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Title: Flamsted quarries
Author: Waller, Mary E.
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 "Flamsted quarries" ***

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                          Flamsted Quarries

                          BY MARY E. WALLER

Author of "The Wood Carver of Lympus," "The Daughter of the Rich," "The
Little Citizen," etc.



WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS
BY G. PATRICK NELSON

A. L. BURT COMPANY
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK

_Copyright, 1910_,
BY MARY E. WALLER
Published September, 1910

Reprinted, September, 1910; November, 1910; December, 1910



TO THOSE WHO TOIL



[Illustration: "She sang straight on, verse after verse without pause"]



Contents


THE BATTERY IN LIEU OF A PREFACE

PART FIRST, A CHILD FROM THE VAUDEVILLE

PART SECOND, HOME SOIL

PART THIRD, IN THE STREAM

PART FOURTH, OBLIVION

PART FIFTH, SHED NUMBER TWO

THE LAST WORD



Illustrations


"She sang straight on, verse after verse without pause"

"Those present loved in after years to recall this scene"

"What a picture she made leaning caressingly against the charmed and
patient Bess"

"'Unworthy--unworthy!' was Champney Googe's cry, as he knelt before
Aileen"



FLAMSTED QUARRIES



                       "_Abysmal deeps repose
    Beneath the stout ship's keel whereon we glide;
    And if a diver plunge far down within
    Those depths and to the surface safe return,
    His smile, if so it chance he smile again,
    Outweighs in worth all gold._"



The Battery in Lieu of a Preface


A few years ago, at the very tip of that narrow rocky strip of land that
has been well named "the Tongue that laps the Commerce of the World,"
the million-teeming Island of Manhattan, there was daily presented a
scene in the life-drama of our land that held in itself, as in solution,
a great national ideal. The old heroic "Epic of the Nations" was still
visible to the naked eye, and masquerading here among us of the then
nineteenth century in the guise of the arrival of the immigrant ship.

The scenic setting is in this instance incomparably fine. As we lean on
the coping of the sea wall at the end of the green-swarded Battery, in
the flush of a May sunset that, on the right, throws the Highlands of
the Navesink into dark purple relief and lights the waters of Harbor,
River, and Sound into a softly swelling roseate flood, we may fix our
eyes on the approach to The Narrows and watch the incoming shipping of
the world: the fruit-laden steamer from the Bermudas, the black East
Indiaman heavy with teakwood and spices, the lumberman's barge awash
behind the tow, the old three-masted schooner, low in the water, her
decks loaded with granite from the far-away quarries of Maine. We may
see, if we linger, the swift approach of a curiously foreshortened
ocean steamship, her smokestack belching blackness, and the slower
on-coming of a Norwegian bark, her sails catching the sunset light and
gleaming opaline against the clear blue of the southern horizon. These
last are the immigrant ships.

An hour later in old Castle Garden the North and South of Europe clasp
hands on the very threshold of America. Four thousand feet are planted
on the soil of the New World. Four thousand hands are knocking at its
portals. Two thousand hearts are beating high with hope at prospect of
the New, or palpitating with terror at contact with the Strange.

A thousand tragedies, a thousand comedies are here enacted before our
very eyes: hopes, fears, tears, laughter, shrieks, groans, wailings,
exultant cries, welcoming words, silent all-expressing hand-clasp,
embrace, despairing wide-eyed search, hopeless isolation, the
befriended, the friendless, the home-welcomed, the homeless--all
commingled.

But an official routine soon sorts, separates, pairs, locates; speaks in
Norwegian, speaks in Neapolitan. An hour passes; the dusk falls; the
doors are opened; the two thousand, ticketed, labelled, are to enter
upon the new life. The confusing chatter grows less and less. A child
wails, and is hushed in soft Italian--a Neapolitan lullaby--by its
mother as she sits on a convenient bench and for the first time gives
her little one the breast in a strange land. An old Norwegian, perhaps a
lineal descendant of our Viking visitors some thousand years ago, makes
his way to the door, bent beneath a sack-load of bedding; his right hand
holds his old wife's left. They are the last to leave.

The dusk has fallen. To the sea wall again for air after the thousands
of garlic-reeking breaths in old Castle Garden. The sea is dark. The
heavens are deep indigo; against them flashes the Liberty beacon; within
them are set the Eternal Lights. Upon the waters of the harbor the
illumined cabin windows of a multitude of river craft throw quivering
rays along the slow glassy swell.

For a moment on River, and Harbor, and Sound, there is silence. But
behind us we hear the subdued roar and beat of the metropolis, a sound
comparable to naught else on earth or in heaven: the mighty systole and
dyastole of a city's heart, and the tramp, tramp of a million homeward
bound toilers--the marching tune of Civilization's hosts, to which the
feet of the newly arrived immigrants are already keeping time, for they
have crossed the threshold of old Castle Garden and entered the New
World.



PART FIRST

A Child from the Vaudeville


I

The performance in itself was crude and commonplace, but the
demonstration in regard to it was unusual. Although this scene had been
enacted both afternoon and evening for the past six weeks, the audience
at the Vaudeville was showing its appreciation by an intent silence.

The curtain had risen upon a street scene in the metropolis at night.
Snow was falling, dimming the gas jets at the corner and half-veiling,
half-disclosing the imposing entrance-porch of a marble church. The
doors were closed; the edifice dark. As the eyes of the onlookers became
accustomed to the half-lights, they were aware of a huddle of clothes
against the iron railing that outlined the curve of the three broad
entrance-steps. As vision grew keener the form of a child was
discernible, a little match girl who was lighting one by one a few
matches and shielding the flame with both hands from the draught.
Suddenly she looked up and around. The rose window above the porch was
softly illumined; the light it emitted transfused the thickly falling
snow. Low organ tones became audible, although distant and muffled.

The child rose; came down the centre of the stage to the lowered
footlights and looked about her, first at the orchestra, then around
and up at the darkened house that was looking intently at her--a small
ill-clad human, a spiritual entity, the only reality in this artificial
setting. She grasped her package of matches in both hands; listened a
moment as if to catch the low organ tones, then began to sing.

She sang as a bird sings, every part of her in motion: throat, eyes,
head, body. The voice was clear, loud, full, strident, at times, on the
higher notes from over-exertion, but always childishly appealing. The
gallery leaned to catch every word of "The Holy City."

She sang straight on, verse after verse without pause. There was no
modulation, no phrasing, no interpretation; it was merely a steady
fortissimo outpouring of a remarkable volume of tone for so small an
instrument. And the full power of it was, to all appearance, sent
upwards with intent to the gallery. In any case, the gallery took the
song unto itself, and as the last words, "_Hosanna for evermore_" rang
upward, there was audible from above a long-drawn universal "Ah!" of
satisfaction.

It was followed by a half minute of silence that was expressive of
latent enthusiasm. The child was still waiting at the footlights,
evidently for the expected applause from the higher latitudes. And the
gallery responded--how heartily, those who were present have never
forgotten: roar upon roar, call upon call, round after round of
applause, cries of approbation couched in choice Bowery slang, a genuine
stampede that shook the spectators in their seats. It was an
irresistible, insatiable, unappeasable, overwhelming clamor for more.
The infection of enthusiasm was communicated to floors, balconies,
boxes; they answered, as it were, antiphonally. Faces were seen peeking
from the wings; hands were visible there, clapping frantically. In the
midst of the tumultuous uproar the little girl smiled brightly and ran
off the stage.

The lights were turned on. A drop-scene fell; the stage was transformed,
for, in the middle distance, swelling green hills rose against a soft
blue sky seen between trees in the foreground. Sunshine lay on the
landscape, enhancing the haze in the distance and throwing up the hills
more prominently against it. The cries and uproar continued.

Meanwhile, in the common dressing-room beyond the wings, there was being
enacted a scene which if slightly less tumultuous in expression was
considerably more dangerous in quality. A quick word went the round of
the stars' private rooms; it penetrated to the sanctum of the Japanese
wrestlers; it came to the ear of the manager himself: "The Little
Patti's struck!" It sounded ominous, and, thereupon, the Vaudeville
flocked to the dressing-room door to see--what? Merely a child in a
tantrum, a heap of rags on the floor, a little girl in white petticoats
stamping, dancing, pulling away from an old Italian woman who was trying
to robe her and exhorting, imploring, threatening the child in almost
one and the same breath.

The manager rushed to the rescue for the house was losing its head. He
seized the child by the arm. "What's the matter here, Aileen?"

"I ain't goin' ter dance a coon ter-night--not ter-night!" she cried
defiantly and in intense excitement; "he's in the box again, an' I'm
goin' to give him the Sunday-night song, like as I did before when he
give me the flowers, so now!"

Nonna Lisa, the old Italian, slipped the white dress deftly over the
mutinous head, so muffling the half-shriek. The manager laughed. "Hurry
up then--on with you!" The child sprang away with a bound. "I've seen
this too many times before," he added; "it's an attack of 'the last
night's nerves.'--Hark!"

The tumult was drowning the last notes of the orchestral intermezzo, as
the little girl, clad now wholly in white, ran in upon the stage and
coming again down the centre raised her hand as if to command silence.
With the gallery to see was to obey; the floor and balconies having
subsided the applause from above died away.

The child, standing in the full glare of the footlights with the sunny
skyey spaces and overlapping blue hills behind her, half-faced the
brilliant house as, without accompaniment, she began to sing:

    "There is a green hill far away
      Without a city wall."

The childish voice sustained the simple melody perfectly, and it was
evident when the little girl began the second verse that she was singing
wholly to please herself and some one in a proscenium box. Before the
close of the first stanza the gallery experienced a turn, the audience
as a whole a sensation. Night after night the gallery gods had made it a
point to be present at that hour of the continuous performance when the
Little Patti--such was the name on the poster--sang either her famous
Irish song "Oh, the praties they are small", or "The Holy City", and
followed them by a coon dance the like of which was not to be seen
elsewhere in New York; for into it the child threw such an abandonment
of enthusiasm that she carried herself and her audience to the verge of
extravagance--the one in action, the other in expression.

And now this!

A woman sobbed outright at the close of the second verse. The gallery
heard--it hated hysterics--and considered whether it should look upon
itself as cheated and protest, or submit quietly to being coerced into
approval. The scales had not yet turned, when someone far aloft drew a
long breath in order to force it out between closed teeth, and this in
sign of disapproval. That one breath was, in truth, indrawn, but whether
or no there was ever an outlet for the same remained a question with the
audience. A woollen cap was deftly and unexpectedly thrust between the
malevolent lips and several pair of hands held it there until the little
singer left the stage.

What appeal, if any, that childish voice, dwelling melodiously on the
simple words, made to the audience as a whole, cannot be stated because
unknown; but that it appealed powerfully by force of suggestion, by the
power of imagination, by the law of association, by the startling
contrast between the sentiment expressed and the environment of that
expression, to three, at least, among the many present is a certainty.

There is such a thing in our national life--a constant process, although
often unrecognized--as social anastomosis: the intercommunication by
branch of every vein and veinlet of the politico-social body, and
thereby the coming into touch of lives apparently alien. As a result we
have a revelation of new experiences; we find ourselves in subjection to
new influences of before unknown personalities; we perceive the
opening-up of new channels of communication between individual and
individual as such. We comprehend that through it a great moral law is
brought into operation both in the individual and the national life. And
in recognition of this natural, though oft hidden process, the fact that
to three men in that audience--men whose life-lines, to all appearance,
were divergent, whose aims and purposes were antipodal--the simple song
made powerful appeal, and by means of that appeal they came in after
life to comprehend something of the workings of this great natural law,
need cause no wonderment, no cavilling at the so-called prerogative of
fiction. The laws of Art are the laws of Life, read smaller on the
obverse.

The child was singing the last stanza in so profound a silence that the
fine snapping of an over-charged electric wire was distinctly heard:

    "Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved
      And we must love him too,
    And trust in his redeeming blood,
      And try his works to do."

The little girl waited at the footlights for--something. She had done
her best for an encore and the silence troubled her. She looked
inquiringly towards the box. There was a movement of the curtains at the
back; a messenger boy came in with flowers; a gentleman leaned over the
railing and motioned to the child. She ran forward, holding up the skirt
of her dress to catch the roses that were dropped into it. She smiled
and said something. The tension in the audience gave a little; there was
a low murmur of approval which increased to a buzz of conversation; the
conductor raised his baton and the child with a courtesy ran off the
stage. But there was no applause.

During the musical intermezzo that followed, the lower proscenium box
was vacated and in the first balcony one among a crowd of students rose
and made his way up the aisle.

"Lien's keller, Champ?" said a friend at the exit, putting a hand on his
shoulder; "I'm with you."

"Not to-night." He shook off the detaining hand and kept on his way. The
other stared after him, whistled low to himself and went down the aisle
to the vacant seat.

At the main entrance of the theatre there was an incoming crowd. It was
not late, only nine. The drawing-card at this hour was a famous Parisian
singer of an Elysée _café chantant_. The young fellow stepped aside,
beyond the ticket-office railing, to let the first force of the
inrushing human stream exhaust itself before attempting egress for
himself. In doing so he jostled rather roughly two men who were
evidently of like mind with him in their desire to avoid the press. He
lifted his hat in apology, and recognized one of them as the occupant of
the proscenium box, the gentleman who had given the roses to the little
singer. The other, although in citizen's dress, he saw by the tonsure
was a priest.

The sight of such a one in that garb and that environment, diverted for
the moment Champney Googe's thoughts from the child and her song. He
scanned the erect figure of the man who, after immediate and courteous
recognition of the other's apology, became oblivious, apparently, of his
presence and intent upon the passing throng.

The crowd thinned gradually; the priest passed out under the arch of
colored electric lights; the gentleman of the box, observing the look on
the student's face, smiled worldly-wisely to himself as he, too, went
down the crimson-carpeted incline. Champney Googe's still beardless lip
had curled slightly as if his thought were a sneer.


II

The priest, after leaving the theatre, walked rapidly down Broadway past
the marble church, that had been shown on the stage, and still straight
on for two miles at the same rapid gait, past the quiet churchyards of
St. Paul's and Trinity into the comparative silence of Battery Park and
across to the sea wall. There he leaned for half an hour, reliving in
memory not only the years since his seven-year old feet had crossed this
threshold of the New World, but recalling something of his still earlier
childhood in his native France. The child's song had been an excitant to
the memory in recalling those first years in Auvergne.

    "There is a green hill far away
      Without a city wall."

How clearly he saw that! and his peasant father and mother as laborers
on or about it, and himself, a six-year old, tending the goats on that
same green hill or minding the geese in the meadows at its foot.

All this he saw as he gazed blankly at the dark waters of the bay, saw
clearly as if visioned in crystal. But of subsequent movings and
wanderings there was a blurred reflection only, till the vision
momentarily brightened, the outlines defined themselves again as he saw
his tired drowsy self put to bed in a tiny room that was filled with the
fragrance of newly baked bread. He remembered the awakening in that
small room over a bread-filled shop; it belonged to a distant
great-uncle baker on the mother's side, a personage in the family
because in trade. He could remember the time spent in that same shop and
the brick-walled, brick-floored, brick-ovened room behind it. He
recalled having stood for hours, it might have been days, he could not
remember--for then Time was forever and its passing of no moment--before
the deep ovens with a tiny blue-eyed slip of a girl. _P'tite Truite_,
Little Trout, they called her, the great-uncle baker's one grandchild.

And the shop--he remembered that, so light and bright and sweet and
clean, with people coming and going--men and women and children--and the
crisp yard-long loaves carried away in shallow baskets on many a fine
Norman head in the old seaport of Dieppe. And always the Little Trout
was by his side, even when the great-uncle placed him in one of the huge
flat-bottomed bread baskets and drew the two up and down in front of the
shop. Then all was dim again; so dim that except for the lap and
backward sucking of the waters against the sea wall, whereon he leaned,
he had scarcely recalled a ship at the old pier of Dieppe, and the
Little Trout standing beside her grandfather on the stringer,
frantically waving her hand as the ship left her moorings and the prow
nosed the first heavy channel sea that washed against the bulkhead and
half-drowned her wailing cry:

"Jean--mon Jean!"

The rest was a blank until he landed here almost on this very spot in
old Castle Garden and, holding hard by his father's hand, was bidden to
look up at the flag flying from the pole at the top of the queer round
building--a brave sight even for his young eyes: all the red and white
and blue straining in the freshening wind with an energy of motion that
made the boy dance in sympathetic joy at his father's side--

And what next?

Again a confusion of journeyings, and afterwards quiet settlement in a
red brick box of a house in a mill town on the Merrimac. He could still
hear the clang of the mill-gates, the ringing of the bells, the hum and
whir and roar of a hundred thousand spindles, the clacking crash of the
ponderous shifting frames. He could still see with the inner eye the
hundreds of windows blazing in the reflected fires of the western sun,
or twinkling with numberless lights that cast their long reflections on
the black waters of the canal. There on the bank, at the entrance to the
footbridge, the boy was wont to take his stand regularly at six o'clock
of a winter's day, and wait for the hoisting of the mill-gates and the
coming of his father and mother with the throng of toilers.

So he saw himself--himself as an identity emerging at last from the
confusion of time and place and circumstance; for there followed the
public school, the joys of rivalry, the eager outrush for the boy's Ever
New, the glory of scrimmage and school-boy sports, the battle royal for
the little Auvergnat when taunted with the epithet "Johnny Frog" by the
belligerent youth, American born, and the victorious outcome for the
"foreigner"; the Auvergne blood was up, and the temperament volcanic
like his native soil where subterranean heats evidence themselves in
hot, out-welling waters. And afterwards, at home, there were
congratulations and comfortings, plus applications of vinegar and brown
butcher's paper to the severely smitten nose of this champion of his new
Americanhood. But at school and in the street, henceforth there was due
respect and a general atmosphere of "let bygones be bygones."

Ah, but the pride of his mother in her boy's progress! the joy over the
first English-French letter that went to the great-uncle baker; the
constant toil of both parents that the savings might be sufficient to
educate their one child--that the son might have what the parents
lacked. Already the mother had begun to speak of the priesthood: she
might yet see her son Jean a priest, a bishop, and archbishop. Who could
tell? America is America, and opportunities infinite--a cardinal,
perhaps, and the gift of a red hat from the Pope, and robes and laces!
There was no end to her ambitious dreaming.

But across the day-dreams fell the shadow of hard times: the shutting
down of the mills, the father's desperate illness in a workless winter,
his death in the early spring, followed shortly by that of the worn-out
and ill-nourished mother--and for the twelve-year-old boy the
abomination of desolation, and world and life seen dimly through tears.
Dim, too, from the like cause, that strange passage across the ocean to
Dieppe--his mother's uncle having sent for him to return--a weight as of
lead in his stomach, a fiery throbbing in his young heart, a sickening
craving for some expression of human love. The boyish tendrils, although
touched in truth by spring frosts, were outreaching still for some
object upon which to fasten; yet he shrank from human touch and sympathy
on that voyage in the steerage lest in his grief and loneliness he
scream aloud.

Dieppe again, and the Little Trout with her grandfather awaiting him on
the pier; the Little Trout's arms about his neck in loving welcome, the
boy's heart full to bursting and his eyelids reddened in his supreme
effort to keep back tears. Dependent, an orphan, and destined for the
priesthood--those were his life lines for the next ten years. And the
end? Revolt, rebellion, partial crime, acquittal under the law, but
condemnation before the tribunal of his conscience and his God.

There followed the longing to expiate, to expiate in that America where
he was not known but where he belonged, where his parents' dust mingled
with the soil; to flee to the Church as to a sanctuary of refuge, to be
priest through expiation. And this he had been for years while working
among the Canadian rivermen, among the lumbermen of Maine, sharing their
lives, their toil, their joys and sorrows, the common inheritance of the
Human. For years subsequent to his Canadian mission, and after his
naturalization as an American citizen, he worked in town and city, among
high and low, rich and poor, recognizing in his catholicity of outlook
but one human plane: that which may be tested by the spirit level of
human needs. Now, at last, he was priest by conviction, by inner
consecration.

He stood erect; drew a long full breath; squared his shoulders and
looked around him. He noticed for the first time that a Staten Island
ferryboat had moved into the slip near him; that several passengers were
lingering to look at him; that a policeman was pacing behind him, his
eye alert--and he smiled to himself, for he read their thought. He could
not blame them for looking. He had fancied himself alone with the sea
and the night and his thoughts; had lost himself to his present
surroundings in the memory of those years; he had suffered again the old
agony of passion, shame, guilt, while the events of that pregnant,
preparatory period in France, etched deep with acid burnings into his
inmost consciousness, were passing during that half hour in review
before his inner vision. Small wonder he was attracting attention!

He bared his head. A new moon was sinking to the Highlands of the
Navesink. The May night was mild, the sea breeze drawing in with gentle
vigor. He looked northwards up the Hudson, and southwards to the Liberty
beacon, and eastwards to the Sound. "God bless our Land" he murmured;
then, covering his head, bowed courteously to the policeman and took his
way across the Park to the up-town elevated station.

Yes, at last he dared assert it: he was priest by consecration; soul,
heart, mind, body dedicate to the service of God through Humanity. That
service led him always in human ways. A few nights ago he saw the
poster: "The Little Patti". A child then? Thought bridged the abyss of
ocean to the Little Trout. Some rescue work for him here, possibly;
hence his presence in the theatre.


III

That the priest's effort to rescue the child from the artificial life of
the stage had been in a measure successful, was confirmed by the
presence, six months later, of the little girl in the yard of the Orphan
Asylum on ----nd Street.

On an exceptionally dreary afternoon in November, had any one cared to
look over the high board fence that bounds three sides of the Asylum
yard, he might have seen an amazing sight and heard a still more amazing
chorus:

    "Little Sally Waters
    Sitting in the sun,
    Weeping and crying for a young man;
    Rise, Sally, rise, Sally,
    Wipe away your tears, Sally;
    Turn to the east
    And turn to the west,
    And turn to the one that you love best!"

Higher and higher the voices of the three hundred orphans shrilled in
unison as the owners thereof danced frantically around a small solitary
figure in the middle of the ring of girls assembled in the yard on
----nd Street. Her coarse blue denim apron was thrown over her head; her
face was bowed into her hands that rested on her knees. It was a picture
of woe.

The last few words "you love best" rose to a shriek of exhortation. In
the expectant silence that followed, "Sally" rose, pirouetted in a
fashion worthy of a ballet dancer, then, with head down, fists clenched,
arms tight at her sides, she made a sudden dash to break through the
encircling wall of girls. She succeeded in making a breach by knocking
the legs of three of the tallest out from under them; but two or more
dozen arms, octopus-like, caught and held her. For a few minutes chaos
reigned: legs, arms, hands, fingers, aprons, heads, stockings, hair,
shoes of three hundred orphans were seemingly inextricably entangled. A
bell clanged. The three hundred disentangled themselves with marvellous
rapidity and, settling aprons, smoothing hair, pulling up stockings and
down petticoats, they formed in a long double line. While waiting for
the bell to ring the second warning, they stamped their feet, blew upon
their cold fingers, and freely exercised their tongues.

"Yer dassn't try that again!" said the mate in line with the
obstreperous "Sally" who had so scorned the invitation of the hundreds
of girls to "turn to the one that she loved best".

"I dass ter!" was the defiant reply accompanied by the protrusion of a
long thin tongue.

"Yer dassn't either!"

"I dass t'either!"

"Git out!" The first speaker nudged the other's ribs with her sharp
elbow.

"Slap yer face for two cents!" shrieked the insulted "Sally", the Little
Patti of the Vaudeville, and proceeded to carry out her threat.
Whereupon Freckles, as she was known in the Asylum, set up a howl that
was heard all along the line and turned upon her antagonist tooth and
nail. At that moment the bell clanged a second time. A hush fell upon
the multitude, broken only by a suppressed shriek that came from the
vicinity of Freckles. A snicker ran down the line. The penalty for
breaking silence after the second bell was "no supper", and not one of
the three hundred cared to incur that--least of all Flibbertigibbet, the
"Sally" of the game, who had forfeited her dinner, because she had been
caught squabbling at morning prayers, and was now carrying about with
her an empty stomach that was at bottom of her ugly mood.

"One, two--one, two." The monitor counted; the girls fell into step, all
but Flibbertigibbet--the Asylum nickname for the "Little Patti"--who
contrived to keep out just enough to tread solidly with hobnailed shoe
on the toes of the long-suffering Freckles. It was unbearable,
especially the last time when a heel was set squarely upon Freckles'
latest bunion.

"Ou, ou--oh, au--wau!" Freckles moaned, limping.

"Number 207 report for disorder," said the monitor.

Flibbertigibbet giggled. Number 207 stepped out of the line and burst
into uncontrollable sobbing; for she was hungry, oh, so hungry! And the
matron had chalked on the blackboard "hot corn-cakes and molasses for
Friday". It was the one great treat of the week. The girl behind
Flibbertigibbet hissed in her ear:

"Yer jest pizen mean; dirt ain't in it."

A back kick worthy of a pack mule took effect upon the whisperer's shin.
Flibbertigibbet moved on unmolested, underwent inspection at the
entrance, and passed with the rest into the long basement room which was
used for meals.

Freckles stood sniffing disconsolately by the door as the girls filed
in. She was meditating revenge, and advanced a foot in hope that,
unseen, she might trip her tormentor as she passed her. What, then, was
her amazement to see Flibbertigibbet shuffle along deliberately a little
sideways in order to strike the extended foot! This man[oe]uvre she
accomplished successfully and fell, not forward, but sideways out of
line and upon Freckles. Freckles pushed her off with a vengeance, but
not before she heard a gleeful whisper in her ear:

"Dry up--watch out--I'll save yer some!"

That was all; but to Freckles it was a revelation. The children filed
between the long rows of wooden benches, that served for seats, and the
tables. They remained standing until the sister in charge gave the
signal to be seated. When the three hundred sat down as one, with a thud
of something more than fifteen tons' weight, there broke loose a Babel
of tongues--English as it is spoken in the mouths of children of many
nationalities.

It was then that Freckles began to "watch out."

Flibbertigibbet sat rigid on the bench, her eyes turned neither to right
nor left but staring straight at the pile of smoking corn-meal cakes
trickling molasses on her tin plate. She was counting: "One, two, three,
four, five," and the prospect of more; for on treat nights, which
occurred once a week, there was no stinting with corn-meal cakes, hulled
corn, apple sauce with fried bread or whatever else might be provided
for the three hundred orphans at the Asylum on ----nd Street, in the
great city of New York.

Freckles grew nervous as she watched. What _was_ Flibbertigibbet doing?
Her fingers were busy untying the piece of red mohair tape with which
her heavy braid was fastened in a neat loop. She put it around her
apron, tying it fast; then, blousing the blue denim in front to a pouch
like a fashion-plate shirt waist, she said in an undertone to her
neighbor on the right:

"Gee--look! Ain't I got the style?"

"I ain't a-goin' ter look at yer, yer so pizen mean--dirt ain't in it,"
said 206 contemptuously, and sat sideways at such an angle that she
could eat her cakes without seeing the eyesore next her.

"Stop crowdin'!" was the next command from the bloused bit of "style" to
her neighbor on the left. Her sharp elbow emphasized her words and was
followed by a solid thigh-to-thigh pressure that was felt for the length
of at least five girls down the bench. The neighbor on the left found
she could not withstand the continued pressure. She raised her hand.

"What is the trouble with 205?" The voice from the head of the table was
one of controlled impatience.

"Please 'um--"; but she spoke no further word, for the pressure was
removed so suddenly that she lost her balance and careened with such
force towards her torment of a neighbor that the latter was fain to put
her both arms about her to hold her up. This she did so effectually that
205 actually gasped for breath.

"I'll pinch yer black an' blue if yer tell!" whispered Flibbertigibbet,
relaxing her hold and in turn raising her hand.

"What's wanting now, 208?"

"A second helpin', please 'um."

The tin round was passed up to the nickel-plated receptacle, that
resembled a small bathtub with a cover, and piled anew. Flibbertigibbet
viewed its return with satisfaction, and Freckles, who had been watching
every move of this by-play, suddenly doubled up from her plastered
position against the wall. She saw Flibbertigibbet drop the cakes quick
as a flash into the low neck of her apron, and at that very minute they
were reposing in the paunch of the blouse and held there by the mohair
girdle. Thereafter a truce was proclaimed in the immediate vicinity of
208. Her neighbors, right and left, their backs twisted towards the
tease, ate their portions in fear and trembling. After a while 208's
hand went up again. This time it waved mechanically back and forth as if
the owner were pumping bucketfuls of water.

"What is it now, 208?" The voice at the head of the table put the
question with a note of exasperation in it.

"Please 'um, another helpin'."

The sister's lips set themselves close. "Pass up 208's plate," she said.
The empty plate, licked clean of molasses on the sly, went up the line
and returned laden with three "bloomin' beauties" as 208 murmured
serenely to herself. She ate one with keen relish, then eyed the
remaining two askance and critically. Freckles grew anxious. What next?
Contrary to all rules 208's head, after slowly drooping little by
little, lower and lower, dropped finally with a dull thud on the edge of
the table and a force that tipped the plate towards her. Freckles
doubled up again; she had seen through the man[oe]uvre: the three
remaining cakes slid gently into the open half--low apron neck and were
safely lodged with the other four.

"Number 208 sit up properly or leave the table."

The sister spoke peremptorily, for this special One Three-hundredth was
her daily, almost hourly, thorn in the flesh. The table stopped eating
to listen. There was a low moan for answer, but the head was not
lifted. Number 206 took this opportunity to give her a dig in the ribs,
and Number 205 crowded her in turn. To their amazement there was no
response.

"Number 208 answer at once."

"Oh, please, 'um, I've got an awful pain--oo--au--." The sound was low
but piercing.

"You may leave the table, 208, and go up to the dormitory."

208 rose with apparent effort. Her hands were clasped over the region
where hot corn-meal cakes are said to lie heavily at times. Her face was
screwed into an expression indicative of excruciating inner torment. As
she made her way, moaning softly, to the farther door that opened into
the cheerless corridor, there was audible a suppressed but decided
giggle. It proceeded from Freckles. The monitor warned her, but,
unheeding, the little girl giggled again.

A ripple of laughter started down the three tables, but was quickly
suppressed.

"Number 207," said the much-tried and long-suffering sister, "you have
broken the rule when under discipline. Go up to the dormitory and don't
come down again to-night." This was precisely what Freckles wanted. She
continued to sniff, however, as she left the room with seemingly
reluctant steps. Once the door had closed upon her, she flew up the two
long flights of stairs after Flibbertigibbet whom she found at the
lavatory in the upper dormitory, cleansing the inside of her apron from
molasses.

Oh, but those cakes were good, eaten on the broad window sill where the
two children curled themselves to play at their favorite game of "making
believe about the Marchioness"!

"But it's hot they be!" Freckles' utterance was thick owing to a large
mouthful of cake with which she was occupied.

"I kept 'em so squeezin' 'em against my stommick."

"Where the pain was?"

"M-m," her chum answered abstractedly. Her face was flattened against
the window in order to see what was going on below, for the electric
arc-light at the corner made the street visible for the distance of a
block.

"I've dropped a crumb," said Freckles ruefully.

"Pick it up then, or yer'll catch it--Oh, my!"

"Wot?" said Freckles who was on her hands and knees beneath the window
searching for the crumb that might betray them if found by one of the
sisters.

"Git up here quick if yer want to see--it's the Marchioness an' another
kid. Come on!" she cried excitedly, pulling at Freckles' long arm. The
two little girls knelt on the broad sill, and with faces pressed close
to the window-pane gazed and whispered and longed until the electric
lights were turned on in the dormitory and the noise of approaching feet
warned them that it was bedtime.

Across the street from the Asylum, but facing the Avenue, was a great
house of stone, made stately by a large courtyard closed by wrought-iron
gates. On the side street looking to the Asylum, the windows in the
second story had carved stone balconies; these were filled with bright
blossoms in their season and in winter with living green. There was
plenty of room behind the balcony flower-boxes for a white Angora cat to
take her constitutional. When Flibbertigibbet entered the Asylum in
June, the cat and the flowers were the first objects outside its walls
to attract her attention and that of her chum, Freckles. It was not
often that Freckles and her mate were given, or could obtain, the chance
to watch the balcony, for there were so many things to do, something for
every hour in the day: dishes to wash, beds to make, corridors to sweep,
towels and stockings to launder, lessons to learn, sewing and catechism.
But one day Flibbertigibbet--so Sister Angelica called the little girl
from her first coming to the Asylum, and the name clung to her--was sent
to the infirmary in the upper story because of a slight illness; while
there she made the discovery of the "Marchioness." She called her that
because she deemed it the most appropriate name, and why "appropriate"
it behooves to tell.

Behind the garbage-house, in the corner of the yard near the railroad
tracks, there was a fine place to talk over secrets and grievances.
Moreover, there was a knothole in the high wooden fence that inclosed
the lower portion of the yard. When Flibbertigibbet put her eye to this
aperture, it fitted so nicely that she could see up and down the street
fully two rods each way. Generally that eye could range from butcher's
boy to postman, or 'old clothes' man; but one day, having found an
opportunity, she placed her visual organ as usual to the hole--and
looked into another queer member that was apparently glued to the other
side! But she was not daunted, oh, no!

"Git out!" she commanded briefly.

"I ain't in." The Eye snickered.

"I'll poke my finger into yer!" she threatened further.

"I'll bite your banana off," growled the Eye.

"Yer a cross-eyed Dago."

"You're another--you Biddy!" The Eye was positively insulting; it winked
at her.

Flibbertigibbet was getting worsted. She stamped her foot and kicked the
fence. The Eye laughed at her, then suddenly vanished; and
Flibbertigibbet saw a handsome-faced Italian lad sauntering up the
street, hands in his pockets, and singing--oh, how he sang! The little
girl forgot her rage in listening to the song, the words of which
reminded her of dear Nonna Lisa and her own joys of a four weeks'
vagabondage spent in the old Italian's company. All this she confessed
to Freckles; and the two, under one pretence or another, managed to make
daily visits to the garbage house knothole.

That hole was every bit as good as a surprise party to them. The Eye was
seen there but once more, when it informed the other Eye that it
belonged to Luigi Poggi, Nonna Lisa's one grandson; that it was off in
Chicago with a vaudeville troupe while the other Eye had been with Nonna
Lisa. But instead of the Eye there appeared a stick of candy twisted in
a paper and thrust through; at another time some fresh dates, strung on
a long string, were found dangling on the inner side of the fence--the
knothole having provided the point of entrance for each date; once a
small bunch of wild flowers graced it on the yard side. Again, for three
months, the hole served for a circulating library. A whole story found
lodgement there, a chapter at a time, torn from a paper-covered novel.
Flibbertigibbet carried them around with her pinned inside of her blue
denim apron, and read them to Freckles whenever she was sure of not
being caught. Luigi was their one boy on earth.

_The Marchioness of Isola Bella_, that was the name of the story; and if
Flibbertigibbet and Freckles on their narrow cots in the bare upper
dormitory of the Orphan Asylum on ----nd Street, did not dream of
sapphire lakes and snow-crowned mountains, of marble palaces and
turtledoves, of lovely ladies and lordly men, of serenades and guitars
and ropes of pearl, it was not the fault either of Luigi Poggi or the
_Marchioness of Isola Bella_. But at times the story-book marchioness
seemed very far away, and it was a happy thought of Flibbertigibbet's to
name the little lady in the great house after her; for, once, watching
at twilight from the cold window seat in the dormitory, the two orphan
children saw her ladyship dressed for a party, the maid having forgotten
to lower the shades.

Freckles and Flibbertigibbet dared scarcely breathe; it was so much
better than the _Marchioness of Isola Bella_, for this one was real and
alive--oh, yes, very much alive! She danced about the room, running from
the maid when she tried to catch her, and when the door opened and a
tall man came in with arms opened wide, the real Marchioness did just
what the story-book marchioness did on the last page to her lover: gave
one leap into the outstretched arms of the father-lover.

While the two children opposite were looking with all their eyes at this
unexpected _dénouement_, the maid drew the shades, and Freckles and
Flibbertigibbet were left to stare at each other in the dark and cold.
Flibbertigibbet nodded and whispered:

"That takes the cake. The _Marchioness of Isola Bella_ ain't in it!"

Freckles squeezed her hand. Thereafter, although the girls appreciated
the various favors of the knothole, their entire and passionate
allegiance was given to the real Marchioness across the way.


IV

One day, it was just after Thanksgiving, the Marchioness discovered her
opposite neighbors. It was warm and sunny, a summer day that had strayed
from its place in the Year's procession. The maid was putting the Angora
cat out on the balcony among the dwarf evergreens. The Marchioness was
trying to help her when, happening to look across the street, she saw
the two faces at the opposite window. She stared for a moment, then
taking the cat from the window sill held her up for the two little girls
to see. Flibbertigibbet and her mate nodded vigorously and smiled,
making motions with their hands as if stroking the fur.

The Marchioness dropped the cat and waved her hand to them; the maid
drew her back from the window; the two girls saw her ladyship twitch
away from the detaining hand and stamp her foot.

"Gee!" said Flibbertigibbet under her breath, "she's just like us."

"Oh, wot's she up ter now?" Freckles whispered.

Truly, any sane person would have asked that question. The Marchioness,
having gained her point, was standing on the window seat by the open
window, which was protected by an iron grating, and making curious
motions with her fingers and hands.

"Is she a luny?" Freckles asked in an awed voice.

Flibbertigibbet was gazing fixedly at this apparition and made no reply.
After watching this pantomime a few minutes, she spoke slowly:

"She's one of the dumb uns; I've seen 'em."

The Marchioness was now making frantic gestures towards the top of their
window. She was laughing too.

"She's a lively one if she is a dumber," said Freckles approvingly.
Flibbertigibbet jumped to her feet and likewise stood on the window
sill.

"Gee! She wants us to git the window open at the top. Here--pull!" The
two children hung their combined weight by the tips of their fingers
from the upper sash, and the great window opened slowly a few inches;
then it stuck fast. But they both heard the gleeful voice of their
opposite neighbor and welcomed the sound.

"I'm talking to you--it's the only way I can--the deaf and dumb--"

The maid lifted her down, struggling, from the window seat, and they
heard the childish voice scolding in a tongue unknown to them.

Flibbertigibbet set immediately about earning the right to learn the
deaf-and-dumb alphabet; she hung out all monitor Number Twelve's
washing--dish towels, stockings, handkerchiefs--every other day for two
weeks in the bitter December weather. She knew that this special monitor
had a small brother in the Asylum for Deaf Mutes; this girl taught her
the strange language in compensation for the child's time and labor. It
was mostly "give and take" in the Asylum.

"That child has been angelic lately; I don't know what's going to
happen." Long-suffering Sister Agatha heaved a sigh of relief.

"Oh, there is a storm brewing you may be sure; this calm is unnatural,"
Sister Angelica replied, smiling at sight of the little figure in the
yard dancing in the midst of an admiring circle of blue-nosed girls. "I
believe they would rather stand and watch her than to run about and get
warm. She is as much fun for them as a circus, and she learns so
quickly! Have you noticed her voice in chapel lately?"

"Yes, I have"; said Sister Agatha grumpily, "and I confess I can't bear
to hear her sing like an angel when she is such a little fiend."

Sister Angelica smiled. "Oh, I'm sure she'll come out all right; there's
nothing vicious about her, and she's a loyal little soul, you can't deny
that."

"Yes, to those she loves," Sister Agatha answered with some bitterness.
She knew she was no favorite with the subject under discussion. "See her
now! I shouldn't think she would have a whole bone left in her body."

They were playing "Snap-the-whip". Flibbertigibbet was the snapper for a
line of twenty or more girls. As she swung the circle her legs flew so
fast they fairly twinkled, and her hops and skips were a marvel to
onlookers. But she landed right side up at last, although breathless,
her long braid unloosened, hair tossing on the wind, cheeks red as
American beauty roses, and gray eyes black with excitement of the game.
Then the bell rang its warning, the children formed in line and marched
in to lessons.

The two weeks in December in which Flibbertigibbet had given herself to
the acquisition of the new language, proved long for the Marchioness.
Every day she watched at the window for the reappearance of the two
children at the bare upper window opposite; but thus far in vain.
However, on the second Saturday after their first across-street meeting,
she saw to her great joy the two little girls curled up on the window
sill and frantically waving to attract her attention. The Marchioness
nodded and smiled, clapped her hands, and mounted upon her own broad
window seat in order to have an unobstructed view over the iron grating.

"She sees us, she sees us!" Freckles cried excitedly, but under her
breath; "now let's begin."

Flibbertigibbet chose one of the panes that was cleaner than the others
and putting her two hands close to it began operations. The Marchioness
fairly hopped up and down with delight when she saw the familiar symbols
of the deaf-and-dumb alphabet, and immediately set her own small white
hands to work on her first sentence:

"Go slow."

Flibbertigibbet nodded emphatically; the conversation was begun again
and continued for half an hour. It was in truth a labor as well as a
work of love. The spelling in both cases was far from perfect and, at
times, puzzling to both parties; but little by little they became used
to each other's erratic symbols together with the queer things for which
they stood, and no conversation throughout the length and breadth of New
York--yes, even of our United States--was ever more enjoyed than by
these three girls. Flibbertigibbet and the Marchioness did the
finger-talking, and Freckles helped with the interpretation. In the
following translation of this first important exchange of social
courtesies, the extremely peculiar spelling, and wild combinations of
vowels in particular, are omitted: but the questions and answers are
given exactly as they were constructed by the opposite neighbors.

"Go slow." This as a word of warning from the Marchioness.

"You bet."

"Isn't this fun?"

"Beats the band."

"What is your name?"

Flibbertigibbet and her chum looked at each other; should it be nickname
or real name? As they were at present in society and much on their
dignity they decided to give their real names.

"Aileen Armagh." Thereupon Flibbertigibbet beat upon her breast to
indicate first person singular possessive. The Marchioness stared at her
for a minute, then spelled rather quickly:

"It's lovely. We call you something else."

"Who's we?"

"Aunt Ruth and I."

"What do you call me?"

"Flibbertigibbet."

"Git off!" cried Flibbertigibbet, recklessly shoving Freckles on to the
floor. "Gee, how'd she know!" And thereupon she jumped to her feet and,
having the broad window sill to herself, started upon a rather
restricted coon dance in order to prove to her opposite neighbor that
the nickname belonged to her by good right. Oh, but it was fun for the
Marchioness! She clapped her hands to show her approval and catching up
the skirt of her dainty white frock, slowly raised one leg at a right
angle to her body and stood so for a moment, to the intense admiration
of the other girls.

"That's what they call me here," said Flibbertigibbet when they got down
to conversation again.

"What is hers?" asked the Marchioness, pointing to Freckles.

"Margaret O'Dowd, but we call her Freckles."

How the Marchioness laughed! So hard, indeed, that she apparently
tumbled off the seat, for she disappeared entirely for several minutes,
much to the girls' amazement as well as chagrin.

"It's like she broke somethin'," whimpered Freckles; "a bone yer
know--her nose fallin' that way when she went over forrard."

"She ain't chany, I tell yer; she's jest Injy rubber," said
Flibbertigibbet scornfully but with a note of anxiety in her voice. At
this critical moment the Marchioness reappeared and jumped upon the
seat. She had a curious affair in her hand; after placing it to her
eyes, she signalled her answer:

"I can see them."

"See what?"

"The freckles."

"Wot's she givin' us?" Freckles asked in a perplexed voice.

"She's all right," said Flibbertigibbet with the confidence of superior
knowledge; "it's a tel'scope; yer can see the moon through, an' yer
freckles look to her as big as pie-plates."

Freckles crossed herself; it sounded like witches and it had a queer
look.

"Ask her wot's her name," she suggested.

"What's your name?" Flibbertigibbet repeated on her fingers.

"Alice Maud Mary Van Ostend."

"Gee whiz, ain't that a corker!" Flibbertigibbet exclaimed delightedly.
"How old are you?" She proceeded thus with her personal investigation
prompted thereto by Freckles.

"Most ten;--you?"

"Most twelve."

"And Freckles?" The Marchioness laughed as she spelled the name.

"Eleven."

"Ask her if she's an orphant," said Freckles.

"Are you an orphan, Freckles says."

"Half," came the answer. "What are you?"

"Whole," was the reply. "Which is your half?"

"I have only papa--I'll introduce him to you sometime when--"

This explanation took fully five minutes to decipher, and while they
were at work upon it the maid came up behind the Marchioness and,
without so much as saying "By your leave", took her down struggling from
the window seat and drew the shades. Whereupon Flibbertigibbet rose in
her wrath, shook her fist at the insulting personage, and vowed
vengeance upon her in her own forceful language:

"You're an old cat, and I'll rub your fur the wrong way till the sparks
fly."

At this awful threat Freckles looked alarmed, and suddenly realized that
she was shivering, the result of sitting so long against the cold
window. "Come on down," she pleaded with the enraged Flibbertigibbet;
and by dint of coaxing and the promise of a green woollen watch-chain,
which she had patiently woven, and so carefully, with four pins and an
empty spool till it looked like a green worm, she succeeded in getting
her away from the dormitory window.


V

If the _Marchioness of Isola Bella_ had filled many of Flibbertigibbet's
dreams during the last six months, the real Alice Maud Mary Van Ostend
now filled all her waking hours. Her sole thought was to contrive
opportunities for more of this fascinating conversation, and she and
Freckles practised daily on the sly in order to say more, and quickly,
to the real Marchioness across the way.

By good luck they were given a half-hour for themselves just before
Christmas, in reward for the conscientious manner in which they made
beds, washed dishes, and recited their lessons for an entire week. When
Sister Angelica, laying her hand on Flibbertigibbet's shoulder, had
asked her what favor she wanted for the good work of that week, the
little girl answered promptly enough that she would like to sit with
Freckles in the dormitory window and look out on the street, for maybe
there might be a hurdy-gurdy with a monkey passing through.

"Not this cold day, I'm sure," said Sister Angelica, smiling at the
request; "for no monkey could be out in this weather unless he had an
extra fur coat and a hot water bottle for his toes. Yes, you may go but
don't stay too long in the cold."

But what if the Marchioness were to fail to make her appearance! They
could not bear to think of this, and amused themselves for a little
while by blowing upon the cold panes and writing their names and the
Marchioness' in the vapor. But, at last--oh, at last, there she was! The
fingers began to talk almost before they knew it. In some respects it
proved to be a remarkable conversation, for it touched upon many and
various topics, all of which proved of equal interest to the parties
concerned. They lost no time in setting about the exchange of their
views.

"I'm going to a party," the Marchioness announced, smoothing her gown.

"What time?"

"Five o'clock, but I'm all ready. I am going to dance a minuet."

This was a poser; but Flibbertigibbet did not wish to be outdone,
although there was no party for her in prospect.

"I can dance too," she signalled.

"I know you can--lovely; that's why I told you."

"I wish I could see you dance the minute."

The Marchioness did not answer at once. Finally she spelled "Wait a
minute," jumped down from the broad sill and disappeared. In a short
time she was back again.

"I'm going to dance for you. Look downstairs--when it is dark--and
you'll see the drawing-room lighted--I'll dance near the windows."

The two girls clapped their hands and Flibbertigibbet jumped up and down
on the window sill to express her delight.

"When do you have to go to bed?" was the next pointed question from
Alice Maud Mary.

"A quarter to eight."

"Who puts you in?"

This was another poser for even Flibbertigibbet's quick wits.

"Wot does she mane?" Freckles demanded anxiously.

"I dunno; anyhow, I'll tell her the sisters."

"The sisters," was the word that went across the street.

"Oh, how nice! Do you say your prayers to them too?"

Freckles groaned. "Wot yer goin' to tell her now?"

"Shut up now till yer hear me, an' cross yerself, for I mane it." Such
was the warning from her mate.

"No; I say them to another lady--Our Lady."

"Oh gracious!" Freckles cried out under her breath and began to snicker.

"What lady?" The Marchioness looked astonished but intensely interested.

"The Holy Virgin. I'll bet she don't know nothin' 'bout Her," said
Flibbertigibbet in a triumphant aside to Freckles. The Marchioness' eyes
opened wider upon the two children across the way.

"That is the mother of Our Lord, isn't it?" she said in her dumb way.
The two children nodded; no words seemed to come readily just then, for
Alice Maud Mary had given them a surprise. They crossed themselves.

"I never thought of saying my prayers to His mother before, but I shall
now. He always had a mother, hadn't he?"

Flibbertigibbet could think of nothing to say in answer, but she did the
next best thing: she drew her rosary from under her dress waist and held
it up to the Marchioness who nodded understandingly and began to fumble
at her neck. In a moment she brought forth a tiny gold chain with a
little gold cross hanging from it. She held it up and dangled it before
the four astonished eyes opposite.

"Gee! Yer can't git ahead of _her_, an' I ain't goin' to try. She's just
a darlint." Flibbertigibbet's heart was very full and tender at that
moment; but she giggled at the next question.

"Do you know any boys?"

One finger was visible at the dormitory window. The Marchioness laughed
and after telling them she knew ever so many began to count on her
fingers for the benefit of her opposite neighbors.

"One, two, three, four, five," she began on her right hand--

"I don't believe her," said Freckles with a suspicious sniff.

Flibbertigibbet turned fiercely upon her. "I'd believe her if she said
she knew a thousand, so now, Margaret O'Dowd, an' yer hold yer tongue!"
she cried; but in reprimanding Freckles for her want of faith she lost
count of the boys.

"I must go now," said the Marchioness; "but when the drawing-room
downstairs is lighted, you look in--there'll be one boy there to dance
with me. Be sure you look." Suddenly the Marchioness made a sign that
both girls understood, although it was an extra one and the very
prettiest of all in the deaf-and-dumb alphabet of the affections: she
put her fingers to her lips and blew them a kiss.

"Ain't she a darlint!" murmured Flibbertigibbet, tossing the same sign
across the street. When the Marchioness had left the window, the two
girls spent the remaining minutes of their reward in planning how best
to see the dance upon which they had set their hearts. They thought of
all the places available, but were sure they would not be permitted to
occupy them. At last Flibbertigibbet decided boldly, on the strength of
a good conscience throughout one whole week, to ask at headquarters.

"I'm goin' straight to Sister Angelica an' ask her to let us go into the
chapel; it's the only place. Yer can see from the little windy in the
cubby-hole where the priest gits into his other clothes."

Freckles looked awestruck. "She'll never let yer go in there."

Her mate snapped her fingers in reply, and catching Freckles' hand raced
her down the long dormitory, down the two long flights of stairs to the
schoolroom where Sister Angelica was giving a lesson to the younger
girls.

"Well, Flibbertigibbet, what is it now?" said the sister smiling into
the eager face at her elbow. When Sister Angelica called her by her
nickname instead of by the Asylum number, Flibbertigibbet knew she was
in high favor. She nudged Freckles and replied:

"I want to whisper to you."

Sister Angelica bent down; before she knew it the little girl's arms
were about her neck and the child was telling her about the dance at the
stone house across the way. The sister smiled as she listened to the
rush of eager words, but she was so glad to find this madcap telling her
openly her heart's one desire, that she did what she had never done
before in all her life of beautiful child-consecrated work: she said
"Yes, and I will go with you. Wait for me outside the chapel door at
half-past four."

Flibbertigibbet squeezed her around the neck with such grateful vigor
that the blood rushed to poor Sister Angelica's head. She was willing,
however, to be a martyr in such a good cause. The little girl walked
quietly to the door, but when it had closed upon her she executed a
series of somersaults worthy of the Madison Square Garden acrobats.
"What'd I tell yer, what'd I tell yer!" she exclaimed, pirouetting and
somersaulting till the slower-moving Freckles was a trifle dizzy.

Within a quarter of an hour the three were snugly ensconced in the
window niche of the "cubby-hole," so Flibbertigibbet termed the
robing-room closet, and looking with all their eyes across the street.
They were directly opposite what Sister Angelica said must be the
drawing-room and on a level with it. As they looked, one moment the
windows were dark, in the next they were filled with soft yet brilliant
lights. The lace draperies were parted and the children could see down
the length of the room.

There she was! Hopping and skipping by the side of her father-lover and
drawing him to the central window. Behind them came the lovely young
lady and the Boy! The two were holding hands and swinging them freely as
they laughed and chatted together.

"That's the Boy!" cried Flibbertigibbet, wild with excitement.

"And that must be the Aunt Ruth she told about--oh, ain't she just
lovely!" cried Freckles.

"Watch out now, an' yer'll see the minute!" said Flibbertigibbet,
squeezing Sister Angelica's hand; Sister Angelica squeezed back, but
kept silence. She was learning many things before unknown to her. The
four came to the middle window and looked out, up, and all around. But
although the two children waved their hands wildly to attract their
attention, the good people opposite failed to see them because the
little window suffered eclipse in the shadow of the large electric
arc-light's green cap.

"She's goin' to begin!" cried Flibbertigibbet, clapping her hands.

The young lady sat down at the piano and began to play. Whether
Flibbertigibbet expected a variation of a "coon dance" or an Irish jig
cannot be stated with certainty, but that she was surprised is a fact;
so surprised, indeed, that for full two minutes she forgot to talk. To
the slow music, for such it was--Flibbertigibbet beat time with her
fingers on the pane to the step--the Marchioness and the Boy, pointing
their daintily slippered feet, moved up and down, back and forth,
swinging, turning, courtesying, bowing over the parquet floor with such
childishly stately yet charming grace that their rhythmic motions were
as a song without words.

The father-lover stood with his back to the mantel and applauded after
an especially well executed flourish or courtesy; Aunt Ruth looked over
her shoulder, smiling, her hands wandering slowly over the keys. At
last, the final flourish, the final courtesy. The Marchioness' dress
fairly swept the floor, and the Boy bowed so low that--well,
Flibbertigibbet never could tell how it happened, but she had a warm
place in her heart for that boy ever after--he quietly and methodically
stood head downwards on his two hands, his white silk stockings and
patent leathers kicking in the air.

The Marchioness was laughing so hard that she sat down in a regular
"cheese" on the floor; the father-lover was clapping his hands like mad;
the lady swung round on the piano stool and shook her forefinger at the
Boy who suddenly came right side up at last, hand on his heart, and
bowed with great dignity to the little girl on the floor. Then he, too,
laughed and cut another caper just as a solemn-faced butler came in with
wraps and furs. But by no means did he remain solemn long! How could he
with the Boy prancing about him, and the Marchioness playing at
"Catch-me-if-you-can" with her father-lover, and the lady slipping and
sliding over the floor to catch the Boy who was always on the other side
of the would-be solemn butler? Why, he actually swung round in a circle
by holding on to that butler's dignified coat-tails!

Nor were they the only ones who laughed. Across the way in one of the
Orphan Asylum windows, Sister Angelica and the children laughed too, in
spirit joining in the fun, and when the butler came to the window to
draw the shades there were three long "Ah's," both of intense
disappointment and supreme satisfaction.

"Watch out, now," said Flibbertigibbet excitedly on the way down into
the basement for supper and dishwashing, for it was their turn this
week, "an' yer'll see me dance yer a minute in the yard ter-morrow."

"Yer can't dance it alone," replied doubting Freckles; "yer've got to
have a boy."

"I don't want one; I'll take you, Freckles, for a boy." Clumsy Freckles
blushed with delight beneath her many beauty-spots at such promise of
unwonted graciousness on the part of her chum, and wondered what had
come over Flibbertigibbet lately.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few hours afterwards when they went up to bed, they whispered together
again concerning the dance, and begged Sister Angelica to let them have
just one peep from the dormitory window at their house of delight--a
request she was glad to grant. They opened one of the inside blinds a
little way, and exclaimed at the sight. It was snowing. The children
oh'ed and ah'ed under their breath, for a snowstorm at Christmas time in
the great city is the child's true joy. At their opposite neighbor's a
faint light was visible in the balcony room; the wet soft flakes had
already ridged the balustrade, powdered the dwarf evergreens, topped the
cap of the electric arc-light and laid upon the concrete a coverlet of
purest white.

The long bare dormitory filled with the children--the fatherless and
motherless children we have always with us. Soon each narrow cot held
its asylum number; the many heads, golden, brown, or black, busied all
of them with childhood's queer unanchored thoughts, were pillowed in
safety for another night.

And without the snow continued to fall upon the great city. It graced
with equal delicacy the cathedral's marble spires and the forest of
pointed firs which made the numberless Christmas booths that surrounded
old Washington Market. It covered impartially, and with as pure a white,
the myriad city roofs that sheltered saint and sinner, whether among the
rich or the poor, among the cherished or castaways. It fell as thickly
upon the gravestones in Trinity's ancient churchyard as upon the freshly
turned earth in a corner of the paupers' burying ground; and it set upon
black corruption wherever it was in evidence the seal of a transient
stainlessness.


VI

"Really, I am discouraged about that child," said Sister Agatha just
after Easter. She was standing at one of the schoolroom windows that
overlooked the yard; she spoke as if thoroughly vexed.

"What is it now--208 again?" Sister Angelica looked up from the copybook
she was correcting.

"Oh, yes, of course; it's always 208."

"Oh, she doesn't mean anything; it's only her high spirits; they must
have some vent."

"It's been her ruin being on the stage even for those few weeks, and
ever since the Van Ostends began to make of her and have her over for
that Christmas luncheon and the Sunday nights, the child is neither to
have nor to hold. What with her 'make believing' and her 'acting' she
upsets the girls generally. She ought to be set to good steady work; the
first chance I get I'll put her to it. I only wish some one would adopt
her--"

"I heard Father Honoré--"

"Look at her now!" exclaimed Sister Agatha interrupting her.

Sister Angelica joined her at the window. They could not only see but
hear all that was going on below. With the garbage house as a
stage-setting and background to the performance, Flibbertigibbet was
courtesying low to her audience; the skirt of her scant gingham dress
was held in her two hands up and out to its full extent. The orphans
crouched on the pavement in a triple semi-circle in front of her.

"All this rigmarole comes of the theatre," said Sister Agatha grimly.

"Well, where's the harm? She is only living it all over again and giving
the others a little pleasure at the same time. Dear knows, they have
little enough, poor things."

Sister Agatha made no reply; she was listening intently to 208's orders.
The little girl had risen from her low courtesy and was haranguing the
assembled hundreds:

"Now watch out, all of yer, an' when I do the minute yer can clap yer
hands if yer like it; an' if yer want some more, yer must clap enough to
split yer gloves if yer had any on, an' then I'll give yer the coon
dance; an' then if yer like _that_, yer can play yer gloves are busted
with clappin' an' stomp yer feet--"

"But we can't," Freckles entered her prosaic protest, "'cause we're
squattin'."

"Well, get up then, yer'll have to; an' then if you stomp awful, an'
holler 'On-ko--on-ko!'--that's what they say at the thayertre--I'll give
yer somethin' else--"

"Wot?" demanded 206 suspiciously.

"Don't yer wish I'd tell!" said 208, and began the minuet.

It was marvellous how she imitated every graceful movement, every turn
and twist and bow, every courtesy to the imaginary partner--Freckles had
failed her entirely in this role--whose imaginary hand she held clasped
high above her head; her clumsy shoes slid over the flagging as if it
had been a waxed floor under dainty slippers. There was an outburst of
applause; such an outburst that had the audience really worn gloves,
every seam, even if French and handsewed, must have cracked under the
healthy pressure.

208 beamed and, throwing back her head, suddenly flung herself into the
coon dance which, in its way, was as wild and erratic as the minuet had
been stately and methodical. Wilder and wilder grew her gyrations--head,
feet, legs, shoulders, hair, hands, arms, were in seemingly perpetual
motion. The audience grew wildly excited. They jumped up, shouting
"On-ko--on-ko!" and accompanied their shouts with the stamping of feet.
A dexterous somersault on the dancer's part ended the performance; her
cheeks were flushed with exercise and excitement, her black mane was
loosened and tossed about her shoulders. The audience lost their heads
and even 206 joined in the prolonged roar:

"On-ko, 208--on-ko-o-o-oor! On-ko, Flibbertigibbet--some more--some
more!"

"It's perfectly disgraceful," muttered Sister Agatha, and made a
movement to leave the window; but Sister Angelica laid a gently
detaining hand on her arm.

"No, Agatha, not that," she said earnestly; "you'll see that they will
work all the better for this fun--Hark!"

There was a sudden and deep silence. 208 was evidently ready with her
encore, a surprise to all but the performer. She shook back the hair
from her face, raised her eyes, crossed her two hands upon her chest,
waited a few seconds until a swift passenger train on the track behind
the fence had smothered its roar in the tunnel depths, then began to
sing "The Holy City." Even Sister Agatha felt the tears spring as she
listened. A switch engine letting off steam drowned the last words, and
there was no applause. Flibbertigibbet looked about her inquiringly; but
the girls were silent. Such singing appeared to them out of the
ordinary--and so unlike 208! It took them a moment to recover from their
surprise; they gathered in groups to whisper together concerning the
performance.

Meanwhile Flibbertigibbet was waiting expectantly. Where was the well
earned applause? And she had reserved the best for the last! Ungrateful
ones! Her friends in the stone house always praised her when she did her
best,--but these girls--

She stamped her foot, then dashed through the broken ranks, making faces
as she ran, and crying out in disgust and anger:

"Catch me givin' yer any more on-kos, yer stingy things!" and with that
she ran into the basement followed by Freckles who was intent upon
appeasing her.

The two sisters, pacing the dim corridor together after chapel that
evening, spoke again of their little wilding.

"I didn't finish what I was going to tell you about 208," said Sister
Angelica. "I heard the Sister Superior tell Father Honoré when he was
here the other day that Mr. Van Ostend had been to see her in regard to
the child. It seems he has found a place for her in the country with
some of his relations, as I understand it. He said his interest in her
had been roused when he heard her for the first time on the stage, and
that when he found Flibbertigibbet was the little acquaintance his
daughter had made, he determined to further the child's interests so far
as a home is concerned."

"Then there is a prospect of her going," Sister Agatha drew a breath of
relief. "Did you hear what Father Honoré said?"

"Very little; but I noticed he looked pleased, and I heard him say,
'This is working out all right; I'll step across and see Mr. Van Ostend
myself.'--I shall miss her so!"

Sister Agatha made no reply. Together the two sisters continued to pace
the dim corridor, silent each with her thoughts; and, pacing thus, up
and down, up and down, the slender, black-robed figures were soon lost
in the increasing darkness and became mere neutral outlines as they
passed the high bare windows and entered their respective rooms.

Even so, a few weeks later when Number 208 left the Orphan Asylum on
----nd Street, they passed quietly out of the child's actual life and
entered the fitfully lighted chambers of her childish memory wherein, at
times, they paced with noiseless footsteps as once in the barren halls
of her orphanage home.



PART SECOND

Home Soil


I

A land of entrancing inner waters, our own marvellous Lake Country of
the East, lies just behind those mountains of Maine that sink their
bases in the Atlantic and are fitly termed in Indian nomenclature
_Waves-of-the-Sea_. Bight and bay indent this mountainous coast, in
beauty comparable, if less sublime yet more enticing, to the Norwegian
fjords; within them are set the islands large and small whereon the
sheep, sheltered by cedar coverts, crop the short thick turf that is
nourished by mists from the Atlantic. Above bight and bay and island
tower the mountains. Their broad green flanks catch the earliest eastern
and the latest western lights. Their bare summits are lifted boldly into
the infinite blue that is reflected in the waters which lap their
foundations.

Flamsted lies at the outlet of Lake Mesantic, on the gentle northward
slope of these _Waves-of-the-Sea_, some eighteen miles inland from
Penobscot Bay. Until the last decade of the nineteenth century it was
unconnected with the coast by any railroad; but at that time a branch
line from Hallsport on the Bay, encouraged by the opening of a small
granite quarry in the Flamsted Hills, made its terminus at The
Corners--a sawmill settlement at the falls of the Rothel, a river that
runs rapidly to the sea after issuing from Lake Mesantic. A mile beyond
the station the village proper begins at its two-storied tavern, The
Greenbush.

From the lower veranda of this hostelry, one may look down the shaded
length of the main street, dignified by many an old-fashioned house, to
The Bow, an irregular peninsula extending far into the lake and
containing some two hundred acres. This estate is the ancestral home of
the Champneys, known as Champ-au-Haut, in the vernacular "Champo." At
The Bow the highway turns suddenly, crosses a bridge over the Rothel and
curves with the curving pine-fringed shores of the lake along the base
of the mountain until it climbs the steep ascent that leads to Googe's
Gore, the third division of the town of Flamsted.

As in all New England towns, that are the possessors of "old families,"
so in Flamsted;--its inhabitants are partisans. The result is, that it
has been for years as a house divided against itself, and heated
discussion of the affairs of the Googes at the Gore and the Champneys at
The Bow has been from generation to generation an inherited interest.
And from generation to generation, as the two families have ramified and
intermarriages occurred more and more frequently, party spirit has run
higher and higher and bitter feelings been engendered. But never have
the factional differences been more pronounced and the lines of
separation drawn with a sharper ploughshare in this mountain-ramparted
New England town, than during the five years subsequent to the opening
of the Flamsted Quarries which brought in its train the railroad and the
immigrants. This event was looked upon by the inhabitants as the
Invasion of the New.

The interest of the first faction was centred in Champ-au-Haut and its
present possessor, the widow of Louis Champney, old Judge Champney's
only son. That of the second in the Googes, Aurora and her son Champney,
the owners of Googe's Gore and its granite outcrop.

The office room of The Greenbush has been for two generations the
acknowledged gathering place of the representatives of the hostile
camps. On a cool evening in June, a few days after the departure of
several New York promoters, who had formed a syndicate to exploit the
granite treasure in The Gore and for that purpose been fully a week in
Flamsted, a few of the natives dropped into the office to talk it over.

When Octavius Buzzby, the factotum at Champ-au-Haut and twin of Augustus
Buzzby, landlord of The Greenbush, entered the former bar-room of the
old hostelry, he found the usual Saturday night frequenters. Among them
was Colonel Milton Caukins, tax collector and assistant deputy sheriff
who, never quite at ease in the presence of his long-tongued wife,
expanded discursively so soon as he found himself in the office of The
Greenbush. He was in full flow when Octavius entered.

"Hello, Tave," he cried, extending his hand in easy condescension,
"you're well come, for you're just in time to hear the latest; the
deal's on--an A. 1 sure thing this time. Aurora showed me the papers
to-day. We're in for it now--government contracts, state houses, battle
monuments, graveyards; we've got 'em all, and things'll begin to hum in
this backwater hole, you bet!"

Octavius looked inquiringly at his brother. Augustus answered by raising
his left eyebrow and placidly closing his right eye as a cautionary
signal to lie low and await developments.

It was the Colonel's way to boom everything, and simply because he could
not help it. It was not a matter of principle with him, it was an affair
of temperament. He had boomed Flamsted for the last ten years--its
climate, its situation, its scenery, its water power, its lake-shore
lands as prospective sites for mansion summer cottages, and the
treasures of its unopened quarries. So incorrigible an optimist was
Milton Caukins that any slight degree of success, which might attend the
promotion of any one of his numerous schemes, caused an elation that
amounted to hilarity. On the other hand, the deadly blight of
non-fulfilment, that annually attacked his most cherished hopes for the
future development of his native town, failed in any wise to depress
him, or check the prodigal casting of his optimistic daily bread on the
placid social waters where, as the years multiplied, his enthusiasms
scarce made a ripple.

"I see Mis' Googe yisterd'y, an' she said folks hed been down on her so
long for sellin' thet pass'l of paster for the first quarry, thet she
might ez well go the hull figger an' git 'em down on her for the rest of
her days by sellin' the rest. By Andrew Jackson! she's got the grit for
a woman--and the good looks too! She can hold her own for a figger with
any gal in this town. I see the syndicaters a-castin' sheeps' eyes her
ways the day she took 'em over The Gore prospectin'; but, by A. J.! they
hauled in their lookin's when she turned them great eyes of her'n their
ways.--What's the figger for the hull piece? Does anybody know?"

It was Joel Quimber, the ancient pound-master, who spoke, and the
silence that followed proved that each man present was resenting the
fact that he was not in a position to give the information desired.

"I shall know as soon as they get it recorded, that is, if they don't
trade for a dollar and if they ever do get it recorded." The speaker was
Elmer Wiggins, druggist and town clerk for the last quarter of a
century. He was pessimistically inclined, the tendency being fostered by
his dual vocation of selling drugs and registering the deaths they
occasionally caused.

Milton Caukins, or the Colonel, as he preferred to be called on account
of his youthful service in the state militia and his present connection
with the historical society of The Rangers, took his cigar from his lips
and blew the smoke forcibly towards the ceiling before he spoke.

"She's got enough now to put Champ through college. The first forty
acres she sold ten years ago will do that."

"I ain't so sure of thet." Joel Quimber's tone implied obstinate
conviction that his modestly expressed doubt was a foregone conclusion.
"Champ's a devil of a feller when it comes to puttin' through anything.
He's a chip off the old block. He'll put through more 'n his mother can
git out if he gits in any thicker with them big guns--race hosses, steam
yachts an' fancy fixin's. He could sink the hull Gore to the foundations
of Old Time in a few of them suppers I've heerd he gin arter the show. I
heerd he gin ten dollars a plate for the last one--some kind of
primy-donny, I heerd. But Champ's game though. I heerd Mr. Van Ostend
talkin' 'bout him to one of the syndicaters--mebbe they're goin' to work
him in with them somehow; anyway, I guess Aurory don't begrutch him a
little spendin' money seein' how easy it come out of the old sheep
pasters. Who'd 'a' thought a streak of granite could hev made sech a
stir!"

"It's a stir that'll sink this town in the mud." Mr. Wiggins' voice was
what might be called thorough-bass, and was apt to carry more weight
with his townspeople than his opinions, which latter were not always
acceptable to Colonel Caukins. "Look at it now! This town has never been
bonded; we're free from debt and a good balance on hand for
improvements. Now along comes three or four hundred immigrants to begin
with--trade following the flag, I suppose _you_ call it, Colonel," (he
interpolated this with cutting sarcasm)--"a hodge-podge of Canucks, and
Dagos, and Polacks, and the Lord knows what--a darned set of foreigners,
foreign to our laws, our ways, our religion; and behind 'em a lot of men
that would be called windbags if it wasn't for their money-bags. And
between 'em our noses are going to be held right down on the grindstone.
I tell you we'll have to bond this town to support the schooling for
these foreign brats, and there's a baker's dozen of 'em every time; and
there'll be tooting and dancing and singing and playing on Sunday with
their foreign gimcranks,--mandolin-banjos and what-all--"

"Good heavens, my dear fellow!" the Colonel broke in with an air of
impatience, "can't you see that it's this very 'stir,' as you term it,
that is going to put this town into the front rank of the competing
industrial thousands of America?"

The Colonel, when annoyed at the quantity of cold water thrown upon his
redhot enthusiasm, was apt to increase the warmth of his patronizing
address by an endearing term.

"I see farther than the front ranks of your 'competing industrial
thousands of America,' Milton Caukins; I see clear over 'em to the very
brink, and I see a struggling wrestling mass of human beings slipping,
sliding to the bottomless pit of national destitution, helped downwards
by just such darned boomers of what you call 'industrial efficiency' as
you are, Milton Caukins." He paused for breath.

Augustus Buzzby, who was ever a man of peace, tried to divert this
raging torrent of speech into other and personal channels.

"I ain't nothin' 'gainst Mis' Googe as a woman, but she played me a mean
trick when she sold that first quarry. It killed my trade as dead as a
door nail. You can't hire them highflyers to put themselves into a town
their money's bankin' on to ruin in what you might call a summer-social
way. I found _that_ out 'fore they left this house last week."

"Yes, and she's played a meaner one now." Mr. Wiggins made the assertion
with asperity and looked at the same time directly at Octavius Buzzby.
"I know all about their free dispensaries that'll draw trade away from
my very counter and take the bread and butter out of my mouth; and as
for the fees--there won't be a chance for recording a homestead site;
there isn't any counting on such things, for they're a homeless lot,
always moving from pillar to post with free pickings wherever they
locate over night, just like the gypsies that came through here last
September."

"It's kinder queer now, whichever way you've a mind to look at it," Joel
Quimber remarked meditatively. His eyes were cast up to the ceiling; his
fore-fingers and thumbs formed an acute triangle over the bridge of his
nose; the arms of his chair supported his elbows. "Queer thet it's allus
them upper tens an' emigrants thet keep a-movin' on, fust one place then
t'other. Kinder looks ez if, arter all, there warn't no great real
difference when it comes to bein' restless. Take us home folks now,
we're rooted in deep, an' I guess if we was to be uprooted kinder
suddin', p'raps we'd hev more charity for the furriners. There's no
tellin'; I ain't no jedge of sech things, an' I'm an out-an-out
American. But mebbe my great-great-great-granther's father could hev'
told ye somethin' wuth tellin'; he an' the Champneys was hounded out of
France, an' was glad 'nough to emigrate, though they called it
refugeein' an' pioneerin' in them days."

Augustus Buzzby laid his hand affectionately on the old man's shoulder.
"You're a son of the soil, Joel; I stand corrected. I guess the less any
of us true blue Americans say 'bout flinging stones at furriners the
safer 'twill be for all on us."

But Mr. Wiggins continued his diatribe: "There ain't no denying it, the
first people in town are down on the whole thing. Didn't the rector tell
me this very day that 'twas like ploughing up the face of nature for the
sake of sowing the seeds of political and social destruction--his very
words--in this place of peace and happy homes? He don't blame Mrs.
Champney for feeling as she does 'bout Aurora Googe. He said it was a
shame that just as soon as Mrs. Champney had begun to sell off her lake
shore lands so as her city relatives could build near her, Mrs. Googe
must start up and balk all her plans by selling two hundred acres of old
sheep pasture for the big quarry."

"Humph!" It was the first sound that Octavius Buzzby had uttered since
his entrance and general greeting. Hearing it his brother looked
warningly in his direction, for he feared that the factional difference,
which had come to the surface to breathe in his own and Elmer Wiggins'
remarks, might find over-heated expression in the mouth of his twin if
once Tave's ire should be aroused. But his brother gave no heed and,
much to Augustus' relief, went off at a tangent.

"I heard old Judge Champney talk on these things a good many times in
his lifetime, an' he was wise, wiser'n any man here." He allowed himself
this one thrust at Mr. Wiggins and the Colonel. "He used to say: 'Tavy,
it's all in the natural course of things, and it's got to strike us here
sometime; not in my time, but in my boy's. No man of us can say he owns
God's earth, an' set up barriers an' fences, an' sometimes breastworks,
an' holler "hands off" to every man that peeks over the wall, "this here
is mine or that is ours!" because 't isn't in the natural order of
things, and what isn't in the natural order isn't going to be, Tavy.'
That's what the old Judge said to me more'n once."

"He was right, Tavy, he was right," said Quimber eagerly and earnestly.
"I can't argify, an' I can't convince; but I know he was right. I've
lived most a generation longer'n any man here, an' I've seen a thing or
two an' marked the way of nater jest like the Jedge. I've stood there
where the Rothel comes down from The Gore in its spring freshet, rarin',
tearin' down, bearin' stones an' rocks along with its current till it
strikes the lowlands; then a racin' along, catchin' up turf an' mud an'
sand, an' foamin' yaller an' brown acrost the medders, leavin' mud a
quarter of an inch thick on the lowlands; and then a-rushin' into the
lake ez if 't would turn the bottom upside down--an' jest look what
happens! Stid of kickin' up a row all along the banks it jest ain't
nowhere when you look for it! Only the lake riled for a few furlongs off
shore an' kinder humpin' up in the middle. An' arter a day or two ye
come back an' look agin, an' where's the rile? All settled to the
bottom, an' the lake as clear as a looking-glass. An' then ye look at
the medders an' ye see thet, barrin' a big boulder or two an' some stuns
thet an ox-team can cart off, an' some gullyin' out long the highroad,
they ain't been hurt a mite. An' then come 'long 'bout the fust of July,
an' ye go out an' stan' there and look for the silt--an' what d' ye see?
Why, jest thet ye're knee deep in clover an' timothy thet hez growed
thet high an' lush jest on account of thet very silt!

"Thet's the way 't is with nateral things; an' thet's what the old Jedge
meant. This furrin flood's a-comin'; an' we've got to stan' some scares
an' think mebbe The Gore dam'll bust, an' the boulders lay round too
thick for the land, an' the mud'll spile our medders, an' the lake show
rily so's the cattle won't drink--an' we'll find out thet in this great
free home of our'n, thet's lent us for a while, thet there's room 'nough
for all, an', in the end--not in my time, but in your'n--our Land, like
the medders, is goin' to be the better for it."

"Well put, well put, Quimber," said the Colonel who had been showing
signs of restlessness under the unusual and protracted eloquence of the
old pound-master. "We're making the experiment that every other nation
has had to make some time or other. Take old Rome, now--what was it
started the decay, eh?"

As no one present dared to cope with the decline of so large a subject,
the Colonel had the floor. He looked at each man in turn; then waved the
hand that held his cigar airily towards the ceiling. "Just inbreeding,
sir, inbreeding. That's what did it. We Americans, are profiting by the
experience of the centuries and are going to take in fresh blood just as
fast as it can attain to an arterial circulation in the body politic,
sir; an arterial circulation, I say--" the Colonel was apt to roll a
fine phrase more than once under his tongue when the sound thereof
pleased him,--"and in the course of nature--I agree perfectly with the
late Judge Champney and our friend, Quimber--there may be, during the
process, a surcharge of blood to the head or stomach of the body politic
that will cause a slight attack of governmental vertigo or national
indigestion. But it will pass, gentlemen, it will pass; and I assure you
the health of the Republic will be kept at the normal, with nothing more
than passing attacks of racial hysteria which, however undignified they
may appear in the eyes of all right-minded citizens, must ever remain
the transient phenomena of a great nation in the making."

The Colonel, having finished his peroration with another wave of his
cigar towards the ceiling, lowered his feet from their elevated position
on the counter, glanced anxiously at the clock, which indicated a
quarter of nine, and remarked casually that, as Mrs. Caukins was
indisposed, he felt under obligations to be at home by half-past nine.

Joel Quimber, whom such outbursts of eloquence on the Colonel's part in
the usual town-meeting left in a generally dazed condition of mind and
politics, remarked that he heard the whistle of the evening train about
fifteen minutes ago, and asked if Augustus were expecting any one up on
it.

"No, but the team's gone down to meet it just the same. Maybe there'll
be a runner or two; they pay 'bout as well as the big guns after all;
and then there's a chance of one of the syndicaters coming in on me at
any time now.--There's the team."

He went out on the veranda. The men within the office listened with
intensified interest, strengthened by that curiosity which is shown by
those in whose lives events do not crowd upon one another with such
overwhelming force, that the susceptibility to fresh impressions is
dulled. They heard the land-lord's cordial greeting, a confusion of
sounds incident upon new arrivals; then Augustus Buzzby came in,
carrying bags and travelling shawl, and, following him, a tall man in
the garb of a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Close at his side was
a little girl. She was far from appearing shy or awkward in the presence
of strangers, nodding brightly to Octavius, who sat nearest the door,
and smiling captivatingly upon Joel Quimber, whereupon he felt
immediately in his pockets for a peppermint which, to his
disappointment, was not there.

The Colonel sprang to his feet when the guests entered, and quickly
doffed his felt hat which was balancing in a seemingly untenable
position on the side of his head. The priest, who removed his on the
threshold, acknowledged the courtesy with a bow and a keen glance which
included all in the room; then he stepped to the desk on the counter to
enter his name in the ponderous leather-backed registry which Augustus
opened for him. The little girl stood beside him, watching his every
movement.

The Flamstedites saw before them a man in the prime of life, possibly
forty-five. He was fully six feet in height, noticeably erect, with an
erectness that gave something of the martial to his carriage, spare but
muscular, shoulders high and square set, and above them a face deeply
pock-marked, the features large but regular, the forehead broad and
bulging rather prominently above the eyes. The eyes they could not see;
but the voice made itself heard, and felt, while he was writing. The men
present unconsciously welcomed it as a personality.

"Can you tell me if Mrs. Louis Champney lives near here?" he said,
addressing his host.

"Yes, sir; just about a mile down the street at The Bow."

"Oh, please, yer Riverence, write mine too," said the child who, by
standing on tiptoe at the high counter, had managed to follow every
stroke of the pen.

The priest looked at the landlord with a frankly interrogatory smile.

"To be sure, to be sure. Ain't you my guest as long as you're in my
home?" Augustus replied with such whole-souled heartiness that the child
beamed upon him and boldly held out her hand for the pen.

"Let me write it," she said decidedly, as if used to having her way.
Colonel Caukins sprang to place a high three-legged stool for the little
registree, and was about to lift her on, but the child, laughing aloud,
managed to seat herself without his assistance, and forthwith gave her
undivided attention to the entering of her name.

Those present loved in after years to recall this scene: the old bar,
the three-legged stool, the little girl perched on top, one foot twisted
over the round--so busily intent upon making a fine signature that a tip
of her tongue was visible held tightly against her left cheek--the
coarse straw hat, the clean but cheap blue dress, the heavy shoes that
emphasized the delicacy of her ankles and figure; and above her the
leaning priest, smiling gravely with fatherly indulgence upon this
firstling of his flock in Flamsted.

[Illustration: "Those present loved in after years to recall this
scene"]

The child looked up for approval when she had finished and shaken, with
an air of intense satisfaction, a considerable quantity of sand over the
fresh ink. Evidently the look in the priest's eyes was reward enough,
for, although he spoke no word, the little girl laughed merrily and in
the next moment hopped down rather unexpectedly from her high place and
busied herself with taking a survey of the office and its occupants.

The priest took an envelope from his pocket and handed it to Augustus,
saying as he did so:

"This is Mr. Buzzby, I know; and here is a letter from Mr. Van Ostend in
regard to this little girl. Her arrival is premature; but the matron of
the institution, where she has been, wished to take advantage of my
coming to Flamsted to place her in my care. Mr. Van Ostend would like to
have her remain here with you for a few days if Mrs. Champney is not
prepared to receive her just now."

There was a general movement of surprise among the men in the office,
and all eyes, with a question-mark visible in them, were turned towards
Octavius Buzzby. Upon him, the simple announcement had the effect of a
shock; he felt the need of air, and slipped out to the veranda, but not
before he received another bright smile from the little girl. He waited
outside until he saw Augustus show the newcomers upstairs; then he
re-entered the office and went to the register which was the speculative
focus of interest for all the others. Octavius read:

     June 18, 1889--FR. JOHN FRANCIS HONORÉ, NEW YORK. AILEEN ARMAGH,
     ORPHAN ASYLUM, NEW YORK CITY.

The Colonel was in a state of effervescing hilarity. He rubbed his hands
energetically, slapped Octavius on the back, and exclaimed in high
feather:

"How's this for the first drops of the deluge, eh, Tave?"

Octavius made no reply. He waited, as usual, for the evening's mail. The
carrier handed him a telegram from New York for Mrs. Champney. It had
just come up on the train from Hallsport. He wondered what connection
its coming might have with the unexpected arrival of this orphan child?


II

On his way home Octavius Buzzby found himself wondering, as he had
wondered many times before on occasion, how he could checkmate this
latest and most unexpected move on the part of the mistress of
Champ-au-Haut. His mind was perturbed and he realized, while making an
effort to concentrate his attention on ways and means, that he had been
giving much of his mental strength during the last twenty years to the
search for ulterior motives on the part of Mrs. Louis Champney, a woman
of sixty now, a Googe by birth (the Googes, through some genealogical
necromancy, traced their descent from Sir Ferdinando Gorges. The name
alone, not the blood, had, according to family tradition, suffered
corruption with time), and the widow of Louis Champney, the late Judge
Champney's only son.

The Champneys had a double strain of French blood in their veins, Breton
and Flemish; the latter furnished the collateral branch of the Van
Ostends. This intermixture, flowing in the veins of men and women who
were Americans by the birthright of more than two centuries' enjoyment
of our country's institutions, had produced for several generations as
fine a strain of brains and breeding as America can show.

Louis Champney, the last of the line in direct descent, was looked upon
from his boyhood up as the culmination of these centuries' flowering.
When, at forty, he died without having fulfilled in any wise the great
expectations of his townspeople and relations, the interest of the
community, as well as of the family, centred in the prospects of Louis
Champney Googe, his namesake, and nephew on his wife's side. Here,
again, numerous family interests as well as communal speculations were
disappointed. The Champney estate was left entire to the widow, Almeda
Googe Champney, to dispose of as she might deem fit. Her powers of
administratrix were untrammelled save in one respect: Octavius Buzzby
was to remain in his position as factotum on the Champney estate and
adviser for its interests.

It was at this juncture, when Louis Champney died without remembering
his nephew-in-law by so much as a book from his library and the boy was
ten years old, that a crisis was discovered to be imminent in the
fortunes of the Googe-Champney families, the many ramifications of which
were intricately interwoven in the communal life of Flamsted. This
crisis had not been averted; for Aurora Googe, the sister-in-law of Mrs.
Champney and mother of young Champney, sold a part of her land in The
Gore for the first granite quarry, and in so doing changed for all time
the character and fortunes of the town of Flamsted.

For many years Octavius Buzzby had championed openly and in secret the
cause of Aurora Googe and her only son. To-night, while walking slowly
homewards, he was pondering what attitude of mind he must assume, before
he could deal adequately with the momentous event which had been
foreshadowed from the moment he learned from the priest's lips that Mr.
Van Ostend was implicated in the coming of this orphan child. He
recalled that little Alice Van Ostend prattled much about this same
child during the week she had spent recently with her father at
Champ-au-Haut.

Was the mistress of Champ-au-Haut going to adopt her?

Almeda Champney had never wanted the blessing of a child, and, contrary
to her young husband's wishes--he was her junior by twelve years--she
had had her way. Her nature was so absorbingly tenacious of whatever
held her narrow interests, that a child at Champ-au-Haut would have
broken, in a measure, her domination of her weaker-willed husband,
because it would have centred in itself his love and ambition to "keep
up the name." That now, eleven years after Louis Champney's death, she
should contemplate the introduction into her perfectly ordered household
of a child, an alien, was a revelation of appalling moment to Octavius.
He scouted the idea that she would enter the house as an assistant. None
was needed; and, moreover, those small hands could accomplish little in
the next ten years. She meant to adopt her then! An alien was to inherit
the Champney property! Octavius actually shivered at the thought.

Was it, could it be an act of spite against Aurora Googe? Was it a final
answer to any expectations of her nephew, Champney Googe, her husband's
namesake and favorite? Was this little alien waif to be made a catspaw
for her revenge? She was capable of such a thing, was Almeda Champney.
_He_ knew her; none better! Had not her will, thus far in her life, bent
everything with which it had come in contact; crushed whatever had
opposed it; broken irrevocably whosoever for a while had successfully
resisted it?

His thin lips drew to a straight line. All his manhood's strength of
desire for fair play, a desire he had been fated to see unfulfilled
during the last twenty years, rose in rebellion to champion the cause of
the little newcomer who smiled on him so brightly in the office of The
Greenbush. Nor did he falter in his resolution when he presented himself
at the library door with the telegram in his hand.

"Come in, Octavius; was there any mail?"

"Only a telegram from New York." He handed it to her.

She opened and read it; then laid it on the table. She removed her
eyeglasses, for she had grown far-sighted with advancing years, in order
to look at the back of the small man who was leaving the room. If he had
seen the smile that accompanied the action, he might well have faltered
in his resolution to champion any righteous cause on earth.

"Wait a moment, Octavius."

"Now it's coming!" he thought and faced her again; he was bracing
himself mentally to meet the announcement.

"Did you see the junk man at The Corners to-day about those shingle
nails?"

In the second of hesitation before replying, he had time inwardly to
curse her. She was always letting him down in this way. It was a trick
of hers when, to use his own expression, she had "something up her
sleeve."

"Yes; but he won't take them off our hands."

"Why not?" She spoke sharply as was her way when she suspected any
thwarting of her will or desire.

"He says he won't give you your price for they ain't worth it. They
ain't particular good for old iron anyway; most on 'em's rusty and
crooked. You know they've been on the old coach house for good thirty
years, and the Judge used to say--"

"What will he give?"

"A quarter of a cent a pound."

"How many pounds are there?"

"Fifty-two."

"Fifty-two--hm-m; he sha'n't have them. They're worth a half a cent a
pound if they're worth anything. You can store them in the workshop till
somebody comes along that does want them, and will pay." He turned again
to leave her.

"Just a moment, Octavius." Once more he came back over the threshold.

"Were there any arrivals at The Greenbush to-night?"

"I judged so from the register."

"Did you happen to see a girl there?"

"I saw a child, a little girl, smallish and thin; a priest was with
her."

"A priest?" Mrs. Champney looked nonplussed for a moment and put on her
glasses to cover her surprise. "Did you learn her name, the girl's?"

"It was in the register, Aileen Armagh, from an orphan asylum in New
York."

"Then she's the one," she said in a musing tone but without the least
expression of interest. She removed her glasses. Octavius took a step
backwards. "A moment more, Octavius. I may as well speak of it now; I am
only anticipating by a week or two, at the most, what, in any case, I
should have told you. While Mr. Van Ostend was here, he enlisted my
sympathy in this girl to such an extent that I decided to keep her for a
few months on trial before making any permanent arrangement in regard to
her. I want to judge of her capability to assist Ann and Hannah in the
housework; Hannah is getting on in years. What do you think of her? How
did she impress you? Now that I have decided to give her a trial, you
may speak freely. You know I am guided many times by your judgment in
such matters."

Octavius Buzzby could have ground his teeth in impotent rage at this
speech which, to his accustomed ears, rang false from beginning to end,
yet was cloaked in terms intended to convey a compliment to himself.
But, instead, he smiled the equivocal smile with which many a speech of
like tenor had been greeted, and replied with marked earnestness:

"I wouldn't advise you, Mrs. Champney, to count on much assistance from
a slip of a thing like that. She's small, and don't look more 'n nine,
and--"

"She's over twelve," Mrs. Champney spoke decidedly; "and a girl of
twelve ought to be able to help Ann and Hannah in some of their work."

"Well, I ain't no judge of children as there's never been any of late
years at Champo." He knew his speech was barbed. Mrs. Champney carefully
adjusted her glasses to the thin bridge of her straight white nose. "And
if there had been, I shouldn't want to say what they could do or what
they couldn't at that age. Take Romanzo, now, he's old enough to work if
you watch him; and now he's here I don't deny but what you had the
rights of it 'bout my needing an assistant. He takes hold handy if you
show him how, and is willing and steady. But two on 'em--I don't know;"
he shook his head dubiously; "a growing boy and girl to feed and train
and clothe--seems as if--" Octavius paused in the middle of his
sentence. He knew his ground, or thought he knew it.

"You said yourself she was small and thin, and I can give her work
enough to offset her board. Of course, she will have to go to school,
but the tuition is free; and if I pay school taxes, that are increasing
every year, I might as well have the benefit of them, if I can, in my
own household."

There seemed no refutation needed to meet such an argument, and Octavius
retreated another step towards the door.

"A moment more, Octavius," she said blandly, for she knew he was longing
to rid her of his presence; "Mr. Emlie has been here this evening and
drawn up the deeds conveying my north shore property to the New York
syndicate. Mr. Van Ostend has conducted all the negotiations at that
end, and I have agreed to the erection of the granite sheds on those
particular sites and to the extension of a railroad for the quarries
around the head of the lake to The Corners. The syndicate are to control
all the quarry interests, and Mr. Van Ostend says in a few years they
will assume vast proportions, entailing an outlay of at least three
millions. They say there is to be a large electric plant at The Corners,
for the mill company have sold them the entire water power at the
falls.--I hope Aurora is satisfied with what she has accomplished in so
short a time. Champney, I suppose, comes home next month?"

Octavius merely nodded, and withdrew in haste lest his indignation get
the upper hand of his discretion. It behooved him to be discreet at this
juncture; he must not injure Aurora Googe's cause, which he deemed as
righteous a one as ever the sun shone upon, by any injudicious word that
might avow his partisanship.

Mrs. Champney smiled again when she saw his precipitous retreat. She had
freighted every word with ill will, and knew how to raise his silent
resentment to the boiling point. She rose and stepped quickly into the
hall.

"Tavy," she called after him as he was closing the door into the back
passage. He turned to look at her; she stood in the full light of the
hall-lamp. "Just a moment before you go. Did you happen to hear who the
priest is who came with the girl?"

"His name was in the ledger. The Colonel said he was a father--Father
Honoré, I can't pronounce it, from New York."

"Is he stopping at The Greenbush?"

"He's put up there for to-night anyway."

"I think I must see this priest; perhaps he can give me more detailed
information about the girl. That's all."

She went back into the library, closing the door after her. Octavius
shut his; then, standing there in the dimly lighted passageway, he
relieved himself by doubling both fists and shaking them vigorously at
the panels of that same door, the while he simulated, first with one
foot then with the other, a lively kick against the baseboard, muttering
between his set teeth:

"The devil if it's all, you devilly, divelly, screwy old--"

The door opened suddenly. Simultaneously with its opening Octavius had
sufficient presence of mind to blow out the light. He drew his breath
short and fumbled in his pocket for matches.

"Why, Tavy, you here!" (How well she knew that the familiar name "Tavy"
was the last turn of the thumbscrew for this factotum of the Champneys!
She never applied it unless she knew he was thoroughly worsted in the
game between them.) "I was coming to find you; I forgot to say that you
may go down to-morrow at nine and bring her up. I want to look her
over."

She closed the door. Octavius, without stopping to relight the lamp,
hurried up to his room in the ell, fearful lest he be recalled a fifth
time--a test of his powers of mental endurance to which he dared not
submit in his present perturbed state.

Mrs. Champney walked swiftly down the broad main hall, that ran through
the house, to the door opening on the north terrace whence there was an
unobstructed view up the three miles' length of Lake Mesantic to the
Flamsted Hills; and just there, through a deep depression in their
midst, the Rothel, a rushing brook, makes its way to the calm waters at
their gates. At this point, where the hills separate like the opening
sepals of a gigantic calyx, the rugged might of Katahdin heaves head and
shoulder into the blue.

The irregular margin of the lake is fringed with pines of magnificent
growth. Here and there the shores rise into cliffs, seamed at the top
and inset on the face with slim white lady birches, or jut far into the
waters as rocky promontories sparsely wooded with fir and balsam spruce.

Mrs. Champney stepped out upon the terrace. Her accustomed eyes looked
upon this incomparable, native scene that was set in the full beauty of
mid-summer's moonlight. She advanced to the broad stone steps, that
descend to the level of the lake, and, folding her arms, her hands
resting lightly upon them, stood immovable, looking northwards to the
Flamsted Hills--looking, but not seeing; for her thoughts were leaping
upwards to The Gore and its undeveloped resources; to Aurora Googe and
the part she was playing in this transitional period of Flamsted's life;
to the future years of industrial development and, in consequence, her
own increasing revenues from the quarries. She had stipulated that
evening that a clause, which would secure to her the rights of a first
stockholder, should be inserted in the articles of conveyance.

The income of eight thousand from the estate, as willed to her, had
increased under her management, aided by her ability to drive a sharp
bargain and the penuriousness which, according to Octavius, was capable
of "making a cent squeal", to twelve thousand. The sale of her north
shore lands would increase it another five thousand. Within a few years,
according to Mr. Van Ostend--and she trusted him--her dividends from her
stock would net her several thousands more. She was calculating, as she
stood there gazing northwards, unseeing, into the serene night and the
hill-peace that lay within it, how she could invest this increment for
the coming years, and casting about in her mathematically inclined mind
for means to make the most of it in interest per cent. She felt sure the
future would show satisfactory results.--And after?

That did not appeal to her.

She unfolded her arms, and gathering her skirt in both hands went down
the steps and took her stand on the lowest. She was still looking
northwards. Her skirt slipped from her left hand which she raised half
mechanically to let a single magnificent jewel, that guarded the plain
circlet of gold on her fourth finger, flash in the moonlight. She held
it raised so for a moment, watching the play of light from the facets.
Suddenly she clinched her delicate fist spasmodically; shook it forcibly
upwards towards the supreme strength of those silent hills, which, in
comparison with the human three score and ten, may well be termed
"everlasting", and, muttering fiercely under her breath, "_You_ shall
never have a penny of it!", turned, went swiftly up the steps, and
entered the house.


III

Had the mistress of Champ-au-Haut stood on the terrace a few minutes
longer, she might have seen with those far-sighted eyes of hers a dark
form passing quickly along the strip of highroad that showed white
between the last houses at The Bow. It was Father Honoré. He walked
rapidly along the highway that, skirting the base of the mountain,
follows the large curve of the lake shore. Rapid as was the pace, the
quickened eyes were seeing all about, around, above. In passing beneath
a stretch of towering pines, he caught between their still indefinite
foliage the gleam of the lake waters. He stopped short for a full minute
to pommel his resonant chest; to breathe deep, deep breaths of the night
balm. Then he proceeded on his way.

That way led northwards along the lake shore; it skirted the talus that
had fallen from the cliff which rose three hundred feet above him. He
heard the sound of a rolling stone gathering in velocity among the
rubble. He halted in order to listen; to trace, if possible, its course.
The dull monotone of its rumbling rattle started a train of thought:
perhaps his foot, treading the highway lightly, had caused the sensitive
earth to tremble just sufficiently to jar the delicately poised stone
and send it from its resting place! He went on. Thoughts not to be
uttered crowded to the forefront of consciousness as he neared the cleft
in the Flamsted Hills, whence the Rothel makes known to every wayfarer
that it has come direct from the heart of The Gore, and brought with it
the secrets of its granite veins.

The road grew steeper; the man's pace did not slacken, but the straight
back was bent at an angle which showed the priest had been accustomed to
mountain climbing. In the leafy half-light, which is neither dawn nor
twilight, but that reverential effulgence which is made by moonlight
sifting finely through midsummer foliage, the Rothel murmured over its
rocky bed; once, when in a deep pool its babble wholly ceased, an owl
broke the silence with his "witti-hoo-hoo-hoo".

Still upwards he kept his way and his pace until he emerged into the
full moonlight of the heights. There he halted and looked about him. He
was near the apex of The Gore. To the north, above the foreground of the
sea of hilltops, loomed Katahdin. At his right, a pond, some five acres
in extent, lay at the base of cliff-like rocks topped with a few
primeval pines. Everywhere there were barren sheep pastures alternating
with acres of stunted fir and hemlock, and in sheltered nooks, adjacent
to these coverts, he could discern something which he judged to be stone
sheepfolds. Just below him, on the opposite side of the road and the
Rothel, which was crossed by a broad bridging of log and plank, stood a
long low stone house, to the north of which a double row of firs had
been planted for a windbreak. Behind him, on a rise of ground a few rods
from the highway, was a large double house of brick with deep granite
foundations and white granite window caps. Two shafts of the same stone
supported the ample white-painted entrance porch. Ancestral elms
over-leafed the roof on the southern side. One light shone from an upper
window. Beyond the elms, a rough road led still upwards to the heights
behind the house.

The priest retraced his steps; turned into this road, for which the
landlord of The Greenbush had given him minute instructions, and
followed its rough way for an eighth of a mile; then a sudden turn
around a shoulder of the hill--and the beginning of the famous Flamsted
granite quarries lay before him, gleaming, sparkling in the moonlight--a
snow-white, glistening patch on the barren hilltop. Near it were a few
huts of turf and stone for the accommodation of the quarrymen. This was
all. But it was the scene, self-chosen, of this priest's future labors;
and while he looked upon it, thoughts unutterable crowded fast, too fast
for the brain already stimulated by the time and environment. He turned
about; retraced his steps at the same rapid pace; passed again up the
highroad to the head of The Gore, then around it, across a barren
pasture, and climbed the cliff-like rock that was crowned by the ancient
pines. He stood there erect, his head thrown back, his forehead to the
radiant heavens, his eyes fixed on the pale twinklings of the seven
stars in the northernmost constellation of the Bear--rapt, caught away
in spirit by the intensity of feeling engendered by the hour, the place.
Then he knelt, bowing his head on a lichened rock, and unto his Maker,
and the Maker of that humanity he had elected to serve, he consecrated
himself anew.

Ten minutes afterwards, he was coming down The Gore on his way back to
The Greenbush. He heard the agitated ringing of a bell-wether; then the
soft huddling rush of a flock of sheep somewhere in the distance. A
sheep dog barked sharply; a hound bayed in answer till the hills north
of The Gore gave back a multiple echo; but the Rothel kept its secrets,
and with inarticulate murmuring made haste to deposit them in the quiet
lake waters.


IV

"But, mother--"

There was an intonation in the protest that hinted at some irritation.
Champney Googe emptied his pipe on the grass and knocked it clean
against the porch rail before he continued.

"Won't it make a lot of talk? Of course, I can see your side of it; it's
hospitable and neighborly and all that, to give the priest his meals for
a while, but,--" he hesitated, and his mother answered his thought.

"A little talk more or less after all there has been about the quarry
won't do any harm, and I'm used to it." She spoke with some bitterness.

"It _has_ stirred up a hornet's nest about your ears, that's a fact. How
does Aunt Meda take this latest move? Meat-axey as usual? I didn't see
her when I went there yesterday; she's in Hallsport for two days on
business, so Tave says."

His mother smiled. "I haven't seen her since the sale was concluded, but
I hear she has strengthened the opposition in consequence. I get my
information from Mrs. Caukins."

At the mention of that name Champney laughed out. "Good authority,
mother. I must run over and see her to-night. Well, we don't care, do
we? I mean about the feeling. Mother, I just wish you were a man for one
minute."

"Why?"

"Because I'd like to go up to you, man fashion, grip your hand, slap you
on the back, and shout 'By Jove, old man, you've made a deal that would
turn the sunny side of Wall Street green with envy!' How did you do it,
mother? And without a lawyer! I'll bet Emlie is mad because he didn't
get a chance to put his finger in your pie."

"I was thinking of you, of your future, and how you have been used by
Almeda Champney; and that gave me the confidence, almost the push of a
man--and I dealt with them as a man with men; but I felt unsexed in
doing it. I've wondered what they think of me."

"Think of you! I can tell you what one man thinks of you, and that's Mr.
Van Ostend. I had a note from him at the time of the sale asking me to
come to his office, an affidavit was necessary, and I found he had had
eyes in his head for the most beautiful woman in the world--"

"Champney!"

"Fact; and, what's more, I got an invitation to his house on the
strength of his recognition of that fact. I dined with him there; his
sister is a stunning girl."

"I'm glad such homes are open to you; it is your right and--it
compensates."

"For what, mother?"

"Oh, a good many things. How do they live?"

"The Van Ostends?"

"Yes."

Champney Googe hugged his knees and rocked back and forth on the step
before he answered. His merry face seemed to lengthen in feature, to
harden in line. His mother left her chair and sewing to sit down on the
step beside him. She looked up inquiringly.

"Just as _I_ mean to live sometime, mother,"--his fresh young voice rang
determined and almost hard; his mother's eyes kindled;--"in a way that
expresses Life--as you and I understand it, and don't live it, mother;
as you and I have conceived of it while up here among these sheep
pastures." He glanced inimically for a moment at the barren slopes above
them. "I have you to thank for making me comprehend the difference." He
continued the rocking movement for a while, his hands still clasping his
knees. Then he went on:

"As for his home on the Avenue, there isn't its like in the city, and as
a storehouse of the best in art it hasn't its equal in the country; it's
just perfect from picture gallery to billiard room. As for adjuncts,
there's a shooting box and a _bona fide_ castle in the Scottish
Highlands, a cottage at Bar Harbor with the accessory of a steam yacht,
and a racing stud on a Long Island farm. As a financier he's great!"

He sat up straight, and freely used his fists, first on one knee then on
the other, to emphasize his words; "His right hand is on one great lever
of interstate traffic, his left on the other of foreign trade, and two
continents obey his manipulations. His eye exacts trained efficiency
from thousands; his word is a world event; Wall Street is his automaton.
Oh, the power of it all! I can't wait to get out into the stream,
mother! I'm only hugging the shore at present; that's what has made me
kick against this last year in college; it has been lost time, for I
want to get rich quick."

His mother laid her hand on his knee. "No, Champney, it's not lost time;
it's one of your assets as a gentleman."

He looked up at her, his blue eyes smiling into her dark ones.

"I can be a gentleman all right without that asset; you said father
didn't go."

"No, but the man for whom you are named went, and he told me once a
college education was a 'gentleman's asset.' That expression was his."

"Well, I don't see that the asset did him much good. It didn't seem to
discount his liabilities in other ways. Queer, how Uncle Louis went to
seed--I mean, didn't amount to anything along any business or
professional line. Only last spring I met the father of a second-year
man who remembers Uncle Louis well, said he was a classmate of his. He
told me he was banner man every time and no end popular; the others
didn't have a show with him."

His mother was silent. Champney, apparently unheeding her
unresponsiveness, rose quickly, shook himself together, and suddenly
burst into a mighty laughter that is best comparable to the
inextinguishable species of the blessed gods. He laughed in arpeggios,
peal on peal, crescendo and diminuendo, until, finally, he flung himself
down on the short turf and in his merriment rolled over and over. He
brought himself right side up at last, tears in his eyes and a sigh of
satisfying exhaustion on his lips. To his mother's laughing query:

"What is it now, Champney?" He shook his head as if words failed him;
then he said huskily:

"It's Aunt Meda's _protégée_. Oh, Great Scott! She'll be the death by
shock of some of the Champo people if she stays another three months. I
hear Aunt Meda has had her Waterloo. Tavy buttonholed me out in the
carriage house yesterday, and told me the whole thing--oh, but it's
rich!" He chuckled again. "He got me to feel his vest; says he can lap
it three inches already and she has only been here two weeks; and as
for Romanzo, he's neither to have nor to hold when the girl's in
sight--wits topsy-turvy, actually, oh, Lord!"--he rolled over again on
the grass--"what do you think, mother! She got Roman to scour down
Jim--you know, the white cart-horse, the Percheron--with Hannah's
cleaning powder, and the girl helped him, and together they got one side
done and then waited for it to dry to see how it worked. Result: Tave
dead ashamed to drive him in the cart for fear some one will see the
yellow-white calico-circus horse, that the two rapscallions have left on
his hands, and doesn't want Aunt Meda to know it for fear she'll turn
down Roman. He says he's going to put Jim out to grass in the Colonel's
back sheep pasture, and when Aunt Meda comes home lie about sudden
spavin or something. And the joke of it is Roman takes it all as a part
of the play, and has owned up to Tave that, by mistake, he blacked Aunt
Meda's walking boots, before she went to Hallsport, with axle grease,
while the girl was 'telling novels' to him! Tave said Roman told him she
knew a lot of the nobility, marchionesses and 'sich'; and now Roman
struts around cocksure, high and mighty as if he'd just been made
K.C.B., and there's no getting any steady work out of him. You should
have seen Tave's face when he was telling me!"

His mother laughed. "I can imagine it; he's worried over this new move
of Almeda's. I confess it puzzles me."

"Well, I'm off to see some of the fun--and the girl. Tave said he didn't
expect Aunt Meda before to-morrow night, and it's a good time for me to
rubber round the old place a little on my own hook;--and, mother,"--he
stooped to her; Aurora Googe raised her still beautiful eyes to the
frank if somewhat hard blue ones that looked down into hers; a fine
color mounted into her cheeks,--"take the priest for his meals, for all
me. It's an invasion, but, of course, I recognize that we're responsible
for it on account of the quarry business. I suppose we shall have to
make some concessions to all classes till we get away from here for good
and all--then we'll have our fling, won't we, mother?"

He was off without waiting for a reply. Aurora Googe watched him out of
sight, then turned to her work, the flush still upon her cheeks.


V

Champney leaned on the gate of the paddock at Champ-au-Haut and looked
about him. The estate at The Bow had been familiar to him throughout his
childhood and boyhood. He had been over every foot of it, and at all
seasons, with his Uncle Louis. He was realizing that it had never seemed
more beautiful to him than now, seen in the warm light of a July sunset.
In the garden pleasance, that sloped to the lake, the roses and lilies
planted there a generation ago still bloomed and flourished, and in the
elm-shaded paddock, on the gate of which he was leaning, filly and foal
could trace their pedigree to the sixth and seventh generation of
deep-chested, clean-flanked ancestors.

The young man comprehended in part only, the reason of his mother's
extreme bitterness towards Almeda Champney. His uncle had loved him; had
kept him with him much of the time, encouraging him in his boyish aims
and ambitions which his mother fostered--and Louis Champney was
childless, the last in direct descent of a long line of fine
ancestors--.

Here his thought was checked; those ancestors were his, only in a
generation far removed; the Champney blood was in his mother's veins.
But his father was Almeda Champney's only brother--why then, should not
his mother count on the estate being his in the end? He knew this to
have been her hope, although she had never expressed it. He had gained
an indefinite knowledge of it through old Joel Quimber and Elmer Wiggins
and Mrs. Milton Caukins, a distant relative of his father's. To be sure,
Louis Champney might have left him his hunting-piece, which as a boy he
had coveted, just for the sake of his name--

He stopped short in his speculations for he heard voices in the lane.
The cows were entering it and coming up to the milking shed. The lane
led up from the low-lying lake meadows, knee deep with timothy and
clover, and was fenced on both sides from the apple orchards which
arched and overshadowed its entire length. The sturdy over-reaching
boughs hung heavy with myriads of green balls. Now and then one dropped
noiselessly on the thick turf in the lane, and a noble Holstein mother,
ebony banded with ivory white, her swollen cream-colored bag and
dark-blotched teats flushed through and through by the delicate rose of
a perfectly healthy skin, lowered her meek head and, snuffing largely,
caught sideways as she passed at the enticing green round.

At the end of this lane there swung into view a tall loose-jointed
figure which the low strong July sunshine threw into bold relief. It was
Romanzo Caukins, one of the Colonel's numerous family, a boy of sixteen
who had been bound out recently to the mistress of Champ-au-Haut upon
agreement of bed, board, clothes, three terms of "schooling" yearly, and
the addition of thirty dollars to be paid annually to the Colonel.

The payment of this amount, by express stipulation, was to be made at
the end of each year until Romanzo should come into his majority. By
this arrangement, Mrs. Champney assured to herself the interest on the
aforesaid thirty dollars, and congratulated herself on the fact that
such increment might be credited to Milton Caukins as a minus quantity.

Champney leaped the bars and went down the lane to meet him.

"Hello, Roman, how are you?"

The boy's honest blue eyes, that seemed always to be looking forward in
a chronic state of expectancy for the unexpected, beamed with goodness
and goodwill. He wiped his hands on his overalls and clasped Champney's.

"Hullo, Champ, when'd you come?"

"Only yesterday. I didn't see you about when I was here in the
afternoon. How do you like your job?"

The youth made an uncouth but expressive sign towards the milk shed.
"Sh--Tave'll hear you. He and I ain't been just on good terms lately;
but 'tain't my fault," he added doggedly.

At that moment a clear childish voice called from somewhere below the
lane:

"Romanzo--Romanzo!"

The boy started guiltily. "I've got to go, Champ; she wants me."

Champney seized him with a strong hand by the suspenders. "Here, hold
on! Who, you gump?"

"The girl--le' me go." But Champney gripped him fast.

"No, you don't, Roman; let her yell."

"Ro--man--zo-o-o-o!" The range of this peremptory call was two octaves
at least.

"By gum--she's up to something, and Tave won't stand any more
fooling--le' me go!" He writhed in the strong grasp.

"I won't either. I haven't been half-back on our team for nothing; so
stand still." And Romanzo stood still, perforce.

Another minute and Aileen came running up the lane. She was wearing the
same heavy shoes, the same dark blue cotton dress, half covered now with
a gingham apron--Mrs. Champney had not deemed it expedient to furnish a
wardrobe until the probation period should have decided her for or
against keeping the child. She was bareheaded, her face flushed with the
heat and her violent exercise. She stopped short at a little distance
from them so soon as she saw that Romanzo was not alone. She tossed back
her braid and stamped her foot to emphasize her words:

"Why didn't yer come, Romanzo Caukins, when I cried ter yer!"

"'Coz I couldn't; he wouldn't let me." He spoke anxiously, making signs
towards the shed. But Aileen ignored them; ignored, also, the fact that
any one was present besides her slave.

Champney answered for himself. He promptly bared his head and advanced
to shake hands; but Aileen jerked hers behind her.

"I'm Mr. Champney Googe, at your service. Who are you?"

The little girl was sizing him up before she accepted the advance;
Champney could tell by the "East-side" look with which she favored him.

"I'm Miss Aileen Armagh, and don't yer forget it!--at your service." She
mimicked him so perfectly that Champney chuckled and Romanzo doubled up
in silent glee.

"I sha'n't be apt to, thank you. Come, let's shake hands, Miss Aileen
Armagh-and-don't-yer-forget-it, for we've got to be friends if you're to
stay here with my aunt." He held out both hands. But the little girl
kept her own obstinately behind her and backed away from him.

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"'Coz they're all stuck up with spruce gum and Octavius said nothing
would take it off but grease, and--" she turned suddenly upon Romanzo,
blazing out upon him in her wrath--"I hollered ter yer so's yer could
get some for me from Hannah, and you was just dirt mean not to answer
me."

"Champ wouldn't let me go," said Romanzo sulkily; "besides, I dassn't
ask Hannah, not since I used the harness cloth she gave to clean down
Jim."

"Yer 'dassn't!' Fore I'd be a boy and say 'I dassn't!'" There was
inexpressible scorn in her voice. She turned to Champney, her eyes
brimming with mischief and flashing a challenge:

"And yer dassn't shake hands with me 'coz mine are all stuck up, so
now!"

Champney had not anticipated this _pronunciamento_, but he accepted the
challenge on the instant. "Dare not! You can't say that to me! Here,
give me your hands." Again he held out his shapely well-kept members,
and Aileen with a merry laugh brought her grimy sticky little paws into
view and, without a word, laid them in Champney's palms. He held them
close, purposely, that they might adhere and provide him with some fun;
then, breaking into his gay laugh he said:

"Clear out, Roman; Tave 'll be looking for the milk pails. As for you,
Miss Aileen Armagh-and-don't-yer-forget-it, you can't pull away from me
now. So, come on, and we'll get Hannah to give us some lard and then
we'll go down to the boat house where it is cool and cleanup. Come on!"

Holding her by both hands he raced her down the long lane, through the
vegetable garden, all chassez, down the middle, swing your
partner--Aileen wild with the fun--up the slate-laid kitchen walk to the
kitchen door. His own laughter and the child's, happy, merry, care-free,
rang out peal on peal till Ann and Hannah and Octavius paused in their
work to listen, and wished that such music might have been heard often
during their long years of faithful service in childless Champ-au-Haut.

"I hear you are acquainted with some of the nobility, marchionesses and
so forth," said Champney; the two were sitting in the shadow of the boat
house cleaning their fingers with the lard Hannah had provided. "Where
did you make their acquaintance?"

Aileen paused in the act of sliding her greasy hands rapidly over and
over in each other, an occupation which afforded her unmixed delight, to
look up at him in amazement. "How did yer know anything 'bout her?"

"Oh, I heard."

"Did Romanzo Caukins tell yer?" she demanded, as usual on the defensive.

"No, oh no; it was only hearsay. Do tell me about her. We don't have any
round here."

Aileen giggled and resumed the rapid rotary motion of her still unwashed
hands. "If I tell yer 'bout her, yer'll tell her I told yer. P'raps
sometime, if yer ever go to New York, yer might see her; and she
wouldn't like it."

"How do you know but what I have seen her? I've just come from there."

Aileen looked her surprise again. "That's queer, for I've just landed
from New York meself."

"So I understood; does the marchioness live there too?"

She shook her head. "I ain't going to tell yer; but I'll tell yer 'bout
some others I know."

"That live in New York?"

"Wot yer giving me?" She laughed merrily; "they live where the Dagos
live, in Italy, yer know, and--"

"Italy? What are they doing over there?"

"--And--just yer wait till I'll tell yer--they live on an island in a
be-ee-u-tiful lake, like this;" she looked approvingly at the liquid
mirror that reflected in its rippleless depths the mountain shadow and
sunset gold; "and they live in great marble houses, palaces, yer know,
and flower gardens, and wear nothing but silks and velvet and pearls,
ropes,--yer mind?--ropes of 'em; and the lords and ladies have concerts,
yer know, better 'n in the thayertre--"

"What do you know about the theatre?" Champney was genuinely surprised;
"I thought you came from an orphan asylum."

"Yer did, did yer!" There was scorn in her voice. "Wot do I know 'bout
the thayertre?--Oh, but yer green!" She broke into another merry laugh
which, together with the patronage of her words and certain unsavory
memories of his own, nettled Champney more than he would have cared to
acknowledge.

"Better 'n the thayertre," she repeated emphatically; "and the lords
serenade the ladies--Do yer know wot a serenade is?" She interrupted
herself to ask the question with a strong doubt in the interrogation.

"I've heard of 'em," said Champney meekly; "but I don't think I've ever
seen one."

"I'll tell yer 'bout 'em. The lords have guitars and go out in the
moonlight and stand under the ladies' windys and play, and the ladies
make believe they haven't heard; then they look up all round at the moon
and sigh _awful_,--" she sighed in sympathy,--"and then the lords begin
to sing and tell 'em they love 'em and can't live without a--a token.
I'll bet yer don't know wot that is?"

"No, of course I don't; I'm not a lord, and I don't live in Italy."

"Well, I'll tell yer." Her tone was one of relenting indulgence for his
ignorance. "Sometimes it's a bow that they make out of the ribbon their
dresses is trimmed with, and sometimes it's a flower, a rose, yer know;
and the lord sings again--can yer sing?"

Her companion repressed a smile. "I can manage a tune or two at a
pinch."

"And the lady comes out on the balcony and leans over--like this, yer
know;" she jumped up and leaned over the rail of the float, keeping her
hands well in front of her to save her apron; "and she listens and keeps
looking, and when he sings he's going to die because he loves her so,
she throws the token down to him to let him know he mustn't die 'coz she
loves him too; and he catches it, the rose, yer know, and smells it and
then he kisses it and squeezes it against his heart--" she forgot her
greasy hands in the rapture of this imaginative flight, and pressed them
theatrically over her gingham apron beneath which her own little organ
was pulsing quick with the excitement of this telling moment; "--and
then the moon shines just as bright as silver and--and she marries him."

She drew a deep breath. During the recital she had lost herself in the
personating of the favorite characters from her one novel. While she
stood there looking out on the lake and the Flamsted Hills with eyes
that were still seeing the gardens and marble terraces of Isola Bella,
Champney Googe had time to fix that picture on his mental retina and,
recalling it in after years, knew that the impression was "more lasting
than bronze."

She came rather suddenly to herself when she grew aware of her larded
hands pressed against her clean apron.

"Oh, gracious, but I'll catch it!" she exclaimed ruefully. "Wot'll I do
now? She said I'd got to keep it clean till she got back, and she'll
fire me and--and I want to stay awful; it's just like the story, yer
know." She raised her gray eyes appealingly to his, and he saw at once
that her childish fear was real. He comforted her.

"I'll tell you what: we'll go back to Hannah and she'll fix it for you;
and if it's spoiled I'll go down and get some like it in the village and
my mother will make you a new one. So, cheer up, Miss Aileen Armagh
and-don't-yer-forget-it! And to-morrow evening, if the moon is out,
we'll have a serenade all by ourselves; what do you say to that?"

"D' yer mane it?" she demanded, half breathless in her earnestness.

He nodded.

Aileen clapped her hands and began to dance; then she stopped suddenly
to say: "I ain't going to dance for yer now; but I will sometime," she
added graciously. "I've got to go now and help Ann. What time are yer
coming for the serenade?"

"I'll be here about eight; the moon will be out by then and we must have
a moon."

She started away on the run, beckoning to him with her unwashed hands:
"Come on, then, till I show yer my windy. It's the little one over the
dining-room. There ain't a balcony, but--see there! there's the top of
the bay windy and I can lean out--why didn't yer tell me yer could play
the guitar?"

"Because I can't."

"A harp, belike?"

"No; guess again."

"Yer no good;--but yer'll come?"

"Shurre; an' more be token it's at eight 'o the clock Oi'll be under yer
windy." He gave the accent with such Celtic gusto that the little girl
was captivated.

"Ain't you a corker!" she said admiringly and, waving her hand again to
him, ran to the house. Champney followed more slowly to lay the case
before Ann and Hannah.

On his way homeward he found himself wondering if he had ever seen the
child before. As she leaned on the rail and looked out over the lake, a
certain grace of attitude, which the coarse clothing failed to conceal,
the rapt expression in the eyes, the _timbre_ of her voice, all awakened
a dim certainty that he had seen her before at some time and place
distinctly unusual; but where? He turned the search-light of
concentrated thought upon his comings and goings and doings during the
last year and more. Where had he seen just such a child?

He looked up from the roadway, on which his eyes had been fixed while
his absent thought was making back tracks over the last twelve months,
and saw before him the high pastures of The Gore. In the long afterglow
of the July sunset they enamelled the barren heights with a rich,
yellowish green. In a flash it came to him: "The green hill far away
without a city wall"; the child singing on the vaudeville stage; the
hush in the audience. He smiled to himself. He was experiencing that
satisfaction which is common to all who have run down the quarry of a
long-hunted recollection.

"She's the very one," he said to himself; "I wonder if Aunt Meda
knows."


VI

That which proves momentous in our lives is rarely anticipated, seldom
calculated. Its factors are for the most part unknown quantities; if not
prime in themselves they are, at least, prime to each other. It cannot
be measured in terms of time, for often it lies between two infinities.
But the momentous decision, event, action, which reacts upon the life of
a man or woman and influences that life so long as it is lived here on
earth, is on the surface sufficiently finite for us to say: It was on
such a day I made my decision; to such and such an event I can look back
as the cause of all that has followed. The How thereof remains traceable
to our purblind eyes for a month, a term of years, one generation,
possibly two; the Where and When can generally be defined; but the _Why_
we ask blindly, and are rarely answered satisfactorily.

Had young Googe been told, while he was walking homewards up The Gore,
that his life line, like the antenna of the wireless, was even then the
recipient and transmitter of multiple influences that had been, as it
were, latent in the storage batteries of a generation; that what he was
to be in the future was at this very hour in germ for development, he
would have scouted the idea. His young self-sufficiency would have
laughed the teller to scorn. He would have maintained as a man his
mastership of his fate and fortunes, and whistled as carelessly as he
whistled now for the puppy, an Irish terrier which he had brought home
with him, for training, to come and meet him.

And the puppy, whose name was Ragamuffin and called Rag for short, came
duly, unknowing, like his young master, to meet his fate. He wriggled
broad-side down the walk as a puppy will in his first joy till,
overpowered by his emotions, he rolled over on his back at Champney's
feet, the fringes of his four legs waving madly in air.

"Champney, I'm waiting for you." It was his mother calling from the
door. He ran in through the kitchen, and hurried to make himself
presentable for the table and their guest whom he saw on the front
porch.

As he entered the dining-room, his mother introduced him: "Father
Honoré, my son, Champney."

The two men shook hands, and Mrs. Googe took her seat. The priest bowed
his head momentarily to make the sign of the cross. Champney Googe shot
one keen, amazed look in his direction. When that head was lifted
Champney "opened fire," so he termed it to himself.

"I think I've seen you before, sir." It was hard for him to give the
title "Father." "I got in your way, didn't I, at the theatre one evening
over a year ago?"

His mother looked at him in amazement and something of anxiety. Was her
son in his prejudice forgetting himself?

"Indeed, I think it was the other way round, I was in your way, for I
remember thinking when you ran up against me 'that young fellow has been
half-back on a football team.'"

Champney laughed. There was no withstanding this man's voice and the
veiled humor of his introductory remarks.

"Did I hit hard? I didn't think for a moment that you would recognize
me; but I knew you as soon as mother introduced us. I see by your face,
mother, that you need enlightening. It was only that I met Father
Honoré"--he brought that out with no hesitation--"at the entrance to one
of the New York theatres over a year ago, and in the crowd nearly ran
him down. No wonder, sir, you sized me up by the pressure as a football
fiend. That's rich!" His merry laugh reassured his mother; she turned to
Father Honoré.

"I don't know whether all my son's acquaintances are made at the theatre
or not, but it is a coincidence that the other day he happened to
mention the fact that the first time he saw Mr. Van Ostend he saw him
there."

"It's my strong impression, Mrs. Googe, that Mr. Googe saw us both at
the same place, at the same time. Mr. Van Ostend spoke to me of your son
just a few days before I left New York."

"Did he?" Champney's eager blue eyes sought the priest's. "Do you know
him well?"

"As we all know him through his place in the world of affairs.
Personally I have met him only a few times. You may know, perhaps, that
he was instrumental in placing little Aileen Armagh, the orphan
child,--you know whom I mean?--at Mrs. Champney's, your aunt, Mrs. Googe
tells me."

"I was just going to ask you if you would be willing to tell us
something about her," said Mrs. Googe. "I've not seen her, but from all
I hear she is a most unusual child, most interesting--"

"Interesting, mother!" Champney interrupted her rather explosively;
"she's unique, the only and ever Aileen Armagh." He turned again to
Father Honoré. "Do tell us about her; I've been so blockheaded I
couldn't put two and two together, but I'm beginning to see daylight at
last. I made her acquaintance this afternoon. That's why I was a little
late, mother."

How we tell, even the best of us, with reserves! Father Honoré told of
his interest being roused, as well as his suspicions, by the wording of
the poster, and of his determination to see for himself to what extent
the child was being exploited. But of the thought-lever, the "Little
Trout", that raised that interest, he made no mention; nor, indeed, was
it necessary.

"You see there is a class of foreigners on the East side that receive
commissions for exploiting precocious children on the stage; they are
very clever in evading the law. The children themselves are helpless. I
had looked up a good many cases before this because it was in my line of
work, and in this particular one I found that the child had been
orphaned in Ireland almost from her birth; that an aunt, without
relatives, had emigrated with her only a few months before I saw her on
the stage, and the two had lived in an east side tenement with an old
Italian. The child's aunt, a young woman about twenty-eight, developed
quick consumption during the winter and died in the care of the Italian,
Nonna Lisa they call her. This woman cared for the little girl, and
began to take her out with her early in March on the avenues and streets
of the upper west side. The old woman is an itinerant musician and plays
the guitar with real feeling--I've heard her--and, by the way, makes a
decent little living of her own. She found that Aileen had a good voice
and could sing several Irish songs. She learned the accompaniments, and
the two led, so far as I can discover, a delightful life of vagabondage
for several weeks. It seems the old Italian has a grandson, Luigi, who
sings in vaudeville with a travelling troop. He was in the west and
south during the entire time that Aileen was with his grandmother; and
through her letters he learned of the little girl's voice. He spoke of
this to his manager, and he communicated with the manager of a Broadway
vaudeville--they are both in the vaudeville trust--and asked him to
engage her, and retain her for the troop when they should start on their
annual autumn tour. But Nonna Lisa was shrewd.--It's wonderful, Mrs.
Googe, how quickly they develop the sixth sense of cautious speculation
after landing! She made a contract for six weeks only, hoping to raise
her price in the autumn. So I found that the child was not being
exploited, except legitimately, by the old Italian who was caring for
her and guarding her from all contamination. But, of course, that could
not go on, and I had the little girl placed in the orphan asylum on
----nd Street--" He interrupted himself to say half apologetically:

"I am prolix, I fear, but I am hoping you will be personally interested
in this child whose future life will, I trust, be spent here far away
from the metropolitan snares. I am sure she is worth your interest."

"I know she is," said Champney emphatically; "and the more we know of
her the better. You'll laugh at my experience when you have heard it;
but first let us have the whole of yours."

"You know, of course, where Mr. Van Ostend lives?" Champney nodded. "Did
you happen to notice the orphan asylum just opposite on ----nd Street?"

"No; I don't recall any building of that sort."

He smiled. "Probably not; that is not in your line and we men are apt to
see only what is in the line of our working vision. It seems that Mr.
Van Ostend has a little girl--"

"I know, that's the Alice I told you of, mother; did you see her when
she was here last month?"

"No; I only met Mr. Van Ostend on business. You were saying--?" She
addressed Father Honoré.

"His little daughter told him so much about two orphan children, with
whom she had managed to have a kind of across-street-and-window
acquaintance, that he proposed to her to have the children over for
Christmas luncheon. The moment he saw Aileen, he recognized in her the
child on the vaudeville stage to whom he had given the flowers--You
remember that incident?"

"Don't I though!"

"--Because she had sung his wife's favorite hymn. He was thoroughly
interested in the child after seeing her, so to say, at close range, and
took the first opportunity to speak with the Sister Superior in regard
to finding for her a suitable and permanent home. The Sister Superior
referred him to me. As you know, he came to Flamsted recently with this
same little daughter; and the child talked so much and told so many
amusing things about Aileen to Mrs. Champney, that Mr. Van Ostend saw at
once this was an opportunity to further his plans, although he confided
to me his surprise that his cousin, Mrs. Champney, should be willing to
have so immature a child, in her house. Directly on getting home, he
telephoned to me that he had found a home for her with a relation of his
in Flamsted. You may judge of my surprise and pleasure, for I had
received the appointment to this place and the work among the quarrymen
only a month before. This is how the little girl happened to come up
with me. I hear she is making friends."

"She can't help making them, and a good deal more besides; for Romanzo
Caukins, our neighbor's son, and Octavius Buzzby, my aunt's _chargé
d'affaires_, are at the present time her abject slaves," said Champney,
rising from the table at a signal from his mother. "Let's go out on the
porch, and I'll tell you of the fun I've had with her--poor Roman!" He
shook his head and chuckled.

He stepped into the living-room as he passed through the hall and
reached for his pipe in a rack above the mantel. "Do you smoke," he
asked half-hesitatingly, but with an excess of courtesy in his voice as
if he were apologizing for asking such a question.

"Sometimes; a pipe, if you please." He held out his hand; Champney
handed him a sweetbrier and a tobacco pouch. "You permit, Madam?" He
spoke with old world courtesy. Aurora Googe smiled permission. She saw
with satisfaction her son's puzzled look of inquiry as he noted the
connoisseurship with which Father Honoré handled his after-supper tools.

Mrs. Milton Caukins, their neighbor in the stone house across the bridge
over the Rothel, stood for several minutes at her back door listening to
Champney's continued arpeggios and wondered whose was the deep hearty
laugh that answered them. In telling his afternoon's experience
Champney, also, had his reserves: of the coming serenade he said never a
word to the priest.

"He's O.K. and a man, mother," was his comment on their guest, as he
bade her good night. Aurora Googe answered him with a smile that
betokened content, but she was wise enough not to commit herself in
words. Afterwards she sat long in her room, planning for her son's
future. The twenty thousand she had just received for the undeveloped
quarry lands should serve to start him well in life.


VII

On the following day, mother and son constituted themselves a committee
of ways and means as to the best investment of the money in furtherance
of Champney's interests. Her ambition was gratified in that she saw him
anxious to take his place in the world of affairs, to "get on" and, as
he said, make his mark early in the world of finance.

The fact that, during his college course, he had spent the five thousand
received from the sale of the first quarry, plus the interest on the
same without accounting for a penny of it, seemed to his mother
perfectly legitimate; for she had sold the land and laid by the amount
paid for it in order to put her son through college. Since he was twelve
years old she had brought him up in the knowledge that it was to be his
for that purpose. From the time he came, through her generosity, into
possession of the property, she always replied to those who had the
courage to criticise her course in placing so large a sum at the
disposal of a youth:

"My son is a man. I realize I can suggest, but not dictate; moreover I
have no desire to."

She drew the line there, and rarely had any one dared to expostulate
further with her. When they ventured it, Aurora Googe turned upon them
those dark eyes, in which at such times there burned a seemingly
unquenchable light of self-feeding defiance, and gave them to
understand, with a repelling dignity of manner that bordered hard on
haughtiness, that what she and her son might or might not do was no
one's concern but their own. This self-evident truth, when it struck
home to her well-wishers, made her no friends. Nor did she regret this.
She had dwelt, as it were, apart, since her marriage and early
widowhood--her husband had died seven months before Champney was
born--on the old Googe estate at The Gore. But she was a good neighbor,
as Mrs. Caukins could testify; paid her taxes promptly, and minded her
flocks, the source of her limited income, until wool-raising in New
England became unprofitable. An opportunity was presented when her boy
was ten years old to sell a portion of the barren sheep pastures for the
first quarry. She counted herself fortunate in being able thus to
provide for Champney's four college years.

In all the village, there were only three men, whom Aurora Googe named
friend. These men, with the intimacy born of New England's community of
interest, called her to her face by her Christian name; they were
Octavius Buzzby, old Joel Quimber, and Colonel Caukins. There had been
one other, Louis Champney, who during his lifetime promised to do much
for her boy when he should have come of age; but as the promises were
never committed to black and white, they were, after his death, as
though they had never been.

"If only Aunt Meda would fork over some of hers!" Champney exclaimed
with irritation. They were sitting on the porch after tea. "All I want
is a seat in the Stock Exchange--and the chance to start in. I believe
if I had the money Mr. Van Ostend would help me to that."

"You didn't say anything to him about your plans, did you?"

"Well, no; not exactly. But it isn't every fellow gets a chance to dine
at such a man's table, and I thought the opportunity was too good to be
wasted entirely. I let him know in a quiet way that I, like every other
fellow, was looking for a job." Champney laughed aloud at the shocked
look on his mother's face. He knew her independence of thought and
action; it brooked no catering for favors.

"You see, mother, men _have_ to do it, or go under. It's about one
chance in ten thousand that a man gets what he wants, and it's downright
criminal to throw away a good opportunity to get your foot on a round.
Run the scaling ladder up or down, it doesn't much matter--there are
hundreds of applicants for every round; and only one man can stand on
each--and climb, as I mean to. You don't get this point of view up here,
mother, but you will when you see the development of these great
interests. Then it will be each for himself and the devil gets the
hindermost. Shouldn't I take every legitimate means to forge ahead? You
heard what the priest said about Mr. Van Ostend's mentioning me to him?
Let me tell you such men don't waste one breath in mentioning anything
that does not mean a big interest per cent, _not one breath_. They
can't, literally, afford to; and I'm hoping, only hoping, you know--",
he looked up at her from his favorite seat on the lowest step of the
front porch with a keen hard expectancy in his eyes that belied his
words, "--that what he said to Father Honoré means something definite.
Anyhow, we'll wait a while till we see how the syndicate takes hold of
this quarry business before we decide on anything, won't we, mother?"

"I'm willing to wait as long as you like if you will only promise me one
thing."

"What's that?" He rose and faced her; she saw that he was slightly on
the defensive.

"That you will never, _never_, in any circumstances, apply to your Aunt
Almeda for funds, no matter how much you may want them. I couldn't bear
that!"

She spoke passionately in earnest, with such depth of feeling that she
did not realize her son was not giving her the promise when he said
abruptly, the somewhat hard blue eyes looking straight into hers:

"Mother, why are you so hard on Aunt Meda? She's a stingy old screw, I
know, and led Uncle Louis round by the nose, so everybody says; but why
are you so down on her?"

He was insistent, and his insistence was the one trait in his character
which his mother had found hardest to deal with from his babyhood; from
it, however, if it should develop happily into perseverance, she hoped
the most. This trait he inherited from his father, Warren Googe, but in
the latter it had deteriorated into obstinacy. She always feared for her
self-control when she met it in her son, and just now she was under the
influence of a powerful emotion that helped her to lose it.

"Because," she made answer, again passionately but the earnestness had
given place to anger, "I am a woman and have borne from her what no
woman bears and forgets, or forgives! Are you any the wiser now?" she
demanded. "It is all that I shall tell you; so don't insist."

The two continued to look into each other's eyes, and something, it
could hardly be called inimical, rather an aloofness from the tie of
blood, was visible to each in the other's steadfast gaze. Aurora Googe
shivered. Her eyes fell before the younger ones.

"Don't Champney! Don't let's get upon this subject again; I can't bear
it."

"But, mother," he protested, "you mentioned it first."

"It was what you said about Almeda's furnishing you with money that
started it. Don't say anything more about it; only promise me, won't
you?"

She raised her eyes again to his, but this time in appeal. At forty-one
Aurora Googe was still a very beautiful woman, and her appeal, made
gently as if in apology for her former vehemence, rendered that beauty
potent with her son's manhood.

"Let me think it over, mother, before I promise." He answered her as
gently. "It's a hard thing to exact of a man, and I don't hold much with
promises. What did Uncle Louis' amount to?"

The blood surged into his mother's face, and tears, rare ones, for she
was not a weak woman neither was she a sentimental one, filled her eyes.
Her son came up the steps and kissed her. They were seldom demonstrative
to this extent save in his home-comings and leave-takings. He changed
the subject abruptly.

"I'm going down to the village now. You know I have the serenade on my
program, at eight. Afterwards I'll run down to The Greenbush for the
mail and to see my old cronies. I haven't had a chance yet." He began to
whistle for the puppy, but cut himself short, laughing. "I was going to
take Rag, but he won't fit in with the serenade. Keep him tied up while
I'm gone, please. Anything you want from the village, mother?"

"No, not to-night."

"Don't sit up for me; I may be late. Joel is long-winded and the Colonel
is booming The Gore for all it is worth and more too; I want to hear the
fun. Good night."


VIII

The afterglow of sunset was long. The dilated moon, rising from the
waters of the Bay, shone pale at first; but as it climbed the shoulder
of the mountain _Wave-of-the-Sea_ and its light fell upon the farther
margin of the lake, its clear disk was pure argent.

Champney looked his approval. It was the kind of night he had been
hoping for. He walked leisurely down the road from The Gore for the
night was warm. It was already past eight, but he lingered, purposely, a
few minutes longer on the lake shore until the moonlight should widen on
the waters. Then he went on to the grounds.

He entered by the lane and crossed the lawn to an arching rose-laden
trellis near the bay window; beneath it was a wooden bench. He looked up
at the window. The blinds were closed. So far as he could see there was
no light in all the great house. Behind the rose trellis was a group of
stately Norway spruce; he could see the sheen of their foliage in the
moonlight. He took his banjo out of its case and sat down on the bench,
smiling to himself, for he was thoroughly enjoying, with that enjoyment
of youth, health, and vitality which belongs to twenty-one, this rustic
adventure. He touched the strings lightly with preliminary thrumming. It
was a toss-up between "Annie Rooney" and "Oft in the stilly night." He
decided for the latter. Raising his eyes to the closed blinds, behind
which he knew the witch was hiding, he began the accompaniment. The soft
_thrum-thrum_, vibrating through the melody, found an echo in the
whirring wings of all that ephemeral insect life which is abroad on such
a night. The prelude was almost at an end when he saw the blinds begin
to separate. Champney continued to gaze steadily upwards. A thin bare
arm was thrust forth; the blinds opened wide; in the dark window space
he saw Aileen, listening intently and gazing fixedly at the moon as if
its every beam were dropping liquid music.

He began to sing. His voice was clear, fine, and high, a useful first
tenor for two winters in the Glee Club. When he finished Aileen deigned
to look down upon him, but she made no motion of recognition. He rose
and took his stand directly beneath the window.

"I say, Miss Aileen Armagh-and-don't-yer-forget-it, that isn't playing
fair! Where's my token?"

There was a giggle for answer; then, leaning as far out as she dared,
both hands stemmed on the window ledge, the child began to sing. Full,
free, joyously light-hearted, she sent forth the rollicking Irish melody
and the merry sentiment that was strung upon it; evidently it had been
adapted to her, for the words had suffered a slight change:

    "Och! laughin' roses are my lips,
    Forget-me-nots my ee,
    It's many a lad they're drivin' mad;
    Shall they not so wi' ye?
    Heigho! the morning dew!
    Heigho! the rose and rue!
    Follow me, my bonny lad,
    For I'll not follow you.

    "Wi' heart in mout', in hope and doubt,
    My lovers come and go:
    My smiles receive, my smiles deceive;
    Shall they not serve you so?
    Heigho! the morning dew!
    Heigho! the rose and rue!
    Follow me, my bonny lad,
    For I'll not follow you."

It was a delight to hear her.

"There now, I'll give yer my token. Hold out yer hands!"

Champney, hugging his banjo under one arm, made a cup of his hands.
Carefully measuring the distance, she dropped one rosebud into them.

"Put it on yer heart now," was the next command from above. He obeyed
with exaggerated gesture, to the great delight of the serenadee. "And
yer goin' to keep it?"

"Forever and a day." Champney made this assertion with a
hyper-sentimental inflection of voice, and, lifting the flower to his
nose, drew in his breath--

"Confound you, you little fiend--" he sneezed rather than spoke.

The sneeze was answered by a peal of laughter from above and a
fifteen-year-old's cracked "Haw-haw-haw" from the region of the Norway
spruces. Every succeeding sneeze met with a like response--roars of
laughter on the one hand and peal upon peal on the other. Even the
kitchen door began to give signs of life, for Hannah and Ann made their
appearance.

The strong white pepper, which Romanzo managed to procure from Hannah,
had been cunningly secreted by Aileen between the imbricate petals, and
then tied, in a manner invisible at night, with a fine thread of pink
silk begged from Ann. It was now acting and re-acting on the lining of
the serenader's olfactory organ in a manner to threaten final
decapitation. Champney was still young enough to resent being made a
subject of such practical joking by a little girl; but he was also
sufficiently wise to acknowledge to himself that he had been worsted
and, in the end, to put a good face on it. It is true he would have
preferred that Romanzo Caukins had not been witness to his defeat.

The sneezing and laughter gradually subsided. He sat down again on the
bench and taking up his banjo prepared, with somewhat elaborate effort,
to put it into its case. He said nothing.

"Say!" came in a sobered voice from above; "are yer mad with me?"

Ignoring both question and questioner, he took out his handkerchief,
wiped his face and forehead and, returning it to his pocket, heaved a
sigh of apparent exhaustion.

"I say, Mr. Champney Googe, are yer mad with me?"

To Champney's delight, he heard an added note of anxiety. He bowed his
head lower over the banjo case and in silence renewed his simulated
struggle to slip that instrument into it.

"Champney! Are yer _rale_ mad with me?" There was no mistaking the
earnestness of this appeal. He made no answer, but chuckled inwardly at
the audacity of the address.

"Champ!" she stamped her foot to emphasize her demand; "if yer don't
tell me yer ain't mad with me, I'll lave yer for good and all--so now!"

"I don't know that I'm mad with you," he spoke at last in an aggrieved,
a subdued tone; "I simply didn't think you could play me such a mean
trick when I was in earnest, dead earnest."

"Did yer mane it?"

"Why, of course I did! You don't suppose a man walks three miles in a
hot night to serenade a girl just to get an ounce of pepper in his nose
by way of thanks, do you?"

"I thought yer didn't mane it; Romanzo said yer was laughing at me for
telling yer 'bout the lords and ladies a-making love with their
guitars." The voice indicated some dejection of spirits.

"He did, did he! I'll settle with Romanzo later." He heard a soft
brushing of branches in the region of the Norway spruces and knew that
the youth was in retreat. "And I'll settle it with you, too, Miss Aileen
Armagh-and-don't-you-forget-it, in a way that'll make you remember the
tag end of your name for one while!"

This threat evidently had its effect.

"Wot yer going to do?"

He heard her draw her breath sharply.

"Come down here and I'll tell you."

"I can't. She might catch me. She told me I'd got to stay in my room
after eight, and she's coming home ter-night. Wot yer going to do?"

Champney laughed outright. "Don't you wish you might know, Aileen
Armagh!" He took his banjo in one hand, lifted his cap with the other
and, standing so, bareheaded in the moonlight, sang with all the
simulated passion and pathos of which he was capable one of the few love
songs that belong to the world, "Kathleen Mavoureen"; but he took pains
to substitute "Aileen" for "Kathleen." Even Ann and Hannah, listening
from the kitchen porch, began to feel sentimentally inclined when the
clear voice rendered with tender pathos the last lines:

    "Oh! why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
    Oh! why art thou silent, Aileen Mavoureen?"

Without so much as another glance at the little figure in the window, he
ran across the lawn and up the lane to the highroad.


IX

On his way to The Greenbush he overtook Joel Quimber, and without
warning linked his arm close in the old man's. At the sudden contact
Joel started.

"Uncle Jo, old chap, how are you? This seems like home to see you
round."

"Lord bless me, Champ, how you come on a feller! Here, stan' still till
I get a good look at ye;--growed, growed out of all notion. Why, I
hain't seen ye for good two year. You warn't to home last summer?"

"Only for a week; I was off on a yachting cruise most of the time.
Mother said you were up on the Bay then at your grandniece's--pretty
girl. I remember you had her down here one Christmas."

The old man made no definite answer, but cackled softly to himself:
"Yachting cruise, eh? And you remember a pretty girl, eh?" He nudged him
with a sharpened elbow and whispered mysteriously: "Devil of a feller,
Champ! I've heerd tell, I've heerd tell--chip of the old block, eh?" He
nudged him knowingly again.

"Oh, we're all devils more or less, we men, Uncle Jo; now, honor bright,
aren't we?"

"You've hit it, Champ; more or less--more or less. I heerd you was
a-goin' it strong: primy donny suppers an' ortermobillies--"

"Now, Uncle Jo, you know there's no use believing all you hear, but you
can't plunge a country raised boy into a whirlpool like New York for
four years and not expect him to strike out and swim with the rest.
You've got to, Uncle Jo, or you're nobody. You'd go under."

"Like 'nough you would, Champ; I can't say, fer I hain't ben thar. Guess
twixt you an' me an' the post, I won't hev ter go thar sence Aurory's
sold the land fer the quarries. I hear it talked thet it'll bring half
New York right inter old Flamsted; I dunno, I dunno--you 'member 'bout
the new wine in the old bottles, Champ?--highflyers, emigrants, Dagos
and Polacks--Come ter think, Mis' Champney's got one on 'em now. Hev you
seen her, Champ?"

Champney's hearty laugh rang out with no uncertain sound. "Seen her! I
should say so. She's worth any 'primy donny', as you call them, that
ever drew a good silver dollar out of my pockets. Oh, it's too good to
keep! I must tell you; but you'll keep mum, Uncle Jo?"

"Mum's the word, ef yer say so, Champ." They turned from The Greenbush
and arm in arm paced slowly up the street again. From time to time, for
the next ten minutes, Augustus Buzzby and the Colonel in the tavern
office heard from up street such unwonted sounds of hilarity and so long
continued, that Augustus looked apprehensively at the Colonel who was
becoming visibly uneasy lest he fail to place the joke.

When the two appeared at the office door they bore unmistakable signs of
having enjoyed themselves hugely. Augustus Buzzby gave them his warmest
welcome and seated Uncle Joel in his deepest office chair, providing him
at the same time with a pipe and some cut leaf. The Colonel was in his
glory. With one arm thrown affectionately around young Googe's neck, he
expatiated on the joy of the community as a whole in again welcoming
its own.

"Champney, my dear boy,--you still permit me the freedom of old
friendship?--this town is already looking to you as to its future
deliverer; I may say, as to a Moses who will lead us into the industrial
Canaan which is even now, thanks to my friend, your honored mother,
beckoning to us with its promise of abundant plenty. Never, in my
wildest dreams, my dear boy, have I thought to see such a consummation
of my long-cherished hopes."

It was always one of Champney's prime youthful joys to urge the Colonel,
by judiciously applied excitants, to a greater flowering of eloquence;
so, now, as an inducement he wrung his neighbor's hand and thanked him
warmly for his timely recognition of the new Flamsted about to be.

"Now," he said, "the thing is for all of us to fall into line and forge
ahead, Colonel. If we don't, we'll be left behind; and in these times to
lag is to take to the backwoods."

"Right you are, my dear fellow; deterioration can only set in when the
members of a community, like ours, fail to present a solid front to the
disintegrating forces of a supine civilization which--"

"At it again, Milton Caukins!" It was Mr. Wiggins who, entering the
office, interrupted the flow,--"dammed the torrent", he was wont to say.
He extended a hand to young Googe. "Glad to see you, Champney. I hear
there is a prospect of your remaining with us. Quimber tells us he heard
something to the effect that a position might be offered you by the
syndicate."

"It's the first I've heard of it. How did you hear, Uncle Jo?" He
turned upon the old man with a keen alertness which, taken in connection
with the Colonel's oratory, was both disconcerting and confusing.

"How'd I hear? Le' me see; Champ, what was we just talking 'bout up the
street, eh?"

"Oh, never mind that now," he answered impatiently; "let's hear what you
heard. I'm the interested party just now." But the old man looked only
the more disturbed and was not to be hurried.

"'Bout that little girl--" he began, but was unceremoniously cut short
by Champney.

"Oh, damn the girl, just for once, Uncle Jo. What I want to know is, how
you came to hear anything about me in connection with the quarry
syndicate."

The old man persisted: "I'm a-tryin' to get a-holt of that man's name
that got her up here--"

"Van Ostend," Champney suggested; "is that the name you want?"

"That's him, Van Ostend; that's the one. He an' the rest was hevin' a
meetin' right here in this office 'fore they went to the train, an' I
was settin' outside the winder an' heerd one on 'em say: 'Thet Mis'
Googe's a stunner; what's her son like, does any one know?' An' I heerd
Mr. Van Ostend say: 'She's very unusual; if her son has half her
executive ability'--them's his very words--'we might work him in with
us. It would be good business policy to interest, through him, the land
itself in its own output, so to speak, besides being something of a
courtesy to Mis' Googe. I've met him twice.' Then they fell to
discussin' the lay of The Gore and the water power at The Corners."

"Bully for you, Uncle Jo!" Champney slapped the rounded shoulders with
such appreciative heartiness that the old man's pipe threatened to be
shaken from between his toothless gums. "You have heard the very thing
I've been hoping for. Tave never let on that he knew anything about it."

"He didn't, only what I told him." Old Quimber cackled weakly. "I guess
Tave's got his hands too full at Champo to remember what's told him;
what with the little girl an' Romanzo--no offence, Colonel." He looked
apologetically at the Colonel who waved his hand with an airiness that
disposed at once of the idea of any feeling on his part in regard to
family revelations. "I heerd tell thet the little girl hed turned his
head an' Tave couldn't git nothin' in the way of work out of him."

"In that case I must look into the matter." The Colonel spoke with stern
gravity. "Both Mrs. Caukins and I would deplore any undue influence that
might be brought to bear upon any son of ours at so critical a period of
his career."

Mr. Wiggins laughed; but the laugh was only a disguised sneer. "Perhaps
you'll come to your senses, Colonel, when you've got an immigrant for a
daughter-in-law. Own up, now, you didn't think your 'competing
industrial thousands' might be increased by some half-Irish
grandchildren, now did you?"

Champney listened for the Colonel's answer with a suspended hope that he
might give Elmer Wiggins "one," as he said to himself. He still owed the
latter gentleman a grudge because in the past he had been, as it were,
the fountain head of all in his youthful misery in supplying ample
portions of the never-to-be-forgotten oil of the castor bean and dried
senna leaves. He felt at the present time, moreover, that he was
inimical to his mother and her interests. And Milton Caukins was his
friend and hers, past, present, and future; of this he was sure.

The Colonel took time to light his cigar before replying; then, waving
it towards the ceiling, he said pleasantly:

"My young friend here, Champney, to whom we are looking to restore the
pristine vigor of a fast vanishing line of noble ancestors, is both a
Googe _and_ a Champney. _His_ ancestors counted themselves honored in
making alliances with foreigners--immigrants to our all-welcoming
shores; 'a rose', Mr. Wiggins, 'by any other name'; I need not quote."
His chest swelled; he interrupted himself to puff vigorously at his
cigar before continuing: "My son, sir, is on the spindle side of the
house a _Googe_, and a _Googe_, sir, has the blood of the Champneys and
the Lord knows of how many noble _immigrants_" (the last word was
emphasized by a fleeting glance of withering scorn at the small-headed
Wiggins) "in his veins which, fortunately, cannot be said of you, sir.
If, at any time in the distant future, my son should see fit to ally
himself with a scion of the noble and long-suffering Hibernian race, I
assure you"--his voice was increasing in dimensions--"both Mrs. Caukins
and myself would feel honored, sir, yes, honored in the breach!"

After this wholly unexpected ending to his peroration, he lowered his
feet from their accustomed rest on the counter of the former bar and,
ignoring Mr. Wiggins, remarked to Augustus that it was time for the
mail. Augustus, glad to welcome any diversion of the Colonel's and Mr.
Wiggins's asperities, said the train was on time and the mail would be
there in a few minutes.

"Tave's gone down to meet Mis' Champney," he added turning to Champney.
"She's been in Hallsport for two days. I presume you ain't seen her."

"Not yet. If you can give me my mail first I can drive up to
Champ-au-Haut with her to-night. There's the mail-wagon."

"To be sure, to be sure, Champney; and you might take out Mis'
Champney's; Tave can't leave the hosses."

"All right." He went out on the veranda to see if the Champ-au-Haut
carriage was in sight. A moment later, when it drove up, he was at the
door to open it.

"Here I am, Aunt Meda. Will this hold two and all those bundles?"

"Why, Champney, you here? Come in." She made room for him on the ample
seat; he sprang in, and bent to kiss her before sitting down beside her.

"Now, I call this luck. This is as good as a confessional, small and
dark, and 'fess I've got to, Aunt Meda, or there'll be trouble for
somebody at Campo."

Had the space not been so "small and dark" he might have seen the face
of the woman beside him quiver painfully at the sound of his cheery
young voice and, when he kissed her, flush to her temples.

"What devilry now, Champney?"

"It's a girl, of course, Aunt Meda--your girl," he added laughing.

"So you've found her out, have you, you young rogue? Well, what do you
think of her?"

"I think you'll have a whole vaudeville show at Champ-au-Haut for the
rest of your days--and gratis."

"I've been coming to that conclusion myself," said Mrs. Champney,
smiling in turn at the recollection of some of her experiences during
the past three weeks. "She amuses me, and I've concluded to keep her.
I'm going to have her with me a good part of the time. I've seen enough
since she has been with me to convince me that my people will amount to
nothing so long as she is with them." There was an edge to her words the
sharpness of which was felt by Octavius on the front seat.

"I can't blame them; I couldn't. Why Tave here is threatened already
with a quick decline--sheer worry of mind, isn't it Tave?" Octavius
nodded shortly; "And as for Romanzo there's no telling where he will
end; even Ann and Hannah are infected."

"What do you mean, Champney?" She was laughing now.

"Just wait till I run in and get the mail for us both, and I'll tell
you; it's my confession."

He sprang out, ran up the steps and disappeared for a moment. He
reappeared thrusting some letters into his pocket. Evidently he had not
looked at them. He handed the other letters and papers to Octavius, and
so soon as the carriage was on the way to The Bow he regaled his aunt
with his evening's experience under the bay window.

"Serves you right," was her only comment; but her laugh told him she
enjoyed the episode. He went into the house upon her invitation and sat
with her till nearly eleven, giving an account of himself--at least all
the account he cared to give which was intrinsically different from that
which he gave his mother. Mrs. Champney was what he had once described
to his mother as "a worldly woman with the rind on," and when he was
with her, he involuntarily showed that side of his nature which was best
calculated to make an impression on the "rind." He grew more worldly
himself, and she rejoiced in what she saw.


X

While walking homewards up The Gore, he was wondering why his mother had
shown such strength of feeling when he expressed the wish that his aunt
would help him financially to further his plans. He knew the two women
never had but little intercourse; but with him it was different. He was
a man, the living representative of two families, and who had a better
right than he to some of his Aunt Meda's money? A right of blood,
although on the Champney side distant and collateral. He knew that the
community as a whole, especially now that his mother had become a factor
in its new industrial life, was looking to him, as once they had looked
to his Uncle Louis, to "make good" with his inheritance of race. To this
end his mother had equipped him with his university training. Why
shouldn't his aunt be willing to help him? She liked him, that is, she
liked to talk with him. Sometimes, it is true, it occurred to him that
his room was better than his company; this was especially noticeable in
his young days when he was much with his aunt's husband whom he called
"Uncle Louis." Since his death he had never ceased to visit her at
Champ-au-Haut--too much was at stake, for he was the rightful heir to
her property at least, if not Louis Champney's. She, as well as his
father, had inherited twenty thousand from the estate in The Gore. His
father, so he was told, had squandered his patrimony some two years
before his death. His aunt, on the contrary, had already doubled hers;
and with skilful manipulation forty thousand in these days might be
quadrupled easily. It was wise, whatever might happen, to keep on the
right side of Aunt Meda; and as for giving that promise to his mother he
neither could nor would. His mind was made up on this point when he
reached The Gore. He told himself he dared not. Who could say what unmet
necessity might handicap him at some critical time?--this was his
justification.

In the midst of his wonderings, he suddenly remembered the evening's
mail. He took it out and struck a match to look at the hand-writing.
Among several letters from New York, he recognized one as having Mr. Van
Ostend's address on the reverse of the envelope. He tore it open; struck
another match and, the letter being type-written, hastily read it
through with the aid of a third and fourth pocket-lucifer; read it in a
tumult of expectancy, and finished it with an intense and irritating
sense of disappointment. He vehemently voiced his vexation: "Oh, damn it
all!"

He did not take the trouble to return the letter to its cover, but kept
flirting it in his hand as he strode indignantly up the hill, his arms
swinging like a young windmill's. When he came in sight of the house, he
looked up at his mother's bedroom window. Her light was still burning;
despite his admonition she was waiting for him as usual. He must tell
her before he slept.

"Champney!" she called, when she heard him in the hall.

"Yes, mother; may I come up?"

"Of course." She opened wide her bedroom door and stood there, waiting
for him, the lamp in her hand. Her beauty was enhanced by the
loose-flowing cotton wrapper of pale pink. Her dark heavy hair was
braided for the night and coiled again and again, crown fashion, on her
head.

"Aunt Meda never could hold a candle to mother!" was Champney
Googe's thought on entering. The two sat down for the usual
before-turning-in-chat.

He was so full of his subject that it overflowed at once in abrupt
speech.

"Mother, I've had a letter from Mr. Van Ostend--"

"Oh, Champney!" There was the joy of anticipation in her voice.

"Now, mother, don't--don't expect anything," he pleaded, "for you'll be
no end cut up over the whole thing. Now, listen." He read the letter;
the tone of his voice indicated both disgust and indignation.

"Now, look at that!" He burst forth eruptively when he had finished.
"Here we've been banking on an offer for some position in the syndicate,
at least, something that would help clear the road to Wall Street where
I should be able to strike out for myself without being dependent on any
one--I didn't mince matters that day of the dinner when I told him what
I wanted, either! And here I get an offer to go to Europe for five years
and study banking systems and the Lord knows what in London, Paris, and
Berlin, and act as a sort of super in his branch offices. Great Scott!
Does he think a man is going to waste five years of his life in Europe
at a time when twenty-four hours here at home might make a man! He's a
donkey if he thinks that, and I'd have given him credit for more common
sense--"

"Now, Champney, stop right where you are. Don't boil over so." She
repressed a smile. "Let's talk business and look at matters as they
stand."

"I can't;" he said doggedly; "I can't talk business without a business
basis, and this here,"--he shook the letter much as Rag shook a
slipper,--"it's just slop! What am I going to do over there, I'd like to
know?" he demanded fiercely; whereupon his mother took the letter from
his hand and, without heeding his grumbling, read it carefully twice.

"Now, look here, Champney," she said firmly; "you must use some reason.
I admit this isn't what you wanted or I expected, but it's something;
many would think it everything. Didn't you tell me only yesterday that
in these times a man is fortunate to get his foot on any round of the
ladder--"

"Well, if I did, I didn't mean the rung of a banking house fire-escape
over in Europe." He interrupted her, speaking sulkily. Then of a sudden
he laughed out. "Go on, mother, I'm a chump." His mother smiled and
continued the broken sentence:

"--And that ten thousand fail where one succeeds in getting even a
foothold--to climb, as you want to?"

"But how can I climb? That's the point. Why, I shall be twenty-six in
five years--if I live," he added lugubriously.

His mother laughed outright. The splendid specimen of health, vitality,
and strength before her was in too marked contrast to his words.

"Well, I don't care," he muttered, but joining heartily in her laugh;
"I've heard of fellows like me going into a decline just out of pure
homesickness over there."

"I don't think you will be homesick for Flamsted; I saw no traces of
that malady while you were in New York. On the contrary, I thought you
accepted every opportunity to stay away."

"New York is different," he replied, a little shamefaced in the presence
of the truth he had just heard. "But, mother, you would be alone here."

"I'm used to it, Champney;" she spoke as it were perfunctorily; "and I
am ambitious to see you succeed as you wish to. I want to see you in a
position which will fulfil both your hopes and mine; but neither you nor
I can choose the means, not yet; we haven't the money. For my part, I
think you should accept this offer; it's one in ten thousand. Work your
way up during these five years into Mr. Van Ostend's confidence, and I
am sure, _sure_, that by that time he will have something for you that
will satisfy even your young ambition. I think, moreover, it is a
necessity for you to accept this, Champney."

"You do; why?"

"Well, for a good many reasons. I doubt, in the first place, if these
quarries can get under full running headway for the next seven years,
and even if you had been offered some position of trust in connection
with them, you haven't had an opportunity to prove yourself worthy of it
in a business way. I doubt, too, if the salary would be any larger; it
is certainly a fair one for the work he offers." She consulted the
letter. "Twelve hundred for the first year, and for every succeeding
year an additional five hundred. What more could you expect,
inexperienced as you are? Many men have to give their services gratis
for a while to obtain entrance into such offices and have their names,
even, connected with such a financier. This opportunity is a business
asset. I feel convinced, moreover, that you need just this discipline."

"Why?"

"For some other good reasons. For one, you would be brought into daily
contact with men, experienced men, of various nationalities--"

"You can be that in New York. There isn't a city in the world where you
can gain such a cosmopolitan experience." He was still protesting, still
insisting. His mother made no reply, nor did she notice the
interruption.

"--Learn their ways, their point of view. All this would be of infinite
help if, later on, you should come into a position of great
responsibility in connection with the quarry syndicate.--It does seem so
strange that hundreds will make their livelihood from our barren
pastures!" She spoke almost to herself, and for a moment they were
silent.

"And look at this invitation to cross in his yacht with his family!
Champney, you know perfectly well nothing could be more courteous or
thoughtful; it saves your passage money, and it shows plainly his
interest in you personally."

"I know; that part isn't half bad." He spoke with interest and less
reluctance. "I saw the yacht last spring lying in North River; she's a
perfect floating palace they say. Of course, I appreciate the
invitation; but supposing--only supposing, you know,"--this as a warning
not to take too much for granted,--"I should accept. How could I live on
twelve hundred a year? He spends twice that on a cook. How does he think
a fellow is going to dress and live on that? 'T was a tight squeeze in
college on thirteen hundred."

His mother knew his way so well, that she recognized in this insistent
piling of one obstacle upon another the budding impulse to yield. She
was willing to press the matter further.

"Oh, clothes are cheaper abroad and living is not nearly so dear. You
could be quite the gentleman on your second year's salary, and, of
course, I can help out with the interest on the twenty thousand. You
forget this."

"By George, I did, mother! You're a trump; but I don't want you to think
I want to cut any figure over there; I don't care enough about 'em. But
I want enough to have a ripping good time to compensate for staying away
so long."

"You need not stay five consecutive years away from home. Look here,
Champney; you have read this letter with your eyes but not with your
wits. Your boiling condition was not conducive to clear-headedness."

"Oh, I say mother! Don't rap a fellow too hard when he's down."

"You're not down; you're up,"--she held her ground with him right
sturdily,--"up on the second round already, my son; only you don't know
it. Here it is in black and white that you can come home for six weeks
after two years, and the fifth year is shortened by three months if all
goes well. What more do you want?"

"That's something, anyway."

"Now, I want you to think this over."

"I wish I could run down to New York for a day or two; it would help a
lot. I could look round and possibly find an opening in the direction I
want. I want to do this before deciding."

"Champney, I shall lose patience with you soon. You know you, can't run
down to New York for even a day. Mr. Van Ostend states the fact baldly:
'Your decision I must have by telegraph, at the latest, by Thursday
noon.' That's day after to-morrow. 'We sail on Saturday.' Mr. Van Ostend
is not a man to waste a breath, as you have said."

Champney had no answer ready. He evaded the question. "I'll tell you
to-morrow, mother. It's late; you mustn't sit up any longer." He looked
at his watch. "One o'clock. Good night."

"Good night, Champney. Leave your door into the hall wide open; it's so
close."

She put out her light and sat down by the window. The night was
breathless; not a leaf of the elm trees quivered. She heard the Rothel
picking its way down the rocky channel of The Gore. She gave herself up
to thought, far-reaching both into the past and the future. Soon,
mingled with the murmur of the brook, she heard her son's quiet measured
breathing. She rose, walked noiselessly down the hall and stood at his
bedroom door, to gaze--mother-like, to worship. The moonlight just
touched the pillow. He lay with his head on his arm; the full white
chest was partly bared; the spare length of the muscular body was
outlined beneath the sheet. Her eyes filled with tears. She turned from
the door, and, noiselessly as she had come, went back to her room and
her couch.

       *       *       *       *       *

How little the pending decision weighed on his mind was proven by his
long untroubled sleep; but directly after a late breakfast he told his
mother he was going out to prospect a little in The Gore; and she,
understanding, questioned him no further. He whistled to Rag and turned
into the side road that led to the first quarry. There was no work going
on there. This small ownership of forty acres was merged in the
syndicate which had so recently acquired the two hundred acres from the
Googe estate. He made his way over the hill and around to the head of
The Gore. He wanted to climb the cliff-like rocks and think it out under
the pines, landmarks of his early boyhood. He picked his way among the
boulders and masses of sheep laurel; he was thinking not of the quarries
but of himself; he did not even inquire of himself how the sale of the
quarries might be about to affect his future.

Champney Googe was self-centred. The motives for all his actions in a
short and uneventful life were the spokes to his particular hub of self;
the tire, that bound them and held them to him, he considered merely the
necessary periphery of constant contact with people and things by which
his own little wheel of fortune might be made to roll the more easily.
He was following some such line of thought while turning Mr. Van
Ostend's plan over and over in his mind, viewing it from all sides. It
was not what he wanted, but it might lead to that. His eyes were on the
rough ground beneath him, his thoughts busy with the pending decision,
when he was taken out of himself by hearing an unexpected voice in his
vicinity.

"Good morning, Mr. Googe. Am I poaching on your preserve?"

Champney recognized the voice at once. It was Father Honoré's hailing
him from beneath the pines. He was sitting with his back against one; a
violin lay on its cover beside him; on his lap was a drawing-board with
rule and compass pencil. Champney realized on the instant, and with a
feeling of pleasure, that the priest's presence was no intrusion even at
this juncture.

"No, indeed, for it is no longer my preserve," he answered cheerily, and
added, with a touch of earnestness that was something of a surprise to
himself, "and it wouldn't be if it were still mine."

"Thank you, Mr. Googe; I appreciate that. You must find it hard to see a
stranger like myself preëmpting your special claim, as I fancy this one
is."

"It used to be when I was a youngster; but, to tell the truth, I haven't
cared for it much of late years. The city life spoils a man for this. I
love that rush and hustle and rubbing-elbows with the world in general,
getting knocked about--and knocking." He laughed merrily, significantly,
and Father Honoré, catching his meaning at once, laughed too. "But I'm
not telling you any news; of course, you've had it all."

"Yes, all and a surfeit. I was glad to get away to this hill-quiet."

Champney sat down on the thick rusty-red matting of pine needles and
turned to him, a question in his eyes. Father Honoré smiled. "What is
it?" he said.

"May I ask if it was your own choice coming up here to us?"

"Yes, my deliberate choice. I had to work for it, though. The superior
of my order was against my coming. It took moral suasion to get the
appointment."

"I don't suppose they wanted to lose a valuable man from the city," said
Champney bluntly.

"The question of value is not, happily, a question of environment. I
simply felt I could do my best work here in the best way."

"And you didn't consider yourself at all?" Champney put the question,
which voiced his thought, squarely.

"Oh, I'm human," he answered smiling at the questioner; "don't make any
mistake on that point; and I don't suppose many of us can eliminate self
wholly in a matter of choice. I did want to work here because I believe
I can do the best work, but I also welcomed the opportunity to get away
from the city--it weighs on me, weighs on me," he added, but it sounded
as if he were merely thinking aloud.

Champney failed to comprehend him. Father Honoré, raising his eyes,
caught the look on the young man's face and interpreted it. He said
quietly:

"But then you're twenty-one and I'm forty-five; that accounts for it."

For a moment, but a moment only, Champney was tempted to speak out to
this man, stranger as he was. Mr. Van Ostend evidently had confidence in
him; why shouldn't he? Perhaps he might help him to decide, and for the
best. But even as the thought flashed into consciousness, he was aware
of its futility. He was sure the man would repeat only what his mother
had said. He did not care to hear that twice. And what was this man to
him that he should ask his opinion, appeal to him for advice in
directing this step in his career? He changed the subject abruptly.

"I think you said you had met Mr. Van Ostend?"

"Yes, twice in connection with the orphan child, as I told you, and once
I dined with him. He has a charming family: his sister and his little
daughter. Have you met them?"

"Only once. He has just written me and asked me to join them on his
yacht for a trip to Europe." Champney felt he was coasting on the edge,
and enjoyed the sport.

"And of course you're going? I can't imagine a more delightful host."
Father Honoré spoke with enthusiasm.

But Champney failed to respond in like manner. The priest took note of
it.

"I haven't made up my mind;" he spoke slowly; then, smiling merrily into
the other's face, "and I came up here to try to make it up."

"And I was here so you couldn't do it, of course!" Father Honoré
exclaimed so ruefully that Champney's hearty laugh rang out. "No, no; I
didn't mean for you to take it in that way. I'm glad I found you here--I
liked what you said about the 'value'."

Father Honoré looked mystified for a moment; his brow contracted in the
effort to recall at the moment what he had said about "value", and in
what connection; but instead of any further question as to Champney's
rather incoherent meaning, he handed him the drawing-board.

"This is the plan for my shack, Mr. Googe. I have written to Mr. Van
Ostend to ask if the company would have any objection to my putting it
here near these pines. I understand the quarries are to be opened up as
far as the cliff, and sometime, in the future, my house will be neighbor
to the workers. I suppose then I shall have to 'move on'. I'm going to
build it myself."

"All yourself?"

"Why not? I'm a fairly good mason; I've learned that trade, and there is
plenty of material, good material, all about." He looked over upon the
rock-strewn slopes. "I'm going to use some of the granite waste too." He
put his violin into its case and held out his hand for the board. "I'm
going now, Mr. Googe; I shall be interested to know your decision as
soon as you yourself know about it."

"I'll let you know by to-morrow. I've nearly a day of grace. You play?
You are a musician?" he asked, as Father Honoré rose and tucked the
violin and drawing-board under his arm.

"My matins," the priest answered, smiling down into the curiously eager
face that with the fresh unlined beauty of young manhood was upturned to
his. "Good morning." He lifted his hat and walked rapidly away without
waiting for any further word from Champney.

"Sure-footed as a mountain goat!" Champney said to himself as he watched
him cross the rough hilltop. "I'd like to know where he gets it all!"

He stretched out under the pines, his hands clasped under his head, and
fell to thinking of his own affairs, into the as yet undecided course of
which the memory of the priest's words, "The question of value is not,
happily, a question of environment" fell with the force of gravity.

"I might as well go it blind," he spoke aloud to himself: "it's all a
matter of luck into which ring you shy your hat; I suppose it's the
'value', after all, that does it in the end. Besides--"

He did not finish that thought aloud; but he suddenly sat bolt upright,
a fist pressed hard on each knee. His face hardened into determination.
"By George, what an ass I've been! If I can't do it in one way I can in
another.--Hoop! Hooray!"

He turned a somersault then and there; came right side up; cuffed the
dazed puppy goodnaturedly and bade him "Come on", which behest the
little fellow obeyed to the best of his ability among the rough ways of
the sheep walks.

He did not stop at the house, but walked straight down to Flamsted, Rag
lagging at his heels. He sent a telegram to New York. Then he went
homewards in the broiling sun, carrying the exhausted puppy under his
arm. His mother met him on the porch.

"I've just telegraphed Mr. Van Ostend, mother, that I'll be in New York
Friday, ready to sail on Saturday."

"My dear boy!" That was all she said then; but she laid her hand on his
shoulder when they went in to dinner, and Champney knew she was
satisfied.

Two days later, Champney Googe, having bade good-bye to his neighbors,
the Caukinses large and small, to Octavius, Ann and Hannah,--Aileen was
gone on an errand when he called last at Champ-au-Haut but he left his
remembrance to her with the latter--to his aunt, to Joel Quimber and
Augustus, to Father Honoré and a host of village well-wishers who, in
their joyful anticipation of his future and his fortunes, laid aside all
factional differences, said, at last, farewell to Flamsted, to The
Corners, The Bow, and his home among the future quarries in The Gore.



PART THIRD

In the Stream


I

Mrs. Milton Caukins had her trials, but they were of a kind some people
would call "blessed torments." The middle-aged mother of eight children,
six boys, of whom Romanzo was the eldest, and twin girls, Elvira Caukins
might with justice lay claim to a superabundance of a certain kind of
trial. Every Sunday morning proved the crux of her experience, and Mrs.
Caukins' nerves were correspondingly shaken. To use her own words, she
"was all of a tremble" by the time she was dressed for church.

On such occasions she was apt to speak her mind, preferably to the
Colonel; but lacking his presence, to her family severally and
collectively, to 'Lias, the hired man, or aloud to herself when busy
about her work. She had been known, on occasion, to acquaint even the
collie with her state of mind, and had assured the head of the family
afterwards that there was more sense of understanding of a woman's
trials in one wag of a dog's tail than in most men's head-pieces.

"Mr. Caukins!" she called up the stairway. She never addressed her
husband in the publicity of domestic life without this prefix; to her
children she spoke of him as "your pa"; to all others as "the Colonel."

"Yes, Elvira."

The Colonel's voice was leisurely, but muffled owing to the extra heavy
lather he was laying about his mouth for the Sunday morning shave. His
wife's voice shrilled again up the staircase:

"It's going on nine o'clock and the boys are nowheres near ready; I
haven't dressed the twins yet, and the boys are trying to shampoo each
other--they've got your bottle of bay rum, and not a single shoe have
they greased. I wish you'd hurry up and come down; for if there's one
thing you know I hate it's to go into church after the beginning of the
first lesson with those boys squeaking and scrunching up the aisle
behind me. It makes me nervous and upsets me so I can't find the place
in my prayer book half the time."

"I'll be down shortly." The tone was intended to be conciliatory, but it
irritated Mrs. Caukins beyond measure.

"I know all about your 'shortlies,' Mr. Caukins; they're as long as the
rector's sermon this very Whit-sunday--the one day in the whole year
when the children can't keep still any more than cows in fly time. Did
you get their peppermints last night?"

"'Gad, my dear, I forgot them! But really--", his voice was degenerating
into a mumble owing to the pressure of circumstances, "--matters of
such--er--supreme importance--came--er--to my knowledge last evening
that--that--"

"That what?"

"--That--that--mm--mm--" there followed the peculiar noise attendant
upon a general clearing up of much lathered cuticle, "--I forgot them."

"What matters were they? You didn't say anything about 'supreme
importance' last night, Mr. Caukins."

"I'll tell you later, Elvira; just at present I--"

"Was it anything about the quarries?"

"Mm--"

"_What_ was it?"

"I heard young Googe was expected next week."

"Well, I declare! I could have told you that much myself if you'd been
at home in any decent season. It seems pretty poor planning to have to
run down three miles to The Greenbush every Saturday evening to find out
what you could know by just stepping across the bridge to Aurora's. She
told me yesterday. Was that all?"

"N--no--"

"For mercy's sake, Mr. Caukins, don't keep me waiting here any longer!
It's almost church time."

"I wasn't aware that I was detaining you, Elvira." The Colonel's protest
was mild but dignified. There were sounds above of renewed activity.

"Dulcie," said Mrs. Caukins, turning to a little girl who was standing
beside her, listening with erected ears to her mother's questions and
father's answers, "go up stairs into mother's room and see if Doosie's
getting ready, there's a good girl."

"Doosie is with me, Elvira; I would let well enough alone for the
present, if I were you," said the Colonel admonishingly. His wife wisely
took the hint. "Come up, Dulcie," he called, "father's ready." Dulcie
hopped up stairs.

"You haven't said what matters of importance kept you last night." Mrs.
Caukins returned to her muttons with redoubled energy.

"Champney came home unexpectedly last evening, and the syndicate has
offered him a position, a big one, in New York--treasurer of the
Flamsted Quarries Company; and our Romanzo's got a chance too--"

"You don't say! What is it?" Mrs. Caukins started up stairs whence came
sounds of an obstreperous bootjack.

"Paymaster, here in town; I'll explain in more propitious circumstances.
Has 'Lias harnessed yet, Elvira?"

Without deigning to answer, Mrs. Caukins freed her mind.

"Well, Mr. Caukins, I must say you grow more and more like that old ram
of 'Lias's that has learned to butt backwards just for the sake of going
contrary to nature. I believe you'd rather tell a piece of news
backwards than forwards any day! Why didn't you begin by telling me
about Romanzo? If your own child that's your flesh and blood and bone
isn't of most interest to you, I'd like to know what is!"

The Colonel's reply was partly inaudible owing to a sudden outbreak of
altercation among the boys in the room below. Mrs. Caukins, who had just
reached the landing, turned in her tracks and hurried to the rescue.

The Colonel smiled at the rosy, freshly-shaved face reflected in the
mirror of the old-fashioned dressing-case, and, at the same time, caught
the reflection of another image--that of his hired man, 'Lias, who was
crossing the yard. He went to the window and leaned out, stemming his
hands on the sill.

"There seems to be the usual Sunday morning row going on below, 'Lias. I
fear the boys are shampooing each other's heads with the backs of their
brushes from the sounds."

'Lias smiled, and nodded understandingly.

"Just look in and lend a hand in case Mrs. Caukins should be
outnumbered, will you? I'm engaged at present." And deeply engaged he
was to the twins' unspeakable delight. Whistling softly an air from "Il
Trovatore," he rubbed some orange-flower water on his chin and cheeks;
then taking a fresh handkerchief, dabbed several drops on the two little
noses that waited upon him weekly in expectation of this fragrant boon.
He was rewarded by a few satisfactory kisses.

"Now run away and help mother--coach leaves at nine forty-five
_pre_-cisely. I forgot the peppermints, but--" he slapped his trousers'
pockets significantly.

The twins shouted with delight and rushed away to impart the news to the
boys.

"I wish you would tell me the secret of your boys' conduct in church,
Colonel Caukins; it's exemplary. I don't understand it, for boys will be
boys," said the rector one Sunday several years before when all the boys
were young. He had taken note of their want of restlessness throughout
the sermon.

The Colonel's mouth twitched; he answered promptly, but avoided his
wife's eyes.

"All in the method, I assure you. We Americans have spent a generation
in experimenting with the inductive, the subjective method in education,
and the result is, to all intents and purposes, a dismal failure. The
future will prove the value of the objective, the deductive--which is
mine," he added with a sententious emphasis that left the puzzled rector
no wiser than before.

"Whatever the method, Colonel, you have a fine family; there is no
mistake about that," he said heartily.

The Colonel beamed and responded at once:

"'Blessed is the man that hath his quiver full'--"

At this point Mrs. Caukins surreptitiously poked the admonitory end of
her sunshade between the Colonel's shoulder blades, and the Colonel,
comprehending, desisted from further quotation of scripture. It was not
his strong point. Once he had been known to quote, not only unblushingly
but triumphantly, during a touch-and-go discussion of the labor question
in the town hall:--"The ass, gentlemen, is worthy of his hire"; and in
so doing had covered Mrs. Caukins with confusion and made a transient
enemy of every wage-earner in the audience.

But his boys behaved--that was the point. What boys wouldn't when their
heart's desire was conveyed to them at the beginning of the sermon by a
secret-service-under-the-pew process wholly delightful to the young
human male? Who wouldn't be quiet for the sake of the peppermints, a
keen three-bladed knife, or a few gelatine fishes that squirmed on his
warm moist palm in as lively a manner as if just landed on the lake
shore? Their father had been a boy, and at fifty had a boy's heart
within him--this was the secret of his success.

Mrs. Caukins appeared at last, radiant in the consciousness of a new
chip hat and silk blouse. Dulcie and Doosie in white lawn did their
pains-taking mother credit in every respect. The Colonel gallantly
presented his wife with a small bunch of early roses--an attention which
called up a fine bit of color into her still pretty face. 'Lias helped
her into the three-seated wagon, then lifted in the twins; the boys
piled in afterwards; the Colonel took the reins. Mrs. Caukins waved her
sunshade vigorously at 'Lias and gave a long sigh of relief and
satisfaction.

"Well, we're off at last! I declare I miss Maggie every hour in the day.
I don't know what I should have done all these years without that girl!"

The mention of "Maggie" emphasizes one of the many changes in Flamsted
during the six years of Champney Googe's absence. Mrs. Caukins, urged by
her favorite, Aileen, and advised by Mrs. Googe and Father Honoré, had
imported Margaret O'Dowd, the "Freckles" of the asylum, as mother's
helper six months after Aileen's arrival in Flamsted. For nearly six
years Maggie loyally seconded Mrs. Caukins in the care of her children
and her household. Slow, but sure and dependable, strong and willing,
she made herself invaluable in the stone house among the sheep pastures;
her stunted affections revived and flourished apace in that household of
well-cared-for children to whom both parents were devoted. It cost her a
heartache to leave them; but six months ago burly Jim McCann, one of the
best workmen in the sheds--although of unruly spirit and a source of
perennial trouble among the men--began to make such determined love to
the mother's helper that the Caukinses found themselves facing
inevitable loss. Maggie had been married three months; and already
McCann had quarrelled with the foreman, and, in a huff, despite his
wife's tears and prayers, sought of his own accord work in another and
far distant quarry.

"Maggie told me she'd never leave off teasing Jim to bring her back,"
said the fifth eldest Caukins.--"Oh, look!" he cried as they rumbled
over the bridge; "there's Mrs. Googe and Champney on the porch waving to
us!"

The Colonel took off his hat with a flourish; the boys swung theirs;
Mrs. Caukins waved her sunshade to mother and son.

"I declare, I'd like to stop just a minute," she said regretfully, for
the Colonel continued to drive straight on. "I'm so glad for Aurora's
sake that he's come home; I only hope our Romanzo will do as well."

"It would be an intrusion at such a time, Elvira. The effusions of even
the best-intentioned friends are injudicious at the inopportune moment
of domestic reunion."

Mrs. Caukins subsided on that point. She was always depressed by the
Colonel's grandiloquence, which he usually reserved for The Greenbush
and the town-meeting, without being able to account for it.

"He'll see a good many changes here; it's another Flamsted we're living
in," she remarked later on when they passed the first stone-cutters'
shed on the opposite shore of the lake; and the family proceeded to
comment all the way to church on the various changes along the route.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in truth another Flamsted, the industrial Flamsted which the
Colonel predicted six years before on that memorable evening in the
office of The Greenbush.

To watch the transformation of a quiet back-country New England village
into the life-centre of a great and far-reaching industry, is in itself
a liberal education, not only in economics, but in inherited
characteristics of the human race. Those first drops of "the deluge,"
the French priest and the Irish orphan, were followed by an influx of
foreigners of many nationalities: Scotch, Irish, Italians, Poles,
Swedes, Canadian French; and with these were associated a few
American-born.

Their life-problem, the earning of wages for the sustenance of
themselves and their families, was one they had in common. Its solution
was centred for one and all in their work among the granite quarries of
The Gore and in the stone-cutters' sheds on the north shore of Lake
Mesantic. These two things the hundreds belonging to a half-dozen
nationalities possessed in common--these, and their common humanity
together with the laws to which it is subject. But aside from this,
their speech, habits, customs, religions, food, and pastimes were
polyglot; on this account the lines of racial demarkation were apt, at
times, to be drawn all too sharply. Yet this very fact of
differentiation provided hundreds of others--farmers, shopkeepers,
jobbers, machinists, mechanics, blacksmiths, small restaurant-keepers,
pool and billiard room owners--with ample sources of livelihood.

This internal change in the community of Flamsted corresponded to the
external. During those six years the very face of nature underwent
transformation. The hills in the apex of The Gore were shaved clean of
the thin layer of turf, and acres of granite laid bare to the drill.
Monster derricks, flat stone-cars, dummy engines, electric motors, were
everywhere in evidence. Two glittering steel tracks wound downwards
through old watercourses to the level of the lake, and to the huge
stone-cutting sheds that stretched their gray length along the northern
shore. Here the quarried stones, tons in weight, were unloaded by the
great electric travelling crane which picks up one after the other with
automatic perfection of silence and accuracy, and deposits them wherever
needed by the workmen.

A colony of substantial three-room houses, two large boarding-houses, a
power house and, farther up beyond the pines, a stone house and a long
low building, partly of wood, partly of granite waste cemented, circled
the edges of the quarry.

The usual tale of workmen in the fat years was five hundred quarrymen
and three hundred stone-cutters. This population of working-men, swelled
to three thousand by the addition of their families, increased or
diminished according as the years and seasons proved fat or lean. A
ticker on Wall Street was sufficient to give to the great industry
abnormal life and activity, and draw to the town a surplus working
population. A feeling of unrest and depression, long-continued in
metropolitan financial circles, was responded to with sensitive pulse on
these far-away hills of Maine and resulted in migratory flights, by tens
and twenties, of Irish and Poles, of Swedes, Italians, French Canucks,
and American-born to more favorable conditions. "Here one day and gone
the next"; even the union did not make for stability of tenure.

In this ceaseless tidal ebb and flow of industrials, the original
population of Flamsted managed at times to come to the surface to
breathe; to look about them; to speculate as to "what next?" for the
changes were rapid and curiosity was fed almost to satiety. A fruitful
source of speculation was Champney Googe's long absence from home,
already six years, and his prospects when he should have returned.
Speculation was also rife when Aurora Googe crossed the ocean to spend a
summer with her son; at one time rumors were afloat that Champney's
prospective marriage with a relation of the Van Ostends was near at
hand, and this was said to be the cause of his mother's rather sudden
departure. But on her return, Mrs. Googe set all speculation in this
direction at rest by denying the rumor most emphatically, and adding the
information for every one's benefit that she had gone over to be with
Champney because he did not wish to come home at the time his contract
with Mr. Van Ostend permitted.

Once during the past year, the village wise heads foregathered in the
office of The Greenbush to discuss the very latest:--the coming to
Flamsted of seven Sisters, Daughters of the Mystic Rose, who, foreseeing
the suppression of their home institution in France, had come to prepare
a refuge for their order on the shores of America and found another home
and school among the quarrymen in this distant hill-country of the new
Maine--an echo of the old France of their ancestors. This was looked
upon as an undreamed-of innovation exceeding all others that had come to
their knowledge; it remained for old Joel Quimber to enter the lists as
champion of the newcomers, their cause, and their school which, with
Father Honoré's aid, they at once established among the barren hills of
The Gore.

"Hounded out er France, poor souls, just like my own
great-great-great-granther's father!" he said, referring to the subject
again on that last Saturday evening when the frequenters of The
Greenbush were to be stirred shortly by the news they considered best of
all: Champney Googe's unexpected arrival. "I was up thar yisterd'y an'
it beats all how snug they're fixed! The schoolroom's ez neat as a pin,
an' pitchers on the walls wuth a day's journey to see. They're havin' a
room built onto the farther end--a kind of er relief hospital, so
Father Honoré told me--ter help out when the quarrymen git a jammed foot
er finger, so's they needn't be took home to muss up their little cabins
an' worrit their wives an' little 'uns. I heerd Aileen hed ben goin' up
thar purty reg'lar lately for French an' sich; guess Mis' Champney's
done 'bout the right thing by her, eh, Tave?"

Octavius nodded. "And Aileen's done the right thing by Mrs. Champney. 'T
isn't every young girl that would stick to it as Aileen's done the last
six years--not in the circumstances."

"You're right, Tave. I heerd not long ago thet she was a-goin' on the
stage when she'd worked out her freedom, and by A. J. she's got the
voice for it! But I'd hate ter see _her_ thar. She's made a lot er
sunshine in this place, and I guess from all I hear there's them thet
would stan' out purty stiff agin it; they say Luigi Poggi an' Romanzo
Caukins purty near fit over her t' other night."

"You needn't believe all you hear, Joel, but you can believe me when I
tell you there'll be no going on the stage for Aileen--not if I know it,
or Father Honoré either."

He spoke so emphatically that his brother Augustus looked at him in
surprise.

"What's up, Tave?" he inquired.

"I mean Aileen's got a level head and isn't going to leave just as
things are beginning to get interesting. She's stood it six year and she
can stand it six more if she makes up her mind to it, and I'd ought to
know, seeing as I've lived with her ever since she come to Flamsted."

"To be sure, Tave, to be sure; nobody knows better'n you, 'bout Aileen,
an' I guess she's come to look on you, from all I hear, as her special
piece of property." His brother spoke appeasingly.

Octavius smiled. "Well, I don't deny but she lays claim to me most of
the time; it's 'Octavius' here and 'Octavius' there all day long.
Sometimes Mrs. Champney ruffs up about it, but Aileen has a way of
smoothing her down, generally laughs her out of it. Is that the
Colonel?" He listened to a step on the veranda. "Don't let on 'bout
anything 'twixt Romanzo and Aileen before the Colonel, Joel."

"You don't hev ter say thet to me," said old Quimber resentfully;
"anybody can see through a barn door when thar's a hole in it. All on us
know Mis' Champney's a-breakin'; they do say she's hed a shock,
leastwise I heerd so, an' Aileen'll look out for A No. 1. I ain't lived
to be most eighty in Flamsted for nothin', an' I've seen an' heerd
more'n I've ever told, Tave; more'n even you know 'bout some things. You
don't remember the time old Square Googe took Aurory inter his home to
bring up an' Judge Champney said he was sorry he'd got ahead of him for
he wanted to adopt her for a daughter himself; them's his words; I heerd
him. An' I can tell more'n--"

"Shut up, Quimber," said Octavius shortly; and Joel Quimber "shut up,"
but, winking knowingly at Augustus Buzzby, continued to chuckle to
himself till the Colonel entered who, beginning to expatiate upon the
subject of Champney Googe's prospects when he should have returned to
the home-welcome awaiting him, was happily interrupted by the
announcement of that young man's unexpected arrival on the evening
train.


II

Champney Googe was beginning to realize, as he stood on the porch with
his mother and waved to his old neighbors, the Caukinses, the changed
conditions he was about to face. He was also realizing that he must
change to meet these conditions. On his way up from the train Saturday
evening, he noted the power house at The Corners and the substantial
line of comfortable cottages that extended for a mile along the highroad
to the entrance of the village. He found Main Street brilliant with
electric lights and lined nearly its entire length with shops, large and
small, which were thronged with week-end purchasers. An Italian fruit
store near The Greenbush bore the proprietor's name, Luigi Poggi; as he
drove past he saw an old Italian woman bargaining with smiles and lively
gestures over the open counter. Farther on, from an improvised wooden
booth, the raucous voice of the phonograph was jarring the night air and
entertaining a motley group gathered in front of it. Across the street a
flaunting poster announced "Moving Picture Show for a Nickel." Vehicles
of all descriptions, from a Maine "jigger" to a "top buggy," were
stationary along the village thoroughfare, their various steeds hitched
to every available stone post. In front of the rectory some Italian
children were dancing to the jingle of a tambourine.

On nearing The Bow the confusion ceased; the polyglot sounds were
distinguishable only as a murmur. In passing Champ-au-Haut, he looked
up at the house; here and there a light shone behind drawn shades. Six
years had passed since he was last there; six years--and time had not
dulled the sensation of that white pepper in his nostrils! He smiled to
himself. He must see Aileen before he left, for from time to time he had
heard good reports of her from his mother with whom she had become a
favorite. He thought she must be mighty plucky to stand Aunt Meda all
this time! He gathered from various sources that Mrs. Champney was
growing peculiar as she approached three score and ten. Her rare letters
to him, however, were kind enough. But he was sure Aileen's anomalous
place in the household at Champ-au-Haut--neither servant nor child of
the house, never adopted, but only maintained--could have been no
sinecure. Anyway, he knew she had kept the devotion of her two admirers,
Romanzo Caukins and Octavius Buzzby. From a hint in his aunt's last
letter, he drew the conclusion that Aileen and Romanzo would make a
match of it before long, when Romanzo should be established. At any
rate, Aileen had wit enough, he was sure, to know on which side her
bread was buttered, and from all he heard by the way of letters, Romanzo
Caukins was not to be sneezed at as a prospective husband--a
steady-going, solid sort of a chap who, he was told, had a chance now
like himself in the quarry business. He must credit Aunt Meda with this
one bit of generosity, at least; Mr. Van Ostend told him she had applied
to him for some working position for Romanzo in the Flamsted office, and
not in vain; he was about to be put in as pay-master.

As he drove slowly up the highroad towards The Gore, he saw the
stone-cutters' sheds stretching dim and gray in the moonlight along the
farther shore. A standing train of loaded flat-cars gleamed in the
electric light like a long high-piled drift of new-fallen snow. Here and
there, on approaching The Gore, an arc-light darkened the hills round
about and sent its blinding glare into the traveller's eyes. At last,
his home was in sight--his home!--he wondered that he did not experience
a greater thrill of home-coming--and behind and above it the many
electric lights in and around the quarries produced hazy white
reflections concentrated in luminous spots on the clear sky.

His mother met him on the porch. Her greeting was such that it caused
him to feel, and for the first time, that where she was, there,
henceforth, his true home must ever be.

       *       *       *       *       *

"It will be hard work adjusting myself at first, mother," he said,
turning to her after watching the wagonload of Caukinses out of sight,
"harder than I had any idea of. A foreign business training may broaden
a man in some ways, but it leaves his muscles flabby for real home work
here in America. You make your fight over there with gloves, and here
only bare knuckles are of any use; but I'm ready for it!" He smiled and
squared his shoulders as to an imaginary load.

"You don't regret it, do you, Champney?"

"Yes and no, mother. I don't regret it because I have gained a certain
knowledge of men and things available only to one who has lived over
there; but I do regret that, because of the time so spent, I am, at
twenty-seven, still hugging the shore--just as I was when I left
college. After all these years I'm not 'in it' yet; but I shall be
soon," he added; the hard determined ring of steadfast purpose was in
his voice. He sat down on the lower step: his mother brought forward
her chair.

"Champney," she spoke half hesitatingly; she did not find it easy to
question the man before her as she used to question the youth of
twenty-one, "would you mind telling me if there ever was any truth in
the rumor that somehow got afloat over here three years ago that you
were going to marry Ruth Van Ostend? Of course, I denied it when I got
home, for I knew you would have told me if there had been anything to
it."

Champney clasped his hands about his knee and nursed it, smiling to
himself, before he answered:

"I suppose I may as well make a clean breast of the whole affair, which
is little enough, mother, even if I didn't cover myself with glory and
come out with colors flying. You see I was young and, for all my four
years in college, pretty green when it came to the real life of those
people--"

"You mean the Van Ostends?"

"Yes, their kind. It's one thing to accept their favors, and it's quite
another to make them think you are doing them one. So I sailed in to
make Ruth Van Ostend interested in me as far as possible, circumstances
permitting--and you'll admit that a yachting trip is about as favorable
as they make it. You know she's three years older than I, and I think it
flattered and amused her to accept my devotion for a while, but then--"

"But, Champney, did you love her?"

"Well, to be honest, mother, I hadn't got that far myself--don't know
that I ever should have; any way, I wanted to get her to the point
before I went through any self-catechism on that score."

"But, Champney!" She spoke with whole-hearted protest.

He nodded up at her understandingly. "I know the 'but', mother; but
that's how it stood with me. You know they were in Paris the next spring
and, of course, I saw a good deal of them--and of many others who were
dancing attendance on the heiress to the same tune that I was. But I
caught on soon, and saw all the innings were with one special man; and,
well--I didn't make a fool of myself, that's all. As you know, she was
married the autumn after your return, three years ago."

"You're sure you really didn't mind, Champney?"

He laughed out at that. "Mind! Well, rather! You see it knocked one of
my little plans higher than a kite--a plan I made the very day I decided
to accept Mr. Van Ostend's offer. Of course I minded."

"What plan?"

"Wonder if I'd better tell you, mother? I'd like to stand well in your
good graces--"

"Oh, Champney!"

"Fact, I would. Well, here goes then: I decided--I was lying up under
the pines, you know that day I didn't want to accept his offer?"--she
nodded confirmatorily--"that if I couldn't have an opportunity to get
rich quick in one way, I would in another; and, in accepting the offer,
I made up my mind to try for the sister and her millions; if successful,
I intended to take by that means a short cut to matrimony and fortune."

"Oh, Champney!"

"Young and fresh and--hardened, wasn't it, mother?"

"You were so young, so ignorant, so unused to that sort of living; you
had no realization of the difficulties of life--of love--."

She began speaking as if in apology for his weakness, but ended with the
murmured words "life--love", in a voice so tense with pain that it
sounded as if the major dominant of youth and ignorance suddenly
suffered transcription into a haunting minor.

Her son looked up at her in surprise.

"Why, mother, don't take it so hard; I assure you I didn't. It brought
me down to bed rock, for I was making a conceited ass of myself that's
all, in thinking I could have roses for fodder instead of thistles--and
just for the asking! It did me no end of good. I shall never rush in
again where even angels fear to tread except softly--I mean the male
wingless kind--worth a couple of millions; she has seven in her own
right.--But we're the best of friends."

He spoke without bitterness. His mother felt, however, at the moment,
that she would have preferred to hear a note of keen disappointment in
his explanation rather than this tone of lightest persiflage.

"I don't see how--" she began, but checked herself. A slight flush
mounted in her cheeks.

"See how what, mother? Please don't leave me dangling; I'm willing to
take all you can give. I deserve it."

"I wasn't going to blame you, Champney. I'm the last one to do
that--Life teaches each in her own way. I was only thinking I didn't see
how any girl _could_ resist loving you, dear."

"Oh, ho! Don't you, mother mine! Well, commend me to a doting--"

"I'm _not_ doting, Champney," she protested, laughing; "I know your
faults better than you know them yourself."

"A doting mother, I say, to brace up a man fallen through his pride. Do
you mean to say"--, he sprang to his feet, faced her, his hands thrust
deep in his pockets, his face alive with the fun of the moment,--"do you
mean to say that if you were a girl I should prove irresistible to you?
Come now, mother, tell me, honor bright."

She raised her eyes to his. The flush faded suddenly in her cheeks,
leaving them unnaturally white; her eyes filled with tears.

"I should worship you," she said under her breath, and dropped her head
into her hands. He sprang up the steps to her side.

"Why, mother, mother, don't speak so. I'm not worthy of it--it shames
me. Here, look up," he took her bowed head tenderly between his hands
and raised it, "look into my face; read it well--interpret, and you will
cease to idealize, mother."

She wiped her eyes, half-smiling through her tears. "I'm not idealizing,
Champney, and I didn't know I could be so weak; I think--I think the
telegram and your coming so unexpectedly--"

"I know, mother," he spoke soothingly, "it was too much; you've been too
long alone. I'm glad I'm at home at last and can run up here almost any
time." He patted her shoulder softly, and whistled for Rag. "Come, put
on your shade hat and we'll go up to the quarries. I want to see them;
do you realize they are the largest in the country? It's wonderful what
a change they've made here! After all, it takes America to forge ahead,
for we've got the opportunities and the money to back them--and what
more is needed to make us great?" He spoke lightly, expecting no
answer.

She brought her hat and the two went up the side road under the elms to
the quarry.

Ay, what more is needed to make us great? That is the question. There
comes a time when a man, whose ears are not wholly deafened by the roar
of a trafficking commercialism, asks this question of himself in the
hope that some answer may be vouchsafed to him. If it come at all, it
comes like the "still small voice" _after the whirlwind_; and the man
who asks that question in the expectation of a response, must first have
suffered, repented, struggled, fought, at times succumbed to fateful
overwhelming circumstance, before his soul can be attuned so finely that
the "still small voice" becomes audible. Youth and that question are not
synchronous.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I've not been so much alone as you imagine, Champney," said his mother.
They were picking their way over the granite slopes and around to Father
Honoré's house. "Aileen and Father Honoré and all the Caukinses and,
during this last year, those sweet women of the sisterhood have brought
so much life into my life up here among these old sheep pastures that
I've not had the chance to feel the loneliness I otherwise should. And
then there is that never-to-be-forgotten summer with you over the
ocean--I feed constantly on the remembrance of all that delight."

"I'm glad you had it, mother."

"Besides, this great industry is so many-sided that it keeps me
interested in every new development in spite of myself."

"By the way, mother, you wrote me that you had invested most of that
twenty thousand from the quarry lands in bank stock, didn't you?"

"Yes; Mr. Emlie is president now; he is considered safe. The deposits
have quadrupled these last two years, and the dividends have been
satisfactory."

"Yes, I know Emlie's safe enough, but you don't want to tie up your
money so that you can't convert it at once into cash if advisable. You
know I shall be on the inside track now and in a position to use a
little of it at a time judiciously in order to increase it for you. I'd
like to double it for you as Aunt Meda has doubled her inheritance from
grandfather--Who's that?"

He stopped short and, shading his eyes with his hat, nodded in the
direction of the sisterhood house that stood perhaps an eighth of a mile
beyond the pines. His mother, following his look, saw the figure of a
girl dodge around the corner of the house. Before she could answer, Rag,
the Irish terrier, who had been nosing disconsolately about on the
barren rock, suddenly lost his head. With one short suppressed yelp, he
laid his heels low to the slippery granite shelves and scuttled,
scurried, scrambled, tore across the intervening quarry hollow like a
bundle of brown tow driven before a hurricane.

Mrs. Googe laughed. "No need to ask 'who' when you see Rag go mad like
that! It's Aileen; Rag has been devoted to her ever since you've been
gone. I wonder why she isn't at church?"

The girl disappeared in the house. Again and again Champney whistled for
his dog but Rag failed to put in an appearance.

"He'll need to be re-trained. It isn't well, even for a dog, to be under
such petticoat government as that; it spoils him. Only I'm afraid I
sha'n't be at home long enough to make him hear to reason."

"Aileen has him in good training. She knows the dog adores her and makes
the most of it. Oh, I forgot to tell you I sent word to Father Honoré
this morning to come over to tea to-night. I knew you would like to see
him, and he has been anticipating your return."

"Has he? What for I wonder. By the way, where did he take his meals
after he left you?"

"Over in the boarding-house with the men. He stayed with me only three
months, until his house was built. He has an old French Canadian for
housekeeper now."

"He's greatly beloved, I hear."

"The Gore wouldn't be The Gore without him," Mrs. Googe spoke earnestly.
"The Colonel"--she laughed as she always did when about to quote her
rhetorical neighbor--"speaks of him to everyone as 'the heart of the
quarry that responds to the throb of the universal human,' and so far as
I know no one has ever taken exception to it, for it's true."

"I remember--he was an all round fine man. I shall be glad to see him
again. He must find some pretty tough customers up here to deal with,
and the Colonel's office is no longer the soft snap it was for fifteen
years, I'll bet."

"No, that's true; but, on the whole, there is less trouble than you
would expect among so many nationalities. Isn't it queer?--Father Honoré
says that most of the serious trouble comes from disputes between the
Hungarians and Poles about religious questions. They are apt to settle
it with fists or something worse. But he and the Colonel have managed
well between them; they have settled matters with very few arrests."

"I can't imagine the Colonel in that rôle." Champney laughed. "What does
he do with all his rhetorical trumpery at such times? I've never seen
him under fire--in fact, he never had been when I left."

"I know he doesn't like it. He told me he shouldn't fill the office
after another year. You know he was obliged to do it to make both ends
meet; but since the opening of the quarries he has really prospered and
has a market right here in town for all the mutton he can raise. I'm so
glad Romanzo's got a chance."

They rambled on, crossing the apex of The Gore and getting a good view
of the great extent of the opened quarries. Their talk drifted from one
thing to another, Champney questioning about this one and that, until,
as they turned homewards, he declared he had picked up the many dropped
stitches so fast, that he should feel no longer a stranger in his native
place when he should make his first appearance in the town the next day.
He wanted to renew acquaintance with all the people at Champ-au-Haut and
the old habitués of The Greenbush.


III

He walked down to Champ-au-Haut the next afternoon. Here and there on
the mountain side and along the highroad he noticed the massed pink and
white clusters of the sheep laurel. Every singing bird was in full
voice; thrush and vireo, robin, meadow lark, song-sparrow and catbird
were singing as birds sing but once in the whole year; when the mating
season is at its height and the long migratory flight northwards is
forgotten in the supreme instinctive joy of the ever-new miracle of
procreation.

When he came to The Bow he went directly to the paddock gate. He was
hoping to find Octavius somewhere about. He wanted to interview him
before seeing any one else, in regard to Rag who had not returned. The
recalcitrant terrier must be punished in a way he could not forget; but
Champney was not minded to administer this well-deserved chastisement in
the presence of the dog's protectress. He feared to make a poor first
impression.

He stopped a moment at the gate to look down the lane--what a beautiful
estate it was! He wondered if his aunt intended leaving anything of it
to the girl she had kept with her all these years. Somehow he had
received the impression, whether from Mr. Van Ostend or his sister he
could not recall, that she once said she did not mean to adopt her. His
mother never mentioned the matter to him; indeed, she shunned all
mention, when possible, of Champ-au-Haut and its owner.

In his mind's eye he could still see this child as he saw her on the
stage at the Vaudeville, clad first in rags, then in white; as he saw
her again dressed in the coarse blue cotton gown of orphan asylum order,
sitting in the shade of the boat house on that hot afternoon in July,
and rubbing her greasy hands in glee; as he saw her for the third time
leaning from the bedroom window and listening to his improvised
serenade. Well, he had a bone to pick with her about his dog; that would
make things lively for a while and serve for an introduction. He reached
over to unlatch the gate. At that moment he heard Octavius' voice in
violent protest. It came from behind a group of apple trees down the
lane in the direction of the milking shed.

"Now don't go for to trying any such experiment as that, Aileen; you'll
fret the cow besides mussing your clean dress."

"I don't care; it'll wash. Now, please, do let me, Tave, just this
once."

"I tell you the cow won't give down her milk if you take hold of her.
She'll get all in a fever having a girl fooling round her." There
followed the rattle of pails and a stool.

"Now, look here, Octavius Buzzby, who knows best about a cow, you or I?"

"Well, seeing as I've made it my business to look after cows ever since
I was fifteen year old, you can't expect me to give in to you and say
_you_ do."

Her merry laugh rang out. Champney longed to echo it, but thought best
to lie low for a while and enjoy the fun so unexpectedly provided.

"Tavy, dear, that only goes to prove you are a mere man; a dear one to
be sure--but then! Don't you flatter yourself for one moment that you,
or any other man, really know any creature of the feminine gender from a
woman to a cow. You simply can't, Tavy, because you aren't feminine.
_Can_ you comprehend that? Can you say on your honor as a man that you
have ever been able to tell for certain what Mrs. Champney, or Hannah,
or I, for instance, or this cow, or the cat, or Bellona, when she hasn't
been ridden enough, or the old white hen you've been trying to force to
sit the last two weeks, is going to do next? Now, honor bright, have
you?"

Octavius was grumbling some reply inaudible to Champney.

"No, of course you haven't; and what's more you never will. Not that
it's your fault, Tavy, dear, it's only your misfortune." Exasperating
patronage was audible in her voice. Champney noted that a trace of the
rich Irish brogue was left. "Here, give me that pail."

"I tell you, Aileen, you can't do it; you've never learned to milk."

"Oh, haven't I? Look here, Tave, now no more nonsense; Romanzo taught me
how two years ago--but we both took care you shouldn't know anything
about it. Give me that pail." This demand was peremptory.

Evidently Octavius was weakening, for Champney heard again the rattle of
the pails and the stool; then a swish of starched petticoat and a cooing
"There, there, Bess."

He opened the gate noiselessly and closing it behind him walked down the
lane. The golden light of the June sunset was barred, where it lay upon
the brilliant green of the young grass, with the long shadows of the
apple-tree trunks. He looked between the thick foliage of the
low-hanging branches to the milking shed. The two were there. Octavius
was looking on dubiously; Aileen was coaxing the giant Holstein mother
to stand aside at a more convenient angle for milking.

"Hold her tail, Tave," was the next command.

She seated herself on the stool and laid her cheek against the warm,
shining black flank; her hands manipulated the rosy teats; then she
began to sing:

    "O what are you seeking my pretty colleen,
    So sadly, tell me now!"--
      "O'er mountain and plain
      I'm searching in vain
    Kind sir, for my Kerry cow."

The milk, now drumming steadily into the pail, served for a running
accompaniment to the next verses.

    "Is she black as the night with a star of white
    Above her bonny brow?
      And as clever to clear
      The dykes as a deer?"--
    "That's just my own Kerry cow."

    "Then cast your eye into that field of wheat
    She's there as large as life."--
      "My bitter disgrace!
      Howe'er shall I face
    The farmer and his wife?"

What a voice! And what a picture she made leaning caressingly against
the charmed and patient Bess! She was so slight, yet round and
supple--strong, too, with the strength of perfect health! The thick
fluffed black hair was rolled away from her face and gathered into a low
knot in the nape of her neck. Her dress cut low at the throat enhanced
the white purity of her face and the slim round grace of her neck which
showed to advantage against the ebony flank of the mother of many milky
ways. Her lips were red and full; the nose was a saucy stub; the eyes he
could not see; they were downcast, intent upon her filling pail and the
rising creamy foam; but he knew them to be an Irish blue-gray.

[Illustration: "What a picture she made leaning caressingly against the
charmed and patient Bess"]

    "Since the farmer's unwed you've no cause to dread
    From his wife, you must allow.
      And for kisses three--
      'Tis myself is he--
    The farmer will free your cow."

The song ceased; the singer was giving her undivided attention to her
self-imposed task. Octavius took a stool and began work with another
cow. Champney, nothing loath to prolong the pleasure of looking at the
improvised milkmaid, waited before making his presence known until she
should have finished.

And watching her, he could but wonder at the ways of Chance that had
cast this little piece of foreign flotsam upon the shores of America,
only to sweep it inland to this village in Maine. He could not help
comparing her with Alice Van Ostend--what a contrast! What an abyss
between the circumstances of the two lives! Yet this one was decidedly
charming, more so than the other; for he was at once aware that Aileen
was already in possession of her womanhood's dower of command over all
poor mortals of the opposite sex--her manner with Octavius showed him
that; and Alice when he saw her last, now nearly six months ago, would
have given any one the impression of something still unfledged--a tall,
slim, overgrown girl of sixteen, and somewhat spoiled. This was indeed
only natural, for her immediate world of father, aunt, and relations had
circled ever since her birth in the orbit of her charming wilfulness.
Champney acknowledged to himself that he had done her bidding a little
too frequently ever since the first yachting trip, when as a little girl
she attached herself to him, or rather him to her as a part of her
special goods and chattels. At that time their common ground for
conversation was Aileen; the child was never tired of his rehearsing for
her delight the serenade scene. But in another year she lost this
interest, for many others took its place; nor was it ever renewed.

The Van Ostends, together with Ruth and her husband, had been living the
last three winters in Paris, Mr. Van Ostend crossing and recrossing as
his business interests demanded or permitted. Champney was much with
them, for their home was always open to him who proved an ever welcome
guest. He acknowledged to himself, while participating in the intimacy
of their home life, that if the child's partiality to his companionship,
so undisguisedly expressed on every occasion, should, in the transition
periods of girlhood and young womanhood, deepen into a real attachment,
he would cultivate it with a view to asking her in marriage of her
father when the time should show itself ripe. In his first youthful
arrogance of self-assertion he had miscalculated with Ruth Van Ostend.
He would make provision that this "undeveloped affair"--so he termed
it--with her niece should not miscarry for want of caution. He intended
while waiting for Alice to grow up--a feat which her aunt was always
deploring as an impossibility except in a physical sense--to make
himself necessary in this young life. Thus far he had been successful;
her weekly girlish letters conclusively proved it.

While waiting for the milk to cease its vigorous flow, he was conscious
of reviewing his attitude towards the "undeveloped affair" in some such
train of thought, and finding in it nothing to condemn, rather to
commend, in fact; for not for the fractional part of a second did he
allow a thought of it to divert his mind from the constant end in view:
the making for himself a recognized place of power in the financial
world of affairs. He knew that Mr. Van Ostend was aware of this
steadfast pursuit of a purpose. He knew, moreover, that the fact that
the great financier was taking him into his New York office as treasurer
of the Flamsted Quarries, was a tacit recognition not only of his six
years' apprenticeship in some of the largest banking houses in Europe,
but of his ability to acquire that special power which was his goal. In
the near future he would handle and practically control millions both in
receipt and disbursement. Many of the contracts, already signed, were to
be filled within the next three years--the sound of the milking suddenly
ceased.

"My, how my wrists ache! See, Tave, the pail is almost full; there must
be twelve or fourteen quarts in all."

She began to rub her wrists vigorously. Octavius muttered: "I told you
so. You might have known you couldn't milk steady like that without
getting all tuckered out."

Champney stepped forward quickly. "Right you are, Tave, every time. How
are you, dear old chap?" He held out his hand.

"Champ--Champney--why--" he stammered rather than spoke.

"It's I, Tave; the same old sixpence. Have I changed so much?"

"Changed? I should say so! I thought--I thought--" he was wringing
Champney's hand; some strange emotion worked in his features--"I thought
for a second it was Mr. Louis come to life." He turned to Aileen who had
sprung from her stool. "Aileen, this is Mr. Champney Googe; you've
forgotten him, I dare say, in all these years."

The rich red mantled her cheeks; the gray eyes smiled up frankly into
his; she held out her hand. "Oh, no, I've not forgotten Mr. Champney
Googe; how could I?"

"Indeed, I think it is the other way round; if I remember rightly you
gave me the opportunity of never forgetting you." He held her hand just
a trifle longer than was necessary. The girl smiled and withdrew it.

"Milky hands are not so sticky as spruce gum ones, Mr. Googe, but they
are apt to be quite as unpleasant."

Champney was annoyed without in the least knowing why. He was wondering
if he should address her as "Aileen" or "Miss Armagh," when Octavius
spoke:

"Aileen, just go on ahead up to the house and tell Mrs. Champney Mr.
Googe is here." Aileen went at once, and Octavius explained.

"You see, Champney--Mr. Googe--"

"Have I changed so much, Tave, that you can't use the old name?"

"You've changed a sight; it don't come easy to call you Champ, any more
than it did to call Mr. Louis by his Christian name. You look a Champney
every inch of you, and you act like one." He spoke emphatically; his
small keen eyes dwelt admiringly on the face and figure of the tall man
before him. "I thought 't was better to send Aileen on ahead, for Mrs.
Champney's broken a good deal since you saw her; she can't stand much
excitement--and you're the living image." He called for the boy who had
taken Romanzo's place. "I'll go up as far as the house with you. How
long are you going to stay?"

"It depends upon how long it takes me to investigate these quarries,
learn the ropes. A week or two possibly. I am to be treasurer of the
Company with my office in New York."

"So I heard, so I heard. I'm glad it's come at last--no thanks to
_her_," he added, nodding in the direction of the house.

"Do you still hold a grudge, Tave?"

"Yes, and always shall. Right's right and wrong's wrong, and there ain't
a carpenter in this world that can dovetail the two. You and your mother
have been cheated out of your rights in what should be yours, and it's
ten to one if you ever get a penny of it."

Champney smiled at the little man's indignation. "All the more reason to
congratulate me on my job, Tave."

"Well, I do; only it don't set well, this other business. She ain't
helped you any to it?" He asked half hesitatingly.

"Not a red cent, Tave. I don't owe her anything. Possibly she will leave
some of it to this same Miss Aileen Armagh. Stranger things have
happened." Octavius shook his head.

"Don't you believe it, Champney. She likes Aileen and well she may, but
she don't like her well enough to give her a slice off of this estate;
and what's more she don't like any living soul well enough to part with
a dollar of it on their account."

"Is there any one Aunt Meda ever did love, Tave? From all I remember to
have heard, when I was a boy, she was always bound up pretty thoroughly
in herself."

"Did she ever love any one? Well she did; that was her husband, Louis
Champney, who loved you as his own son. And it's my belief that's the
reason you don't get your rights. She was jealous as the devil of every
word he spoke to you."

"You're telling me news--and late in the day."

"Late is better than never, and I'd always meant to tell you when you
come to man's estate--but you've been away so long, I've thought
sometimes you was never coming home; but I hoped you would for your
mother's sake, and for all our sakes."

"I'm going to do what I can, but you mustn't depend too much on me,
Tave. I'm glad I'm at home for mother's sake although I always felt she
had a good right hand in you, Tave; you've always been a good friend to
her, she tells me."

Octavius Buzzby swallowed hard once, twice; but he gave him no reply.
Champney wondered to see his face work again with some emotion he failed
to explain satisfactorily to himself.

"There's Mrs. Champney on the terrace; I won't go any farther. Come in
when you can, won't you?"

"I shall be pretty apt to run in for a chat almost anytime on my way to
the village." He waved his hand in greeting to his aunt and sprang up
the steps leading to the terrace.

He bent to kiss her and was shocked by the change in her that was only
too apparent: the delicate features were sharpened; the temples sunken;
her abundant light brown hair was streaked heavily with white; the
hands had grown old, shrunken, the veins prominent.

"Kiss me again, Champney," she said in a low voice, closing her eyes
when he bent again to fulfil her request. When she opened them he
noticed that the lids were trembling and the corners of her mouth
twitched. But she rallied in a moment and said sharply:

"Now, don't say you're sorry--I know all about how I look; but I'm
better and expect to outlive a good many well ones yet."

She told Aileen to bring another chair. Champney hastened to forestall
her; his aunt shook her finger at him.

"Don't begin by spoiling her," she said. Then she bade her make ready
the little round tea-table on the terrace and serve tea.

"What do you think of her?" she asked him after Aileen had entered the
house. She spoke with a directness of speech that warned Champney the
question was a cloak to some other thought on her part.

"That she does you credit, Aunt Meda. I don't know that I can pay you or
her a greater compliment."

"Very well said. You've learned all that over there--and a good deal
more besides. There have been no folderols in her education. I've made
her practical. Come, draw up your chair nearer and tell me something of
the Van Ostends and that little Alice who was the means of Aileen's
coming to me. I hear she is growing to be a beauty."

"Beauty--well, I shouldn't say she was that, not yet; but 'little.' She
is fully five feet six inches with the prospect of an additional inch."

"I didn't realize it. When are they coming home?"

"Early in the autumn. Alice says she is going to come out next winter,
not leak out as the other girls in her set have done; and what Alice
wants she generally manages to have."

"Let me see--she must be sixteen; why that's too young!"

"Seventeen next month. She's very good fun though."

"Like her?" She looked towards the house where Aileen was visible with a
tea-tray.

"Well, no; at least, not along her lines I should say. She seems to have
Tave pretty well under her thumb."

Mrs. Champney smiled. "Octavius thought he couldn't get used to it at
first, but he's reconciled now; he had to be.--Call her Aileen,
Champney; you mustn't let her get the upper hand of you by making her
think she's a woman grown," she added in a low tone, for the girl was
approaching them, slowly on account of the loaded tray she was carrying.

Champney left his seat and taking the tea-things from her placed them on
the table. Aileen busied herself with setting all in order and twirling
the tea-ball in each cup of boiling water, as if she had been used to
this ultra method of making tea all her life.

"By the way, Aileen--"

He checked himself, for such a look of amazement was in the quickly
lifted gray eyes, such a surprised arch was visible in the dark brows,
that he realized his mistake in hearing to his aunt's request. He felt
he must make himself whole, and if possible without further delay.

"Oh, I see that it must still be Miss Aileen
Armagh-and-don't-you-forget-it!" he exclaimed, laughing to cover his
confusion.

She laughed in turn; she could not help it at the memories this title
called to mind. "Well, it's best to be particular with strangers, isn't
it?" Down went the eyes to search in the bottom of a teacup.

"I fancied we were not wholly that; I told Aunt Meda about our escapade
six years ago; surely, that affair ought to establish a common ground
for our continued acquaintance. But, if that's not sufficient, I can
find another nearer at hand--where's my dog?"

This brought her to terms.

"Oh, I can't do anything with Rag, Mr. Googe; I'm so sorry. He's over in
the coach house this very minute, and Tave was going to take him home
to-night. Just think! That seven-year-old dog has to be carried home,
old as he is!"

"If it's come to that, I'll take him home under my arm to-night--that
is, if he won't follow; I'll try that first."

"But you're not going to punish him!--and simply because he likes me.
That wouldn't be fair!"

She made her protest indignantly. Champney looked at his aunt with an
amused smile. She nodded understandingly.

"Oh, no; not simply because he likes you, but because he is untrue to
me, his master."

"But that isn't fair!" she exclaimed again, her cheeks flushing rose
red; "you've been away so long that the dog has forgotten."

"Oh, no, he hasn't; or if he has I must jog his memory. He's Irish, and
the supreme characteristic of that breed is fidelity."

"Well, so am I Irish," she retorted pouting; she began to make him a
second cup of tea by twirling the silver tea-ball in the shallow cup
until the hot water flew over the edge; "but I shouldn't consider it
necessary to be faithful to any one who had forgotten and left me for
six years."

"You wouldn't?" Champney's eyes challenged hers, but either she did not
understand their message or she was too much in earnest to heed it.

"No I wouldn't; what for? I like Rag and he likes me, and we have been
faithful to each other; it would be downright hypocrisy on his part to
like you after all these years."

"How about you?" Champney grew bold because he knew his aunt was
enjoying the girl's entanglement as much as he was. She was amused at
his daring and Aileen's earnestness. "Didn't you tell me in Tave's
presence only just now that you couldn't forget me? How is that for
fidelity? And why excuse Rag on account of a six years' absence?"

"Well, of course, he's your dog," she said loftily, so evading the
question and ignoring the laugh at her expense.

"Yes, he's my dog if he is a backslider, and that settles it." He turned
to his aunt. "I'll run in again to-morrow, Aunt Meda, I mustn't wear my
welcome out in the first two days of my return."

"Yes, do come in when you can. I suppose you will be here a month or
two?"

"No; only a week or two at most; but I shall run up often; the business
will require it." He looked at Aileen. "Will you be so kind as to come
over with me to the coach house, Miss Armagh, and hand my property over
to me? Good-bye, Aunt Meda."

Aileen rose. "I'll be back in a few minutes, Mrs. Champney, or will you
go in now?"

"There's no dew, and the air is so fresh I'll sit here till you come."

The two went down the terrace steps side by side. Mrs. Champney watched
them out of sight; there was a kindling light in her faded eyes.

"Now, we'll see," said Champney, as they neared the coach house and saw
in the window the bundle of brown tow with black nose flattened on the
pane and eyes filled with longing under the tangled topknot. The stub of
a tail was marking time to the canine heartbeats. Champney opened the
door; the dog scurried out and sprang yelping for joy upon Aileen.

"Rag, come here!" The dog's day of judgment was in that masculine
command. The little terrier nosed Aileen's hand, hesitated, then pressed
more closely to her side. The girl laughed out in merry triumph.
Champney noted that she showed both sets of her strong white teeth when
she laughed.

"Rag, dear old boy!" She parted with caressing fingers the skein of tow
on the frowsled head.

"Come on, Rag." Champney whistled and started up the driveway. The
terrier fawned on Aileen, slavered, snorted, sniffed, then crept almost
on his belly, tail stiff, along the ground after Champney who turned and
laid his hand on him. The dog crouched in the road. He gently pulled the
stumps of ears--"Now come!"

He went whistling up the road, and the terrier, recognizing his master,
trotted in a lively manner after him.

Champney turned at the gate and lifted his hat. "How about fidelity now,
Miss Armagh?" He wanted to tease in payment for that amazed look she
gave him for taking a liberty with her Christian name.

"Well, of course, he's your dog," she called merrily after him, "but _I_
wouldn't have done it if I'd been Rag!"

Champney found himself wondering on the homeward way if she really meant
what she said.


IV

It was a careless question, carelessly put, and yet--Aileen Armagh,
before she returned to the house, was also asking herself if she meant
what she said, asking it with an unwonted timidity of feeling she could
not explain. On coming in sight of the terrace, she saw that Mrs.
Champney was still there. She hesitated a moment, then crossed the lawn
to the boat house. She wanted to sit there a while in the shade, to
think things out with herself if possible. What did this mean--this
strange feeling of timidity?

The course of her life was not wholly smooth. It was inevitable that two
natures like hers and Mrs. Champney's should clash at times, and the
impact was apt to be none of the softest. Twice, Aileen, making a
confidant of Octavius, threatened to run away, for the check rein was
held too tightly, and the young life became restive under it. When the
child first came to Champ-au-Haut, its mistress recognized at once that
in her mischief, her wilfulness, her emphatic assertion of her right of
way, there was nothing vicious, and to Octavius Buzzby's amazement, she
dealt with her, on the whole, leniently.

"She amuses me," she would say when closing an eye to some of Aileen's
escapades that gave a genuine shock to Octavius in the region of his
local prejudices.

There had been, indeed, no "folderols" in her education. Sewing,
cooking, housework she was taught root and branch in the time not spent
at school, both grammar and high. During the last year Mrs. Champney
permitted her to learn French and embroidery in a systematic manner at
the school established by the gentle Frenchwomen in The Gore; but she
steadily refused to permit the girl to cultivate her voice through the
medium of proper instruction. This denial of the girl's strongest desire
was always a common subject of dissension and irritation; however, after
Aileen was seventeen a battle royal of words between the two was a rare
occurrence.

At the same time she never objected to Aileen's exercising her talent in
her own way. Father Honoré encouraged her to sing to the accompaniment
of his violin, knowing well that the instrument would do its share in
correcting faults. She sang, too, with Luigi Poggi, her "knothole boy"
of the asylum days; and, as seven years before, Nonna Lisa often
accompanied with her guitar. The old Italian, who had managed to keep in
touch with her one-time _protégée_, and her grandson Luigi, made their
appearance in the village one summer after Aileen had been two years in
Flamsted. Luigi, now that his vaudeville days were over, was in search
of work at the quarries; his grandmother was to keep house for him till
he should be able to establish himself in trade--the goal of so many of
his thrifty countrymen.

These two Italians were typical of thousands of their nationality who
come to our shores; whom our national life, through naturalization and
community of interests, is able in a marvellously short time to
assimilate--and for the public good. Intelligent, business-like, keen at
a bargain, but honest and graciously gentle and friendly in manner,
Luigi Poggi soon established himself in the affections of Flamsted--in
no one's more solidly than in Elmer Wiggins', strange to say, who
capitulated to the "foreigner's" progressive business methods--and after
three years of hard and satisfactory work at the quarries and in the
sheds, by living frugally and saving thriftily he was able to open the
first Italian fruit stall in the quarry town. The business was
flourishing and already threatened to overrun its quarters. Luigi was in
a fair way to become fruit capitalist; his first presidential vote had
been cast, and he felt prepared to enjoy to the full his new
Americanhood.

But with his young manhood and the fulfilment of its young aspirations,
came other desires, other incentives for making his business a success
and himself a respected and honored citizen of these United States.
Luigi Poggi was ready to give into Aileen's keeping--whenever she might
choose to indicate by a word or look that she was willing to accept the
gift--his warm Italian heart that knew no subterfuge in love, but gave
generously, joyfully, in the knowledge that there would be ever more and
more to bestow. He had not as yet spoken, save with his dark eyes, his
loving earnestness of voice, and the readiness with which, ever since
his appearance in Flamsted he ran and fetched and carried for her.

Aileen enjoyed this devotion. The legitimate pleasure of knowing she is
loved--even when no response can be given--is a girl's normal emotional
nourishment. Through it the narrows in her nature widen and the shallows
deepen to the dimensions that enable the woman's heart to give, at last,
even as she has received,--ay, even more than she can ever hope to
receive. This novitiate was now Aileen's.

As a foil, against which Luigi's silent devotion showed to the best
advantage, Romanzo Caukins' dogged persistence in telling her on an
average of once in two months that he loved her and was waiting for a
satisfactory answer, served its end. For six years, while Romanzo
remained at Champ-au-Haut, the girl teased, cajoled, tormented, amused,
and worried the Colonel's eldest. Of late, since his twenty-first
birthday, he had turned the tables on her, and was teasing and worrying
her with his love-blind persistence. That she had given him a decided
answer more than once made no impression on his determined spirit. In
her despair Aileen went to Octavius; but he gave her cold comfort.

"What'd I tell you two years ago, Aileen? Didn't I say you couldn't play
with even a slow-match like Roman, if you didn't want a fire later on?
And you wouldn't hear a word to me."

"But I didn't know, Tave! How could I think that just because a boy tags
round after you from morning till night for the sake of being amused,
that when he gets to be twenty-one he is going to keep on tagging round
after you for the rest of his days? I never saw such a leech! He simply
won't accept the fact once for all that I won't have him; but he's got
to--so now!"

Octavius smiled at the sudden little flurry; he was used to them.

"I take it Roman doesn't think you know your own mind."

"He doesn't! Well, he'll find out I do, then. Oh, dear, why couldn't he
just go on being Romanzo Caukins with no nonsense about him, and not
make such a goose of himself! Anyway, I'm thankful he's gone; it got so
I couldn't so much as tell him to harness up for Mrs. Champney, that he
didn't consider it a sign of 'yielding' on my part!" She laughed out.
"Oh, Tavy dear, what should I do without you!--Now if I could make an
impression on you, it might be worth while," she added mischievously.

Octavius would have failed to be the man he was had he not felt
flattered; he smiled on her indulgently. "Well, I shouldn't tag round
after you much if I was thirty year younger; 't ain't my way. But
there's one thing, Aileen, I want to say to you, and if you've got any
common sense you'll heed me this time: I want you to be mighty careful
how you manage with Luigi. You've got no slow-match to play with this
time, let me tell you; you've got a regular sleeping volcano like some
of them he was born near; and it won't do, I warn you. He ain't Romanzo
Caukins--Roman's home made; but t'other is a foreigner; they're
different."

"Oh, don't preach, Octavius." She always called him by his unabbreviated
name when she was irritated. "I like well enough to sing with Luigi, and
go rowing with him, and play tennis, and have the good times, but it's
nonsense for you to think he means anything serious. Why, he never spoke
a word of love to me in his life!"

"Humph!--that silent kind's the worst; you don't give him a chance."

"And I don't mean to--does that satisfy you?" she demanded. "If it
doesn't, I'll tell you something--but it's a secret; you won't tell?"

"Not if you don't want me to; I ain't that kind."

"I know you're not, Tave; that's why I'm going to tell you. Here, let me
whisper--"; she bent to his ear; he was seated on a stool in the coach
house mending a strap; "--I've waited all this time for that prince to
come, and do you suppose for one moment I'd look at any one else?"

"Now that ain't fair to fool me like that, Aileen!"

Octavius was really vexed, but he spoke the last words to empty air, for
the girl caught up her skirt and ran like a deer up the lane. He could
hear her laughing at his discomfiture; the sound grew fainter and
fainter; when it ceased he resumed his work, from time to time shaking
his head ominously and talking to himself as a vent for his outraged
feelings.

But Aileen spoke the truth. Her vivid imagination, a factor in the true
Celtic temperament, provided her with another life, apart from the busy
practical one which Mrs. Champney laid out for her. All her childish
delights of day-dreaming and joyous romancing, fostered by that first
novel which Luigi Poggi thrust through the knothole in the orphan asylum
fence, was at once transferred to Alice Van Ostend and her surroundings
so soon as the two children established their across-street
acquaintance. Upon her arrival in Flamsted, the child's adaptability to
changed circumstances and new environment was furthered by the play of
this imagination that fed itself on what others, who lack it, might call
the commonplace of life: the house at Champ-au-Haut became her lordly
palace; the estate a park; she herself a princess guarded only too well
by an aged duenna; Octavius Buzzby and Romanzo Caukins she looked upon
as life-servitors.

Now and then the evidence of this unreal life, which she was leading,
was made apparent to Octavius and Romanzo by some stilted mode of
speech. At such times they humored her; it provided amusement of the
richest sort. She also continued to invent "novels" for Romanzo's
benefit, and many a half-hour the two spent in the carriage
house--Aileen aglow with the enthusiasm of narration, and Romanzo intent
upon listening, charmed both with the tale and the narrator. In these
invented novels, there was always a faithful prince returning after long
years of wandering to the faithful princess. This was her one theme with
variations.

Sometimes she danced a minuet on the floor of the stable, with this
prince as imaginary partner, and Romanzo grew jealous of the bewitching
smiles and coquetries she bestowed upon the vacant air. At others she
would induce the youth to enter a box stall, telling him to make believe
he was at the theatre, and then, forgetting her rôle of princess, she
was again the Aileen Armagh of old--the child on the vaudeville stage,
dancing the coon dance with such vigor and abandonment that once, when
Aileen was nearly sixteen, Octavius, being witness to this flaunting
performance, took her severely to task for such untoward actions now
that she was grown up. He told her frankly that if Romanzo Caukins was
led astray in the future it would be through her carryings-on; at which
Aileen looked so dumbfoundered that Octavius at once perceived his
mistake, and retreated weakly from his position by telling her if she
wanted to dance like that, she'd better dance before him who understood
her and her intentions.

At this second speech Aileen stared harder than ever; then going up to
him and throwing an arm around his neck, she whispered:

"Tave, dear, are you mad with me? What have I done?--Is it really
anything so awful?"

Her distress was so unfeigned that Octavius, not being a woman,
comforted her by telling her he was a great botcher. Inwardly he cursed
himself for an A No. 1 fool. Aileen never danced the "coon" again, but
thereafter gave herself such grown-up and stand-off airs in Romanzo's
presence, that the youth proceeded in all earnest to lose both head and
heart to the girl's gracious blossoming womanhood. Octavius, observing
this, groaned in spirit, and henceforth held his tongue when he heard
the girl carolling her Irish love songs in the presence of the ingenuous
Caukins.

After this, the girl's exuberance of spirits and the sustaining inner
life of the imagination helped her wonderfully during the three
following years of patient waiting on a confirmed invalid. Of late, Mrs.
Champney had come to depend more and more on the girl's strong youth; to
demand more and more from her abundant vitality and lively spirits; and
Aileen, although recognizing the anomalous position she held in the
Champ-au-Haut household--neither servant nor child, neither companion
nor friend--gave of herself; gave as her Irish inheritance prompted her
to give: ungrudgingly, faithfully, without reward save the knowledge of
a duty performed towards the woman who, in taking her into her household
and maintaining her there, had placed her in a position to make
friends--such friends!

       *       *       *       *       *

When the soil is turned over carefully, enriched and prepared perfectly
for the seed; when rain is abundant, sunshine plenteous and
mother-earth's spring quickening is instinctive, is it to be wondered at
that the rootlet delves, the plantlet lifts itself, the bud forms
quickly, and unexpectedly spreads its petal-star to the sunlight which
enhances its beauty and fructifies its work of reproduction? The natural
laws, in this case, work to their prescribed end along lines of
favoring circumstance--and Love is but the working out of the greatest
of all Nature's laws. When conditions are adverse, there is only too
often struggle, strife, wretchedness. The result is a dwarfing of the
product, a lowering of the vital power, a recession from the type. But,
on the contrary, when all conditions combine to further the working of
this law, we have the rapid and perfect flowering, followed by the
beneficent maturity of fruit and seed. Thus Life, the ever-new, becomes
immortal.

Small wonder that Aileen Armagh, trying to explain that queer feeling of
timidity, should suddenly press her hand hard over her heart! It was
throbbing almost to the point of suffocating her, so possessed was it by
the joy of a sudden and wonderful presence of love.

The knowledge brought with it a sense of bewildering unreality. She knew
now that her day dreams had a substantial basis. She knew now that she
had _not_ meant what she said.

For years, ever since the night of the serenade, her vivid imagination
had been dwelling on Champney Googe's home-coming; for years he was the
central figure in her day dreams, and every dream was made half a
reality to her by means of the praises in his behalf which she heard
sounded by each man, woman, and child in the ever-increasing circle of
her friends. It was always with old Joel Quimber: "When Champ gits back,
we'll hev what ye might call the head of a fam'ly agin." Octavius Buzzby
spent hours in telling her of the boy's comings and goings and doings at
Champ-au-Haut, and the love Louis Champney bore him. Romanzo Caukins set
him on the pedestal of his boyish enthusiasm. The Colonel himself was
not less enthusiastic than his first born; he never failed to assure
Aileen when she was a guest in his house--an event that became a weekly
matter as she grew older--that her lot had fallen in pleasant places;
that to his friend, Mrs. Googe, and her son, Champney, she was indebted
for the new industrial life which brought with it such advantages to one
and all in Flamsted.

To Aurora Googe, the mother of her imaginative ideal, Aileen, attracted
from the first by her beauty and motherly kindness towards an orphan
waif, gave a child's demonstrative love, afterwards a girl's adoration.
In all this devotion she was abetted by Elvira Caukins to whom Aurora
Googe had always been an ideal of womanhood. Moreover, Aileen came to
know during these years of Champney Googe's absence that his mother
worshipped in reality where she herself worshipped in imagination.

Thus the ground was made ready for the seed. Small wonder that the
flowering of love in this warm Irish heart was immediate, when Champney
Googe, on the second day after his home-coming, questioned her with that
careless challenge in his eyes:

"You wouldn't?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun set before she left the boat house. She ran up the steps to the
terrace and, not finding Mrs. Champney there, sought her in the house.
She found her in the library, seated in her easy chair which she had
turned to face the portrait of her husband, over the fireplace.

"Why didn't you call me to help you in, Mrs. Champney? I blame myself
for not coming sooner."

"I really feel stronger and thought I might as well try it; there is
always a first time--and you were with Champney, weren't you?"

"I? Why no--what made you think that?" Mrs. Champney noticed the slight
hesitation before the question was put so indifferently, and the quick
red that mounted in the girl's cheeks. "Mr. Googe went off half an hour
ago with Rag tagging on behind."

"Then he conquered as usual."

"I don't know whether I should call it 'conquering' or not; Rag didn't
want to go, that was plain enough to see."

"What made him go then?"

Aileen laughed out. "That's just what I'd like to know myself."

"What do you think of him?"

"Who?--Rag or Mr. Googe?"

She was always herself with Mrs. Champney, and her daring spirit of
mischief rarely gave offence to the mistress of Champ-au-Haut. But by
the tone of voice in which she answered, Aileen knew that, without
intention, she had irritated her.

"You know perfectly well whom I mean--my nephew, Mr. Googe."

Aileen was silent for a moment. Her young secret was her own to guard
from all eyes, and especially from all unfriendly ones. She was standing
on the hearth, in front of Mrs. Champney. Turning her head slightly she
looked up at the portrait of the man above her--looked upon almost the
very lineaments of him whom at that very moment her young heart was
adoring: the fine features, the blue eyes, the level brows, the firm
curving lips, the abundant brown hair. It was as if Champney Googe
himself were smiling down upon her. As she continued to look, the lovely
light in the girl's face--a light reflected from no sunset fires over
the Flamsted Hills, but from the sunrise of girlhood's first
love--betrayed her to the faded watchful eyes beside her.

"He looks just like your husband;" she spoke slowly; her voice seemed to
linger on the last word; "when Tave saw him he said he thought it was
Mr. Champney come to life, and I think--"

Mrs. Champney interrupted her. "Octavius Buzzby is a fool." Sudden anger
hardened her voice; a slight flush came into her wasted cheeks. "Tell
Hannah I want my supper now, let Ann bring it in here to me. I don't
need you; I'm tired."

Aileen turned without another word--she knew too well that tone of voice
and what it portended; she was thankful to hear it rarely now--and left
the room to do as she was bidden.

"Little fool!" Almeda Champney muttered between set teeth when the door
closed upon the girl. She placed both hands on the arms of her chair to
raise herself; walked feebly to the hearth where a moment before Aileen
had stood, and raising her eyes to the smiling ones looking down into
hers, confessed her woman's weakness in bitter words that mingled with a
half-sob:

"And I, too, was a fool--all women are with such as you."


V

Although Mrs. Champney remained the only one who read Aileen Armagh's
secret, yet even she asked herself as the summer sped if she read
aright.

During the three weeks in which her nephew was making himself familiar
with all the inner and outer workings of the business at The Gore and in
the sheds, she came to anticipate his daily coming to Champ-au-Haut, for
he brought with him the ozone of success. His laugh was so unaffectedly
hearty; his interest in the future of Flamsted and of himself as a
factor in its prosperity so unfeigned; his enjoyment of his own
importance so infectious, his account of the people and things he had
seen during his absence from home so entertaining that, in his presence,
his aunt breathed a new atmosphere, the life-giving qualities of which
were felt as beneficial to every member of the household at The Bow.

Mrs. Champney took note that he never asked for Aileen. If the girl were
there when he ran in for afternoon tea on the terrace or an hour's chat
in the evening,--sometimes it happened that the day saw him three times
at Champ-au-Haut--her presence to all appearance afforded him only an
opportunity to tease her goodnaturedly; he delighted in her repartee.
Mrs. Champney, keenly observant, failed to detect in the girl's frank
joyousness the least self-consciousness; she was just her own merry self
with him, and the "give and take" between them afforded Mrs. Champney a
fund of amusement.

On the evening of his departure for New York, she was witness to their
merry leave-taking. Afterwards she summoned Octavius to the library.

"You may bring all the mail for the house hereafter to me, Octavius; now
that I am feeling so much stronger, I shall gradually resume my
customary duties in the household. You need not give any of the mail to
Aileen to distribute--I'll do it after to-night."

"What the devil is she up to now!" Octavius said to himself as he left
the room.

But no letter from New York came for Aileen. Mrs. Champney tried another
tack: the next time her nephew came to Flamsted, later on in the autumn,
she asked him to write her in detail concerning his intimacy with her
cousins, the Van Ostends, and of their courtesies to him. Champney,
nothing loath--always keeping in mind the fact that it was well to keep
on the right side of Aunt Meda--wrote her all she desired to know. What
he wrote was retailed faithfully to Aileen; but the frequent dinners at
the Van Ostends', and the prospective coming-out reception and ball to
be given for Alice and scheduled for the late winter, called forth from
the eagerly listening girl only ejaculations of delight and pleasant
reminiscence of the first time she had seen the little girl dressed for
a party. If, inwardly she asked herself the question why Alice Van
Ostend had dropped all her childish interest in her whom she had been
the means of sending to Flamsted, why she no longer inquired for her,
her common sense was apt to answer the question satisfactorily. Aileen
Armagh was keen-eyed and quick-witted, possessing, without actual
experience in the so-called other world of society, a wonderful
intuition as to the relative value of people and circumstances in this
ordinary world which already, during her short life, had presented
various interesting phases for her inspection; consequently she
recognized the abyss of circumstance between her and the heiress of
Henry Van Ostend. But, with an intensity proportioned to her open-minded
recognition of the first material differences, her innate womanliness
and pride refused to acknowledge any abyss as to their respective
personalities. Hence she kept silence in regard to certain things;
laughed and made merry over the letters filled with the Van Ostends'
doings--and held on her own way, sure of her own status with herself.

Aileen kept her secret, and all the more closely because she was
realizing that Champney Googe was far from indifferent to her. At first,
the knowledge of the miracle of love, that was wrought so suddenly as
she thought, sufficed to fill her heart with continual joy. But,
shortly, that was modified by the awakening longing that Champney should
return her love. She felt she charmed him; she knew that he timed his
coming and going that he might encounter her in the house or about the
grounds, whenever and wherever he could--sometimes alone in her boat on
the long arm of the lake, that makes up to the west and is known as
"lily-pad reach"; and afterwards, during the autumn, in the quarry woods
above The Gore where with her satellites, Dulcie and Doosie Caukins, she
went to pick checkerberries.

Mrs. Champney was baffled; she determined to await developments, taking
refuge from her defeat in the old saying "Love and a cough can't be
hidden." Still, she could but wonder when four months of the late
spring and early summer passed, and Champney made no further appearance
in Flamsted. This hiatus was noticeable, and she would have found it
inexplicable, had not Mr. Van Ostend written her a letter which
satisfied her in regard to many things of which she had previously been
in doubt; it decided her once for all to speak to Aileen and warn her
against any passing infatuation for her nephew. For this she determined
to bide her time, especially as Champney's unusual length of absence
from Flamsted seemed to have no effect on the girl's joyous spirits. In
July, however, she had again an opportunity to see the two together at
Champ-au-Haut. Champney was in Flamsted on business for two days only,
and so far as she knew there was no opportunity for Aileen to see her
nephew more than once and in her presence. She managed matters in such a
way that Aileen's services were in continual demand during Champney's
two days' stay in his native town.

But after that visit in July, the singing voice was heard ringing
joyfully at all times of the day in the house and about the grounds of
The Bow. Sometimes the breeze brought it to Octavius from across the
lake waters--Luigi's was no longer with it--and he pitied the girl
sincerely because the desire of her heart, the cultivation of such a
voice, was denied her. Mrs. Champney, also, heard the clear voice,
which, in this the girl's twentieth year, was increasing in volume and
sweetness, carolling the many songs in Irish, English, French and
Italian. She marvelled at the light-heartedness and, at the same time,
wondered if, now that Romanzo Caukins could no longer hope, Aileen would
show enough common sense to accept Luigi Poggi in due time, and through
him make for herself an established place in Flamsted. Not that she was
yet ready to part with her--far from it. She was too useful a member of
the Champ-au-Haut household. Still, if it were to be Poggi in the end,
she felt she could control matters to the benefit of all concerned,
herself primarily. She was pleasing herself with the idea of such
prospective control of Aileen's matrimonial interests one afternoon,
just after Champney's flying visit in July, when she rose from her chair
beneath the awning and, to try her strength, made her way slowly along
the terrace to the library windows; they were French casements and one
of them had swung outwards noiselessly in the breeze. She was about to
step through, when she saw Aileen standing on the hearth before the
portrait of Louis Champney. She was gazing up at it, her face illumined
by the same lovely light that, a year before, had betrayed her secret to
the faded but observant eyes of Louis Champney's widow.

This was enough; the mistress of Champ-au-Haut was again on her
guard--and well she might be, for Aileen Armagh was in possession of the
knowledge that Champney Googe loved her. In joyful anticipation she was
waiting for the word which, spoken by him when he should be again in
Flamsted, was to make her future both fair and blest.


VI

In entering on his business life in New York, Champney Googe, like many
another man, failed to take into account the "minus quantities" in his
personal equation. These he possessed in common with other men because
he, too, was human: passions in common, ambitions in common, weaknesses
in common, and last, but not least, the pursuance of a common end--the
accumulation of riches.

The sum of these minus quantities added to the total of temperamental
characteristics and inherited traits left, unfortunately, in balancing
the personal equation a minus quantity. Not that he had any realization
of such a result--what man has? On the contrary, he firmly believed that
his inherited obstinate perseverance, his buoyant temperament, his
fortunate business connection with the great financier, his position as
the meeting-point of the hitherto divided family interests in Flamsted,
his intimacy with the Van Ostends--the distant tie of blood confirming
this at all points--plus his college education and cosmopolitan business
training in the financial capitals of Europe, were potent factors in
finding the value of _x_--this representing to him an, as yet, unknown
quantity of accumulated wealth.

He had not yet asked himself how large a sum he wished to amass, but he
said to himself almost daily, "I have shown my power along certain lines
to-day," these lines converging in his consciousness always to monetary
increment.

He worked with a will. His energy was tireless. He learned constantly
and much from other men powerful in the world of affairs--of their
methods of speculation, some legitimate, others quite the contrary; of
their manipulation of stocks, weak and strong; of their strengthening
the market when the strengthening was necessary to fill a threatened
deficit in their treasury and of their weakening a line of investment to
prevent over-loading and consequent depletion of the same. He was
thoroughly interested in all he heard and saw of the development of
mines and industries for the benefit of certain banking cliques and land
syndicates. If now and then a mine proved to have no bottom and the
small investor's insignificant sums dropped out of sight in this
bottomless pit, that did not concern him--it was all in the game, and
the game was an enticing one to be played to the end. The two facts that
nothing is certain at all times, and that everything is uncertain at
some time, added the excitement of chance to his business interest.

At times, for instance when walking up the Avenue on a bracing October
day, he felt as if he owned all in sight--a condition of mind which
those who know from experience the powerful electro-magnetic current
generated by the rushing life of the New York metropolis can well
understand. He struck out into the stream with the rest, and with
overweening confidence in himself--in himself as master of circumstances
which he intended to control in his own interests, in himself as the
pivotal point of Flamsted affairs. The rapidity of the current acted as
a continual stimulus to exertion. Like all bold swimmers, he knew in a
general way that the channel might prove tortuous, the current threaten
at times to overpower him; but, carried rapidly out into mid-stream with
that gigantic propulsive force that is the resultant of the diverse
onward-pressure of the metropolitan millions, he suddenly found himself
one day in that mid-stream without its ever having occurred to him that
he might not be able to breast it. Even had he thought enough about the
matter to admit that certain untoward conditions might have to be met,
he would have failed to realize that the shore towards which he was
struggling might prove in the end a quicksand.

Another thing: he failed to take into account the influence of any cross
current, until he was made to realize the necessity of stemming his
strength against it. This influence was Aileen Armagh.

Whenever in walking up lower Broadway from the office he found himself
passing Grace Church, he realized that, despite every effort of will, he
was obliged to relive in thought the experience of that night seven
years ago at the Vaudeville. Then for the first time he saw the little
match girl crouching on the steps of the stage reproduction of this same
marble church. The child's singing of her last song had induced in him
then--wholly unawares, wholly unaccountably--a sudden mental nausea and
a physical disgust at the course of his young life, the result being
that the woman "who lay in wait for him at the corner" by appointment,
watched that night in vain for his coming.

In reliving this experience, there was always present in his thought the
Aileen Armagh as he knew her now--pure, loyal, high-spirited, helpful,
womanly in all her household ways, entertaining in her originality,
endowed with the gift of song. She was charming; this was patent to all
who knew her. It was a pleasure to dwell on this thought of her, and,
dwelling upon it too often at off-times in his business life, the desire
grew irresistible to be with her again; to chat with her; to see the
blue-gray eyes lifted to his; to find in them something he found in no
others. At such times a telegram sped over the wires, to Aurora Googe,
and her heart was rejoiced by a two days' visit from her son.

Champney Googe knew perfectly well that this cross current of influence
was diametrically opposed to his own course of life as he had marked it
out for himself; knew that this was a species of self-gratification in
which he had no business to indulge; he knew, moreover, that from the
moment he should make an earnest effort to win Alice Van Ostend and her
accompanying millions, this self-gratification must cease. He told
himself this over and over again; meanwhile he made excuse--a talk with
the manager of the quarries, a new order of weekly payments to introduce
and regulate with Romanzo Caukins, the satisfactory pay-master in the
Flamsted office, a week-end with his mother, the consideration of
contracts and the erection of a new shed on the lake shore--to visit
Flamsted several times during the autumn, winter, and early spring.

At last, however, he called a halt.

Alice Van Ostend, young, immature, amusing in her girlish abandon to the
delight of at last "coming out", was, nevertheless, rapidly growing up,
a condition of affairs that Champney was forced rather unwillingly to
admit just before her first large ball. As usual he made himself useful
to Alice, who looked upon him as a part of her goods and chattels. It
was in the selection of the favors for the german to be given in the
stone house on the occasion of the coming-out reception for its heiress,
that his eyes were suddenly opened to the value of time, so to say; for
Alice was beginning to patronize him. By this sign he recognized that
she was putting the ten years' difference in their ages at something
like a generation. It was not pleasing to contemplate, because the
winning of Alice Van Ostend was, to use his own expression, in a line
coincident with his own life lines. Till now he believed he was the
favored one; but certain signs of the times began to be provocative of
distrust in this direction.

He asked boldly for the first dance, for the cotillon, and the privilege
of giving her the flowers she was to wear that night. He assumed these
favors to be within his rights; she was by no means of his way of
thinking. It developed during their scrapping--Champney had often to
scrap with Alice to keep on a level with her immaturity--that there was
another rival for the cotillon, another, a younger man, who desired to
give her the special flowers for this special affair. The final division
of the young lady's favors was not wholly reassuring to Mr. Googe. As a
result of this awakening, he decided to remain in New York without
farther visits to Flamsted until the Van Ostends should have left the
city for the summer.

But in the course of the spring and summer he found it one thing to call
a halt and quite another to make one. The cross current of influence,
which had its source in Flamsted, was proving, against his will and
judgment, too strong for him. He knew this and deplored it, for it
threatened to carry him away from the shore towards which he was
pushing, unawares that this apparently firm ground of attainment might
prove treacherous in the end.

"Every man has his weakness, and she's mine," he told himself more than
once; yet in making this statement he was half aware that the word
"weakness" was in no sense applicable to Aileen. It remained for the
development of his growing passion for her to show him that he was
wholly in the wrong--she was his strength, but he failed to realize
this.

Champney Googe was not a man to mince matters with himself. He told
himself that he was not infatuated; infatuation was a thing to which he
had yielded but few times in his selfish life. He was ready to
acknowledge that his interest in Aileen Armagh was something deeper,
more lasting; something that, had he been willing to look the whole
matter squarely in the face instead of glancing askance at its profile,
he would have seen to be perilously like real love--that love which
first binds through passionate attachment, then holds through congenial
companionship to bless a man's life to its close.

"She suits me--suits me to a T;" such was his admission in what he
called his weak moments. Then he called himself a fool; he cursed
himself for yielding to the influence of her charming personality in so
far as to encourage what he perceived to be on her part a deep and
absorbing love for him. In yielding to his weakness, he knew he was
deviating from the life lines he had laid with such forethought for his
following. A rich marriage was the natural corollary of his
determination to advance his own interests in his chosen career. This
marriage he still intended to make, if possible with Alice Van Ostend;
and the fact that young Ben Falkenburg, an old playmate of Alice's, just
graduated from college, the "other man" of the cotillon favors, was the
first invited guest for the prospective cruise on Mr. Van Ostend's
yacht, did not dovetail with his intentions. It angered him to think of
being thwarted at this point.

"Why must such a girl cross my path just as I was getting on my feet
with Alice?" he asked himself, manlike illogically impatient with Aileen
when he should have lost patience with himself. But in the next moment
he found himself dwelling in thought on the lovely light in the eyes
raised so frankly to his, on the promises of loyalty those same eyes
would hold for him if only he were to speak the one word which she was
waiting to hear--which she had a right to hear after his last visit in
July to Flamsted.

If he had not kissed her that once! With a girl like Aileen there could
be no trifling--what then?

He cursed himself for his heedless folly, yet--he knew well enough that
he would not have denied himself that moment of bliss when the girl in
response to his whispered words of love gave him her first kiss, and
with it the unspoken pledge of her loving heart.

"I'm making another ass of myself!" he spoke aloud and continued to chew
the end of a cold cigar.

The New York office was deserted in these last days of August except for
two clerks who had just left to take an early train to the beach for a
breath of air. The treasurer of the Flamsted Quarries Company was
sitting idle at his desk. It was an off-time in business and he had
leisure to assure himself that he was without doubt the quadruped
alluded to above--"An ass that this time is in danger of choosing
thistles for fodder when he can get something better."

Only the day before he had concluded on his own account a deal, that
cost him much thought and required an extra amount of a certain kind of
courage, with a Wall Street firm. Now that this was off his hands and
there was nothing to do between Friday and Monday, when he was to start
for Bar Harbor to join the Van Ostends and a large party of invited
guests for a three weeks' cruise on the Labrador coast, he had plenty of
time to convince himself that he possessed certain asinine qualities
which did not redound to his credit as a man of sense. In his idle
moments the thought of Aileen had a curious way of coming to the surface
of consciousness. It came now. He whirled suddenly to face his desk
squarely; tossed aside the cold cigar in disgust; touched the electric
button to summon the office boy.

"I'll put an end to it--it's got to be done sometime or other--just as
well now." He wrote a note to the head clerk to say that he was leaving
two days earlier for his vacation than he intended; left his address for
the next four days in case anything should turn up that might demand his
presence before starting on the cruise; sent the office boy off with a
telegram to his mother that she might expect him Saturday morning for
two days in Flamsted; went to his apartment, packed grip and steamer
trunk for the yacht, and left on the night express for the Maine coast.


VII

"I just saw Mr. Googe driving down from The Gore, Aileen, so he's in
town again."

Octavius was passing the open library window where Aileen was sitting at
her work, and stopped to tell her the news.

"Is he?"

The tone was indifferent, but had she not risen quickly to shake some
threads of embroidery linen into the scrap-basket beneath the library
table, Octavius might have seen the quick blood mount into her cheeks,
the red lips quiver. It was welcome news for which she had been waiting
already six weeks.

Octavius spoke again but in a low voice:

"You might mention it to Mrs. Champney when she comes down; it don't set
well, you know, if she ain't told everything that's going on." He passed
on without waiting for an answer.

The girl took her seat again by the window. Her work lay in her lap; her
hands were folded above it; her face was turned to the Flamsted Hills.
"Would he come soon? When and where could she see him again, and alone?"
Her thoughts were busy with conjecture.

Octavius recrossing the terrace called out to her:

"You going up to Mrs. Caukins' later on this afternoon?"

"Yes; Mrs. Champney said she didn't need me."

"I'll take you up."

"Thank you, Tave, not to-day. I'm going to row up as far as the upper
shed. I promised the twins to meet them there; they want to see the new
travelling crane at work. We'll go up afterwards to The Gore together."

"It's pretty hot, but I guess you're all three seasoned by this time."

"Through and through, Tave; and I'm not coming home till after
supper--it's lovely then--there's Mrs. Champney coming!"

She heard her step in the upper hall and ran upstairs to assist her in
coming down.

"Will you go out on the terrace now?" she asked her on entering the
library.

"I'll wait a while; it's too warm at this hour."

Aileen drew Mrs. Champney's arm chair to the other casement window. She
resumed her seat and work.

"How are you getting on with the napkins?" the mistress of Champ-au-Haut
inquired after a quarter of an hour's silence in which she was busied
with some letters.

"Fine--see?" She held up a corner for her inspection. "This is the
tenth; I shall soon be ready for the big table cloth."

"Bring them to me."

Aileen obeyed, and showed her the monogram, A C, wrought by her own deft
fingers in the finest linen.

"There's no one like a Frenchwoman to teach embroidery; you've done them
credit." Aileen dropped a mock courtesy. "Which one taught you?"

"Sister Ste. Croix."

"Is she the little wrinkled one?"

"Yes, but I've fallen in love with every wrinkle, she's a perfect
dear--"

"I didn't imply she wasn't." Mrs. Champney was apt to snap out at Aileen
when, according to her idea, she was "gushing" too much. The girl had
ceased to mind this; she was used to it, especially during her three
years of attendance on this invalid. "Who designed this monogram?"

"She did; she can draw beautifully."

Mrs. Champney put on her glasses to examine in detail the exquisite
lettering, A C.

Aileen leaned above her, smiling to herself. How many loving thoughts
were wrought into those same initials! How many times, while her fingers
were busy fashioning them, she had planned to make just such for her
very own! How often, as she wrought, she had laid her lips to the A C,
murmuring to herself over and over again, "Aileen--Champney,
Champney--Aileen," so filling and satisfying with the sound of this
pleasing combination her every loving anticipation!

She was only waiting for the "word", schooling herself in these last six
weeks to wait patiently for it--the "word" which should make these
special letters her legitimate own!

The singing thoughts that ring in the consciousness of a girl who gives
for the first time her whole heart to her lover; the chanted prayers to
her Maker, that rise with every muted throb of the young wife's heart
which is beating for two in anticipation of her first motherhood--who
shall dare enumerate them?

The varied loving thoughts in this girl's quick brain, which was fed by
her young pulsing heart--a heart single in its loyalty to one during all
the years since her orphan childhood, were intensified and illumined by
the inherent quickening power of a vivid imagination, and inwrought with
these two letters that stood, at present, for their owner, Almeda
Champney. Aileen's smile grew wonderfully tender, almost tremulous as
she continued to lean above her work. Mrs. Champney looking up suddenly
caught it and, in part, interpreted it. It angered her both unreasonably
and unaccountably. This girl must be taught her place. She aspiring to
Champney Googe! She handed her back the work.

"Ann said just now she heard Octavius telling you that my nephew,
Champney Googe, is in town--when did he come?"

"I don't know--Tave didn't say."

"I wonder Alice Van Ostend didn't mention that he was coming here before
going on the yachting cruise they've planned. I had a letter from her
yesterday--I know you'd like to hear it."

"Of course I should! It's the first one she has written you, isn't
it?--Where is it?" She spoke with her usual animated interest.

"I have it here."

She took up one of several letters in her lap, opened it, turned it
over, adjusted her glasses and began to read a paragraph here and there.
Aileen listened eagerly.

"I suppose I may as well read it all--Alice wouldn't mind you," said
Mrs. Champney, and proceeded to give the full contents. It was filled
with anticipations of the yachting cruise, of a later visit to Flamsted,
of Champney and her friends. Champney's name occurred many
times,--Alice's attitude towards the possessor of it seemed to be that
of private ownership,--but everything was written with the frankness of
an accepted publicity of the fact that Mr. Googe was one of her social
appendages. Aileen was amused at the whole tone of the rather lengthy
epistle; it gave her no uneasiness.

Mrs. Champney laid aside her glasses; she wanted to note the effect of
the reading on the girl.

"You can see for yourself from this how matters stand between these two;
it needn't be spoken of in Flamsted outside the family, but it's just as
well for you to know of it--don't you think so?"

Aileen parried; she enjoyed a little bout with Champney Googe's aunt.

"Of course, it's plain enough to see that they're the best of friends--"

"Friends!" Mrs. Champney interrupted her; there was a scornful note in
her voice which insensibly sharpened; "you haven't your usual common
sense, Aileen, if you can't read between these lines well enough to see
that Miss Van Ostend and my nephew are as good as engaged."

Aileen smiled, but made no reply.

"What are you laughing at?" The tone was peremptory and denoted extreme
irritation. Aileen put down her work and looked across to her
interrogator.

"I was only smiling at my thoughts."

"Will you be so good as to state what they are? They may prove decidedly
interesting to me--at this juncture," she added emphatically.

Aileen's look of amusement changed swiftly to one of surprise.

"To be honest, I was thinking that what she writes about Mr. Googe
doesn't sound much like love, that was all--"

"That was all!" Mrs. Champney echoed sarcastically; "well, what more do
you need to convince you of facts I should like to know?"

Aileen laughed outright at this. "Oh, Mrs. Champney, what's the use of
being a girl, if you can't know what other girls mean?"

"Please explain yourself."

"Won't you please read that part again where she mentions the people
invited for the cruise."

Mrs. Champney found the paragraph and re-read it aloud.

"Falkenburg--that's the name--Ben Falkenburg."

"How did you ever hear of this Ben Falkenburg?"

"Oh, I heard of him years ago!" The mischief was in her voice and Mrs.
Champney recognized it.

"Where?"

"When I was in New York--in the asylum; he's the one that danced the
minuet with the Marchioness; I told you about it years ago."

"How do you know he was the boy?"

"Because Alice told me his name then, and showed me the valentine and
May-basket he sent her--just read the postscript again; if you want to
crack a letter for its kernel, you'll generally find it in a postscript,
that is with girls of Alice's age."

She spoke as if there were years of seniority on her part. Mrs. Champney
turned to the postscript again.

"I see nothing in this--you're romancing again, Aileen; you'd better put
it aside; it will get you into trouble sometime."

"Oh, never fear for me, Mrs. Champney; I'll take care of all the
romancing as well as the romances--but can't you see by those few words
that it's Mr. Ben Falkenburg who is going to make the yachting trip for
Miss Van Ostend, and not your nephew?"

"No, I can't," Mrs. Champney answered shortly, "and neither could you if
your eyes weren't blinded by your infatuation for him."

Aileen rolled up her work deliberately. If the time had come for open
war to be declared between the two on Champney Googe's account, it was
best to fight the decisive battle now, before seeing him again. She rose
and stood by the window.

"What do you mean, Mrs. Champney?" Her temper was rising quickly as it
always did when Mrs. Champney went too far. She had spoken but once of
her nephew in a personal way to Aileen since she asked that question a
year ago, "What do you think of him?"

"I mean what I say." Her voice took on an added shrillness. "Your
infatuation for my nephew has been patent for a year now--and it's time
you should be brought to your senses; I can't suppose you're fool enough
to think he'll marry you."

Aileen set her lips close. After all, it was not best to answer this
woman as she deserved to be answered. She controlled the increasing
anger so far as to be able to smile frankly and answer lightly:

"You've no need to worry, Mrs. Champney; your nephew has never asked me
to be his wife."

"His wife!" she echoed scornfully; "I should say not; and let me tell
you for your own benefit--sometime you'll thank me for it--and mark my
words, Aileen Armagh, he never will ask you to be his wife, and the
sooner you accept this unvarnished truth the better it will be for you.
I suppose you think because you've led Romanzo Caukins and young Poggi a
chase, you can do the same with Champney Googe--but you'll find out your
mistake; such men aren't led--they lead. He is going to marry Alice Van
Ostend."

"Do you _know_ this for a fact, Mrs. Champney?" She turned upon her
sharply. She was, at last, at bay; her eyes were dark with anger; her
lips and cheeks white.

"It's like you to fly off at a tangent, Aileen, and doubt a person's
word simply because it happens to contain an unpleasant truth for
you--here is the proof," she held up a letter; "it's from my cousin,
Henry Van Ostend; he has written it out in black and white that my
nephew has already asked for his daughter's hand. Now disabuse your mind
of any notion you may have in regard to Champney Googe--I hope you won't
disgrace yourself by crying for the moon after this."

The girl's eyes fairly blazed upon her.

"Mrs. Champney, after this I'll thank you to keep your advice and your
family affairs to yourself--_I_ didn't ask for either. And you've no
need to tell me I'm only Aileen Armagh--for I know it perfectly well.
I'm only an orphan you took into your home seven years ago and have
kept, so far, for her service. But if I am only this, I am old enough to
do and act as I please--and now you may mark _my_ words: it's not I who
will disgrace you and yours--not I, remember that!" Her anger threatened
to choke her; but her voice although husky remained low, never rising
above its level inflection. "And let me tell you another thing: I'm as
good any day as Alice Van Ostend, and I should despise myself if I
thought myself less; and if it's the millions that make the difference
in the number of your friends--may God keep me poor till I die!" She
spoke with passionate earnestness.

Mrs. Champney smiled to herself; she felt her purpose was accomplished.

"Are you going up to Mrs. Caukins'?" she asked in a matter-of-fact voice
that struck like cold iron on the girl's burning intensity of feeling.

"Yes, I'm going."

"Well, be back by seven."

The girl made no reply. She left the library at once, closing the door
behind her with a force that made the hall ring. Mrs. Champney smiled
again, and proceeded to re-read Alice Van Ostend's letter.

Aileen went out through the kitchen and across the vegetable garden to
the boat house. She cast loose one of the boats in the float, took her
seat and rowed out into the lake--rowed with a strength and swiftness
that accurately gauged her condition of mind. She rounded the peninsula
of The Bow and headed her boat, not to the sheds on the north shore, but
towards the west, to "lily-pad reach". To get away from that woman's
presence, to be alone with herself--that was all she craved at the
moment. The oars caught among the lily-pads; this gave her an excuse for
pulling and wrenching at them. Her anger was still at white heat--not a
particle of color as yet tinged her cheeks--and the physical exertion
necessary to overcome such an obstacle as the long tough stems she felt
to be a relief.

"It isn't true--it isn't true," she said over and over again to herself.
She kept tugging and pulling till by sheer strength she forced the boat
into the shallow water among the tall arrowhead along the margin of the
shore.

She stepped out on the landing stones, drew up the boat, then made her
way across the meadow to the shade of the tall spreading willows. Here
she threw herself down, pressing her face into the cool lush grass, and
relived in thought that early morning hour she had spent alone with him,
only a few weeks ago, on the misty lake among the opening water lilies.

She had been awakened that morning in mid-July by hearing him singing
softly beneath her open window that same song which seven years ago made
such an unaccountable impression on her child's heart. He had often in
jest threatened to repeat the episode of the serenade, but she never
realized that beneath the jest there was any deeper meaning. Now she was
aware of that meaning in her every fibre, physical and spiritual.

    "Aileen Mavoureen, the gray dawn is breaking--"

And hearing that, realizing that the voice was calling for her alone in
all the world, she rose; dressed herself quickly; beckoned joyously to
him from the window; noiselessly made her way down the back stairs;
softly unbolted the kitchen porch door--

He was there with hands outstretched for hers; she placed them in his,
and again, in remembrance of their fun and frolic seven years before, he
raced with her down the slate-laid garden walk, across the lawn to the
boat house where his own boat lay moored.

It was four o'clock on that warm midsummer morning. The mists lay light
but impenetrable on the surface of the lake. The lilies were still
closed.

They spoke but little.

"I knew no one could hear me--they all sleep on the other side, don't
they?"

"Yes, all except the boy, and he sleeps like a log--Tave has to wake him
every morning; alarm clocks are no good."

"Have you ever seen the lilies open, Aileen?"

"No, never; I've never been out early in the morning, but I've often
seen them go to sleep under the starlight."

"We will row round then till they open--it's worth seeing."

The sun rose in the low-lying mists; it transfused them with crimson. It
mounted above them; shot them through and through with gold and
violet--then dispersed them without warning, and showed to the girl's
charmed eyes and senses the gleaming blue of the lake waters blotched
with the dull green of the lily-pads, and among them the lilies
expanding the fragrant white of their corollas to its beneficent light
and warmth....

       *       *       *       *       *

When she left the boat his kiss was on her lips, his words of love
ringing in her ears. One more of her day dreams was realized: she had
given to the man she loved with all her heart her first kiss--and with
it, on her part, the unspoken pledge of herself.

A movement somewhere about the house, the lowing of the cattle, the
morning breeze stirring in the trees--something startled them. They drew
apart, smiling into each other's eyes. She placed her finger on her
lips.

"Hush!" she whispered. She was off on a run across the lawn, turning
once to wave her hand to him.--And now _this_!

How could this then that she had just been told be true?

Her whole being revolted at the thought that he was tampering with what
to her was the holiest in her young life--her love for him. In the past
six weeks it never once occurred to her that he could prove unworthy of
such trust as hers; no man would dare to be untrue to her--to her,
Aileen Armagh, who never in all her wilfulness and love of romance had
given man or boy occasion to use either her name or her lightly! How
dared he do this thing? Did he not know with whom he had to deal?
Because she was only Aileen Armagh, and at service with his relation,
did he think her less the true woman?

Suspicion was foreign to her open nature; doubt, distrust had no place
in her young life; but like a serpent in the girl's Eden the words of
the mistress of Champ-au-Haut, "He never will ask you to be his wife,"
dropped poison in her ears.

She sat up on the grass, thrust back her hair from her forehead--

"Let him dare to hint even that what he said was love for me was not
what--what--"

She buried her face in her hands.

"Aileen--Aileen--where are you?"

That voice, breaking in upon her wretched thought of him, brought her to
her feet.


VIII

"Mother, don't you think Aunt Meda might open her purse and do something
for Aileen Armagh now that the girl has been faithful to her interests
so long?"

He had remained at home since his arrival in the morning, and was now
about to drive down into the town.

His mother looked up from her sewing in surprise.

"What put that into your mind? I was thinking the same thing myself not
a week ago; she has such a wonderful voice."

"It seems unjust to keep her from utilizing it for herself so far as an
income is concerned and to deprive others of the pleasure of hearing her
voice after it is trained. But, of course, she can't do it herself."

"I only wish I could do it for her." His mother spoke with great
earnestness. "But even if I could help, there would be no use offering
so long as she remains with Almeda."

"Perhaps not; anyway, I'm going down there now, and I shall do what I
can to sound Aunt Meda on this point."

"Good luck!" she called after him. He turned, lifted his hat, and smiled
back at her.

       *       *       *       *       *

He found Mrs. Champney alone on the terrace; she was sitting under the
ample awning that protected her from the sun but was open on all sides
for air.

"All alone, Aunt Meda?" he inquired cheerfully, taking a seat beside
her.

"Yes; when did you come?"

"This morning."

"Isn't it rather unexpected?" She glanced sideways rather sharply at
him.

"My coming here is; I'm really on my way to Bar Harbor. The Van Ostends
are off on Tuesday with a large party and I promised to go with them."

"So Alice wrote me the other day. It's the first letter I have had from
her. She says she is coming here on her way home in October, that she's
'just crazy' to see Flamsted Quarries--but I can read between the lines
even if my eyes are old." She smiled significantly.

Champney felt that an answering smile was the safe thing in the
circumstances. He wondered how much Aunt Meda knew from the Van Ostends.
That she was astute in business matters was no guaranty that she would
prove far-sighted in matrimonial affairs.

"I've known Alice so long that she's gotten into the habit of taking me
for granted--not that I object," he added with a glance in the direction
of the boat house. Mrs. Champney, whom nothing escaped, noticed it.

"I should hope not," she said emphatically. "I may as well tell you,
Champney, that Mr. Van Ostend has not hesitated to write me of your
continued attentions to Alice and your frankness with him in regard to
the outcome of this. So far as I see, his only objection could be on
account of her extreme youth--I congratulate you." She spoke with great
apparent sincerity.

"Thank you, Aunt Meda," he said quietly; "your congratulations are
premature, and the subject so far as Alice and I are concerned is taboo
for three years--at Mr. Van Ostend's special request."

"Quite right--a girl doesn't know her own mind before she is
twenty-five."

"Faith, I know one who knows her own mind on all subjects at
twenty!"--he laughed heartily as if at some amusing remembrance--"and
that's Aileen; by the way, where is she, Aunt Meda?"

"She was going up to Mrs. Caukins'. I suppose she is there now--why?"

"Because I want to talk about her, and I don't want her to come in on us
suddenly."

"What about Aileen?" She spoke indifferently.

"About her voice; you've never been willing, I understand, to have it
cultivated?"

"What if I haven't?"

"That's just the 'what', Aunt Meda," he said pleasantly but earnestly;
"I've heard her singing a good many times, and I've never heard her that
I didn't wish some one would be generous enough to such talent to pay
for cultivating it."

"Do you know why I haven't been willing?"

"No, I don't--and I'd like to know."

"Because, if I had, she would have been on the stage before now--and
where could I get another? I don't intend to impoverish myself for her
sake--not after what I've done for her." She spoke emphatically. "What
was your idea in asking me about her?"

"I thought it was a pity that such a talent should be left to go to
seed. I wish you could look at it from my standpoint and give her the
wherewithal to go to Europe for three or four years in order to
cultivate it--she can take care of herself well enough."

"And you really advise this?" She asked almost incredulously.

"Why not? You must have seen my interest in the girl. I can't think of a
better way of showing it than to induce you to put her in the way of
earning her livelihood by her talent."

Mrs. Champney made no direct reply. After a moment's silence she asked
abruptly:

"Have you ever said anything to her about this?"

"Never a word."

"Don't then; I don't want her to get any more new-fangled notions into
her head."

"Just as you say; but I wish you would think about it--it seems almost a
matter of justice." He rose to go.

"Where are you going now?"

"Over to the shed office; I want to see the foreman about the last
contract. I'll borrow the boat, if you don't mind, and row up--I have
plenty of time." He looked at his watch. "Can I do anything for you
before I go?" he asked gently, adjusting an awning curtain to shut the
rays of the sun from her face.

"Yes; I wish you would telephone up to Mrs. Caukins and tell her to tell
Aileen to be at home before six; I need her to-night."

"Certainly."

He went into the house and telephoned. He did not think it necessary to
return and report Mrs. Caukins' reply that Aileen "hadn't come up yet."
He went directly to the boat house, wondering in the mean time where she
was.

One of the two boats was already gone; doubtless she had taken it--where
could she be?

He stepped into the boat, and pulled slowly out into the lake, keeping
in the lee of the rocky peninsula of The Bow. He was fairly well
satisfied with his effort in Aileen's behalf and with himself because he
had taken a first step in the right direction. Neither his mother nor
Aunt Meda could say now that he was not disinterested; if Father Honoré
came over, as was his custom, to chat with him on the porch for an hour
or two in the evening, he would broach the subject again to him who was
the girl's best friend. If she could go to Europe there would be less
danger--

Danger?--Yes; he was willing to admit it, less danger for them both;
three years of absence would help materially in this matter in which he
felt himself too deeply involved. Then, in the very face of this
acknowledgment, he could not help a thought that whitened his cheek as
it formulated itself instantaneously in his consciousness: if she were
three years in Europe, there would be opportunity for him to see her
sometime.

He knew the thought could not be uttered in the girl's pure presence;
yet, with many others, he held that a woman, if she loves a man
absorbingly, passionately, is capable of any sacrifice--would she?
Hardly; she was so high-spirited, so pure in thought--yet she loved him,
and after all love was the great Subduer. But no--it could never be;
this was his decision. He rowed out into the lake.

Why must a man's action prove so often the slave of his thought!

He was passing the arm of Mesantic that leads to "lily-pad reach". He
turned to look up the glinting curve. Was she there?--should he seek
her?

He backed water on the instant. The boat responded like a live thing,
quivered, came to a partial rest--stopped, undulating on the surface
roughened by the powerful leverage of the oars. Champney sat motionless,
the dripping blades suspended over the water. He knew that in all
probability the girl was there in "lily-pad reach". Should he seek her?
Should he go?--Should he?

The hands that held the steady oars quivered suddenly, then gripped them
as in a vise; the man's face flushed; he bent to the right oar, the
craft whirled half way on her keel; the other oar fell--swiftly and
powerfully the boat shot ahead up "lily-pad reach".

Reason, discretion, judgment razed in an instant from the table of
consciousness; desire rampant, the desire of possession to which
intellect, training, environment, even that goodward-turning which men
under various aspects term religion, succumb in a moment like the
present one in which Champney Googe was bending all his strength to the
oars that he might be the sooner with the girl he loved.

He did not ask himself what next? He gave no thought to aught but
reaching the willows as soon as he could. His eye was on the glinting
curve before him; he rounded it swiftly--her boat was there tied to the
stake among the arrowhead; his own dragged through the lily-pads beside
it; he sprang out, ran up the bank--

"Aileen--Aileen--where are you?" he called eagerly, impatiently, and
sought about him to find her.

Aileen Armagh heard that call, and doubt, suspicion, anger dropped away
from her. Instead, trust, devotion, anticipation clothed her thought of
him; he was coming to speak the "word" that was to make her future fair
and plain--the one "word" that should set him forever in her heart,
enthrone him in her life. That word was not "love", but the sacrament
of love; the word of four letters which a woman writes large with
legitimate loving pride in the face of the world. She sprang to her feet
and waited for him; the willows drooped on either side of her--so he saw
her again.

He took her in his arms. "Aileen--Aileen," he said over and over again
between the kisses that fell upon her hair, forehead, lips.

She yielded herself to his embrace, passionately given and returned with
all a girl's loving ardor and joy in the loved man's presence. Between
the kisses she waited for the "word."

It was not forthcoming.

She drew away from him slightly and looked straight into his eyes that
were devouring her face and form. The unerring instinct of a pure nature
warned her against that look. He caught her to him--but she stemmed both
hands against his breast to repulse him.

"Let me go, Champney," she said faintly.

"Why should I let you go? Aileen, my Aileen, why should I ever let you
go?" A kiss closed the lips that were about to reply--a kiss so long and
passionate that the girl felt her strength leaving her in the close
embrace.

"He will speak the 'word' now surely," she told herself. Between their
heart-throbs she listened for it.

The "word" was not spoken.

Again she stemmed her hands against him, pressing them hard against his
shoulders. "Let me go, Champney." She spoke with spirit.

The act of repulsion, the ring in her voice half angered him; at the
same time it added fuel to desire.

"I will not let you go--you love me--tell me so--"

He waited for no reply but caught her close; the girl struggled in his
arms. It was dawning on her undaunted spirit that this, which she was
experiencing with Champney Googe, the man she loved with all her heart,
was not love. Of a sudden, all that brave spirit rose in arms to ward
off from herself any spoken humiliation to her womanhood, ay more, to
prevent the man she loved from deepening his humiliation of himself in
her presence.

"Let me go" she said, but despite her effort for control her voice
trembled.

"You know I love you--why do you repel me so?"

"Let me go," she said again; this time her voice was firm, the tone
peremptory; but she made no further struggle to free herself from his
arms.--"Oh, what are you doing!"

"I am making the attempt to find out if you love me as I love you--"

"You have no right to kiss me so--"

"I have the right because I love you--"

"But I don't love you."

"Yes you do, Aileen Armagh--don't say that again."

"I do not love you--let me go, I say."

He let her go at last. She stood before him, pale, but still undaunted.

"Do you know what you are saying?" he demanded almost fiercely under his
breath. He took her head between his hands and bent it back to close her
lips with another kiss.

"Yes, I know. I do not love you--don't touch me!" She held out her
hands to him, palm outwards, as if warding off some present danger.

He paid no heed to her warning, but caught her to him again. "Tell me
now you don't love me, Aileen," he whispered, laying his cheek to hers.

"I tell you I do not love you," she said aloud; her voice was clear and
firm.

He drew back then to look at her in amazement; turned away for a moment
as if half dazed; then, holding her to his side with his left arm he
laid his ear hard over her heart. What was it that paled the man's
flushed cheeks?

The girl's heart was beating slowly, calmly, even faintly. He caught her
wrist, pressing his fingers on her pulse--there was not the suspicion of
a flutter. He let her go then. She stood before him; her eyes were
raised fearlessly to his.

"I'm going to row back now--no, don't speak--not a word--"

She turned and walked slowly down to the boat; cast it off; poled it
with one oar out of the tall arrowhead and the thick fringe of
lily-pads; took her seat; fitted the oars to the rowlocks, dipped them,
and proceeded to row steadily down the reach towards The Bow.

Champney Googe stood where she had left him till he watched her out of
sight around the curve; then he went over to the willows and sat down.
It took time for him to recover from his debauch of feeling. He made
himself few thoughts at first; but as time passed and the shadows
lengthened on the reach, he came slowly to himself. The night fell; the
man still sat there, but the thoughts were now crowding fast,
uncomfortably fast. He dropped his head into his hands, so covering his
face in the dark for very shame that he had so outraged his manhood. He
knew now that she knew he had not intended to speak that "word" between
them; but no finer feeling told him that she had saved him from himself.

In that hour he saw himself as he was--unworthy of a good woman's love.

He saw other things as well; these he hoped to make good in the near
future, but this--but this!

He rowed back under cover of the dark to Champ-au-Haut. Octavius, who
was wondering at his non-appearance with the boat, met him with a
lantern at the float.

"Here's a telegram just come up; the operator gave it to me for you. I
told him you was out in the boat and would be here 'fore you went up
home."

"All right, Tave." He opened it; read it by the light of the lantern.

"I've got to go back to New York--it's a matter of business. It's all up
with my vacation and the yachting cruise now,"--he looked at his
watch,--"seven; I can get the eight-thirty accommodation to Hallsport,
and that will give me time to catch the Eastern express."

"Hold on a minute and I'll get your trap from the stable--it's all ready
for you."

"No, I'll get it myself--good-bye, Tave, I'm off."

"Good-bye, Champney."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Champ's worried about something," he said to himself; he was making
fast the boat. "I never see him look like that--I hope he hasn't got
hooked in with any of those Wall Street sharks."

In a few minutes he heard the carriage wheels on the gravel in the
driveway. He stopped on his way to the stable to listen.

"He's driving like Jehu," he muttered. He was still listening; he heard
the frequent snorting of the horse, the rapid click of hoofs on the
highroad--but he did not hear what was filling the driver's ears at that
moment: the roar of an unseen cataract.

Champney Googe was realizing for the first time that he was in
mid-stream; that he might not be able to breast the current; that the
eddying water about him was in fact the whirlpool; that the rush of what
he had deemed mere harmless rapids was the prelude to the thunderous
fall of a cataract ahead.


IX

For several weeks after her nephew's visit, Mrs. Champney occupied many
of her enforced leisure half-hours in trying to put two and two together
in their logical combination of four; but thus far she had failed. She
learned through Octavius that Champney had returned to New York on
Saturday evening; that in consequence he was obliged to give up the
cruise with the Van Ostends; from Champney himself she had no word. Her
conclusion was that there had been no chance for him to see Aileen
during the twelve hours he was in town, for the girl came home as
requested shortly before six, but with a headache, and the excuse for it
that she had rowed too far in the sun on the way up to the sheds.

"My nephew told me he was going to row up to the sheds, too--did you
happen to meet him there?" she inquired. She was studying the profile of
the girl's flushed and sunburned face. Aileen had just said good night
and was about to leave Mrs. Champney's room. She turned quickly to face
her. She spoke with sharp emphasis:

"I did _not_ meet your nephew at the sheds, Mrs. Champney, nor did I see
him there--and I'll thank you, after what you said to me this morning,
to draw no more conclusions in regard to your nephew's seeing or meeting
me at the sheds or anywhere else--it's not worth your while; for I've no
desire either to see or meet him again. Perhaps this will satisfy you."
She left the room at once without giving Mrs. Champney time to reply.

A self-satisfied smile drew apart Mrs. Champney's thin lips; evidently
the girl's lesson was a final and salutary one. She would know her place
after this. She determined not to touch on this subject again with
Aileen; she might run the risk of going too far, and she desired to keep
her with her as long as possible. But she noticed that the singing voice
was heard less and less frequently about the house and grounds. Octavius
also noticed it, and missed it.

"Aileen, you don't sing as much as you did a while ago--what's the
matter?" he asked her one day in October when she joined him to go up
street after supper on an errand.

"Matter?--I've sung out for one while; I'm taking a rest-cure with my
voice, Tave."

"It ain't the kind of rest-cure that'll agree with you, nor I guess any
of us at Champo. There ain't no trouble with her that's bothering you?"
He pointed with a backward jerk of his thumb to the house.

"No."

"She's acted mad ever since I told her Champney had to go back that
night and tend to business; guess she'd set her heart on his making a
match on that yachting cruise--well, 't would be all in the family,
seeing there's Champney blood in the Van Ostends, good blood
too,--there's no better," he added emphatically.

"Oh, Tave, you're always blowing the Champneys' horn--"

"And why shouldn't I?"--he was decidedly nettled. "The Champneys are my
folks, my townspeople, the founders of this town, and their interests
have always been mine--why shouldn't I speak up for 'em, I'd like to
know? You won't find no better blood in the United States than the
Champneys'."

Aileen made no reply; she was looking up the street to Poggi's fruit
stall, where beneath a street light she saw a crowd of men from the
quarries.

"Romanzo said there was some trouble in the sheds--do you know what it
is?" she asked.

"No, I can't get at the rights of it; they didn't get paid off last
week, so Romanzo told me last night, but he said Champney telegraphed
he'd fix it all right in another week. He says dollars are scarce just
at this time--crops moving, you know, and market dull."

She laughed a little scornfully. "You seem to think Mr. Googe can fix
everything all right, Tave."

"Champney's no fool; he's 'bout as interested in this home work as
anybody, and if he says it'll be all right, you may bet your life it
will be--There's Jo Quimber coming; p'raps he's heard something and can
tell us."

"What's that crowd up to, Uncle Jo?" said Aileen, linking her arm in the
old man's and making him right about face to walk on with them.

"Talkin' a strike. I heerd 'em usin' Champ's name mighty free, Tave,
just now--guess he'd better come home an' calm 'em down some, or
there'll be music in the air thet this town never danced to yet. By A.
J., it riles me clear through to hear 'em!"

"You can't blame them for wanting their pay, Uncle Jo." There was a
challenge in the girl's voice which Uncle Jo immediately accepted.

"So ye've j'ined the majority in this town, hev ye, Aileen? I don't say
ez I'm blamin' anybody fer wantin' his pay; I'm jest sayin' it don't set
well on me the way they go at it to get it. How's the quickest way to
git up a war, eh? Jest keep talkin' it up--talkin' it up, an' it's sure
to come. They don't give a man like Champ a chance--talkin' behind his
back and usin' a good old Flamsted name ez ef 't wuz a mop rag!" Joel's
indignation got the better of his discretion; his voice was so loud that
it began to attract the attention of some men who were leaving Poggi's;
the crowd was rapidly dispersing.

"Sh--Joel! they'll hear you. You've been standing up for everything
foreign that's come into this town for the last seven years--what's come
over you that you're going back on all your preaching?"

"I ain't goin' back on nothin'," the old man replied testily; "but a
man's a man, I don't keer whether he's a Polack or a 'Merican--I don't
keer nothin' 'bout thet; but ef he's a man he knows he'd oughter stop
backbitin' and hittin' out behind another man's back--he'd oughter come
out inter the open an' say, 'You ain't done the right thing by me, now
let's both hev it out', instead of growlin' and grumblin' an' spittin'
out such all-fired nonsense 'bout the syndicaters and Champ--what's
Champ got to do with it, anyway? He can't make money for 'em."

The crowds were surging past them; the men were talking together; their
confused speech precluded the possibility of understanding what was
said.

"He's no better than other men, Uncle Jo," the girl remarked after the
men had passed. She laughed as she spoke, but the laugh was not a
pleasant one; it roused Octavius.

"Now, look here, Aileen, you stop right where you are--"

She interrupted him, and her voice was again both merry and pleasant,
for they were directly opposite Luigi's shop: "I'm going to, Tave; I'm
going to stop right here; Mrs. Champney sent me down on purpose to get
some of those late peaches Luigi keeps; she said she craved them, and
I'm going in this very minute to get them--"

She waved her hand to both and entered the shop.

Old Quimber caught Octavius by the arm to detain him a moment before he
himself retraced his steps up street.

"What d'ye think, Tave?--they goin' to make a match on't, she an' Poggi?
I see 'm together a sight."

"You can't tell 'bout Aileen any more'n a weather-cock. She might go
farther and fare worse."

"Thet's so, Tave; Poggi's a man, an' a credit to our town. I guess from
all I hear Romanzo's 'bout give it up, ain't he?"

"Romanzo never had a show with Aileen," Octavius said decidedly; "he
ain't her kind."

"Guess you're right, Tave--By A. J. there they go now!" He nudged
Octavius with his elbow. Octavius, who had passed the shop and was
standing on the sidewalk with old Quimber, saw the two leave it and walk
slowly in the direction of The Bow. He listened for the sound of
Aileen's merry laugh and chat, but he heard nothing. His grave face at
once impressed Joel.

"Something's up 'twixt those two, eh, Tave?" he whispered.

Octavius nodded in reply; he was comprehending all that old man's words
implied. He bade Quimber good night and walked on to The Greenbush. The
Colonel found him more taciturn than usual that evening....

"I can't, Luigi,--I can't marry you," she answered almost irritably. The
two were nearing the entrance to Champo; the Italian was pleading his
cause. "I can't--so don't say anything more about it."

"But, Aileen, I will wait--I can wait; I've waited so long already. I
believe I began to love you through that knothole, you remember?"

"I haven't forgotten;" she half smiled at the remembrance; "but that
seems so long ago, and things have changed so--I've changed, Luigi."

The tone of her voice was hard. Luigi looked at her in surprise.

"What has changed you, Aileen? Tell me--can't you trust me?"

"Luigi!"--she faced him suddenly, looking straight up into his handsome
face that turned white as he became aware that what she was about to say
was final--"I'd give anything if I could say to you what you want me
to--you deserve all my love, if I could only give it to you, for you are
faithful and true, and mean what you say--it would be the best thing for
me, I know; but I can't, Luigi; I've nothing to give, and it would be
living a lie to you from morning till night to give you less than you
deserve. I only blame myself that I'm not enough like other girls to
know a good man when I see him, and take his love with a thankful heart
that it's mine--but it's no use--don't blame me for being myself--" Her
lips trembled; she bit the lower one white in her effort to steady it.

For a moment Luigi made no reply. Suddenly he leaned towards her--she
drew away from him quickly--and said between his teeth, all the
long-smouldering fire of southern passion, passion that is founded on
jealousy, glowing in his eyes:

"Tell me, Aileen Armagh, is there another man you love?--tell me--"

Rag who had been with her all the afternoon moved with a quick
threatening motion to her side and a warning _gurr--rrrr_ for the one
who should dare to touch her.

"No." She spoke defiantly. Luigi straightened himself. Rag sprang upon
her fawning and caressing; she shoved him aside roughly, for the dog was
at that moment but the scapegoat for his master; Rag cowered at her
feet.

"Ah--" It was a long-drawn breath of relief. Luigi Poggi's eyes
softened; the fire in them ceased to leap and blaze; something like hope
brightened them.

"I could bear anything but that--I was afraid--" He hesitated.

"Afraid of what?" She caught up his words sharply, and began to walk
rapidly up the driveway.

He answered slowly: "I was afraid you were in love with Mr. Googe--I saw
you once out rowing with him--early one morning--"

"I in love with Mr. Googe!" she echoed scornfully, "you needn't ever be
afraid of that; I--I hate him!"

Luigi stared at her in amazement. He scarce could keep pace with her
rapid walk that was almost a run. Her cheeks were aflame; her eyes
filled with tears. All her pent up wretchedness of the last two months,
all her outraged love, her womanhood's humiliation, a sense of life's
bitter injustice and of her impotence to avenge the wrong put upon her
affections, found vent in these three words. And Luigi, seeing Aileen
Armagh changed into something that an hour before he would not have
believed possible, was gripped by a sudden fear,--he must know the truth
for his own peace of mind,--and, under its influence, he laid his hand
on her arm and brought her to a standstill.

Rag snarled another warning; Aileen thrust him aside with her foot.

"What has he done to you to make you hate him so?"

Because he spoke slowly, Aileen thought he was speaking calmly. Had she
not been carried away by her own strength of feeling, she would have
known that she might not risk the answer she gave him.

"Done to me?--nothing; what could he do?--but I hate him--I never want
to see his face again!"

She was beside herself with anger and shame. It was the tone of Luigi's
voice that brought her to her senses; in a flash she recalled Octavius
Buzzby's warning about playing with "volcanic fires." It was too late,
however, to recall her words.

"Luigi, I've said too much; you don't understand--now let's drop it."
She drew away her arm from beneath his hand, and resumed her rapid walk
up the driveway, Rag trotting after her.

"And you mean what you say--you never want to see him again?" He spoke
again slowly.

"Never," she said firmly.

Luigi made no reply. They were nearing the house. She turned to him when
they reached the steps.

"Luigi,"--she put out her hand and he took it in both his,--"forget what
I've said about another and forgive me for what I've had to say to
yourself--we've always been such good friends, that now--"

She was ready with the smile that captivated him, but it was a tremulous
one for she smiled through tears; she was thinking of the contrast.

"And always will be, Aileen, when we both know for good and all that we
can be nothing more to each other," he answered gently.

She was grateful to him; but she turned away and went up the steps
without saying good-bye.


X

"'Gad, I wish I was well out of it!"

For the first time within the memory of Elmer Wiggins and Lawyer Emlie,
who heard the Colonel's ejaculation, his words and tone proclaimed the
fact that he was not in his seemingly unfailing good spirits. He was
standing with the two at the door of the drug shop and watching the
crowds of men gathered in groups along the main street.

It was Saturday afternoon and the men were idle, a weekly occurrence the
Colonel had learned to dread since his incumbency as deputy sheriff and,
in consequence of his office, felt responsible for the peace of the
community at large until Monday morning.

Something unusual was in the air, and the three men were at once aware
of it. The uneasiness, that had prevailed in the sheds and at The Gore
during the past month, was evidently coming to a crisis now that the
men's pay was two weeks overdue.

Emlie looked grave on replying, after a pause in which the three were
busy taking note of the constantly increasing crowd in front of the town
hall:

"I don't blame you, Colonel; there'll be the deuce to pay if the men
don't get paid off by Monday noon. They've been uneasy now so long about
the piece work settlement, that this last delay is going to be the match
that fires the train--and no slow match either from the looks; I don't
understand this delay. When did Romanzo send his last message?"

"About an hour ago, but he hasn't had any answer yet," replied the
Colonel, shading his eyes with his hat to look up street at the town
hall crowd. "He has been telephoning and telegraphing off and on for the
last two weeks; but he can't get any satisfaction--corporations, you
know, don't materialize just for the rappings."

"What does Champney say?" inquired Mr. Wiggins.

"State of the market," said the Colonel laconically.

The men did not look at one another, for each was feeling a certain
degree of indignation, of humiliation and disappointment that one of
their own, Champney Googe, should go back on Flamsted to the extent of
allowing the "market" to place the great quarry interests, through
non-payment of the workers, in jeopardy.

"Has Romanzo heard direct from him to-day?" asked Emlie.

"No; the office replied he was out of the city for Saturday and Sunday;
didn't give his address but asked if we could keep the men quiet till
the middle of next week when the funds would be forwarded."

"I wired our New York exchange yesterday," said Emlie, "but they can't
give us any information--answered things had gone to pot pretty
generally with certain securities, but Flamsted was all right,--not tied
up in any of them. Of course, they know the standing of the syndicate.
There'll have to be some new arrangement for a large reserve fund right
here on home soil, or we'll be kept in hot water half the time. I don't
believe in having the hands that work in one place, and the purse that
holds their pay in another; it gets too ticklish at such times when the
market drops and a plank or two at the bottom falls out."

"Neither do I;" Mr. Wiggins spoke emphatically. "The Quarries Company's
liabilities run up into the millions on account of the contracts they
have signed and the work they have undertaken, and there ought to be a
million of available assets to discount panics like this one that looks
pretty threatening to us away off here in Maine. Our bank ought to have
the benefit of some of the money."

"Well, so far, we've had our trouble for nothing, you might say. You, as
a director, know that Champney sends up a hundred thousand say on
Thursday, and Romanzo draws it for the pay roll and other disbursements
on Saturday morning; they hold it at the other end to get the use of it
till the last gun is fired." He spoke with irritation.

"It looks to me as if some sort of a gun had been fired already," said
Mr. Wiggins, pointing to the increasing crowd before the hall.

"Something's up," said Emlie, startled at the sight of the gathering
hundreds.

"Then there's my place," said the Colonel--the other two thought they
heard him sigh--and started up the street.

Emlie turned to Mr. Wiggins.

"It's rough on the Colonel; he's a man of peace if ever there was one,
and likes to stand well with one and all. This rough and tumble business
of sheriff goes against the grain; his time is up next month; he'll be
glad enough to be out of it. I'll step over to the office for the paper,
I see they've just come--the men have got them already from the stand--"

Elmer Wiggins caught his arm.

"Look!" he cried under his breath, pointing to the crowd and a man who
was mounting the tail of an express wagon that had halted on the
outskirts of the throng. "That's one of the quarrymen--he's ring-leader
every time--he's going to read 'em something--hark!"

They could hear the man haranguing the ever-increasing crowd; he was
waving a newspaper. They could not hear what he was saying, but in the
pauses of his speechifying the hoarse murmur of approval grew louder and
louder. The cart-tail orator pointed to the headlines; there was a
sudden deep silence, so deep that the soft scurrying of a mass of fallen
elm leaves in the gutter seemed for a moment to fill all the air. Then
the man began to read. They saw the Colonel on the outside of the crowd;
saw him suddenly turn and make with all haste for the post-office; saw
him reappear reading the paper.

The two hurried across the street to him.

"What's the matter?" Emlie demanded.

The Colonel spoke no word. He held the sheet out to them and with
shaking forefinger pointed to the headlines:

     BIG EMBEZZLEMENT BY FLAMSTED QUARRIES CO. OFFICIAL

     GUILTY MAN A FUGITIVE FROM JUSTICE

     SEARCH WARRANTS OUT

     DETECTIVES ON TRAIL

     "New York--Special Despatch: L. Champney Googe, the treasurer of
     the Flamsted Quarries Co.--" etc., etc.

The men looked at one another. There was a moment of sickening silence;
not so much as a leaf whirled in the gutter; it was broken by a great
cheer from the assembled hundreds of workmen farther up the street,
followed by a conglomerate of hootings, cat-calls, yells and falsetto
hoorays from the fringe of small boys. The faces of the three men in
front of the post-office grew white at their unspoken thought. Each
waited for the other.

"His mother--" said Emlie at last.

Elmer Wiggins' lips trembled. "You must tell her, Colonel--she mustn't
hear it this way--"

"My God, how can I!" The Colonel's voice broke, but only for a second,
then he braced himself to his martyrdom. "You're right; she mustn't hear
it from any one but me--telephone up at once, will you, Elmer, that I'm
coming up to see her on an important matter?--Emlie, you'll drive me up
in your trap--we can get there before the men have a chance to get
home--keep a watch on the doings here in the town, Elmer, and telephone
me if there's any trouble--there's Romanzo coming now, I suppose he's
got word from the office--if you happen to see Father Honoré, tell him
where I am, he will help--"

He stepped into the trap that had been hitched in front of the drug
store, and Emlie took the reins. Elmer Wiggins reached up his hand to
the Colonel, who gripped it hard.

"Yes, Elmer," he said in answer to the other's mute question, "this is
one of the days when a man, who is a man, may wish he'd never been
born--"

They were off, past the surging crowds who were now thronging the entire
street, past The Bow, and over the bridge on their way to The Gore.


XI

"Run on ahead, girlies," said Aileen to the twins who were with her for
their annual checkerberry picnic, "I'll be down in a few minutes."

They were on the edge of the quarry woods which sheltered the Colonel's
outlying sheep pastures and protected from the north wind the two
sheepfolds that were used for the autumn and early spring. Dulcie and
Doosie, obedient to Aileen's request, raced hand in hand across the
short-turfed pastures, balancing their baskets of red berries.

The late afternoon sunshine of the last of October shone clear and warm
upon the fading close-cropped herbage that covered the long slopes. The
sheep were gathering by flocks at the folds. The collie, busy and
important, was at work with 'Lias rounding up the stragglers. Aileen's
eyes were blinded to the transient quiet beauty of this scene, for she
was alive to but one point in the landscape--the red brick house with
granite trimmings far away across the Rothel, and the man leaving the
carriage which had just stopped at the front porch. She could not
distinguish who it was, and this fact fostered conjecture--Could it be
Champney Googe who had come home to help settle the trouble in the
sheds?

How she hated him!--yet her heart gave a sudden sick throb of
expectation. How she hated herself for her weakness!

"You look tired to death, Aileen," was Mrs. Caukins' greeting a few
minutes afterwards, "come in and rest yourself before supper. Luigi was
here just now and I've sent Dulcie over with him to Aurora's to get the
Colonel; I saw him go in there fifteen minutes ago, and he's no notion
of time, not even meal-time, when he's talking business with her. I know
it's business, because Mr. Emlie drove up with him; he's waiting for him
to come out. Romanzo has just telephoned that he can't get home for
supper, but he'll be up in time to see you home."

Mrs. Caukins was diplomatic; she looked upon herself as a committee of
one on ways and means to further her son's interest so far as Aileen
Armagh was concerned; but that young lady was always ready with a check
to her mate.

"Thank you, Mrs. Caukins, but I'll not trouble him; Tave is coming up to
drive me home about eight; he knows checkerberry picking isn't easy
work."

Mrs. Caukins was looking out of the window and did not reply.

"I declare," she exclaimed, "if there isn't Octavius this very minute
driving up in a rush to Aurora's too--and Father Honoré's with
him!--Why, what--"

Without waiting to finish her thought, she hurried to the door to call
out to Dulcie, who was coming back over the bridge towards the house,
running as fast as she could:

"What's the matter, Dulcie?"

"Oh, mother--mother--" the child panted, running up the road, "father
wants you to come over to Mrs. Googe's right off, as quick as you
can--he says not to stop for anything--"

The words were scarcely out of her mouth before Mrs. Caukins, without
heeding Aileen, was hurrying down the road. The little girl, wholly out
of breath, threw herself down exhausted on the grass before the door.
Aileen and Doosie ran out to her.

"What is it, Dulcie--can't you tell me?" said Aileen.

Between quickened breaths the child told what she knew.

"Luigi stopped to speak to Mr. Emlie--and Mr. Emlie said something
dreadful for Flamsted--had happened--and Luigi looked all of a sudden so
queer and pale,"--she sat up, and in the excitement and importance of
imparting such news forgot her over-exertion,--"and Mr. Emlie said
father was telling Mrs. Googe--and he was afraid it would kill her--and
then father came to the door looking just like Luigi, all queer and
pale, and Mr. Emlie says, 'How is she?' and father shook his head and
said, 'It's her death blow,' then I squeezed Luigi's hand to make him
look at me, and I asked him what it was Mrs. Googe's was sick of, for I
must go and tell mother--and he looked at Mr. Emlie and he nodded and
said, 'It's town talk already--it's in the papers.' And then Luigi told
me that Mr. Champney Googe had been stealing, Aileen!--and if he got
caught he'd have to go to prison--then father sent me over home for
mother and told me to run, and I've run so--Oh, Aileen!"

It was a frightened cry, and her twin echoed it. While Aileen Armagh was
listening with shortened breaths to the little girl, she felt as if she
were experiencing the concentrated emotions of a lifetime; as a result,
the revulsion of feeling was so powerful that it affected her
physically; her young healthy nerves, capable at other times of almost
any tension, suddenly played her false. The effect upon her of what she
heard was a severe nervous shock. She had never fainted in her life, nor
had she known the meaning of an hysterical mood; she neither fainted nor
screamed now, but began to struggle horribly for breath, for the shocked
heart began beating as it would, sending the blood in irregular spurts
through the already over-charged arteries. From time to time she groaned
heavily as her struggle continued.

The two children were terrified. Doosie raced distractedly across the
pastures to get 'Lias, and Dulcie ran into the house for water. Her
little hand was trembling as she held the glass to Aileen's white
quivering lips that refused it.

By the time, however, that 'Lias got to the house, the crisis was past;
she could smile at the frightened children, and assure 'Lias that she
had had simply a short and acute attack of indigestion from eating too
many checkerberries over in the woods.

"It serves me right," she said smiling into the woe-begone little faces
so near to hers; "I've always heard they are the most indigestible
things going--now don't you eat any more, girlies, or you'll have a
spasm like mine. I'm all right, 'Lias; go back to your work, I'll just
help myself to a cup of hot water from the tea-kettle and then I'll go
home with Tave--I see him coming for me--I didn't expect him now."

"But, Aileen, won't you stay to supper?" said the twins at one and the
same time; "we always have you to celebrate our checkerberry picnic."

"Dear knows, I've celebrated the checkerberries enough already," she
said laughing,--but 'Lias noticed that her lips were still
colorless,--"and I think, dearies, that it's no time for us to be
celebrating any more to-day when poor Mrs. Googe is in such trouble."

"What's up?" said 'Lias.

The twins' eagerness to impart their knowledge of recent events to 'Lias
was such that the sorrow of parting was greatly mitigated; moreover,
Aileen left them with a promise to come up again soon.

"I'm ready, Tave," she said as he drew up at the door. 'Lias helped her
in.

"Come again soon, Aileen--you've promised," the twins shouted after her.

She turned and waved her hand to them. "I'll come," she called back in
answer.

They drove in silence over the Rothel, past the brick house where
Emlie's trap was still standing, but now hitched. Octavius Buzzby's face
was gray; his features were drawn.

"Did you hear, Aileen?" he said, after they had driven on a while and
begun to meet the quarrymen returning from Flamsted, many of whom were
talking excitedly and gesticulating freely.

"Yes--Dulcie told me something. I don't know how true it is," she
answered quietly.

"It's true," he said grimly, "and it'll kill his mother."

"I don't know about that;" she spoke almost indifferently; "you can
stand a good deal when it comes to the point."

Octavius turned almost fiercely upon her.

"What do you know about it?" he demanded. "You're neither wife nor
mother, but you might show a little more feeling, being a woman. Do you
realize what this thing means to us--to Flamsted--to the family?"

"Tave," she turned her gray eyes full upon him, the pupils were
unnaturally enlarged, "I don't suppose I do know what it means to all of
you--but it makes me sick to talk about it--please don't--I can't bear
it--take me home as quick as you can."

She grew whiter still.

"Ain't you well, Aileen?" he asked in real anxiety, repenting of his
hard word to her.

"Not very, Tave; the truth is I ate too many checkerberries and had an
attack of indigestion--I shall be all right soon--and they sent over for
Mrs. Caukins just at that time, and when Dulcie came back she told
me--it's awful--but it's different with you; he belongs to you all here
and you've always loved him."

"Loved him!"--Octavius Buzzby's voice shook with suppressed emotion--"I
should say loved him; he's been dear to me as my own--I thank God Louis
Champney isn't living to go through this disgrace!"

He drew up in the road to let a gang of workmen separate--he had been
driving the mare at full speed. Both he and Aileen caught fragments of
what they were saying.

"It's damned hard on his mother--"

"They say there's a woman in the case--"

"Generally is with them highflyers--"

"I'll bet he'll make for the old country, if he can get clear he'll--"

"Europe's full of 'em--reg'lar cesspool they say--"

"Any reward offered?"

"The Company'll have to fork over or there'll be the biggest strike in
Flamsted that the stone-cutting business has seen yet--"

"The papers don't say what the shortage is--"

"What's Van Ostend's daughter's name, anybody know?--they say he was
sweet on her--"

"She's a good haul," a man laughed hoarsely, insultingly, "but she
didn't bite, an' lucky for her she didn't."

"You're 'bout right--them high rollers don't want to raise nothing but
game cocks--no prison birds, eh?"

The men passed on, twenty or more. Octavius Buzzby, and the one who in
the last hour had left her girlhood behind her, drove homewards in
silence. Her eyes were lowered; her white cheeks burned again, but with
shame at what she was obliged to hear.


XII

The strike was averted; the men were paid in full on the Wednesday
following that Saturday the events of which brought for a time Flamsted,
its families, and its great industry into the garish light of
undesirable publicity. In the sheds and the quarries the routine work
went on as usual, but speculation was rife as to the outcome of the
search for the missing treasurer. A considerable amount of money was put
up by the sporting element among the workmen, that the capture would
take place within three weeks. Meanwhile, the daily papers furnished
pabulum for the general curiosity and kept the interest as to the
outcome on the increase. Some reports had it that Champney Googe was
already in Europe; others that he had been seen in one of the Central
American capitals. Among those who knew him best, it was feared he was
already in hiding in his native State; but beyond their immediate circle
no suspicion of this got abroad.

Among the native Flamstedites, who had known and loved Champney from a
child, there was at first a feeling of consternation mingled with shame
of the disgrace to his native town. They felt that Champney had played
false to his two names, and through the honored names of Googe and
Champney he had brought disgrace upon all connections, whether by ties
of blood or marriage. To him they had looked to be a leader in the new
Flamsted that was taking its place in the world's work. For a few days
it seemed as if the keystone of the arch of their ambition and pride
had fallen and general ruin threatened. Then, after the first week
passed without news as to his whereabouts, there was bewilderment,
followed on the second Monday by despair deepened by a suspense that was
becoming almost unbearable.

It was a matter of surprise to many to find the work in sheds and
quarries proceeding with its accustomed regularity; to find that to the
new comers in Flamsted the affair was an impersonal one, that Champney
Googe held no place among the workmen; that his absconding meant to them
simply another one of the "high rollers" fleeing from his deserts.
Little by little, during that first week, the truth found its way home
to each man and woman personally interested in this erring son of
Flamsted's old families, that a man is but one working unit among
millions, and that unit counts in a community only when its work is
constructive in the communal good.

At a meeting of the bank directors the telling fact was disclosed that
all of Mrs. Googe's funds--the purchase money of the quarry lands--had
been withdrawn nine months previous; but this, they ascertained later,
had been done with her full consent and knowledge.

Romanzo was summoned with the Company's books to the New York office.
The Colonel seemed to his friends to have aged ten years in seven days.
He wore the look of a man haunted by the premonition of some impending
catastrophe. But he confided his trouble to no one, not even to his
wife. Aurora Googe's friends suffered with her and for her; they began,
at last, to fear for her reason if some definite word should not soon be
forthcoming.

The tension in the Champ-au-Haut household became almost intolerable as
the days passed without any satisfaction as to the fugitive's
whereabouts. After the first shock, and some unpleasant recrimination on
the part of Mrs. Champney, this tension showed itself by silently
ignoring the recent family event. Mrs. Champney found plausible excuse
in the state of her health to see no one. Octavius Buzzby attended to
his daily duties with the face of a man who has come through a severe
sickness; Hannah complained that "he didn't eat enough to keep a cat
alive." His lack of appetite was an accompaniment to sleepless,
thought-racked nights.

Aileen Armagh said nothing--what could she say?--but sickened at her own
thoughts. She made excuse to be on the street, at the station, in The
Gore at the Caukinses', with Joel Quimber and Elmer Wiggins, as well as
among the quarrymen's families, whose children she taught in an
afternoon singing class, in the hope of hearing some enlightening word;
of learning something definite in regard to the probabilities of escape;
of getting some inkling of the whole truth. She gathered a little here,
a little there; she put two and two together, and from what she heard as
a matter of speculation, and from what she knew to be true through Mrs.
Caukins via Romanzo in New York, she found that Champney Googe had
sacrificed his honor, his mother, his friends, and the good name of his
native town for the unlawful love of gain. She was obliged to accept
this fact, and its acceptance completed the work of destruction that the
revelation of Champney Googe's unfaith, through the declaration of a
passion that led to no legitimate consummation in marriage, had wrought
in her young buoyant spirit. She was broken beneath the sudden
cumulative and overwhelming knowledge of evil; her youth found no
abiding-place either for heart or soul. To Father Honoré she could not
go--not yet!

       *       *       *       *       *

On the afternoon of Monday week, a telegram came for the Colonel. He
opened it in the post office. Octavius coming in at the same time for
his first mail noticed at once the change in his face--he looked
stricken.

"What is it, Colonel?" he asked anxiously, joining him.

For answer Milton Caukins held out the telegram. It was from the State
authorities; its purport that the Colonel was to form a posse and be
prepared to aid, to the extent of his powers, the New York detectives
who were coming on the early evening train. The fugitive from justice
had left New York and been traced to Hallsport.

"I've had a premonition of this--it's the last stroke, Tave--here, in
his home--among us--and his mother!--and, in duty bound, I, of all
others, must be the man to finish the ugly job--"

Octavius Buzzby's face worked strangely. "It's tough for you, Colonel,
but I guess a Maine man knows his whole duty--only, for God's sake,
don't ask me!" It was a groan rather than an ejaculation. The two
continued to talk in a low tone.

"I shall call for volunteers and then get them sworn in--it means stiff
work for to-night. We'll keep this from Aurora, Tave; she mustn't know
_this_."

"Yes, if we can. Are you going to ask any of our own folks to volunteer,
Milton?" In times of great stress and sorrow his townspeople called the
Colonel by his Christian name.

"No; I'm going to ask some of the men who don't know him well--some of
the foreigners; Poggi's one. He'll know some others up in The Gore. And
I don't believe, Tave, there's one of our own would volunteer, do you?"

"No, I don't. We can't go that far; it would be like cutting our own
throats."

"You're right, Tave--that's the way I feel; but"--he squared his
shoulders--"it's got to be done and the sooner it's over the better for
us all--but, Tave, I hope to God he'll keep out of our way!"

"Amen," said Octavius Buzzby.

The two stood together in the office a moment longer in gloomy silence,
then they went out into the street.

"Well, I must get to work," said the Colonel finally, "the time's scant.
I'll telephone my wife first. We can't keep this to ourselves long;
everybody, from the quarrymen to the station master, will be keen on the
scent."

"I'm glad no reward was offered," said Octavius.

"So am I." The Colonel spoke emphatically. "The roughscuff won't
volunteer without that, and I shall be reasonably certain of some good
men--God! and I'm saying this of Champney Googe--it makes me sick; who'd
have thought it--who'd have thought it--"

He shook his head, and stepped into the telephone booth. Octavius waited
for him.

"I've warned Mrs. Caukins," he said when he came out, "and told her how
things stand; that I'd try to get Poggi, and that I sha'n't be at home
to-night. She says tell Aileen to tell Mrs. Champney she will esteem it
a great favor if she will let her come up to-night; she has one of her
nervous headaches and doesn't want to be alone with the children and
'Lias. You could take her up, couldn't you?"

"I guess she can come, and I'll take her up 'fore supper; I don't want
to be gone after dark," he added with meaning emphasis.

"I understand, Tave; I'm going over to Poggi's now."

The two parted with a hand-clasp that spoke more than any words.


XIII

About four, Octavius drove Aileen up to the Colonel's. He said nothing
to her of the coming crucial night, but Aileen had her thoughts. The
Colonel's absence from home, but not from town, coupled with yesterday's
New York despatch which said that there was no trace of the guilty man
in New York, and affirmed on good authority that the statement that he
had not left the country was true, convinced her that something
unforeseen was expected in the immediate vicinity of Flamsted. But he
would never attempt to come here!--She shivered at the thought.
Octavius, noticing this movement, remarked that he thought there was
going to be a black frost. Aileen maintained that the rising wind and
the want of a moon would keep it off.

Although Octavius was inclined to take exception to the feminine
statement that the moon, or the want of it, had an effect on frost,
nevertheless this apparently innocent remark on Aileen's part recalled
to him the fact that the night was moonless--he wondered if the Colonel
had thought of this--and he hoped with all his soul that it would prove
to be starless as well. "Champney knows the Maine woods--knows 'em from
the Bay to the head of Moosehead as well as an Oldtown Indian, yes and
beyond." So he comforted himself in thought.

Mrs. Caukins met them with effusion.

"I declare, Aileen, I don't know what I should have done if you couldn't
have come up; I'm all of a-tremble now and I've got such a nervous
headache from all I've been through, and all I've got to, that I can't
see straight out of my eyes.--Won't you stop to supper, Tave?"

"I can't to-night, Elvira, I--"

"I'd no business to ask you, I know," she said, interrupting him; "I
might have known you'd want to be on hand for any new developments. I
don't know how we're going to live through it up here; you don't feel it
so much down in the town--I don't believe I could go through it without
Aileen up here with me, for the twins aren't old enough to depend on or
to be told everything; they're no company at such times, and of course I
sha'n't tell them, they wouldn't sleep a wink; I miss my boys
dreadfully--"

"Tell them what? What do you mean by 'to-night'?" Aileen demanded, a
sudden sharpness in her voice.

"Why, don't you know?"--She turned to Octavius, "Haven't you told her?"

Her appeal fell on departing and intentionally deaf ears; for Octavius,
upon hearing Aileen's sudden and amazed question, abruptly bade them
good-night, spoke to the mare and was off at a rapid pace before Mrs.
Caukins comprehended that the telling of the latest development was left
to her.

She set about it quickly enough, and what with her nervousness, her
sympathy for that mother across the Rothel, her anxiety for the Colonel,
her fear of the trial to which his powers of endurance were about to be
put, and the description of his silent suffering during the last week,
she failed to notice that Aileen said nothing. The girl busied herself
with setting the table and preparing tea, Mrs. Caukins, meanwhile,
rocking comfortably in her chair and easing her heart of its heavy
burden by continual drippings of talk after the main flow of her tale
was exhausted.

Presently, just after sunset, the twins came rushing in. Evidently they
were full of secrets--they were always a close corporation of two--and
their inane giggles and breathless suppression of what they were
obviously longing to impart to their mother and Aileen, told on Mrs.
Caukins' already much worn nerves.

"I wish you wouldn't stay out so long after sundown, children, you worry
me to death. I don't say but the quarries are safe enough, but I do say
you never can tell who's round after dusk, and growing girls like you
belong at home."

She spoke fretfully. The twins exchanged meaning glances that were lost
on their mother, who was used to their ways, but not on Aileen.

"Where have you been all this time, Dulcie?" she asked rather
indifferently. Her short teaching experience had shown her that the only
way to gain children's confidence is not to display too great a
curiosity in regard to their comings and goings, their doings and
undoings. "Tave and I didn't see you anywhere when we drove up."

The twins looked at each other and screwed their lips into a violently
repressive contortion.

"We've been over to the sheepfolds with 'Lias."

"Why, 'Lias has been out in the barn for the last half hour--what were
you doing over there, I'd like to know?" Their mother spoke sharply, for
untruth she would not tolerate.

"We did stay with 'Lias till he got through, then we played ranchmen and
made believe round up the cattle the way the boys wrote us they do." Two
of their brothers were in the West trying their fortune on a ranch and
incidentally "dovetailing into the home business," as the Colonel
defined their united efforts along the line of mutton raising.

"Well, I never!" their mother ejaculated; "I suppose now you'll be
making believe you're everything the other boys are going to be."

The little girls giggled and nodded emphatically.

"Well, Aileen," she said as she took her seat at the table, "times have
changed since I was a girl, and that isn't so very long ago. Then we
used to content ourselves with sewing, and housework, and reading all
the books in the Sunday school library, and making our own clothes, and
enjoying ourselves as much as anybody nowadays for all I see, what with
our picnics and excursions down the Bay and the clam bakes and winter
lecture course and the young folks 'Circle' and two or three dances to
help out--and now here are my girls that can't be satisfied to sit down
and hem good crash towels for their mother, but must turn themselves
into boys, and play ranchmen and baseball and hockey on the ice, and
Wild West shows with the dogs and the pony--and even riding him
a-straddle--and want to go to college just because their two brothers
are going, and, for all I know, join a fraternity and have secrets from
their own mother and a football team!" She paused long enough to help
the twins bountifully.

"Sometimes I think it's their being brought up with so many boys, and
then again I'm convinced it's the times, for all girls seem to have
caught the male fever. What with divided skirts, and no petticoats, and
racing and running and tumbling in basket ball, and rowing races, and
entering for prize championships in golf and the dear knows what, it'll
be lucky if a mother of the next generation can tell whether she's
borned girls or boys by the time her children are ten years old. The
land knows it's hard enough for a married woman to try to keep up with
one man in a few things, but when it comes to a lot of old maids and
unmarried girls trying to catch up all the time with the men in
_everything_, and catch on too, I must say _I_, for one, draw the line."

Aileen could not help smiling at this diatribe on "the times." The twins
laughed outright; they were used to their mother by this time, and
patronized her in a loving way.

"We weren't there _all_ the time," Doosie said meaningly, and Dulcie
added her little word, which she intended should tantalize her mother
and Aileen to the extent that many pertinent questions should be
forthcoming, and the news they were burning to impart would, to all
appearance, be dragged out of them--a process in which the twins
revelled.

"We met Luigi on the road near the bridge."

"What do you suppose Luigi's doing up here at this time, I'd like to
know," said Mrs. Caukins, turning to Aileen and ignoring the children.

"He come up on an errand to see some of the quarrymen," piped up both
the girls at the same time.

"Oh, is that all?" said their mother indifferently; then, much to the
twins' chagrin, she suddenly changed the subject. "I want you to take
the glass of wine jell on the second shelf in the pantry over to Mrs.
Googe's after you finish your supper--you can leave it with the girl and
tell her not to say anything to Mrs. Googe about it, but just put some
in a saucer and give it to her with her supper. Maybe it'll tempt her to
taste it, poor soul!"

The twins sat up very straight on their chairs. A look of consternation
came into their faces.

"We don't want to go," murmured Dulcie.

"Don't want to go!" their mother exclaimed; decided irritation was
audible in her voice. "For pity's sake, what is the matter now, that you
can't run on an errand for me just over the bridge, and here you've been
prowling about in the dusk for the last hour around those lonesome
sheepfolds and 'Lias nowheres near--I declare, I could understand my six
boys even if they were terrors when they were little. You could always
count on their being somewheres anyway, even if 't was on the top of
freight cars at The Corners or at the bottom of the pond diving for
pebbles that they brought up between their lips and run the risk of
choking besides drowning; and they did think the same thoughts for at
least twenty-four hours on a stretch, when they were set on having
things--but when it come to my having two girls, and I forty at the
time, I give it up! They don't know their own minds from one six minutes
to the next.--Why don't you want to go?" she demanded, coming at last to
the point. Aileen was listening in amused silence.

"'Coz we got scared--awful scared," said Dulcie under her breath.

"Scared most to death," Doosie added solemnly.

Both Mrs. Caukins and Aileen saw at once that the children were in
earnest.

"You look scared!" said Mrs. Caukins with withering scorn; "you've eaten
a good supper if you were 'scared' as you say.--What scared you?"

The twins looked down into their plates, the generally cleared-up
appearance of which seemed fully to warrant their mother's sarcasm.

"Luigi told us not to tell," said Dulcie in a low voice.

"Luigi told you not to tell!" echoed their mother. "I'd like to know
what right Luigi Poggi has to tell my children not to tell their mother
anything and everything!" She spoke with waxing excitement; every
motherly pin-feather was erect.

"He was 'fraid it would scare you," ventured Doosie.

"Scare me! He must have a pretty poor opinion of a woman that can raise
six boys of her own and then be 'scared' at what two snips of girls can
tell her. You'll tell me now, this very minute, what scared you--this
all comes of your being away from the house so far and so late--and I
won't have it."

"We saw a bear--"

"A big one--"

"He was crawling on all fours--"

"Back of the sheepfold wall--"

"He scrooched down as if he was nosing for something--"

"Just where the trees are so thick you can't see into the woods--"

"And we jumped over the wall and right down into the sheep, and they
made an awful fuss they were so scared too, huddling and rushing round
to get out--"

"Then we found the gate--"

"But I _heard_ him--" Dulcie's eyes were very big and bright with
remembered terror.

"And then we climbed over the gate--'Lias had locked it--and run home
lickety-split and most run into Luigi at the bridge--"

"'Coz we come down the road after we got through the last pasture--"

"Oh, he was so big!" Doosie shuddered as her imagination began to work
more vigorously with the recital--"bigger'n a man--"

"What nonsense."

The twins had been telling all this at the same time, and their mother's
common sense and downright exclamation brought them to a full stop. They
looked crestfallen.

"You needn't tell me there's a bear between here and Moosehead--I know
better. Did you tell Luigi all this?" she questioned sharply.

The two nodded affirmatively.

"And he told you not to tell me?"

Another nod.

"Did he say anything more?"

"He said he'd go up and see."

"Hm--m--"

Mrs. Caukins turned a rather white face to Aileen; the two, looking into
each other's eyes, read there a common fear.

"Perhaps you'll take the jelly over for me, Aileen; I'll just step to
the back door and holler to 'Lias to bring in the collie and the
hound--'t isn't always safe to let the dogs out after dark if there
_should_ happen to be anything stirring in the quarry woods."

"I'll go," said Aileen. She went into the pantry to get the glass of
jelly.

"We'll go with you, we won't mind a bit with you or Luigi," chorussed
the twins.

"You don't go one step," said their mother, entering at that moment from
the kitchen, and followed by the two dogs; "you'll stay right where you
are, and what's more, you'll both go to bed early to make you remember
that I mean what I say about your being out so long another time after
sundown--no good comes of it," she muttered.

The twins knew by the tone of her voice that there was no further appeal
to be made.

"You can wash up the dishes while Aileen's gone; my head is so
bad.--Don't be gone too long, Aileen," she said, going to the door with
her.

"I sha'n't stay unless I can do something--but I'll stop a little while
with Ellen, poor girl; she must be tired of all this excitement, sitting
there alone so much as she has this last week."

"Of course, but Aurora won't see you; it's as much as ever I can do to
get a look at her, and as to speaking a word of comfort, it's out of the
question.--Why!" she exclaimed, looking out into the dusk that was
settling into night, "they never light the quarries so early, not with
all the arc-lights, I wonder--Oh, Aileen!" she cried, as the meaning of
the great illumination in The Gore dawned upon her.

The girl did not answer. She ran down the road to the bridge with every
nerve in her strained to its utmost.


XIV

She hurried over to the brick house across the Rothel; rapped at the
kitchen door and, upon the girl's opening it, gave the jelly to her with
Mrs. Caukins' message. She assured Ellen, who begged her to come in,
that she would run over if possible a little later in the evening. A low
whine and prolonged snuffing made themselves audible while the two
talked together in low tones at the door. They seemed to proceed from
the vicinity of the dining-room door.

"Where's Rag?" said Aileen, listening intently to the muffled sounds.

"I shut him up in the dining-room closet when I see you come up the
walk; he goes just wild to get with you any chance he can, and Mrs.
Googe told me she wanted to keep him round the house nights."

"Then be careful he doesn't get out to-night--supposing you chain him up
just for once."

"Oh, I couldn't do that; Mrs. Googe wouldn't let me; but I'll see he
doesn't follow you. I do wish you would come in--it's so lonesome," she
said again wistfully.

"I can't now, Ellen; but if I can get away after eight, I may run over
and sit with you a while. I'm staying with Mrs. Caukins because the
Colonel is away to-night."

"So I heard; 'Lias told me just now on his way down to the village. He
said he wouldn't be gone long, for the Colonel wasn't to home.--I
wonder what they've turned on all the lights for?" she said, craning her
neck to look farther up the road.

Aileen made no reply. She cautioned her again to keep Rag at home. A
series of muffled but agonized yelps followed her down the walk.

She stood still in the road and looked about her. Everywhere the great
quarry arc-lights were sending their searching rays out upon the
quarries and their approaches.

"What shall I do--oh, what _shall_ I do!" was her hopeless unuttered
cry.

It seemed to Aileen Armagh, standing there in the road at the entrance
to the bridge, as if a powerful X-ray were being directed at that moment
upon her whole life so far as she remembered it; and not only upon that,
but upon her heart and soul--her thoughts, desires, her secret agony; as
if the ray, in penetrating her body and soul, were laying bare her
secret to the night:--she still loved him.

"Oh, what shall I do--what _shall_ I do!" was the continual inner cry.

Life was showing itself to her in this experience, as seen through the
lens of a quickened imagination, in all its hideousness. Never had she
experienced such a sense of loneliness. Never had she realized so
forcibly that she was without father and mother, without kin in a
foreign country, without a true home and abiding-place. Never had it
been brought home to her with such keen pain that she was, in truth, a
waif in this great world; that the one solid support for her in this
world, her affections, had been ruthlessly cut away from under her by
the hand of the man she had loved with all the freshness and joy of her
young loving heart. He had been all the more to her because she was
alone; the day dreams all the brighter because she believed he was the
one to realize them for her--and now!

She walked on slowly.

"What shall I do--what shall I do!" was her inward cry, repeated at
intervals. She crossed the bridge. All was chaotic in her thoughts. She
had supposed, during the last two months, that all her love was turned
to hate,--she hoped it was, for it would help her to bear,--that all her
feeling for him, whom she knew she ought to despise, was dead. Why,
then, if it were dead, she asked herself now, had she spoken so
vehemently to Luigi? And Luigi--where was he--what was he doing?

What was it produced that nervous shock when she learned the last truth
from Dulcie Caukins? Was it her shame at his dishonor? No--she knew by
the light of the X-ray piercing her soul that the thought of his
imprisonment meant absence from her; after all that had occurred, she
was obliged to confess that she was still longing for his presence. She
hated herself for this confession.--Where was he now?

She looked up the road towards the quarry woods--Thank God, those, at
least, were dark! Oh, if she but dared to go! dared to penetrate them;
to call to him that the hours of his freedom were numbered; to
help--someway, somehow! A sudden thought, over-powering in its intimation
of possibilities, stopped her short in the road just a little way beyond
the Colonel's; but before she could formulate it sufficiently to follow
it up with action, before she had time to realize the sensation of
returning courage, she was aware of the sound of running feet on the
road above her. On a slight rise of ground the figure of a man showed
for a moment against the clear early dark of the October night; he was
running at full speed.

Could it be--?

She braced herself to the shock--he was rapidly nearing her--a powerful
ray from an arc-light shot across his path--fell full upon his hatless
head--

"_You!_--Luigi!" she cried and darted forward to meet him.

He thrust out his arm to brush her aside, never slackening his pace; but
she caught at it, and, clasping it with both hands, hung upon it her
full weight, letting him drag her on with him a few feet.

"Stop, Luigi Poggi!--Stop, I tell you, or I'll scream for help--stop, I
say!"

He was obliged to slacken his speed in order not to hurt her. He tried
to shake her off, untwist her hands; she clung to him like a leech. Then
he stopped short, panting. She could see the sweat dropping from his
forehead; his teeth began to chatter. She still held his arm tightly
with both hands.

"Let me go--" he said, catching his breath spasmodically.

"Not till you tell me where you've been--what you've been doing--tell
me."

"Doing--" He brought out the word with difficulty.

"Yes, doing, don't you hear?" She shook his arm violently in her anxious
terror.

"I don't know--" the words were a long groan.

"Where have you been then?--quick, tell me--"

He began to shake with a hard nervous chill.

"With him--over in the quarry woods--I tried to take him--he fought
me--" The chill shook him till he could scarcely stand.

She dropped his arm; drew away from him as if touching were
contamination; then her eyes, dilating with a still greater horror,
fixed themselves on the bosom of his shirt--there was a stain--

"Have you killed him--" she whispered hoarsely.

The answer came through the clattering teeth:

"I--I don't know--you said--you said you--never wanted to see him
again--"

Luigi found himself speaking the last words to the empty air; he was
alone, in the middle of the road, in the full glare of an electric
light. He was conscious of a desire to escape from it, to escape
detection--to rid himself of his over-powering misery in the quietest way
possible. He gathered himself together; his limbs steadied; the
shivering grew less; he went on down the road at a quick walk. Already
the quarrymen were coming out in force to see what might be up. He must
avoid them at all hazards.

       *       *       *       *       *

One thought was the motive power which sent Aileen running up the road
towards the pastures, by crossing which she could reach in a few minutes
the quarry woods: "I must know if he is dead; if he is not dead, I must
try to save him from a living death."

This thought alone sent her speeding over the darkened slopes. She was
light of foot, but sometimes she stumbled; she was up and on again--the
sheepfold her goal. The quarry woods stood out dark against the clear
sky; there seemed to be more light on these uplands than below in The
Gore; she saw the sheepfold like a square blot on the pasture slope. She
reached it--should she call aloud--call his name? How find him?

She listened intently; the wind had died down; the sheep were huddling
and moving restlessly within the fold; this movement seemed unusual.
She climbed the rough stone wall; the sheep were massed in one corner,
heads to the wall, tails to the bare centre of the fold; they kept
crowding closer and more close.

In that bared space of hoof-trampled earth she saw him lying.

She leaped down, the frightened sheep riding one another in their
frantic efforts to get away from the invaders of their peace. She knelt
by him; lifted his head on her knee; her hands touched his sleeve, she
drew back from something warm and wet.

"Champney--O Champney, what has he done to you!" she moaned in hopeless
terror; "what shall I do--"

"Is it you--Aileen?--help me up--"

With her aid he raised himself to a sitting posture.

"It must have been the loss of blood--I felt faint suddenly." He spoke
clearly. "Can you help me?"

"Yes, oh, yes--only tell me how."

"If you could bind this up--have you anything--"

"Yes, oh, yes--"

He used his left hand entirely; it was the right arm that had received
the full blow of some sharp instrument. "Just tear away the
shirt--that's right--"

She did as he bade her. She took her handkerchief and bound the arm
tightly above the wound, twisting it with one of her shell hairpins. She
slipped off her white petticoat, stripped it, and under his directions
bandaged the arm firmly.

He spoke to her then as if she were a personality and not an instrument.

"Aileen, it's all up with me if I am found here--if I don't get out of
this--tell my mother I was trying to see her--to get some funds, I have
nothing. I depended on my knowledge of this country to escape--put them
off the track--they're after me now--aren't they?"

"Yes--"

"I thought so; I should have got across to the house if the quarry
lights hadn't been turned on so suddenly--I knew they'd got word when I
saw that--still, I might have made the run, but that man throttled me--I
must go--"

He got on his feet. At that moment they both started violently at the
sound of something worrying at the gate; there was a rattle at the bars,
a scramble, a frightened bleating among the sheep, a joyous bark--and
Rag flung himself first upon Aileen then on Champney.

He caught the dog by the throat, choking him into silence, and handed
him to Aileen.

"For God's sake, keep the dog away--don't let him come--keep him quiet,
or I'm lost--" he dropped over the wall and disappeared in the woods.

Here and there across the pastures a lantern shot its unsteady rays. The
posse had begun their night's work.

The dog struggled frantically to free himself from Aileen's arms; again
and again she choked him that he might not bark and betray his master.
The terrified sheep bleated loud and long, trampling one another in vain
efforts to get through or over the wall.

"Oh, Rag, Rag,--stop, or I must kill you, dear, dear little Rag--oh, I
can't choke you--I can't--I can't! Rag, be still, I say--oh--"

Between his desire to free his limbs, to breathe freely, and the
instinctive longing to follow his master, the dog's powerful muscles
were doing double work.

"Oh, what shall I do--what shall I do--" she groaned in her
helplessness. The dog's frantic struggles were proving too much for her
strength, for she had to hold him with one hand; the other was on his
windpipe. She knew 'Lias would soon be coming home; he could hear the
sheep from the road, as she already heard the subdued bay of the hound
and the muffled bark of the collie, shut--thanks to Mrs. Caukins'
premonition of what might happen--within four walls. She looked about
her--a strip of her white skirt lay on the ground--_Could she--?_

"No, Rag darling--no, I can't, I can't--" she began to cry. Through her
tears she saw something sticking up from the hoof-trampled earth near
the strip of cotton--a knife--

She was obliged to take her hand from the dog's throat in order to pick
it up--there was one joyous bark....

"O Rag, forgive me--forgive!" she cried under her breath, sobbing as if
her heart would break.

       *       *       *       *       *

She picked up the piece of skirt, and fled with the knife in her
hand--over the wall, over the pastures, that seemed lighter beneath the
rising stars, down the highroad into the glare of an arc-light. She
looked at the instrument of death as she ran; it was a banana knife such
as Luigi used continually in his shop. She crossed the bridge, dropped
the knife over the guard into the rushing Rothel; re-crossed the bridge
and, throwing back the wings of the Scotch plaid cape she wore, examined
in the full light of the powerful terminal lamp her hands, dress, waist,
cuffs.--There was evidence.

She took off her cape, wrapped it over head and shoulders, folded it
close over both arms, and went back to the house. She heard carriages
coming up the road to The Gore.

Mrs. Caukins, in a quivering state of excitement, called to her from the
back porch:

"Come out here, Aileen; 'Lias hasn't got back yet--the sheep are making
the most awful noise; something's the matter over there, you may
depend--and I can see lights, can you?"

"Yes," she answered unsteadily. "I saw them a few minutes ago. I didn't
stay with Ellen, but went up the road a piece, for my head was aching
too, and I thought a little air would do me good--and I believe I got
frightened seeing the lights--I heard the sheep too--it's dreadful to
think what it means."

Mrs. Caukins turned and looked at her sharply; the light from the
kitchen shone out on the porch.

"Well, I must say you look as if you'd seen a ghost; you're all of a
shiver; you'd better go in and warm you and take a hot water bag up to
bed with you; it's going to be a frosty night. I'm going to stay here
till 'Lias comes back. I'm thankful the twins are abed and asleep, or I
should have three of you on my hands. Just as soon as 'Lias gets back,
I'm going into my room to lie down--I can't sleep, but if I stay up on
my feet another hour I shall collapse with my nerves and my head; you
can do what you've a mind to."

Aileen went into the kitchen. When Mrs. Caukins came in, fifteen minutes
later, with the information that she could see by the motion of 'Lias'
lantern that he was near the house, she found the girl huddled by the
stove; she was still wrapped in her cape. A few minutes afterwards she
went up to her room for the night.

Late in the evening there was a rumor about town that Champney Googe had
been murdered in the Colonel's sheepfold. Before midnight this was
contradicted, and the fact established that 'Lias had found his dog
stabbed to death in the fold, and that he said he had seen traces of a
terrific struggle. The last news, that came in over the telephone from
the quarries, was to the effect that no trace of the fugitive was found
in the quarry woods and the posse were now on the county line scouring
the hills to the north. The New York detectives, arriving on the evening
train, were carried up to join the Flamsted force.

The next day the officers of the law returned, and confirmed the report,
already current in the town, that Champney Googe had outwitted them and
made his escape. Every one believed he would attempt to cross the Canada
border, and the central detective agency laid its lines accordingly.


XV

Since Champney Googe's escape on that October night, two weeks had been
added to the sum of the hours that his friends were counting until they
should obtain some definite word of his fate. During that time the love
of the sensational, which is at the root of much so-called communal
interest, was fed by the excitement of the nominal proceedings against
Luigi Poggi. On the night of Champney's flight he went to Father Honoré
and Elmer Wiggins, and confessed his complicity in the affair at the
sheepfold. Within ten days, however, the Italian had been exonerated for
his attack on the escaped criminal; nor was the slightest blame attached
to such action on his part. He had been duly sworn in by the Colonel,
and was justified in laying hands on the fugitive, although the wisdom
of tackling a man, who was in such desperate straits, of his own accord
and alone was questioned. Not once during the sharp cross examination,
to which he was subjected by Emlie and the side-judge, was Aileen's name
mentioned--nor did he mention it to Father Honoré. Her secret was to be
kept.

During those two weeks of misery and suspense for all who loved Champney
Googe, Octavius Buzzby was making up his mind on a certain subject. Now
that it was fully made up, his knock on the library door sounded more
like a challenge than a plea for admittance.

"Come in, Octavius."

Mrs. Champney was writing. She pushed aside the pad and, moving her
chair, faced him. Octavius noted the uncompromising tone of voice when
she bade him enter, and the hard-set lines of her face as she turned
inquiringly towards him. For a moment his courage flagged; then the
righteousness of his cause triumphed. He closed the door behind him.
This was not his custom, and Mrs. Champney looked her surprise.

"Anything unusual, Octavius?"

"I want a talk with you, Mrs. Champney."

"Sit down then." She motioned to a chair; but Octavius shook his head.

"I can say all I've got to say standing; it ain't much, but it's to the
point."

Mrs. Champney removed her glasses and swung them leisurely back and
forth on their gold chain. "Well, to the point, then."

He felt the challenge implied in her words and accepted it.

"I've served this estate pretty faithful for hard on to thirty-seven
years. I've served the Judge, and I've served his son, and now I'm going
to work to save the man that's named for that son--"

Mrs. Champney interrupted him sharply, decisively.

"That will do, Octavius. There is no occasion for you to tell me this; I
knew from the first you would champion his cause--no matter how bad a
one. We'll drop the subject; you must be aware it is not a particularly
pleasant one to me."

Octavius winced. Mrs. Champney smiled at the effect of her words; but he
ignored her remark.

"I like to see fair play, Mrs. Champney, and I've seen some things here
in Champo since the old Judge died that's gone against me. Right's right
and wrong's wrong, and I've stood by and kept still when I'd ought to
have spoken; perhaps 't would have been better for us all if I had--and
I'm including Champney Googe. When his father died--" Mrs. Champney
started, leaned forward in her chair, her hands tightly grasping the
arms.

"His father--" she caught up her words, pressed her thin lips more
closely together, and leaned back again in her chair. Octavius looked at
her in amazement.

"Yes," he repeated, "his father, Warren Googe; who else should I mean?"

Mrs. Champney made no reply, and Octavius went on, wetting his lips to
facilitate articulation, for his throat was going dry:

"His father made me promise to look out for the child that was a-coming;
and another man, Louis Champney, your husband,"--Mrs. Champney sat up
rigid, her eyes fixed in a stare upon the speaker's lips,--"told me when
the boy come that he'd father him as was fatherless--"

She interrupted him again, a sneering smile on her lips:

"You know as well as I, Octavius Buzzby, what Mr. Champney's will
was--too feeble a thing to place dependence on for any length of time;
if he said that, he didn't mean it--not as you think he did," she added
in a tone that sent a shiver along Octavius' spine. But he did not
intend to be "downed," as he said to himself, "not this time by Almeda
Champney." He continued undaunted:

"I do know what he meant better'n anybody living, and I know what he was
going to do for the boy; and _I_ know, too, Mrs. Champney, who hindered
him from having his will to do for the boy; and right's right, and
now's your time to make good to his memory and intentions--to make good
your husband's will for Champney Googe and save your husband's name from
disgrace and more besides. _You_ know--but you never knew I did till
now--what Louis Champney promised to do for the boy--and he told me more
than once, Mrs. Champney, for he trusted _me_. He told me he was going
to educate the boy and start him well in life, and that he wasn't going
to end there; he told me he was going to leave him forty thousand
dollars, Mrs. Champney--and he told me this not six weeks before he
died; and the interest on forty thousand has equalled the principal by
this time,--and you know best _why_ he hasn't had his own--I ain't blind
and nobody else here in Flamsted. And now I've come to ask you, if
you've got a woman's heart instead of a stone in your bosom, to make
over that principal and interest to the Quarry Company and save the boy
Louis Champney loved; he told me once what I knew, that his blood flowed
in that child's veins--"

"That's a lie--take that back!" she almost shrieked under her breath.
She started to her feet, trembling in every limb, her face twitching
painfully.

Octavius was appalled at the effect of his words; but he dared not
falter now--too much was at stake--although fearful of the effect of any
further excitement upon the woman before him. He spoke appeasingly:

"I can't take that back, for it's true, Mrs. Champney. You know as well
as I do that far back his mother was a Champney."

"Oh--I forgot." She dropped into her chair and drew a long breath as of
exhaustion. "What were you saying?" She passed her hand slowly over her
eyes, then put on her glasses. Octavius saw by that one movement that
she had regained her usual control. He, too, felt relieved, and spoke
more freely:

"I said I want you to make good that eighty thousand dollars--"

"Don't be a fool, Octavius Buzzby,"--she broke in upon him coldly, a
world of scornful pity in her voice,--"you mean well, but you're a fool
to think that at my time of life I'm going to impoverish myself and my
estate for Champney Googe. You've had your pains for nothing. Let him
take his punishment like any other man--he's no better, no worse; it's
the fault of his bringing up; Aurora has only herself to thank."

Octavius took a step forward. By a powerful effort he restrained himself
from shaking his fist in her face. He spoke under his breath:

"You leave Aurora's name out of this, Mrs. Champney, or I'll say things
that you'll be sorry to hear." His anger was roused to white heat and he
dared not trust himself to say more.

She laughed out loud--the forced, mocking laugh of a miserable old age.
"I knew from the first Aurora Googe was at the bottom of this--"

"She doesn't know anything about this, I came of--"

"You keep still till I finish," she commanded him, her faded eyes
sending forth something from behind her glasses that resembled blue
lightning; "I say she's at the bottom of this as she's been at the
bottom of everything else in Flamsted. She'll never have a penny of my
money, that was Louis Champney's, to clear either herself or her
state's-prison brat! Tell her that for me with my compliments on her
son's career.--And as for you, Octavius Buzzby, I'll repeat what you
said: I'm not blind and nobody else is in Flamsted, and I know, and
everybody here knows, that you've been in love with Aurora Googe ever
since my father took her into his home to bring up."

She knew that blow would tell. Octavius started as if he had been struck
in the face by the flat of an enemy's hand. He stepped forward quickly
and looked her straight in the eyes.

"You she-devil," he said in a low clear voice, turned on his heel and
left the room. He closed the door behind him, and felt of the knob to
see that he had shut it tight. This revelation of a woman's nature was
sickening him; he wanted to make sure that the library door was shut
close upon the malodorous charnel house of the passions. He shivered
with a nervous chill as he hurried down the hall and went upstairs to
his room in the ell.

He sat down on the bed and leaned his head on his hands, pressing his
fingers against his throbbing temples. Half an hour passed; still he sat
there trying to recover his mental poise; the terrible anger he had
felt, combined with her last thrust, had shocked him out of it.

At last he rose; went to his desk; opened a drawer, took out a tin box,
unlocked it, and laid the papers and books it contained one by one on
the table to inspect them. He selected a few, snapped a rubber about the
package and thrust it into the inner breast pocket of his coat. Then he
reached for his hat, went downstairs, left word with Ann that he was
going to drive down for the mail but that he should not be back before
ten, proceeded to the stable, harnessed the mare into a light driving
trap and drove away. He took the road to The Gore.

On approaching the house he saw a light in Aurora's bedroom. He drove
around to the kitchen door and tied the mare to the hitching-post. His
rap was answered by Ellen, a quarryman's daughter whom Mrs. Googe
employed for general help; but she spoke behind the closed door:

"Who is it?"

"It's me, Octavius Buzzby."

She drew the bolt and flung open the door. "Oh, it's you, is it, Mr.
Buzzby? I've got so nervous these last three weeks, I keep the door
bolted most of the time. Have you heard anything?" she asked eagerly,
speaking under her breath.

"No," said Octavius shortly; "I want to see Mrs. Googe. Tell her I must
see her; it's important."

The girl hesitated. "I don't believe she will--and I hate to ask
her--she looks awful, Mr. Buzzby. It scares me just to see her goin'
round without saying a word from morning to night, and then walking half
the night up in her room. I don't believe she's slept two hours a night
since--you know when."

"I guess she'll see me, Ellen; you go and ask her, anyway. I'll stay in
the lower hall."

He heard her rap at the bedroom door and deliver the message. There
followed the sharp click of a lock, the opening of the door and the
sound of Aurora's voice:

"Tell him to come up."

Octavius started upstairs. He had seen her but once in the past three
weeks; that was when he went to her on the receipt of the news of
Champney's flight; he vowed then he would not go again unless sent for;
the sight of the mother's despair, that showed itself in speechless
apathy, was too much for him. He could only grasp her hand at that time,
press it in both his, and say: "Aurora, if you need me, call me; you
know me. We'll help all we can--both of you--"

But there was no response. He tiptoed out of the room as if leaving the
presence of the dead.

Now, as he mounted the stairs, he had time to wonder what her attitude
would be after these three weeks of suspense. A moment more and he stood
in her presence, mute, shocked, heartsick at the change that this month
of agony had wrought in her. Her face was ghastly in its pallor; deep
yellowish-purple half-circles lay beneath her sunken eyes; every
feature, every line of the face was sharpened, and on each cheek bone
burned a fever spot of vivid scarlet; her dry eyes also burned with
unnatural and fevered brightness, the heavy eyelids keeping up a
continuous quivering, painful to see. The hand she held out to him
throbbed quick and hard in his grasp.

"Any news, Tave?" Her voice was dull from despair.

He shook his head; the slow tears coursed down his cheeks; he could not
help it.

"Sit down, Tave; you said it was important."

He controlled his emotion as best he could. "Aurora, I've been thinking
what can be done when he's found--"

"If he ever is! Oh, Tave, Tave--if I could only know something--where he
is--if living; I can't sleep thinking--" She wrung her clasped hands and
began to walk nervously back and forth in the room.

"Aurora, I feel sure he's living, but when he's found--then's the time
to help."

"How?" She turned upon him almost savagely; it looked as if her
primitive mother-passion were at bay for her young. "Where's help to
come from? I've nothing left."

"But I have." He spoke with confidence and took out the package from
his breast pocket. He held it out to her. "See here, Aurora, here's the
value of twenty thousand dollars--take it--use it as your own."

She drew away from it.--"Money!" She spoke almost with horror.

"Yes, Aurora, honest money. Take it and see how far 't will go towards
saving prosecution for him."

"You mean--," she hesitated; her dry eyes bored into his that dropped
before her unwavering gaze, "--you mean you're giving your hard-earned
wages to me to help save my boy?"

"Yes, and glad to give them--if you knew how glad, Aurora--"

She covered her face with her hands. Octavius took her by the arm and
drew her to a chair.

"Sit down," he said gently; "you're all worn out."

She obeyed him passively, still keeping her hands before her face. But
no sooner was she seated than she began to rock uneasily back and forth,
moaning to herself, till suddenly the long-dried fount was opened up;
the merciful blessing of tears found vent. She shook with uncontrollable
sobbing; she wept for the first time since Champney's flight, and the
tears eased her brain for the time of its living nightmare.

Octavius waited for her weeping to spend itself. His heart was wrung
with pity, but he was thankful for every tear she shed; his
gratefulness, however, found a curious inner expression.

"Damn her--damn her--damn her--" he kept saying over and over to
himself, and the mere repetition seemed to ease him of his over-powering
surcharge of pity. But it was Almeda Champney he had in mind, and, after
all, his unuttered inner curses were only a prayer for help, read
backwards.

At last, Aurora Googe lifted her face from her hands and looked at
Octavius Buzzby. He reddened and rose to go.

"Tave, wait a little while; don't go yet."

He sat down.

"I thought--I felt all was lost--no one cared--I was alone--there was no
help. You have shown me that I have been wrong--all wrong--such
friends--such a friend as you--" Her lips quivered; the tears welled
from the red and swollen lids. "I can't take the money, Tave, I
can't--don't look so--only on one condition. I've been coming to a
decision the last two days. I'm going straight to Almeda, Tave, and ask
her, beg her, if I have to, on my bended knees to save my boy--she has
more than enough--you know, Tave, what Champney should have had--"

Octavius nodded emphatically and found his voice.

"Don't I know? You may bet your life I know more'n I've ever told,
Aurora. Don't I know how Louis Champney said to me: 'Tave, I shall see
the boy through; forty thousand of mine is to be his'; and that was six
weeks before he died; and don't I know, too, how I didn't get a glimpse
of Louis Champney again till two weeks before his death, and then he was
unconscious and didn't know me or any one else?"

Octavius paused for breath. Aurora Googe rose and went to the closet.

"I must go now, Tave; take me with you." She took out a cloak and
burnous.

"I hate to say it, Aurora, but I'm afraid it won't do no good; she's a
tough cuss when it comes to money--"

"But she must; he's her own flesh and blood and she's cheated him out of
what is rightfully his. It's been my awful pride that kept me from going
sooner--and--oh, Tave, Tave,--I tried to make my boy promise never to
ask her for money! I've been hoping all along she would offer--"

"Offer! Almeda Champney offer to help any one with her money that was
Louis Champney's!"

"But she has enough of her own, Tave; the money that was my boy's
grandfather's."

"You don't know her, Aurora, not yet, after all you've suffered from
her. If you'd seen her and lived with her as I have, year out and year
in, you'd know her love of money has eat into her soul and gangrened it.
'T ain't no use to go, I tell you, Aurora." He put out his hand to
detain her, for she had thrown on her cloak and was winding the burnous
about her head.

"Tave, I'm going; don't say another word against it; and you must take
me down. She isn't the only one who has loved money till it blinded them
to duty--I can't throw stones--and after all she's a woman; I am going
to ask her to help with the money that is rightfully my boy's--and if
she gives it, I will take your twenty thousand to make up the amount."
She pressed the package into his hand.

"But what if she doesn't?"

"Then I'll ask Father Honoré to do what he proposed to do last week: go
to Mr. Van Ostend and ask him for the money--there's nothing left but
that." She drew her breath hard and led the way from the room,
hurriedly, as if there were not a moment to lose. Octavius followed her,
protesting:

"Try Mr. Van Ostend first, Aurora; don't go to Mrs. Champney now."

"Now is the only time. If I hadn't asked my own relation, Mr. Van Ostend
would have every reason to say, 'Why didn't you try in your own family
first?'"

"But, Aurora, I'm afraid to have you."

"Afraid! I, of Almeda Champney?"

She stopped short on the stairs to look back at him. There was a trace
of the old-time haughtiness in her bearing. Octavius welcomed it, for he
was realizing that he could not move her from her decision, and as for
the message from Almeda Champney, he knew he never could deliver it--he
had no courage.

"You needn't sit up for me, Ellen," she said to the surprised girl as
they went out; "it may be late before I get home; bolt the back door,
I'll take the key to the front."

He helped her into the trap, and in silence they drove down to The Bow.


XVI

Aurora Googe spoke for the first time when Octavius left her at the door
of Champ-au-Haut.

"Tave, don't leave me; I want you to be near, somewhere in the hall, if
she is in the library. I want a witness to what I must say and--I trust
you. But don't come into the room no matter what is said."

"I won't, Aurora, and I'll be there in a few minutes. I'm just going to
drive to the stable and send the boy down for the mail, and I'll be
right back. There's Aileen."

The girl answered the knock, and on recognizing who it was caught her
breath sharply. She had not seen Mrs. Googe during the past month of
misery and shame and excitement, and previous to that she had avoided
Champney Googe's mother on account of the humiliation her love for the
son had suffered at that son's hands--a humiliation which struck at the
roots of all that was truest and purest in that womanhood, which was
drying up the clear-welling spring of her buoyant temperament, her young
enjoyment in life and living and all that life offers of best to
youth--offers once only.

She started back at the sight of those dark eyes glowing with an
unnatural fire, at the haggard face, its pallor accentuated by the white
burnous. One thought had time to flash into consciousness before the
woman standing on the threshold could speak: here was suffering to
which her own was as a candle light to furnace flame.

"I've come to see Mrs. Champney, Aileen; is she in the library?"

"Yes,"--the girl's lips trembled,--"shall I tell her you are here?"

"No." She threw aside her cloak as if in great haste; Aileen took it and
laid it on a chair. Mrs. Googe went swiftly to the library door and
rapped. Aileen heard the "Come in," and the exclamation that followed:
"So you've come at last, have you!"

She knew that tone of voice and what it portended. She put her fingers
in her ears to shut out further sound of it, and ran down the hall to
the back passageway, closed the door behind her and stood there
trembling from nervousness.--Had Mrs. Googe obtained some inkling that
she had a message to deliver from that son?--a message she neither could
nor would deliver? Did Champney Googe's mother know that she had seen
that son in the quarry woods? Mrs. Googe's friends had told her the
truth of the affair at the sheepfold, when it was found that her
unanswered suspicions were liable to unsettle her reason.--Could she
know of that message? Could any one?

The mere presence in the house of this suffering woman set Aileen's
every nerve tingling with sickening despair. She determined to wait
there in the dimly lighted back hall until Octavius should make his
appearance, be it soon or late; he always came through here on his way
to the ell.

Aurora Googe looked neither to right nor left on entering the room. She
went straight to the library table, on the opposite side of which Mrs.
Champney was still sitting where Octavius had left her nearly two hours
before. She stemmed both hands on it as if finding the support
necessary. Fixing her eyes, already beginning to glaze with the
increasing fever, upon her sister-in-law, she spoke, but with apparent
effort:

"Yes, I've come, at last, Almeda--I've come to ask help for my boy--"

Mrs. Champney interrupted her; she was trembling visibly, even Aurora
Googe saw that.

"I suppose this is Octavius Buzzby's doings. When I gave him that
message it was final--_final_, do you hear?"

She raised her voice almost an octave in the intense excitement she was
evidently trying to combat. The sound penetrated to Aileen, shut in the
back hall, and again she thrust her fingers into her ears. At that
moment Octavius entered from the outer door.

"What are you doing here, Aileen?" For the first time in his life he
spoke roughly to her.

She turned upon him her white scared face. "What is _she_ doing?" she
managed to say through chattering teeth.

Octavius repented him, that under the strain of the situation he had
spoken to her as he had. "Go to bed, Aileen," he said firmly, but
gently; "this ain't no place for you now."

She needed but that word; she was half way up the stairs before he had
finished. He heard her shut herself into the room. He hung up his coat,
noiselessly opened the door into the main hall, closed it softly behind
him and took his stand half way to the library door. He saw nothing, but
he heard all.

For a moment there was silence in the room; then Aurora spoke in a dull
strained voice:

"I don't know what you mean--I haven't had any message, and--and"--she
swallowed hard--"nothing is final--nothing--not yet--that's why I've
come. You must help me, Almeda--help me to save Champney; there is no
one else in our family I can call upon or who can do it--and there is a
chance--"

"What chance?"

"The chance to save him from--from imprisonment--from a living death--"

"Has he been taken?"

"Taken!"--she swayed back from the table, clutching convulsively the
edge to preserve her balance--"don't--don't, Almeda; it will kill me. I
am afraid for him--afraid--don't you understand?--Help me--let me have
the money, the amount that will save my son--free him--"

She swayed back towards the table and leaned heavily upon it, as fearing
to lose her hold lest she should sink to her knees. Mrs. Champney was
recovering in a measure from the first excitement consequent upon the
shock of seeing the woman she hated standing so suddenly in her
presence. She spoke with cutting sarcasm:

"What amount, may I inquire, do you deem necessary for the present to
insure prospective freedom for your son?"

"You know well enough, Almeda; I must have eighty thousand at least."

Mrs. Champney laughed aloud--the same mocking laugh of a miserable old
age that had raised Octavius Buzzby's anger to a white heat of rage.
Hearing it again, the man of Maine, without fully realizing what he was
doing, turned back his cuffs. He could scarce restrain himself
sufficiently to keep his promise to Aurora.

"Eighty thousand?--hm--m; between you and Octavius Buzzby there would be
precious little left either at Champ-au-Haut or of it." She turned in
her chair in order to look squarely up into the face of the woman on the
opposite side of the table. "And you expect me to impoverish myself for
the sake of Champney Googe?"

"It wouldn't impoverish you--you have your father's property and more
too; he is of your own blood--why not?"

"Why not?" she repeated and laughed out again in her scorn; "why should
I, answer me that?"

"He is your brother, Warren Googe's son--don't make me say any more,
Almeda Champney; you know that nothing but this, nothing on earth--could
have brought me here to ask anything of _you_!"

There was a ring of the old-time haughty independence in her voice;
Octavius rejoiced to hear it. "She's getting a grip on herself," he said
to himself; "I hope she'll give her one 'fore she gets through with
her."

"Why didn't my brother save his money for him then--if he's his son?"
she demanded sharply, but breathing short as she spoke the last words in
a tone that conveyed the venom of intense hatred.

"Almeda, don't; you know well enough 'why'; don't keep me in such
suspense--I can't bear it; only tell me if you will help."

She seemed to gather herself together; she swept round the table; came
close to the woman in the armchair; bent to her; the dark burning eyes
fixed the faded blue ones. "Tell me quick, I say,--I can bear no more."

"Aurora Googe, I sent word to you by Octavius Buzzby that I would not
help your state's-prison bird--fledged from your nest, not mine,--"

She did not finish, for the woman she was torturing suddenly laid a hot
hand hard and close, for the space of a few seconds, over those
malevolent lips. Mrs. Champney drew back, turned in her chair and
reached for the bell.

Aurora removed her hand.

"Stop there, you've said enough, Almeda Champney!" she commanded her.
She pointed to the portrait over the fireplace. "By the love he bore my
son--by the love we two women bore him--help--"

Mrs. Champney rose suddenly by great effort from her chair. The two
women stood facing each other.

"Go--go!" she cried out shrilly, hoarsely; her face was distorted with
passion, her hands were clenched and trembling violently, "leave my
sight--leave my house--you--_you_ ask _me_, by the love we bore Louis
Champney, to save from his just deserts Louis Champney's bastard!"

Her voice rose to a shriek; she shook her fist in Aurora's face, then
sank into her chair and, seizing the bell, rang it furiously.

Octavius darted forward, but stopped short when he heard Aurora's
voice--low, dull, as if a sickening horror had quenched forever its
life:

"You have thought _that_ all these years?--O God!--Louis--Louis, what
more--"

She fell before Octavius could reach her. Aileen and Ann, hearing the
bell, came running through the hall into the room.

"Help me up stairs, Aileen,"--the old woman was in command as
usual,--"give me my cane, Ann; don't stand there staring like two
fools."

Aileen made a sign to Octavius to call Hannah; the two women helped the
mistress of Champ-au-Haut up to her room.

Mrs. Googe seemed not to have lost consciousness, for as Hannah bent
over her she noticed that her eyelids quivered.

"She's all wore out, poor dear, that's what's the matter," said Hannah,
raising her to a sitting position; she passed her hand tenderly over the
dark hair.

Aileen came running down stairs bringing salts and cologne. Hannah
bathed her forehead and chafed her wrists.

In a few minutes the white lips quivered, the eyes opened; she made an
effort to rise. Octavius helped her to her feet; but for Aileen's arm
around her she would have fallen again.

"Take me home, Tave." She spoke in a weak voice.

"I will, Aurora," he answered promptly, soothingly, although his hands
trembled as he led her to a sofa; "I'll just hitch up the pair in the
carryall and Hannah'll ride up with us, won't you, Hannah?"

"To be sure, to be sure. Don't you grieve yourself to death, Mis'
Googe," she said tenderly.

"Don't wait to harness into the carryall, Tave--take me now--in the
trap--take me away from here. I don't need you, Hannah. I didn't know I
was so weak--the air will make me feel better; give me my cloak,
Aileen."

The girl wrapped her in it, adjusted the burnous, that had fallen from
her head, and went with her to the door. Aurora turned and looked at
her. The girl's heart was nigh to bursting. Impulsively she threw her
arms around the woman's neck and whispered: "If you need me, do send for
me--I'll come."

But Aurora Googe went forth from Champ-au-Haut without a word either to
the girl, to Hannah, or to Octavius Buzzby.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the first two miles they drove in silence. The night was clear but
cold, the ground frozen hard; a northwest wind roared in the pines along
the highroad and bent the bare treetops on the mountain side. From time
to time Octavius heard the woman beside him sigh heavily as from
physical exhaustion. When, at last, he felt that she was shivering, he
spoke:

"Are you cold, Aurora? I've got something extra under the seat."

"No, I'm not cold; I feel burning up."

He turned to look at her face in the glare of an electric light they
were passing. It was true; the rigor was that of increasing fever; her
cheeks were scarlet.

"I wish you'd have let me telephone for the doctor; I don't feel right
not to leave you in his hands to-night, and Ellen hasn't got any head on
her."

"No--no; I don't need him; he couldn't do me any good--nobody
can.--Tave, did you hear her, what she said?" She leaned towards him to
whisper her question as if she feared the dark might have ears.

"Yes, I heard her--damn her! I can't help it, Aurora."

"And you don't believe it--you _know_ it isn't true?"

Octavius drew rein for a moment; lifted his cap and passed the back of
his hand across his forehead to wipe off the sweat that stood in beads
on it. He turned to the woman beside him; her dark eyes were devouring
his face in the effort, or so it seemed, to anticipate his answer.

"Aurora, I've known you" (how he longed to say "loved you," but those
were not words for him to speak to Aurora Googe after thirty years of
silence) "ever since you was sixteen and old Mr. Googe took you, an
orphan girl, into his home; and I knew Louis Champney from the time he
was the same age till he died. What I've seen, I've seen; and what I
know, I know. Louis Champney loved you better'n he loved his life, and I
know you loved him; but if the Almighty himself should swear it's true
what Almeda Googe said, I wouldn't believe him--I wouldn't!"

The terrible nervous strain from which the woman was suffering lessened
under the influence of his speech. She leaned nearer.

"It was not true," she whispered again; "I know you'll believe me."

Her voice sounded weaker than before, and Octavius grew alarmed lest she
have another of what Hannah termed a "sinking spell" then and there. He
drew rein suddenly, and so tightly that the mare bounded forward and
pulled at a forced pace up the hill to The Gore.

"And she thought _that_ all these years--and I never knew. That's why
she hates my boy and won't help--oh, how could she!"

She shivered again. Octavius urged the mare to greater exertion. If only
he could get the stricken woman home before she had another turn.

"How could she?" he repeated with scathing emphasis; "just as any
she-devil can set brooding on an evil thought for years till she's
hatched out a devil's dozen of filthy lies." He drew the reins a little
too tightly in his righteous wrath, and the mare reared suddenly. "What
the dev--whoa, there Kitty, what you about?"

He calmed the resentful beast, and they neared the house in The Gore at
a quick trot.

"You don't think she has ever spoken to any one before--not so, do you,
Tave? not to Louis ever?--"

"No, I don't, Aurora. Louis Champney wouldn't have stood that--I know
him well enough for that; but she might have hinted at a something, and
it's my belief she did. But don't you fret, Aurora; she'll never speak
again--I'd take my oath on that--and if I dared, I'd say I wish Almighty
God would strike her dumb for saying what she has."

They had reached the house. She lifted her face to the light burning in
her bedroom.

"Oh, my boy--my boy--" she moaned beneath her breath. Octavius helped
her out, and holding the reins in one hand, with the other supported her
to the steps; her knees gave beneath her.--"Oh, where is he
to-night--what shall I do!--Think for me, Tave, act for me, or I shall
go mad--"

Octavius leaned to the carriage and threw the reins around the
whipstock.

"Aurora," he grasped her firmly by the arm, "give me the key."

She handed it to him; he opened the door; led her in; called loudly for
Ellen; and when the frightened girl came hurrying down from her room, he
bade her see to Mrs. Googe while he went for the doctor.


XVII

"The trouble is she has borne up too long."

The doctor was talking to Father Honoré while untying the horse from the
hitching-post at the kitchen porch.

"She has stood it longer than I thought she could; but without the
necessary sleep even her strong constitution and splendid physique can't
supply sufficient nerve force to withstand such a strain--it's fearful.
Something had to give somewhere. Practically she hasn't slept for over
three weeks, and, what's more, she won't sleep till--she knows one way
or the other. I can't give her opiates, for the strain has weakened her
heart--I mean functionally." He stepped into the carriage. "You haven't
heard anything since yesterday morning, have you?"

"No; but I'm inclined to think that now he has put them off the track
and got them over the border, he will make for New York again. It's my
belief he will try to get out of the country by that door instead of by
way of Canada."

"I never thought of that." He gathered up the reins, and, leaning
forward from the hood, looked earnestly into the priest's eyes. "Make
her talk if you can--it's her only salvation. She hasn't opened her lips
to me, and till she speaks out--you understand--I can do nothing. The
fever is only the result of the nerve-strain."

"I wish it were in my power to help her. I may as well tell you
now--but I'd like it to remain between ourselves, of course I've told
the Colonel--that I determined last night to go down to New York and see
if I can accomplish anything. I shall have two private detectives there
to work with me. You know the city agency has its men out there
already?"

"No, I didn't. I thought all the force was centred here in this State
and on the Canada line. It strikes me that if she could know you were
going--and for what--she might speak. You might try that, and let me
know the result."

"I will."

The doctor drove off. Father Honoré stood for a few minutes on the back
porch; he was thinking concentratedly:--How best could he approach the
stricken mother and acquaint her with his decision to search for her
son?

He was roused by the sound of a gentle voice speaking in French:

"Good-morning, Father Honoré; how is Mrs. Googe? I have just heard of
her illness."

It was Sister Ste. Croix from the sisterhood home in The Gore.

The crisp morning air tinged with a slight color her wrinkled and
furrowed cheeks; her eyelids, also, were horribly wrinkled, as could be
plainly seen when they drooped heavily over the dark blue eyes. Yet
Sister Ste. Croix was still in middle life.

"There is every cause for great anxiety, I grieve to say. The doctor has
just gone."

"Who is with her, do you know?"

"Mrs. Caukins, so Ellen says."

"Do you think she would object to having me nurse her for a while? She
has been so lovely to me ever since I came here, and in one way and
another we have been much together. I have tried again and again to see
her during these dreadful weeks, but she has steadily refused to see me
or any of us--just shut herself out from her friends."

"I wish she would have you about her; it would do her good; and surely
Mrs. Caukins can't leave her household cares to stay with her long, nor
can she be running back and forth to attend to her. I am going to make
the attempt to see her, and if I succeed I will tell her that you are
ready to come at any minute--and only waiting to come to her."

"Do; and won't you tell Ellen I will come down and see her this
afternoon? Poor girl, she has been so terrified with the events of these
last weeks that I have feared she would not stay. If I'm here, I feel
sure she would remain."

"If Mrs. Googe will not heed your request, I do hope you will make it
your mission work to induce Ellen to stay."

"Indeed, I will; I thought she might stay the more willingly if I were
with her."

"I'm sure of it," Father Honoré said heartily.

"Are you going in now?"

"Yes."

"Well, please tell Ellen that if Mrs. Googe wants me, she is to come up
at once to tell me. Good morning."

She walked rapidly down the road beside the house. Father Honoré turned
to look after her. How many, many lives there were like
that!--unselfish, sacrificing, loving, helpful, yet unknown, unthought
of. He watched the slight figure, the shoulders bowed already a little,
but the step still firm and light, till it passed from sight. Then he
entered the kitchen and encountered Mrs. Caukins.

"I never was so glad to see any living soul as I am you, Father Honoré,"
was her greeting; she looked up from the lemon she was squeezing; "I
don't dare to leave her till she gets a regular nurse. It's enough to
break your heart to see her lying there staring straight before her and
not saying a word--not even to the doctor. I told the Colonel when he
was here a little while ago that I couldn't stand it much longer; it's
getting on my nerves--if she'd only say _something_, I don't care what!"

She paused in concocting the lemonade to wipe her eyes on a corner of
her apron.

"Mrs. Caukins, I wish you would say to Mrs. Googe that I am here and
would like to speak with her before I leave town this afternoon. You
might say I expect to be away for a few days and it is necessary that I
should see her now."

"You don't mean to say you're going to leave us right in the lurch,
'fore we know anything about Champney!--Why, what will the Colonel do
without you? You've been his right hand man. He's all broken up; that
one night's work nearly killed him, and he hasn't seemed himself
since--"

Father Honoré interrupted this flow of ejaculatory torrent.

"I've spoken to the Colonel about my going, Mrs. Caukins. He agrees with
me that no harm can come of my leaving here for a few days just at this
time."

"I'll tell her, Father Honoré; I'm going up this minute with the
lemonade; but it's ten to one she won't see you; she wouldn't see the
rector last week--oh, dear me!" She groaned and left the room.

She was back again in a few minutes, her eyes wide with excitement.

"She says you can come up, Father Honoré, and you'd better go up quick
before she gets a chance to change her mind."

He went without a word. When Mrs. Caukins heard him on the stair and
caught the sound of his rap on the door, she turned to Ellen and spoke
emphatically, but with trembling lips:

"I don't believe the archangel Gabriel himself could look at you more
comforting than Father Honoré does; if _he_ can't help her, the Lord
himself can't, and I don't mean that for blasphemy either. Poor
soul--poor soul"--she wiped the tears that were rolling down her
cheeks,--"here I am the mother of eight children and never had to lose a
night's sleep on account of their not doing right, and here's Aurora
with her one and can't sleep nor eat for the shame and trouble he's
brought on her and all of us--for I'm a Googe. Life seems sometimes to
get topsy-turvy, and I for one can't make head nor tail of it. The
Colonel's always talking about Nature's 'levelling up,' but I don't see
any 'levelling'; seems to me as if she was turning everything up on edge
pretty generally.--Give me that rice I saw in the pantry, Ellen; I'm
going to make her a little broth; I've got a nice foreshoulder piece at
home, and it will be just the thing."

Ellen, rejoicing in such talkative companionship, after the three weeks
of dreadful silence in the house, did her bidding, at the same time
taking occasion to ask some questions on her own part, among them one
which set Mrs. Caukins speculating for a week: "Who do you suppose
killed Rag?"

Aurora was in bed, but propped to a sitting position by pillows. When
Father Honoré entered she started forward.

"Have you heard anything?" Her voice was weak from physical exhaustion.

"No, Mrs. Googe--"

She sank back on the pillows; he drew a chair to the bedside.

"--But I have decided to go down to New York and search for myself. I
have a feeling he is there, not in Maine or Canada; and I know that city
from Washington Heights to the Battery."

"You think he'll be found?" She could scarcely articulate the words;
some terror had her by the throat; her eyes showed deadly fear.

"Yes, I think he will."

"But she won't do anything--I--I went to her--"

"Don't exert yourself too much, Mrs. Googe, but if you can tell me whom
you mean, to whom you have applied, it might help me to act
understandingly."

"To his aunt--I went last night."

"Mrs. Champney?"

She closed her eyes and made a motion of assent.

"And she will do nothing?"

"No."

"I fail to understand this. Surely she might give of her abundance to
save one who is of her own blood. Would it do any good, do you think,
for me to see her? I'll gladly go."

She shook her head. "You don't understand."

He waited in silence for some further word; for her to open her eyes at
least. But none was forthcoming; the eyes remained closed. After a while
he said gently:

"Perhaps I might understand, if you felt willing to tell me, if the
effort is not too great."

She opened her eyes and fixed them apathetically on the strong helpful
face.

"I wonder if you could understand--I don't know--you're not a woman--"

"No, but I am human, Mrs. Googe; and human sympathy is a great
enlightener."

"The weight here--and here!" She raised one hand to her head, the other
she laid over her heart. "If I could get rid of that for one hour--I
should be strong again--to live--to endure."

Father Honoré was silent. He knew the long pent stream of grief and
misery must flow in its own channel when once it should burst its
bounds.

"My son must never know--you will give me your word?"

"I give you my word, Mrs. Googe."

She leaned forward from her pillows, looked anxiously at the door, which
was open into the hall, then whispered:

"She said--my son was Louis Champney's--bastard;--_you_ don't believe
it, do you?"

For the space of a second Father Honoré shrank within himself. He could
not tell at that moment whether he had here to do with an overwrought
brain, with a mind obsessed, or with an awful fact. But he answered
without hesitation and out of his inmost conviction:

"No, I do not believe it, Mrs. Googe."

"I thought you wouldn't--Octavius didn't." She sighed profoundly as if
relieved from pain. "That's why she hates me--why she will not help."

"In that case I will go to Mr. Van Ostend. I asked to see you that I
might tell you this."

"Will you--oh, will you?" She sighed again--a sigh of great physical
relief, for she placed her hand again over her heart, pressing it hard.

"That helps here," she said, passing her other hand over her forehead;
"perhaps I can tell you now, before you go--perhaps it will help more."

Her voice grew stronger with every full breath she was now able to draw.
Gradually a look of comprehension replaced the apathetic stare. She
looked squarely at the priest for the first time since his entrance.
Father Honoré could but wonder if the thought behind that look would
find adequate expression.

"You haven't said 'God' to me once since that--that night. Don't speak
to me about Him now, will you? He's too far away--it doesn't mean
anything to me."

"Mrs. Googe, there comes a time in most lives when God seems so far away
that we can find Him only through the Human;--perhaps such a time has
come in your life."

"I don't know; I never thought much about that. But--my god was human,
oh, for so many years!--I loved Louis Champney."

Again there was a long inhalation and exhalation. It seemed as if each
admission, which she forced herself to make, loosened more and more the
tension of the long-racked nerves; as a result the muscles of the throat
relaxed, the articulation grew distinct, the voice stronger.

"--And he loved me--better than life itself. I was so young when it
began--only sixteen. My husband's father took me into his home then to
bring up; I was an orphan. And Louis Champney loved me then and
always--but Almeda Googe, my husband's sister, loved him too--in her
way. Her own father could do nothing with her awful will--it crushed
everybody that came in contact with it--that opposed it; it crushed
me--and in the end, Louis."

She took a little of the lemonade to moisten her lips and went on:

"She was twelve years older than he. She took him when he was in
college; worked on him, lied to him about me; told him I loved her
brother; worked backwards, forwards, underhanded--any way to influence
him against me and get her hold upon him. He went to Europe; she
followed; wrote lying letters to her brother--said she was engaged to be
married to Louis before her return; told Louis I was going to marry her
brother, Warren Googe--in the end she had her way, and always has had
it, and will have it. I married Warren Googe; she was forty when she
married Louis at twenty-eight."

She paused, straightened herself. Something like animation came into her
face.

"It does me good to speak--at last. I've never spoken in all these
years--and I can tell you. My child was born seven months after my
husband's death. Louis Champney came to see me then--up here, in this
room; it was the first time we had dared to see each other alone--but
the baby lay beside me; _that kept us_. He said but little; but he took
up the child and looked at him; then he turned to me. 'This should have
been our son, Aurora,' he said, and I--oh, what will you think of me!"
She dropped her head into her hands.

"I knew in my heart that during all those months I was carrying Warren
Googe's child, I had only one thought: 'Oh, if it were only Louis' and
mine!' And because I was a widow, I felt free to dwell upon that one
thought night and day. Louis' face was always before me. I came in
thought to look upon him as the true father of my boy--not that other
for whom I had had no love. And I took great comfort in that
thought--and--and--my boy is the living image of Louis Champney."

She withdrew her hands, clasping them nervously and rubbing them in each
other.

"Oh, I sinned, I sinned in thought, and I've been punished, but there
was never anything more--and last night I had to hear that from her!"

For a moment the look of deadly fear returned to the eyes, but only for
a moment; her hands continued to work nervously.

"Never anything more; only that day when he took my boy in his arms and
said what he did, we both knew we could not see much of each other for
the rest of our lives--that's why I've kept so much to myself. He kissed
the baby then, laid him in my arms and, stooping, kissed me once--only
once--I've lived on that--and said: 'I will do all I can for this boy.'
And--and"--her lips trembled for the first time--"that little baby, as
it lay on my breast, saved us both. It was renunciation--but it made me
hard; it killed Louis.

"I saw Louis seldom and always in the presence of my boy. But Almeda
Champney was not satisfied with what she had done; she transferred her
jealousy to my son. She was jealous of every word Louis spoke to him;
jealous of every hour he was with him. When Louis died, still young--my
son was left unprovided for. That was Almeda Champney's work--she
wouldn't have it.

"Then I sold the first quarry for means to send Champney to college; and
I sold the rest in order to start him well in business, in the world.
But I know that at the bottom of my ambition for him, was the desire
that he might succeed in spite of the fact that his aunt had kept from
him the property which Louis Champney intended to be his. My ambition
has been overweening for Champney's material success--I have urged him
on, when I should have restrained. I have aided him to the extent of my
ability to attain his end. I longed to see him in a position that,
financially, would far out-shine hers. I felt it would compensate in
part. I loved my son--and I loved in him Louis Champney. I alone am to
blame for what has come of it--I--his mother."

Her lips trembled excessively. She waited to control them before she
could continue.

"Last night, when I begged her to help me, she answered me with what I
told you. I could bear no more--"

She leaned back on the pillows, exhausted for a while with her great
effort, but the light of renewed life shone from every feature.

"I am better now," she said, turning to Father Honoré the dark hollow
eyes so full of gratitude that the priest looked away from her.

While this page in human history was being laid open before him, Father
Honoré said nothing. The confession it contained was so awful in its
still depths of pure passion, so far-reaching in its effects on a human
soul, that he felt suddenly the utter insignificance of his own
existence, the futility of all words, the meagreness of all sympathetic
expression. And he was honest enough to withhold all attempt at such.

"I fear you are very tired," he said, and rose to go.

"No, no; I am better already. The telling has done me such good. I shall
soon be up and about. When do you go?"

"This afternoon; and you may expect telegrams from me at almost any
time; so don't be alarmed simply because I send them. I thought you
would prefer to know from day to day."

"You are good--but I can say nothing." The tears welled at last and
overflowed on her cheeks.

"Don't say that--I beg of you." He spoke almost sharply, as if hurt
physically. "Nothing is needed--and I hope you will let Sister Ste.
Croix come in for a few days and care for you. She wants to come."

"Tell her to come. I think I am willing to see any one now--something
has given way here;" she pressed her hand to her head; "it's a great
relief."

"Good-bye." He held out his hand and she placed hers in it; the tears
kept rolling down her cheeks.

"Tell my darling boy, when you see him, that it was my fault--and I love
him so--oh, how I love him--" Her voice broke in a sob.

Father Honoré left the room to cover his emotion. He spoke to Ellen from
the hall, and went out at the front door in order to avoid Mrs. Caukins.
He had need to be alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

That afternoon at the station, Octavius Buzzby met him on the platform.

"Mr. Buzzby, is there any truth in the rumor I heard, as I came to the
train, that Mrs. Champney has had a stroke?"

The face of Champ-au-Haut's factotum worked strangely before he made
answer.

"Yes, she's had a slight shock. The doctor told me this morning that he
knew she'd had the first one over three years ago; this is the second.
I've come down for a nurse he telegraphed for; I expect her on the next
train up--and, Father Honoré--" he hesitated; his hands were working
nervously in each other.

"Yes, Mr. Buzzby?"

"I come down to see you, too, on purpose--"

"To see me?" Father Honoré looked his surprise; his thoughts leaped to a
possible demand on Mrs. Champney's part for his presence at
Champ-au-Haut--she might have repented her words, changed her mind;
might be ready to help her nephew. In that case, he would wait for the
midnight train.

The man of Maine's face was working painfully again; he was struggling
for control; his feelings were deep, tender, loyal; he was capable of
any sacrifice for a friend.

"Father Honoré--I don't want to butt in anywhere--into what ain't my
business, but I do want to know if you're going to New York?"

"Yes, I am."

"Are you going to try to see _him_?"

"I'm going to try to find him--for his mother's sake and his own."

Octavius Buzzby grasped his hand and wrung it. "God bless you!" He
fumbled with his left hand in his breast pocket and drew forth a
package. "Here, you take this--it's honest money, all mine--you use it
for Champney--to help out, you know, in any way you see fit."

Father Honoré was so moved he could not speak at once.

"If Mr. Googe could know what a friend he has in you, Mr. Buzzby," he
said at last, "I don't think he could wholly despair, whatever might
come,"--he pressed the package back into Octavius' hand,--"keep it with
you, it's safer; and I promise you if I need it I will call on you."
Suddenly his indignation got the better of him--"But this is
outrageous!"--he spoke in a low voice but vehemently,--"Mrs. Champney is
abundantly able to do this for her nephew, whereas you--"

"You're right, sir, it's a damned outrage--I beg your pardon, Father
Honoré, I hadn't ought to said that, but I've seen so much, and I'm all
broke up, I guess, with what I've been through since yesterday. I went
to her myself then and made bold to ask her to help with her riches
that's bringing her in eight per cent, and told her some plain truths--"

"You went--!" Father Honoré exclaimed; he had almost said "too," but
caught himself in time.

"Yes, I went, and all I got was an insult for my pains. She's a
she-dev--I beg your pardon, sir; it would serve me right if the Almighty
struck me dumb with a stroke like hers, only hers don't affect her
speech any, Aileen says--I guess her tongue's insured against shock for
life, but it hadn't ought to be, sir, not after the blasphemy it's
uttered. But I ain't the one to throw stones, not after what I've just
said in your presence, sir, and I do beg your pardon, I know what's due
to the clo--"

The train, rounding the curve, whistled deafeningly.

Father Honoré grasped both Octavius' hands; held them close in a firm
cordial grip; looked straight into the small brown eyes that were filled
with tears, the result of pure nervousness.

"We men understand each other, Mr. Buzzby; no apology is necessary--let
me have your prayers while I am away, I shall need them--good-bye--" He
entered the car.

Octavius Buzzby lifted his hat and stood bareheaded on the platform till
the train drew out.



PART FOURTH

Oblivion


I

"I have called to see Mr. Van Ostend, by appointment," said Father
Honoré to the footman in attendance at the door of the mansion on the
Avenue.

He was shown into the library. Mr. Van Ostend rose from the armchair to
greet him.

"I am glad to see you, Father Honoré." He shook hands cordially and drew
up a chair opposite to his own before the blazing hearth. "Be seated; I
have given orders that we are not to be interrupted. I cannot pretend
ignorance as to the cause of your coming--a sad, bad matter for us all.
Have you any news?"

"Only that he is here in New York."

Mr. Van Ostend looked startled. "Here? Since when? My latest advice was
this afternoon from the Maine detectives."

"I heard yesterday from headquarters that he had been traced here, but
he must be in hiding somewhere; thus far they've found no trace of him.
I felt sure, from the very first, he would return; that is why I came
down. He couldn't avoid detection any longer in the country, nor could
he hold out another week in the Maine wilderness--no man could stand it
in this weather."

"How long have you been here, Father Honoré?"

"Three days. I promised Mrs. Googe to do what I could to find him; the
mother suffers most."

"I know--I know; it's awful for her; but, for God's sake, what did he do
it for!"

"Why do we all sin at times?"

"Yes, yes--I know; that's your point of view, but that does not answer
me in this case. He had every opportunity to work along legitimate lines
towards the end he professed to wish to attain--and he had the ability
to attain it; I know this from my experience with him. What could have
possessed him to put himself in the place of a sneak thief--he, born a
gentleman, with Champney blood in his veins?"

Father Honoré did not answer his question which was more an indignant
ejaculation.

"You spoke of my 'point of view,' Mr. Van Ostend. I think I know what
that implies; you mean from the point of view of the priesthood?"

The man on the opposite side of the fire-lighted hearth looked at him in
surprise. "Yes, just that; but I intended no reflection on your opinion;
perhaps I ought to say frankly, that it implied a doubt of your powers
of judgment in a business matter like the one in question. Naturally, it
does not lie in your line."

Father Honoré smiled a little sadly. "Perhaps you may recall that old
saying of the Jew, Nathan the Wise: 'A man is a man before he is either
Christian or Jew.' And we are men, Mr. Van Ostend; men primarily before
we are either financier or priest. Let us speak as man to man; put aside
all points of view entailed by difference of training, and meet on the
common ground of our manhood, I am sure the perspective and
retrospective ought to be in the same line of vision from that
standpoint."

Mr. Van Ostend was silent. He was thinking deeply. The priest saw this,
and waited for the answer which he felt sure would be well thought out
before it found expression. He spoke at last, slowly, weighing his
words:

"I am questioning whether, with the best intentions as men to meet in
the common plane of our manhood, to see from thence alike in a certain
direction, you and I, at our age, can escape from the moulded lines of
our training into that common plane."

"I think we can if we keep to the fundamentals of life."

"We can but try; but there must be then an absolutely unclouded
expression of individual opinion on the part of each." His assertion
implied both a challenge and a doubt. "What is your idea of the reason
for his succumbing to such a temptation?"

"I believe it was the love of money and the power its acquisition
carries with it. I know, too, that Mrs. Googe blames herself for having
fostered this ambition in him. She would only too gladly place anything
that is hers to make good, but there is nothing left; it all went." He
straightened himself. "What I have come to you for, Mr. Van Ostend, is
to ask you one direct question: Are you willing to make good the amount
of the embezzlement to the syndicate and save prosecution in this
special case--save the man, Champney Googe, and so give him another
chance in life? You know, but not so well, perhaps, as I, what years in
a penitentiary mean for a man when he leaves it."

"Are you aware that you are asking me to put a premium on crime?" Mr.
Van Ostend asked coldly. He looked at the priest as if he thought he had
taken leave of his senses.

"That is one way of putting it, I admit; but there is another. Let me
put it to you: if you had had a son; if he were fatherless; if he had
fallen through emulation of other men, wouldn't you like to know that
some man might lend a hand for the sake of the mother?"

"I don't know. Stealing is stealing, whether my son were the thief or
another man's. Why shouldn't a man take his punishment? You know the
everyday argument: the man who steals a loaf of bread gets nine months,
and the man who steals a hundred thousand gets clear. If the law is for
the one and not for the other, the result is, logically, anarchy.
Besides, the man, not he of the street who steals because he is hungry,
but the one who has every advantage of education and environment to make
his way right in life, goes wrong knowingly. Are we in this case to
coddle, to sympathize, to let ourselves be led into philanthropic drivel
over 'judge not that ye be not judged'? I cannot see it so."

"You are right in your reasoning, but you are reasoning according to the
common law, man-made; and I said we could agree only if we keep to the
fundamentals of life."

"Well, if the law isn't a fundamental, what is?"

"I heard Bishop Brooks once say: 'The Bible _was_ before ever it was
written.' And perhaps I can best answer your question by saying the law
of the human existed before the law of which you are thinking was ever
written. Love, mercy, long-suffering _were_ before the law formulated
'an eye for an eye,' or this world could not have existed to the
present time for you and me. It is in recognition of that, in dealing
with the human, that I make my appeal to you--for the mother, first and
foremost, who suffers through the son, her first-born and only child, as
your daughter is your only--" Mr. Van Ostend interrupted him.

"I must beg you, Father Honoré, not to bring my daughter's name into
this affair. I have suffered enough--enough."

"Mr. Van Ostend, pardon me the seeming discourtesy in your own house,
but I am compelled to mention it. After you have given your final
decision to my importuning, there can be no further appeal. The man, if
living, must go to prison. Mrs. Champney positively refuses to help her
nephew in any way. She has been approached twice on the subject of
advancing four-fifths of the hundred thousand; she can do it, but she
won't. She is not a mother; neither has she any real love for her
nephew, for she refuses to aid him in his extremity. I mentioned your
daughter, because you must know that her name has been in the past
connected with the man for whom I am asking the boon of another chance
in life. I have felt convinced that for her sake, if for no other, you
would make this sacrifice."

"My daughter, I am glad to inform you, never cared for the man. She is
too young, too undeveloped. It is the one thing that makes it possible
for me to contemplate what he has done with any degree of sanity. Had he
won her affections, had she loved him--" He paused: it was impossible
for him to proceed.

"Thank God that she was spared that!" Father Honoré ejaculated under his
breath. Mr. Van Ostend looking at him keenly, perceived that he was
under the influence of some powerful emotion. He turned to him, a mute
question on his lips. Father Honoré answered that mute query with
intense earnestness, by repeating what, apparently, he had said to
himself:

"I thank my God that she never cared for him in that way, for otherwise
her life would have been wrecked; nor could you, who would lay down your
life for her happiness, have spared or saved her,--her young affections,
her young faith and joy in life, all shattered, and Life the iconoclast!
That is the saddest part of it. It is women who suffer most and always.
In making this appeal to you, I have had continually in mind his mother,
and you, the father of a woman. I know how your pride must have suffered
in the knowledge that his name, even, has been connected with hers--but
your suffering is as naught compared with that mother's who, at this
very moment, is waiting for some telegram from me that shall tell her
her son is found, is saved. But I will not over urge, Mr. Van Ostend. If
you feel you cannot do this, that it is a matter of principle with you
to refuse, there is no need to prolong this interview which is painful
to us both. I thank you for the time you have given me." He rose to go.
Mr. Van Ostend did likewise.

At that moment a girl's joyous voice sounded in the hall just outside
the door.

"Oh, never mind that, Beales; papa never considers me an interruption.
I'm going in, anyway, to say good night; I don't care if all Wall Street
is there. Has the carriage come?"

There was audible the sound of a subdued protest; then came a series of
quick taps on the door and the sound of the gay voice again:

"Papa--just a minute to say good night; if I can't come in, do you come
out and give me a kiss--do you hear?"

The two men looked at each other. Mr. Van Ostend stepped quickly to the
door and, opening it, stood on the threshold. Something very like a
diaphanous white cloud enwrapped him; two thin arms, visible through it,
went suddenly round his neck; then his arms enfolded her.

"Oh, Papsy dear, don't hug me so hard! You'll crush all my flowers. Ben
sent them; wasn't he a dear? I've promised him the cotillon to-night for
them. Good night." She pecked at his cheek again as he released her; the
cloud of white liberty silk tulle drifted away from the doorway and left
it a blank.

Mr. Van Ostend closed the door; came back to the hearth; stood there,
his arms folded tightly over his chest, his head bowed. For a few
minutes neither man spoke. When the clock on the mantel chimed a quarter
to nine, Father Honoré made a movement to go. Mr. Van Ostend turned
quickly to him and put out a detaining hand.

"May I ask if you are going to continue the search this evening; it's a
bad night."

"Yes; I've had the feeling that, after he has been so long in hiding,
he'll have to come out--he must be at the end of his strength. I am
going out with two detectives now; they have been on the case with me.
This is quite apart from the general detective agency's work."

"Father Honoré," Mr. Van Ostend spoke with apparent effort, "I know I am
right in my reasoning--and you are right in your fundamentals. We both
may be wrong in the end, you in appealing to me for this aid to restrain
prosecution, and I in giving it. Time alone will show us. But if we are,
we must take the consequences of our act. If, by yielding, I make it
easier for another man to do as Champney Googe has done, may God forgive
me; I could never forgive myself. If you, in asking this, have erred in
freeing from his punishment a man who deserves every bit he can get, you
will have to reckon with your own conscience.--Don't misunderstand me.
No spirit of philanthropy influences me in my act. Don't credit me with
any 'love-to-man' attitude. I am going to advance the sum necessary to
avoid prosecution if you find him; but I do it solely on that mother's
account, and"--he hesitated--"because I don't want her, whom you have
just seen, connected, even remotely, by the thought of what a
penitentiary term implies. I don't want to entertain the thought that
even the hem of _my_ child's garment has been so much as touched by a
hand that will work at hard labor for seven, perhaps fifteen, years. And
I want you to understand that, in yielding, my principle remains
unchanged. I owe it to you to say this much, for you have dealt with me
as man to man."

"Mr. Van Ostend, we may both be in the wrong, as you say; if it prove
so, I shall be the first to acknowledge my error to you. My one thought
has been to save that mother further agony and to give a man, still
young, another chance."

"I've understood it so."

He went to his writing table, sat down at it, and, for a moment, busied
himself with making out his personal check for one hundred thousand
dollars payable to the Flamsted Granite Quarries Company. He handed it
to Father Honoré to look at. The priest read it.

"Whatever bail is needed, if an arrest should follow now," said Mr. Van
Ostend further and significantly, "I will be responsible for."

The two men clasped hands and looked understandingly into each other's
eyes. What each read therein, what each felt in the other's palm beats,
they realized there was no need to express in words.

"Let me hear, Father Honoré, so soon as you learn anything definite;
I'll keep you posted so far as I hear."

"I will. Good night, Mr. Van Ostend."

       *       *       *       *       *

On reaching the iron gates to the courtyard, the priest stepped aside to
give unimpeded passage to a carriage just leaving the house. As it
passed him, the electric light flashed athwart the bowed glass front,
already dripping with sleet, and behind it he caught a glimpse of a
girl's delicate face that rose from out the folds of a chinchilla wrap,
like a flower from its sheath. She was chatting gaily with her maid.


II

The night was wild. New York can show such in late November. A gale from
the northeast was driving before it a heavy sleet that froze as it
fell, coating the overhead wires and glazing the asphalt and sidewalks.

It lacked an hour of midnight. From Fleischmann's bakery, the goal of
each man among the shivering hundreds lined up on Tenth Street, the
light streamed out upon a remnant of Life's jetsam--that which is
submerged, which never comes to the surface unless drawn there by some
searching and rescuing hand; that which the home-sheltered never see by
daylight, never know, save from hearsay. In the neighboring rectory of
Grace Church one dim light was burning in an upper room. The marble
church itself looked a part of the winter scene; its walls and
pinnacles, already encrusted with ice crystals, glittered fantastically
in the rays of the arc-light; beneath them, the dark, shuffling,
huddling line of humanity moved uneasily in the discomfort of the keen
wind.

At twelve o 'clock, each unknown, unidentified human unit in that line,
as he reaches the window, puts forth his hand for the loaf, and
thrusting it beneath his coat, if he be so fortunate as to have one, or
under his arm, vanishes....

Whither? As well ask: Whence came he?

Well up towards the bakery, because the hour was early, stood Champney
Googe, unknown, unidentified as yet by three men, Father Honoré and two
detectives, who from the dark archway of a sunken area farther down the
street were scanning this bread-line. The man for whom they were
searching held his head low. An old broad-brimmed felt hat was jammed
over his forehead, almost covering his eyes. The face beneath its shadow
was sunken, drawn; the upper lip, chin, and cheeks covered with a three
weeks' growth of hair that had been blackened with soot. The long period
of wandering in the Maine wilderness had reduced his clothes to a
minimum. His shoes were worn, the leather split, showing bare flesh.
Like hundreds of others in like case, he found himself forced into this
line, even at the risk of detection, through the despairing desperation
of hunger. There was nothing left for him but this--that is, if he were
not to starve. And after this, there remained for him but one thing, one
choice out of three final ones--he knew this well: flight and
expatriation, the act of grace by which a man frees himself from this
life, or the penitentiary. Which should it be?

"Never that last, never!" he said over and over again to himself during
this last month. "Never, never _that_!"

It was the horror of that which spurred him to unimaginable exertion in
the wilderness in order to escape the detectives on his track; to put
them off the scent; to lead them to the Canada border and so induce them
to cross it in their search. He had succeeded; and thereafter his one
thought was to get to New York, to that metropolis where the human unit
is reduced to the zero power, and can dive under, even vanish, to
reappear only momently on the surface to breathe. But having reached the
city, by stolen rides on the top of freight cars, and plunging again
into its maelstrom, he found himself still in the clutch of this
unnamable horror. Docks, piers, bridges, stations were become mere
detective terminals to him--things to be shunned at all cost. The long
perspective of the avenues, the raking view from river to river in the
cross streets, afforded him no shelter from watching eyes--in every
passing glance he read his doom; these, too, were things to be avoided
at all hazard.

For four nights, since he sought refuge in New York, he had crawled into
an empty packing-box in a black alley behind a Water Street wholesale
house. Twice, during this time, he had made the attempt to board as
stowaway an outward-bound steamship and sailing vessel for a South
American port; but he had failed, for the Eyes were upon him--always the
Eyes wherever he went, whenever he looked, Eyes that were spotting him.
In the weakness consequent upon prolonged fasting and the protracted
exposure during his journey from Maine, this horror was becoming an
obsession bordering on delirium. It was even now beginning to dull the
two senses of sight and hearing--at least, he imagined it--as he stood
in line waiting for the loaf that should keep him another day, keep him
for one of two alternatives: flight, if possible to South America,
or ...

As he stood there, the fear that his sight might grow suddenly dim, that
he might in consequence fail in recognition of those Eyes so constantly
on the lookout for him, suddenly increased. He grew afraid, at last, to
look up--What if the Eyes should be there! He bore the ever-increasing
horror as long as he could, then--better starve and have done with it
than die like a dog from sheer fright!--he stepped cautiously, softly,
starting at the crackle of the ice under his tread, off the curbstone
into the street. So far he was safe. He kept his head low, and walked
carelessly towards Third Avenue. When nearing the corner he determined
he would look up. He took the middle of the street. It cost him a
supreme effort to raise his eyes, to look stealthily about him, behind,
before, to right, to left--

_What was that in the dark area archway!_ His sight blurred for the
moment, so increasing the blackness of impending horror; then, under the
influence of this last applied stimulus, his sight grew preternaturally
keen. He discerned one moving form--two--three; to his over-strained
nerves there seemed a whole posse behind them. Oh, the Eyes, the Eyes
that were so constantly on him! Could he never rid himself of them! He
bent his head to the sleeting blast and darted down the middle of the
street to Second Avenue.

_He knew now the alternative._

After a possible five seconds of hesitation the three men gave chase. It
was the make of the man, his motion as he started to run, the running
itself as Champney took the middle of the street, by which Father Honoré
marked him. It was just such a start, just such running, as the priest
had seen many a time on the football field when the goal, which should
decide for victory, was to be made. He recognized it at once.

"That's he!" He spoke under his breath to the two men; the three started
in pursuit.

But Champney Googe was running to goal, and the old training stood him
in good stead. He was across Second Avenue before the men were half way
down Tenth Street; down Eighth Street towards East River he fled, but at
First he doubled on his tracks and eluded them. They lost him as he
turned into Second Avenue again; not a footstep showed on the
ice-coated pavement. They stopped at a telephone station to notify the
police at the Brooklyn Bridge terminals, then paused to draw a long
breath.

"You're sure 't was him?" One of the detectives appealed to Father
Honoré.

"Yes, I'm sure."

"He give us the slip this time; he knew we was after him," the other
panted rather than spoke, for the long run had winded him. "I never see
such running--and look at the glare of ice! He'd have done me up in
another block."

"Well, the hunt's up for to-night, anyway. There's no use tobogganning
round after such a hare at this time of night," said the other, wiping
the wet snow from the inside of his coat collar.

"We've spotted him sure enough," said the first, "and I think, sir, with
due notifications at headquarters for all the precincts to-night, we can
run him down and in to-morrow. If you've no more use for me, I'll just
step round to headquarters and get the lines on him before
daylight--that is, if they'll work." He looked dubiously at the sagging
ice-laden wires.

"You won't need me any longer?" The second man spoke inquiringly, as if
he would like to know Father Honoré's next move.

"I don't need you both, but I'd like one of you to volunteer to keep me
company, for a while, at least. I can't give up this way, although I
know no more of his whereabouts than you do. I've a curious unreasoning
feeling that he'll try the ferries next."

"He can't get at the bridge--we've headed him off there, and it's a bad
night. It's been my experience that this sort don't take to water, not
naturally, on such nights as this. We might try one of the Bowery
lodging houses that I know this sort finds out sometimes. I'll go with
you, if you like."

"Thank you, I want to try the ferries first; we'll begin at the Battery
and work up. How long does the Staten Island boat run?"

"Not after one; but they'll be behind time to-night; it's getting to be
a smothering snow. I don't believe the elevated can run on time either,
and we've got three blocks to walk to the next station."

"We'd better be going, then." Father Honoré bade the other man good
night, and the two walked rapidly to the nearest elevated station on
Second Avenue. It was an up-town train that rolled in covered with sleet
and snow, and they were obliged to wait fully a quarter of an hour
before a south bound one took them to the Battery.

The wind was lessening, but a heavy snowfall had set in. They made their
way across the park to the "tongue that laps the commerce of the world."

Where was that commerce now? Wholly vanished with the multiple daytime
activities that centre near this spot. The great fleet of incoming and
out-going ocean liners, of vessels, barges, tows, ferries, tugs--where
were they in the drifting snow that was blotting out the night in opaque
white? The clank and rush of the elevated, the strident grinding of the
trolleys, the polyglot whistling and tooting of the numerous small river
craft, the cries of 'longshoremen, the roaring basal note of
metropolitan mechanism--all were silenced. Nothing was to be heard, at
the moment of their arrival, but the heavy wash of the harbor waters
against the sea wall and its yeasting churn in the ferry slip.

Near the dock-house they saw some half-obliterated tracks in the snow.
Father Honoré bent to examine them; it availed him nothing. He looked at
his watch; at the same moment he heard the distant hoarse half-smothered
whistle repeated again and again and the deadened beat of the paddle
wheels. Gradually the boat felt her way into the slip. The snow was
falling heavily.

"We will wait here until the boat leaves," said Father Honoré, stepping
inside to a dark wind-sheltered angle of the house.

"It's a wild goose chase we're on," muttered his companion after a
while. The next moment he laid a heavy hand on the priest's arm,
gripping it hard, every muscle tense.

A heavy brewery team, drawn by noble Percherons, rumbled past them down
the slip. On it, behind the driver's seat, was the figure of a man,
crouched low. Had it not been for the bandaged arm and the unnatural
contour it gave to the body's profile, they might have failed to
recognize him. The two stood motionless in the blackness of the inner
angle, pressing close to the iron pillars as their man passed them at a
distance of something less than twelve feet. The warning bell rang; they
hurried on board.

After the boat was well out into the harbor, the detective entered the
cabin to investigate. He returned to report to Father Honoré that the
man was not inside.

"Outside then," said the priest, drawing a sharp short breath.

The two made their way forward, keeping well behind the team. Father
Honoré saw Champney standing by the outside guard chain. He was whitened
by the clinging snow. The driver of the team sang out to him: "I say,
pardner, you'd better come inside!"

He neither turned nor spoke, but, bracing himself, suddenly crouched to
the position for a standing leap, fist clenched....

A great cry rang out into the storm-filled night:

"Champney!"

The two men flung themselves upon him as he leaped, and in the ensuing
struggle the three rolled together on the deck. He fought them like a
madman, using his bandaged arm, his feet, his head. He was powerful with
the fictitious strength of desperation and thwarted intent. But the two
men got the upper hand, and, astride the prostrate form, the detective
forced on the handcuffs. At the sound of the clinking irons, the
prisoner suffered collapse then and there.

"Thank God!" said Father Honoré as he lifted the limp head and
shoulders. With the other's aid he carried him into the cabin and laid
him on the floor. The priest took off his own wet cloak, then his coat;
with the latter he covered the poor clay that lay apparently
lifeless--no one should look upon that face either in curiosity,
contempt, or pity.

The detective went out to interview the driver of the team.

"Where'd you pick him up?"

"'Long on West Street, just below Park Place. I see by the way he spoke
he'd broke his wind--asked if I was goin' to a ferry an' if I'd give him
a lift. I said 'Come along,' and asked no questions. He ain't the first
I've helped out o' trouble, but I guess I've got him in sure enough this
time."

"You're going to put up on the Island?"

"Yes; but what business is it o' a decent-looking cove like youse, I'd
like to know."

"Well, it's this way: we've got to get this man back to New York
to-night; it's the boat's last trip and there ain't a chance of getting
a cab or hack in this blizzard, and at this time of night, to get him up
from the ferry. If you'll take the job, I'll give you fifteen dollars
for it."

"That ain't so easy earned in a reg'lar snow-in; besides, I don't want
to be a party to gettin' him furder into your grip by takin' him over."

"Oh, that's all right. He's got a friend with him who'll see to him for
the rest of the night."

"Well, I don't mind then. It's goin' on one now, an' I might as well
make a night o' it on t' other side. It's damned hard on the hosses,
though, an' it's ten to one I don't get lifted myself by one o' them
cussed cruelty to animil fellers that sometimes poke their noses into
the wrong end o' their business.--Make it twenty an' it is done."

The detective smiled. "Twenty it is." He patted the noble Percherons and
felt their warmth under the blankets. "You're not the kind they're
after. What have you got in your team?"

"Nothing but the hosses' feed-bags."

"That'll do. We'll put him in now in case any one comes on at Staten
Island for the return trip. You don't know nothing about _this_, you
know." He looked at him knowingly.

"All right, Cap'n; I'd be willin' to say I was a bloomin' idjot for two
saw-horses. Come, rake out."

The detective laughed. "Here's ten to bind the bargain--the rest when
you've landed him."


III

The brewery team made its way slowly up from the ferry owing to the
drifting snow and icy pavements. From time to time a plough ran on the
elevated, or on the trolley tracks, and sent the snow in fan-like spurts
from the fender. The driver drew rein in a west-side street off lower
Seventh Avenue. It was a brotherhood house where the priest had taken a
room for an emergency like the present one. He knew that within these
walls no questions would be asked, yet every aid given, if required, in
just these circumstances. The man beneath the horse-blankets was still
unconscious when they lifted him out, and carried him up to a large room
in the topmost story. The detective, after removing the handcuffs, asked
if he could be of any further use that night. He stepped to the side of
the cot and looked searchingly into the passive face on the pillow.

"No; he's safe here," Father Honoré replied. "You will notify the police
and the other detectives. I will go bail for him if any should be
needed; but I may as well tell you now that the case will probably never
come to trial; the amount has been guaranteed." He wrote a telegram and
handed it to the man. "Would you do me the favor to get this off as
early as you can?"

"Humph! Poor devil, he's got off easy; but from his looks and the tussle
we had with him, I don't think he'll be over grateful to you for
bringing him through this. I've seen so much of this kind, that I've
come to think it's better when they drop out quietly, no fuss, like as
he wanted to."

"I can't agree with you. Thank you for your help."

"Not worth mentioning; it's all in the night's work, you know. Good
night. I'll send the telegram just as soon as the wires are working. You
know my number if you want me." He handed him a card.

"Thank you; good night."

When the door closed upon him, Father Honoré drew a long breath that was
half a suppressed groan; then he turned to the passive form on the cot.
There was much to be done.

He administered a little stimulant; heated some water over a small gas
stove; laid out clean sheets, a shirt, some bandages and a few surgical
instruments from a "handy closet," that was kept filled with simple
hospital emergency requirements, and set to work. He cut the shoes from
the stockingless feet; cut away the stiffened clothing, what there was
of it; laid bare the bandaged arm; it was badly swollen, stiff and
inflamed. He soaked from a clotted knife-wound above the elbow the piece
of cloth with which it had first been bound. He looked at the discolored
rag as it lay in his hand, startled at what he saw: a handkerchief--a
small one, a woman's! With sickening dread he searched in the corners;
he found them: A. A., wreathed around with forget-me-nots, all in
delicate French embroidery.

"My God, my God!" he groaned. He recalled having seen Aileen
embroidering these very handkerchiefs last summer up under the pines.
One of the sisterhood, Sister Ste. Croix, was with her giving
instruction, while she herself wrought on a convent-made garment.

What did it mean? With multiplied thoughts that grasped helplessly
hither and thither for some point of attachment, he went on with his
work. Two hours later, he had the satisfaction of knowing the man before
him was physically cared for as well as it was possible for him to be
until he should regain consciousness. His practised eye recognized this
to be a case of collapse from exhaustion, physical and mental. Now
Nature must work to replenish the depleted vitality. He could trust her
up to a certain point.

He sat by the cot, his elbows on his knees, his head dropped into his
hands, pondering the mystery of this life before him--of all life, of
death, of the Beyond; marvelling at the strange warp and woof of
circumstance, his heart wrung for the anguish of that mother far away in
the quarries of The Gore, his soul filled with thankfulness that she was
spared the sight of _this_.

The gray November dawn began to dim the electric light in the room. He
went to a window, opened the inner blinds and looked out. The storm was
not over, but the wind had lessened and the flakes fell sparsely. He
looked across over the neighboring roofs weighted with snow; the wires
were down. A muffled sound of street traffic heralded the beginning day.
As he turned back to the cot he saw that Champney's eyes were open; but
the look in them was dazed. They closed directly. When they opened
again, the full light of day was in the room; semi-consciousness had
returned. He spoke feebly:

"Where am I?"

"Here, safe with me, Champney." He leaned over him, but saw that he was
not recognized.

"Who are you?"

"Your friend, Father Honoré."

"Father Honoré--" he murmured, "I don't know you." He gave a convulsive
start--"Where are the Eyes gone?" he whispered, a look of horror
creeping into his own.

"There are none here, none but mine, Champney. Listen; you are safe with
me, safe, do you understand?"

He gave no answer, but the dazed look returned. He moistened his parched
lips with his tongue and swallowed hard. Father Honoré held a glass of
water to his mouth, slipping an arm and hand beneath his head to raise
him. He drank with avidity; tried to sit up, but fell back exhausted.
The priest busied himself with preparing some hot beef extract on the
little stove. When it was ready he sat down by the cot and fed it to him
spoonful by spoonful.

"Thank you," Champney said quietly when the priest had finished his
ministration. He turned a little on his side and fell asleep.

The sleep was that which follows exhaustion; it was profound and
beneficial. Evidently no distress of mind or body marred it, and for
every sixty minutes of the blessed oblivion, there was renewed activity
in nature's ever busy laboratory to replenish the strength that had been
sacrificed in this man's protracted struggle to escape his doom, and, by
means of it, to restore the mental balance, fortunately not too long
lost....

When he awoke, it was to full consciousness. The sun was setting. Behind
the Highlands of the Navesink it sank in royal state: purple, scarlet,
and gold. Upon the crisping blue waters of Harbor, Sound, and River, the
reflection of its transient glory lay in quivering windrows of gorgeous
color. It crimsoned faintly the snow that lay thick on the multitude of
city roofs; it blazoned scarlet the myriad windows in the towers and
skyscrapers; it filled the keen air with wonderful fleeting lights that
bewildered and charmed the unaccustomed eyes of the metropolitan
millions.

Champney waited for it to fade; then he turned to the man beside him.

"Father Honoré--" he half rose from the cot. The priest bent over him.
Champney laid one arm around his neck, drew him down to him and, for a
moment only, the two men remained cheek to cheek.

"Champney--my son," was all he could say.

"Yes; now tell me all--the worst; I can bear it."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I can't see my way, yet." These were the first words he spoke after
Father Honoré had finished telling him of his prospective relief from
sentence and the means taken to obtain it. He had listened intently,
without interruption, sitting up on the cot, his look fixed unwaveringly
on the narrator. He put his hand to his face as he spoke, covering his
eyes for a moment; then he passed it over the three weeks' stubble on
his cheeks and chin.

"Is it possible for me to shave here? I must get up--out of this. I
can't think straight unless I get on my feet."

"Do you feel strong enough, Champney?"

"I shall get strength quicker when I'm up. Thank you," he said, as
Father Honoré helped him to his feet. He swayed as if dizzy on crossing
the room to a small mirror above a stand. Father Honoré placed the hot
water and shaving utensils before him. He declined his further
assistance.

"Are there--are there any clothes I could put on?" He asked
hesitatingly, as he proceeded to shave himself awkwardly with his one
free hand.

"Such as they are, a plenty." Father Honoré produced a common tweed suit
and fresh underwear from the "handy closet." These together with some
other necessaries from a drawer in the stand supplied a full equipment.

"Can I tub anywhere?" was his next question after he had finished
shaving.

"Yes; this bath closet here is at your disposal." He opened a door into
a small adjoining hall-room. Champney took the clothes and went in. While
he was bathing, Father Honoré used the room telephone to order in a
substantial evening meal. After the noise of the splashing ceased, he
heard a half-suppressed groan. He listened intently, but there was no
further sound, not even of the details of dressing.

A half-hour passed. He had taken in the tray, and was becoming anxious,
when the door opened and Champney came in, clean, clothed, but with a
look in his eyes that gave the priest all the greater cause for anxiety
because, up to that time, the man had volunteered no information
concerning himself; he had received what the priest said passively,
without demonstration of any kind. There had been as yet no spiritual
vent for the over-strained mind, the over-charged soul. The priest knew
this danger and what it portended.

He ate the food that was placed before him listlessly. Suddenly he
pushed the plate away from him across the table at which he was sitting.
"I can't eat; it nauseates me," he said; then, leaning his folded arms
on the edge, he dropped his head upon them groaning heavily in an agony
of despair, shame, remorse: "God! What's the use--what's the use!
There's nothing left--nothing left."

Father Honoré knew that the crucial hour was striking, and his prayer
for help was the wordless outreaching of every atom of his consciousness
for that One more powerful than weak humanity, to guide, to aid him.

"Your manhood is left." He spoke sternly, with authority. This was no
time for pleading, for sympathy, for persuasion.

"My manhood!" The bitterest self-contempt was voiced in those two words.
He raised his head, and the look he gave to the man opposite bordered on
the inimical.

"Yes, your manhood. Do you, in your supreme egotism, suppose that you,
Champney Googe, are the only man in this world who has sinned, suffered,
gone under for a time? Are you going to lie down in the ditch like a
craven, simply because you have failed to withstand the first assaults
of the devil that is in you? Do you think, because you have sinned,
there is no longer a place for you and your work in this world where all
men are sinners at some time in their lives? I tell you, Champney
Googe,--and mark well what I say,--your sin, as sin, is not so
despicable as your attitude towards your own life. Why, man, you're
alive--"

"Yes, alive--thanks to you; but knocked out after the first round," he
muttered. The priest noted, however, that he still held his head erect.
He took fresh courage.

"And what would you say of a man who, because he has been knocked out in
the first round, does not dare to enter the ring again? So far as I've
seen anything of life, it is a man's duty to get on his feet as quickly
as he can--square away and at it again."

"There's nothing left to fight--it's all gone--my honor--"

"True, your honor's gone; you can't get that back; but you can put
yourself in the running to obtain a standard for your future honor.
Champney, listen;" he drew his chair nearer to him that the table might
not separate them; "hear me, a man like yourself, erring, because human,
who has sinned, suffered--let me speak out of my own experience. Put
aside regret; it clogs. Regret nothing; what's done is done past recall.
Live out your life, no matter what the struggle. Count this life as
yours to make the best of. Live, I say; live, work, make good; it is in
any man's power who has received a reprieve like yours. I know whereof I
am speaking. I'll go further: it would be in your power even if you had
been judged and committed."

The man, to whom he was appealing, shuddered as he heard the word
"committed."

"_That_ would be death," he said under his breath; "last night was
nothing, nothing to that--but you can't understand--"

"Better, perhaps, than you think. But what I want you to see is that
there is something left to live for; Champney--your mother." He had
hesitated to speak of her, not knowing what the effect might be.

Champney started to his feet, his hand clenched on the table edge. He
breathed short, hard. "O God, O God! Why didn't you let me go? How can I
face her and live!" He began to pace the room with rapid jerky steps.
Father Honoré rose.

"Champney Googe,"--he spoke calmly, but with a concentrated energy of
tone that made its impression on the man addressed,--"when you lay there
last night," he motioned towards the cot, "I thanked my God that she
was not here to see you. I have telegraphed her that you are alive. In
the hope that you yourself might send some word, either directly or
through me, I have withheld all detail of your condition, all further
news; but, for her sake, I dare not keep her longer in suspense. Give me
some word for her--some assurance from yourself that you will live for
her sake, if not for your own. Reparation must begin here and _now_, and
no time be lost; it's already late." He looked at his watch.

Champney turned upon him fiercely. "Don't force me to anything. I can't
see my way, I tell you. You have said I was a man. Let me take my stand
on that assurance, and act as one who must first settle a long-standing
account with himself before he can yield to any impulse of emotion. Go
to bed--do; you're worn out with watching with me. I'll sit here by the
window; _I promise you_. There's no sleep in me or for me--I want to be
alone--alone."

It was an appeal, and the priest recognized in it the cry of the
individual soul when the full meaning of its isolation from humankind is
first revealed to it. He let him alone. Without another word he drew off
his boots, turned out the electric light, opened the inner blinds, and
laid himself down on the cot, worn, weary, but undaunted in spirit. At
times he lost himself for a few minutes; for the rest he feigned the
sleep he so sorely needed. The excitation of his nerves, however, kept
him for the greater part of the night conscious of all that went on in
the room.

Champney sat by the window. During that night he never left his seat.
Father Honoré could see his form silhouetted against the blank of the
panes; his head was bowed into his hands. From time to time he drew
deep, deep, shuddering breaths. The struggle going on in that human
breast beside the window, the priest knew to be a terrible one--a
spiritual and a mental hand-to-hand combat, against almost over-powering
odds, in the arena of the soul.

The sun was reddening the east when Champney turned from the window,
rose quietly, and stepped to the side of the cot. He stood there a few
minutes looking down on the strong, marked face that, in the morning
light, showed yellow from watching and fatigue. Father Honoré knew he
was there; but he waited those few minutes before opening his eyes. He
looked up then, not knowing what he was to expect, and met Champney's
blue ones looking down into his. That one look was sufficient to assure
him that the man who stood there so quietly beside him was the Champney
Googe of a new birth. The "old man" had been put away; he was ready for
the race, "_forgetting those things that are behind_."

"I've won out," he said with a smile.

The two men clasped hands and were silent for a few minutes. Then
Champney drew a chair to the cot.

"I'd like to talk with you, if you don't mind," he said.


IV

In the priest's soul there was rejoicing. He was anticipating the
victorious outcome of the struggle to which, in part, he had been
witness. But he acknowledged afterwards that he had had not the faintest
conception, not the remotest intimation of the actual truth. It remained
for Champney Googe to enlighten him.

"I've been digging for the root of the whole matter," he began simply.
His hand was clenched and pressed hard on his knee, otherwise he showed
no sign of the effort that speech cost him. "I've been clearing away all
obstructions, trying to look at myself outside of myself; and I find
that, ever since I can remember, I've had the ambition to be rich--and
rich for the power it apparently gives over other men, for the amplitude
of one kind of living it affords, for the extension of the lines of
personal indulgence and pleasure seemingly indefinitely, for the
position it guarantees. There has been but one goal always: the making
of money.

"I rebelled at first at the prospect of the five years' apprenticeship
in Europe. I can see now that those six years, as they proved to be,
fostered my ambition by placing me in direct and almost daily contact
with those to whom great wealth is a natural, not an acquired thing."
(Father Honoré noted that throughout his confession he avoided the
mention of any name, and he respected him for it.) "On my return, as
you know, I was placed in a position of great responsibility, as well
as one affording every opportunity to further my object in life. I began
to make use of these opportunities at once; the twenty thousand received
from the quarry lands I invested, and in a short time doubled the sum. I
was in a position to gain the inside knowledge needed to manipulate
money with almost a certainty of increment; this knowledge, I was given
to understand, I might use for any personal investment of funds; I took
advantage of the privilege.

"I soon found that to operate successfully and largely, as I needed to
in order to gain my end and gain it quickly, I must have a larger amount
of cash. For this reason, I re-invested the forty thousand on the
strength of my knowledge of a rise that was to be brought about in
certain stocks within two months. This rise was guaranteed, you
understand; guaranteed by three influential financiers. It would double
my investment. They let it be known in a quiet way and in certain
quarters, that this rise would occur at about such a date, and then
forced the market up till they themselves had a good surplus. All this I
know for a fact, because I was on the inside. Just at this time the
syndicate intrusted to me three hundred thousand as a workable margin
for certain future investments. My orders were to invest in this
prepared stock only _after_ October fifteenth. Meanwhile the
manipulation of this amount was in my hands for eight weeks.

"I knew the forty thousand I had purposely invested in these stocks
would double itself by the fifteenth of October; this was the date set.
I knew this because I had the guaranty of the three men behind me; and,
knowing this, I took a hundred thousand of the sum intrusted to me, in
order to make a deal with a Wall Street firm which would net me twenty
thousand within two weeks.

"I knew perfectly well what I was doing--but there was never any
intention on my part of robbery or embezzlement. I knew the sum eighty
thousand, from my personal investment of forty thousand, was due on
October fifteenth; this, plus the twenty thousand due from the Wall
Street deal, would insure the syndicate from any loss. In fact, they
would never know that the money had been used by me to antedate the
investment of the three hundred thousand--a part of the net yearly
working profits from the quarries--intrusted to me."

He paused for a moment to pass his hand over his forehead; his eyebrows
contracted suddenly as if he were in pain.

"The temptation to take this money, although knowing well enough it was
not mine to take, was too great for me. It was the resultant of every
force of, I might say, my special business propulsion. This temptation
lay along the lines on which I had built up my life: the pursuance of a
line of action by which I might get rich quick.--Then came the crash.
That special guaranteed stock broke--never to rally in time to save
me--sixty-five points. The syndicate sent out warning signals to me that
I was just in time to save any part of the three hundred thousand from
investment in those stocks. Of course, I got no return from the forty
thousand of my personal investment, and the hundred thousand I had used
for the deal went down too. So much for the guaranty of the
multi-millionaires.--Just then, when everything was chaotic and a big
panic threatened, came a call from the manager of the quarries for
immediate funds; the men were getting uneasy because pay was two weeks
overdue. The syndicate told me to apply the working margin of three
hundred thousand at once for this purpose. Of course there was a
shortage; it was bound to be discovered. I tried to procrastinate--tried
to put off the payment of the men; then came the threatened strike on
account of non-payment of wages. I knew it was all up with me. When I
saw I must be found out, I fled--

"I never meant to rob them--to rob any one, never--never--" His voice
broke slightly on those words.

"I believe you." Father Honoré spoke for the first time. "Not one man in
ten thousand begins by meaning to steal."

"I know it; that's what makes the bitterer cud-chewing."

"I know--I know." The priest spoke under his breath. He was sitting on
the side of the cot, and leaned forward suddenly, his elbows on his
knees, his chin resting in his palms, his eyes gazing beyond Champney to
something intangible, some inner vision that was at that moment
projecting itself from the sensitive plate of consciousness upon the
blank of reality.

Champney looked at him keenly. He was aware that, for the moment, Father
Honoré was present with him only in the body. He waited, before
speaking, until the priest's eyes turned slowly to his; his position
remained the same. Champney went on:

"All that you have done to obtain this reprieve, has been done for
me--for mine--"; his voice trembled. "A man comes to know the measure of
such sacrifice after an experience like mine--I have no words--"

"Don't, Champney--don't--"

"No, I won't, because I can't--because nothing is adequate. I thought it
all out last night. There is but one way to show you, to prove anything
to you; I am going to do as you said: make good my manhood--"

Father Honoré's hand closed upon Champney's.

"--And there is but one way in which I can make it good. I can take only
a step at a time now, but it's this first step that will start me
right."

He paused a moment as if to gather strength to voice his decision.

"I should disown my manhood if I shirked now. The horror of prospective
years of imprisonment has been more to me than death--I welcomed _that_
as the alternative. But now, the manhood that is left in me demands that
if I am willing to live as a man, I must take my punishment like a man.
I am going to let things take their usual course; accept no relief from
the money guaranteed to reimburse the syndicate; plead guilty, and let
the sentence be what it may: seven, fifteen, or twenty years--it's all
one."

He drew a long breath as of deliverance. The mere formulating of his
decision in the presence of another man gave him strength, almost
assurance to act for himself in furthering his own commitment. But the
priest bowed his head into his hands and a groan burst from his lips, so
laden with wretchedness, with mental and spiritual suffering, that even
Champney Googe was startled from his hard-won calm.

"Father Honoré, what is it? Don't take it so hard." He laid his hand on
his shoulder. "I can't ask you if I've done right, because no man can
decide that for me; but wouldn't you do the same if you were in my
place?"

"Oh, would to God I had!--would to God I had!" he groaned rather than
spoke.

Champney was startled. He realized, for the first time, perhaps, in his
self-centred life, that he was but a unit among suffering millions. He
was realizing, moreover, that, with the utterance of his decision, he
had, as it were, retired from the stage for many years to come; the
curtain had fallen on his particular act in the life-drama; that others
now occupied his place, and among them was this man before him who,
active for good, foremost in noble works, strong in the faith, helpful
wherever help might be needed, a refuge for the oppressed of soul, a
friend to all humanity because human, _his_ friend--his mother's, was
suffering at this moment as he himself had suffered, but without the
relief that is afforded by renunciation. Out of a great love and pity he
spoke:

"What is it? Can't you tell me? Won't it help, just as man to man--as it
has helped me?"

Father Honoré regained his control before Champney ceased questioning.

"I don't know that it will help; but I owe it to you to tell you, after
what you have said--told me. I can preach--oh yes! But the practice--the
practice--" He wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"What you have just told me justifies me in telling you what I thought
never to speak of again in this world. You have done the only thing to
do in the circumstances--it has taken the whole courage of a man; but I
never for a moment credited you with sufficient manhood to dare it. It
only goes to show how shortsighted we humans are, how incomprehensive of
the workings of the human heart and soul; we think we know--and find
ourselves utterly confounded, as I am now." He was silent for a few
minutes, apparently deep in meditation.

"Had I done, when I was twenty years old, as you are going to do, I
should have had no cause to regret; all my life fails to make good in
that respect.--When I was a boy, an orphan, my heartstrings wound
themselves about a little girl in France who was kind to me. I may as
well tell you now that the thought of that child was one of the motives
that induced me to investigate Aileen's case, when we saw her that night
at the vaudeville."

He looked at Champney, who, at the mention of Aileen's name, had started
involuntarily. "You remember that night?" Champney nodded. How well he
remembered it! But he gave no further sign.

"I was destined for the priesthood later on, but that did not stifle the
love in my heart for the young girl. It was in my novitiate years. I
never dared ask myself what the outcome of it all would be; I wanted to
finish my novitiate first. I knew she loved me with a charming, open,
young girl's love that in the freedom of our household life--her
grandfather was my great-uncle on my mother's side--found expression in
a sisterly way; and in the circumstances I could not tell her of my
love. It was the last year of my novitiate when I discovered the fact
that a young man, in the employ of her grandfather, was paying her
attention with the intention of asking her of him in marriage. The mere
thought of the loss of her drove me half mad. I took the first
opportunity, when at home for the holidays, to tell her my love, and I
threatened, that, if she gave herself to another, I would end
all--either for myself or for him. The girl was frightened, indignant,
horrified almost, at the force of the passion that was consuming me;
she repelled me--that ended it; I took it for granted that she loved
that other. I lay in wait for him one night as he was going to the
house; taunted him; heaped upon him such abuse as makes a man another's
murderer; I goaded him into doing what I had intended. He struck me in
the face; closed with me, and I fought him; but he was wrestling with a
madman. We were on the cliff at Dieppe; the night was dark;
intentionally I forced him towards the edge. He struggled manfully,
trying to land a blow on my head that would save him; he wrestled with
me and he was a man of great strength; but I--I knew I could tire him
out. It was dark--I knew when he went over the edge, but I could see
nothing, I heard nothing....

"I fled; hid myself; but I was caught; held for a time awaiting the
outcome of the man's hurt. Had he died it would have been manslaughter.
As it was I knew it was murder, for there had been murder in my heart.
He lived, but maimed for life. The lawyer, paid for by my great-uncle,
set up the plea of self-defence. I was cleared in the law, and fled to
America to expiate. I know now that there was but one expiation for
me--to do what you are to do; plead guilty and take my punishment like a
man. I failed to do it--and _I_ preach of manhood to you!"

There was silence in the room. Champney broke it and his voice was
almost unrecognizable; it was hoarse, constrained:

"But your love was noble--you loved her with all the manhood that was in
you."

"God knows I did; but that does not alter the fact of my consequent
crime."

He looked again at Champney as he spoke out his conviction, and his own
emotion suffered a check in his amazement at the change in the
countenance before him. He had seen nothing like this in the thirty-two
hours he had been in his presence; his jaw was set; his nostrils white
and sharpened; the pupils of his eyes contracted to pin points; and into
the sallow cheeks, up to the forehead knotted as with intense pain, into
the sunken temples, the blood rushed with a force that threatened
physical disaster, only to recede as quickly, leaving the face ghastly
white, the eyelids twitching, the muscles about the mouth quivering.

Noting all this Father Honoré read deeper still; he knew that Champney
Googe had not told him the whole, possibly not the half--_and never
would tell_. His next question convinced him of that.

"May I ask what became of the young girl you loved?--Don't answer, if I
am asking too much."

"I don't know. I have never heard from her. I can only surmise. But I
did receive a letter from her when I was in prison, before my trial--she
was summoned as witness; and oh, the infinite mercy of a loving woman's
heart!" He was silent a moment.

"She took so much blame upon herself, telling me that she had not known
her own heart; that she tried to think she loved me as a brother; that
she had been willing to let it go on so, and because she had not been
brave enough to be honest with herself, all this trouble had come upon
me whom she acknowledged she loved--upon her and her household. She
begged me, if acquitted, never to see her, never to communicate with her
again. There was but one duty for us both she said, guilty as we both
were of what had occurred to wreck a human being for life; to go each
_the way apart_ forever--I mine, she hers--to expiate in good works, in
loving kindness to those who might need our help....

"I have never known anything further--heard no word--made no inquiry. At
that time, after my acquittal, my great-uncle, a well-to-do baker,
settled a sum of money on the man who had been in his employ; the
interest of it would support him in his incapacity to do a man's work
and earn a decent livelihood. My uncle said then I was never again to
darken his doors. He desired me to leave no address; to keep secret to
myself my destination, and forever after my whereabouts. I obeyed to the
letter--now enough of myself. I have told you this because, as a man, I
had not the face to sit here in your presence and hear your decision,
without showing you my respect for your courage--and I have taken this
way to show it."

He held out his hand and Champney wrung it. "You don't know all, or you
would have no respect," he said brokenly.

The two men looked understandingly into each other's eyes, but they both
felt intuitively that any prolongation of this unwonted emotional strain
would be injurious to both, and the work in hand. They, at once, in
tacit understanding of each other's condition, put aside "the things
that were behind" and "reached forth to those that were before": they
laid plans for the speedy execution of all that Champney's decision
involved.

"There is one thing I cannot do," he spoke with decision; "that is to
see my mother before my commitment--or after. It is the only thing that
will break me down. I need all the strength of control I possess to go
through this thing."

The priest knew better than to protest.

"Telegraph her to-day what you think best to ease her suspense. I will
write her, and ask you to deliver my letter to her after you have seen
me through. I want _you_ to go up with me--to the very doors; and I want
yours to be the last known face I see on entering. Another request: I
don't want you, my mother, or any one else known to me, to communicate
with me by letter, message, or even gift of any kind during my term,
whether seven years or twenty. This is oblivion. I cease to exist, as an
identity, outside the walls. I will make one exception: if my mother
should fall ill, write me at once.--How she will live, I don't know! I
dare not think--it would unsettle my reason; but she has friends; she
has you, the Colonel, Tave, Elvira, Caukins; they will not see her want,
and there's the house; it's in her name."

He rose, shook himself together, drew a long breath. "Now let us go to
work; the sooner it's over the better for all concerned.--I suppose the
clothes I had on are worth nothing, but I'd like to look them over."

He spoke indifferently and went into the adjoining bath closet where
Father Honoré, not liking to dispose of them until Champney should have
spoken of them at least, had left the clothes in a bundle. He had put
the little handkerchief, discolored almost beyond recognition, in with
them. Champney came out in a few minutes.

"They're no good," he said. "I'll have to wear these, if I may. I
believe it's one of the regulations that what a man takes in of his own,
is saved for him to take out, isn't it?"

"Yes." An hour later when Father Honoré disposed of the bundle to the
janitor, he knew that Aileen's handkerchief had been abstracted--and he
read still deeper into the ways of the human heart....

       *       *       *       *       *

Within ten days sentence was passed: seven years with hard labor.

There was no appeal for mercy, and speedy commitment followed. A
paragraph in the daily papers conveyed a knowledge of the fact to the
world in general; and within ten days, the world in general, as usual,
forgot the circumstance; it was only one of many.



PART FIFTH

Shed Number Two


I

"It's a wonder ye're not married yet, Aileen, an' you twenty-six."

It was Margaret McCann, the "Freckles" of orphan asylum days, who spoke.
Her utterance was thick, owing to the quantity of pins she was
endeavoring to hold between tightly pressed lips. She was standing on a
chair putting up muslin curtains in her new home at The Gore, or Quarry
End Park, as it was now named, and Aileen had come to help her.

"It's like ye're too purticular," she added, her first remark not having
met with any response. She turned on the chair and looked down upon her
old chum.

She was sitting on the floor surrounded by a pile of fresh-cut muslin;
the latest McCann baby was tugging with might and main at her apron in
vain endeavor to hoist himself upon his pudgy uncertain legs. Aileen was
laughing at his efforts. Catching him suddenly in her arms, she covered
the little soft head, already sprouting a suspicion of curly red hair,
with hearty kisses; and Billy, entering into the fun, crowed and
gurgled, clutching wildly at the dark head bent above him and managing
now and then, when he did not grasp too wide of the mark, to bury his
chubby creased hands deep in its heavy waves.

"Oh, Maggie, you're like all the rest! Because you've a good husband of
your own, you think every other girl must go and do likewise."

"Now ye're foolin', Aileen, like as you used to at the asylum. But I
mind the time when Luigi was the wan b'y for you--I wonder, now, you
couldn't like him, Aileen? He's so handsome and stiddy-like, an' doin'
so well. Jim says he'll be one of the rich men of the town if he kapes
on as he's begun. They do say as how Dulcie Caukins'll be cuttin' you
out."

"I didn't love him, Maggie; that's reason enough." She spoke shortly.
Maggie turned again from her work to look down on her in amazement.

"You was always that way, Aileen!" she exclaimed impatiently, "thinkin'
nobody but a lord was good enough for you, an' droppin' Luigi as soon as
ever you got in with the Van Ostend folks; and as for 'love'--let me
give you as good a piece of advice as you'll get between the risin' of a
May sun and its settin':--if you see a good man as loves you an' is
willin' to marry you, take him, an' don't you leave him the chanct to
get cool over it. Ye'll love him fast enough if he's good to you--like
my Jim," she added proudly.

"Oh, your Jim! You're always quoting him; he isn't quite perfection even
if he is 'your Jim.'"

"An' is it parfection ye're after?" Maggie was apt in any state of
excitement to revert in her speech to the vernacular. "'Deed an' ye'll
look till the end of yer days an' risk dyin' a downright old maid, if
it's parfection ye're after marryin' in a man! An' I don't need a gell
as has niver been married to tell me my Jim ain't parfection nayther!"

Maggie resumed her work in a huff; Aileen smiled to herself.

"I didn't mean to say anything against your husband, Maggie; I was only
speaking in a general way."

"An' how could ye mane anything against me husband in a gineral or a
purticular way? Sure I know he's got a temper; an' what man of anny
sinse hasn't, I'd like to know? An' he's not settled-like to work in
anny wan place, as I'd like to have him be. But Jim's young; an' a man,
he says, can't settle to anny regular work before he's thirty. He says
all the purfessional men can't get onto their feet in a business way
till they be thirty; an' stone-cuttin', Jim says, is his purfession like
as if 't was a lawyer's or a doctor's or a priest's; an' Jim says he
loves it. An' there ain't a better worker nor Jim in the sheds, so the
boss says; an' if he will querrel between whiles--an' I'm not denyin' he
don't--it's sure the other man's fault for doin' something mane; Jim
can't stand no maneness. He's a good worker, is Jim, an' a good husband,
an' a lovin' father, an' a good provider, an' he don't drink, an' he
ain't the slithery kind--if he'd 'a' been that I wouldn't married him."

There was a note of extreme authority in what Maggie in her excitement
was giving expression to. Now that Jim McCann was back and at work in
the sheds after a seven years absence, it was noted by many, who knew
his wife of old, that, in the household, it was now Mrs. McCann who had
the right of way. She was evidently full of her subject at the present
moment and, carried away by the earnestness of her expressed
convictions, she paid no heed to Aileen's non-responsiveness.

"An' I'm that proud that I'm Mrs. James Patrick McCann, wid a good house
over me head, an' a good husband to pay rint that'll buy it on the
insthalment plan, an' two little gells an' a darlin' baby to fill it,
that I be thankin' God whiniver Jim falls to swearin'--an' that's ivery
hour in the day; but it's only a habit he can't be broke of, for Father
Honoré was after talkin' wid him, an' poor Jim was that put out wid
himself, that he forgot an' swore his hardest to the priest that he'd
lave off swearin' if only he knew whin he was doin' it! But he had to
give up tryin', for he found himself swearin' at the baby he loved him
so. An' whin he told Father Honoré the trouble he had wid himself an'
the b'y, that darlin' man just smiled an' says:--'McCann, there's other
ways of thankin' God for a good home, an' a lovin' wife, and a foine b'y
like yours, than tellin' yer beads an' sayin' your prayers.'--He said
that, he did; an' I say, I'm thankin' God ivery hour in the day that
I've got a good husband to swear, an' a cellar to fill wid fuel an'
potaters, an' a baby to put to me breast, an'--an'--it's the same I'm
wishin' for you, me dear."

There was a suspicious tremble in Maggie's voice as she turned again to
her work.

Aileen spoke slowly: "Indeed, I wish I had them all, Maggie; but those
things are not for me."

"Not for you!" Maggie dashed a tear from her eyes. "An' why not for you,
I'd like to know? Isn't ivery wan sayin' ye've got the voice fit for the
oppayra? An' isn't all the children an' the quarrymen just mad over yer
teachin' an' singin'? An' look at what yer know an' can do! Didn't wan
of the Sisters tell me the other day: 'Mrs. McCann,' says she, 'Aileen
Armagh is an expurrt in embroidery, an' could earn her livin' by it.'
An' wasn't Mrs. Caukins after praisin' yer cookin' an' sayin' you beat
the whole Gore on yer doughnuts? An' didn't the Sisters come askin' me
the other day if I had your receipt for the milk-rice? Jim says there's
a man for ivery woman if she did but know it.--There now, I'm glad to
see yer smilin' an' lookin' like yer old self! Just tell me if the
curtains be up straight? Jim can't abide annything that ain't on the
square. Straight, be they?"

"Yes, straight as a string," said Aileen, laughing outright at Freckles'
eloquence--the eloquence of one who was wont to be slow of speech before
matrimony loosened her tongue and home love taught her the right word in
the right place.

"Straight, is it? Then I'll mount down an' we'll sit out in the kitchen
an' hem the rest. It's Doosie Caukins has begged the loan of the two
little gells for the afternoon. The twins seem to me most like my
own--rale downright swate gells, an' it's hopin' I am they'll do well
when it' comes to their marryin'."

Aileen laughed merrily at the matrimonial persistence of her old chum's
thoughts.

"Oh, Maggie, you are an incorrigible matchmaker!"

She picked up the baby and the yards of muslin she had been measuring
for window lengths; leaving Maggie to follow, she went out into the
kitchen and deposited Billy in the basket-crib beside her chair. Maggie
joined her in a few minutes.

"It seems like old times for you an' me to be chattin' together again so
friendly-like--put a finger's length into the hem of the long ones; do
you remember when Sister Angelica an' you an' me was cuddled together to
watch thim dance the minute over at the Van Ostends'?--Och, you
darlin'!"

She rose from her chair and caught up the baby who was holding out both
arms to her and trying in his semi-articulate way to indicate his
preference of her lap to the basket.

"What fun we had!" Aileen spoke half-heartedly; the mention of that name
intensified the pain of an ever present thought.

"An' did ye read her marriage in the papers, I guess 't was a year
gone?"

Aileen nodded.

"Jim read it out to me wan night after supper, an' I got so homesick of
a suddin' for the Caukinses, an' you, an' the quarries, an' Mrs.
Googe--it was before me b'y come--that I fell to cryin' an' nearly cried
me eyes out; an' Jim promised me then and there he'd come back to
Flamsted for good and all. But he couldn't help sayin': 'What the divil
are ye cryin' about, Maggie gell? I was readin' of the weddin' to ye,
and thinkin' to hearten ye up a bit, an' here ye be cryin' fit to break
yer heart, an' takin' on as if ye'd niver had a weddin' all by yerself!'
An' that made me laugh; but, afterwards, I fell to cryin' the harder,
an' told him I couldn't help it, for I'd got such a good lovin' husband,
an' me an orphan as had nobody--

"An' then I stopped, for Jim took me in his arms--he was in the
rockin'-chair--and rocked back an' forth wid me like a mother does wid a
six-months' child, an' kept croonin' an' croonin' till I fell asleep wid
my head on his shoulder--" Mrs. McCann drew a long breath--"Och, Aileen,
it's beautiful to be married!"

For a while the two worked in silence, broken only by little Billy
McCann, who was blissfully gurgling emphatic endorsement of everything
his mother said. The bright sunshine of February filled the barren Gore
full to the brim with sparkling light. From time to time the sharp
crescendo _sz-szz-szzz_ of the trolleys, that now ran from The Corners
to Quarry End Park at the head of The Gore, teased the still cold air.
Maggie was in a reminiscent mood, being wrought upon unwittingly by the
sunny quiet and homey kitchen warmth. She looked over the head of her
baby to Aileen.

"Do you remember the B'y who danced with the Marchioness, and when they
was through stood head downwards with his slippers kicking in the air?"

"Yes, and the butler, and how he hung on to his coat-tails!"

Maggie laughed. "I wonder now could it be _the_ B'y--I mane the man she
married?"

Aileen looked up from her work. "Yes, he's the one."

"An' how did you know that?" Maggie asked in some surprise.

"Mrs. Champney told me--and then I knew she liked him."

"Who, the Marchioness?"

"Yes; I knew by the way she wrote about him that she liked him."

"Well, now, who'd 'a' thought that! The very same B'y!" she exclaimed,
at the same time looking puzzled as if not quite grasping the situation.
"Why, I thought--I guess 't was Romanzo wrote me just about that
time--that she was in love with Mr. Champney Googe." Her voice sank to a
whisper on the last words. "Wouldn't it have been just awful if she
had!"

"She might have done a worse thing than to love him." Aileen's voice was
hard in spite of her effort to speak naturally.

Maggie broke forth in protest.

"Now, how can you say that, Aileen! What would the poor gell's life have
been worth married to a man that's in for seven years! Jim says when he
comes out he can't niver vote again for prisident, an' it's ten chanct
to wan that he'll get a job."

In her earnestness she failed to notice that Aileen's face had borrowed
its whiteness from the muslin over which she was bending.

"Aileen--"

"Yes, Maggie."

"I'm goin' to tell you something. Jim told me the other day; he wouldn't
mind my tellin' you, but he says he don't want anny wan of the fam'ly to
get wind of it."

"What is it?" Aileen looked up half fearfully.

"Gracious, you look as if you'd seen a ghost! 'T isn't annything so rale
dreadful, but it gives you a kind of onaisy feelin' round your heart."

"What is it? Tell me quick." She spoke again peremptorily in order to
cover her fear. Maggie looked at her wonderingly, and thought to herself
that Aileen had changed beyond her knowledge.

"There was a man Jim knew in the other quarries we was at, who got put
into that same prison for two years--for breakin' an' enterin'--an' Jim
see him not long ago; an' when Jim told him where he was workin' the man
said just before he was comin' out, Mr. Googe come in, an' he see him
_breakin' stones wid a prison gang_--rale toughs; think of that, an' he
a gentleman born! Jim said that was tough; he says it's back-breakin'
work; that quarryin' an' cuttin' ain't nothin' to that--ten hours a day,
too. My heart's like to break for Mrs. Googe. I think of it ivery time I
see her now; an' just look how she's workin' her fingers to the bone to
support herself widout help! Mrs. Caukins says she's got seventeen
mealers among the quarrymen now, an' there'll be more next spring. What
do you s'pose her son would say to that?"

She pressed her own boy a little more closely to her breast; the young
mother's heart was stirred within her. "Mrs. Caukins says Mrs. Champney
could help her an' save her lots, but she won't; she's no mind to."

"I don't believe Mrs. Googe would accept any help from Mrs.
Champney--and I don't blame her, either. I'd rather starve than be
beholden to her!" The blood rushed into the face bent over the muslin.

"Why don't you lave her, Aileen? I would--the stingy old screw!"

Aileen folded her work and laid it aside before she answered.

"I _am_ going soon, Maggie; I've stood it about as many years as I
can--"

"Oh, but I'm glad! It'll be like gettin' out of the jail yerself, for
all you've made believe you've lived in a palace--but ye're niver goin'
so early?" she protested earnestly.

"Yes, I must, Maggie. You are not to tell anyone what I've said about
leaving Mrs. Champney--not even Jim."

Maggie's face fell. "Dear knows, I can promise you not to tell Jim; but
it's like I'll be tellin' him in me slape. It's a trick I have, he says,
whin I'm tryin' to kape something from him."

She laughed happily, and bade Billy "shake a day-day" to the pretty
lady; which behest Billy, half turning his rosy little face from the
maternal fount, obeyed perfunctorily and then, smiling, closed his
sleepy eyes upon his mother's breast.


II

Aileen took that picture of intimate love and warmth with her out into
the keen frosty air of late February. But its effect was not to soften,
to warm; it hardened rather. The thought of Maggie with her baby boy at
her breast, of her cosy home, her loyalty to her husband and her love
for him, of her thankfulness for the daily mercy of the wherewithal to
feed the home mouths, reacted sharply, harshly, upon the mood she was
in; for with the thought of that family life and family ties--the symbol
of all that is sane and fruitful of the highest good in our
humanity--was associated by extreme contrast another thought:--

"And _he_ is breaking stones with a 'gang of toughs'--breaking stones!
Not for the sake of the pittance that will procure for him his daily
bread, but because he is forced to the toil like any galley slave. The
prison walls are frowning behind him; the prison cell is his only home;
the tin pan of coarse food, which is handed to him as he lines up with
hundreds of others after the day's work, is the only substitute for the
warm home-hearth, the lighted supper table, the merry give-and-take of
family life that eases a man after his day's toil."

Her very soul was in rebellion.

She stopped short and looked about her. She was on the road to Father
Honoré's house. It was just four o'clock, for the long whistle was
sounding from the stone sheds down in the valley. She saw the quarrymen
start homewards. Dark irregular files of them began crawling up over the
granite ledges, many of which were lightly covered with snow. Although
it was February, the winter was mild for this latitude, and the twelve
hundred men in The Gore had lost but a few days during the last three
months on account of the weather. Work had been plenty, and the spring
promised, so the manager said, a rush of business. She watched them for
a while.

"And they are going to their homes--and he is still breaking stones!"
Her thoughts revolved about that one fact.

A sudden rush of tears blinded her; she drew her breath hard. What if
she were to go to Father Honoré and tell him something of her trouble?
Would it help? Would it ease the intolerable pain at her heart, lessen
the load on her mind?

She dared not answer, dared not think about it. Involuntarily she
started forward at a quick pace towards the stone house over by the
pines--a distance of a quarter of a mile.

The sun was nearing the rim of the Flamsted Hills. Far beyond them, the
mighty shoulder of Katahdin, mantled with white, caught the red gleam
and lent to the deep blue of the northern heavens a faint rose
reflection of the setting sun. The children, just from school, were
shouting at their rough play--snow-balling, sledding, skating and
tobogganning on that portion of the pond which had been cleared of snow.
The great derricks on the ledges creaked and groaned as the remaining
men made all fast for the night; like a gigantic cobweb their supporting
wires stretched thick, enmeshed, and finely dark over the white expanse
of the quarries. From the power-house a column of steam rose straight
and steady into the windless air.

Hurrying on, Aileen looked upon it with set lips and a hardening heart.
She had come to hate, almost, the sight of this life of free toil for
the sake of love and home.

It was a woman who was thinking these thoughts in her rapid walk to the
priest's house--a woman of twenty-six who for more than seven years had
suffered in silence; suffered over and over again the humiliation that
had been put upon her womanhood; who, despite that humiliation, could
not divest herself of the idea that she still clung to her girlhood's
love for the man who had humiliated her. She told herself again and
again that she was idealizing that first feeling for him, instead of
accepting the fact that, as a woman, she would be incapable, if the
circumstances were to repeat themselves now, of experiencing it.

Since that fateful night in The Gore, Champney Googe's name had never
voluntarily passed her lips. So far as she knew, no one so much as
suspected that she was a factor in his escape--for Luigi had kept her
secret. Sometimes when she felt, rather than saw, Father Honoré's eyes
fixed upon her in troubled questioning, the blood would rush to her
cheeks and she could but wonder in dumb misery if Champney had told him
anything concerning her during those ten days in New York.

For six years there had been a veil, as it were, drawn between the
lovely relations that had previously existed between Father Honoré and
this firstling of his flock in Flamsted. For a year after his experience
with Champney Googe in New York, he waited for some sign from Aileen
that she was ready to open her heart to him; to clear up the mystery of
the handkerchief; to free herself from what was evidently troubling her,
wearing upon her, changing her in disposition--but not for the better.
Aileen gave no sign. Another year passed, but Aileen gave no sign, and
Father Honoré was still waiting.

The priest did not believe in forcing open the portals to the secret
chambers of the human heart. He respected the individual soul and its
workings as a part of the divinely organized human. He believed that, in
time, Aileen would come to him of her own accord and seek the help she
so sorely needed. Meanwhile, he determined to await patiently the
fulness of that time. He had waited already six years.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was looking over and arranging some large photographs of
cathedrals--Cologne, Amiens, Westminster, Mayence, St. Mark's, Chester,
and York--and the detail of nave, chancel, and choir. One showed the
exquisite sculpture on a flying buttress; another the carving of a
choir-stall canopy; a third the figure-crowded façade of a western
porch. Here was the famous rose window in the Antwerp transept; the
statue of one of the apostles in Naumburg; the nave of Cologne; the
conglomerate of chapels about the apse of Mayence; the Angel's Pillar at
Strasburg--they were a joy in line and proportion to the eye, in effect
and spirit of purpose to the understanding mind, the receptive soul.

Father Honoré was revelling in the thought of the men's appreciative
delight when he should show them these lovely stones--across-the-sea kin
to their own quarry granite. His semi-monthly talks with the quarrymen
and stone-cutters were assuming, after many years, the proportions of
lectures on art and scientific themes. Already many a professor from
some far-away university had accepted his invitation to give of his best
to the granite men of Maine. Rarely had they found a more fitting or
appreciative audience.

"How divine!" he murmured to himself, his eyes dwelling lovingly--at the
same time his pencil was making notes--on the 'Prentice Pillar in Roslyn
Chapel. Then he smiled at the thought of the contrast it offered to his
own chapel in the meadows by the lake shore. In that, every stone, as in
the making of the Tabernacle of old, had been a free-will offering from
the men--each laid in its place by a willing worker; and, because
willing, the rough walls were as eloquent of earnest endeavor as the
famed 'Prentice Pillar itself.

"I'd like to see such a one as this in our chapel!" He was talking to
himself as was his way when alone. "I believe Luigi Poggi, if he had
kept on in the sheds, would in time have given this a close second."

He took up the magnifying glass to examine the curled edges of the stone
kale leaves.

There was a knock at the door.

He hastily placed the photographs in a long box beside the table, and,
instead of saying "Come in," stepped to the door and opened it.

Aileen stood there. The look in her eyes as she raised them to his, and
said in a subdued voice, "Father Honoré, can you spare me a little time,
all to myself?" gave him hope that the fulness of time was come.

"I always have time for you, Aileen; come in. I'll start up the fire a
bit; it's growing much colder."

He laid the wood on the hearth, and with the bellows blew it to a
leaping flame. While he was thus occupied, Aileen looked around her. She
knew this room and loved it.

The stone fireplace was deep and ample, built by Father Honoré,--indeed,
the entire one storey house was his handiwork. Above it hung a large
wooden crucifix. On the shelf beneath were ranged some superb specimens
of quartz and granite. The plain deal table, also of ample proportions,
was piled at one end high with books and pamphlets. Two large windows
overlooked the pond, the sloping depression of The Gore, the course of
the Rothel, and the headwaters of Lake Mesantic. Some plain wooden
armchairs were set against the walls that had been rough plastered and
washed with burnt sienna brown. On them was hung an exquisite
engraving--the Sistine Madonna and Child. There were also a few
etchings, among them a copy of Whistler's _The Thames by London Bridge_,
and a view of Niagara by moonlight. A mineral cabinet, filled to
overflowing with fine specimens, extended the entire length of one wall.
The pine floor was oiled and stained; large hooked rugs, genuine
products of Maine, lay here and there upon it.

Many a man coming in from the quarries or the sheds with a grievance, a
burden, or a joy, felt the influence of this simple room. Many a woman
brought here her heavy over-charged heart and was eased in its
fire-lighted atmosphere of welcome. Many a child brought hither its
spring offering of the first mitchella, or its autumn gift of
checkerberries. Many a girl, many a boy had met here to rehearse a
Christmas glee or an Easter anthem. Many a night these walls echoed to
the strains of the priest's violin, when he sat alone by the fireside
with only the Past for a guest. And these combined influences lingered
in the room, mellowed it, hallowed it, and made themselves felt to one
and all as beneficent--even as now to Aileen.

Father Honoré placed two of the wooden chairs before the blazing fire.
Aileen took one.

"Draw up a little nearer, Aileen; you look chilled." He noticed her
extreme pallor and the slight trembling of her shoulders.

She glanced out of the window at some quarrymen who were passing.

"You don't think we shall be interrupted, do you?" she asked rather
nervously.

"Oh, no. I'll just step to the kitchen and give a word to Thérèse. She
is a good watchdog when I am not to be disturbed." He opened a door at
the back of the room.

"Thérèse."

"On y va."

An old French Canadian appeared in answer to his call. He addressed her
in French.

"If any one should knock, Thérèse, just step to the kitchen porch door
and say that I am engaged for an hour, at least."

"Oui, oui, Père Honoré."

He closed the door.

"There, now you can have your chat 'all to yourself' as you requested,"
he said smiling. He sat down in the other chair he had drawn to the
fire.

"I've been over to Maggie's this afternoon--"

She hesitated; it was not easy to find an opening for her long pent
trouble.

Father Honoré spread his hands to the blaze.

"She has a fine boy. I'm glad McCann is back again, and I hope anchored
here for life. He's trying to buy his home he tells me."

"So Maggie said--Father Honoré;" she clasped and unclasped her hands
nervously; "I think it's that that has made me come to you to-day."

"That?--I think I don't quite understand, Aileen."

"The home--I think I never felt so alone--so homeless as when I was
there with her--and the baby--"

She looked down, struggling to keep back the tears. Despite her efforts
the bright drops plashed one after the other on her clasped hands. She
raised her eyes, looking almost defiantly through the falling tears at
the priest; the blood surged into her white cheeks; the rush of words
followed:--

"I have no home--I've never had one--never shall have one--it's not for
me, that paradise; it's for men and women like Jim McCann and
Maggie.--Oh, why did I come here!" she cried out wildly; "why did you
put me there in that house?--Why didn't Mr. Van Ostend let me alone
where I was--happy with the rest! Why," she demanded almost fiercely,
"why can't a child's life be her own to do with what she chooses? Why
has any human being a right to say to another, whether young or old,
'You shall live here and not there'? Oh, it is tyrannical--it is tyranny
of the worst kind, and what haven't I had to suffer from it all! It is
like Hell on earth!"

Her breath caught in great sobs that shook her; her eyes flashed through
blinding tears; her cheeks were crimson; she continued to clasp and
unclasp her hands.

The peculiar ivory tint of the strong pock-marked face opposite her took
on, during this outburst, a slightly livid hue. Every word she uttered
was a blow; for in it was voiced misery of mind, suffering and hardness
of heart, despair, ingratitude, undeserved reproach, anger, defiance and
the ignoring of all facts save those in the recollection of which she
had lost all poise, all control--And she was still so young! What was
behind these facts that occasioned such a tirade?

This was the priest's problem.

He waited a moment to regain his own control. The ingratitude, the
bitter injustice had shocked him out of it. Her mood seemed one of
defiance only. The woman before him was one he had never known in the
Aileen Armagh of the last fourteen years. He knew, moreover, that he
must not speak--dare not, as a sacred obligation to his office, until he
no longer felt the touch of anger he experienced upon hearing her
unrestrained outburst. It was but a moment before that touch was
removed; his heart softened towards her; filled suddenly with a pitying
love, for with his mind's eye he saw the small blood-stained
handkerchief in his hand, the initials A. A., the man on the cot from
whose arm he had taken it more than six years before. Six years! How she
must have suffered--and in silence!

"Aileen," he said at last and very gently, "whatever was done for you at
that time was done with the best intentions for your good. Believe me,
could Mr. Van Ostend and I have foreseen such resulting wretchedness as
this for our efforts, we should never have insisted on carrying out our
plan for you. But, like yourself, we are human--we could not foresee
this any more than you could. There is, however, one course always open
to you--"

"What?" she demanded; her voice was harsh from continued struggle with
her complex emotions. She was past all realization of what she owed to
the dignity of his office.

"You have long been of age; you are at liberty to leave Mrs. Champney
whenever you will."

"I am going to." The response came prompt and hard.

"And what then?"

"I don't know--yet--;" her speech faltered; "but I want to try the
stage. Every one says I have the voice for it, and I suppose I could
make a hit in light operetta or vaudeville as well now as when I was a
child. A few years more and I shall be too old."

"And you think you can enter into such publicity without protection?"

"Oh, I'm able to protect myself--I've done that already." She spoke with
bitterness.

"True, you are a woman now--but still a young woman--"

Father Honoré stopped there. He was making no headway with her. He knew
only too well that, as yet, he had not begun to get beneath the surface.
When he spoke it was as if he were merely thinking aloud.

"Somehow, I hadn't thought that you would be so ready to leave us
all--so many friends. Are we nothing to you, Aileen? Will you make
better, truer ones among strangers? I can hardly think so."

She covered her face with her hands and began to sob again, but
brokenly.

"Aileen, my daughter, what is it? Is there any new trouble preparing for
you at The Bow?"

She shook her head. The tears trickled through her fingers.

"Does Mrs. Champney know that you are going to leave her?"

"No."

"Has it become unbearable?"

Another shake of the head. She searched blindly for her handkerchief,
drew it forth and wiped her eyes and face.

"No; she's kinder than she's been for a long time--ever since that last
stroke. She wants me with her most of the time."

"Has she ever spoken to you about remaining with her?"

"Yes, a good many times. She tried to make me promise I would stay
till--till she doesn't need me. But, I couldn't, you know."

"Then why--but of course I know you are worn out by her long invalidism
and tired of the fourteen years in that one house. Still, she has been
lenient since you were twenty-one. She has permitted you--although of
course you had the undisputed right--to earn for yourself in teaching
the singing classes in the afternoon and evening school, and she pays
you something beside--fairly well, doesn't she? I think you told me you
were satisfied."

"Oh yes, in a way--so far as it goes. She doesn't begin to pay me as she
would have to pay another girl in my position--if I have any there. I
haven't said anything about it to her, because I wanted to work off my
indebtedness to her on account of what she spent on me in bringing me
up--she never let me forget that in those first seven years! I want to
give more than I've had," she said proudly, "and sometime I shall tell
her of it."

"But you have never given her any love?"

"No, I couldn't give her that.--Do you blame me?"

"No; you have done your whole duty by her. May I suggest that when you
leave her you still make your home with us here in Flamsted? You have no
other home, my child."

"No, I have no other home," she repeated mechanically.

"I know, at least, two that are open to you at any time you choose to
avail yourself of their hospitality. Mrs. Caukins would be so glad to
have you both for her daughters' sake and her own. The Colonel desires
this as much as she does and--" he hesitated a moment, "now that Romanzo
has his position in the New York office, and has married and settled
there, there could be no objection so far as I can see."

There was no response.

"But if you do not care to consider that, there is another. About seven
months ago, Mrs. Googe--"

"Mrs. Googe?"

She turned to him a face from which every particle of color had faded.

"Yes, Mrs. Googe. She would have spoken to you herself long before this,
but, you know, Aileen, how she would feel in the circumstances--she
would not think of suggesting your coming to her from Mrs. Champney. I
feel sure she is waiting for you to take the initiative."

"Mrs. Googe?" she repeated, continuing to stare at him--blankly, as if
she had heard but those two words of all that he was saying.

"Why, yes, Mrs. Googe. Is there anything so strange in that? She has
always loved you, and she said to me, only the other day, 'I would love
to have her young companionship in my house'--she will never call it
home, you know, until her son returns--'to be as a daughter to me'--"

"Daughter!--I--want air--"

She swayed forward in speaking. Father Honoré sprang and caught her or
she would have fallen. He placed her firmly against the chair back and
opened the window. The keen night air charged with frost quickly revived
her.

"You were sitting too near the fire; I should have remembered that you
had come in from the cold," he said, delicately regarding her feelings;
"let me get you a glass of water, Aileen."

She put out her hand with a gesture of dissent. She began to breathe
freely. The room chilled rapidly. Father Honoré closed the window and
took his stand on the hearth. Aileen raised her eyes to him. It seemed
as if she lifted the swollen reddened lids with difficulty.

"Father Honoré," she said in a low voice, tense with suppressed feeling,
"dear Father Honoré, the only father I have ever known, don't you know
_why_ I cannot go to Mrs. Googe's?--why I must not stay too long in
Flamsted?"

And looking into those eyes, that were incapable of insincerity, that,
in the present instance, attempted to veil nothing, the priest read all
that of which, six years ago on that never to be forgotten November
night in New York, he had had premonition.

"My daughter--is it because of Champney's prospective return within a
year that you feel you cannot remain longer with us?"

Her quivering lips gave an almost inaudible assent.

"Why?" He dared not spare her; he felt, moreover, that she did not wish
to be spared. His eyes held hers.

Bravely she answered, bracing soul and mind and body to steadfastness.
There was not a wavering of an eyelid, not a suggestion of faltering
speech as she spoke the words that alone could lift from her
overburdened heart the weight of a seven years' silence:

"Because I love him."

The answer seemed to Father Honoré supreme in its sacrificial
simplicity. He laid his hand on her head. She bowed beneath his touch.

"I have tried so hard," she murmured, "so hard--and I cannot help it. I
have despised myself for it--if only he hadn't been put _there_, I think
it would have helped--but he is there, and my thoughts are with him
there--I see him nights--in that cell--I see him daytimes _breaking
stones_--I can't sleep, or eat, without comparing--you know. Oh, if he
hadn't been put _there_, I could have conquered this weakness--"

"Aileen, _no_! It is no weakness, it is strength."

Father Honoré withdrew his hand, that had been to the broken woman a
silent benediction, and walked up and down the long room. "You would
never have conquered; there was--there is no need to conquer. Such love
is of God--trust it, my child; don't try any longer to thrust it forth
from your heart, your life; for if you do, your life will be but a poor
maimed thing, beneficial neither to yourself nor to others. I say,
cherish this supreme love for the man who is expiating in a prison; hold
it close to your soul as a shield and buckler to the spirit against the
world; truly, you will need no other if you go forth from us into a
world of strangers--but why, why need you go?"

He spoke gently, but insistently. He saw that the girl was hanging upon
his every word as if he bespoke her eternal salvation. And, in truth,
the priest was illumining the dark and hidden places of her life and
giving her courage to love on which, to her, meant courage to live
on.--Such were the demands of a nature, loyal, impulsive, warmly
affectionate, sincere, capable of an all-sacrificing love that could
give without return if need be, but a nature which, without love
developing in her of itself just for the sake of love, would shrivel,
become embittered, and like withered fruit on a tree drop useless to the
ground to be trodden under the careless foot of man.

In the darkening room the firelight leaped and showed to Father Honoré
the woman's face transfigured under the powerful influence of his words.
She smiled up at him--a smile so brave in its pathos, so winning in its
true womanliness, that Father Honoré felt the tears bite his eyeballs.

"Perhaps I don't need to go then."

"This rejoices me, Aileen--it will rejoice us all," he answered heartily
to cover his emotion.

"But it won't be easy to stay where I am."

"I know--I know; you speak as one who has suffered; but has not Champney
suffered too? Think of his home-coming!"

"Yes, he has suffered--in a way--but not my way."

Father Honoré had a vision at that moment of Champney Googe's face when
he said, "But you loved her with your whole manhood." He made no reply,
but waited for Aileen to say more if she should so choose.

"I believed he loved me--and so I told him my love--I shall never, never
get over that!" she exclaimed passionately. "But I know now--I knew
before he went away the last time, that I was mistaken; no man could
say what he did and know even the first letter of love."

Her indignation was rising, and Father Honoré welcomed it; it was a
natural trait with her, and its suppression gave him more cause for
anxiety than its expression.

"He didn't love me--not really--"

"Are you sure of this, Aileen?"

"Yes, I am sure."

"You have good reason to know that you are telling a fact in asserting
this?"

"Yes, altogether too good a reason." There was a return of bitterness in
her answer.

Father Honoré was baffled. Aileen spoke without further questioning.
Evidently she was desirous of making her position as well as Champney's
plain to him and to herself. Her voice grew more gentle as she
continued:--

"Father Honoré, I've loved him so long--and so truly, without hope, you
know--never any hope, and hating myself for loving where I was not
loved--that I think I do know what love is--"

Father Honoré smiled to himself in the half-dark; this voice was still
young, and its love-wisdom was young-wise, also. There was hope, he told
himself, that all would come right in the end--work together for good.

"But Mr. Googe never loved me as I loved him--and I couldn't accept
less."

The priest caught but the lesser part of her meaning. Even his wisdom
and years failed to throw light on the devious path of Aileen's thoughts
at this moment. Of the truth contained in her expression, he had no
inkling.

"Aileen, I don't know that I can make it plain to you, but--a man's
love is so different from a woman's that, sometimes, I think such a
statement as you have just made is so full of flaws that it amounts to
sophistry; but there is no need to discuss that.--Let me ask you if you
can endure to stay on with Mrs. Champney for a few months longer? I have
a very special reason for asking this. Sometime I will tell you."

"Oh, yes;" she spoke wearily, indifferently; "I may as well stay there
as anywhere now." Then with more interest and animation, "May I tell you
something I have kept to myself all these years? I want to get rid of
it."

"Surely--the more the better when the heart is burdened."

He took his seat again, and with pitying love and ever increasing
interest and amazement listened to her recital of the part she played on
that October night in the quarry woods--of her hate that turned to love
again when she found the man she had both loved and hated in the extreme
of need, of the 'murder'--so she termed it in her contrition--of Rag, of
her swearing Luigi to silence. She told of herself--but of Champney
Googe's unmanly temptation of her honor, of his mad passion for her, she
said never a word; her two pronounced traits of chastity and loyalty
forbade it, as well as the desire of a loving woman to shield him she
loved in spite of herself.

Of the little handkerchief that played its part in that night's
threatened tragedy she said nothing--neither did Father Honoré;
evidently, she had forgotten it.

Suddenly she clasped her hands hard over her heart.

"That dear loving little dog's death has lain here like a stone all
these years," she said, and rose to go.

"You are absolved, Aileen," he said smiling. "It was, like many others,
a little devoted life sacrificed to a great love."

He reached to press the button that turned on the electric lights. Their
soft brilliance caught in sparkling gleams on the points of a small
piece of almost pure white granite among the specimens on the shelf
above them. Father Honoré rose and took it from its place.

"This is for you, Aileen," he said handing it to her.

"For me?" She looked at him in wonder, not understanding what he meant
by this insignificant gift at such a time.

He smiled at her look of amazement.

"No wonder you look puzzled. You must be thinking you have 'asked me for
bread and I am giving you a stone.' But this is for remembrance."

He hesitated a moment.

"You said once this afternoon, that for years it had been a hell on
earth for you--a strong expression to fall from a young woman's lips;
and I said nothing. Sometime, perhaps, you will see things differently.
But if I said nothing, it was only because I thought the more; for just
as you spoke those words, my eye caught the glitter of this piece of
granite in the firelight, and I said to myself--'that is like what
Aileen's life will be, and through her life what her character will
prove to be.' This stone has been crushed, subjected to unimaginable
heat, upheaved, submerged, ground again to powder, remelted,
overwhelmed, made adamant, rent, upheaved again,--and now, after æons,
it lies here so near the blue above our Flamsted Hills, worthy to be
used and put to all noble uses; fittest in all the world for foundation
stone--for it is the foundation rock of our earth crust--for all
lasting memorials of great deed and noble thought; for all temples and
holies of holies. Take it, Aileen, and--remember!"

"I will, oh, I will; and I'll try to fit myself, too; I'll try, dear,
dear Father Honoré," she said humbly, gratefully.

He held out his hand and she placed hers in it. He opened the door.

"Good night, Aileen, and God bless you."

"Good night, Father Honoré."

She went out into the clear winter starlight. The piece of granite, she
held tightly clasped in her hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

The priest, after closing the door, went to the pine table and opening a
drawer took out a letter. It bore a recent date. It was from the
chaplain of the prison and informed him there was a strong prospect of
release for Champney Googe at least three months before the end of his
term. Father Honoré smiled to himself. He refolded it and laid it in the
drawer.


III

Early in the following March, on the arrival of the 3 P.M. train from
Hallsport, there was the usual crowd at The Corners' station to meet it.
They watched the passengers as they left the train and commented freely
on one and another known to them.

"I'll bet that's the new boss at the upper quarries," said one, pointing
to a short thickset man making his way up the platform.

"Yes, that's him; and they're taking on a gang of new men with him;
they're in the last car--there they come! There's going to be a regular
spring freshet of 'em coming along now--the business is booming."

They scanned the men closely as they passed, between twenty and thirty
of them of various nationalities. They were gesticulating wildly,
vociferating loudly, shouldering bundle, knapsack or tool-kit. Behind
them came a few stone-cutters, mostly Scotch and Irish. The last to
leave the train was evidently an American.

The crowd on the platform surged away to the electric car to watch
further proceedings of the newly arrived "gang." The arrival of the
immigrant workmen always afforded fun for the natives. The men shivered
and hunched their shoulders; the raw March wind was searching. The
gesticulating and vociferating increased. To any one unacquainted with
foreign ways, a complete rupture of international peace and relations
seemed imminent. They tumbled over one another into the cars and filled
them to overflowing, even to the platform where they clung to the
guards.

The man who had been the last to leave the train stood on the emptied
platform and looked about him. He carried a small bundle. He noted the
sign on the electric cars, "To Quarry End Park". A puzzled look came
into his face. He turned to the baggage-master who was wrestling with
the immigrants' baggage:--iron-bound chests, tin boxes and trunks, sacks
of heavy coarse linen filled with bedding.

"Does this car go to the sheds?"

The station master looked up. "It goes past there, but this is the
regular half-hour express for the quarries and the Park. You a stranger
in these parts?"

"This is all strange to me," the man answered.

"Any baggage?"

"No."

At that moment there was a rapid clanging of the gong; the motorman let
fly the whirling rod; the over full cars started with a jerk--there was
a howl, a shout, followed by a struggle to keep the equilibrium; an
undersized Canuck was seen to be running madly alongside with one hand
on the guard and endeavoring to get a foothold; he was hauled up
unceremoniously by a dozen hands. The crowd watching them, cheered and
jeered:

"Goin' it some, Antoine! Don't get left!"

"Keep on your pins, you Dagos!"

"Steady, Polacks--there's the strap!"

"Gee up, Johnny!" This to the motorman.

"Gosh, it's like a soda bottle fizzin' to hear them Rooshians talkin'."

"Hooray for you!"

The cars were off swiftly now; the men on the platforms waved their
hats, their white teeth flashing, their gold earrings twinkling, and
echoed the American cheer:--

"Horray!"

The station master turned away laughing.

"They look like a tough crowd, but they're O. K. in the end," he said to
the man beside him who was looking after the vanishing car and its
trailer. "There's yours coming down the switch. That'll take you up to
Flamsted and the sheds." He pushed the loaded truck up the platform.

The stranger entered the car and took a seat at the rear; there were no
other passengers. He told the conductor to leave him as near as possible
to the sheds.

"Guess you don't know these parts?" The conductor put the question.

"This here is new to me," the man answered; he seemed nothing loath to
enter into conversation. "When was this road built?"

"'Bout five years ago. You'll see what a roadway they've made clear
along the north shore of the lake; it's bein' built up with houses just
as fast as it's taken up."

He rang the starting bell. The car gathered headway and sped noisily
along the frozen road-bed. In a few minutes it stopped at the Flamsted
station; then it followed the shore of the lake for two miles until it
reached the sheds. It stopped here and the man got out.

"Can you tell me where the manager's office is?" he asked a workman who
was passing.

"Over there." He pointed with his thumb backwards across some railroad
tracks and through a stone-yard to a small two-storey office building at
the end of three huge sheds.

The man made his way across to them. Once he stopped to look at the
leaden waters of the lake, rimmed with ice; and up at the leaden sky
that seemed to be shutting down close upon them like a lid; and around
at the gray waste of frozen ground, the meadows covered lightly with
snow and pools of surface ice that here and there showed the long
bleached grass pricking through in grayish-yellow tufts. Beyond the
meadows he saw a rude stone chapel, and near by the foundations, capped
with wood, of a large church. He shivered once; he had no overcoat. Then
he went on to the manager's office. He rang and opened the door.

"Can I see the manager?"

"He's out now; gone over to the engine-house to see about the new smoke
stack; he'll be back in a few minutes. Guess you'll find a stool in the
other room."

The man entered the room, but remained standing, listening with
increasing interest to the technical talk of the other two men who were
half lying on the table as they bent over some large plans--an
architect's blue prints. Finally the man drew near.

"May I look too?" he asked.

"Sure. These are the working plans for the new Episcopal cathedral at
A.;" he named a well known city; "you've heard of it, I s'pose?"

The man shook his head.

"Here for a job?"

"Yes. Is all this work to be done by the company?"

"Every stone. We got the contract eleven months ago. We're at work on
these courses now." He turned the plates that the man might see.

He bent over to examine them, noting the wonderful detail of arch and
architrave, of keystone, cornice and foundation course. Each stone,
varying in size and shape, was drawn with utmost accuracy, dimensions
given, numbered with its own number for the place of its setting into
the perfect whole. The stability of the whole giant structure was
dependent upon the perfection and right placing of each individual stone
from lowest foundation to the keystones of the vaulting arches of the
nave; the harmony of design dependent on rightly maintained proportions
of each granite block, large or small--and all this marvellous structure
was the product of the rude granite veins in The Gore! That adamantine
mixture of gneiss and quartz, prepared in nature's laboratory throughout
millions of years, was now furnishing the rock which, beneath human
manipulation, was flowering into the great cathedral! And that perfect
whole was _ideaed_ first in the brain of man, and a sketch of it
transferred by the sun itself to the blue paper which lay on the table!

What a combination and transmutation of those forceful powers that
originate in the Unnamable!

The manager entered, passed into the next room and, sitting down at his
desk, began to make notes on a pad. At a sign from the two men, the
stranger followed him, cap in hand.

The manager spoke without looking at him:--"Well?"

"I'd like a job in the sheds."

At the sound of that voice, the manager glanced up quickly, keenly. He
saw before him a man evidently prematurely gray. The broad shoulders
bowed slightly as if from long-continued work involving much stooping.
He looked at the hands; they were rough, calloused with toil, the
knuckles spread, the nails broken and worn. Then he looked again into
the face; that puzzled him. It was smooth-shaven, square in outline and
rather thin, but the color was good; the eyes--what eyes!

The manager found himself wondering if there were a pair to match them
in the wide world. They were slightly sunken, large, blue, of a depth
and beauty and clarity rarely seen in that color. Within them, as if at
home, dwelt an expression of inner quiet, and sadness combined with
strength and firmness. It was not easy to look long into them without
wanting to grasp the possessor's hand in fellowship. They smiled, too,
as the manager continued to stare. That broke the spell; they were
undeniably human. The manager smiled in response.

"Learned your trade?"

"Yes."

"How long have you been working at it?"

"Between six and seven years."

"Any tools with you?"

"No."

"Union man?"

"No."

"Hm-m."

The manager chewed the handle of his pen, and thought something out with
himself; his eyes were on the pad before him.

"We've got to take on a lot of new men for the next two years--as many
as we can of skilled workmen. The break will have to be made sometime.
Anyhow, if you'll risk it they've got a job for you in Shed Number
Two--cutting and squaring for a while--forty cents an hour--eight hour
day. I'll telephone to the boss if you want it."

"I do."

He took up the desk-telephone and gave his message.

"It's all right." He drew out a ledger from beneath the desk. "What's
your letter?"

"Letter?" The man looked startled for a moment.

"Yes, initial of your last name."

"G."

The manager found the letter, thrust in his finger, opened the page
indicated and shoved the book over the desk towards the applicant. He
handed him his pen.

"Write your name, your age, and what you're native of." He indicated the
columns.

The man took the pen. He seemed at first slightly awkward in handling
it. The entry he made was as follows:

"Louis C. Googe--thirty-four--United States."

The manager glanced at it. "That's a common enough name in Maine and
these parts," he said. Then he pointed through the window. "That's the
shed over there--the middle one. The boss'll give you some tools till
you get yours."

"Thank you." The man put on his cap and went out.

"Well, I'll be hanged!" was all the manager said as he looked after the
applicant. Then he rose, went to the office door and watched the man
making his way through the stone-yards towards the sheds. "Well, boys,"
he said further, turning to the two men bending over the plans, "that
suit ain't exactly a misfit, but it hasn't seen the light of day for a
good many years--and it's the same with the man. What in thunder is he
doing in the sheds! Did he say anything specially to you before I came
in?"

"No; only he seemed mighty interested in the plans, examined the detail
of some of them--as if he knew."

"We'll keep our eyes on him." The manager went back to his desk.


IV

Perhaps the dreariest environment imaginable is a stone-cutters' shed on
a bleak day in the first week in March. The large ones stretching along
the north shore of Lake Mesantic are no exception to this statement. A
high wind from the northeast was driving before it particles of ice, and
now and then a snow flurry. It penetrated every crack and crevice of the
huge buildings, the second and largest of which covered a ground space
of more than an acre. Every gust made itself both felt and heard among
the rafters. Near the great doors the granite dust whirled in eddies.

At this hour in the afternoon Shed Number Two was a study in black and
gray and white. Gray dust several inches thick spread underfoot; all
about were gray walls, gray and white granite piles, gray columns,
arches, uncut blocks, heaps of granite waste, gray workmen in gray
blouses and canvas aprons covered with gray dust. In one corner towered
the huge gray-black McDonald machine in mighty strength, its multiple
revolving arms furnished with gigantic iron fists which manipulate the
unyielding granite with Herculean automatonism--an invention of the
film-like brain of man to conquer in a few minutes the work of nature's
æons! Gray-black overhead stretched the running rails for the monster
electric travelling crane; some men crawling out on them looked like
monkeys. Here and there might be seen the small insignificant "Lewis
Key"--a thing that may be held on a woman's palm--sustaining a granite
weight of many tons.

There were three hundred men at work in this shed, and the ringing
_chip-chip-chipping_ monotone from the hundreds of hammers and chisels,
filled the great space with industry's wordless song that has its
perfect harmony for him who listens with open ears and expansive mind.

Jim McCann was at work near the shed doors which had been opened several
times since one o'clock to admit the flat cars with the granite. He was
alternately blowing on his benumbed fingers and cursing the doors and
the draught that was chilling him to the marrow. The granite dust was
swirling about his legs and rising into his nostrils. It lacked a
half-hour to four.

Two cars rolled in silently.

"Shut thim damned doors, man!" he shouted across to the door-tender;
"God kape us but we' it's our last death we'll be ketchin' before we can
clane out our lungs o' the dust we've swallowed the day. It's after
bein' wan damned slitherin' whorl of grit in the nose of me since eight
the morn."

He struck hard on his chisel and a spark flew. A workman, an Italian,
laughed.

"That's arll-rright, Jim--fire up!"

"You kape shet," growled McCann. He was unfriendly as a rule to the
Dagos. "It's in me blood," was his only excuse.

"An' if it's a firin' ye be after," he continued, "ye'll get it shurre
if ye lave off workin' to warm up yer tongue wid such sass.--Shut thim
doors!" he shouted again; but a gust of wind failed to carry his voice
in the desired direction.

In the swirling roar and the small dust-spout that followed in its
wake, Jim and the workmen in his cold section were aware of a man who
had been half-blown in with the whirling dust. He took shelter for a
moment by the inner wall. The foreman saw him and recognized him for the
man who, the manager had just telephoned, was coming over from the
office. He came forward to meet him.

"You're the man who has just taken on a job in Shed Number Two?"

"Yes."

The foreman signed to one of the men and told him to bring an extra set
of tools.

"Here's your section," he said indicating McCann's; "you can begin on
this block--just squaring it for to-night."

The man took his tools with a "Thank you," and went to work. The others
watched him furtively, as Jim told Maggie afterwards "from the tail of
me eye."

He knew his work. They soon saw that. Every stroke told. The doors were
shut at last and the electric lights turned on. Up to the stroke of four
the men worked like automatons--_chip-chip-chipping_. Now and then there
was some chaffing, good-natured if rough.

The little Canuck, who by dint of running had caught the car, was
working nearby. McCann called out to him:

"I say, Antwine, where you'd be after gettin' that cap with the monkey
ears?"

"Bah gosh, Ah have get dis à Mo'real--at good marché--sheep." He stroked
the small skin earlaps caressingly with one hand, then spat upon his
palm and fell to work again.

"Montreal is it? When did you go?"

"Ah was went tree day--le Père Honoré tol' mah Ah better was go to mon
maître; he was dead las' week."

"Wot yer givin' us, Antwine? Three days to see yer dead mater an' lavin'
yer stiddy job for the likes of him, an' good luck yer come back this
afternoon or the new man 'ud 'a' had it."

"Ah, non--ah, non! De boss haf tol' mah, Ah was keep mah shob. Ah,
non--ah, non. Ah was went pour l'amour de Père Honoré."

"Damn yer lingo--shpake English, I tell you."

Antoine grinned and shook his head.

"Wot yer givin' us about his Riverince, eh?"

"Le Père Honoré, hein? Ah-h-h-rr, le bon Père Honoré! Attendez--he tol'
mah Ah was best non raconter--mais, Ah raconte you, Shim--"

"Go ahead, Johnny Frog; let's hear."

"Ah was been lee'l garçon--lee'l bébé, no père; ma mère was been--how
you say?--gypsee à cheval, hein?" he appealed to McCann.

"You mane a gypsy that rides round the counthry?"

Antoine nodded emphatically. "Yah--oui, gypsee à cheval, an' bars--"

"Bears?"

"Mais oui, bruins--bars; pour les faire dancer--"

"You mane your mother was a gypsy that went round the counthry showin'
off dancin' bears?"

"Yah-oui. Ah mane so. She haf been seek--malade--how you say, petite
vérole--so like de Père Honoré?" He made with his forefinger dents in
his face and forehead.

"An' is it the shmall pox yer mane?"

"Yah-oui, shmall pookes. She was haf it, an' tout le monde--how you
say?--efferybodyee was haf fear. She was haf nottin' to eat--nottin' to
drrink; le Père Honoré was fin' her in de bois--forêt, an' was been tak'
ma pauvre mère in hees ahrms, an' he place her in de sugair-house, an'
il l'a soignée--how you say?" He appealed to the Italian whose interest
was on the increase.

"Nurrsed?"

"Yah--oui, nurrsed her, an' moi aussi--lee'l bébé'--"

"D' yer mane his Riverince nursed you and yer mother through the shmall
pox?" demanded McCann. Several of the workmen stopped short with hammers
uplifted to hear Antoine's answer.

"Mais oui, il l'a soignée jusqu'à ce qu'elle was been dead; he l'a
enterrée--place in de terre--airth, an' moi he haf place chez un farmyer
à Mo'real. An' le Père Honoré was tak' la petite vérole--shmall pookes
in de sugair-house, an' de farmyer was gif him to eat an' to drrink par
la porte--de door; de farmyer haf non passé par de door. Le Père Honoré
m'a sauvé--haf safe, hein? An' Ah was been work ten, twenty, dirty year,
Ah tink. Ah gagne--gain, hein?--two hundert pièces. Ah been come to de
quairries, pour l'amour de bon Père Honoré qui m'a safe, hein? Ah be
très content; Ah gagne, gain two, tree pièces--dollaires--par jour."

He nodded at one and all, his gold half-moon earrings twinkling in his
evident satisfaction with himself and "le bon Père Honoré."

The men were silent. Jim McCann's eyes were blurred with tears. The
thought of his own six-months boy presented itself in contrast to the
small waif in the Canada woods and the dying gypsy mother, nursed by the
priest who had christened his own little Billy.

"It's a bad night for the lecture," said a Scotchman, and broke
therewith the emotional spell that was holding the men who had made out
the principal points of Antoine's story.

"Yes, but Father Honoré says it's all about the cathedrals, an' not many
will want to miss it," said another. "They say there's a crowd coming
down from the quarries to-night to hear it."

"Faith, an' it's Mr. Van Ostend will be after havin' to put on an a
trailer to his new hall," said McCann; "the b'ys know a good thing whin
they see it, an' we was like to smother, the whole kit of us, whin they
had the last pitchers of them mountins in Alasky on the sheet. It's the
stairioptican that takes best wid the b'ys."

The four o'clock whistle began to sound. Three hundred chisels and
hammers were dropped on the instant. The men hurried to the doors that
were opened their full width to give egress to the hastening throngs.
They streamed out; there was laughing and chaffing; now and then, among
the younger ones, some good-natured fisticuffs were exchanged. Many
sought the electrics to The Gore; others took the car to The Corners.
From the three sheds, the power-house, the engine-house, the office, the
dark files streamed forth from their toil. Within fifteen minutes the
lights were turned out, the watchman was making his first round. Instead
of the sounds of a vast industry, nothing was heard but the
_sz-szz-szzz_ of the vanishing trams, the sputter of an arc-light, the
barking of a dog. The gray twilight of a bleak March day shut down
rapidly over frozen field and ice-rimmed lake.


V

Champney Googe left the shed with the rest; no one spoke to him,
although many a curious look was turned his way when he had passed, and
he spoke to no one. He waited for a car to Flamsted. There he got out.
He found a restaurant near The Greenbush and ordered something to eat.
Afterwards he went about the town, changed almost beyond recognition. He
saw no face he knew. There were foreigners everywhere--men who were to
be the fathers of the future American race. A fairly large opera house
attracted his attention; it was evidently new. He looked for the
year--1901. A little farther on he found the hall, built, so he had
gathered from the few words among the men in the sheds, by Mr. Van
Ostend. The name was on the lintel: "Flamsted Quarries Hall." Every few
minutes an electric tram went whizzing through Main Street towards The
Bow. Crowds of young people were on the street.

He looked upon all he saw almost indifferently, feeling little, caring
little. It was as if a mental and spiritual numbness had possession of
every faculty except the manual; he felt at home only while he was
working for that short half-hour in the shed. He was not at ease here
among this merry careless crowd. He stopped to look in at the windows of
a large fine shop for fruits and groceries; he glanced up at the
sign:--"Poggi and Company."

"Poggi--Poggi" he said to himself; he was thinking it out. "Luigi
Poggi--Luigi--Ah!" It was a long-drawn breath. He had found his clew.

He heard again that cry: "Champney,--O Champney! what has he done to
you!" The night came back to him in all its detail. It sickened him.

He was about to turn from the window and seek the quiet of The Bow until
the hall should be open--at "sharp seven" he heard the men say--when a
woman passed him and entered the shop. She took a seat at the counter
just inside the show-window. He stood gazing at her, unable to move his
eyes from the form, the face. It was she--Aileen!

The sickening feeling increased for a moment, then it gave place to
strange electric currents that passed and repassed through every nerve.
It was a sensation as if his whole body--flesh, muscles, nerves,
arteries, veins, every lobe of his brain, every cell within each lobe,
had been, as the saying is of an arm or leg, "asleep" and was now
"coming to." The tingling sensation increased almost to torture; but he
could not move. That face held him.

He must get away before she came out! That was his one thought. The
first torment of awakening sensation to a new life was passing. He
advanced a foot, then the other; he moved slowly, but he moved at last.
He walked on down the street, not up towards The Bow as he had intended;
walked on past The Greenbush towards The Corners; walked on and on till
the nightmare of this awakening from a nearly seven-years abnormal sleep
of feeling was over. Then he turned back to the town. The town clock was
striking seven. The men were entering the hall by tens and twenties.

He took his seat in a corner beneath the shadow of a large gallery at
the back, over the entrance.

There were only men admitted. He looked upon the hundreds assembled, and
realized for the first time in more than six years that he was again a
free man among free men. He drew a long breath of relief, of
realization.

At a quarter past seven Father Honoré made his appearance on the
platform. The men settled at once into silence, and the priest began
without preface:

"My friends, we will take up to-night what we may call the Brotherhood
of Stone."

The men looked at one another and smiled. Here was something new.

"That is the right thought for all of you to take with you into the
quarries and the sheds. Don't forget it!"

He made certain distinct pauses after a few sentences. This was done
with intention; for the men before him were of various nationalities,
although he called this his "English night." But many were learning and
understood imperfectly; it was for them he paused frequently. He wanted
to give them time to take in what he was saying. Sometimes he repeated
his words in Italian, in French, that the foreigners might better
comprehend his meaning.

"Perhaps some of you have worked in the limestone quarries on the Bay?
All who have hold up hands."

A hundred hands, perhaps more, were raised.

"Any worked in the marble quarries of Vermont?"

A dozen or more Canucks waved their hands vigorously.

"Here are three pieces--limestone, marble, and granite." He held up
specimens of the three. "All of them are well known to most of you. Now
mark what I say of these three:--first, the limestone gets burned
principally; second, the marble gets sculptured principally; third, the
granite gets hammered and chiselled principally. Fire, chisel, and
hammer at work on these three rocks; but, they are all _quarried_ first.
This fact of their being quarried puts them in the Brotherhood--of
Labor."

The men nudged one another, and nodded emphatically.

"They are all three taken from the crust of the earth; this Earth is to
them the earth-mother. Now mark again what I say:--this fact of their
common earth-mother puts them in the Brotherhood--of Kin."

He took up three specimens of quartz crystals.

"This quartz crystal"--he turned it in the light, and the hexagonal
prisms caught and reflected dazzling rays--"I found in the limestone
quarry on the Bay. This," he took up another smaller one, "I found after
a long search in the marble quarries of Vermont. This here," he held up
a third, a smaller, less brilliant, less perfect one--"I took out of our
upper quarry after a three weeks' search for it.

"This fact, that these rocks, although of different market value and put
to different uses, may yield the same perfect crystal, puts the
limestone, the marble, the granite in the Brotherhood--of Equality.

"In our other talks, we have named the elements of each rock, and given
some study to each. We have found that some of their elements are the
basic elements of our own mortal frames--our bodies have a common
earth-mother with these stones.

"This last fact puts them in the Brotherhood--of Man."

The seven hundred men showed their appreciation of the point made by
prolonged applause.

"Now I want to make clear to you that, although these rocks have
different market values, are put to different uses, the real value for
us this evening consists in the fact that each, in its own place, can
yield a crystal equal in purity to the others.--Remember this the next
time you go to work in the quarries and the sheds."

He laid aside the specimens.

"We had a talk last month about the guilds of four hundred years ago. I
asked you then to look upon yourselves as members of a great twentieth
century working guild. Have you done it? Has every man, who was present
then, said since, when hewing a foundation stone, a block for a bridge
abutment, a corner-stone for a cathedral or a railroad station, a
cap-stone for a monument, a milestone, a lintel for a door, a
hearthstone or a step for an altar, 'I belong to the great guild of the
makers of this country; I quarry and hew the rock that lays the enduring
bed for the iron or electric horses which rush from sea to sea and carry
the burden of humanity'?--Think of it, men! Yours are the hands that
make this great track of commerce possible. Yours are the hands that
curve the stones, afterwards reared into noble arches beneath which the
people assemble to do God reverence. Yours are the hands that square the
deep foundations of the great bridges which, like the Brooklyn, cross
high in mid-air from shore to shore! Have you said this? Have you done
it?"

"Ay, ay.--Sure.--We done it." The murmuring assent was polyglot.

"Very well--see that you keep on doing it, and show that you do it by
the good work you furnish."

He motioned to the manipulators in the gallery to make ready for the
stereopticon views. The blank blinding round played erratically on the
curtain. The entire audience sat expectant.

There was flashed upon the screen the interior of a Canadian "cabin."
The family were at supper; the whole interior, simple and homely, was
indicative of warmth and cheerful family life.

The Canucks in the audience lost their heads. The clapping was frantic.
Father Honoré smiled. He tapped the portrayed wall with the end of his
pointer.

"This is comfort--no cold can penetrate these walls; they are double
plastered. Credit limestone with that!"

The audience showed its appreciation in no uncertain way.

"The crystal--can any one see that--find that in this interior?"

The men were silent. Father Honoré was pointing to the mother and her
child; the father was holding out his arms to the little one who, with
loving impatience, was reaching away from his mother over the table to
his father. They comprehended the priest's thought in the lesson of the
limestone:--the love and trust of the human. No words were needed. An
emotional silence made itself felt.

The picture shifted. There was thrown upon the screen the marble
Cathedral of Milan. A murmur of delight ran through the house.

"Here we have the limestone in the form of marble. Its beauty is the
price of unremitting toil. This, too, belongs in the brotherhoods of
labor, kin, and equality.--Do you find the crystal?"

His pointer swept the hierarchy of statues on the roof, upwards to the
cross on the pinnacle, where it rested.

"This crystal is the symbol of what inspires and glorifies humanity. The
crystal is yours, men, if with believing hearts you are willing to say
'Our Father' in the face of His works."

He paused a moment. It was an understood thing in the semi-monthly
talks, that the men were free to ask questions and to express an
opinion, even, at times, to argue a point. The men's eyes were fixed
with keen appreciation on the marble beauty before them, when a voice
broke the silence.

"That sounds all right enough, your Reverence, what you've said about
'Our Father' and the brotherhoods, but there's many a man says it that
won't own me for a brother. There's a weak joint somewhere--and no
offence meant."

Some of the men applauded.

Father Honoré turned from the screen and faced the men; his eyes
flashed. The audience loved to see him in this mood, for they knew by
experience that he was generally able to meet his adversary, and no odds
given or taken.

"That's you, is it, Szchenetzy?"

"Yes, it's me."

"Do you remember in last month's talk that I showed you the
Dolomites--the curious mountains of the Tyrol?--and in connection with
those the Brenner Pass?"

"Yes."

"Well, something like seven hundred years ago a poor man, a poet and
travelling musician, was riding over that pass and down into that very
region of the Dolomites. He made his living by stopping at the
stronghold-castles of those times and entertaining the powerful of the
earth by singing his poems set to music of his own making. Sometimes he
got a suit of cast-off clothes in payment; sometimes only bed and board
for a time. But he kept on singing his little poems and making more of
them as he grew rich in experience of men and things; for he never grew
rich in gold--money was the last thing they ever gave him. So he
continued long his wandering life, singing his songs in courtyard and
castle hall until they sang their way into the hearts of the men of his
generation. And while he wandered, he gained a wonderful knowledge of
life and its ways among rich and poor, high and low; and, pondering the
things he had seen and the many ways of this world, he said to himself,
that day when he was riding over the Brenner Pass, the same thing that
you have just said--in almost the same words:--'Many a man calls God
"Father" who won't acknowledge me for a brother.'

"I don't know how he reconciled facts--for your fact seems plain
enough--nor do I know how you can reconcile them; but what I do know is
this:--that man, poor in this world's goods, but rich in experience and
in a natural endowment of poetic thought and musical ability, _kept on
making poems, kept on singing them_, despite that fact to which he had
given expression as he fared over the Brenner; despite the fact that a
suit of cast-off clothes was all he got for his entertainment of those
who would not call him 'brother.' Discouraged at times--for he was very
human--he kept on giving the best that was in him, doing the work
appointed for him in this world--and doing it with a whole heart
Godwards and Christwards, despite his poverty, despite the broken
promises of the great to reward him pecuniarily, despite the world,
despite _facts_, Szchenetzy! He sang when he was young of earthly love
and in middle age of heavenly love, and his songs are cherished, for
their beauty of wisdom and love, in the hearts of men to this day."

He smiled genially across the sea of faces to Szchenetzy.

"Come up some night with your violin, Szchenetzy, and we will try over
some of those very songs that the Germans have set to music of their
own, those words of Walter of the Bird-Meadow--so they called him then,
and men keep on calling him that even to this day."

He turned again to the screen.

"What is to be thrown on the screen now--in rapid succession for our
hour is brief--I call our Marble Quarry. Just think of it! quarried by
the same hard work which you all know, by which you earn your daily
bread; sculptured into forms of exceeding beauty by the same hard toil
of other hands. And behind all the toil there is the _soul of art_, ever
seeking expression through the human instrument of the practised hand
that quarries, then sculptures, then places, and builds! I shall give a
word or two of explanation in regard to time and locality; next month we
will take the subjects one by one."

There flashed upon the screen and in quick succession, although the men
protested and begged for an extension of exposures, the noble Pisan
group and Niccola Pisano's pulpit in the baptistery--the horses from the
Parthenon frieze--the Zeus group from the great altar at
Pergamos--Theseus and the Centaur--the Wrestlers--the Discus Thrower
and, last, the exquisite little church of Saint Mary of the Thorn,--the
Arno's jewel, the seafarers' own,--that looks out over the Pisan waters
to the Mediterranean.

It was a magnificent showing. No words from Father Honoré were needed to
bring home to his audience the lesson of the Marble Quarry.

"I call the next series, which will be shown without explanation and
merely named, other members of the Brotherhood of Stone. We study them
separately later on in the summer."

The cathedrals of York, Amiens, Westminster, Cologne, Mayence, St.
Mark's--a noble array of man's handiwork, were thrown upon the screen.
The men showed their appreciation by thunderous applause.

The screen was again a blank; then it filled suddenly with the great
Upper Quarry in The Gore. The granite ledges sloped upward to meet the
blue of the sky. The great steel derricks and their crisscrossing cables
cast curiously foreshortened shadows on the gleaming white expanse. Here
and there a group of men showed dark against a ledge. In the centre, one
of the monster derricks held suspended in its chains a forty-ton block
of granite just lifted from its eternal bed. Beside it a workman showed
like a pigmy.

Some one proposed a three times three for the home quarries. The men
rose to their feet and the cheers were given with a will. The ringing
echo of the last had not died away when the quarry vanished, and in its
place stood the finished cathedral of A.--the work which the hands of
those present were to create. It was a reproduction of the architect's
water-color sketch.

The men still remained standing; they gave no outward expression to
their admiration; that, indeed, although evident in their faces, was
overshadowed by something like awe. _Their_ hands were to be the
instruments by which this great creation of the mind of man should
become a fact. Without those hands the architect's idea could not be
materialized; without the "idea" their daily work would fail.

The truth went home to each man present--even to that unknown one
beneath the gallery who, when the men had risen to cheer, shrank farther
into his dark corner and drew short sharp breaths. The Past would not
down at his bidding; he was beginning to feel his weakness when he had
most need of strength.

He did not hear Father Honoré's parting words:--"Here you find the third
crystal--strength, solidity, the bedrock of endeavor. Take these three
home with you:--the pure crystal of human love and trust, the heart
believing in its Maker, the strength of good character. There you have
the three that make for equality in this world--and nothing else does.
Good night, my friends."


VI

Father Honoré got home from the lecture a little before nine. He renewed
the fire, drew up a chair to the hearth, took his violin from its case
and, seating himself before the springing blaze, made ready to play for
a while in the firelight. This was always his refreshment after a
successful evening with the men. He drew his thumb along the bow--

There was a knock at the door. He rose and flung it wide with a human
enough gesture of impatience; his well-earned rest was disturbed too
soon. He failed to recognize the man who was standing bareheaded on the
step.

"Father Honoré, I've come home--don't you know me, Champney?"

There was no word in response, but his hands were grasped hard--he was
drawn into the room--the door was shut on the chill wind of that March
night. Then the two men stood silent, gazing into each other's eyes,
while the firelight leaped and showed to each the other's face--the
priest's working with a powerful emotion he was struggling to control;
Champney Googe's apparently calm, but in reality tense with anxiety. He
spoke first:

"I want to know about my mother--is she well?"

Father Honoré found his voice, an uncertain one but emphatic; it left no
room for further anxiety in the questioner's mind.

"Yes, well, thank God, and looking forward to this--but it's so soon! I
don't understand--when did you come?"

He kept one hand on Champney's as if fearing to lose him, with the other
he pulled forward a chair from the wall and placed it near his own; he
sat down and drew Champney into the other beside him.

"I came up on the afternoon train; I got out yesterday."

"It's so unexpected. The chaplain wrote me last month that there was a
prospect of this within the next six months, but I had no idea it would
be so soon--neither, I am sure, had he."

"Nor I--I don't know that I feel sure of it yet. Has my mother any idea
of this?"

"I wasn't at liberty to tell her--the communication was confidential.
Still she knows that it is customary to shorten the--" he caught up his
words.

"--Term for exemplary conduct?" Champney finished for him.

"Yes. I can't realize this, Champney; it's six years and four months--"

"Years--months! You might say six eternities. Do you know, I can't get
used to it--the freedom, I mean. At times during these last twenty-four
hours, I have actually felt lost without the work, the routine--the
solitude." He sighed heavily and spoke further, but as if to himself:

"Last Thanksgiving Day we were all together--eight hundred of us in the
assembly room for the exercises. Two men get pardoned out on that day,
and the two who were set free were in for manslaughter--one for twenty
years, the other for life. They had been in eighteen years. I watched
their faces when their numbers were called; they stepped forward to the
platform and were told of their pardon. There wasn't a sign of
comprehension, not a movement of a muscle, the twitch of an
eyelid--simply a dead stolid stare. The truth is, they were benumbed as
to feeling, incapable of comprehending anything, of initiating anything,
as I was till--till this afternoon; then I began to live, to feel
again."

"That's only natural. I've heard other men say the same thing. You'll
recover tone here among your own--your friends and other men."

"Have I any?--I mean outside of you and my mother?" he asked in a low
voice, but subdued eagerness was audible in it.

"Have you any? Why, man, a friend is a friend for life--and beyond. Who
was it put it thus: 'Said one: I would go up to the gates of hell with a
friend.--Said the other: I would go in.' That last is the kind you have
here in Flamsted, Champney."

The other turned away his face that the firelight might not betray him.

"It's too much--it's too much; I don't deserve it."

"Champney, when you decided of your own accord to expiate in the manner
you have through these six years, do you think your friends--and
others--didn't recognize your manhood? And didn't you resolve at that
time to 'put aside' those things that were behind you once and
forever?--clear your life of the clogging part?"

"Yes,--but others won't--"

"Never mind others--you are working out your own salvation."

"But it's going to be harder than I thought--I find I am beginning to
dread to meet people--everything is so changed. It's going to be harder
than I realized to carry out that resolution. The Past won't
down--everything is so changed--everything--"

Father Honoré rose to turn on the electric lights. He did not take his
seat again, but stood on the hearth, back to the fire, his hands clasped
behind him. The clear light from the shaded bulbs shone full upon the
face of the man before him, and the priest, searching that face to read
its record, saw set upon it, and his heart contracted at the sight, the
indelible seal of six years of penal servitude. The close-cut hair was
gray; the brow was marked by two horizontal furrows; the cheeks were
deeply lined; and the broad shoulders--they were bent. Formerly he stood
before the priest with level eyes, now he was shorter by an inch of the
six feet that were once his. He noticed the hands--the hands of the
day-laborer.

He managed to reply to Champney's last remark without betraying the
emotion that threatened to master him.

"Outwardly, yes; things have changed and will continue to change. The
town is making vast strides towards citizenship. But you will find those
you know the same--only grown in grace, I hope, with the years; even Mr.
Wiggins is convinced by this time that the foreigners are not
barbarians."

Champney smiled. "It was rough on Elmer Wiggins at first."

"Yes, but things are smoothing out gradually, and as a son of Maine he
has too much common sense at bottom to swim against the current. And
there's old Joel Quimber--I never see him that he doesn't tell me he is
marking off the days in his 'almanack,' he calls it, in anticipation of
your return."

"Dear old Jo!--No!--Is that true? Old Jo doing that?"

"To be sure, why not? And there's Octavius Buzzby--I don't think he
would mind my telling you now--indeed, I don't believe he'd have the
courage to tell you himself--" Father Honoré smiled happily, for he saw
in Champney's face the light of awakening interest in the common life of
humanity, and he felt a prolongation of this chat would clear the
atmosphere of over-powering emotion,--"there have never three months
passed by these last six years that he hasn't deposited half of his
quarterly salary with Emlie in the bank in your name--"

"Oh, don't--don't! I can't bear it--dear old Tave--" he groaned rather
than spoke; the blood mounted to his temples, but his friend proved
merciless.

"And there's Luigi Poggi! I don't know but he will make you a
proposition, when he knows you are at home, to enter into partnership
with him and young Caukins--the Colonel's fourth eldest. Champney, he
wants to atone--he has told me so--"

"Is--is he married?"

Father Honoré noticed that his lips suddenly went dry and he swallowed
hard after his question.

"No," the priest hastened to say, then he hesitated; he was wondering
how far it was safe to probe; "but it is my strong impression that he is
thinking seriously of it--a lovely girl, too, she is--" he saw the man's
face before him go white, the jaw set like a vise--"little Dulcie
Caukins, you remember her?"

Champney nodded and wet his lips.

"He has been thrown a good deal with the Caukinses since he took their
son into partnership; the Colonel's boys are all doing well. Romanzo is
in New York."

"Still with the Company?"

"Yes, in the main office. He married in that city two years ago--rather
well, I hear, but Mrs. Caukins is not reconciled yet. Now, there's a
friend! You don't know the depth of her feeling for you--but she has
shown it by worshipping your mother."

Champney Googe's eyes filled to overflowing, but he squeezed the
springing drops between his eyelids, and asked with lively interest:

"Why isn't Mrs. Caukins reconciled?"

"Well, because--I suppose it's no secret now, at least Mrs. Caukins has
never made one of it, in fact, has aired the subject pretty thoroughly,
you know her way--"

Champney looked up and smiled. "I'm glad she hasn't changed."

"But of course you don't know it. The fact is she had set heart on
having for a daughter-in-law Aileen Armagh--you remember little Aileen?"

Champney Googe's hands closed spasmodically on the arms of his chair. To
cover this involuntary movement, he leaned forward suddenly and kicked a
burning brand, that had fallen on the hearth, back into the fireplace. A
shower of sparks flew up chimney.

Father Honoré went on without waiting for the answer he knew would not
be forthcoming: "Aileen gave me a fright the other day. I met her on the
street, and she took that occasion, in the midst of a good deal of noise
and confusion, to inform me with her usual vivacity of manner that she
was to be housekeeper to a man--'a job for life,' she added with the old
mischief dancing in her eyes and the merry laugh that is a tonic for the
blues. Upon my asking her gravely who was the fortunate man--for I had
no one in mind and feared some impulsive decision--she pursed her lips,
hesitated a moment, and, manufacturing a charming blush, said:--'I don't
mind telling you; it's Mr. Octavius Buzzby. I'm to be his housekeeper
for life and take care of him in his old age after his work and mine is
finished at Champo.' I confess, I was relieved."

"My aunt is still living, then?" Champney asked with more eagerness and
energy than the occasion demanded. His eyes shone with suppressed
excitement, and ever-awakening life animated every feature. Father
Honoré, noting the sudden change, read again, as once six years before,
deep into this man's heart.

"Yes, but it is death in life. Aileen is still with her--faithful as the
sun, but rebelling at times as is only natural. The girl gave promise of
rich womanhood, but even you would wonder at such fine development in
such an environment of continual invalidism. Mrs. Champney has had two
strokes of paralysis; it is only a question of time."

"There is _one_ who never was my friend--I've often wondered why."

Into the priest's inner vision flashed that evening before his departure
for New York--the bedroom--the mother--that confession--

"It looks that way, I admit, but I've thought sometimes she has cared
for you far more than any one will ever know."

Champney started suddenly to his feet.

"What time is it? I must be going."

"Going?--You mean home--to-night?"

"Yes, I must go home. I came to ask you to go to my mother to prepare
her for this--I dared not shock her by going unannounced. You'll go
with me--you'll tell her?"

"At once."

He reached for his coat and turned off the lights. The two went out arm
and arm into the March night. The wind was still rising.

"It's only half-past nine, and Mrs. Googe will be up; she is a busy
woman."

"Tell me--" he drew his breath short--"what has my mother done all these
years--how has she lived?"

"As every true woman lives--doing her full duty day by day, living in
hope of this joy."

"But I mean _what_ has she done to live--to provide for herself; she has
kept the house?"

"To be sure, and by her own exertions. She has never been willing to
accept pecuniary aid from any friend, not even from Mr. Buzzby, or the
Colonel. I am in a position to know that Mr. Van Ostend did his best to
persuade her to accept something just as a loan."

"But what has she been doing?"

"She has been taking the quarrymen for meals the last six years,
Champney--at times she has had their families to board with her, as many
as the house could accommodate."

The arm which his own held was withdrawn with a jerk. Champney Googe
faced him: they were on the new iron bridge over the Rothel.

"You mean to say my mother--_my_ mother, Aurora Googe, has been keeping
a quarrymen's boarding-house all these years?"

"Yes; it is legitimate work."

"My mother--_my_ mother--" he kept repeating as he stood motionless on
the bridge. He seemed unable to grasp the fact for a moment; then he
laid his hand heavily on Father Honoré's shoulder as if for support; he
spoke low to himself, but the priest caught a few words:

"I thank Thee--thank--for life--work--"

He seemed to come gradually to himself, to recognize his whereabouts. He
began to walk on, but very slowly.

"Father Honoré," he said, and his tone was deeply earnest but at the
same time almost joyful, "I'm not going home to my mother empty-handed,
I never intended to--I have work. I can work for her, free her from
care, lift from her shoulders the burden of toil for my sake."

"What do you mean, Champney?"

"I made application to the manager of the Company this afternoon; I saw
they were all strangers to me, and they took me on in the sheds--Shed
Number Two. I went to work this afternoon. You see I know my trade; I
learned it during the last six years. I can support her now--Oh--"

He stopped short just as they were leaving the bridge; raised his head
to the black skies above him, reached upwards with both hands palm
outwards--

"--I thank my Maker for these hands; I thank Him that I can labor with
these hands; I thank Him for the strength of manhood that will enable me
to toil with these hands; I thank Him for my knowledge of good and evil;
I thank Him that I have 'won sight out of blindness--'" his eyes
strained to the skies above The Gore.

The moon, struggling with the heavy drifting cloud-masses, broke through
a confined ragged circle and, for a moment, its splendor shone upon the
heights of The Gore; its effulgence paled the arc-lights in the
quarries; a silver shaft glanced on the Rothel in its downward course,
and afar touched the ruffled waters of Lake Mesantic....

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'll stay here on the lawn," he said five minutes afterwards upon
reaching the house. A light was burning in his mother's bedroom; another
shone from her sitting-room on the first floor.

The priest entered without knocking; this house was open the year round
to the frequent comers and goers among the workmen. He rapped at the
sitting-room door. Mrs. Googe opened it.

"Why, Father Honoré, I didn't expect you to-night--didn't you have
the--What is it?--oh, what is it!" she cried, for the priest's face
betrayed him.

"Joyful news, Mrs. Googe,"--he let her read his face--"your son is a
free man to-night."

There was no outcry on the mother's part; but her hands clasped each
other till the nails showed white.

"Where is he now?"

"Here, in Flamsted--"

"Let me go--let me go to him--"

"He has come to you--he is just outside--"

She was past him with a rush--at the door--on the porch--

"Champney!--My son!--where are you?" she cried out into the night.

Her answer came on swift feet. He sprang up the steps two at a time,
they were in each other's arms--then he had to be strong for both.

He led her in, half carrying her; placed her in a chair; knelt before
her, chafing her hands....

Father Honoré made his escape; they were unconscious of his presence or
his departure. He closed the front door softly behind him, and on feet
shod with light-heartedness covered the road to his own house in a few
minutes. He flung aside his coat, took his violin, and played and played
till late into the night.

Two of the sisters of The Mystic Rose, who had been over to Quarry End
Park nursing a sick quarryman's wife throughout the day, paused to
listen as they passed the house. One of them was Sister Ste. Croix.

The violin exulted, rejoiced, sang of love heavenly, of love earthly, of
all loves of life and nature; it sang of repentance, of expiation, of
salvation--

"I can bear no more," whispered Sister Ste. Croix to her companion, and
the hand she laid on the one that was raised to hush her, was not only
cold, it was damp with the sweat of the agony of remembrance.

The strains of the violin's song accompanied them to their own door.


VII

The Saturday-night frequenters of The Greenbush have changed with the
passing years like all else in Flamsted. The Greenbush itself is no
longer a hostelry, but a cosy club-house purveyed for, to the
satisfaction of every member, by its old landlord, Augustus Buzzby. The
Club's membership, of both young and old men, is large and increasing
with the growth of the town; but the old frequenters of The Greenbush
bar-room head the list--Colonel Caukins and Octavius Buzzby paying the
annual dues of their first charter member, old Joel Quimber, now in his
eighty-seventh year.

The former office is a grill room, and made one with the back parlor,
now the club restaurant. On this Saturday night in March, the
white-capped chef--Augustus prided himself in keeping abreast the
times--was busy in the grill room, and Augustus himself was
superintending the laying of a round table for ten. The Colonel was to
celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday by giving a little supper.

"Nothing elaborate, Buzzby," he said a week before the event, "a fine
saddle of mutton--Southdown--some salmon trout, a stiff bouillon for
Quimber, you know his masticatory apparatus is no longer equal to this
whole occasion, and a chive salad. _The_ cake Mrs. Caukins elects to
provide herself, and I need not assure you, who know her culinary
powers, that it will be a _ne plus ultra_ of a cake, both in material
and execution; fruits, coffee and cheese--Roquefort. Your accomplished
chef can fill in the interstices. Here are the cards--Quimber at my
right, if you please."

Augustus looked at the cards and smiled.

"All the old ones included, I see, Colonel," he ran over the names,
"Quimber, Tave, Elmer Wiggins, Emlie, Poggi and Caukins"--he laughed
outright; "that's a good firm, Colonel," he said slyly, and the Colonel
smiled his appreciation of the gentle insinuation--"the manager at the
sheds, and the new boss of the Upper Quarry?" He looked inquiringly at
the Colonel on reading the last name.

"That's all right, Buzzby; he's due here next Saturday, the festal day;
and I want to give some substantial expression to him, as a stranger and
neighbor, of Flamsted's hospitality."

Augustus nodded approval, and continued: "And me! Thank you kindly,
Colonel, but you'll have to excuse me this time. I want everything to go
right on this special occasion. I'll join you with a pipe afterwards."

"As you please, Buzzby, only make it a cigar; and consider yourself
included in the spirit if not in the flesh. Nine sharp."

At a quarter of nine, just as Augustus finished putting the last touch
to an already perfect table, the Colonel made his appearance at The
Greenbush, a pasteboard box containing a dozen boutonnières under his
arm. He laid one on the table cloth by each plate, and stood back to
enjoy the effect. He rubbed his hands softly in appreciation of the
"color scheme" as he termed it--a phrase that puzzled Augustus. He saw
no "scheme" and very little "color" in the dark-wainscoted room, except
the cheerful fire on the hearth and some heavy red half-curtains at the
windows to shut out the cold and dark of this March night. The walls
were white; the grill of dark wood, and the floor painted dark brown.
But the red carnations on the snow-white damask did somehow "touch the
whole thing up," as he confided later to his brother.

The Colonel's welcome to his companions was none the less cordial
because he repressed his usual flow of eloquence till "the cloth should
be removed." He purposed then to spring a surprise, oratorical and
otherwise, on those assembled.

After the various toasts,--all given and drunk in sweet cider made for
the occasion from Northern Spies, the Colonel being prohibitive for
example's sake,--the good wishes for many prospective birthdays and
prosperous years, the Colonel filled his glass to the brim and, holding
it in his left hand, literally rose to the occasion.

"Gentlemen," he began in full chest tones, "some fourteen years ago,
five of us now present were wont to discuss in the old office of this
hospitable hostelry, now the famous grill room of the Club, the Invasion
of the New--the opening of the great Flamsted Quarries--the migrations
of the nations hitherwards and the consequent prospective industrial
development of our native village."

He paused and looked about him impressively; finally his eye settled
sternly on Elmer Wiggins who, satisfied inwardly with the choice and
bounteous supper provided by the Colonel, had made up his mind to "stand
fire", as he said afterwards to Augustus.

The Colonel resumed his speech, his voice acquiring as he proceeded a
volume and depth that carried it far beyond the grill room's walls to
the ears of edified passers on the street:

"There were those among us who maintained--in the face of extreme
opposition, I am sorry to say--that this town of Flamsted would soon
make itself a factor in the vast industrial life of our marvellous
country. In retrospect, I reflect that those who had this faith, this
trust in the resources of their native town, were looked upon with
scorn; were subjected to personal derision; were termed, to put it
mildly, 'mere dreamers'--if I am not mistaken, the original expression
was 'darned boomers.' Mr. Wiggins, here, our esteemed wholesale and
retail pharmacist, will correct me if I am wrong on this point--"

He paused again as if expecting an answer; nothing was forthcoming but a
decidedly embarrassed "Hem," from the afore-named pharmacist. The
Colonel was satisfied.

"Now, gentlemen, in refutation of that term--I will not repeat
myself--and what it implied, after fourteen years, comparable to those
seven fat kine of Pharaoh's dream, our town can point throughout the
length and breadth of our land to its monumental works of art and
utility that may well put to blush the renowned record of the Greeks and
Romans."

Prolonged applause and a ringing cheer.

"All over our fair land the granite monoliths of _Flamsted_, beacon or
battle, point heavenwards. The transcontinental roads, that track and
nerve our country, cross and re-cross the raging torrents of western
rivers on granite abutments from the _Flamsted_ quarries! The laws,
alike for the just and unjust,"--the Colonel did not perceive his slip,
but Elmer Wiggins smiled to himself,--"are promulgated within the
stately granite halls of the capitals of our statehood--_Flamsted_
again! The gospel of praise and prayer will shortly resound beneath the
arches of the choir and nave of the great granite cathedral--the product
of the quarries in The Gore!"

Deafening applause, clinking of glasses, and cries of "Good!
True--Hear--Hear!"

The Colonel beamed and gathered himself together with a visible effort
for his peroration. He laid his hand on his heart.

"A man of feeling, gentlemen, has a heart. He is not oblivious either of
the needs of his neighbor, his community, or the world in general.
Although he is vulnerable to wounds in the house of his friends,"--a
severe look falls upon Wiggins,--"he is not impervious to appeal for
sympathy from without. I trust I have defined a man of feeling,
gentlemen, a man of heart, as regards the world in general. And now, to
make an abrupt descent from the abstract to the concrete, from the
general to the particular, I will permit myself to say that those
aspersions cast upon me fourteen years ago as a mere promoter,
irrespective of my manhood, hurt me as a man of feeling--a man of heart.

"Sir--" he turned again to Elmer Wiggins who was apparently the
lightning conductor for the Colonel's fourteen years of pent-up
injury--"a father has his feelings. You are _not_ a father--I draw no
conclusions; but _if_ you had been a father fourteen years ago in this
very room, I would have trusted to your magnanimity not to give
expression to your decided views on the subject of the native Americans'
intermarriage with those of a race foreign to us. I assure you, sir,
such a view not only narrows the mind, but constricts humanity, and
ossifies the heart--that special organ by which the world, despite
present-day detractors, lives and moves and has its being." (Murmuring
assent.)

"But, sir, I believe you have come to see otherwise, else as my guest on
this happy occasion, I should not permit myself to apply to you so
personal a remark. And, gentlemen," the Colonel swelled visibly, but
those nearest him caught the shimmer of a suspicious moisture in his
eyes, "I am in a position to-night--this night whereon you have added to
my happiness by your presence at this board--to repeat now what I said
fourteen years ago in this very room: I consider myself honored in that
a member of my immediate family, one very, very dear to me," his voice
shook in spite of his effort to strengthen it, "is contemplating
entering into the solemn estate of matrimony at no distant date with--a
foreigner, gentlemen, but a naturalized citizen of our great and
glorious United States. Gentlemen," he filled his glass again and held
it high above his head,--"I give you with all my heart Mr. Luigi Poggi,
an honored and prosperous citizen of Flamsted--my future son-in-law--the
prospective husband of my youngest daughter, Dulcibella Caukins."

The company rose to a man, young Caukins assisting Quimber to his feet.

With loud and hearty acclaim they welcomed the new member of the Caukins
family; they crowded about the Colonel, and no hand that grasped his and
Luigi's in congratulation was firmer and more cordial than Elmer
Wiggins'. The Colonel's smile expanded; he was satisfied--the old score
was wiped out.

Afterwards with cigars and pipes they discussed for an hour the affairs
of Flamsted. The influx of foreigners with their families was causing a
shortage of houses and housing. Emlie proposed the establishment of a
Loan and Mortgage Company to help out the newcomers. Poggi laid before
them his plan for an Italian House to receive the unmarried men on their
arrival.

"By the way," he said, turning to the new head of the Upper Quarry, "you
brought up a crowd with you this afternoon, didn't you?--mostly my
countrymen?"

"No, a mixed lot--about thirty. A few Scotch and English came up on the
same train. Have they applied to you?" He addressed the manager of the
Company's sheds.

"No. I think they'll be along Monday. I've noticed that those two
nationalities generally have relations who house and look out for them
when they come. But I had an application from an American just after the
train came in; I don't often have that now."

"Did you take him on?" the Colonel asked between two puffs of his
Havana.

"Yes; and he went to work in Shed Number Two. I confess he puzzles me."

"What was he like?" asked the head of the Upper Quarry.

"Tall, blue eyes, gray hair, but only thirty-four as the register
showed--misfit clothes--"

"That's the one--he came up in the train with me. I noticed him in the
car. I don't believe he moved a muscle all the way up. I couldn't make
him out, could you?"

"Well, no, I couldn't. By the way, Colonel, I noticed the name he
entered was a familiar one in this part of Maine--Googe--"

"Googe!" The Colonel looked at the speaker in amazement; "did he give
his first name?"

"Yes, Louis--Louis C. Googe--"

"My God!"

Whether the ejaculation proceeded from one mouth or five, the manager
and foreman could not distinguish; but the effect on the Flamsted men
was varied and remarkable. The Colonel's cigar dropped from his shaking
hand; his face was ashen. Emlie and Wiggins stared at each other as if
they had taken leave of their senses. Joel Quimber leaned forward, his
hands folded on the head of his cane, and spoke to Octavius who sat
rigid on his chair:

"What'd he say, Tave?--Champ to home?"

But Octavius Buzzby was beyond the power of speech. Augustus spoke for
him:

"He said a man applied for work in the sheds this afternoon, Uncle Jo,
who wrote his name Louis C. Googe."

"Thet's him--thet's Champ--Champ's to home. You help me inter my coat,
Tave, I 'm goin' to see ef's true--" He rose with difficulty. Then
Octavius spoke; his voice shook:

"No, Uncle Jo, you sit still a while; if it's Champney, we can't none of
us see him to-night." He pushed him gently into his chair.

The Colonel was rousing himself. He stepped to the telephone and called
up Father Honoré.

"Father Honoré--

"This is Colonel Caukins. Can you tell me if there is any truth in the
report that Champney Googe has returned to-day?

"Thank God."

He put up the receiver, but still remained standing.

"Gentlemen," he said to the manager and the Upper Quarry guest, his
voice was thick with emotion and the tears of thankfulness were coursing
down his cheeks, "perhaps no greater gift could be bestowed on my
sixty-fifth birthday than Champney Googe's return to his home--his
mother--his friends--we are all his friends. Perhaps the years are
beginning to tell on me, but I feel that I must excuse myself to you and
go home--I want to tell my wife. I will explain all to you, as strangers
among us, some other time; for the present I must beg your
indulgence--joy never kills, but I am experiencing the fact that it can
weaken."

"That's all right, Colonel," said the manager; "we understand it
perfectly and it's late now."

"I'll go, too, Colonel," said Octavius; "I'm going to take Uncle Jo home
in the trap."

Luigi Poggi helped the Colonel into his great coat. When he left the
room with his prospective father-in-law, his handsome face had not
regained the color it lost upon the first mention of Champney's name.

Emlie and Wiggins remained a few minutes to explain as best they could
the situation to the stranger guests, and the cause of the excitement.

"I remember now hearing about this affair; I read it in the
newspapers--it must have been seven or eight years ago."

"Six years and four months." Mr. Wiggins corrected him.

"I guess it'll be just as well not to spread the matter much among the
men--they might kick; besides he isn't, of course, a union man."

"There's one thing in his favor," it was Emlie who spoke, "the
management and the men have changed since it occurred, and there are
very few except our home folks that would be apt to mention it--and they
can be trusted where Champney Googe is concerned."

The four went out together.

The grill room of The Greenbush was empty save for Augustus Buzzby who
sat smoking before the dying fire. Old visions were before his eyes--one
of the office on a June night many years ago; the five friends
discussing Champney Googe's prospects; the arrival of Father Honoré and
little Aileen Armagh--so Luigi had at last given up hope in that
direction for good and all.

The town clock struck twelve. He sighed heavily; it was for the old
times, the old days, the old life.


VIII

It was several months before Aileen saw him. Her close attendance on
Mrs. Champney and her avoidance of the precincts of The Gore--Maggie
complained loudly to Mrs. Googe that Aileen no longer ran in as she used
to do, and Mrs. Caukins confided to her that she thought Aileen might
feel sensitive about Luigi's engagement, for she had been there but
twice in five months--precluded the possibility of her meeting him. She
excused herself to Mrs. Googe and the Sisters on the ground of her
numerous duties at Champ-au-Haut; Ann and Hannah were both well on in
years and Mrs. Champney was failing daily.

It was perhaps five months after his return that she was sitting one
afternoon in Mrs. Champney's room, in attendance on her while the
regular nurse was out for two hours. There had been no conversation
between them for nearly the full time, when Mrs. Champney spoke abruptly
from the bed:

"I heard last month that Champney Googe is back again--has been back for
five months; why didn't you tell me before?"

The voice was very weak, but querulous and sharp. Aileen was sewing at
the window. She did not look up.

"Because I didn't suppose you liked him well enough to care about his
coming home; besides, it was Octavius' place to tell you."

"Well, I don't care about his coming, or his going either, for that
matter, but I do care about knowing things that happen under my very
nose within a reasonable time of their happening. I'm not in my dotage
yet, I'll have you to understand."

Aileen was silent.

"Come, say something, can't you?" she snapped.

"What do you want me to say, Mrs. Champney?" She spoke wearily, but not
impatiently. The daily, almost hourly demands of this sick old woman
had, in a way, exhausted her.

"Tell me what he's doing."

"He's at work."

"Where?"

"In the sheds--Shed Number Two."

"What!" Paralysis prevented any movement of her hands, but her head
jerked on the pillow to one side, towards Aileen.

"I said he was at work in the sheds."

"What's Champney Googe doing in the sheds?"

"Earning his living, I suppose, like other men."

Almeda Champney was silent for a while. Aileen could but wonder what the
thoughts might be that were filling the shrivelled box of the
brain--what were the feelings in the ossifying heart of the woman who
had denied help to one of her own blood in time of need. Had she any
feeling indeed, except that for self?

"Have you seen him?"

"No."

"I should think he would want to hide his head for shame."

"I don't see why." She spoke defiantly.

"Why? Because I don't see how after such a career a man can hold up his
head among his own."

Aileen bit her under lip to keep back the sharp retort. She chose
another and safer way.

"Oh," she said brightly, looking over to Mrs. Champney with a frank
smile, "but he has really just begun his career, you know--"

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean he has just begun honest work among honest men, and that's the
best career for him or any other man to my thinking."

"Umph!--little you know about it."

Aileen laughed outright. "Oh, I know more than you think I do, Mrs.
Champney. I haven't lived twenty-six years for nothing, and what I've
seen, I've seen--and I've no near-sighted eyes to trouble me either; and
what I've heard, I've heard, for my ears are good--regular long-distance
telephones sometimes."

She was not prepared for the next move on Mrs. Champney's part.

"I believe you would marry him now--after all, if he asked you." She
spoke with a sneer.

"Do you really believe it?" She folded her work and prepared to leave
the room, for she heard the nurse's step in the hall below. "Well, if
you do, I'll tell you something, Mrs. Champney, but I'd like it to be
between us." She crossed the room and paused beside the bed.

"What?"

She bent slightly towards her. "I would rather marry a man who earns his
three dollars a day at honest work of quarrying or cutting stones,--or
breaking them, for that matter,"--she added under her breath, "but I'm
not saying he would be any relation of yours--than a man who doesn't
know what a day's toil is except to cudgel his brains tired, with
contriving the quickest means of making his millions double themselves
at other people's expense in twenty-four hours."

The nurse opened the door. Mrs. Champney spoke bitterly:

"You little fool--you think you know, but--" aware of the nurse, she
ended fretfully, "you wear me out, talking so much. Tell Hannah to make
me some fresh tamarind water--and bring it up quick."

By the time Aileen had brought up the refreshment, she had half repented
of her words. Mrs. Champney had been failing perceptibly the last few
weeks, and all excitement was forbidden her. For this reason she had
been kept so long in ignorance of Champney's return. As Aileen held the
drinking tube to her lips, she noticed that the faded sunken eyes, fixed
upon her intently, were not inimical--and she was thankful. She desired
to live in peace, if possible, with this pitiable old age so long as it
should last--a few weeks at the longest. The lesson of the piece of
granite was not lost upon her. She kept the specimen on a little shelf
over her bed.

She went down stairs into the library to answer a telephone call; it was
from Maggie McCann who begged her to come up that afternoon to see her;
the matter was important and could not wait. Aileen knew by the pleading
tone of the voice, which sounded unnatural, that she was needed for
something. She replied she would go up at once. She put on her hat, and
while waiting for the tram at The Bow, bought a small bag of gumdrops
for Billy.

Maggie received her with open arms and a gush of tears; thereupon Billy,
now tottering on his unsteady feet, flopped suddenly on the floor and
howled with true Irish good will.

"Why, Maggie, what _is_ the matter!" she exclaimed.

"Och, Aileen, darlin', me heart's in smithereens, and I'm that deep in
trouble that me head's like to rend--an' Jim's all broke up--"

"What is it; do tell me, Maggie--can I help?" she urged, catching up
Billy and endeavoring to smother his howls with kisses.

Mrs. McCann wiped her reddened eyes, took off her apron and sat down in
a low chair by Aileen who was filling Billy's small mouth, conveniently
open for another howl upon perceiving his mother wipe her eyes, with a
sizable gumdrop.

"The little gells be over to the kindergarten with the Sisters, an' I
thought I'd clane go out of me mind if I couldn't have a word wid you
before Jim gets home--Och, Aileen, dearie, me home I'm so proud of--"
She choked, and Billy immediately repudiated his gumdrop upon Aileen's
clean linen skirt; his eyes were reading the signs of the times in his
mother's face.

"Now, Maggie, dear, tell me all about it. Begin at the beginning, and
then I'll know where you're at."

Maggie smiled faintly. "Sure, I wouldn't blame you for not knowin' where
I'm at." Mrs. McCann sniffed several times prefatorily.

"You know I told you Jim had a temper, Aileen--"

Aileen nodded in assent; she was busy coaxing the rejected ball into
Billy's puckered mouth.

"--And that there's times whin he querrels wid the men--"

"Yes."

"Well, you know Mr. Googe bein' in the same shed an' section wid Jim, I
says innercent-like to Jim:--'I'm glad he's in your section, Jim, belike
you can make it a bit aisier for him.'

"'Aisy is it?' says Jim.

"'Yes, aisy,' says I.

"'An' wot wud I be after makin' a job aisier for the likes of him?' he
says, grouchy-like.

"'An' why not?' says I.

"'For a jail-bird?' says he.

"'Deed,' says I, 'if yer own b'y had been breakin' stones wid a gang of
toughs for sivin long years gone, wouldn't ye be after likin' a man to
spake wan daycint word wid him?' says I.

"Wid that Jim turned on quick-like an' says:--

"'I'll thank ye, Mrs. McCann, to kape yer advice to yerself. It's not
Jim McCann's b'y that'll be doin' the dirthy job that yer Mr. Champney
Googe was after doin' six years gone, nor be after takin' the bread an'
butter out of an honest man's mout' that has a wife an' three childer to
feed. He's a convic',' says Jim.

"'What if he is?' says I.

"'I don't hold wid no convic's,' says Jim; 'I hold wid honest men; an'
if it's convic's be comin' to take the best piece-work out of our hands,
it's time we struck--to a man,' says Jim.

"Niver, niver but wanct has Jim called me 'Mrs. McCann,'" Maggie said
brokenly, but stifled a sob for Billy's sake; "an' niver wanct has he
gone to work widout kissin' me an' the childer, sometimes twice
round--but he went out yisterday an' niver turned for wan look at wife
an' childer; an' me heart was that heavy in my bosom that me b'y refused
the breast an' cried like to kill himself for wan mortal hour, an' the
little gells cried too, an' me bread burnin' to a crisp, an' I couldn't
do wan thing but just sit down wid me hands full of cryin' childer--an'
me heart cryin' like a child wid 'em."

Aileen tried to comfort.

"But, Maggie, such things will happen in the happiest married lives, and
with the best of husbands. Jim will get over it--I suppose he has by
this time; you say it isn't like to him to hold anger long--"

"But he hasn't!" Maggie broke forth afresh, and between mother and son,
who immediately followed suit, a deluge threatened. "Wan of the
stone-cutters' wives, Mrs. MacLoughanchan, he works in the same section
as Jim, told me about it--"

"About what?" Aileen asked, hoping to get some continuity into Maggie's
relation of her marital woes.

"The fight at the sheds."

"What fight?" Aileen put the question with a sickening fear at her
heart.

"The fight betwixt Jim an' Mr. Googe--"

"What do you mean, Maggie?"

"I mane wot I say," Maggie replied with some show of spirit, for
Aileen's tone of voice was peremptory; "Jim McCann, me husband, an' Mr.
Googe had words in the shed--"

"What words?"

"Just lave me time an' I'll tell you, Aileen. You be after catchin' me
short up betwixt ivery word, an' more be token as if't was your own man,
instid of mine, ye was worrittin' about. I said they had words, but by
rights I should say it was Jim as had them. Jim was mad because the boss
in Shed Number Two give Mr. Googe a piece of work he had been savin' an'
promisin' him; an' Jim made a fuss about it, an' the boss said he'd give
Jim another, but Jim wanted _that wan piece_; an' Jim threatened to get
up a strike, an' if there's a strike Jim'll lave the place an' I'll lose
me home--ochone--"

"Go on, Maggie." Aileen was trying to anticipate Maggie's tale, and in
anticipation of the worst happening to Champney Googe, she lost her
patience. She could not bear the suspense.

"But Jim didn't sass the boss--he sassed Mr. Googe. 'T was this way, so
Mrs. MacLoughanchan says--Jim said niver a word about the fight to me,
but he said he would lave the place if they didn't strike--Mr. Googe
says, 'McCann, the foreman says you're to begin on the two keystones at
wanct--at wanct,' says he, repating it because Jim said niver a word.
An' Jim fires up an' says under his breath:

"'I don't take no orders from convic's,' says he.

"'What did you say, McCann?' says Mr. Googe, steppin' up to him wid a
glint in his eye that Jim didn't mind he was so mad; an' instid of
repatin' it quiet-like, Jim says, steppin' outside the shed when he see
the boss an' Mr. Googe followin' him, loud enough for the whole shed to
hear:

'"I don't take orders from no convic's--' an' then--" Maggie laid her
hand suddenly over her heart as if in pain, '"Take that back, McCann,'
says Mr. Googe--'I'll give you the wan chanct.'--An' then Jim swore an'
said he'd see him an' himself in hell first, an' then, before Jim knew
wot happened, Mr. Googe lit out wid his fist--an' Jim layin' out on the
grass, for Mrs. MacLoughanchan says her man said Mr. Googe picked a soft
place to drop him in; an' Mr. Googe helps Jim to his feet, an' holds out
his hand an' says:

"'Shake hands, McCann, an' we'll start afresh--'

"But, oh, Aileen! Jim wouldn't, an' Mr. Googe turned away sad-like, an'
then Jim comes home, an' widout a word to his wife, says if they don't
strike, because there's a convic' an' a no union man a-workin'
'longside of him in his section, he'll lave an' give up his job
here--an' it's two hundred he's paid down out of his wages, an' me
a-savin' from morn till night on me home--an' 't was to be me very own
because Jim says no man alive can tell when he'll be dead in the
quarries an' the sheds."

She wept afresh and Billy was left unconsoled, for Maggie, wiping her
eyes to look at Aileen and wonder at her silence, saw that she, too, was
weeping; but the tears rolled silently one after another down her
flushed cheeks.

"Och, Aileen, darlin'! Don't ye cry wid me--me burden's heavy enough
widout the weight of wan of your tears--say something to comfort me
heart about Jim."

"I can't, Maggie, I think it's wicked for Jim to say such things to Mr.
Googe--everybody knows what he has been through. And it would serve Jim
McCann but right," she added hotly, "if the time should come when his
Billy should have the same cruel words said to him--"

"Don't--don't--for the love of the Mother of God, don't say such things,
Aileen!" She caught up the sorely perplexed and troubled Billy, and
buried her face in his red curls. "Don't for the sake of the mother I
am, an' only a mother can know how the Mother of God himself felt wid
her crucified Son an' the bitter words he had to hear--ye're not a
mother, Aileen, an' so I won't lay it up too much against ye--"

Aileen interrupted her with exceeding bitterness;

"No, I'm not a mother, Maggie, and I never shall be."

Maggie looked at her in absolute incomprehension. "I thought you was
cryin' for me, an' Jim, an' all our prisent troubles, but I belave yer
cryin' for--"

Mrs. McCann stopped short; she was still staring at Aileen who suddenly
lifted her brimming eyes to hers.--What Mrs. McCann read therein she
never accurately defined, even to Jim; but, whatever it was, it caused a
revulsion of feeling in Maggie's sorely bruised heart. She set Billy
down on the floor without any ceremony, much to that little man's
surprise, and throwing her arms around Aileen drew her close with a
truly maternal caress.

"Och, darlin'--darlin'--" she said in the voice with which she soothed
Billy to sleep, "darlin' Aileen, an' has your puir heart been bearin'
this all alone, an' me talkin' an' pratin' about me Jim to ye, an' how
beautiful it is to be married!--'Deed an' it is, darlin', an' if Jim
wasn't a man he'd be an angel sure; but it's not Maggie McCann that's
wantin' her husband to be an angel yet, an' you must just forgive him,
Aileen, an' you'll find yerself that no man's parfection, an' a woman
has to be after takin' thim as they be--lovin' an' gentle be times, an'
cross as Cain whin yer expectin' thim to be swateheartin' wid ye; an'
wake when ye think they're after bein' rale giants; an' strong whin
ye're least lookin' for it; an ginerous by spells an' spendthrifts wid
their 'baccy, an' skinflints wid their own, an'--an'--just common,
downright aggravatin', lovable men, darlin'--There now! Yer smilin'
again like me old Aileen, an' bad cess to the wan that draws another
tear from your swate Irish eyes." She kissed her heartily.

In trying to make amends Mrs. McCann forgot her own woes; taking Billy
in her arms, she went to the stove and set on the kettle.

"It's four past, an' Jim'll be comin' in tired and worritted, so I'll
put on an extra potater or two an' a good bit of bacon an' some pase.
Stay wid us, Aileen."

"No, Maggie, I can't; besides you and Jim will want the house to
yourself till you get straightened out--and, Maggie, it _will_
straighten out, don't you worry."

"'Deed, an' I'll not waste me breath another time tellin' me troubles to
a heart that's sorer than me own--good-bye, darlin', an' me best thanks
for comin' up so prompt to me in me trouble. It's good to have a friend,
Aileen, an' we've been friendly that long that it seems as if me own
burden must be yours."

Aileen smiled, leaning to kiss Billy as he clung to his mother's neck.

"I'll come up whenever you want me and I can get away, Maggie, an' next
time I'll bring you more comfort, I hope. Good-bye."

"Och, darlin'!--T'row a kiss, Billy. Look, Aileen, at the kisses me
b'y's t'rowin' yer!" she exclaimed delightedly; and Billy, in the
exuberance of his joy that tears were things of the past, continued to
throw kisses after the lady till she disappeared down the street.


IX

Oh, but her heart was hot with indignation as she walked along the road,
her eyes were stung with scalding tears, her thoughts turbulent and
rebellious! Why must he suffer such indignities from a man like Jim
McCann! How dared a man, that was a man, taunt another like that! The
hand holding her sun umbrella gripped the handle tightly, and through
set teeth she said to herself: "I hate them all--hate them!"

The declining July sun was hot upon her; the road-bed, gleaming white
with granite dust, blinded her. She looked about for some shelter where
she could wait for the down car; there was none in sight, except the
pines over by Father Honoré's and the sisterhood house an eighth of a
mile beyond. She continued to stand there in the glare and the
heat--miserable, dejected, rebellious, until the tram halted for her.
The car was an open one; there was no other occupant. As it sped down
the curving road to the lake shore, the breeze, created by its movement,
was more than grateful to her. She took off her shade-hat to enjoy the
full benefit of it.

At the switch, half way down, the tram waited for the up car. She could
hear it coming from afar; the overhead wires vibrated to the extra power
needed on the steep grade. It came in sight, crowded with workmen on
their way home to Quarry End; the rear platform was black with them. It
passed over the switch slowly, passed within two feet of her seat. She
turned to look at it, wondering at its capacity for so many--and
looked, instead, directly into the face of Champney Googe who stood on
the lower step, his dinner-pail on his arm, the arm thrust through the
guard.

At sight of her, so near him that the breath of each might have been
felt on the cheek of the other, he raised his workman's cap--

She saw the gray head, the sudden pallor on brow and cheek, the deep,
slightly sunken eyes fixed upon her as if on her next move hung the
owner's hope of eternal life--the eyes moved with the slowly moving car
to focus _her_....

To Aileen Armagh that face, changed as it was, was a glimpse of heaven
on earth, and that heaven was reflected in the smile with which she
greeted it. She did more:--unheeding the many faces that were turned
towards her, she leaned from the car, her eyes following him, the
love-light still radiating from her every feature, till he was carried
beyond sight around the curving base of the Flamsted Hills.

She heard nothing more externally, saw nothing more, until she found
herself at The Corners instead of The Bow. The tumult within her
rendered her deaf to the clanging of the electric gong, blind to the
people who had entered along Main Street. Love, and love alone, was
ringing its joy-bells in her soul till external sounds grew muffled,
indistinct; until she became unaware of her surroundings. Love was
knocking so loudly at her heart that the bounding blood pulsed rhythmic
in her ears. Love was claiming her wholly, possessing her soul and
body--but no longer that idealizing love of her young girlhood and
womanhood. Rather it was that love which is akin to the divine rapture
of maternity--the love that gives all, that sacrifices all, which
demands nothing of the loved one save to love, to shield, to
comfort--the love that makes of a true woman's breast not only a rest
whereon a man, as well as his babe, may pillow a weary head, but a round
tower of strength within which there beats a heart of high courage for
him who goes forth to the daily battlefield of Life.

She rode back to The Bow. Hannah called to her from the kitchen door
when she saw her coming up the driveway:

"Come round here a minute, Aileen."

"What is it, Hannah?" Her voice trembled in spite of her effort to speak
naturally. She prayed Hannah might not notice.

"Here's a little broth I've made for Uncle Jo Quimber. I heard he wasn't
very well, and I wish you'd take this down to him before supper. Tell
him it won't hurt him and it's real strengthenin'."

"I will go now, and--Hannah, don't mind if I don't come home to supper
to-night; I'm not hungry; it's too hot to eat. If I want anything, I'll
get a glass of milk in the pantry afterwards. If Mrs. Champney should
want me, tell Octavius he'll find me down by the boat house."

"Mis' Champney ain't so well, to-night, the nurse says. I guess it's
this heat is telling on her."

"I should think it would--even I feel it." She was off again down the
driveway, glad to be moving, for a strange restlessness was upon her.

She found Joel Quimber sitting in his arm chair on the back porch of the
little house belonging to his grand-niece. The old man looked feeble,
exhausted and white; but his eyes brightened on seeing Aileen come round
the corner of the porch.

"What you got there, Aileen?"

"Something good for you, Uncle Jo. Hannah made it for you on purpose."
She showed him the broth.

"Hannah's a good soul, I thank her kindly. Set down, Aileen, set down."

"I'm afraid you're too tired to have company to-night, Uncle Jo."

"Lord, no--you ain't comp'ny, Aileen, an' I ain't never too tired to
have your comp'ny either."

She smiled and took her seat on the lower step, at his feet.

"Jest thinkin' of you, Aileen--"

"Me, Uncle Jo? What put me into your head?"

"You're in a good part of the time ef you did but know it."

"Oh, Uncle Jo, did they teach you how to flatter like that in the little
old schoolhouse you showed me years ago at The Corners?"

Old Joel Quimber chuckled weakly.

"No--not thar. A man, ef he's any kind of a man, don't have to learn his
a-b-c before he can tell a good-lookin' gal she's in his head, or his
heart--jest which you're a min' ter--most of the time. Yes, I was
thinkin' of you, Aileen--you an' Champney."

The color died out entirely from Aileen's cheeks, and then surged into
them again till she put her hands to her face to cool their throbbing.
She was wondering if Love had entered into some conspiracy with Fate
to-day to keep this beloved name ever in her ears.

"What about me and Mr. Googe?" She spoke in a low tone, her face was
turned away from the old man to the meadows and the sheds in the
distance.

"I was a-thinkin' of this time fourteen year ago this very month. Champ
an' me was walkin' up an' down the street, an' he was tellin' me 'bout
that serenade, an' how you'd give him a rosebud with pepper in it--Lord,
Aileen, you was a case, an' no mistake! An' I was thinkin', too, what
Champ said to me thet very night. He was tellin' 'bout thet great
hell-gate of New York, an' he said, 'You've got to swim with the rest or
you'd go under, Uncle Jo,'--'go under,' them's his very words. An' I
said, 'Like enough _you_ would, Champ--I ain't ben thar--'"

He paused a moment, shuffled out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes.
Then he spoke again, but in so low a tone that Aileen could barely catch
the words:

"An' he went under, Champ did--went under--"

Aileen felt, without seeing, for her face was still turned to the
meadows and the sheds, that the old man was leaning to her. Then she
heard his voice in her ear:

"Hev you seen him?"

"Once, Uncle Jo."

"You're his friend, ain't you, Aileen?"

"Yes." Her voice trembled.

"Guess we're all his friends in Flamsted--I heered they fit in the shed,
Champ an' Jim McCann--it hadn't ought 'a'-ben, Aileen--hadn't ought
'a'-ben; but't warn't Champ's fault, you may bet your life on thet.
Champ went under, but he didn't stay under--you remember thet, Aileen.
An' I can't nowise blame him, now he's got his head above water agin,
for not stan'in' it to have a man like McCann heave a stone at him jest
ez he's makin' for shore. 'T ain't right, an' the old Judge use ter say,
'What ain't right hadn't ought ter be.'"

He waited a while to regain his scant breath; the long speech had
exhausted it. At last he chuckled weakly to himself, "Champ's a devil
of a feller--" he caught up his words as if he were saying too much;
laid his hand on Aileen's head; turned her face half round to his and,
leaning, whispered again in her ear:

"Don't you go back on Champ, promise me thet, Aileen."

She sprang to her feet and laid her hand in his.

"I promise, Uncle Jo."

"Thet's a good girl." He laid his other hand over hers. "You stick by
Champ an' stick up for him too; he's good blood, an' ef he did go under
for a spell, he ain't no worse 'n the rest, nor half ez bad; for Champ
went in _of his own accord--of his own accord_," he repeated
significantly, "an' don't you forget thet, Aileen! Thet takes grit;
mebbe you wouldn't think so, but it does. Champ makes me think of them
divers, I've read an' heerd about, thet dives for pearls. Some on 'em
comes up all right, but some of 'em go under for good an' all. Champ
dove mighty deep--he was diving for money, which he figured was his
pearl, Aileen--an' he most went under for good an' all without gettin'
what he wanted, an' now he's come to the surface agin, it's all ben wuth
it--he's got the pearl, Aileen, but t'ain't the one he expected to
get--he told me so t' other night. We set here him an' me, an'
understan' one 'nother even when we don't talk--jest set an' smoke an'
puff--"

"What pearl is it, Uncle Jo?" She whispered her question, half fearing,
but wholly longing to hear the old man's answer.

"Guess he'll tell you himself sometime, Aileen."

He leaned back in his chair; he was tired. Aileen stooped and kissed him
on the forehead.

"Goodnight, Uncle Jo," she said softly, "an' don't forget Hannah's
broth or there'll be trouble at Champo."

He roused himself again.

"I heered from Tave to-day thet Mis' Champney is pretty low."

"Yes, she feels this heat in her condition."

"Like enough--like enough; guess we all do a little." Then he seemed to
speak to himself:--"She was rough on Champ," he murmured.

Aileen left him with that name on his lips.

On her return to Champ-au-Haut, she went down to the boat house to sit a
while in its shade. The surface of the lake was motionless, but the
reflection of the surrounding heights and shores was slightly veiled,
owing to the heat-haze that quivered above it.

Aileen was reliving the experience of the last seven years, the
consummation of which was the knowledge that Champney Googe loved her.
She was sure of this now. She had felt it intuitively during the
twilight horror of that October day in The Gore. But how, when, where
would he speak the releasing word--the supreme word of love that alone
could atone, that alone could set her free? Would he ever speak
it?--could he, after that avowal of the unreasoning passion for her
which had taken possession of him seven years ago? And, moreover, what
had not that avowal and its expression done to her?

Her cheek paled at the thought:--he had kissed love into her for all
time; and during all his years of imprisonment she had been held in
thrall, as it were, to him and to his memory. All her rebellion at such
thraldom, all her disgust at her weakness, as she termed it, all her
hatred, engendered by the unpalatable method he had used to enthrall
her, all her struggle to forget, to live again her life free of any
entanglement with Champney Googe, all her endeavors to care for other
men, had availed her naught. Love she must--and Champney Googe remained
the object of that love. Father Honoré's words gave her courage to live
on--loving.

"Champney--Champney," she said low to herself. She covered her face with
her hands. The mere taking of his name on her lips eased the exaltation
of her mood. She rejoiced that she had been able that afternoon to show
him how it stood with her after these many years; for the look in his
eyes, when he recognized her, told her that she alone could hold to his
lips the cup that should quench his thirst. Oh, she would be to him what
no other woman could ever have been, ever could be--no other! She knew
this. He knew it. When, oh, when would the word be spoken?

She withdrew her hands from her face, and looked up the lake to the
sheds. The sun was nearing the horizon, and against its clear red light
the gray buildings loomed large and dark.--And there was his place!

She sprang to her feet, ready to act upon a sudden thought. If she were
not needed at the house, she would go up to the sheds; perhaps she could
walk off the restlessness that kept urging her to action. At any rate,
she could find comfort in thinking of his presence there during the day;
she would be for a time, at least, in his environment. She knew Jim
McCann's section; she and Maggie had been there more than once to watch
the progress of some great work.

On the way up to the house she met Octavius.

"Where you going, Aileen?"

"Up to the house to see if I'm needed. If they don't want me, I'm going
up to the sheds for a walk. They say they look like cathedrals this
week, so many of the arches and pillars are ready to be shipped."

"There's no need of your going up to the house. Mis' Champney ain't so
well, and the nurse says she give orders for no one to come nigh
her--for she's sent for Father Honoré."

"Father Honoré! What can she want of him?" she asked in genuine
surprise. "He hasn't been here for over a year."

"Well, anyway, I've got my orders to fetch Father Honoré, and I was just
asking Hannah where you were. I thought you might like to ride up with
me; I've harnessed up in the surrey."

"I won't drive way up, Tave; but I'd like you to put me down at the
sheds. Maggie says it's really beautiful now in Shed Number Two. While
I'm waiting for you, I can nose round all I want to and you can pick me
up there on your way back. Just wait till I run up to the house to see
the nurse myself, will you?" Octavius nodded.

She ran up the steps of the terrace, and on her return found Octavius
with the surrey at the front door.

Aileen was silent during the first part of the drive. This was unusual
when the two were together, and, after waiting a while, Octavius spoke:

"I'm wondering what she wants to see Father Honoré for."

"I'd like to know myself."

"It's got into my head, and somehow I can't get it out, that it's
something to do with Champney--"

"Champney!--" the name slipped unawares through the red barrier of her
lips; she bit them in vexation at their betrayal of her thought--"you
mean Champney Googe?" She tried to speak indifferently.

"Who else should I mean?" Octavius answered shortly. Aileen's ways at
times, especially during these last few years when Champney Googe's name
happened to be mentioned in her presence, were irritating in the extreme
to the faithful factotum at Champ-au-Haut.

"I wish, Aileen, you'd get over your grudge against him--"

"What grudge?"

"You can tell that best yourself--there's no use your playing off--I
don't pretend to know anything about it, but I can put my finger on the
very year and the very month you turned against Champney Googe who
never had anything but a pleasant word for you ever since you was so
high--" he indicated a few feet on his whipstock--"and first come to
Champo. 'T ain't generous, Aileen; 't ain't like a true woman; 't ain't
like you to go back on a man just because he has sinned. He stands in
need of us all now, although they say at the sheds he can hold his own
with the best of 'em--I heard the manager telling Emlie he'd be foreman
of Shed Number Two if he kept on, for he's the only one can get on with
all of the foreigners; guess Jim McCann knows--"

"What do you mean by the year and the month?"

"I mean what I say. 'T was in August seven years ago--but p'r'aps you
don't remember," he said. His sarcasm was intentional.

She made no reply, but smiled to herself--a smile so exasperating to
Octavius that he sulked a few minutes in silence. After another eighth
of a mile, she spoke with apparent interest:

"What makes you think Mrs. Champney wants to see Father Honoré about her
nephew?"

"Because it looks that way. This afternoon, when you was out, she got me
to move Mr. Louis' picture from the library to her room, and I had to
hang it on the wall opposite her bed--" Octavius paused--"I believe she
don't think she'll last long, and she don't look as if she could either.
Last week she had Emlie up putting a codicil to her will. The nurse told
me she was one of the witnesses, she and Emlie and the doctor--catch her
letting me see any of her papers!" He reined into the road that led to
the sheds.

"I hope to God she'll do him justice this time," he spoke aloud, but
evidently to himself.

"How do you mean, Tave?"

"I mean by giving him what's his by rights; that's what I mean." He
spoke emphatically.

"He wouldn't be the man I think he is if he ever took a cent from
her--not after what she did!" she exclaimed hotly.

Octavius turned and looked at her in amazement.

"That's the first time I ever heard you speak up for Champney Googe, an'
I've known you since before you knew him. Well, it's better late than
never." He spoke with a degree of satisfaction in his tone that did not
escape Aileen. "Which door shall I leave you at?"

"Round at the west--there are some people coming out now--here we are.
You'll find me here when you come back."

"I shall be back within a half an hour; I telephoned Father Honoré I was
coming up--you're sure you don't mind waiting here alone? I'll get back
before dusk."

"What should I be afraid of? I won't let the stones fall on me!"

She sprang to the ground. Octavius turned the horse and drove off.

       *       *       *       *       *

On entering the shed she caught her breath in admiration. The level rays
of the July sun shone into the gray interior illumining the farthest
corners. Their glowing crimson flushed the granite to a scarcely
perceptible rose. Portions of the noble arches, parts of the architrave,
sculptured cornice and keystone, drums, pediments and capitals, stone
mullions, here and there a huge monolith, caught the ethereal flush and
transformed Shed Number Two into a temple of beauty.

She sought the section near the doors, where Jim McCann worked, and sat
down on one of the granite blocks--perhaps the very one on which _he_
was at work. The fancy was a pleasing one. Now and then she laid her
hand caressingly on the cool stone and smiled to herself. Some men and
women were looking at the huge Macdonald machine over in the farthermost
corner; one by one they passed out at the east door--at last she was
alone with her loving thoughts in this cool sanctuary of industry.

She noticed a chisel lying behind the stone on which she sat; she turned
and picked it up. She looked about for a hammer; she wanted to try her
puny strength on what Champney Googe manipulated with muscles hardened
by years of breaking stones--that thought was no longer a nightmare to
her--but she saw none. The sun sank below the horizon; the afterglow
promised to be both long and beautiful. After a time she looked out
across the meadows--a man was crossing them; evidently he had just left
the tram, for she heard the buzzing of the wires in the still air. He
was coming towards the sheds. His form showed black against the western
sky. Another moment--and Aileen knew him to be Champney Googe.

She sat there motionless, the chisel in her hand, her face turned to the
west and the man rapidly approaching Shed Number Two--a moment more, he
was within the doors, and, evidently in haste, sought his section; then
he saw her for the first time. He stopped short. There was a cry:

"Aileen--Aileen--"

She rose to her feet. With one stride he stood before her, leaning to
look long into her eyes which never wavered while he read in them her
woman's fealty to her love for him.

He held out his hands, and she placed hers within them. He spoke, and
the voice was a prayer:

"My wife, Aileen--"

"My husband--" she answered, and the words were a _Te Deum_.


X

Octavius drew up near the shed and handed the reins to Father Honoré.

"If you'll just hold the mare a minute, I'll step inside and look for
Aileen."

He disappeared in the darkening entrance, but was back again almost
immediately. Father Honoré saw at once from his face that something
unusual had taken place. He feared an accident.

"Is Aileen all right?" he asked anxiously.

Octavius nodded. He got into the surrey; the hands that took the reins
shook visibly. He drove on in silence for a few minutes. He was
struggling for control of his emotion; for the truth is Octavius wanted
to cry; and when a man wants to cry and must not, the result is
inarticulateness and a painful contortion of every feature. Father
Honoré, recognizing this fact, waited. Octavius swallowed hard and many
times before he could speak; even then his speech was broken:

"She's in there--all right--but Champney Googe is with her--"

"Thank God!"

Father Honoré's voice rang out with no uncertain sound. It was a
heartening thing to hear, and helped powerfully to restore to Octavius
his usual poise. He turned to look at his companion and saw every
feature alive with a great joy. Suddenly the scales fell from this man
of Maine's eyes.

"You don't mean it!" he exclaimed in amazement.

"Oh, but I _do_," replied Father Honoré joyfully and emphatically....

"Father Honoré," he said after a time in which both men were busy with
their thoughts, "I ain't much on expressing what I feel, but I want to
tell you--for you'll understand--that when I come out of that shed I'd
had a vision,"--he paused,--"a revelation;" the tears were beginning to
roll down his cheeks; his lips were trembling; "we don't have to go back
two thousand years to get one, either--I saw what this world's got to be
saved by if it's saved at all--"

"What was it, Mr. Buzzby?" Father Honoré spoke in a low voice.

"I saw a vision of human love that was forgiving, and loving, and saving
by nothing but love, like the divine love of the Christ you preach
about--Father Honoré, I saw Aileen Armagh sitting on a block of granite
and Champney Googe kneeling before her, his head in the very dust at her
feet--and she raising it with her two arms--and her face was like an
angel's--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The two men drove on in silence to Champ-au-Haut.

The priest was shown at once to Mrs. Champney's room. He had not seen
her for over a year and was prepared for a great change; but the actual
impression of her condition, as she lay motionless on the bed, was a
shock. His practised eye told him that the Inevitable was already on the
threshold, demanding entrance. He turned to the nurse with a look of
inquiry.

"The doctor will be here in a few minutes; I have telephoned for him,"
she said low in answer. She bent over the bed.

"Mrs. Champney, Father Honoré is here; you wished to see him."

The eyes opened; there was still mental clarity in their outlook. Father
Honoré stepped to the bed.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs. Champney?" he asked gently.

"Yes."

Her articulation was indistinct but intelligible.

"In what way?"

She looked at him unwaveringly.

"Is--she going--to marry--him?"

Father Honoré read her thought and wondered how best to answer. He was
of the opinion that she would remember Aileen in her will. The girl had
been for years so faithful and, in a way, Mrs. Champney cared for her.
Humanly speaking, he dreaded, by his answer, to endanger the prospect of
the assurance to Aileen of a sum that would place her beyond want and
the need to work for any one's support but her own in the future. But as
he could not know what answer might or might not affect Aileen's future,
he decided to speak the whole truth--let come what might.

"I sincerely hope so," he replied.

"Do--you know?" with a slight emphasis on the "know."

"I know they love each other--have loved each other for many years."

"If she does--she--won't get anything from me--you tell her--so."

"That will make no difference to Aileen, Mrs. Champney. Love outweighs
all else with her."

She continued to look at him unwaveringly.

"Love--fools--" she murmured.

But Father Honoré caught the words, and the priest's manhood asserted
itself in the face of dissolution and this blasphemy.

"No--rather it is wisdom for them to love; it is ordained of God that
human beings should love; I wish them joy. May I not tell them that you,
too, wish them joy, Mrs. Champney? Aileen has been faithful to you, and
your nephew never wronged you personally. Will you not be reconciled to
him?" he pleaded.

"No."

"But why?" He spoke very gently, almost in appeal.

"Why?" she repeated tonelessly, her eyes still fixed on his face,
"because he is--hers--Aurora Googe's--"

She paused for another effort. Her eyes turned at last to the portrait
of Louis Champney on the wall at the foot of her bed.

"She took all his love--all--all his love--and he was my husband--I
loved my husband--But you don't know--"

"What, Mrs. Champney? Let me help you, if I can."

"No help--I loved my husband--he used to lie here--by my side--on this
bed--and cry out--in his sleep for her--lie here--by my side in--the
night--and stretch out his arms--for her--not me--not for me--"

Her eyes were still fixed on Louis Champney's face. Suddenly the lids
drooped; she grew drowsy, but continued to murmur, incoherently at
first, then inarticulately.

The nurse stepped to his side. Father Honoré's eyes dwelt pityingly for
a moment on this deathbed; then he turned and left the room, marvelling
at the differentiated expression in this life of that which we name
Love.

Octavius was waiting for him in the lower hall.

"Did you see her?" he asked eagerly.

"Yes; but to no purpose; her life has been lived, Mr. Buzzby; nothing
can affect it now."

"You don't mean she's gone?" Octavius started at the sound of his own
voice; it seemed to echo through the house.

"No; but it is, I believe, only a question of an hour at most."

"I'd better drive up then for Aileen; she ought to know--ought to be
here."

"Believe me, it would be useless, Mr. Buzzby. Those two belong to life,
not to death--leave them alone together; and leave her there above, to
her Maker and the infinite mercy of His Son."

"Amen," said Octavius Buzzby solemnly; but his thought was with those
whom he had seen leave Champ-au-Haut through the same outward-opening
portal that was now set wide for its mistress: the old Judge, and his
son, Louis--the last Champney.

He accompanied Father Honoré to the door.

"No farther, Mr. Buzzby," he said, when Octavius insisted on driving him
home. "Your place is here. I shall take the tram as usual at The Bow."

They shook hands without further speech. In the deepening twilight
Octavius watched him down the driveway. Despite his sixty years he
walked with the elastic step of young manhood.


XI

"Unworthy--unworthy!" was Champney Googe's cry, as he knelt before
Aileen in an access of shame and contrition in the presence of such a
revelation of woman's love.

[Illustration: "'Unworthy--unworthy!' was Champney Googe's cry, as he
knelt before Aileen"]

Aileen lifted his head, laid her arms around his neck, drew him by her
young strength and her gentle compelling words to a seat beside her on
the granite block. She kept her arms about him.

"No, Champney, not unworthy; but worthy, worthy of it all--all that life
can give you in compensation for those seven years. We'll put it all
behind us; we'll live in the present and in hope of a blessed future.
Take heart, my husband--"

The bowed shoulders heaved beneath her arms.

"So little to offer--so little--"

"'So little'!" she exclaimed; "and is it 'little' you call your love for
me? Is it 'little' that I'm to have a home--at last--of my own? Is it
'little' that the husband I love is going out of it and coming home to
it in his daily work, and my heart going out to him both ways at once?
And is it 'little' you call the gift of a mother to her who is
motherless--" her voice faltered.

Champney caught her in his arms; his tears fell upon the dark head.

"I'm a coward, Aileen, and you are just like our Father Honoré; but I
_will_ put all behind me. I _will_ not regret. I _will_ work out my own
salvation here in my native place, among my own and among strangers. I
vow here I _will_, God helping me, if only in thankfulness for the two
hearts that are mine...."

       *       *       *       *       *

The afterglow faded from the western heavens. The twilight came on
apace. The two still sat there in the darkening shed, at times
unburdening their over-charged hearts; at others each rested heart and
body and soul in the presence of the other, and both were aware of the
calming influence of the dim and silent shed.

"How did you happen to come down here just to-night, and after work hours
too, Champney?" she asked, curious to know the how and the why of this
meeting.

"I came down for my second chisel. I remembered when I got home that it
needed sharpening and I could not do without it to-morrow morning. Of
course the machine shop was closed, so I thought I'd try my hand at it
on the grindstone up home this evening."

"Then is this it?" she exclaimed, picking up the chisel from the block.

"Yes, that's mine." He held out his hand for it.

"Indeed, you're not going to have it--not this one! I'll buy you
another, but this is mine. Wasn't I holding it in my hand and thinking
of you when I saw you coming over the meadows?"

"Keep it--and I'll keep something I have of yours."

"Of mine? Where did you get anything of mine? Surely it isn't the
peppered rosebud?"

"Oh, no. I've had it nearly seven years."

"Seven years!" She exclaimed in genuine surprise. "And whatever have you
had of mine I'd like to know that has kept seven years? It's neither
silver nor gold--for I've little of either; not that silver or gold can
make a man happy," she added quickly, fearing he might be sensitive to
her speech.

"No; I've learned that, Aileen, thank God!"

"What is it then?--tell me quick."

He thrust his hand into the workman's blouse and drew forth a small
package, wrapped in oiled silk and sewed to a cord that was round his
neck. He opened it.

Aileen bent to examine it, her eyes straining in the increasing dusk.

"Why, it's never--it's not my handkerchief!--Champney!"

"Yes, yours, Aileen--that night in all the horror and despair, I heard
something in your voice that told me you--didn't hate me--"

"Oh, Champney!"

"Yes. I've kept it ever since--I asked permission to take it in with
me?--I mean into my cell. They granted it. It was with me night and
day--my head lay on it at night; I got my first sleep so--and it went
with me to work during the day. It's been kissed clean thin till it's
mere gossamer; it helped, that and the work, to save my brain--"

She caught handkerchief and hand in both hers and pressed her lips to
them again and again.

"And now I'm going to keep it, after you're mine in the sight of man, as
you are now before God; put it away and keep it for--" He stopped short.

"For whom?" she whispered.

He drew her close to him--closer and more near.

"Aileen, my beloved," his voice was earnestly joyful, "I am hoping for
the blessing of children--are you?--"

"Except for you, my arms will feel empty for them till they come--"

"Oh, my wife--my true wife!--now I can tell you all!" he said, and the
earnest note was lost in purest joy. He whispered:

"You know, dear, I'm but half a man, and must remain such. I am no
citizen, have no citizen's rights, can never vote--have no voice in all
that appeals to manhood--my country--"

"I know--I know--" she murmured pityingly.

"And so I used to think there in my cell at night when I kissed the
little handkerchief--Please God, if Aileen still loves me when I get
out, if she in her loving mercy will forgive to the extent that she will
be my wife, then it may be that she will bestow on me the blessing of a
child--a boy who will one day stand among men as his father never can
again, who will possess the full rights of citizenship; in him I may
live again as a man--but only so."

"Please God it may be so."

       *       *       *       *       *

They walked slowly homewards to The Bow in the clear warm dark of the
midsummer-night. They had much to say to each other, and often they
lingered on the way. They lingered again when they came to the gate by
the paddock in the lane.

Aileen looked towards the house. A light was burning in Mrs. Champney's
room.

"I'm afraid Mrs. Champney must be much worse. Tave never would have
forgotten me if he hadn't received some telephone message while he was
at Father Honoré's. But the nurse said there was nothing I could do when
I left with Tave--but oh, I'm so glad he didn't stop! I _must_ go in
now, Champney," she said decidedly. But he still held her two hands.

"Tell me, Champney, have you ever thought your aunt might remember
you--for the wrong she did you?"

"No; and if she should, I never would take a cent of it."

"Oh, I'm so glad--so glad!" She squeezed both his hands right hard.

He read her thought and smiled to himself; he was glad that in this he
had not disappointed her.

"But there's one thing I wish she would do--poor--_poor_ Aunt Meda--" he
glanced up at the light in the window.

"Yes, 'poor,' Champney--I know." She was nodding emphatically.

"I wish she would leave enough to Mr. Van Ostend to repay with interest
what he repaid for me to the Company; it would be only just, for, work
as I may, I can never hope to do that--and I long so to do it--no
workman could do it--"

She interrupted gayly: "Oh, but you've a working-woman by your side!"
She snatched away her small hands--for she belonged to the small people
of the earth. "See, Champney, the two hands! I can work, and I'm not
afraid of it. I can earn a lot to help with--and I shall. There's my
cooking, and singing, and embroidery--"

He smiled again in the dark at her enthusiasm--it was so like her!

"And I'll lift the care from our mother too,--and you're not to fret
your dear soul about the Van Ostend money--if one can't do it, surely
two can with God's blessing. Now I _must_ go in--and you may give me
another kiss for I've been on starvation diet these last seven
years--only one--oh, Champney!"...

       *       *       *       *       *

The dim light continued to burn in the upper chamber at Champ-au-Haut
until the morning; for before Champney and Aileen left the shed, the
Inevitable had already crossed the threshold of that chamber--and the
dim light burned on to keep him company....

       *       *       *       *       *

A month later, when Almeda Champney's will was admitted to probate and
its contents made public, it was found that there were but six
bequests--one of which was contained in the codicil--namely:

To Octavius Buzzby the oil portrait of Louis Champney.

To Ann and Hannah one thousand dollars each in recognition of faithful
service for thirty-seven years.

To Aileen Armagh (so read the codicil) a like sum _provided she did not
marry Champney Googe_.

One half of the remainder of the estate, real and personal, was
bequeathed to Henry Van Ostend; the other half, in trust, to his
daughter, Alice Maud Mary Van Ostend.

The instrument bore the date of Champney Googe's commitment.



The Last Word


I

It is the day after Flamsted's first municipal election; after twenty
years of progress it has attained to proud citizenship. The community,
now amounting to twelve thousand, has spent all its surplus energy in
municipal electioneering delirium; there were four candidates in the
field for mayor and party spirit ran high. On this bright May morning of
1910, the streets are practically deserted, whereas yesterday they were
filled with shouting throngs. The banners are still flung across the
main street; a light breeze lifts them into prominence and with them the
name of the successful candidate they bear--Luigi Poggi.

The Colonel, as a result of continued oratory in favor of his
son-in-law's candidacy, is laid up at home with an attack of laryngitis;
but he has strength left to whisper to Elmer Wiggins who has come up to
see him:

"Yesterday, after twenty years of solid work, Flamsted entered upon its
industrial majority through the throes of civic travail," a mixture of
metaphors that Mr. Wiggins ignores in his joy at the result of the
election; for Mr. Wiggins has been hedging with his New England
conscience and fearing, as a consequence, punishment in
disappointmenting election results. He wavered, in casting his vote,
between the two principal candidates, young Emlie, Lawyer Emlie's son,
and Luigi Poggi.

As a Flamstedite in good and regular standing, he knew he ought to vote
for his own, Emlie, instead of a foreigner. But, he desired above all
things to see Luigi Poggi, his friend, the most popular merchant and
keenest man of affairs in the town, the first mayor of the city of
Flamsted. Torn between his duty and the demands of his heart, he
compromised by starting a Poggi propaganda, that was carried on over his
counter and behind the mixing-screen, with every customer whether for
pills or soda water. Then, on the decisive day, he entered the booth and
voted a straight Emlie ticket!! So much for the secret ballot.

He shook the Colonel's hand right heartily.

"I thought I'd come up to congratulate personally both you and the city,
and talk things over in a general way, Colonel; sorry to find you so
used up, but in a good cause."

The Colonel beamed.

"A matter of a day or two of rest. You did good work, Mr. Wiggins, good
work," he whispered; "you'd make a good parliamentary whip--'Gad, my
voice is gone!--but as you say, in a good cause--a good cause--"

"No better on earth," Mr. Wiggins responded enthusiastically.

The Colonel was magnanimous; he forbore to whisper one word in reminder
of the old-time pessimism that twenty years ago held the small-headed
man of Maine in such dubious thrall.

"It was each man's vote that told--yours, and mine--" he whispered
again, nodding understandingly.

Mr. Wiggins at once changed the subject.

"Don't you exert yourself, Colonel; let me do the talking--for a
change," he added with a twinkle in his eyes. The Colonel caught his
meaning and threw back his head for a hearty laugh, but failed to make a
sound.

"Mr. Van Ostend came up on the train last night, just in time to see the
fireworks, they say," said Mr. Wiggins. "Yes," he went on in answer to a
question he read in the Colonel's eyes, "came up to see about the Champo
property. Emlie told me this morning. Mr. Van Ostend and Tave and Father
Honoré are up there now; I saw the automobile standing in the driveway
as I came up on the car. Guess Tave has run the place about as long as
he wants to alone. He's getting on in years like the rest of us, and
don't want so much responsibility."

"Does Emlie know anything?" whispered the Colonel eagerly.

"Nothing definite; they're going to talk it over to-day; but he had some
idea about the disposition of the estate, I think, from what he said."

The Colonel motioned with his lips: "Tell me."

Mr. Wiggins proceeded to give the Colonel the desired information.

       *       *       *       *       *

While this one-sided conversation was taking place, Henry Van Ostend was
standing on the terrace at Champ-au-Haut, discussing with Father Honoré
and Octavius Buzzby the best method of investing the increasing revenues
of the large estate, vacant, except for its faithful factotum and the
care-takers, Ann and Hannah, during the seven years that have passed
since Mrs. Champney's death.

"Mr. Googe had undoubtedly a perfect right to dispute this will, Father
Honoré," he was saying.

"But he would never have done it; I know such a thing could never have
occurred to him."

"That does not alter the facts of this rather peculiar case. Mr. Buzzby
knows that, up to this date, my daughter and I have never availed
ourselves of any rights in this estate; and he has managed it so wisely
alone, during these last seven years, that now he no longer wishes to be
responsible for the investment of its constantly increasing revenues. I
shall never consider this estate mine--will or no will." He spoke
emphatically. "Law is one thing, but a right attitude, where property is
concerned, towards one's neighbor is quite another."

He looked to right and left of the terrace, and included in his glance
many acres of the noble estate. Father Honoré, watching him, suddenly
recalled that evening in the financier's own house when the Law was
quoted as "fundamental"--and he smiled to himself.

Mr. Van Ostend faced the two men.

"Do you think it would do any good for me to approach him on the subject
of setting apart that portion of the personal estate, and its increase
in the last seven years, which Mrs. Champney inherited from her father,
Mr. Googe's grandfather, for his children--that is if he won't take it
himself?"

"No."

The two men spoke as one; the negative was strongly emphatic.

"Mr. Van Ostend," Octavius Buzzby spoke with suppressed excitement, "if
I may make bold, who has lived here on this place and known its owners
for forty years, to give you a piece of advice, I'd like to give it."

"I want all I can get, Mr. Buzzby; it will help me to see my way in this
matter."

"Then I'm going to ask you to let bygones be bygones, and not say one
word to Mr. Googe about this property. He begun seven years ago in the
sheds and has worked his way up to foreman this last year, and if you
was to propose to him what you have to us, it would rake up the past,
sir--a past that's now in its grave, thank God! Champney--I ask your
pardon--Mr. Googe wouldn't touch a penny of it more 'n he'd touch
carrion. I _know_ this; nor he wouldn't have his boy touch it either. I
ain't saying he don't appreciate the good money does, for he's told me
so; but for himself--well, sir, I think you know what I mean: he's
through with what is just money. He's a man, is Champney Googe, and he's
living his life in a way that makes the almighty dollar look pretty
small in comparison with it--Father Honoré, you know this as well as I
do."

The priest nodded gravely in the affirmative.

"Tell me something of his life, Father Honoré," said Mr. Van Ostend;
"you know the degree of respect I have always had for him ever since he
took his punishment like a man--and you and I were both on the wrong
track," he added with a meaning smile.

"I don't quite know what to say," replied his friend. "It isn't anything
I can point to and say he has done this or that, because he gets beneath
the surface, as you might say, and works there. But I do know that where
there is an element of strife among the men, there you will find him as
peacemaker--he has a wonderful way with them, but it is indefinable. We
don't know all he does, for he never speaks of it, only every once in a
while something leaks out. I know that where there is a sickbed and a
quarryman on it, there you will find Champney Googe as watcher after his
day's work--and tender in his ministrations as a woman. I know that when
sickness continues and the family are dependent on the fund, Champney
Googe works many a night overtime and gives his extra pay to help out. I
know, too, that when a strike threatens, he, who is now in the union
because he is convinced he can help best there, is the balance-wheel,
and prevents radical unreason and its results. There's trouble brewing
there now--about the automatic bush hammer--"

"I have heard of it."

"--And Jim McCann is proving intractable. Mr. Googe is at work with him,
and hopes to bring him round to a just point of view. And I know,
moreover, that when there is a crime committed and a criminal to be
dealt with, that criminal finds in the new foreman of Shed Number Two a
friend who, without condoning the crime, stands by him as a human being.
I know that out of his own deep experience he is able to reach out to
other men in need, as few can. In all this his wife is his helpmate, his
mother his inspiration.--What more can I say?"

"Nothing," said Henry Van Ostend gravely. "He has two children I hear--a
boy and a girl. I should like to see her who was the little Aileen of
twenty years ago."

"I hope you may," said Father Honoré cordially; "yes, he has two lovely
children, Honoré, now in his first knickerbockers, is my namesake--"

Octavius interrupted him, smiling significantly:

"He's something more than Father Honoré's namesake, Mr. Van Ostend, he's
his shadow when he is with him. The men have a little joke among
themselves whenever they see the two together, and that's pretty often;
they say Father Honoré's shadow will never grow less till little Honoré
reaches his full growth."

The priest smiled. "He and I are very, very close friends," was all he
permitted himself to say, but the other men read far more than that into
his words.

Henry Van Ostend looked thoughtful. He considered with himself for a few
minutes; then he spoke, weighing his words:

"I thank you both; I have solved my difficulty with your help. You have
spoken frankly to me, and shown me this matter in a different light; I
may speak as frankly to you, as to Mr. Googe's closest friends. The
truth is, neither my daughter nor myself can appropriate this money to
ourselves--we both feel that it does not belong to us, _in the
circumstances_. I should like you both to tell Mr. Googe for me, that
out of the funds accruing to the estate from his grandfather's money, I
will take for my share the hundred thousand dollars I repaid to the
Quarries Company thirteen years ago--you know what I mean--and the
interest on the same for those six years. Mr. Googe will understand that
this is done in settlement of a mere business account--and he will
understand it as between man and man. I think it will satisfy him.

"I have determined since talking with you, although the scheme has been
long in my mind and I have spoken to Mr. Emlie about it, to apply the
remainder of the estate for the benefit of the quarrymen, the
stone-cutters, their families and, incidentally, the city of Flamsted.
My plans are, of course, indefinite; I cannot give them in detail, not
having had time to think them out; but I may say that this house will be
eventually a home for men disabled in the quarries or sheds. The plan
will develop further in the executing of it. You, Father Honoré, you and
Mr. Buzzby, Mr. Googe, and Mr. Emlie will be constituted a Board of
Overseers--I know that in your hands the work will be advanced, and, I
hope, prospered to the benefit of this generation and succeeding ones."

Octavius Buzzby grasped his hand.

"Mr. Van Ostend, I wish old Judge Champney was living to hear this! He'd
approve, Mr. Van Ostend, he'd approve of it all--and Mr. Louis too."

"Thank you, Mr. Buzzby, for these words; they do me good. And now," he
said, turning to Father Honoré, "I want very much to see Mr. Googe--now
that this business is settled. I have wanted to see him many times
during these last six years, but I felt--I feared he might consider my
visiting him an intrusion--"

"Not at all--not at all; this simply shows me that you don't as yet know
the real Mr. Googe. He will be glad to see you at any time."

"I think I'd like to see him in the shed."

"No reason in the world why you shouldn't; he is one of the most
accessible men at all times and seasons."

"Supposing, then, you ride up with me in the automobile?"

"Certainly I will; shall we go up this forenoon?"

"Yes, I should like to go now. Mr. Buzzby, I shall be back this
afternoon for a talk with you. I want to make some definite arrangement
for Ann and Hannah."

"I'll be here."

The two walked together to the driveway, and shortly the mellow note of
the great Panhard's horn sounded, as the automobile rounded the curve of
The Bow and sped away to the north shore highway and the sheds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late that afternoon Aileen, with her baby daughter, Aurora, in her arms,
was standing on the porch watching for her husband's return. The usual
hour for his home-coming had long passed. She began to fear that the
threatened trouble in the sheds, on account of the attempted
introduction of the automatic bush hammer, might have come to a crisis.
At last, however, she saw him leave the car and cross the bridge over
the Rothel. His step was quick and firm. She waved her hand to him; a
swing of his cap answered her. Then little Aurora's tiny fist was
manipulated by her mother to produce a baby form of welcome.

Champney sprang up the steps two at a time, and for a moment the little
wife and baby Aurora disappeared in his arms.

"Oh, Champney, I'm so thankful you've come! I knew just by the way you
came over the bridge that things were going better at the sheds. You are
so late I began to get worried. Come, supper's waiting."

"Wait a minute, Aileen--Mother--" he called through the hall, "come here
a minute, please."

Aurora Googe came quickly at that ever welcome call. Her face was even
more beautiful than formerly, for great joy and peace irradiated every
feature.

"Where's Honoré?" he said abruptly, looking about for his boy who was
generally the first to run as far as the bridge to greet him. His wife
answered.

"He and Billy went with Father Honoré as far as the power-house; he'll
be back soon with Billy. Sister Ste. Croix went by a few minutes ago,
and I told her to hurry them home.--What's the good news, Champney? Tell
me quick--I can't wait to hear it."

Champney smiled down at the eager face looking up to him; her chin was
resting on her baby's head.

"Mr. Van Ostend has been in the sheds to-day--and I've had a long talk
with him."

"Oh, Champney!"

Both women exclaimed at the same time, and their faces reflected the joy
that shone in the eyes of the man they loved with a love bordering on
worship.

Champney nodded. "Yes, and so satisfactory--" he drew a long breath; "I
have so much to tell it will take half the evening. He wishes to 'pay
his respects,' so he says, to my wife and mother, if convenient for the
ladies to-morrow--how is it?" He looked with a smile first into the gray
eyes and then into the dark ones. In the latter he read silent pleased
consent; but Aileen's danced for joy as she answered:

"Convenient! So convenient, that he'll get the surprise of his life from
me, anyhow; he really must be made to realize that I am his debtor for
the rest of my days--don't I owe the 'one man on earth for me' to him?
for would I have ever seen Flamsted but for him? And have I ever
forgotten the roses he dropped into the skirt of my dress twenty-one
years ago this very month when I sang the Sunday night song for him at
the Vaudeville? Twenty-one years! Goodness, but it makes me feel old,
mother!"

Aurora Googe smiled indulgently on her daughter, for, at times, Aileen,
not only in ways, but looks, was still like the child of twelve.

Champney grew suddenly grave.

"Do you realize, Aileen, that this meeting to-day in the shed is the
first in which we three, Father Honoré, Mr. Van Ostend, and I, have ever
been together under one roof since that night twenty-one years ago when
I first saw you?"

"Why, that doesn't seem possible--but it _is_ so, isn't it? Wasn't that
strange!"

"Yes, and no," said Champney, looking at his mother. "I thought of our
first meeting one another at the Vaudeville, as we three stood there
together in the shed looking upwards to The Gore; and Father Honoré told
me afterward that he was thinking of that same thing. We both wondered
if Mr. Van Ostend recalled that evening, and the fact of our first
acquaintance, although unknown to one another."

"I wonder--" said Aileen, musingly.

Champney spoke abruptly again; there was a note of uneasiness in his
voice:

"I wonder what keeps Honoré--I'll just run up the road and see if he's
coming. If he isn't, I will go on till I meet the boys. I wish," he
added wistfully, "that McCann felt as kindly to me as Billy does to my
son; I am beginning to think that old grudge of his against me will
never yield, not even to time;--I'll be back in a few minutes."

Aileen watched him out of sight; then she turned to Aurora Googe.

"We are blest in this turn of affairs, aren't we, mother? This meeting
is the one thing Champney has been dreading--and yet longing for. I'm
glad it's over."

"So am I; and I am inclined to think Father Honoré brought it about; if
you remember, he said nothing about Mr. Van Ostend's being here when he
stopped just now."

"So he didn't!" Aileen spoke in some surprise; then she added with a
joyous laugh: "Oh, that dear man is sly--bless him!"--But the tears
dimmed her eyes.


II

"Go straight home with Honoré, Billy, as straight as ever you can," said
Father Honoré to eight-year-old Billy McCann who for the past year had
constituted himself protector of five-year-old Honoré Googe; "I'll watch
you around the power-house."

Little Honoré reached up with both arms for the usual parting from the
man he adored. The priest caught him up, kissed him heartily, and set
him down again with the added injunction to "trot home."

The two little boys ran hand in hand down the road. Father Honoré
watched them till the power-house shut them from sight; then he waited
for their reappearance at the other corner where the road curves
downward to the highroad. He never allowed Honoré to go alone over the
piece of road between the point where he was standing and the
power-house, for the reason that it bordered one of the steepest and
roughest ledges in The Gore; a careless step would be sure to send so
small a child rolling down the rough surface. But beyond the
power-house, the ledges fell away very gradually to the lowest slopes
where stood, one among many in the quarries, the new monster steel
derrick which the men had erected last week. They had been testing it
for several days; even now its powerful arm held suspended a block of
many tons' weight. This was a part of the test for "graduated
strain"--the weight being increased from day to day.

The men, in leaving their work, often took a short cut homeward from the
lower slope to the road just below the power-house, by crossing this
gentle declivity of the ledge. Evidently Billy McCann with this in mind
had twisted the injunction to "go straight home" into a chance to "cut
across"; for surely this way would be the "straightest." Besides, there
was the added inducement of close proximity to the wonderful new derrick
that, since its instalment, had been occupying many of Billy's waking
thoughts.

Father Honoré, watching for the children's reappearance at the corner of
the road just beyond the long low power-house, was suddenly aware, with
a curious shock, of the two little boys trotting in a lively manner down
the easy grade of the "cross cut" slope, and nearing the derrick and its
suspended weight. He frowned at the sight and, calling loudly to them to
come back, started straight down over the steep ledge at the side of the
road. He heard some one else calling the boys by name, and, a moment
later, saw that it was Sister Ste. Croix who was coming up the hill.

The children did not hear, or would not, because of their absorption in
getting close to the steel giant towering above them. Sister Ste. Croix
called again; then she, too, started down the slope after them.

She noticed some men running from the farther side of the quarry. She
saw Father Honoré suddenly spring by leaps and bounds down over the
rough ledge. What was it? The children were apparently in no danger. She
looked up at the derrick--

_What was that!_ A tremor in its giant frame; a swaying of its cabled
mast; a sickening downward motion of the weighted steel arm--then--

"Merciful Christ!" she groaned, and for the space of a few seconds
covered her eyes....

The priest, catching up the two children one under each arm, ran with
superhuman strength to evade the falling derrick--with a last supreme
effort he rolled the boys beyond its reach; they were saved, but--

Their savior was pinioned by the steel tip fast to the unyielding
granite.

A woman's shriek rent the air--a fearful cry:

"Jean--mon Jean!"

A moment more and Sister Ste. Croix reached the spot--she took his head
on her lap.

"Jean--mon Jean," she cried again.

The eyes, dimmed already, opened; he made a supreme effort to speak--

"Margot--p'tite Truite--"...

Thus, after six and forty years of silence, Love spoke once; that Love,
greater than State and Church because it is the foundation of both, and
without it neither could exist; that Love--co-eval with all life, the
Love which defies time, sustains absence, glorifies loss--remains, thank
God! a deathless legacy to the toiling Race of the Human, and, because
deathless, triumphant in death.

It triumphed now....

The ponderous crash of the derrick followed by the screams of the two
boys, brought the quarrymen, the women and children, rushing in
terrified haste from their evening meal. But when they reached the spot,
and before Champney Googe, running over the granite slopes, as once
years before he ran from pursuing justice, could satisfy himself that
his boy was uninjured, at what a sacrifice he knew only when he knelt by
the prostrate form, before Jim McCann, seizing a lever, could shout to
the men to "lift all together," the life-blood ebbed, carrying with it
on the hurrying out-going tide the priest's loving undaunted spirit.

       *       *       *       *       *

All work at the quarries and the sheds was suspended during the
following Saturday; the final service was to be held on Sunday.

All Saturday afternoon, while the bier rested before the altar in the
stone chapel by the lake shore, a silent motley procession filed under
the granite lintel:--stalwart Swede, blue-eyed German, sallow-cheeked
Pole, dark-eyed Italian, burly Irish, low-browed Czechs, French
Canadians, stolid English and Scotch, Henry Van Ostend and three of the
directors of the Flamsted Quarries Company, rivermen from the Penobscot,
lumbermen from farther north, the Colonel and three of his sons, the
rector from The Bow, a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church from New
York, the little choir boys--children of the quarrymen--and Augustus
Buzzby, members of the Paulist Order, Elmer Wiggins, Octavius Buzzby
supporting old Joel Quimber, Nonna Lisa--in all, over three thousand
souls one by one passed up the aisle to stand with bared bowed head by
that bier; to look their last upon the mask of the soul; to render, in
spirit, homage to the spirit that had wrought among its fellows,
manfully, unceasingly, to realize among them on this earth a
long-striven-for ideal.

Many a one knelt in prayer. Many a mother, not of English tongue,
placing her hand upon the head of her little child forced him to kneel
beside her; her tears wet the stone slabs of the chancel floor.

Just before sunset, the Daughters of the Mystic Rose passed into the
church; they bore tapers to set upon the altar, and at the head and
foot of the bier. Two of them remained throughout the night to pray by
the chancel rail; one of them was Sister Ste. Croix. Silent, immovable
she knelt there throughout the short June night. Her secret remained
with her and the one at whose feet she was kneeling.

The little group of special friends from The Gore came last, just a
little while before the face they loved was to be covered forever from
human gaze: Aileen with her four-months' babe in her arms, Aurora Googe
leading little Honoré by the hand, Margaret McCann with her boy, Elvira
Caukins and her two daughters. Silent, their tears raining upon the awed
and upturned faces of the children, they, too, knelt; but no sound of
sobbing profaned the great peaceful silence that was broken only by the
faint _chip-chip-chipping_ monotone from Shed Number Two. In that four
men were at work. Champney Googe was one of them.

He was expecting them at this appointed time. When he saw them enter the
chapel, he put aside hammer and chisel and went across the meadow to
join them. He waited for them to come out; then, taking the babe from
his wife's arms, he gave her into his mother's keeping. He looked
significantly at his wife. The others passed on and out; but Aileen
turned and with her husband retraced her steps to the altar. They knelt,
hand clasped in hand....

When they rose to look their last upon that loved face, they knew that
their lives had received through his spirit the benediction of God.

       *       *       *       *       *

Champney returned to his work, for time pressed. The quarrymen in The
Gore had asked permission the day before to quarry a single stone in
which their priest should find his final resting place. Many of them
were Italians, and Luigi Poggi was spokesman. Permission being given, he
turned to the men:

"For the love of God and the man who stood to us for Him, let us quarry
the stone nearest heaven. Look to the ridge yonder; that has not been
opened up--who will work with me to open up the highest ridge in The
Gore, and quarry the stone to-night."

The volunteers were practically all the men in the Upper and Lower
Quarries; the foreman was obliged to draw lots. The men worked in
shifts--worked during that entire night; they bared a space of sod;
cleared off the surface layer; quarried the rock, using the hand drill
entirely. Towards morning the thick granite slab, that lay nearest to
the crimsoning sky among the Flamsted Hills, was hoisted from its
primeval bed and lowered to its place on the car.

It was then that four men, Champney Googe, Antoine, Jim McCann, and
Luigi Poggi asserted their right, by reason of what the dead had been to
them, to cut and chisel the rock into sarcophagus shape. Luigi and
Antoine asked to cut the cover of the stone coffin.

All Saturday afternoon, the four men in Shed Number Two worked at their
work of love, of unspeakable gratitude, of passionate devotion to a
sacrificed manhood. They wrought in silence. All that afternoon, they
could see, by glancing up from their work and looking out through the
shed doors across the field, the silent procession entering and leaving
the chapel. Sometimes Jim McCann would strike wild in his feverish haste
to ease, by mere physical exertion, his great over-charged heart of its
load of grief; a muttered curse on his clumsiness followed. Now and
then Champney caught his eye turned upon him half-appealingly; but they
spoke no word; _chip-chip-chipping_, they worked on.

The sun set; electricity illumined the shed. Antoine worked with
desperation; Luigi wrought steadily, carefully, beautifully--his heart
seeking expression in every stroke. When the dawn paled the electric
lights, he laid aside his tools, took off his canvas apron, and stepped
back to view the cover as a whole. The others, also, brought their stone
to completion. As with one accord they went over to look at the
Italian's finished work, and saw--no carving of archbishop's mitre, no
sculpture of cardinal's hat (O mother, where were the day-dreams for
your boy!), but a rough slab, in the centre of which was a raised heart
of polished granite, and, beneath it, cut deep into the rock--which,
although lying yesterday nearest the skies above The Gore, was in past
æons the foundation stone of our present world--the words:

     THE HEART OF THE QUARRY.

The lights went out. The dawn was reddening the whole east; it touched
the faces of the men. They looked at one another. Suddenly McCann
grasped Champney's hand, and reaching over the slab caught in his the
hands of the other two; he gripped them hard, drew a long shuddering
breath, and spoke, but unwittingly on account of his habitual profanity,
the last word:

"By Jesus Christ, men, we're brothers!"

The full day broke. The men still stood there, hand clasping hand.

       *       *       *       *       *



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