with infinite compassion.

If Thorne had kept silence, and left the matter there, and waited until
she should have adapted herself to the new conditions, should have
assimilated the new influences, which crowded thick upon her, it would
have been better.  But he could not keep silent--he had no patience to
wait.  He could not realize that the things which were as a thrice-told
tale to _him_, had an overwhelming newness for _her_.  That the
influences which had molded his thought, were very far removed from the
influences which had made _her_ what she was.  He could not understand
that, while the world had progressed, this isolated community had
remained stationary, and that the principles and rules of conduct among
them, still, were those which had governed _his_ world in the beginning
of the century.

He saw that her sympathy had been aroused, that she suffered for, and
with, him, and he could not forbear from striving to push the
advantage.  He went on speaking earnestly; he demonstrated that this
marriage which had proved so disastrous was in truth no marriage, and
that its annulment was just and right, for where there was no love, he
argued, there could be no marriage.  With all the sophistry; with all
the subtle arguments of which he was master--and they were neither weak
nor few--he assailed her.  Every power of his brilliant intellect,
every weapon of his mental armory, all the force of his indomitable
will was brought to bear upon her--and brought to bear in vain.

Calm, pale, resolute, she faced him--her clear eyes meeting his, her
nervous hands folded tightly together.  She would not give way.  In
their earnestness both had risen, and they stood facing each other on
the hearth-rug, their eyes nearly on a level.  The man's hand rested on
the mantle, and quivered with the intensity of his excitement; the
woman's hung straight before her, motionless, but wrung together until
the knuckles showed hard through the tense skin.  She would NOT give
way.

Thorne was startled and perplexed.  Opposition he was prepared for,
argument he could meet and possibly refute, tears and reproaches he
could subdue--but dumb, quiet resistance baffled him.  Suddenly he
abandoned reason, cast self-control to the winds, and gave the reins to
feeling.  If he could not convince her through the head, he would try a
surer road--the heart.  Though proof against argument, would she be
proof against love?  He knew she loved him; he felt it in every fiber
of his being, every pulse of his heart--and he was determined to win
her at all hazards; his she must be; his she _should_ be.

"My love!" he murmured, extending his arms with an appealing tenderness
of look and gesture.  "Come to me.  Lay your sweet face on my breast,
your dear arms around my neck.  I need you, Princess; my heart cries
out for you, and will not be denied.  I can not live without you.  You
are mine--mine alone, and I claim your love; claim your life.  What is
that woman?  What is any woman to me, save you, my darling--you only?
My love!  My love!  It is my very life for which I am pleading.  Have
you no pity?  No love for the man whose heart is calling you to come?"

Pocahontas shivered, and bent slightly forward--her face was white as
death, her eyes strange and troubled.  The strength and fire of his
passion drew her toward him as a magnet draws steel.  Was she yielding?
Would she give way?

Suddenly she started erect again, and drew back a step.  All the
emotions, prejudices, thoughts of her past life; all the principles,
scruples, influences, amid which she had been reared, crowded back on
her and asserted their power.  She could _not_ do this thing.  A chasm
black as the grave, hopeless as death, yawned at her feet; a barrier as
high as heaven erected itself before her.

"I can not come," she wailed in anguish.  "Have you no mercy?--no pity
for me?  There is a barrier between us that I dare not level; a chasm I
can not cross."

"There is _no_ barrier," responded Thorne, vehemently, "and I will
acknowledge none.  I am a free man; you are a free woman, and there is
no law, human or divine, to keep us asunder, save the law of your own
will.  If there be a chasm--which I do not see; which I swear does not
exist--_I_ will cross it.  If you can not come to me, I can come to
you; and I _will_.  You are _mine_, and I will hold you--here in my
arms, on my breast, in my heart.  Have you, and hold you, so help me
God!"

With a quick stride he crossed the small space between them, and stood
close, but still not touching her.

"Have you no pity?" she moaned.

"None," he answered hoarsely.  "Have you any for me?--for us both?  I
love you--how well, God knows, I was not aware until to-night--and you
love me I hope and believe.  There is nothing between us save an idle
scruple, which even the censorious world does not share.  I ask you to
commit no sin; to share no disgrace.  I ask you to be my wife before
the face of day; before the eyes of men; in the sight of heaven!"

Could she be his wife in the sight of heaven?  It was all so strange to
her, she could not understand.  Words, carelessly heard and scarcely
heeded, came back to her, and rung their changes in her brain with
ceaseless iteration.  It was like a knell.

"Nesbit?" she said wearily, using his name unconsciously, "listen and
understand me.  In the eyes of the law, and of men you are free; but I
can not see it so.  In my eyes you are still bound."

"I am _not_ bound," denied Thorne, fiercely, bringing his hand down
heavily on the mantle; "whoever tells you that I am, lies, and the
truth is not in him.  I've told you all--and yet not all.  Ethel Ross,
the woman who was my wife--whom _you_ say is my wife still--is about to
marry again.  To join her life--as free and separate from mine as
though we had never met--to the life of another man.  Isn't that
enough?  Can't you see how completely every tie between us is severed?"

Pocahontas shook her head.  "I can not understand you, and you will not
understand me," she said mournfully; "her sin will not lessen our sin;
nor her unholy marriage make ours pure and righteous."

Thorne stamped his foot.  "Do you wish to madden me?" he exclaimed;
"there is no sin, I tell you; nor would our marriage be unholy.  You
are torturing us both for nothing on God's earth but a scruple.  I've
argued, reasoned, and pleaded with you, and you refuse to weigh the
argument, to listen to the reason, to yield to the persuasion.  You are
hard, and opinionated, and obstinate.  You set up your individual
judgment against the verdict of the world and deem it infallible.  You
are hard to yourself, and cruelly hard to me, for, as there is a God in
heaven, I believe you love me, even as I love you.  Oh, my love! my
love!" his voice melted, his arms closed around her.  "Why do you try
me beyond my strength?  Why are you so cruel to us both?  See; I hold
you safely; your heart beats on mine; your dear face is on my breast.
Stay with me, my darling, my own, my wife;" and soft, clinging
passionate kisses pressed down on hair, and cheek, and lips; kisses
that burned like flame, that thrilled like strong wine.

For a moment Pocahontas lay quietly in his arms, lulled into
quiescence.  Then she wrenched herself free, and moved away from him.
It had been said of her that she could be hard upon occasion; the
occasion had arisen, and she _was_ hard.

"Go!" she said, her face wan as ashes, but her voice firm; "it is you
who are cruel; you who are blind and obstinate.  You will neither see
nor understand why this thing may not be.  I have showed you my
thought, and you will not bend; implored you to have pity, and you are
merciless.  And yet you talk of love!  You love me, and would sacrifice
me to your love; love me, and would break down the bulwarks I have been
taught to consider righteous, to gratify your love.  I do not
understand; love seemed to me so different, so noble and unselfish.
Leave me; I am tired; I want to think it out alone."

Thorne stood silent, his head bent in thought.  "Yes," he said
presently; "it will be better so.  You are overwrought, and your mind
is worn with excitement; you need rest.  To-morrow, next week, the week
after, this matter will wear a different aspect.  I can wait, and I
will come again.  It will be different then."

"It will never be different," the voice was low; the gray eyes had a
hopeless look.

Thorne repeated his assertion in the gentle, persistent tone of one who
is patient with the unreasonableness of a frightened child.  His
determination to win success never faltered, rather it hardened with
opposition into adamant; but he was beginning to realize his blunder.
He had overwhelmed her; had brought about an upheaval of her world so
violent that, in her bewilderment, her dread of chaos, she
instinctively laid hold on the old supports and clung to them with
desperation.  She must have time to think, to familiarize herself with
the strange emotions, to adapt herself to the changed conditions.  Only
one other thing would he say.  He held in reserve a card which he knew,
ere now, had proved all powerful with conscientious women.  To gain his
end, he would stop at nothing; he took both her hands in his, and
played his card deliberately.

"Think over it well," he said, "weigh every argument, test every
scruple.  My life is in your hands.  I am not a religious man, nor a
good man, but you can make me both.  Give me the heaven that I crave,
the heaven of your love, and I will be by it ennobled into faith in
that other heaven, of which it will be the foretaste.  But refuse; deny
the soul that cries out to you; thrust aside the hands that seek to
clasp you, as the truest, noblest, holiest thing they have ever
touched, and--on your head be it.  I have placed the responsibility in
your hands and there it rests."

With a lingering look into her eyes and a fervent pressure of her
hands, he turned and slowly left the room.

Back to the mind of the girl, standing motionless where he had left
her, came, unwished and unbidden, the memory of a summer night out
yonder beside the flowing river.  She seemed to see again, the swaying
of the branches in the moonlight, and to hear the lulling wash of the
water against the shore; to hear also, a quiet, manly voice fighting
down its pain, lest the knowledge of it should wound her, saying,
simply and bravely: "Don't be unhappy about me, dear.  I'll worry
through the pain in time, or grow accustomed to it.  It's tough just at
first, but I'll pull through somehow.  It shall not spoil my life
either, although it must mar it; a man must be a pitiful fellow who
lets himself go to the bad because the woman he loves won't have him.
God means every man to hold up his own weight in this world.  I'd as
soon knock a woman down as throw the blame of a wasted life upon her."

Plain words, poorly arranged and simply spoken, for the man who uttered
them was not clever; but brave, manly words, for all that.  The girl
turned from the unwelcome memory with a sharp, impatient sigh that was
almost a groan.  It pained her.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The next day Thorne quietly returned to New York, without making any
attempt to see or communicate with Pocahontas again.  He had considered
the situation earnestly, and decided that it would be his wisest
course.  Like a skilled general, he recognized the value of delay.
Failing to carry the citadel by assault, he resorted to strategy.  In
the girl's love for him, he possessed a powerful ally; there was a
traitor in the camp of his adversary, and sooner or later it would be
betrayed into his hands; of this he was convinced, and the conviction
fortified him to trust the result to time.  Pride and principle were in
arms now, holding love in check, but it would not be so always; soon
her woman's heart would speak, would wield an influence more powerful
and resistless, from the concentration engendered by repression.  Now,
too, she was braced by the excitement of personal resistance; she was
measuring her will, with his will, her strength with his strength.  Let
him withdraw for a time, and what would follow?  The outside pressure,
the immediate need of concentrated effort removed, there would
inevitably ensue a state of collapse; purpose and prejudice would sink
exhausted, the strain on the will relax, the weapons fall from the
nerveless hands.  Then the heart would rally its forces, would collect
its strength for the field; external conflict suspended, internal
strife would commence, fierce, cruel and relentless as internecine
struggles ever are.  Was there any doubt of the result of the battle?
It only needed time.  Time, quietude, and earnest thought, free from
the disturbing, stimulating power of his presence.

He could wait; every affection of her loving, constant heart, every
fiber of her self-sacrificing nature, would fight for him; prejudices,
even the most deeply-rooted, must yield, in time, to love.  When he
should come again it would be to claim his victory.

No thought of abandoning the pursuit crossed his brain; no impulse of
ruth stirred his heart.  Did she suffer?  So did he--keenly, cruelly.
Let her end this torture for them both; let her lay aside these
senseless scruples, and place her hand in his.  His arms were open to
her, his heart yearning for her; let her come and anchor in the sure
haven of his love.

Pocahontas told her mother, very quietly, of Thorne's visit, his
proposal, and her rejection of it; just the bare facts, without comment
or elaboration.  But Mrs. Mason had a mother's insight and could read
between the lines; she did not harass her daughter with many words,
even of approval; or with questions; she simply drew the sweet, young
face down to her bosom a moment, and held it there with tender kisses.
Nor did Berkeley, to whom his mother communicated the fact, volunteer
any comment to his sister.  After what had passed, Thorne's proposal
was not a surprise, and to them the girl's answer was a foregone
conclusion.  Poor child! the brother thought impatiently, the mother
wistfully, how much bitterness would have been spared her could she
only have loved Jim Byrd.

During the weeks that followed Thorne's second return north, the two
families were thrown together more and more intimately.  Blanche's
engagement and Warner's increased illness served to break down all
restraints.  All through the winter the boy had steadily lost ground,
and as the spring progressed, instead of rallying as they hoped, his
decline became more rapid.  The best advice was had, but science could
only bear the announcement of bereavement; there was nothing to be
done, the doctors said, save to alleviate pain, and let the end come
peacefully; it was needless to worry the boy with change, or bootless
experiments.  Even to the mother's willfully blinded eyes, and
falsely-fed hopes, conviction came at last that her son's days were
numbered.

Berkeley, Royall and other of the neighboring gentlemen took turns in
aiding with the nursing and the night-watches, as is the custom in
southern country neighborhoods where professional nurses are unknown.

Of all the kindly friends that watched and tended him through long
weeks of illness, the one that Warner learned to love the best was
Berkeley Mason.  There was a thoughtful strength in the nature of the
man who had suffered, the soldier who had endured, which the weaker
nature recognized and rested on.  To the general, during this time of
trouble, the young man became, in very truth, a son; the old debt of
kindness was canceled, and a new account opened with a change in the
balance.

As is usual in cases of lingering consumption, the end was very
sudden--so sudden, in fact, that Norma, still away with her northern
friends, received the telegram too late for word or look or farewell
kiss.  She was traveling with Mrs. Vincent and the message followed her
from place to place.

On a still, beautiful May morning, Warner was laid to rest in the
Lanarth graveyard beside poor Temple Mason.  It was the boy's own
request, and his mother felt constrained to comply with it, although
she would have preferred interring the remains of her child beside
those of her own people at Greenwood.  The story of the young life
beating itself out against prison bars, had taken strong hold of the
lad's imagination, and the fancy grew that he too would sleep more
sweetly under the shadow of the old cedars in the land the young
soldier had loved so well.

Norma and Pocahontas stood near each other beside the new-made grave,
and as they quitted the inclosure, their hands met for an instant
coldly.  Pocahontas tried not to harbor resentment, but she could not
forget whose hand it had been that had struck her the first bitter blow.

After Warner's death, Mrs. Smith appeared to collapse, mentally as well
as bodily.  She remained day after day shut in his chamber, brooding
silently and rejecting with dumb apathy all sympathy and consolation.
Her strength and appetite declined, and her interest in life deserted
her, leaving a hopeless quiescence that was inexpressibly pitiful.  Her
husband, in alarm for her life and reason, hurriedly decided to break
up the establishment at Shirley, and remove her for a time from
surroundings that constantly reminded her of her loss.

In the beginning of June, the move was made, the house closed, the
servants dismissed, and the care of the estate turned over to Berkeley.
With the dawning of summer, the birds of passage winged their flight
northward.



CHAPTER XIX.

There comes a time in human affairs, whether of nations or individuals,
when a dull exhausted calm appears to fall upon them--a period of
repose, a lull after the excitement of hurried events, a pause in which
to draw breath for the renewal of the story.  Grateful are these
interludes, and necessary for the preservation of true equipoise, but
they are not interesting, and in novels all description of them is
carelessly skipped over.  In stories we want events, not lingerings.

The summer passed quietly for the family at Lanarth, broken only by the
usual social happenings, visits from the "Byrd girls," as they were
still called, with their husbands and little ones; a marriage, a
christening, letters from Jim and Susie, and measles among the little
Garnetts.  In August, Pocahontas and her mother went for a month to
Piedmont, Virginia, to try the medicinal waters for the latter's
rheumatism, and after their return home, Berkeley took a holiday and
ran up to the Adirondacks to see Blanche.

Poor Mrs. Smith did not rally as her family had hoped, and the
physicians--as is customary when a case baffles their skill--all
recommended further and more complete change.  They must take her
abroad, and try what the excitement of foreign travel would do toward
preventing her from sinking into confirmed invalidism.  General Smith,
who had abandoned every care and interest for the purpose of devoting
himself to his wife, embraced the proposal with eagerness, and insisted
on the experiment being tried as speedily as possible.

Blanche could not help some murmurs, both inwardly and to Berkeley, at
the long separation in store for them; and the lover, although himself
a little rueful, heartened her up with bright prophecies for their
future.  An immediate marriage for them was out of the question, for
since Warner's death Mrs. Smith clung to her younger daughter with
absolute dependence.  The last of September was decided on for sailing,
as that would allow General Smith time to enter Percival at school, and
to complete other necessary arrangements before the family departure.
The management of Shirley would remain in Berkeley's hands, and the
house would continue closed until the return of the travelers.

To Nesbit Thorne, the summer had appeared interminable, and every
golden hour had been shod with lead.  He had passed the season partly
in the Adirondacks with his relatives and partly in New York; but he
was always oppressed with the same miserable unrest, the same weary
longing.  It would appear, at times, impossible for him to hold to his
resolution of waiting until after the re-marriage of his _ci-devant_
wife, before again seeking Pocahontas.  He yearned to be with her, to
hold her hands, and gaze into her eyes, so intensely at times, that it
required the utmost exertion of his will to prevent himself from
boarding the first southward-bound train.  He was forced continually to
remind himself that if he should yield to the impulse, he would be
guilty of egregious folly--having waited so long, he could surely wait
a few weeks longer.  Ethel's marriage would dissipate every shadow of a
tie between them, and with that fact fully established, Pocahontas
_must_ hear him.

In deference to Cumberland prejudice, Mrs. Thorne's marriage had been
deferred until September--to that lady's great annoyance.  She saw no
reason for delay, nor any necessity for humoring the Cumberland
old-fogyism, and in delicate ambiguous terms she conveyed this opinion
to her lover, and discovered, to her surprise and indignation, that he
disagreed with her.  Some concession was due to the feelings of his
family, and he did not wish to be hurried; on this ground, he
intrenched himself and defied the world to move him.  When Cecil made a
point, he held to it with the obstinacy characteristic of mediocrity,
and Ethel, not being exactly in a position to dictate, and requiring
moreover some portion of the Cumberland countenance, was forced to
acquiesce.

Some weeks before the day appointed for her marriage, Ethel removed
herself and her belongings to the house of a poor and plastic aunt, who
was in the habit of allowing herself to be run into any mold her niece
should require.  According to their agreement, Ethel gave her whilom
husband due notice of her plans, and Thorne at once removed the child
to Brooklyn, and placed him under the care of a sister of his father's,
a gentle elderly widow who had known sorrow.  His house he put in the
hands of an agent to rent or sell, furnished, only removing such
articles as had belonged to his parents.  The house was hateful to him,
and he felt that should the beautiful, new life of which he dreamed
ever dawn for him, it must be set amid different surroundings from
those which had framed his matrimonial failure.

Still in deference to the Cumberland prejudice, the re-marriage of
Ethel Thorne took place very quietly.  It was a morning wedding, graced
only by the presence of a few indifferent relatives, and a small crowd
of curious friends.  The two Misses Cumberland, handsome, heavy-browed
women, after much discussion in the family bosom, and some fraternal
persuasion, had allowed themselves to be seduced into attending the
obnoxious nuptials, and shedding the light of the family countenance
upon the ill-doing pair.  Very austere and forbidding they looked as
they seated themselves, reprobatively, in a pew far removed from the
chancel, and their light was no better than the veriest darkness.

Twelve hours after the marriage had been published to the world,
another marked paper was speeding southward, addressed this time to
Pocahontas, and accompanied by a thick, closely written, letter.
Thorne had decided that it would be better to send a messenger before,
this time, to prepare the way for him.  In his letter Thorne touched
but lightly on the point at issue between them, thinking it better to
take it for granted that her views had modified, if not changed.  The
strength of his cause lay in his love, his loneliness, his yearning
need of her.  On these themes he dwelt with all the eloquence of which
he was master, and the letter closed with a passionate appeal, in which
he poured out the long repressed fire of his love: "My darling, tell me
I may come to you--or rather tell me nothing; I will understand and
interpret your silence rightly.  You are proud, my beautiful love, and
in all things I will spare you--in all things be gentle to you; in all
things, save this--I can not give you up--I _will_ not give you up.  I
will wait here for another week, and if I do not hear from you, I will
start for Virginia at once--with joy and pride and enduring
thankfulness."

Pocahontas took the paper to her mother's room, the letter she put
quietly away.  She would answer it, but not yet; at night--when the
house should be quiet she would answer it.

The lines containing the brief announcement were at the head of the
list:


MARRIED.

"CUMBERLAND-THORNE.--At the church of the Holy Trinity, September 21st,
18--, by the Rev. John Sylvestus, Cecil Cumberland to Ethel Ross
Thorne; both of this city."


Mrs. Mason laid the paper on the little stand beside her chair.  "My
daughter," she said, looking up at the girl seriously, "this can make
no difference."

"No, mother," very quietly, "no difference; but I thought you ought to
know."

In her own room, at night, when the house was still, the girl sat with
the letter in her lap thinking.  The moonlight poured in through the
open window and made a map on the floor, whereon slender shadows traced
rivers, mountains and boundaries.  In the trees outside, the night
insects chirped, and bats darted and circled in the warm air.

If only she could think that this made a difference.  She was so weary
of the struggle.  The arguments which formerly sustained her had, with
ceaseless iteration, lost their force; her battle-worn mind longed to
throw down its arms in unconditional surrender.  Her up-bringing had
been so different; this thing was not regarded by the world in the same
light as it appeared to her; was she over-strained, opinionated,
censorious?  Nesbit had called her so--was he right?  Who was _she_, to
set up her feeble judgment against the world's verdict--to condemn and
criticise society's decision?  Divorce must be--even Scripture allowed
that; a limb must be sacrificed sometimes that a life might be saved.
True, the process had always appeared to her, in her ignorance, an
operation of cruel anguish, from which the patient came halt, or lame,
or blind for life; but what if she should be wrong?  What if the
present crab-like propensity for the renewal of the missing part was
the natural and sensible condition.  This wicked woman--this wife who
had recklessly thrown aside life's choicest gift--was happy; she had
replaced her lopped-off limb with a new one, and it was well with her.
Norma had said long ago that, "any woman who trifled with her happiness
because of a scruple was a fool."  Was Norma right?  Was her hesitation
senseless, doltish folly?

The boundaries of the moonlight shifted; a long irregular cape, like a
shining finger, stretched out across the floor and touched the hem of
her dress.  From behind the screen in the fireplace came a little
sound, as though a mouse were rustling fragments of torn paper.

If she could only recognize that this marriage _had_ made a difference.
It was so wearisome, this strife with a heart that would not admit
defeat, a love that fought on and would not die.  What was required of
her?--nothing; nothing save to sit with folded hands and let happiness
flood her life like sunshine--only to lay away the letter in her desk
and wait silently for her lover to come to her.  Her lover--the man
whose influence had changed the monotonous calm of existence into the
pulsing passion of living--the man who loved her; whom she loved.  No
words were needed--only silence; he was so thoughtful for her, so
anxious to spare her; only silence, and in a little while his arms
would infold her; his beautiful eyes, heavy with tenderness, gaze deep
into hers; his sweet, passionate kisses burn upon her lips.

The radiant finger stole softly up her dress, across her lap, and made
a little pool of brightness in the heart of which the letter lay;
outside in the dove-cote a pigeon cooed sleepily to his mate.

What was that tale of long ago that was coming strangely back to her?
A girl, one whom they all knew and loved, had been separated from her
husband after several years of misery, bravely borne.  Her husband had
been a confirmed drunkard, and in his cups was as one possessed with
devils.  They had grieved over Clare, and when her husband's brutality
grew such that her brother interfered and insisted on her procuring a
divorce for the protection of herself and her children, they had felt
that it was right; and while they deplored the necessity, they had
sided with Clare throughout.  But when, two years later, wedding cards
had come from Clare, from some place in the West, whither she had moved
with her children; it had been a grievous shock, for the drunkard still
lived.  It had seemed a strange and monstrous thing, and their judgment
had been severe--their censure scathing.  Poor Clare!  She understood
her temptation better now.  Poor little Clare!

What was it Jim had said?  The men had been guarded in the expression
of their opinion before her; they were fastidious in conversation
before women.  This, he had said in an under-tone to Berkeley, but she
had caught it, and caught also the scorn of the hazel eye, and knew
that the lip curled under the brown mustache.  He had said--"To a woman
of innate purity the thing would be impossible.  There is a coarseness
in the situation which is revolting."

What would he think of her?  She was weighing the matter--canvassing
its possibility.  Was her nature deteriorating?  Was she growing
coarser, less pure?  Would her old friend, whose standard was so high,
despise her?  Would she be lowered in the eyes of those whose influence
and opinions had, heretofore, molded her life?  The associations of
years are not uprooted and cast aside in days or in months.
Responsibilities engendered by the past environed her, full-grown,
comprehensible, insistent; responsibilities which might be engendered
by the future, lay in her mind a tiny germ in which the embryo life had
scarcely begun to stir.  The duty to the old life seemed to her plain
and clear; a beaten track along which she might safely travel.  The
duty to another life which might, in time, be equally plain and clear,
was now a bewildering mist through which strange shapes passed, like
phantasmagoria.  She could not think; her mind was benumbed; right and
wrong, apparently, had changed places and commingled so, that, for the
time, their identity was confused, indistinguishable: she could not
guide herself, as yet; she could only hold blindly to the old supports.

The silver finger had lifted itself from her lap and rested on her
breast, forming a shining pathway from her heart, through the open
window, out into the silence and beauty of the night.



CHAPTER XX.

Winter again; the city dull, listless and sodden of aspect in the gloom
of a January evening.  In the country, and nature's quiet places, the
dusk was throwing a veil over the cheerlessness of earth, as a friend
covers a friend's deficiencies with love; but here, in the haunts of
men, garish electric lights made plain the misery.  The air was a
depressing compound which defied analysis; but was apparently composed
of equal parts of snow, drizzle, and stinging sleet; the wind caught it
in sudden whirls, and dashed it around corners and into the eyes and
the coat collars of wayfarers with gusty malevolence.

The streets were comparatively deserted, only such people being abroad
as could not help themselves, and these plodded along with bent heads,
and silent curses on the night.  Even the poor creatures who daily
"till the field of human sympathy" kept close within the shelter of
four walls, no matter how forlorn, and left the elements to hold
Walpurgis night in the thoroughfares alone.

In a comfortable easy chair, in the handsome parlor of an elegant
up-town mansion, sat Ethel Cumberland, reading a novel.  Since her
second marriage, life had gone pleasantly with her and she was content.
Cecil never worried her about things beyond her comprehension, or
required other aliments for his spiritual sustenance than that which
she was able and willing to furnish; he was a commonplace man and his
desires were commonplace--easily understood and satisfied.  He liked a
pretty wife, a handsome house, a good dinner with fine wine and jolly
company; he liked high-stepping horses, a natty turn-out, and the smile
of Vanity Fair.  Ethel's tastes were similar, and their lives so far
had fitted into each other without a single crevice.  The Cumberlands
were grim and unbending, it is true, and after that one concession to
fraternal feeling, made no more; they held themselves rigidly aloof
from the pair, and invested all intercourse with paralyzing formality.
Ethel did not care a pin for them or their opinion; if they chose to be
old-fogyish and disagreeable, they were quite welcome to indulge their
fancy.  As long as society smiled upon her, Madam Ethel was superbly
indifferent to the Cumberland frown.

Cecil worried over it, as men will worry, who have been accustomed to
the adulation of their womenkind, when that adulation is withdrawn.  He
grumbled and fumed over their "damned nonsense," as he called it, and
bored his wife no little with conjectures as to their reasons for being
stiff and unpleasant when nobody else was.

Since her return from her wedding trip, which had lengthened to four
months amid the delights of Paris, Mrs. Cumberland had found time for
only one short visit to her little son.  There had been such an
accumulation of social duties and engagements, that pilgrimages over to
Brooklyn were out of the question; and besides, she disliked Mrs.
Creswell, Thorne's aunt, who had charge of the boy, and who had the bad
taste, Ethel felt sure, to disapprove of her.  It was too bad of Nesbit
to put the child so far away, and with a person whom she did not like;
it amounted to a total separation, for of course it would be impossible
for her to make such a journey often.  When her time should be less
occupied, she would write to Nesbit about it; meanwhile, her maternal
solicitude found ample pacification in sending a servant across at
intervals to carry toys and confectionery to the little fellow, and to
inquire after his welfare.

The portières were drawn aside to admit Mr. Cumberland in smoking
jacket and slippers, yawning and very much bored.  He was a large,
heavy looking man, very dependent on outside things for his
entertainment.  Failing to attract his wife's attention, he lounged
over to the window, and drew aside the velvet curtain.  The atmosphere
was heavy, and the light in front of the house appeared to hold itself
aloof from the environment in a sulky, self-contained way; all down the
street, the other lamps looked like the ghosts of lights that had
burned and died in past ages.

A little girl with a bag of apples in her frost-bitten hands came
hastily around the corner, and, going with her head down against the
sleet, butted into an elderly gentleman, with a big umbrella, who was
driving along in an opposite direction.  The gentleman gave the child
an indignant shove which caused her to seat herself violently upon the
pavement; the bag banged hard against the bricks and delivered up its
trust, and the apples scudded away into the gutter.

Cecil laughed amusedly as the little creature picked herself up crying,
and proceeded to institute search for the missing treasure.  A kindly
policeman, who doubtless had children of his own, stopped on his beat,
and helped her, wiping the mud from the rescued fruit with his
handkerchief, and securing all again with a newspaper and a stout twine
string which he took from his pocket; then they went away together, the
officer carrying the bundle and the child trotting contentedly in the
lee of him.  They seemed to be old acquaintances.

Nothing else happened along to amuse him, so Mr. Cumberland let the
velvet folds fall back in their place and came over to the fire.  He
had been suffering with a heavy cold, and found confinement to the
house in the last degree irksome.  His wife was too much engrossed with
her book to be willing to lay it aside for his entertainment, and he
spurned her suggestion of the evening paper, so there was nothing for
it but to sulk over a cigar and audibly curse the weather.

A sharp ring at the door-bell, tardily answered by a servant, and then
footsteps approached the parlor door.  Husband and wife looked up with
interest--with expectation.  Was it a visitor?  No; only the servant
with a telegram which he handed Mr. Cumberland, and then withdrew.
Cecil turned the thin envelope in his hand inquisitively.  He was fond
of having every thing pass through his own hands--of knowing all the
ins and outs, the minutiae of daily happenings.  "What is it?"
questioned Ethel, indolently.

"A dispatch for you.  Shall I open it?"

"If you like.  I hate dispatches.  They always suggest unpleasant
possibilities.  It's a local, so I guess it's from my aunt, about that
rubbishing dinner of hers."

Cecil tore open the envelope and read the few words it contained with a
lengthening visage; then he let his hand fall, and stared blankly
across at his wife.

"It's from that fellow! and it's about the child," he said, uneasily.

"What fellow?  What child?  Not mine!  Give it to me quickly, Cecil.
How slow you are!"  And she snatched the telegram from his unresisting
hand.  Hastily she scanned the words, her breath coming in gasps, her
fingers trembling so that she could scarcely hold the paper.  "The
child is dying.  Come at once!"  That was all, and the message was
signed Nesbit Thorne.  Short, curt, peremptory, as our words are apt to
be in moments of intense emotion; a bald fact roughly stated.

For a moment Ethel Cumberland sat stunned, with pallid face and shaking
hands, from which the message slipped and fluttered to the carpet.
Then she sprang to her feet in wild excitement, an instinct aroused in
her breast which even animals know when their young are in danger.

"Cecil!" she cried, sharply, "don't you hear?  My child!  My baby is
dying!  Why do you stand there staring at me?  I must go--you must take
me to him now, this instant, or it will be too late.  Don't you
understand?  My darling--my boy is dying!" and she burst into a passion
of grief, wringing her hands and wailing.  "Go! send for a carriage.
There's not a moment to lose.  Oh, my baby!--my baby!"

"You can't go out in this storm.  It's sleeting heavily, and I've been
ill.  I can't let you go all that distance with only a maid, and how am
I to turn out in such weather?" objected Mr. Cumberland, who, when he
was opposed to a thing, was an adept in piling up obstacles.  "I tell
you it's impossible, Ethel.  It's madness, on such a night as this."

"Who cares for the storm?" raved Ethel, whose feelings, if evanescent,
were intense.  "I _will_ go, Cecil!  I don't want you, I'll go by
myself.  Nothing shall stop me.  If it stormed fire and blood I should
go all the same.  I'll walk--I'll _crawl_ there, before I will stay
here and let my boy die without me.  He is _my_ baby--my _own_ child, I
tell you, Cecil!--if he isn't yours."

Of this fact Cecil Cumberland needed no reminder.  It was a thorn that
pricked and stung even his dull nature--for the child's father lived.
To a jealous temperament it is galling to be reminded of a predecessor
in a wife's affections, even when the grave has closed over him; if the
man still lives, it is intolerable.

He was not a brute, and he knew that he must yield to his wife's
pressure--that he had no choice but to yield; but he stood for a moment
irresolute, staring at her with lowering brows, a hearty curse on
living father and dying child slowly formulating in his breast.

As he turned to leave the room to give the necessary orders, a carriage
drove rapidly to the door and stopped, and there was a vigorous pull at
the bell.  Thorne had provided against all possible delay.  Then the
question arose of who should accompany her, and they found that there
was not a single available woman in the house.  It was impossible to
let her go alone, and Cumberland, with the curses rising from his heart
to his lips, was forced, in very manhood, to go with her himself.

In Brooklyn Mrs. Creswell met them herself at the door, and appeared
surprised--as well she might--to see Mr. Cumberland.  She motioned
Ethel toward the staircase, and then with a formal inclination of the
head, ushered her more unwelcome guest into a small parlor where there
was a fire and a lamp burning.  Here she left him alone.  Her house was
in the suburbs, and there was nowhere else for him to go at that hour
of the night and in that terrible storm.

The room was warm and cheerful, a child's toys lay scattered on floor
and sofa, a little hat and coat were on the table, beside a cigar case
and a crumpled newspaper.  There was nothing for the man to do save to
stare around and walk the floor impatiently, longing for death to
hasten with his work, so that the false position might be ended.

Guided by unerring instinct, Ethel went straight to the chamber where
her child lay dying--perhaps already dead.  Outside the door she paused
with her hand pressed hard on her throbbing heart.

It was a piteous sight that met her view as the door swung open,
rendered doubly piteous by the circumstances.  A luxurious room, a
brooding silence, a tiny white bed on which a little child lay, slowly
and painfully breathing his life away.



CHAPTER XXI.

There were two persons in the room besides the little one: Thorne and
the doctor, a grave, elderly man, who bowed to the lady, and, after a
whispered word with Thorne, withdrew.  Ethel sank on her knees beside
the low bed and stretched out yearning arms to the child; the
mother-love awakened at last in her heart and showing itself in her
face.

"My baby!" she moaned, "my little one, don't you know your mother?
Open your beautiful eyes, my darling, and look at me; it is your mother
who is calling you!"  Her bonnet had fallen off, the rich wrap and furs
were trailing on the carpet where she had flung them; her arms were
gathered close around the little form, her kisses raining on the pallid
face, the golden hair.

The sleet beat on the window panes; the air of the room stirred as
though a dark wing pressed it; the glow of the fire looked angry and
fitful; a great, black lump of coal settled down in the grate and
broke; in its sullen heart blue flames leaped and danced weirdly.  The
woman knelt beside the bed, and the man stood near her.

In the room there was silence.  The child's eyes unclosed, a gleam of
recognition dawned in them, he whispered his mother's name and put his
hand up to her neck.  Then his look turned to his father, his lips
moved.  Thorne knelt beside the pillow and bent his head to listen; the
little voice fluttered and broke, the hand fell away from Ethel's neck,
the lids drooped over the beautiful eyes.  Thorne raised the tiny form
in his arms, the golden head rested on his breast, Ethel leaned over
and clasped the child's hands in hers.  A change passed over the little
face--the last change--the breath came in feeble, fluttering sighs, the
pulse grew weaker, weaker still, the heart ceased beating, the end had
come.

Gently, peacefully, with his head on his father's breast, his hands in
his mother's clasp, the innocent spirit had slipped from its mortal
sheath, and the waiting angel had tenderly received it.

Thorne laid the child gently down upon the pillows, pressing his hand
over the exquisite eyes, his lips to the ones that would never pay back
kisses any more; then he rose and stood erect.  Ethel had risen also,
and confronted him, terror, grief, and bewilderment, fighting for
mastery in her face--in her heart.  Half involuntarily, she stretched
out her hands, and made a movement as though she would go to him; half
involuntarily he extended his arms to receive her; then, with a
shuddering sob, her arms fell heavily to her sides, and he folded his
across his breast.

Down below, pacing the floor, in hot impatience to be gone, was the
other man, waiting with smoldering jealousy and fierce longing for the
end.  And, outside, the snow fell heavily, with, ever and anon, a wild
lash of bitter sleet; the earth cowered under her white pall, hiding
from the storm, and the wind sobbed and moaned as it swept through the
leafless trees like a creature wailing.



CHAPTER XXII.

The south of France.  There is music in the very words--sunshine,
poetry, and a sense of calm; a suggestion of warmth and of infinite
delight.  No wonder pain, care and invalidism, flock there, from less
favored climes, for comfort and healing; returning, year after year, to
rest beneath the shadow of olive and ilex, and to dream the luscious
days away beside the blue waters of the Mediterranean, drinking in
strength and peace with every far-reaching gaze into the cloudless
azure of the southern sky, every deep-drawn breath of the sunny
southern air.

Mrs. Smith grew daily stronger, more like herself.  Time, and care, and
ceaseless affection, had wrought their beneficent work, and mind and
body were recovering a healthier tone; her interest revived, and her
hold on life renewed itself.  As the weeks drifted into months, her
condition became so materially improved that the anxiety of her family
subsided and left room for other thoughts and interests; and finally
her health was sufficiently re-established to admit of her husband's
leaving them in the picturesque French village, while he returned to
America.

In the quaint little village, time glided softly by on golden-slippered
feet, the peaceful monotony broken only by little jaunts to neighboring
hamlets, the arrival and departure of the mails, and long, blissful
sails on the deep blue sea.  Blanche's sweet face and gentle ways
speedily won the simple hearts of the fisher-folks, and her letters
were filled with anecdotes of her village _protégés_, and their
picturesque life.  And a steamer would have been necessary to convey
away the floral and aquatic treasures heaped on her by the kindly
peasants and their little brown-legged children.

The family would winter abroad, and return to America in the spring for
the wedding, which Blanche had decided should take place in June.  June
was a lovely month, she thought, past all the uncertainty of spring,
and with the glory of summer beyond it.

Some weeks after General Smith's return to New York, Nesbit Thorne
joined his relatives in the pretty Mediterranean village.  The general
had found his nephew so changed, so worn in mind and body, that the
kindly old soldier became seriously alarmed, and insisted on trying the
remedy uppermost in his mind.  He had come, with unswerving faith, to
regard the south of France as an unfailing sanitarium, and he took his
nephew promptly in hand, and gave him no peace until he consented to go
abroad, never leaving him until he had secured his stateroom, and seen
him embarked on his voyage.

Thorne went indifferently enough, partly to escape his uncle's
persistence, and partly because all places were alike, all equally
wearisome to him.  He cherished also a hope of hearing, through
Blanche, some tidings of the woman who still possessed him like a spell.

When he first joined them, Norma's waning hopes flickered up, in a
final effort at revivification, but not for long.  That her cousin
should be moody, listless and thoroughly unhinged, did not surprise
her, since the trials through which he had recently passed were
sufficient to have tried a more robust physique than his.  She set
herself to interest and cheer him, and, at first, was in a measure
successful; for Thorne--always fond of Norma, observed her efforts and
exerted himself to a responsive cheerfulness, often feigning an
interest he was far from feeling, in order to avoid disappointing her.
But as he grew accustomed to her ministrations, the effort relaxed and
he fell into gloom and bitterness once more.

There was in the man a sense of wrong, as well as failure.  Life had
dealt hardly with him--the bitterness had been wrung out to him to the
very dregs.  In all things--whether his intentions had been noble or
ignoble, he had alike failed.  He could not understand it.  In his
eyes, the conduct of the two women whose influence had been potent in
his life, while springing from different causes, had resulted in the
same effect--uncompromising hardness toward _him_.  The diverse
properties of the solutions had made no appreciable difference in the
crystallization.

His love for Pocahontas had suffered no diminution; rather, it had
increased.  His longing for her presence, for her love, was so great at
times, that the thought would come to him to end the intolerable pain
by stopping forever the beating of the heart that would not break.

Her second refusal had been a cruel blow to him.  He had seemed to
himself so patient, so tenderly considerate; he had made allowance for
the conservatism, the old world principles and prejudices amid which
she had been reared; he had given her time to weigh and consider and
plead.  That the verdict should have gone against him, admitted, in his
mind, but of one conclusion--Pocahontas did not love him.  Had she
loved him, she _must_ have proved responsive; love, as he understood
it, did not crucify itself for a principle; it was more prone to break
barriers than to erect them.  And this point of hers was no principle;
it was, at noblest, an individual conscientious scruple, and to the man
of the world it appeared the narrowest of bigotry.

His mind slowly settled to the conviction that she had never loved him
as he had loved her--as he still loved her.  Then began a change for
the worse.  The doubt of her love begot other doubts--a grisly brood of
them--doubt of truth, doubt of generosity and courage, doubt of
disinterestedness, doubt of womanhood.  Thorne was getting in a bad
way.  Over the smoldering fires of his heart a crust of cynicism began
to form and harden, powdered thick with the ashes of bitterness.  What
was the worth of love?--_he_ had found it but a fair-weather friend.  A
storm--less than a storm--a cloud, though but as big as a man's hand,
had sent the frail thing skurrying to cover.  All ended in self--the
_ego_ dominated the world.  Righteousness and unrighteousness arrived
at the same result.  The good called it self-sacrifice, and blinded and
glorified themselves; the bad were less hypocritical; _they_ gave it no
sounding name and sought it openly.  Self--from first to last, the same
under all names and all disguises.  Nay, the wicked were truer than the
good, for the self-seeker inflicted no lasting injury on any save
himself, while the ardor with which the self-immolator flourished the
sacrificial knife imperiled other vitals than his own.

Truly, Thorne was getting into a very bad way.  His was not the nature
that emits sweetness when bruised; it cankered and got black spots
through it.  And he knew no physician to whom he could go for healing;
no power, greater than his own, to set his disjointed life straight.
Love and faith, alike, stood afar off.  The waters of desolation
encompassed his soul, without a sign of olive branch or dove.

Norma, watching him with the eyes of her heart, as well as those of her
understanding, learned something of all this.  Thorne did not tell her,
indeed he talked little in the days they spent together, walking or
sitting on the warm dry sand of the coast, and of himself not at all.
His pain was a prisoner, and his breast its Bastile.

But Norma learned it, all the same, and learned, too, that never while
that stormy heart beat in a living breast would it beat for her.  She
faced the conclusion squarely, accepted it, and took her resolution.
Norma was a proud woman, and she never flinched; the world should know
nothing of her pain, should never guess that her life held aught of
disappointment.

A letter from Blanche to Berkeley, written within the following month,
contained the result of Norma's resolution.

"You will be surprised," Blanche wrote, "to hear of Norma's sudden
marriage to Hugh Castleton, which took place three days ago, at the
house of the American Minister here in Paris.  We were amazed--at least
mamma and I were--when Hugh joined us here, and, after a long interview
with Norma, informed us that he had cabled father for consent and that
the ceremony was to take place almost immediately.  Hugh, as perhaps
you know, is a brother of Mrs. Vincent, Norma's intimate friend, and he
has been in love with Norma time out of mind.  I do not like the
marriage, and feel troubled and sick at heart about it.  It has been so
hastily arranged, and Norma isn't one bit in love with her husband, and
don't pretend to be.  Hugh is patient and devoted to her, which is my
strongest hope for their happiness in the future.  It seems to me so
unnatural to make a loveless marriage.  I can't understand a woman's
doing it.  Nesbit is going to Palestine and the East.  He is miserably
changed; his hair is beginning to streak with gray at the temples
already, and the lines about his mouth are getting hard.  It makes me
miserable to think about his life and his future.  I can't help feeling
that he has had hard measure meted out to him all around.  It is cruel
to touch happiness but never grasp it.  I know what you all think about
the affair, Berkeley, but I'm so wrought up about poor Nesbit, I must
and _will_ speak.  He ought not to be made to suffer so; it would be
far kinder to take a pistol and kill him at once.  You don't think
about _him_ at all--and you should.  I know that I'm just a silly
little thing, and that my opinions don't amount to much, but I must say
that I think you are wrong about this matter.  A human soul is worth
more than a scruple, be the scruple ever so noble, and I believe the
Heavenly Father thinks so too.  If you, who are strong and
large-minded, will put prejudice aside and think the matter out fairly,
you will be _obliged_ to see that Pocahontas is doing wrong.  She is
killing herself, and she is killing him, and you ought not to let her
do it.  You know your influence over her--I believe it is you and your
mother--the dread of disappointing you, or lowering herself in your
estimation, or something of that sort, that holds her back.  Don't do
it any longer, Berkeley.  Be generous and noble and large-hearted, like
God means us all to be toward each other.  It is awful to be so hard.
Excess of righteousness must be sinful--almost as sinful as lack of
righteousness.  There, I've said it all and shocked you, but I can't
help that.  Nesbit's face haunts me so that I can't rid myself of it,
sleeping or waking.  I am all the time picturing terrible
possibilities.  Think of all that Nesbit has had to endure.  Think of
how that selfish woman wrecked his past, and ask yourself if there is
any justice--not mercy--bare justice, in letting her wreck his future,
now that the child's death has severed the last link that bound them
together.  Has _any thing_ been spared Nesbit?  Has not his heart been
wrung again and again?  Put yourself in his place, Berkeley, and
acknowledge that after so much tempest, he is entitled to _some_
sunshine, How _can_ Pocahontas stand it?  Could _I_, if it were _you_?
Could I endure to see you suffer?  Do you think that if _you_ were in
Nesbit's place I would not come to you, and put my arms round you, and
draw your head to my bosom and whisper--'Dear love, if to all this
bitterness I can bring one single drop of sweet, take it freely, fully
from my lips and from my love?'"



CHAPTER XXIII.

Berkeley Mason went on to New York in ample time to meet the incoming
Cunarder.  His sister accompanied him, and as it was her first visit to
the Empire City, Mason arranged to have nearly a week for lionizing
before the arrival of the travelers.  Percival was allowed to come from
Hoboken and join the party, in order that his mother's eyes might be
gladdened by the sight of him the instant she should land.

At the last moment, General Smith was prevented from joining his family
in Paris according to his original intention, and having old-fashioned
notions relative to the helplessness of ladies, and no sort of
confidence in Blanche's ability to distinguish herself as her mother's
courier and protector, he cabled privately to Nesbit Thorne, requesting
him to defer his Eastern journey for a month, and escort his aunt and
cousin home.  Thorne changed his plans readily enough.  He only
contemplated prolonged travel as an expedient to fill the empty days,
and if he could be of service to his relatives, held himself quite at
their disposal.

Pocahontas was ignorant of this change of programme, or it is certain
that she would have remained in Virginia.  Her feelings toward Thorne
had undergone no change, but, after the long struggle, there had come
to her a quiescence that was almost peace.  So worn and tempest-tossed
had been her mind, that she clung to even this semblance of rest, and
would hardly yet have risked the re-opening of the battle, which a
meeting with Thorne would be sure to inaugurate.

She was glad to see her old friend General Smith again, for between the
two existed a hearty affection, and more than glad to see Percival.
That young gentleman's joy at being released from the thralldom of
school, coupled with the exhilaration of seeing his friends, and the
prospect of a speedy reunion with his mother and Blanche, appeared to
well-nigh craze him.  It certainly required unusual vents for its
exuberance--such as standing on his head in the elevator, promenading
the halls on his hands, and turning "cart-wheels" down the passages,
accomplishments acquired with labor and pain from his colored confreres
in the South.

It is an interesting thing to await, on the wharf of a large city, the
incoming of a great steamer.  The feeling of expectation in the air is
exhilarating, the bustle, hurry and excitement are contagious;
involuntarily one straightens up, and grows alert, every sense on the
_qui vive_, eyes observant, intelligence active, memory garnering
impressions.  Note the variety of expression in the faces of the
waiting crowd--the eager longing, the restless expectation of some; the
listless inactivity, indifference, or idle curiosity of others.  Stand
aside, if you have no business here, no personal interest in the event
about to happen, and watch your fellow-men for your own amusement and
profit.  Many a glimpse of domestic history, many a peep into complex
human nature will be vouchsafed you, and if the gift of fancy be yours,
you can piece out many a story.  See; the throbbing monster has reached
her resting place, her fires may subside, her heart may cease its
regular pulsations, her machinery may lapse into well-earned rest,
given over to polishing and oil and flannel rags.  The bridge is down,
the waiting crowds rush together, the wharf crowd merging into the deck
crowd, and both pouring landward again in an eager flood.  There are
embraces, kisses, congratulations, tears, a continuous stream of
questions and reply, and a never-ending reference to luggage.

There they stand, a little group apart, close beside the railing, with
hands outstretched and eyes alight; and amid the bustle and confusion,
the embraces and hand-clasping, the collection of hand-traps, and
inquiries about checks, no one had time to notice that, at sight of
each other, two faces paled, or that two hands as they met were cold
and tremulous.

In a marvelously short time after landing, the party were packed into
carriages, and whirled away to their hotel, leaving their heavy luggage
in the jaws of the custom-house to be rescued later by the general and
Berkeley.  As they left the wharf, Pocahontas noticed another steamer
forging slowly in, and preparing to occupy the berth next that of the
Cunarder.

A couple of hours after the arrival of the European travelers at the
St. Andrew's Hotel, a squarely-built young man of medium height, with a
handsome, bronzed face, and heavy, brown mustache, sprung lightly up
the steps of the hotel and passed into the clerk's office.  Here he
ordered a room and delivered his valise and umbrella to a porter,
explaining that he should probably remain several days.  Then he turned
to the book, pushed toward him by the clerk, to register his name.

"You are late, sir," remarked that functionary, affably; not that he
felt interest in the matter, but because to converse was his nature.

"Late, for what?" inquired the gentleman, without glancing up.

"For nothing, in particular," replied the clerk.  "I only made the
remark because the other Cunard passengers got in an hour ago."

"I didn't come by the Cunarder.  I'm from down South," responded the
bronzed man.  "I saw her discharging as we came in."

Then he ran his eye over the names above his own on the page of the
register.  There were only three--Mrs. General Smith, Miss Smith,
Nesbit Thorne.  No one he knew, so he slapped together the covers of
the book, and pushed it from him; procured a light for his cigar,
pocketed this key of his room, and sauntered out to have a look at the
city, and possibly to drop in at one of the theaters later on.

The clerk, in idle curiosity, pulled the register toward him, opened
it, and glanced at the name; it was the fourth from the top, just under
Nesbit Thorne's--James Dabney Byrd, Mexico.



CHAPTER XXIV.

No; Blanche was not a clever woman; that could not be claimed for her;
but her essential elements were womanly.  Pain, grief, distress of any
sort woke in her heart a longing to give help and comfort.

Since Norma's marriage, Blanche had drawn much nearer to her cousin.
She had always been fond of him in an abstract way, and had felt a
surface sorrow, not unmingled with aesthetic interest, in the dramatic
incidents of his life.  She had lived in the same house with him, had
associated with him daily, had taken his hand, had kissed him; but she
had never _known_ him.  She had never gauged his nature with the
understanding born of sympathy, never seen the real man.  Now it was
otherwise.  Association with larger, simpler natures had developed the
latent capabilities of her own, and the presence of love had made her
more observant, more responsive.

Her enlarged sympathies made her yearn over Thorne; her happiness made
her long earnestly to help him.  She cast about in her mind what she
should do.  She knew the strength of Berkeley's prejudices, and that
his influence with his sister had been--and still was--silently but
strenuously exerted to hold her back from a course from which, as
Blanche suspected, his feelings, more than his conscience, revolted.

Blanche, differently reared, could not see the matter from the Mason
standpoint at all.  To her, the past was past; to be deplored, of
course, but not to be allowed to cast a baleful shadow on the future.
That, to Blanche, was morbid; she could see no sense in drawing
conscientiousness to a point and impaling her own heart, and, worse,
other hearts thereon.  Blanche's creed was simple--people committed
faults, made blunders, sinned, suffered; atoned the sin by the
suffering, and should then be kissed and forgiven.

She talked to Berkeley in her gentle, persuasive way (she had not
courage yet to talk to Pocahontas) and exerted all her influence in
Thorne's behalf; but she speedily discovered that she made little
headway; that while Berkeley listened, he did not assent; that he put
down her efforts; mainly, to personal attachment to her cousin, and was
therefore inclined to rule out her testimony.  She needed help;
pressure must be brought to bear which had no connection with Thorne;
some one from the old life must speak, some one who shared the
prejudices, and was big enough and generous enough to set them aside
and judge of the affair from an unbiased, impersonal standpoint.

When this idea presented itself, her mind turned instantly to Jim.
Here was a man from the old life, a man reared as they had been reared,
a man in no way connected with Thorne.  Jim could help her, if he
would, and somehow, Blanche felt assured that he would.

Jim had discovered their presence in the hotel very speedily and had
joined the party, glad, with an earnest gladness, to see his old
friends again, glad also to meet these new friends who had become
associated with the old ones.  Blanche had been attracted by him, as
women, children, and dumb animals always were attracted by him; he was
strong, and yet very gentle.

She determined to speak to him, to make him understand the position,
and to entreat him to exert his influence with Berkeley, and through
Berkeley, with Pocahontas, to set this matter straight.  She did not
know that she was about to do a cruel thing; was about to stretch a
soul on the rack and turn the screws.  That fine reserve which infolded
the Masons like a veil precluded gossiping about themselves or their
affairs.  Blanche had never heard of Jim as the lover of Pocahontas--or
if she had, it had been in an outside, intangible way that had made no
impression on her.

Possessed by her idea, and intent on securing an opportunity for
uninterrupted conversation, she asked Jim to take a walk with her.  She
had some calls to make, she said, and they would walk through the park.
At this season the park was very beautiful, and she should like to show
it to him; New Yorkers were very proud of it.  Blanche knew that she
was doing an unconventional thing; but she had observed, rather
wonderingly, the frank helpfulness with which Southerners would
identify themselves with each others' affairs, and she felt sure that
in speaking to Jim she ran little risk of rebuff.  Jim had known the
Masons always, was of their blood; to put his shoulder to their wheel
would seem to him the right, and natural thing to do.  Therefore
Blanche made her request with confidence, and Jim, who had never in his
life questioned a woman's right to his time and attention, went with
her willingly.

They sauntered about for a time and Jim admired all the beauties that
were pointed out to him, and showed his country training by pointing
out in his turn, subtler beauties which escaped her; the delicate
shading of bark and leaf-bud, the blending of the colors of the soil,
the way the shadows fell, the thousand and one things an artist, or a
man reared in the woods and fields, is quick to see, if he has eyes in
his head.  He pointed out to her a nest a pair of birds were building,
and called her attention to a tiny squirrel, with a plume-like tail,
jumping about among the branches overhead.  He told her stories of the
tropics, too, and of the strange picturesque life in the land of the
Montezumas, and made himself pleasant in a cheery, companionable way
that was very winning.   He was pleased with Blanche, and thought that
his old friend had done well for himself in securing the love of the
sweet-faced maiden at his side.  He liked talking to her, and walking
beside her in the sunshine; he decided that "Berke was a deuced lucky
fellow, and had fallen on his feet," and he was glad of it.

After awhile they turned into an unfrequented walk, and Blanche seized
her opportunity.  She made Jim sit down on a bench under an old elm
tree and seated herself beside him.  Then, insensibly and deftly, she
turned the talk to Virginia.  She spoke of his old home, and praised
its beauty, and told him how a love for it had grown up in her heart,
although she was a stranger; she spoke of the cordial, friendly people,
and of the kindness they had extended to her family; of Warner, his
illness, death, and burial beside poor Temple Mason.  Then she glided
on to Pocahontas, and spoke of her friend with enthusiasm, almost with
reverence; then, seeing that his interest was aroused, she told him as
simply and concisely as she could the story of her cousin's love for
Pocahontas, and the position in which the affair now stood.

"I know that she loves him," Blanche said quietly, "loves him as he
loves her, and that she is breaking her own heart, as well as his, by
this hesitation.  It seems to me so wrong.  What is a scruple compared
to the happiness of a life?  The child is dead, all connection between
Nesbit and that heartless woman is severed forever.  She is no more to
him than she is to you, or to Berkeley.  I think that Pocahontas would
give way, but for Berkeley, for the influences of her old life.  I
think some one ought to speak to Berkeley, to make him see how wrong he
is, how hard, how almost cruel.  I have spoken, but I'm of Nesbit's
blood, on Nesbit's side, and my words haven't the weight that words
would have coming from a person who is outside of it all, and yet who
belongs _to them_.  If YOU would speak, Mr. Byrd, I think it would do
good.  Berkeley would listen to you, and would come to look at this
matter in its true light.  Pocahontas is breaking her heart, and
Nesbit's heart, and she ought not to be let do it."  There were tears
in Blanche's eyes and in her voice as she spoke, and she laid one small
hand on Jim's arm appealingly.

Jim never moved; he sat like a man carved out of stone and listened.
He knew that Pocahontas had never loved _him_, as he had wanted her to
love him; but the knowledge that her love was given to another man, was
bitter.  He said no word, only listened with a jealous hatred of the
man, who had supplanted him, growing in his breast.

Blanche looked at him with tearful eyes and quivering lips; his gaze
was on the ground; his face wore, to her, an absent, almost apathetic
look.  She was disappointed.  She had expected, she did not know
exactly _what_, but certainly more sympathy, more response.  She
thought that his heart must be less noble than his face, and she
regretted having given him her confidence and solicited his aid.  When
they got back to the avenue, she released him from further attendance a
trifle coldly.  She would make her calls alone, she said, it might be
irksome to him, probably he had other engagements.  He had been very
good to sacrifice so much of his time to her; she would not detain him
longer.

Jim went back to the path and sat down again, not noticing her change
of manner, and only conscious of the relief of being free from the
necessity of talking commonplace, of being left to think this matter
out alone.  He thought vaguely that she was a kind, considerate woman
and then she passed out of his mind.

The first feeling with which he grappled was wonder; a strange thing
had happened.  A few short months ago these people had been unknown to
him; were, as far as his life had been concerned, non-existent.  And
now!  Land, home, friends, love, all things that had been his, were
theirs!  His place knew him no more; these strangers filled it.  It was
a strange thing, a cruel thing.

Pocahontas had been glad to see him again, but in her pleasure there
had been preoccupation; he had felt it; it was explained now.  He knew
that she had never loved him, but the possibility of her loving another
man had never come home to him before.  He tried to steady himself and
realize it; it ate into his heart like corroding acid.  Perhaps it was
not true; there might be some mistake; then his heart told him that it
was true; that there was no mistake.  She loved this man, this
stranger, of whose existence she had been ignorant that evening when
she had said farewell to _him_ under the old willows beside the river.
She had been tender and pitiful then; she had laid her soft lips
against his hand, had given him a flower from her breast.  He moved his
hand, and, with the fingers of the other hand, touched the spot which
her lips had pressed; the flower, faded and scentless, lay, folded with
a girlish note or two she had written him, in the inside pocket of his
vest.

The shadows shifted as the wind swayed the branches; the sound of
women's voices came from behind a clump of evergreens; they were raised
in surprise or excitement, and sounded shrill and jarring.  In the
distance a nurse pushed a basket-carriage carelessly; she was talking
to a workman who slouched beside her, and the child was crying.  Two
sparrows near at hand, quarreled and fought over a bit of string.

His anger burned against Thorne.  He could see no good in his rival; no
tragedy, no pathos, in the situation.  Had his life gone
wrong?--Doubtless the fault had been his.  Did he suffer?  Jim felt a
brute joy in the knowledge of his pain.

What was that the young lady had said?  Thorne had been divorced--the
woman who had been his wife lived--there were prejudices; he knew them
all; a barrier existed; his heart leaped.  Here was hope, here was
vengeance.

A cloud passed over the sun, eclipsing its brightness; a chill was on
the face of nature; a dead twig, broken by the squirrel in his gambols,
fell at his feet.

He had been asked to speak, to exert his influence, to smooth the path
for his rival.  He would _not_ speak; why should he speak?  Was it any
business of his?  Nay; was it not rather his duty to be silent, or to
throw such influence as he possessed into the other scale?  Should he
aid to bring about a thing which he had been taught to regard with
aversion?  Was it not his duty as a man, as a Christian, to _increase_
the prejudice, to build higher the barrier?  Was it not better that
Thorne should suffer, that Pocahontas should suffer, as he himself was
suffering, than that wrong should be done?

The devil is never subtler than when he assumes the garb of priest.

And if he did not speak--more, if he should solidify, by every means in
his power, this barrier of prejudice into a wall of principle, which
should separate these two forever, what might not be the result?  Jim's
strong frame shook like a leaf.  His abnormally-excited imagination
leaped forward and constructed possibilities that thrilled him.  The
spot on his hand that her lips had touched, burned.

A little girl came down the walk, trundling a hoop; it struck against
Jim's foot and fell over.  The helpful instinct that was in him made
him stoop and lift it for her; the child, a tiny thing, pushed back her
curls and looked up at him with grave, wide-open eyes; suddenly her
face dimpled; a smile like sunshine broke over it, and she raised her
sweet lips to his, to kiss her thanks.

What had happened?  A child's look, a child's kiss; it was a strange
thing.  He raised his head and glanced around, passing his hand over
his brow like a man aroused from a delirium of dreams.  Forces foreign
to his nature had been at work.  He could not understand it--or himself.

Words came back to him out of his past--his own words--"a man must hold
up his own weight," and other words, "a man must help with his strength
a woman's weakness."  He thought of his love with pity, with remorse.
He had never failed her, never put himself first, till now.  What was
this thing he had thought of doing?

Jim stood erect and pulled himself together, lifting his head and
squaring his shoulders as a man does who is about to face an issue
fairly.



CHAPTER XXV.

Pocahontas was alone.  The party had dispersed, one here, one there,
about their own concerns, filled with their own interests.  They had
invited her to accompany them, even urged it; but she would not; she
was tired, she said, and would rest; but there was no rest for her.

The crisis of her life had come, and she was trying to face it.
Heretofore the fight had been unequal; the past had had the advantage
of sun and wind and field, the old influences had been potent because
they were present, had never been broken.  Now she was in a measure
removed from them; the forces faced each other on neutral ground, the
final conflict was at hand.

What should she do?  How should she decide?  She was torn and swayed by
the conflict of emotions within her; the old fight was renewed with
added fierceness.  Her heart yearned over Thorne, her love rose up and
upbraided her for hardness.  He was so changed, he had suffered so, his
hair was growing gray, hard lines were deepening about his mouth, and
to his eyes had come an expression that wrung her heart--a cynical
hopelessness, a sullen gloom.  Was this her work?  Was she shutting out
hope from a life, thus making a screen of a scruple to keep sunlight
from a soul?

Unconsciously she was assuming the responsibility which he had thrust
upon her--was fitting the burden to her shoulders.  She did not analyze
the position; did not see that he had been ruthless; that he had no
right to use such a weapon against her.  She only saw that he suffered,
that he needed her, that she loved him.

What did it matter about herself?  Her scruple might die--and if it
should not, she was strong enough to hold it down, to keep her foot on
its breast.  Was her love so weak that it should shrink from pain?

If only the scruple would die!  If only the old influences would lose
their hold; if only she could see this thing as the world saw it.  Was
she made different from others, that her life should be molded on other
lines than _their_ lives?  God, above!  _Why_ should she suffer, and
make Thorne suffer?

Her mother, Berkeley, the dead brother whom she had exalted into a
hero, the memory of the brave men and noble women from whom she had
sprung, the old traditions, the old associations rose, in her excited
fancy, and arrayed themselves on one side.  Against them in serried
ranks came compassion, all the impulses of true womanhood toward
self-sacrifice and love.

The loneliness of the crowded hotel oppressed her; the consciousness of
the life that environed but did not touch her, gave birth to a yearning
to get away from it all--out into the sunshine and the sweet air, and
the warmth and comfort of nature.  If she could get away into some
still, leafy place, she could think.

Hastily arraying herself, she left her chamber and descended the broad
stairway.  She passed through the hall, and out into the sunshine of
the busy street; and Jim, who, unseen by her, was standing in the
clerk's office, turned and looked after her.  A troubled expression,
like the shadow of a cloud, passed over his face, and he followed her
silently.

In the street it was better.  There were people, little children, a
sense of life, a sense of humanity, and over all, around all, the warm
sunlight.  Comfort and help abounded.  A woman, weighed down with a
heavy burden, paused, bewildered, in the middle of a crossing--a man
helped her; a child stood crying on a doorstep--a larger child soothed
it; an ownerless dog looked pitifully into a woman's face--she stooped
and stroked its head with her ungloved hand.  The longing for the
isolation of nature slowly gave place to a recognition of the community
of nature.

A quiet street branched off from the crowded thoroughfare.  Pocahontas
turned into it and walked on.  The roar of traffic deadened as she left
it further and further behind; the passers became fewer.  It was the
forenoon and the people were at work; the houses rose tall on either
hand; the street was still and almost deserted.

A man passed with a barrow of flowers--roses, geraniums, jasmin; their
breath made the air fragrant.  In a stately old church near by some one
was playing; a solemn, measured movement.  Pocahontas turned aside and
entered.  The place was still and hushed; the light dim and beautiful
with color; on the altar, tapers burned before the mother and child;
everywhere there was a faint odor of incense.

Pocahontas wandered softly here and there, soothed by the peace,
comforted by the music.  On one side there was a small chapel, built by
piety in memory of death.  Pocahontas entered it.  Here, too, lights
burned upon the altar, shedding a soft, golden radiance that was caught
and reflected by the silver candlesticks and the gold and crystal of
the vases.  On the steps of the altar was a great basket of roses; and
through a memorial window streamed the sunlight, casting on the
tesselated pavement a royal wealth of color, blue and gold and crimson;
against the dark walls marble tablets gleamed whitely.  Near one of
them, a tiny shield, a man stood with his head bent and his shoulder
resting against a carved oak column--Nesbit Thorne, and the tablet bore
the inscription: "Allen Thorne, obiit Jan. 14th, 18--, aetat 4 years."

Pocahontas drew back, her breath coming in short gasps; the movement of
the music quickened, grew stronger, fiercer, with a crash of cords.
Thorne did not move; his head was bent, his profile toward her; about
his pose, his whole form, was a look of desolation.  His face was
stern, its outlines sharp, its expression that of a man who had had
hard measure meted out to him, and who knew it, and mutinied against
the decree.  He did not see her, he was not conscious of her presence,
and the knowledge that it was so, sent a pang through her heart.  A
wave of pity swept over her; an impulse struggled into life, to go to
him, to take his hand in hers, to press close to his side, to fill the
void of his future with her love.  What held her back?  Was it pride?
Why could not she go to him?  His unconsciousness of her presence held
her aloof--made her afraid with a strange, new fear.

Footsteps neared, echoing strangely; the music had sunk to a minor
cadence which seemed to beat the measure of their advance.  The eyes of
the woman were filled with a strained expectancy.  Into the waiting
place, framed by the central arch, came the figure of a man--strongly
built, of noble air, of familiar presence.  Eyes brave and true and
faithful met hers gravely, a hand was outstretched toward her.

Pocahontas shivered, and her heart beat with heavy, muffled strokes.
The counter influences of her life were drawing to the death struggle.
Thorne turned; his eyes were upon her; he advanced slowly.

Jim came straight to where she stood and took her hands in his; his
face was pale and drawn, as the face of a man who has passed through
the white heat of suffering.  His hands were cold, and trembled a
little as they closed on hers; he tried to speak, but his lips were dry
and his voice inaudible.

"Sweetheart," he said at length, using the tender old word
unconsciously, and speaking brokenly, "I asked you once to let the
thought of me come--sometimes--when life should be hard upon you; to
let the influence, of my love stir sometimes in your memory.  That
would be wrong now--worse; it would be selfish and unmanly.  A man has
no right to cast his shadow on a woman's life when it has passed into
the keeping of another man."  His voice grew husky, his lips quivered,
but he went bravely on.  "I know your story--Berkeley has told me--the
young lady has spoken--I take back the request.  I'd rather all thought
of me should be banished from you in this world and in the next, than
that it should make a breach, even in the outworks of your life, to let
in trouble to you."

He paused abruptly; through the strong frame ran a shudder, like the
recoil from pain; but the man's will was firm, his purpose steadfast.
All of her life he had cared for her, been tender with her; shielding
her from trouble, or grief, or blame, as far as in him lay, and, though
his heart should break, he would not fail her now.  Slowly he spoke
again.

"Child," he said, gently, "if I've ever said a word that hurts you,
forget it, put it from you.  I did not understand then; I do _now_--and
I'd give my right hand to recall it.  What you do has always been right
in my eyes--_must_ always be right.  I can never----" his voice failed
him; something rose in his throat and choked utterance; he bent his
head until his lips touched the hands he held, and then turned quietly
away.

Pocahontas did not move; she scarcely breathed.  The spell of Jim's
magnanimity held her, made her realize, at last, the grandeur, the
immensity of love.  Her soul was awed.  Thought followed thought
through her brain; love in its sublimity was bared to her gaze; self
fell away--burned as dross in the fire of suffering; to guide herself
was not enough; she must aid and comfort others.  If hands were
outstretched in anguish, she must clasp them; if a heart cried to her
in desolation, she had no right to turn aside.  Was she so pure, so
clean, so righteous, that contact with another soul--one that had known
passions and sorrows of which she was, of which she _must_ be,
ignorant--should soil her?  If so, her righteousness was a poor thing,
her cleanness, that of the outside of the cup and platter, her purity,
that of unquarried marble.

Thorne drew nearer; she raised her head; their eyes met; he extended
his hands with a gesture not to be denied.

With a smile of indescribable graciousness, a tenderness, a royalty of
giving, she made a movement forward and laid her hands in his.



CHAPTER XXVI.

Thorne did not accompany the party to Virginia, although it was tacitly
understood that he should follow in time for Blanche's wedding, which
would take place in June.  Pocahontas wished it so arranged, and
Thorne, feeling that his love had come to him, as through fire, was
anxious to order all things according to her wishes.  He was very
quiet, grave, and self-contained; his old buoyancy, his old lightness
had passed away forever.  The whirl and lash of a hurricane leave
traces which not even time can efface.  A man does not come through
fire unscathed--he is marred, or purified; he is never the same.  In
Thorne, already, faintly stirred nature's grand impulse of growth, of
pressing upward toward the light.  He strove to be patient, tender,
considerate, to take his happiness, not as reward for what he was, but
as earnest of what he might become.

Jim remained in New York also.  He would go back to his work, he said,
it would be better so.  He had come north on business for his company,
and when that should be completed he would return to Mexico.  He would
not go to Virginia; he did not want to see strangers in the old home;
he would write to his sisters and explain; no one need trouble about
him; he would manage well enough.

Before they separated, Jim had a long talk with Berkeley, and in the
course of it the poor fellow completed his victory over self.  He spoke
generously of Thorne.

"It's a big subject, Berkeley," he said, in conclusion, "and I don't
see that you or I have any call to pass judgment on it, or to lay down
arbitrary lines, saying _this_ is righteous, _that_ is unrighteous.  We
may have our own thoughts about the matter--we _must_ have, but we've
no right to lop or stretch other people to fit them.  Princess is a
pure woman, a noble woman, better, a thousand-fold, than you or me or
any other man that breathes.  From her standpoint, what she does is
right, and, whether we differ with her or not, we are bound to believe
that she has weighed the matter and made her choke in all honor and
truth.  And, Berke, listen to me!  You are powerless to alter any
thing, and it's a man's part to face the inevitable and make the best
of it.  You can't better things, but you can make them worse.  Don't
alienate your sister.  You are the nearest man of her blood, and, as
such, you have influence with her; don't throw it away.  If you are
cold, hard, and unloving to her now, you'll set up a barrier between
you that you'll find it hard to level.  Never let her turn from you,
Berke.  Stand by her always, old friend."

Poor Jim!  He could not as yet disassociate the old from the new.  To
him it still seemed as though Berkeley, and, in a measure, he himself
were responsible for her life; must take care and thought for her
future.  Love and habit form bonds that thought does not readily burst
asunder.

Berkeley was good to his sister--influenced partly by Blanche, partly
by Jim, but most of all by his strong affection for Pocahontas herself.
He drew her to his breast and rested his cheek against her hair a
moment, and kissed her tenderly, and the brother and sister understood
each other without a spoken word.

He could not bring himself to be cordial to Thorne all at once, but he
loyally tried to do his best, and Thorne was big enough to see and
appreciate the effort.  There might come a time when the men would be
friends.

Poor Mrs. Mason!  Her daughter's engagement was a shock, almost a blow
to her, and she could not reconcile herself to it at first.  The
foundations seemed to be slipping from under her feet, the supports in
which she trusted, to be falling away.  She was a just as well as a
loving woman, and she knew that the presence of a new and powerful love
brings new responsibilities and a new outlook on life.  She faithfully
tried to put herself in her daughter's place and to judge of the affair
from Pocahontas's standpoint; but the effort was painful to her, and
the result not always what she could wish.  She recognized, the love
being admitted, that Thorne had claims which must be allowed; but she
felt it hard that such claims should exist, and her recognition of them
was not sufficiently full and generous to make her feel at one with
herself.  Old minds adapt themselves to new conditions slowly.

However, mother-love is limitless, and, through all, her impulse was to
hold to her child, to do nothing, to say nothing which would wound or
alienate her.  And for the rest--there was no need of haste; she could
keep these things and "ponder them in her heart."





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