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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Rose MacLeod
Author: Brown, Alice, 1857-1948
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 "Rose MacLeod" ***

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



                              ROSE MACLEOD

                             BY ALICE BROWN

                           WITH A FRONTISPIECE
                         By W. W. CHURCHILL, Jr.


NEW YORK
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS

COPYRIGHT 1907 AND 1908 BY ALICE BROWN

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

_Published April 1908_



[Illustration: Rose MacLeod]



ROSE MACLEOD



I


Madam Fulton and her granddaughter Electra were sitting at the
breakfast-table. It was a warm yet inspiriting day in early spring, and,
if the feel and look of it were not enough, the garden under the
dining-room windows told the season's hour like a floral clock. The
earliest blossoms had been pushed onward by the mounting spirit of the
year, and now the firstlings of May were budding. The great Georgian
house, set in the heart of this processional bloom, showed the mellow
tints of time. It had an abundant acreage, diversified, at first hand,
not only by this terraced garden in the rear, but by another gone to
wild abandon on the west, and an orchard stretching away into level
fields and, beyond them, groves of pine.

These dining-room windows, three of them, side by side, and now
unshaded, gave large outlook on a beautiful and busy world where the
terrace mounted in green, to be painted later with red peony balls, and
where the eye, still traveling, rested in satisfaction on the fringe of
locusts at the top.

Inside the house the sense of beauty could be fully fed. Here was a
sweet consistency, the sacred past in untouched being, that time when
furniture was made in England, and china was the product of long voyages
and solemn hoarding in corner cabinets with diamond panes. Life here was
reflected dimly from polished surfaces and serenely accentuated by
quaint carvings and spindle legs. Here was "atmosphere"--the theatre of
simple and austere content.

Madam Fulton outwardly fitted her background as a shepherdess fits a
fan. She was a sprite of an old lady, slender and round, and finished in
every movement, with the precision of those who have "learned the steps"
in dancing of another period. It was her joy that she had kept her
figure, her commonplace that, having it, she knew what to do with it.
She had a piquant profile, dark eyes, and curls whiter than white,
sifted over with the lustre of a living silver. According to her custom,
she wore light gray, and there was lace about her wrists and throat.

"Coffee, Electra?" she suddenly proposed, in a contralto voice that
still had warmth in it. She put the question impatiently, as if her
hidden self and that of the girl opposite had been too long communing,
in spite of them, and she had to break the tacit bondage of that
intercourse by one more obvious. The girl looked up from the letter in
her hand.

"No, thank you, grandmother," she said. Her voice, even in its lowest
notes, had a clear, full resonance. Then she laid the letter down. "I
beg your pardon," she added. "I thought you were opening your mail."

"No! no!" Madam Fulton cried, in a new impatience. "Go on. Read your
letter. Don't mind me."

But the girl was pushing it aside. She looked across the table with her
direct glance, and Madam Fulton thought unwillingly how handsome she
was. Electra was young, and she lacked but one thing: a girl's uncertain
grace. She had all the freshness of youth with the poise of ripest
womanhood. She sat straight and well, and seemed to manage her position
at table as if it were a horse. Her profile was slightly aquiline and
her complexion faultless in its fairness and its testimony to wholesome
living. Her lips were rather thin, but the line of white teeth behind
them showed exquisitely. She had a great deal of fine brown hair wound
about her head in braids, in an imperial fashion. Perhaps the only fault
in her face was that her eyes were of a light and not sympathetic blue.

"Shall I open your mail, grandmother?" she asked with extreme deference.

Madam Fulton's hand was lying on a disordered pile of letters, twenty
deep, beside her plate. She pressed the hand a little closer.

"No, thank you," she said. "I will attend to them myself."

Electra laid down her napkin, and pushed her plate to one side, to give
space for her own papers. She lifted one sheet, and holding it in her
fine hands, began rather elegantly,--

"Grandmother, I have here a most interesting letter from Mrs. Furnivall
Williams. She speaks of your book in the highest praise."

"Oh!" said the old lady, with a shade of satire, "does she? That's very
good-natured of Fanny Williams."

"Let me read you what she says." Electra bent a frowning brow upon the
page. "Ah, this is it. 'It was to be expected that your grandmother
would write what we all wanted to read. But her "Recollections" are more
than welcome. They are satisfying. They are illuminative.'"

"Fanny Williams is a fool!"

Electra, not glancing up, yet managed to look deeply pained.

"She goes on to say, 'What a power your dear grandmother has been! I
never realized it until now.'"

"That's a nasty thing for Fanny Williams to write. You tell her so."

"Then she asks whether you would be willing to meet the Delta Club for
an afternoon of it."

"Of what?"

"Your book, grandmother,--your 'Recollections.'"

"Electra, you drive me to drink. I have written the book. I've printed
it. I've done with it. What does Fanny Williams want me to do now?
Prance?"

Electra was looking at her grandmother at last and in a patient
hopefulness, like one awaiting a better mood.

"Grandmother dear," she protested, "it almost seems as if you owe it to
the world, having said so much, to say a little more."

"What, for instance, Electra? What?"

Electra considered, one hand smoothing out the page.

"People want to know things about it. The newspapers do. How can you
think for a moment of the discussion there has been, and not expect
questions?"

The old lady smiled to herself.

"Well," she said, "they won't find out."

"But why, grandmother, why?"

"I can't tell you why, Electra; but they won't, and there's an end of
it." She rose from her chair, and Electra, gathering her mail, followed
punctiliously. As they were leaving the room, her grandmother turned
upon her. "Did you hear from Peter?" she asked.

"Yes. From New York. He will be here to-morrow." Electra's clear,
well-considered look was very unlike that of a girl whose lover had come
home, after a five years' absence, for the avowed purpose of marriage.

Madam Fulton regarded her for a moment with a softened glance. It seemed
wistfully to include other dreams, other hopes than the girl's own, a
little dancing circle of shadowy memories outside the actual, as might
well happen when one has lived many years and seen the growth and
passing of such ties.

"Well, Electra," she said then, "I suppose you'll marry him. You'll be
famous by brevet. That's what you'll like."

Electra laughed a little, in a tolerant way.

"You are always thinking I want to become a celebrity, grandmother," she
said. "That's very funny of you."

"Think!" emphasized the old lady. "I know it. I know your kind. They're
thick as spatter now. Everybody wants to do something, or say he's done
it. You want to 'express' yourselves. That's what you say--'express'
yourselves. I never saw such a race."

She went grumbling into the library to answer her letters, or at least
look them through, and paused there for a moment, her hand on the table.
She knew approximately what was in the letters. They were all
undoubtedly about her book, the "Recollections" of her life, some of
them questioning her view of the public events therein narrated, but
others palpitating with an eager interest. She had written that history
as a woman of letters in a small way, and a woman who had known the
local celebrities, and she had done it so vividly, with such incredible
originality, that the book was not only having a rapid sale, but it
piqued the curiosity of gossip-lovers and even local historians. No
names were mentioned; but when she wrote, "A poet said to me in
Cambridge one day," everybody knew what poet was meant. When she
obscurely alluded to the letters preceding some smooth running of the
underground railway, historians of the war itched to see the letters,
and invited her to produce them. The book was three months old now, and
the wonder no less. The letters had been coming, and the old lady had
not been answering them. At first she read them with glee, as a later
chapter of her life story; but now they tired her a little, because she
anticipated their appeal.

A bird was singing outside. She cocked her head a little and listened,
not wholly in pleasure, but with a critical curiosity as well. She was
always watching for the diminution of sound, the veiling of sight
because she was old, and now she wondered whether the round golden notes
were what they had been fifty years ago. She stood a moment
thoughtfully, her hand now on the letters,--those tedious intruders upon
her leisure. Then, with an air of guilty escape, though there was no one
to see and judge, she left them lying there and stole softly out on the
veranda, where she sank into her friendly wicker chair, and looking upon
the world, smilingly felt it to be good. The sky was very bright, yet
not too bright for pleasure; clouds not meant for rain were blotting it
in feathery spaces. There was a sweet air stirring, and the birds,
though they were busy, said something about it from time to time in a
satisfactory way. Madam Fulton felt the rhythm and surge of it all, and
acquiesced in her own inactive part in it. Sometimes of late she hardly
knew how much of life was memory and how much the present brilliant call
of things. It was life, the thing she did not understand. Presently she
closed her eyes and sank, she thought, into a deeper reverie. These
excursions of hers were less like sleep, she always told herself, than a
kind of musing dream. At last she was learning what other old people had
meant when they explained, with a shamefaced air of knowing youth could
never understand, "I just lost myself." To lose one's battered and yet
still insistent self was now to be at peace.

When the forenoon was an hour or more along, she opened her eyes, aware
of some one looking at her. There he was, an old gentleman of a pleasant
aspect, heavy, with a thickness of curling white hair, blue eyes, and
that rosiness which is as the bloom upon the flower of good living. His
clothes were of the right cut, and he wore them with the ease of a man
who has always had the best to eat, to wear, to look at; for whom life
has been a well-organized scheme to turn out comfort. The old lady
stared at him with unwinking eyes, and the old gentleman smiled at her.

"Billy!" she cried at last, and gave him both her hands. "Billy Stark!"

They shook hands warmly and still looked each other in the eye. They had
not met for years, and neither liked to think what was in the other's
mind. But Madam Fulton, after they had sat down, challenged it.

"I'm an old woman, Billy." She wrinkled up her eyes in a delightful way
she had. "Don't you think that's funny?"

Billy with difficulty crossed one leg over the other, helping it with a
plump hand.

"You're precisely what you always were."

His round, comfortable voice at once put her where she liked to be, in
the field of an unconsidered intercourse with man. Electra, she knew,
was too much with her, but she had forgotten how invigorating these
brisk yet kindly breezes were, from the other planets. "That's what I
came over to see about," Billy was saying, with a rakish eye. "I needn't
have taken the trouble. You're as little changed as that syringa bush."

Her brilliant face softened into something wistful.

"The bush will come into bloom in a few weeks, Billy," she reminded him.
"I shan't ever bloom again."

"Boo to a goose!" said Billy. "You're in bloom now."

The wistfulness was gone. She adjusted her glasses on her nose and eyed
him sharply.

"I think too much about old age," she said. "I regard mine as a kind of
mildew, and every day and forty times a day I peer at myself to see if
the mildew's growing thicker. But you don't seem to have any mildew,
Billy. You're just a different kind of person from what you were fifty
years ago. You haven't gone bad at all."

Billy set his correct feet together on the floor, rose, and, with his
hand on his heart, made her a bow.

"I don't care for it much myself," he said.

"Growing old? It's the devil, Billy. Don't talk about it. Why aren't you
in England?"

"I'm junior partner now."

"I know it."

"I'm a great publisher, Florrie."

She nodded.

"Your men run over to arrange with us in London. There was no occasion
for my coming here. But I simply wanted to. I got a little
curious--homesick, maybe. So I came. Got in last night. I read your book
before I sailed."

She looked at him quizzically and almost, it might be said, with a droll
uneasiness.

"You brought it out in England," she offered, in rather a small voice.
"Naturally you'd read it."

"Not because we brought it out. Because it was yours," he corrected her.
"My word, Florrie, what a life you've had of it."

The pink crept into her cheeks. Her eyes menaced him.

"Are you trying to pump me, Billy Stark?" she inquired.

"Not for a moment. But you're guilty, Florrie. What is it?"

She considered, her gaze bent on her lap.

"Well, the fact is, Billy," she temporized, "I've got in pretty deep
with that book. I wrote it as a sort of a--well, I wrote it, you know,
and I thought I might get a few hundred dollars out of it, same as I
have out of those novels I used to write to keep lace on my petticoats.
Well! the public has made a fool of itself over the book. Every day I
get piles of letters asking what I meant by this and that, and won't I
give my documentary evidence for saying this or that great gun did so
and so at such a time."

"Well, why don't you?"

"Give my evidence? Why, I can't!" She was half whimpering, with a laugh
on her old face. "I haven't got it."

"You mean you haven't the actual letters now. Those extraordinary ones
of the abolitionist group, for example,--can't you produce them?"

"Why no, Billy, of course I can't. I"--she held his glance with a
mixture of deprecation and a gay delight--"I made them up."

William Stark, the publisher, looked at her with round blue eyes growing
rounder and a deeper red surging into his sea-tanned face. He seemed on
the point of bursting into an explosion, whether of horror or mirth
Madam Fulton could not tell. She continued to gaze at him in the same
mingling of deprecating and amused inquiry. In spite of her years she
looked like a little animal which, having done wrong, seeks out means of
propitiation, and as yet knows nothing better than the lifted eyebrow of
inquiry.

"Well," she said again defiantly, "I made them up."

"In God's name, Florrie, what for?"

"I wanted to."

"To pad out your book?"

"To make a nice book, the kind of one I wanted. I'll tell you what,
Billy,"--she bowled caution into the farthest distance,--"I'm going to
make a clean breast of it. Now you won't peach?"

He shook his head.

"Go on," he bade her.

She lifted her head, sat straighter in her chair, and spoke with
firmness:--

"Now, Billy, if I'm going to talk to you at all, you must know precisely
where I stand. Maybe you do, but I don't believe it. You see, all these
years I've been writing what I called novels, and they've paid me a
little, and I've got up a sort of local fame. I'm as poor--well, I can't
tell you how poor. Only I live here in the summer with Electra in her
house--"

"It's the old Fulton house."

"Yes, but it came to her through her father. Remember, I was a second
wife. I had no children. My husband gave me the Cambridge place and left
this to his son."

"What became of the Cambridge house?"

"Sold, years ago. Eaten up. Seems as if I'd done nothing, all these
years, but eat. It makes me sick to think of it. Well, here was I,
credit low, my little knack at writing all but gone--why, Billy, styles
have changed since my day. Folks would hoot at my novels now. They don't
read them. They just remember I wrote them when they want a celebrity at
a tea. I'm a back number. Don't you know it?"

He nodded, gravely pondering. The one thing about him never to be
affected by his whimsical humor was the integrity of a business verdict.
Madam Fulton now was warming to the value of her own position. She began
to see how picturesque it was.

"Well, then up rises one of your precious publishers and says to me,
'Mrs. Fulton, you have known all the celebrated people. Why not write
your recollections?' 'Why not?' says I. Well, I went home and sat down
and wrote. And when I looked back at my life, I found it dull. So I gave
myself a free hand. I described the miserable thing as it ought to have
been, not as it was."

William Stark was leaning forward, looking her in the face, his hands on
his knees, as if to steady him through an amazing crisis.

"Florrie," he began, "do you mean to say you made up most of the letters
in that book?"

"Most of them? Every one! I hadn't any letters from celebrities. Days
when I might have had, I didn't care a button about the eggs they were
cackling over, and I didn't know they were going to be celebrities,
then, did I?"

"Do you mean the recollections of Brook Farm, taken down from the lips
of the old poet as he had it from a member of the fraternity there--"

"Faked, dear boy, faked, every one of them." She was gathering
cheerfulness by the way.

"The story of Hawthorne and the first edition--"

"Hypothetical. Grouse in the gun-room."

"Do you mean that the story of the old slave who came to your mother's
door in Waltham, and the three abolitionists on their way to the
meeting--"

"Now what's the use, Billy Stark?" cried the old lady. "I told you it
was a fake from beginning to end. So it is. So is every page of it. If
I'd written my recollections as they were, the book would have been a
pamphlet of twenty odd pages. It would have said I married a learned
professor because I thought if I got into Cambridge society I should see
life, and life was what I wanted. It would have gone on to say I found
it death and nothing else, and when my husband died I spent all the
money I could get trying to see life and I never saw it then. Who'd have
printed that? Pretty recollections, I should say!"

Mr. Stark was still musing, his eyes interrogating her.

"It's really incredible, Florrie," he said at last. "Poor dear! you
needed the money."

"That wasn't it."

"Then what was?"

"I don't know." But immediately her face folded up into its smiling
creases and she said, "I wanted some fun."

William Stark fell back in his chair and began to laugh, round upon
wheezy round. When his glasses had fallen off and his cheeks were wet
and his face flamed painfully, Madam Fulton spoke, without a gleam.

"You're a nice man, Billy Stark."

"You wanted your little joke!" he repeated, subsiding and trumpeting
into his handkerchief. "Well, you've had it, Florrie; you've had it."

"I don't know that I have," she returned. "I had to enjoy it alone, and
that kind of palled on me. When the first notices came, I used to lie
awake from three o'clock on, to laugh. I used to go to the window when
Electra was in the room, and make up faces, to let off steam and keep
her from knowing. Then the letters kept coming, and clubs and things
kept hounding me, and Electra was always at me. There she is now, with
my grog. See me take it and pour it into the syringa."



II


Electra was crossing the veranda with her springing step, bearing a
glass of beaten egg and milk on a little tray. Madam Fulton signed to
her to place the tray on a table, evidently ready for such
ministrations, and then presented her friend. Electra greeted him with a
smile of bright acceptance. She knew his standing, and his air of
worldly ease quite satisfied her.

"May I bring you--?" she began, with a pretty grace.

"I should like a glass of water," said Billy, "if you will be so good."

When she had gone, Madam Fulton spoke in impressive haste:--

"How long can you stay, Billy? All day? All night?"

"I've got to run back to New York for a bit, but I shall be in America
all summer, one place or another. I'll stay to luncheon, if you'll let
me."

"We must avoid Electra! If she comes back and settles on us, I shall
simply take you to walk. We can go over to Bessie Grant's. You remember
her. She married the doctor."

"I remember."

Electra had returned with a glass and pitcher, and ice clinking
pleasantly. She took occasion to explain to Madam Fulton, with some
civil hesitation,--

"I have a committee meeting, grandmother. I had planned to go in town."

The old lady responded briskly.

"Go, my dear, go. Mr. Stark will stay to luncheon. We'll look out for
each other."

When Electra had rustled away, after the pleasantest of farewell
recognitions between her and the guest, Madam Fulton heaved a sigh.

"Billy," said she, "that's a dreadful girl."

"She's a very handsome girl. What's the matter with her?"

"She's so equipped. First, she's well born. Her grandmother was a Grace
and her mother was a Vanderdecken. See her teeth. See her hair, and her
profile. Dreadful!"

"They're very beautiful, in a correct way. She's as well made as a grand
piano."

"That's it, Billy. And she has done nothing but polish herself, and now
you can see your face in her. Fancy, Billy, what these modern creatures
do. They go to gymnasium. They can take a five-barred gate, I believe,
in their knickerbockers and what they call sneakers. They understand all
about foods and what's good for them and what's good for the aged, and
if you're over seventy they buy condensed foods in cans and make you
take it twice a day."

"You haven't tasted your grog."

"I shan't. Want it?"

He accepted the glass, and sniffed at it critically.

"That's good," he commented. "That's very good. There's a familiar
creature in that." He tasted, and then drank with gusto.

"Well," said the old lady disparagingly, "you wouldn't have said so if
it had been one of the foods. I have them before I go to bed."

He spoke persuasively: "Florrie, let's talk a little more about the
book."

"There's nothing more to say. I've told you the whole story, and I know
you won't tell anybody else."

"Don't you think you'd better make a clean breast of it to Gilbert and
Wall?"

"What for?"

"Well, I don't know exactly: only it seems to me publishers and authors
are in a more or less confidential relation. Being a publisher myself, I
naturally feel rather strongly about it."

"I don't see it in the least," said the old lady decisively. "All this
talk about the paternal relation is mere poppycock. They print me a
book. If it takes a start, they back it. They're as glad as I am. But as
to telling them my glorious little joke, why, I can't and I won't."

"But, dear woman, they're printing away with full confidence in having
got a valuable book out of you."

"So they have. It's selling, isn't it?"

"Madly. Specialists want it for honest data. The general reader has got
an idea from the reviews that there's personal gossip in it, more or
less racy. So it goes."

"Well, let it go," said the old lady recklessly. "I shan't stop it."

"No, but I can't help thinking Gilbert and Wall ought to be in the
secret."

"Do you imagine they'd stop printing?"

"I don't imagine anything. I believe, to speak temperately, they'd drop
dead. I only say it's a fearful and wonderful situation, and they ought
to know it. You see, dear woman, you've not only played a joke on the
public; you've played a joke on them."

"Well, for goodness' sake, why not? What's a publisher, anyway? Has he
got to be treated like a Hindu god? Billy Stark, I wish you'd stayed in
London where you belong."

Again Billy felt himself wheezing, and gave up to it as before. She
watched him unwinkingly, and by and by she chuckled a little and then
joined him, in an ecstasy.

"Florrie," said he, "you're simply a glorious portent, and you've no
more moral sense than the cat."

"No, Billy, no!" She was answering in a happy acquiescence. "I never had
any. I've always wanted some fun, and I want it to this day." Her old
face changed surprisingly under a shade of gravity. "And see where it's
led me." It was natural to conclude that her verdict embraced wider
evidence than that of the erring book. Billy, quite serious in his turn,
looked at her in candid invitation. She answered him earnestly and
humbly: "Billy, I always took the wrong road. I took it in the beginning
and I never got out of it."

"There's a frightful number of wrong turnings," Billy offered, in rather
inadequate sympathy, "and a great deficiency of guideposts."

"You see, Billy, the first thing I did was to give up Charlie Grant and
marry Mark Fulton. I was only a country girl. Charlie was a country boy.
I thought Mark must be a remarkable person because he was a professor in
Cambridge. I thought Charlie was going to be a poor little country
doctor, because he was studying medicine with another country doctor,
and he couldn't go to college to save his skin. There were eight
children, you know, younger than he. He had to work on the farm. Well,
Billy, I made a mistake."

Stark marveled at the crude simplicity of all this. He forgot, for the
moment, that she was an old woman, and that for a long time she had been
conning over the past like a secret record, full of blemishes, perhaps,
but not now to be remedied.

"You did like Charlie," he ventured. "I knew that."

"I liked him very much. And I've never quite escaped from his line of
life, if that's what they call it. Since Electra was alone and I came
here to stay with her, I've been thrown with his widow. Bessie's an old
woman, too, you know, like me. But she's a different kind."

"She was a pretty girl. Rather sedate, I remember, for a girl."

"Billy, she's a miracle. She lives alone, all but old Mary to do the
work. She's stiffened from rheumatism so that she sits in her chair
nearly all day, and stumps round a little, in agony, with two canes. But
she's had her life."

"How has she had it, Florrie? In having Grant?"

"Because all her choices were good choices. She took him when he was
poor, and she helped him work. They had one son. He married a singer, a
woman--well, like me. Maybe it was in the blood to want a woman like me.
Then this boy and the singer had two sons--one of them clever. Peter
Grant, you know. I suppose he's a genius, if there are such. The other
has--a deformity."

"I know," he nodded. "You wrote me."

"I didn't write you all. He wasn't born with it. He was a splendid boy,
but when he had the accident the mother turned against him. She couldn't
help it. I see how it was, Billy. The pride of life, that's what it
is--the pride of life."

"Is he dwarfed?"

"Heavens! he was meant for a giant, rather. He has great strength.
Somehow he impresses you. But it's the grandmother that built him up,
body and brain. Now he's a man grown, and she's made him. Don't you see,
Billy? she's struck home every time."

"Is she religious?"

"Yes, she is. She prays." Her voice fell, with the word. She looked at
him searchingly, as if he might understand better than she did the
potency of that communion.

"She's a Churchwoman, I suppose."

"No, no. She only believes things--and prays. She told me one day
Osmond--he's the deformed one--he couldn't have lived if she hadn't
prayed."

"That he would be better?"

"No, she was quite explicit about that. Only that they would be taught
how to deal with it--his trouble. To do it, she said, as God wished they
should. Billy, it's marvelous."

"Well, dear child," said Billy, "you can pray, too."

Her old face grew pinched in its denial.

"No," she answered sadly, "no. It wouldn't rise above the ceiling. What
I mean is, Billy, that all our lives we're opening gates into different
roads. Bessie Grant opened the right gate. She's got into a level field
and she's at home there. But I shouldn't be. I only go and climb up and
look over the bars. And I go stumbling along, hit or miss, and I never
get anywhere."

He was perplexed. He frowned a little.

"Where do you want to get, Florrie?" he asked at length.

She smiled into his face engagingly.

"I don't know, Billy. Only where things don't bore me; where they are
worth while."

"But they always get to bore us--" he paused and she took him up.

"You mean I'm bored because I am an old woman. I should say so, too, but
then I look at that other woman and I know it isn't so. No, Billy, I
took the wrong road."

Billy looked at her a long time searchingly.

"Well," he said at last, "what can we do about it? I mean, besides
writing fake memoirs and then going ag'in our best friends when they beg
us to own up?"

She put the question by, as if it could not possibly be considered, and
yet as if it made another merry chapter to her jest. Billy had gathered
his consolatory forces for another leap.

"Florrie," said he, "come back to London with me."

"My dear child!"

"You marry me, Florrie. I asked you fifty odd years ago. I could give
you a good sober sort of establishment, a salon of a sort. I know
everybody in arts and letters. Come on, Florrie."

Fire was in the old lady's eye. She rose and made him a pretty courtesy.

"Billy," said she, "you're splendid. I won't hold you to it, but it will
please me to my dying day to think I've had another offer. No, Billy,
no. You wouldn't like it. But you're splendid."

Billy, too, had risen. They took hands and stood like boy and girl
looking into each other's eyes. There was a little suffusion, a tear
perhaps, the memory of other times when coin did not have to be counted
so carefully, when they could open the windows without inevitable dread
of the night, its dark and chill. The old lady broke the moment.

"Come over and see Bessie Grant. What do you say?"

"Delighted. Get your hat."

But she appeared with a gay parasol, one of Electra's, appropriated from
the stand with the guilty consideration that the owner would hardly be
back before three o'clock. The old lady liked warm colors. She loved the
bright earth in all its phases, and of these a parasol was one. They
went down the broad walk and out into the road shaded by summer green,
that quivering roof-work of drooping branches and many leaves.

"Billy," said she, "I'm glad you've come."

"So am I, Florrie; so am I."

It was not far to the old Grant house, rich in the amplitude of its
size, and of the grounds, where all conceivable trees that make for
profit and delight were colonized according to a wise judgment. The
house was large, of a light yellow with white trimmings and green
blinds, and the green of the shrubbery relieved it and endowed it with
an austere dignity. There was a curving driveway to the door, and
following it, they came to the wide veranda, where an old lady sat by
herself, dozing and reflecting as Madam Fulton had done that morning.
The two canes by her chair told the story of a sad inaction. She was of
heroic stature and breadth. Her small, beautifully poised head had thick
white hair rolled back and wound about in a soft coil. Her face, pink
with a persistent bloom, soft with a contour never to break or grow old,
was simply a mother's face. It had the mother look,--the sweet serious
eyes, the low brow, for beauty not for thought, the tranquil mouth. She
was dressed in a fine cambric simply made, with little white ruffles
about her neck and above her motherly hands. Madam Fulton saw her
debating as they came, frowning a little, wondering evidently about the
stranger. She called to her.

"Who is this, Bessie Grant?"

The other woman laid a hand upon her canes, and then, as if this were an
instinctive movement, yet not to be undertaken hurriedly, smiled and sat
still, awaiting them. When they were at the steps, she spoke in an
exceedingly pleasant voice. It deepened the effect of her great
gentleness.

"I'm sure I don't know. Come right up and tell me."

They mounted the steps together, and Stark put out his hand. Mrs. Grant
studied him for a moment. Light broke over her sweet old face.

"It's Billy Stark," she said.

"Of course it is," triumphed the other old lady. "Billy Stark come back
from foreign parts as good as new. Now let's sit down and talk it over."

They drew their chairs together, and, smiles and glances mingling, went
back over the course of the years, first with a leap to the keen, bright
time when they were in school together. The type of that page was
clear-cut and vivid. There were years they skipped then, and finally
they came to the present, and Billy said,--

"You have two grandsons?"

"Yes. One lives with me. The other is coming home to-morrow. He's the
painter."

"Engaged to Electra," added Madam Fulton. "Did you know that? They are
to be married this summer. Then I suppose he'll go back to Paris and
she'll go with him."

Mrs. Grant was looking at her with a grave attention.

"We hope not," she said, "Osmond and I. Osmond hopes Peter will settle
here and do some work. He thinks it will be best for him."

"There's no difficulty about his getting it," said Billy. "I saw his
portrait of Mrs. Rhys. That was amazing."

The grandmother nodded, in a quiet pleasure.

"They said so," she returned.

"It will do everything for him."

"It has done everything. Osmond says he has only to sit down now and
paint. But he thinks it will be best for him to do it here--at least for
a time."

"How in the world can Osmond tell before he sees him?" objected Madam
Fulton. "You haven't set eyes on Peter for five years. He may be
Parisian to the backbone. You wouldn't want to tie him by the leg over
here."

"So Osmond says. But he hopes he won't want to go back."

"I can tell him one thing," said the other old lady; "he'd better make
up his mind to some big centre, Paris or New York, or he won't get
Electra. Electra knows what she wants, and it isn't seclusion. She is
going to be the wife of a celebrated painter, and she'll insist on the
perquisites. I know Electra."

Mrs. Grant smiled in deprecation; but Stark had a habit of intuitive
leaps, and he judged that she also knew Electra. His mind wandered a
little, as his eyes ran over the nearer features of the place. It hardly
suggested wealth: only comfort and beauty, the grace that comes of long
devotion, the loving eye, the practiced hand. Somebody's heart had been
put into it. This was the labor that was not hired. He had a strong
curiosity to see Osmond, and yet he could not ask for him because Madam
Fulton had once written him some queer tale of the man's sleeping in the
woods, in a house of his own building, and living the wild life his body
needed. One thing he learned now: Osmond's name was never out of his
grandmother's mouth. She quoted his decisions as if they stood for
ultimate wisdom. His ways were good and lovely to her.

The forenoon hour went by, and finally Madam Fulton remembered.

"Bless me!" she said. "It's luncheon time. Come, Billy."

The road was brighter now under the mounting sun. Madam Fulton was a
little tired, and they walked silently. Presently, at her own gate, she
suggested, not grudgingly, but as if the charm of goodness was,
unhappily, assured,--

"I suppose she's lovely!"

"Great! She's one of those creatures that have good mother-stuff in
them. It doesn't matter much what they mother. It's there. It's a kind
of force. It helps--I don't know exactly how."

"Now can't you see what I mean? That woman has had big things. She had
one of the great loves. She built it up, piece by piece, with Charlie.
He kept a devotion for her that wasn't to be compared with the tempest
he felt about me. I'm sure of that."

Stark looked at her as they walked, his eyes perplexedly denying the
evidence of his ears.

"Do you know, Florrie," he said, "it's incredible to hear you talk so."

"Why?"

"You have a zest for life, a curiosity about it. Why, it's simply
tremendous."

"No, Billy, no. It's not tremendous. It's only that I am quite convinced
I haven't got my money's worth. Late as it is, I want it yet. I'll have
it--if it's only playing jokes on publishers!"

They ate together in the shaded room, and Madam Fulton, looking out
through the windows at the terrace, realized, with an almost humble
gratitude, that the world itself and the simple joys of it were quite
different tasted in comradeship. She forgot Electra and the irritated
sense that her well-equipped granddaughter was wooing her to the ideals
of a higher life.

"Billy," she said again, "I'm uncommon glad you came."

Billy's heart warmed with responsive satisfaction He had expected a more
or less colorless meeting with his old love, a philosophic reference
here and there to vanished youth, a twilight atmosphere of waning days;
but here she was, living as hard as ever. And he had brightened her; he
had given her pleasure. The complacency of it reacted upon him, and he
sought about in his clever mind for another drop to fill the beaker. By
the time they had finished their coffee, he knew.

"Florrie," said he, "what if you should put on your hat and take the
train with me?"

"My stars, Billy! Run away?"

"Come up to town. We'd scare up some kind of a theatre this evening, and
in the morning you could see Gilbert and Wall."

"And 'fess? Not by a great sight! But I'd like to go, Billy. Leave out
Gilbert and Wall, make it you and me, and I'm your man."

"Come along."

"Worry Electra to death!" she proffered brightly. "I'll do it, Billy.
Here's the key of my little flat, right here on the writing-desk. I
never stayed there alone, but there's no reason why I shouldn't. You can
come round in the morning, to see if I've had a fit, and if I haven't
we'll go to breakfast. But we must take the three o'clock. She'll be
back by four."

She got her bonnet and her handbag, and when Electra did come back at
four, her grandmother had flown, leaving a note behind.



III


The next morning Electra, dressed in white and rather pale at the lips,
walked about the garden with a pretense of trimming a shrub here and
there and steadying a flower. But she was waiting for her lover. She had
expected him before. The ten o'clock would bring him, and he would come
straight to her without stopping to see his grandmother and Osmond. But
time went by, and she was nervously alert to the fact that he might not
have come. Even Electra, who talked of poise and strove for it almost in
her sleep, felt a little shaken at the deferred prospect of seeing him.
It was after those five years, and his letters, voluminous as they were,
had not told all. Especially had they omitted to say of late whether he
meant to return to France when he should be able to take her with him.
To see a lover after such a lapse was an experience not unconnected with
a possibility of surprise in herself as well as in him. She had hardly,
even at the first, explicitly stated that she loved him. She had only
recognized his privilege of loving her. But now she had put on a white
dress, to meet him, and the garden was, in a sense, a protection to her.
The diversity of its flowery paths seemed like a shade out of the glare
of a defined relation. At last there was a step and he was coming. She
forced herself to look at him and judge him as he came. He had scarcely
changed, except, perhaps from his hurrying gait and forward bend, that
he was more eager. There was the tall figure, the loose tie floating
back, the low collar and straight black hair--the face with its aquiline
curve and the wide sweet mouth, the eager dark eyes--he looked exactly
like the man who had painted the great portrait of the year. Then he was
close to her, and both her hands were in his. He lifted them quickly to
his lips, one and then the other.

"Electra!" he said. It was the same voice, the slight eager hesitancy in
it like the beginning of a stammer.

Electra, to her surprise, said an inconsequent thing. It betrayed how
she was moved.

"Grandmother is away. She has gone to town."

"We will go into the summer-house," said the eager voice. "That is where
I always think of you. You remember, don't you?"

He had kept her hand, and, like two children, they went along the broad
walk and into the summer-house, where there was a green flicker of light
from the vines. There was one chair, a rustic one, and Peter drew it
forward for her. When she had seated herself, he sat down on the bench
of the arbor close by, and, lifting her hand, kissed it again.

"Do you remember the knock-kneed poem I wrote you, Electra?" he asked
her. "I called it 'My Imperial Lady.' I thought of it the minute I saw
you standing there. My imperial lady!"

The current was too fast for her. She could not manage large, impetuous
things like flaming words that hurtled at her and seemed to ask a like
exchange--something strong and steady in her to meet them in mid-air and
keep them from too swift an impact. His praise had always been like the
warriors' shields clanging over poor Tarpeia,--precious, but too
crushing. They disconcerted her. If she could not manage to escape after
the first blow, she guessed how they might bruise.

"When did you come?" she asked.

Peter did not answer. He was still looking at her with those wonderful
eyes that always seemed to her too compelling for happy intercourse.

"Electra," he said, and stopped. She had to answer him. There must be
some heavy thing to break to her, which he felt unequal to the task of
telling unless she helped him. "Electra," he said again, "I didn't come
alone. Some one came with me. I wrote you about Tom."

Electra drew her hand away, and sat up straight and chilled. There had
been few moments of her grown-up life, it seemed to her, unspoiled by
Tom, her recreant brother. In the tumultuous steeple chase of his
existence he had brought her nothing but mortification. In his death, he
was at least marring this first moment of her lover's advent.

"You wrote me everything," she said. The tone should have discouraged
him. "You were with him at the last. He knew you. I gather he didn't
send any messages to us, or you would have given them."

"He did, Electra."

"He sent a message?"

"I simply couldn't write it, because I knew I should be home so soon. It
was about his wife. He begged you to be kind to her."

"His wife! Tom was not married."

"He was married, Electra, to a very beautiful girl. I have brought her
home with me."

Electra was upon her feet. Her face had lost its cold sweet pallor. The
scarlet of hot blood was upon it, a swift response to what seemed
outrage at his hands.

"I have never--" she gasped. "It is not true."

Peter, too, had risen. He was looking at her rather wistfully. His
imperial lady had, in that instant, lost her untouched calm. She was
breathing ire.

"Ah, don't say that," he pleaded. "You never saw her."

"I can't help it. I feel it. She is an adventuress."

"Electra!"

"What did he say to you? What did Tom say?"

"He pointed to her as she stood by the window, her back to us--it was
the day before he died--and said, 'Tell them to be good to her.'"

"You see! You don't even know whether he meant it as a message to me or
some of his associates. He didn't say she was his wife?"

"No."

He answered calmly and rather gravely, but the green world outside the
arbor looked unsteady to him. Electra was one of the fixed ideas of his
life; her nobility, her reserve, her strength had seemed to set her far
above him. Now she sounded like the devil's advocate. She was gazing at
him keenly.

"Her story made a great impression on you," she threw out incidentally.

The effort was apparent, but Peter accepted it.

"Yes," he answered simply. "She makes a great impression on everybody.
She will on you."

"What evidence have you brought me? Did you see them married?"

"No," said Peter, with the same unmoved courtesy.

"You see! Have you even found any record of their marriage?"

"No."

"You have the girl's word. She has come over here with you. What for?"

Peter lifted a hand to his forehead. He answered gently as a man
sometimes does, of set purpose, to avoid falling into a passion.

"It was the natural thing, Electra. She has no home, poor child!--nor
money, except what Tom left in his purse. He'd been losing pretty
heavily just before. I say, it seemed the natural thing to come to you.
Half this place was his. His wife belongs here." The last argument
sounded to him unpardonably crude, as to an imperial lady, but he
ventured it. Then he looked at her. With his artist's premonition, he
looked to see her brows drawn, her teeth perhaps set angrily upon a
quivering lip. But Electra was again pale. Her face was marble to him,
to everything.

"I shall fight it," she said inexorably, "to the last penny."

He gazed at her now as if she were a stranger. It was incredible that
this was the woman whose hand he had kissed but the moment before. He
ventured one more defense.

"Electra, you have not seen her."

"I shall not see her. Where is she--in New York?"

"Here."

"Here!"

"At grandmother's. I left her there. I thought when we had had our
little talk you would come over with me and see her, and invite her
home."

"Invite her here?"

"I thought so."

"Peter," said Electra, with a quiet certainty, "you must be out of your
mind."

There they stood in the arbor, their lovers' arbor, gazing at each other
like strangers. Peter recovered first, not to an understanding of the
situation, but to the need of breaking its tension.

"I fancied," he said, "you would be eager to know her."

"Is she a grisette?"

His mind ached under the strain of taking her in. He felt dumbly her
contrast to the facile, sympathetic natures he had been thrown with in
his life abroad. When he had left her, Electra was, as she would have
said, unformed; she had not crystallized into the clearness and the
hardness of the integrity she worshiped. To him, when in thought he
contrasted her with those other types who made for joy and not always
for moral beauty, she was immeasurably exalted. In any given crisis
where other women did well, he would not have questioned that Electra
must have done better. Her austerity was a part of her virgin charm. But
as he looked at her now, in her clear outlines, her incisive speech, the
side of him that thrilled to beauty trembled with something like
distaste or fear. She was like her own New England in its bleakness,
without its summer warmth. He longed for atmosphere.

But she had asked her question again: "Is she a grisette?"

He found himself answering:--

"She is the daughter of Markham MacLeod."

"Not the author? Not the chief?"

"Yes," said Peter, with some quiet pride in the assurance, "chief of the
Brotherhood, the great Markham MacLeod."

Electra pondered.

"If that is true," she said, "I must call on her."

"True? I tell you it is true. Electra, what are you saying?"

But Electra was looking at him with those clear eyes where dwelt neither
guile nor tolerance of the guile of others.

"Did she tell you so," she inquired, "or do you know it for a fact?"

He had himself well in hand now, because it had sprung into his wise
artist brain that he must not break the beauty of their interview. It
was fractured, but if they turned the hurt side away from the light,
possibly no one would know, and the outer crystalline sheen of the thing
would be deceptively the same.

"I know Markham MacLeod," he said. "I have seen them together. She calls
him father."

A wave of interest swept over her face.

"Do you mean you really know him, Peter?"

"Assuredly."

"As the leader of the Brotherhood?"

"Yes, the founder."

"He is proscribed in Russia and watched in France. Is that true?"

"All true."

"He gave up writing for this--to go about organizing and speaking?
That's true, isn't it?"

"Quite true."

"How much do you know about the Brotherhood, Peter?"

"I belong to it."

He straightened as he spoke. An impulse of pride passed over him, and
she read the betrayal in his kindling eyes and their widened pupils.

"Is there work for you?" she asked, "for men who don't speak and
proselytize?"

"I do speak, Electra."

"You do?"

"I have spoken a little. I can't do it yet in the way he wants. What he
wants is money."

"We have sent him money," she agreed. "The Delta Club gave a series of
plays last winter and voted him the proceeds. The first was for labor in
America. The second for free Russia."

"Yes, it pours in on him. It's his enormous magnetism."

"It's his cause."

She seemed to have reached something now that warmed her into life, and
he took advantage of that kindling.

"Rose is his daughter," he reminded her. "She is very beautiful, very
sad. She is worthy of such a father."

"Rose? Is that her actual name?"

"Yes. They are Americans, though since her childhood she has lived in
France."

"What did she do before Tom--got acquainted with her? Live there in
Paris with her father?"

"She sang. She has a moving voice. She always hoped she was going to
sing better, but there never was money enough to give her the right
training. Then she began going about with her father. She spoke, too."

"In public? For the Brotherhood?"

"Yes. She has great magnetism. But she stopped doing that."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I have heard her father ask her to do it, but she
refused. She is beautiful, Electra."

Electra was looking at him thoughtfully.

"Did she persuade you to join the Brotherhood?" she asked.

"No," said Peter, unmoved, "the chief himself persuaded me. I went to a
great meeting one Sunday night. I heard him. That was the end of me. I
knew where I belonged."

Electra, her mind hidden from him as completely as if a veil had fallen
between them, was, he could see, considering him. As for her, he hardly
dared dwell upon her as she ruthlessly seemed. She was again like the
bright American air, too determinate, too sharp. She almost hurt the
eyes. He wondered vaguely over several things he was unwilling to ask
her, since he could not bear to bring their difference to a finished
issue: why she cherished a boundless belief in the father and only
reprobation for the daughter, when she had seen neither the one nor the
other; why she had this vivid enthusiasm for the charity that embraces
the world and none for a friendless child at her door. Their interview
seemed to have dropped flat in inconceivable collapse; what was to have
been the beginning of their dual life was only the encounter of a
hand-to-hand discussion. He tried to summon back the vividness to his
fagged emotions, and gave it up. Then he ventured to think of his
imperial lady, and found a satirical note beating into his mind. He took
refuge in the practical.

"I have not seen Osmond yet."

"Wasn't he there to meet you?"

"No. Grannie said I should have to go down to the plantation, to find
him. Does he keep up his old ways, Electra?"

"Yes. Sleeping practically out of doors summer and winter, or in the
shack, as he calls it,--that log hut he put up years ago. Haven't you
known about him? Hasn't he written?"

"Oh, he writes, but not about himself. Osmond wouldn't do that. Somehow
grandmother never wrote any details about him either. I fancied he
didn't want her to. So I never asked. She only said he was 'well.' You
know Osmond always says that himself."

"I believe he is well," said Electra absently. She was thinking of the
alien presence at the other house. "He looks it--strong, tanned. Osmond
is very impressive somehow. It's fortunate he wasn't a little man."

Peter made one of the quick gestures he had learned since he had been
away from her. They told the tale of give and take with a more mobile
people. He could not ask her to ignore Osmond's deformity, yet he could
not bear to hear her speak of it. Osmond was, he thought, a colossal
figure, to be accepted, whatever his state, like the roughened rock that
builds the wall. He rose, terminating, without his conscious will, an
interview that was to have lasted, if she had gone to the other house
with him and he had returned again with her, the day long.

"I must see Osmond," he hesitated.

Electra, too, had risen.

"Yes," she said conformably, though the table, she knew, would be laid
for them both in what had promised to be their lovers' seclusion.

"I will come back. This afternoon, Electra?"

That morning, the afternoon had been his and hers only. She had expected
to listen to the recital of his triumphs in Paris, and to scan eagerly
the map of his prospects which was to show her way also. And she too
opened her lips and spoke without preconsidered intent.

"This afternoon I shall be busy. I have to go in town."

"You won't--" he hesitated again. "Electra, you won't call at the house
on the way, and see her, at least?"

"Your Rose?" She smiled at him brilliantly. "Not to-day, Peter."

Then, bruised, bewildered, he went back over the path he had come,
leaving his imperial lady to go in and order the luncheon table prepared
for one.

"Madam Fulton will not be home," she said to the maid, with a proud
unconsciousness; and for the moment it sounded as if Madam Fulton had
been the expected guest.



IV


When Peter went up the steps of his grandmother's house, he found Mrs.
Grant still on the veranda, and Rose beside her. The girl looked at him
eagerly, as if she besought him for whatever message he had, and he
answered the glance with one warmed by implied sympathy. Until he saw
her, he had not realized that anger made any part in the emotion roused
in him by his imperial lady. Now he remembered how this gracious young
creature seemed to him, so innocent, so sad. He felt a rising in his
throat, as he thought of subjecting her to unfriendly judgment. Rose, in
spite of the serious cast of her face and the repose of her figure, wore
an ineffable air of youth. She had splendid shoulders and a yielding
waist, and her fine hands lay like a separate beauty in the lap of her
black dress. She had the profile of a coin touched with finer human
graces, a fullness of the upper lip, a slight waving of the soft
chestnut hair over the low forehead, and lashes too dark for harmony
with the gray eyes. There were defects in her flawlessness. Her mouth
was large, in spite of its pout, and on her nose were a few beguiling
freckles. At that moment, in her wayward beauty, lighted by the kindled
eye of expectation, she seemed to Peter to be made up of every
creature's best. His grandmother smiled at him out of her warm
placidity, and though Rose still drew his eyes to her, he was aware that
she did not mean to question him.

"Electra has to go in town," he volunteered. "She won't be back. Perhaps
not to-night."

"You must stay here with us, my dear," said Mrs. Grant. "Peter, have her
trunks moved into the west chamber."

Still the girl's eyes seemed to interrogate him, and Peter sat down in a
chair and twined his long fingers in and out. He felt the drop in
temperature ready to chill the voyager who, after the lonely splendor of
the sea, returns to the earth as civil life has made it.

"We must remember she hadn't heard of you," he assured Rose
blunderingly, out of his depression.

"No. He had not written." She made the statement rather as that of a
fact they shared together, and he nodded. "I am afraid it is unwelcome
to her, the idea of me."

"She doesn't know you," he assured her, in the same bungling apology. He
expected her to betray some wound to her pride, but she only looked
humble and a little crushed.

Grannie had apparently not heard, and she said now, with her lovely
gentleness,--

"Don't you want to go upstairs, my dear, and be by yourself a little
while? You have been traveling so far. We have noon dinner, you know.
That will seem funny to you. Mary is getting it, but Peter will show you
a room."

Peter found her bag in the wide hall, darkened from the sun, and went
with her up the stairs. At the head she paused and beckoned him to the
window-seat over the front door.

"Set it down there," she said rapidly, touching the bag with a finger.
"Tell me--how did she receive it?"

"What?"

"You know. The news of me."

"She was surprised."

"Naturally. But what else? She was shocked!"

"It was a shock, of course. In its suddenness, you know. You'd expect
that."

She sank down in the window-seat and clasped her hands upon her knees,
looking at them thoughtfully. Her brows were drawn together.

"Yes," she said, "yes. It was a shock. I see that. Well!" She looked up
at him in a challenging directness before which he winced, conscious of
the little he had to meet it with. "When am I to see her?"

"I am not sure when she is to be back."

"Ah! She won't come to me. Very well. I shall go to her." She laid her
hand upon the bag, and rose, as if the interview were ended. Peter
carried the bag in at the open door of her room, and after he had set it
down, looked vaguely about him, as if arrangements might be bettered in
the still, sweet place. She was smiling at him with an irradiating
warmth.

"You're sorry, aren't you?" she said, from a comprehension that seemed a
proffer of vague sympathy. "It makes you feel inhospitable. You needn't.
You're a dear. Your grandmother is lovely--lovely."

Her praise seemed to Peter such a precious fruitage that the only thing,
in delicacy, was to turn away and take it with him to enjoy. But she was
calling him.

"Peter!"

He found her flushed and eagerly expectant, it seemed to him, as if his
news had been uplifting to her. She looked at him, at the room, and
rapidly from the window where the treetops trembled, all in one
comprehensive sweep.

"Peter," she said, with conviction, "it's simply lovely here."

"It's a nice old place," responded Peter. He loved it from long use, but
he was aware of its comfortable plainness.

"I never saw anything so dear. Those square worn tiles down by the front
door, the fireplace, the curtains,--look, Peter, it's dotted muslin."
She touched a moving fold, and Peter laughed outright.

"I like it," he said, "but there's nothing particular about it. If you
want style, why, you'll have to look back at what you've left. When it
comes to that, what's the matter with a château?"

"Yes, yes." She put the château aside with one of her light movements of
the hands. "But here I feel as if I'd come home to something. You see
it's so safe here, Peter. It's so darling, too, so intimate. I can't
tell what I mean. If Electra would only like me--O Peter, I could be
almost happy, as happy as the day is long!" As she said the old phrase,
it seemed to her to fit into the scene. She looked not merely as if
happiness awaited her, but as if she could almost put her eager finger
on it. And there was Electra, not so many rods away, drawbridge up and
portcullis down, inquiring, "Is she a grisette?" Afterwards it seemed to
Peter as if his sympathy for the distressed lady went to his head a
little, for he lifted her hand and kissed it. But he did not speak, save
to himself, going down the stairs:--

"It's a damned shame!"

When he went out on the veranda, grannie made a smiling comment:--

"What a pretty child! Tom Fulton did well. He was a bad boy, wasn't he,
Peter?"

"Yes, grannie," said Peter, from the veranda rail where he sat picking
rose leaves, "Tom was about the limit."

"Well! well! poor girl. Maybe it's as well he went while she knew only
the best of him."

Peter was not sure she did know only the best, but he inquired,--

"Shall I have time to run down and see Osmond before dinner?"

"You'd better. He was here waiting when the carriage came. When he saw
her, he slipped away."

"Rose?"

"Rose? Is that her name? Now isn't that pretty! Maybe you'll find him
before you get to the plantation. I shouldn't wonder if he'd think it
over and come back."

Peter did meet him in the lane lined with locusts on each side, walking
doggedly back to the house. Some things the younger brother had
forgotten about him, the beauty of the dark face that looked as if it
had been cut out of rock, the extraordinary signs of strength, in spite
of that which might have appealed to pity. Osmond had grown rugged with
every year. His long arms, ending in the brown, supple hands, looked as
if they were compact of sinewy potencies. And on his shoulders, heavier
than Christian's burden, was that pack he must carry to the end of life.
He saw his brother coming, and stopped, and Peter, as if to save him the
sense of being looked at from afar, even by his own kin, ran to meet
him. They did not take hands, but the older brother gave him a slap on
the shoulder.

"Well, boy!" said he.

There were tears in Peter's eyes.

"Look-a-here," he cried, "I'm sniveling. Coming up to the house?"

"No. I've been there once this morning. You come back with me."

They turned about, and walked on through the lane. It led to the
plantation; this was the nursery, here were the forcing beds, and all
the beneficent growing things that had saved Osmond's life while he
tended them, and also earned his bread for him, and Peter's bread and
paints.

"Well, boy," said Osmond, "you've brought a girl with you. That was why
I cut. Who is she?"

"Tom Fulton's wife--his widow."

Osmond knew Electra very well. Some phases of her were apparent to him
in his secluded life that her lover, under the charm of an epistolary
devotion, had never seen.

"Does Electra know it?" he asked.

"I told her." Peter's tone added further, "Shut up, now!" and Osmond
tacitly agreed.

"Coming down to dinner?" he asked safely.

"No, I must be back. I feel responsible for her--Rose. I brought her
over. In fact, I rather urged her coming. Grannie has asked her to stay
with us until Electra is--at home."

"Is her name Rose?"

"Yes--one of those creamy yellow ones. You must see her. She's a dear.
She's a beauty, too."

"Oh, I've seen her,--one ear and a section of cheek and some yellow
hair. Then I ran."

"For heaven's sake, man! what for?"

"She's one of those invincible Parisians. I've read about them."

Peter burst out laughing. Osmond's tone betrayed a terrified admiration.

"Do you eat down here with the men?" Peter was asking.

"Sometimes. I go up and eat with grannie once a day while she's alone. I
shan't now."

"Why not?"

"You'll be here to keep her company, you and your Parisian. I've got to
go on being a wild man, Pete. I shan't save my soul alive if I don't do
that."

Peter put out a hand and laid it, for an instant, on his brother's arm.

"I don't know anything about your soul, old man," he said, with a moving
roughness. "But if you like this kind of a life, you're going to have
it, that's all. Who cooks the dinner?"

"Pierre. He came just after you went to France. There's a _pot-au-feu_
to-day. I smelled it when I went by the kitchen. It's a good life,
Pete,--if you don't want to play the game." His eyes grew wistful,
something like the eyes of the dog that longs for man.

"If you don't play the game, I don't know who does."

"Well!" Osmond smiled a little, whimsically. "Maybe I do; but I play
with counters."

Peter was not especially ready, save with a brush in his hand. He wanted
to say something to the effect that Osmond was playing the biggest of
all games, with the visible universe against him; but he hardly knew how
to put it. It seemed, though, as if he might some time paint it into a
picture. But Osmond was recognizing the danger of soft implication, and
bluffly turned the talk.

"Well, Pete, you've done it, haven't you?"

There was no possibility of affecting to misunderstand. Peter knew what
he had gone to Paris for, five years ago, and why Osmond had been
sending him the steady proceeds of the garden farm. He was to prove
himself, take his talent in his hand and mould it and turn it about with
a constant will, and shape a cup to hold the drink that makes the gods
jealous and men delirious with adulation. Peter was to live at his ease
in Paris, sparing nothing that would keep him well and strong of heart,
so that he could paint the best portraits in the world. Peter knew he
had begun to paint the best portraits in the world, because he had done
many good ones and one actual marvel, and suddenly, as it sometimes is
in art after we have been patient and discouraged, the whole task seemed
to him a light and easy one. In his extraordinary youth he had the
freshness of his brain, his quick eye and obedient hand, and he felt,
lightly and gayly, that he was rich,--but rich in a world where there
was plenty more of whatever he might lose.

"I guess so," he said, returning to the speech of his youth. "And I can
do it twice, old man. I can do it a hundred times."

Osmond stopped and laid a hand on a boulder at the termination of their
way, where the lane opened into plowed fields. He looked off through the
distance as if he saw the courts of the world and all the roads that run
to fame. His eyes were burning. The hand trembled upon the rock.

"By George!" he said, "it's amazing."

"What is, Osmond?"

"It's amazing that the world can hold so much for one man. You wouldn't
think there would be water enough in all the rivers for one man to drink
so deep. What does Electra say?"

"About the painting? Nothing yet."

"Didn't you speak of it? Why, you're covered with laurel, boy, like
Jack-in-the-Green. She couldn't help seeing it."

Peter, brought back to that luckless interview with the imperial lady,
felt shamefaced in his knowledge of it.

"We didn't get to that," he said. "We were talking about Rose. Who do
you think she is, Osmond?"

"Tom's widow. So you said."

"Yes, but what more? She's the daughter of Markham MacLeod."

He was watching Osmond narrowly, to weigh the effect of the name. But
Osmond's face kept its impressive interest.

"You know who he is," Peter suggested.

"Yes, oh, yes! But that doesn't mean anything to me. Nothing does until
I see the man. He works with too big a brush. He is an agitator. He may
be Christ or Anti-Christ, but he's an agitator. That's all I know. I
can't give a snap judgment of a man that gets whole governments into a
huff and knows how to lead a rabble a million strong. So he's her
father?"

Peter, unreasonably irritated, pitched upon one word for a cause of war.

"Rabble? What do you mean by that? Labor?"

Osmond smiled broadly and showed his white teeth.

"I'm labor myself," he said. "You know that, boy."

"Then what do you want to talk so for? Rabble!"

"I only meant it in relation to numbers," said Osmond, again
irritatingly, in his indifference to all interests outside his dear
boy's home-coming. "I'll make it a rabble of kings, if you say so.
Folks, Peter, that's what I mean, folks. He deals with them in the mass.
That makes me nervous. I can't like it."

"He believes in the equality of man," Peter announced, as he was
conscious, rather swellingly. "The downfall of kings, the freedom of the
individual."

"There's the _pot-au-feu_ smoking inside that shack," said Osmond,
indicating a shanty across the field. "Come and have dinner with labor."

But Peter turned. He shook his head.

"I can't, Osmond," he said. "I've brought this girl into the house, and
I've got to see her through. Won't you come up to-night?"

"Not till your Parisian has gone over to Electra's. You come down here.
Come down about dusk and we'll have another go."

As Peter hurried back, conscious of being a little late, he could have
beaten his head against the locust trees for the stupidity of his
home-coming. He had the shattered moment with Electra to remember, and
now he had turned the other great meeting of the day into a fractious
colloquy. Unformed yet vivid in his mind, for the last year, had been
strong, determining anticipations of what would happen when he at last
came home. He had known certainly what would happen when he saw Electra.
She would still be the loveliest and best, and his would be the
privilege of telling her so. And to Osmond, who had dug in the ground
that Peter might work under the eye of men, he would return as one who
has an account to give, and say, in effect, "You did it." But,
laughably, neither of these things had happened. He forgot that he had
in him the beginnings of a great painter in remembering that he had
shown the obtuseness of an ass.

He did not see Electra that night. After the noon dinner he left Rose
and grannie intimately together,--the girl, with a gentle deprecation,
as if she brought gifts not in themselves worth much, talking about
Paris, the air young Peter had been breathing,--and betook himself again
to Electra's house. It was all open to the day, but no one answered his
knock. He went in and wandered from parlor to library, the dignified
rooms that had once seemed to him so typical of her estate as compared
to his own: for in those days he had been only a young man of genius
with scarcely enough money to live and study on, save as his brother
earned it for him. He sauntered in and out for an hour--it seemed as if
even the two servants had gone--and then played snatches at the piano,
to waken drowsy ears. But the house kept its quiet, and in the late
afternoon he wandered home again. That evening he returned, and then
there was some one to answer his knock. The maid told him Miss Electra
had gone out; but though he waited in a fevered and almost an angry
impatience, she did not return. Knowing her austere and literal truth,
he could not believe that the denial was the conventional expedient, and
in a wave of regret over the day, he longed for her inexpressibly. It
seemed to him that no distance would be too great to bring him to her.
He felt in events, and in himself also, the rushing of some force to
separate them, and swung back, after his blame of her, into the
necessity of a more passionate partisanship. When he went home, still
without seeing her, he found his grandmother's house deserted. But the
minute his foot sounded, there was a soft rush down the stairs. Rose
stood beside him in the hall.

"Did you see her?" she asked breathlessly.

He strove to make his laugh an evidence of the reasonableness of what he
had to answer.

"No. She was obliged to be away."

"Isn't she at home now?" asked the girl insistently. "She is there, and
you refuse to hurt me. She won't see me!"

"She is not there," said Peter, in relief at some small truth to tell.
"I haven't seen her since morning."

The girl stood there in the faint radiance of the hall lamp, her eyes
downcast, thinking. She had dressed for dinner, though there was only
high tea in the old-fashioned house, and delighted grannie beyond words.
The old lady said it was as good as a play to her, who never went out,
to see a lovely dress trailing about the rooms. Peter, looking at the
girl, felt his heart admonish him that here was beauty demanding large
return of kindly treatment from the world. Not only must justice be done
her, but it must be done lavishly. This was for all their sakes. Electra
could not be allowed to lose anything so precious, nor could he lose it
either, his small share of tribute. She was speaking, still with that
air of pondering:--

"I must do it myself. I mustn't let you risk anything." Then she turned
her full glance on him, and frankly smiled. "Good-night," she said,
giving him her hand. "Don't speak of me to her. Don't think of me. I
must do it all myself."



V


Next morning it was a different Rose he saw, quite cosy and cheerful at
the breakfast-table, with no sign of tragedy on her brow. The day was
fair, and the mood of the world seemed to him, for no reason, to have
lightened. It was not credible that Electra, of all gracious beings,
should sulk outside the general harmony. After breakfast, when Rose had,
with a sweet air of service, given grannie her arm to the veranda chair,
she returned to Peter, waiting, perhaps for a word with her, in the
hall. His hat swung from his hand, and seeing that, she spoke in a low,
quick tone.

"You are going over there. Don't do it."

"I must. I want to see her."

"I know. But not yet. Let me see her first. If you talk about me, it
will make trouble between you,--not real trouble, perhaps, but something
unfortunate, something wrong. I am going myself, now." She pointed out
her hat and gloves where she had them ready, and without waiting for him
to speak, began pinning on the hat. While she drew on the gloves she
looked at him again with her charming smile. "Don't you see," she said,
"we can get along better alone--two women? Which house is it?"

He followed her out and down the steps.

"I'll go part of the way with you."

She waved a gay farewell to grannie, busy already at her knitting, and
they went down the path. But at the gate she paused.

"Now," she said, "which way? Which house?"

"The next one."

"I see. Among the trees. Now don't come. Whatever happens, don't come.
If I am not here to dinner,--if I am never here. You simply must not
appear in this. Good-by." She gave her parasol a little reassuring
fling, as if it were a weapon that proved her amply armed, and took her
swift way along the shaded road.

Peter stood for a moment watching her. She went straight on, and the
resolution of her gait bore sufficient witness to her purpose. He turned
about then and went rather disconsolately the other way, which would
bring him out at the path to Osmond's plantation.

Rose, going up the garden path, came upon Electra herself, again dressed
in white and among the flower-beds. Whether she hoped her lover would
come, and was awaiting him, her face did not tell; but she met Rose with
the same calm expectancy. There was ample time for her to walk away, to
avoid the interview; but Electra was not the woman to do that. False
things, paltering things, were as abhorrent to her in her own conduct as
in that of another. So she stood there, her hands at her sides in what
she would have called perfect poise, as Rose, very graceful yet flushed
and apparently conscious of her task, came on. A pace or two away, she
stopped and regarded the other woman with a charming and deprecatory
grace.

"Do guess who I am!" she said, in a delightful appeal. "Peter Grant told
you."

"Won't you come in?" returned Electra, with composure. "Mr. Grant did
speak of you."

Rose felt unreasonably chilled. However little she expected, this was
less, in the just civility that was yet a repudiation. They went into
the library, where the sun was bright on rows of books, and Electra
indicated a seat.

"Mr. Grant told me a very interesting thing about you," she volunteered,
with the same air of establishing a desirable atmosphere.

"Yes," said Rose rather eagerly. She leaned forward a little, her hands
clasped on her parasol top. "Yes. I forbade him to say any more. I
wanted to tell you myself."

Electra's brows quivered perceptibly at the hint of familiar
consultation with Peter, but she answered with a responsive grace,--

"He told me the interesting fact. It is very interesting indeed. We have
all followed your father's career with such attention. There is nothing
like it."

"My father!" There was unconsidered wonder in her gaze.

Electra smiled agreeingly.

"He means just as much to us over here as he does to you in France--or
England. Hasn't he been there speaking within the month?"

"He is in England now," said Rose still wonderingly, still seeking to
finish that phase and escape to her own requirements.

"Mr. Grant said you speak, at times."

"I am sorry he said that," Rose declared, recovering herself to an
unshaded candor. "I shall never do it again."

Electra was smiling very winningly.

"Not over here?" she suggested. "Not before one or two clubs, all women,
you know, all thoughtful, all earnest?"

Rose answered coldly,--

"I am not in sympathy with the ideas my father talks about."

"Not with the Brotherhood!"

"Not as my father talks about it." She grew restive. Under Electra's
impenetrable courtesy she was committing herself to declarations that
had been, heretofore, sealed in her secret thought. "I want to talk to
you," she said desperately, with the winning pathos of a child denied,
"not about my father,--about other things."

"This is always the way," said Electra pleasantly, with her immutable
determination behind the words. "He is your father, and your familiarity
makes you indifferent to him. There are a million things I should like
to know about Markham MacLeod,--what he eats and wears, almost. Couldn't
you tell me what induced him--what sudden, vital thing, I mean--to stop
his essay-writing and found the Brotherhood?"

Rose answered coldly, and as if from irresistible impulse,--

"My father's books never paid."

Electra gazed at her, with wide-eyed reproach.

"You don't give that as a reason!"

Rose had recovered herself and remembered again the things she meant to
leave untouched.

"No," she said, "I don't give it as a reason. I only give it."

Electra was looking at her, rebuffed and puzzled; then a ray shot
through her fog.

"Ah," she said, "wouldn't it be one of the inconceivable things if we
who have followed his work and studied him at a distance knew him better
than you who have had the privilege of knowing him at first hand?"

In spite of herself, Rose answered dryly,--

"It would be strange."

But Electra had not heard. There was the sound of wheels on the drive,
and she looked out, to see Madam Fulton alighting.

"Excuse me, one moment," she said. "My grandmother has come home from
town."

When Rose was alone in the room, she put her hand to her throat to
soothe its aching. There were tears in her eyes. She seemed to have
attempted an impossible task. But presently Electra was entering again,
half supporting by the arm a fragile-looking old lady who walked
inflexibly, as if she resented that aid. Madam Fulton was always
scrupulous in the appointments of her person; but this morning, with the
slightly fagged look about her eyes and her careful bonnet a trifle
awry, she disclosed the fact that she had dressed in haste for a train.
But she seemed very much alive, with the alert responsiveness of those
to whom interesting things have happened.

"I want my grandmother to be as surprised as I am," Electra was saying,
with her air of social ease. "Grandmother, who do you think this is? The
daughter of Markham MacLeod!" She announced it as if it were great news
from a quarter unexplored and wonderful. Rose was on her feet, her
pathetic eyes fixed upon the old lady's face. Madam Fulton was regarding
her with a frank interest it consoled her to see. It was not, at least,
so disproportioned.

"Dear me!" said the old lady. "Well, your father is a remarkable man.
Electra here has all his theories by heart."

"I wish I had," breathed Electra with a fervency calculated perhaps to
distract the talk from other issues.

"How long have you been in America?" asked the old lady civilly, though
not sitting down. She had to realize that she was tired, that it would
be the part of prudence to escape to her own room.

"I have just come," said Rose, in a low, eloquent voice, its tones
vibrating with her sense of the unfriendliness that had awaited her.

"And where are you staying? How did you drift down here?"

"At Mrs. Grant's--for the present." What might have been indignation
warmed the words.

"Grandmother, you must be tired," said Electra affectionately. "Let me
go to your room with you, and see you settled."

"Nonsense!" said the old lady briskly. "Nonsense! I'm going, but I don't
need any help. Good-by, Miss MacLeod. I shall want to see you again when
I have a head on my shoulders."

She had gone, and still Electra made no sign of bidding her guest sit
down again. Instead, she turned to Rose with an engaging courtesy.

"You will excuse me, won't you? I ought to go to grandmother. She is far
from strong."

Rose answered quickly,--

"Forgive me! I will go. But"--she had reached the door, and paused there
entreatingly--"when may I see you again?"

"Grandmother's coming will keep me rather busy," said Electra, in her
brilliant manner. "But I shall take great pleasure in returning your
visit. Good-by."

Rose, walking fast, was out upon the road again, blind to everything
save anger, against herself, against the world. She had come to America
upon an impulse, a daring one, sure that here were friendliness and
safety such as she had never known. She had found a hostile camp, and
every fibre in her thrilled in savage misery. Half way along the
distance home Peter came eagerly forward to her from the roadside where
he had been kicking his heels and fuming. The visit to Osmond had not
been made. At the plantation gate he had turned back, unable to curb his
desire to know what had gone on between these two. At once he read the
signs of her distress, the angry red in her cheeks, the dilated eye.
Even her nostrils seemed to breathe defiance or hurt pride. She spoke
with unconsidered bitterness.

"I ought never to have come."

"What was it? Tell me."

"It was nothing. I was received as an ordinary caller. That was all."

"Who received you?"

"She. Electra."

"What then?"

"I was presented to her grandmother as my father's daughter, not as her
brother's--wife." She was breathless upon the word. All the color went
out of her face. She looked faint and wan.

"But it couldn't be," he was repeating. "Didn't you speak of Tom at
all?"

"No."

"Didn't she?"

"No."

He essayed a bald and unreasonable comfort.

"There, you see! You didn't mention him, and Electra hardly brings
herself to do it to any one. He never ceased being a trial to her. You
must let me say that."

"Ah, that wasn't it! Every time I might have spoken, a hand, a clever,
skillful hand and cold as ice pushed me away. I can never speak of it.
She won't let me."

He was with her, every impulse of his eager heart; but a tardy
conscience pulled him up, bidding him remember that other loyalty.

"Give her time," he pleaded. "It's a shock to her. Perhaps it ought not
to be; but it is. Everything about Tom has always been a shock."

She, as well as he, remembered now that they spoke of Electra, whose
high-bred virtues he had extolled to her in those still evenings on
their voyage, when her courage failed her and he had opened to her the
book of Electra's truth and justice.

"Do you think," she said wistfully, "I might stay at your grandmother's
a few days more?"

"You are to stay forever. Grannie dotes upon you."

"No! no! But I shall have to think. I shall have to make my plans."

Again Peter felt yesterday's brand of anger against his imperial lady,
or, he told himself immediately, the unfortunate circumstances of this
misunderstanding. "You run on," he said. "Grannie's where you left her.
If you don't feel like talking you can skip in at that little gate and
the side door up to your room. I'm going back to see Electra."

"You mustn't talk about me!"

"No!" He smiled at her in a specious reassurance, and went striding on
over the path by which she had come.

Electra, in the fulfillment of her intention, had gone scrupulously to
her grandmother's door, to ask if she needed anything, and then, when
she had been denied, returned to the library, where she stood when Peter
appeared on the threshold, as if she had been expecting him. He did not
allow his good impulse to cool, but hurried forward to her with an
abounding interest and a certainty of finding it fulfilled. As at first,
when he had come to her in the garden the day before, he uttered her
name eloquently, and broke out upon the heels of it,--

"I didn't see you all yesterday, after that first minute."

Electra looked at him seriously, and his heart sank. Peter had been
thinking straight thoughts and swearing by crude values in these five
years when he had lived with men and women who said what they meant,
things often foolish and outrageous, but usually honest, and his mind
had got a trick of asserting itself. None of the judgments it had been
called upon to make seemed to matter vitally; but this one
disconcertingly did, and to his horror he found himself wondering if
Electra could possibly mean to be so hateful. Electra meant nothing of
the kind. She had a pure desire toward the truth, and she assumed that
Peter's desire tallied with her own. She felt very strongly on the point
in question, and she saw no reason why he should not offer the greatest
hospitality toward her convictions.

"Peter," she said at once, "you must not talk to me about that woman."

"So she said," Peter was on the point of irresistibly retorting, but he
contented himself with the weak make-shift that at least gains time,--

"What woman?"

"Markham MacLeod's daughter."

"Tom's wife? Tom's widow?"

Electra looked at him in definite reproof.

"You must not do that, Peter," she warned him. "You must not speak of
her in that way."

"For God's sake, why not, Electra?"

"That is not her title. You must not give it to her."

He stared at her for a number of seconds, while she met his gaze
inflexibly. Then his face broke up, as if a hand had struck it. Light
and color came into it, and his mouth trembled.

"Electra," he said, "what do you want me to understand?"

"You do understand it, Peter," she said quietly. "I can hardly think you
will force me to state it explicitly."

"You can't mean it! no, you can't. You mustn't imply things, Electra.
You imply she was not married to him."

Still Electra was looking at him with that high demeanor which, he felt
with exasperation, seemed to make great demands upon him of a sort that
implied assumptions he must despise.

"This is very difficult for me," she was saying, and Peter at once
possessed himself of one passive hand.

"Of course it is difficult," he cried warmly. "I told her so. I told her
everything connected with Tom always was difficult. She knows that as
well as we do."

"Have you talked him over with her?" The tone was neutral, yet it
chilled him.

"Good Lord, yes! We've done nothing but talk him over from an outside
point of view. When she was deciding whether to come here, whether to
write you or just present herself as she has--of course Tom's name came
into it. She was Tom's wife, wasn't she? Tom's widow?"

"No! no!" said Electra, in a low and vehement denial. "She was not."
Peter blazed so that he seemed to tower like a long thin guidepost
showing the way to anger. "I said the same thing yesterday."

"That was before you saw her. It means more now, infinitely more."

"I hope it does."

"Think what you're saying, Electra," he said violently, so that she
lifted her hand slightly, as if to reprove him. "You refuse to receive
her--"

"I have received her,--as her father's daughter. I may even do so
again."

"But not as your sister?"

"That would be impossible. You must see it is impossible, feeling as I
do."

"But how, how? You imply things that dizzy me, and then, when it comes
to the pinch, I can't get a sane word out of you." That seemed to him,
as to her, an astonishing form of address to an imperial lady, and he
added at once, "Forgive me!" But he continued irrepressibly, "Electra,
you can't mean you doubt her integrity."

She had her counter question:--

"Did you see them married?"

"No, no, heavens, no! Why, I didn't come on Tom in Paris until his
illness. Tom never had any use for me. You know that. Meantime he'd been
there a couple of years, into the mire and out again, and he'd had time
to be married to Rose, and she'd had time to leave him."

"Ah, she left him! Why?"

"Why did you leave him, Electra, before he went over there? Why did you
give up living in town, and simply retreat down here? You couldn't stand
it. Nobody could. Tom was a bad egg, Electra. I don't need to tell you
that."

"It is certainly painful for me to hear it."

"But why, why, Electra? I can't stultify myself to prove this poor girl
an adventuress. I can't canonize Tom Fulton, not even if you ask me."

"There are things we need not recur to. My brother is dead," said
Electra, with dignity.

"Yes. That's precisely why I am asking you to provide for his widow."

"Suppose, then, this were true. Suppose she is what you say,--don't you
feel she forfeited anything by leaving him?"

"Ah, but she went back, poor girl! She went back to him when he was
pretty well spent with sickness and sheer fright. Tom didn't die like a
hero, Electra. Get that out of your mind."

She put up both hands in an unconsidered protest.

"Oh, what is the use!" she cried; and his heart smote him.

"None at all," he answered. "But I mean to show you that this girl
didn't walk back to any dead easy job when she undertook Tom."

"Why did she do it?"

"Why? From humanity, justice, honor, I suppose, the things that
influence women when they stick to their bad bargains."

"Where had she been meantime?"

"With her father, in lodgings. That was where I met her."

"Was she known by my brother's name?"

"No," he hesitated, "not then. I knew her as Miss MacLeod."

"Ah!"

"I can see why," Peter declared, with an eager emphasis. "I never
thought of it before, but can't you see? I should think a woman could,
at least. The whole situation was probably so distasteful to her that
she threw off even his name."

"And assumed it after his death!"

"No! no! She was called Madame Fulton at his apartment. I distinctly
remember that."

They had been immovably facing each other, but now Electra turned away
and walked back to the library table, where she stood resting one hand
and waiting, pale and tired, yet unchanged. This seemed to her one of
the times that try men's souls, but wherein a New England conscience
must abide by its traditions.

"How long does she propose remaining?" she asked, out of her desire to
put some limit to the distasteful situation, though she had forbidden
herself to enter it with even that human interest.

"Why, as long as we ask her to stay,--you, or, if she is not to expect
anything from you, I. She has nothing of her own, poor girl."

"Has her father repudiated her? That ought to tell something."

Peter was silent for a moment. Then he said in an engaging honesty,
bound as it was to hurt his own cause,--

"I don't know. I don't understand their relation altogether. Rose gives
no opinions, but I fancy she is not in sympathy with him."

"Yes, I fancied so."

"But we mustn't fancy so. We mustn't get up an atmosphere and look
through it till we see distorted facts."

"Those are what I want, Peter, facts. If Miss MacLeod--"

"Do you mean you won't even give her your brother's name?"

"Even, Peter! What could be more decisive?"

"Do you expect me to introduce her as Miss MacLeod? Do you expect me to
call her so?"

"I fancied you called her Rose."

"I did. I do. I began it in those unspeakable days when Tom went out of
his head with fright and fever and we held him down in bed. Electra!"

She was listening.

"Was that grandmother calling?" she asked, though grandmother never yet
had summoned her for companionship or service. But Electra felt her high
decorum failing her. She was tired with the impact of emotion, and it
was a part of her creed never to confess to weakness. She had snatched
at the slight subterfuge as if it were a sustaining draught. "I am
afraid I must go."

"Electra!" He placed himself before her with outstretched hands. Very
simple emotions were talking in him. They told him that this was the
second day of his return, that he was her lover, and he had not kissed
her. And they told him also, to his sheer fright and bewilderment, that
he did not want to kiss her. All he could ineffectually do was to
reiterate, "We can't go on like this. Nothing in the world is worth it."
Yet while he said it, he knew there was one thing at least infinitely
worth while: to right the wrongs of a beautiful and misjudged lady. Only
it was necessary, apparently, for the present, to keep the lady out of
the question.

Electra was listening.

"It is grandmother," she said recklessly. "I must go."

There was a rustle up the staircase, and he was alone in the library, to
take himself home as he might.



VI


After a week Electra had made no sign toward acceptance of the unbidden
guest. She received Peter sweetly and kindly whenever he went to see
her, but he felt they were very far apart. Something had been destroyed;
the bubble of pleasure was broken and, as it seemed, for good and all.
He strove to find his way back into their lost dream and take her with
him; but there was no visible path. Rose spared him questions. She
stayed gratefully on, and grannie was delighted with her. Rose had such
a way of fitting into circumstance that it seemed an entirely natural
thing to have her there, and Peter forgot to wonder even at the pleasure
of it. Twice she came in from a walk pale and inexplicably excited, and
he knew she had been besieging the scornful lady in the other house. But
she kept her counsel. She had never seen Osmond since her coming, though
she knew he and Peter had long talks together at the plantation.

One night, a cold, unseasonable one, Osmond was alone in the shack, his
room unlighted save by the flaring wood. The cabin had a couch, two
chairs, and a big table, this covered with books. There were books on
the wall, and the loft above, where he slept when he was not in his
neighboring tent, made a balcony, taking half the room. He was in his
long chair stretched among the shadows, his face lighted intermittently
from the fire. He was thinking deeply, his black brows drawn together,
his nervous hands gripped on the elbows of the chair. There was a slight
tap at the door. He did not heed it, being used to mice among the logs
and birds twittering overhead. Then the door opened, and a lady came in.
Osmond half rose from his chair, and leaning forward, looked at her. He
knew her, and yet strangely he had no belief that she was real. It was
Rose, a long cloak about her, the hood slipped back from her rich hair.
Her face was flushed by the buffeting of the wind, and its moist
sweetness tingled with health. It was apparent to him at once that, as
he was looking at her in the firelight, she also had fixed his face in
the gloom. She was smiling at him, and her eyes were kind. Then she
spoke.

"I came to see you, Mr. Osmond Grant."

Osmond was now upon his feet. He drew a chair into the circle of light.

"Let me take your cloak," he said. It seemed to him that no such
exciting thing had ever happened.

"No, no. It isn't wet." She tossed it on the bench by the door, and
having put both hands to her hair with the reassuring touch that is
pretty in women, she turned to him, a radiant creature smiling out of
her black drapery. "But I'll sit down," she said.

The next moment, he hardly knew how it was, they were there by the fire,
and he had accepted her. She was beautiful and wonderful, a thing to be
worshiped, and he lost not a minute in telling himself he worshiped her,
and that he was going to do it while he was man and she was woman, or
after his clay had lost its spirit. Osmond had very little time to think
of his soul, because he worked all day in the open and slept hard at
night; but it always seemed to him reasonable that he had one. Now it
throbbed up, invincible, and he looked at the lady and wondered again at
her. The lady was smiling at him.

"I wanted to meet you," she said, in her soft, persuasive voice. "You
don't come to the house any more."

He answered her simply and calmly, with no token of his inward turmoil.

"I haven't been there for some days."

"Is it because I am there?"

"Grannie hasn't needed me."

"Is it because I am there?"

Then he smiled at her, with a gleam of white teeth and lighted eyes.

"I've been a little afraid of you," he owned.

"Well, you're not now?"

"No, I'm not now."

"That's what I came here for." She settled more snugly into the chair,
and folded her hands on her knee. He looked at them curiously, their
slender whiteness, and noted, with interest, that she had no wedding
ring. She continued, "I got breathless in the house. Grandmother was
tired and went to bed. Peter has gone to see his cruel lady."

"Why do you call her cruel?"

"She won't hold out her hand to me."

That simple and audacious candor overwhelmed him. He had never known
anything so facile yet direct. It made life incredibly picturesque and
full of color. He laughed from light-heartedness, and it came into his
head that, in her company, it would be easy to believe "as many as six
impossible things before breakfast." But she was continuing:--

"Don't you find her cruel?"

"Electra? We haven't exchanged a dozen words in a year."

"Why not?"

"I'm not a notability. It's not remarkable to raise seeds for sale."

"But isn't she cruel?"

He thought a moment, and then answered gravely,--

"She is very opinionated. But she has high ideals. She would be
unyielding. Has she been unyielding to you?"

"Hasn't Peter told you?"

"Not a word."

"I came here expecting her to accept me as her brother's wife. She won't
do it."

"Won't do it? Does she say so?"

"She says nothing. But she ignores me." Her cheek took on a deeper
flush. She did not look at him, and he followed her gaze into the coals.

"You are too proud to give her proofs?" he hesitated.

She stirred uneasily in her chair.

"Proud!" she said bitterly. "If I had been proud, I should never have
come here at all. But I am here, and she must recognize me." Some
dauntless lines had come into the delicate face and made it older. "It
is absurd," she continued, "worse. Here am I living in your house--"

"No! no!" he corrected her. "Not that it matters. It would be yours just
the same. But it's grannie's house."

"Taking her hospitality,--oh, it's a shame! a shame!"

"Peter must make it right with Electra," he ventured.

"Peter! He has tried. He has tried too much. Things are not right
between them any more. I know that."

Osmond, almost with no conscious will, went back to what he had been
thinking when she came in.

"Peter belongs to your Brotherhood--"

"Don't say mine. It is my father's." She spoke with an unguarded warmth.

"But you belong to it, too."

"I used to. I used to do everything my father told me to--but not
now--not now!" She looked like a beautiful rebel, the color deepened in
her cheeks, her eyes darkening.

Osmond could not question her, but he went back to his own puzzle.

"The trouble is--about Peter--his painting has taken a back seat. He
talks about the Brotherhood--little else."

She nodded, looking at the fire.

"I know. I know."

"I've no objection to his believing in the brotherhood of man; but can't
the brotherhood of man be preserved if we paint our pictures, and mind
our own business generally?"

"Not while my father leads the procession. He will have no other gods
before him."

"Tell me about your father."

She turned on him a face suddenly irradiated by fun. An unexpected
dimple came to light, and Osmond's pulse responded to it.

"Electra," she said, "found time to propose that I should give a little
talk on my father. Last night I lay awake rehearsing it. Do you want to
hear it? Markham MacLeod is the chief of spoilers. He preaches the
brotherhood of man, and he gets large perquisites. He deals with
enormous issues. Kingdoms and principalities are under his foot because
the masses are his servitors. Money is always flowing through his hands.
He does not divert it, but it has, with the cheerful consent of his
followers, to take him from place to place, to shed his influence, to
pay his hotel bills--and he must live well, mind you. For he has to
speak. He has to lead. He is a vessel of the Lord." She had talked on
unhesitatingly, straight into the fire. Now, when she paused, Osmond
commented involuntarily,--

"How well you speak." Then as quickly, "Does your father know you think
these things?"

"No," she answered. "I have not had occasion to tell him. Not yet! But
about Peter." She faced round at him. "Peter is hypnotized by my father,
as they all are in the beginning. He won't paint any more portraits
while the spell lasts."

"Then he won't get Electra."

"He won't get her anyway,--not if he champions me. That's my
impression."

"But what does your father want him to do?"

"Nothing, that I know. It isn't that he chokes people off from other
channels. It's just that his yoke is heavy, for one thing, and that they
can't do too much for him. Peter has taken him literally. He will sell
all he has and give to the poor, and live on a crust. He'll think the
chief, too, is doing it; but he'll be mistaken. The chief never denied
himself so much as an oyster in his life."

They sat staring at each other, in the surprise of such full speech.
Osmond had a sense of communion he had never known. Peter and he had
talked freely of many things in the last week, but here was a strange
yet a familiar being to whom the wells of life were at once unlocked.
The girl's face broke up into laughter.

"Isn't it funny?" she interjected, "our talking like this?"

"Yes. Why are we doing it?" He waited, with a curious excitement, for
her answer. But she had gone, darting at a tangent on what, he was to
find, were her graceful escapes when it was simpler to go that way.

"It's very mysterious here," she said, glancing about the cabin, "very
dark and strange."

"Shall I throw on more wood?"

"If you like. I am not cold."

But he did not do it.

"You don't speak like a Frenchwoman," he ventured.

"I am not. You know that. I am an American."

"Yes; but you have lived in France."

"Always, since I was twelve. But I have known plenty of
English,--Americans, too. Shall I speak to you in French?"

He deprecated it, with hands outspread.

"No, no. I read it, by myself. I couldn't understand it, spoken."

She was smiling at him radiantly, and with the innocent purpose, even
he, in his ecstasy, felt, of making herself more beautiful and more
kind.

"Now," she was saying, "since we have met, you'll come to the house? You
won't let me stand in the way?"

His tongue was dry in his mouth. He felt the beauty of her, the pang of
seeing anything so sweet and having only the memory of it. Great
instincts surged up in him with longings that were only pain. They
seemed to embrace all things, the primal founts of life, the loyalties,
devotions, hopes, and tragedies. At last he understood, not with his
pulses only, but his soul. And all the time he had not answered her. She
was still looking at him, smiling kindly now, and, he believed, not
cognizant of the terror in his heart, not advertising her beauty as at
first he had supposed. She seemed a friend home from long absence. He
was speaking, and his voice, in his effort, sounded to him reassuringly
gentle.

"We'll see."

"You will come?"

"We'll see."

"Good-night." She wrapped her cloak about her and was gone.

He followed her to the door only, and heard her feet upon the spongy
turf. With his impulse to follow farther walked the sane certainty that
he ought not to let her find her way alone, even along that friendly
road. But he could not do it. The rain had ceased, and there was a moist
wind blowing in little temperate gusts, as if it ran over the land and
gave it something, and then took brooding interval for another breath.
He looked up to heaven, and in the nebulous cloud reaches found a star.
So seemed the creature who had dawned in his dark room and lighted it:
inaccessible, unchangingly bright, and, if one rashly approached her,
armed with a destroying fire.

He went out and sat down upon the bench at his door, turning to lean his
forehead against the rough casing. What had happened to him? He did not
even own it was the thing that happens to all, the unassuageable
longing, the reaching hand for a mate. He had felt safe in his garden
ground, where no blossoms opened but innocent velvet ones, temperately,
to ripen and then die. But now the portals of the world were wide. He
saw beauty, and it roused him to a rage of worship. As the night went
on, he grew calmer. Sweet beliefs, a holier certainty stole into that
ecstasy of meeting. She seemed again, as she had in one moment of her
stay, a dear friend happily returned. The sense of her familiarity was
as convincing as if he had known her all his life. It was not
recognition alone: it was reunion.



VII


Osmond tried to cease thinking of the beautiful lady until his mind
should be more at ease, and to consider Peter, who was acting like a
changeling. It seemed possible that he might have to meet his boy
bravely, even sharply, with denial and admonition. Peter, he knew, had
deliberately put his wonderful gift in his pocket, and under some
glamour of new desire was forgetting pictures and playing at the love of
man. Playing at it? Osmond did not know; but everything seemed play to
him in the divergences of a man who had a gift and stinted using it. If
Osmond had had any gift at all, he knew how different it would have made
his life. A tragedy of the flesh would have been slighter to a man who
felt the surge of fancy in the brain. He had nothing, at the outset, but
a faltering will and a deep distaste for any task within his reach. He
remembered well the day when he first found Peter had that aptitude for
painting, and realized, with the clarity of great revealings, what it
meant to them both. All through his boyhood Peter had been drawing, with
a facile hand, caricatures, fleeting hints of homely life, but always
likenesses. One day he came home from the post-office in a gust of
rapture. A series of random sketches had been accepted by a journal.
From that time the steps had led always upward, and Osmond climbed them
with him. But the day itself--Osmond remembered the June fervor of it
when, after a word or two to the boy, surprising to Peter in its
coldness, he went away alone and threw himself under an apple tree, his
face in the grass, to realize what had come. His own life up to this
time had seemed to him so poor that the hint of riches dazzled him. He
saw the golden gleam, not of money, but of the wealth of being. Peter
had the gift, but they would both foster it. Peter should sleep softly
and live well. He should have every luxurious aid, and to that end
Osmond would learn to wring out money from the ground. That was his only
possibility, since he must have an outdoor life. Then he began his
market-gardening. Grandmother was with him always. She even sold a piece
of land for present money to put into men and tools, and the boy began.
At first there were only vegetables to be carried to the market; then
the scheme broadened into plants and seeds. He was working passionately,
and so on honor, and his works were wanted. To his grandmother even he
made no real confidence, but she still walked with him like a spirit of
the earth itself. He knew, as he grew older, how she had drained herself
for him, how she had tended him and lived the hardiest life with him
because he needed it. There were six months of several years when she
took him to the deep woods, and they camped, and she did tasks his heart
bled to think of, as he grew up, and looked at her work-worn hands; but
those things which bound them indissolubly were never spoken of between
them. His infirmity was never mentioned save once when, a boy, and then
delicate, he came in from the knoll where he had been watching the
woodsmen felling trees. His face was terrible to her, but she went on
getting their dinner and did not speak.

"Grannie," he said at last, "what am I going to do?"

She paused over her fire, and turned her face to him, flushed with heat
and warm with mother love.

"Sonny," she said, "we will do the will of God."

"Did He do this to me?" the boy asked inflexibly.

She looked at the mountain beyond the lake, whence, she knew, her
strength came hourly.

"The world is His," she said. "He does everything. We can't find out
why. We must help Him. We must ask Him to help us do His will."

Then they sat down to dinner, and the boy, strengthening his own savage
will, forced himself to eat.

He did not think so much about the ways of God as shrewdly, when he grew
older, of toughening muscles and hardening flesh. Peter's talents,
Peter's triumphs, became a kind of possession with him. Osmond had
perhaps his first taste of happiness when Peter went abroad, and Osmond
knew who had sent him and who, if the market-garden throve, had sworn to
keep him there. The allowance he provided Peter thereafter gave him as
much pleasure in the making as it did the boy in the using of it. Peter
was like one running an easy race, not climbing the difficult steps that
lead to greatness. It looked, at times, as if it were the richness of
his gift that made his work seem play,--not Osmond's fostering. But now,
coming home to more triumphs, Peter seemed to have forgotten the goal.

He found Osmond one morning resting under the apple tree, his chosen
shade. Peter strode up to the spot moodily, angrily even, his
picturesque youth well set off by the ease of his clothes. Osmond
watched him coming and approved of him without condition, because he saw
in him so many kinds of mastery. Peter gave him a nod, and threw himself
and his hat on the grass, at wide interval. He quoted some Latin to the
effect that Osmond was enjoying the ease of his dignified state.

"I've been up and at it since light," said Osmond, smiling at him. "You
don't know when sun-up is."

Peter rolled over and studied the grass.

"Are you coming up to see Rose?" he asked presently.

Osmond could not tell him Rose had been to see him.

"I might," he said, remembering her requisition.

"Come soon. Maybe you could put an oar in. She needs help, poor girl!"

"Help to Electra's favor?"

Peter nodded into the grass.

"You could do it better than I. You can do everything better. You
mustn't forget, Pete, that you're the Fortunate Youth."

There was something wistful in his tone. It stirred in Peter old
loyalties, old responses, and he immediately wondered what Osmond wanted
of him that was not expressed. Osmond had made no emotional demands upon
him, as to his profession, but Peter always had a sense that his brother
was sitting by, watching the boiling of the pot. This was a cheerful
companionship when the pot was active; not now, as it cooled. He threw
out a commonplace at random, from his uneasy consciousness.

"Art isn't the biggest thing, old boy."

"What is?"

Now Peter rolled over again, and regarded him with glowing eyes. To
Osmond, who was beginning to know his temperament better than he had
known it in all the years of the lad's journey upon an upward track,
that glance told of remembered phrases and a dominating personality that
had made the phrases stick.

"It's to give one man who works with his hands fresher air to breathe,
fewer hours' work, a better bed."

"You're an artist, Pete. Don't forget that."

"I don't. But it isn't the biggest thing."

"If you should paint a picture for that workingman to look at while he
says his prayers? what then?"

"You don't understand, Osmond," said the boy. "Labor! Labor is the
question of the day."

Osmond looked over at a field of seedlings where five men with bent
backs were weeding and where he himself had been bending until now. He
smiled a little.

"I understand work, boy," he said gently. "Only I can't make hot
distinctions. The workingman is as sacred to me as you are, and you are
as sacred as the workingman."

Peter was making little nosegays of grass and weeds, and laying them in
methodical rows.

"I can't paint, Osmond," he said abruptly. "These things are just
crowding me."

"What things?"

"Capital. Labor."

Osmond was silent a long time because he had too many things to say, all
of them impossible. He felt hot tears in his eyes from a passion of
revolt against the lad's wastefulness. He felt the shame of such
squandering. To him, all the steps in the existence by which his own
being had been preserved meant thrift and penury. He had conserved every
energy. He had lived wholesomely, not only for months, but unremittingly
for years. His only indulgences had been the brave temperate ones of air
and sleep; and with their aid he had built up in himself the strength of
the earth. And here was a creature whose clay was shot through with all
the tingling fires of life, whose hand carried witchery, whose brain and
eye were spiritual satellites, and he talked about painting by and by.

"What a hold that man has on you!" he breathed involuntarily.

Peter swept his little green nosegays into confusion and sat up. His
eyes were brilliant.

"Not the man," he said. "It's not the man. It's the facts behind him."

Osmond's thought flew back to one night, and a girl's reckless picture
of her father. It seemed now like a dream, yet it swayed him.

"What can you do for him?" he asked, forcing himself to a healthy
ruthlessness. "What have you done?"

"For Markham MacLeod? Nothing. What could I do for him? He has done
everything for me."

"What, Pete?"

"Opened my eyes. Made me realize the brotherhood of man. Why, see here,
Osmond!"

Osmond watched him, fascinated by the heat of him. He seemed possessed
by a passion which could never, one would say, have been inspired save
by what was noble.

"You know what kind of a fellow I've been: all right enough, but I like
pleasures, big and little. Well, when I began to listen to MacLeod, I
moved into a garret the poorest student would have grumbled at. I turned
in my money to the Brotherhood. The money I got for the portrait--maybe
I shouldn't have asked such a whacking big price if I hadn't wanted that
money--I turned that in to the Brotherhood. Would a fellow like me sleep
hard and eat crusts for anything but a big thing? Now I ask you?"

Osmond sat looking at him, and thinking, thinking. This, he understood
perfectly, was youth in the divinity of its throes over life, life
wherever it was bubbling and glowing. Always it was the fount of life,
and where the drops glittered, there the eyes of youth had to follow,
and the heart of youth had to go. The exact retort was rising to his
lips: "That was my money, the money you gave away. I earned it for you.
I dug it out of the ground." But the retort stayed there. He offered
only what seemed a blundering remonstrance: "I can't help feeling, Pete,
that it's your business to paint pictures. If you can paint 'em and give
the money to your Brotherhood, that's something. Only paint 'em."

"But you know, I've found out I can speak."

There it was again, the heart of youth on its new track, chasing the
glow, whatever it might be, the marsh-lamp or star. Osmond shook his
head.

"I don't know, Pete," he owned. "I don't know. I'm out of the world. I
read a lot, but that's not the same thing as having it out with men. But
I feel a distinct conviction that it's every man's business to mind his
own business."

"You wouldn't have us speak? You wouldn't have him, Markham MacLeod?"

The boy's impetuousness made denial seem like warfare. Osmond put it
aside with his hand.

"Don't," he said. "You make me feel like Capital. I'm Labor, lad. I
always have been."

"Isn't it anything to move a thousand men like one? To say a word and
bring on a strike of ten thousand? The big chieftains never did so much
as that. Alexander wasn't in it. Napoleon wasn't. It's colossal."

"I don't know whether it seems to me very clever to bring on a strike,"
said Osmond. "It would seem to me a great triumph to make ten thousand
men feel justly. Resistance isn't the greatest thing to me. I should
want to know whether it was noble to resist."

"Ah, but it is noble! Resistance--for themselves, their children, their
children's children."

Osmond was looking away at the horizon, a whimsical smile coming about
the corners of his mouth.

"Yes, Pete," he said. "But you paint your pictures."

"Now you own I'm right! Isn't it anything to move ten thousand men to
throw down their tools and go on strike?"

"Well, by thunder!" Osmond had awakened. "Now you put it that way, I
don't know whether it is or not. That phrase undid you. Lay down their
tools? Show me the man that makes me take up my tools in reverence and
sobriety, because good work is good religion. That's what I'd like."

"But it means something,--starvation, maybe, death. You don't recognize
it, do you? You won't recognize the war that's on--oh, it is
on!--between Capital and Labor, between the high places and the low.
It's war, and it's got to be fought out."

"I do recognize it, lad." He spoke gently, thinking of his own lot, and
the hard way through which he had come to his almost fevered
championship of whatever was maimed or hurt. "Only, Pete, do you know
what your opposing forces need? They need grannie."

"To say it's the will of God?"

"To be wheeled out in her chair, and sit at the head of your armies and
say, 'Love God. Love one another.' If they love God, they'll listen to
Him. If they love one another your strikes will end to-morrow, and your
rich man will break bread with your poor one, and your poor one will
lose hatred for the rich. You need grandmother."

They sat smiling over it. Peter had amazingly cooled. He rose to his
feet.

"Well," he said, "I'll paint some pictures. Of course I'll paint my
pictures--sometime. There's the Brotherhood again. Don't I want to turn
in shekels? Don't I want to have it known that such weight as my name
carries is going in there?"

It was Osmond's turn to rage. He, too, rose, and they confronted each
other. Osmond spoke. His voice trembled, it seemed with emotion that was
not anger but a fervor for great things.

"I cannot get it through my head. You can do the thing, and it's I that
value it. You can paint pictures and you'd prostitute the thing for
money,--for reputation. If I had it, if I had that gift"--he paused, and
shook his head as if he shook a mane. Peter was looking at him
curiously. This was passion such as he had never seen in any man.

"What would you do, old chap?" he asked.

Osmond was ashamed of his display, but he had to answer.

"I would guard it," he said, "as a man would guard--a woman."

They stood silent, their eyes not meeting now, hardly knowing how to get
away from each other. As if she had been evolved by his mention of
precious womanhood, Electra, in her phaeton, drove swiftly by. They took
off their hats, glad of the break in the moment's tension; but she did
not turn that way.

"Could she be going to see her?" Peter asked in haste.

"To see her?"

"Rose. She mustn't go now. Rose has gone to the orchard with her book."

He started straightway across the field, and met Electra, returning. As
he was standing in the roadway, hat off, smiling most confidently at
her, Electra had no resource but to draw up. Before she fairly knew how
it had come about, he was beside her, and they were in a proximity for
the most intimate converse. Electra felt irritably as if she could not
escape.



VIII


Peter made up his mind to display, at last, all the guile he had; he
would say nothing about Rose. If Electra had attempted to call on her,
she might impart the fact to him or not, as she determined. But Electra
did not wait to be asked. She turned to him with a serious air,
inquiring,--

"When is Miss MacLeod likely to be back?"

"Rose?" Peter countered obstinately. "At dinnertime, surely."

"I shall try to find her then."

Peter felt such an access of gratitude that, as he looked down at the
charmingly gloved hands, holding the reins in the right way, he thought
of conveying his emotion by placing his own hand over them. But their
masterful ease had a message of its own. It seemed almost as if they
might resist. He cast about for something to please her.

"Electra," he began, "I'm going to pitch into work with Osmond."

Electra looked at him over a chin superbly lifted. This was evidently
surprise, but whether disdainful of him or not he could not tell. At any
rate, he felt whimsically miserable under it.

"Osmond works on the farm," she said merely.

Peter inferred some belittling of Osmond, and immediately he was at one
with him and market-gardening.

"I belong to the Brotherhood," he said stiffly. "I don't propose to live
like a bondholder while other fellows are hoeing. I'm going to work."

Still Electra said nothing. She had meant to stop at her own gate and
let Peter leave her, if he would, but she had driven by, and now they
were in a pretty reach of pines, with the needles under the horse's
feet. The reins lay loosely, and Electra, who seldom did anything
without a painstaking consciousness, even forgot her driving, and let
her hands relax into an unlawful ease. They might almost tremble, she
was afraid, she felt so undone with some emotion,--disappointment,
anger? She did not know. But she kept her eyes fixed on a spot directly
ahead, and in spite of herself thought turbulently. She could not help
feeling that Peter would be surprised if he knew how he seemed to her
after this return, almost a stranger, and one who awoke in her no desire
for further acquaintance. He was not ministering to her pride in any
way. He was not in the least a person whom she could flaunt at
gatherings of the intellectually worshipful, with any chance of his
doing her credit. She herself had tried to talk art with him, and Peter
grew dumb. She could not guess it was because she did not speak his
language, which had become almost a sign language, touched here and
there with idiom and the rest understood,--a jargon of technicalities,
mostly, it seemed, humorous, he appeared to mean them so lightly. Before
he went abroad, she, who had read exhaustively in art, used to impart
fact and theory to him in a serious fashion, and Peter had humbly
accepted them. But now, when she opened her lips about his darling work
which was so intimate a part of him that it was almost like play, he had
a queer horror of what she was saying, as if she were beginning a
persistent solo on a barbarous instrument; he could think of nothing but
putting his hands over his ears and running off. But instead he had only
been silent. She could not understand Peter's having read so few books
and being in possession of such a meagre treasury of formulated opinion.
The truth was that he had so many pleasant things to think about that
books were only the dullard's task. His thoughts were not very
consecutive or toward any particular end; they were merely a pageant of
dancing figures, sometimes fantastic, sometimes dramatically grave, but
always absorbing. This Electra could not know. Now it was running
through her mind that Peter, though he had won the great prizes of art,
was mysteriously dull and not what she considered a distinguished figure
at all. His air, his clothes even--she found herself shrinking a little,
at the moment, from the slovenly figure he made, his long legs drawn up
in the carriage so that he could clasp his hands about his knees, while
he went brightly on. For now Peter had found something to talk about.
His topic shone before him as he handled it. This was almost like
painting a picture with a real brush on real canvas, it grew so fast.

"We might found a community," he was urging as warmly, she thought, as
if he meant it. "Osmond can dig. I can. I wonder if you could milk the
cow!"

"I have certainly never tried to milk a cow," said Electra, in a tone
that bit.

But Peter wasn't listening. He was simply pleasing his own creative
self.

"You shouldn't," he offered generously. "You should

    'Sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,
    And live on ripe strawberries, sugar, and cream.'"

Electra pulled the horse up, and though this was the narrowest bit of
road for a mile, turned, with a masterly hand.

"How under the sun do you do that?" Peter was asking pleasantly. She
interrogated him with a glance, and saw him hunched together in more
general abandon. The happier Peter was in his own thoughts and the
warmer the sun shone on him, the looser his joints became. To Electra he
looked like a vagabond, but she was conscious that if for a moment he
would act the part of a great painter, she would bid him sit up, try to
get him into a proper cravat, and marry him to-morrow. Careless Peter
was quite oblivious to the effect he was creating. He had forgotten
Electra, save as some one possessed of two ears to listen.

"Turn," he pursued. "How can you turn? I never could. I remember I took
you to drive once, ages ago, and I had to keep on in a thunder-shower,
round the five-mile curve, because I didn't dare to let you know I
couldn't cramp the wheel."

Electra remembered the day. Peter was timidly worshipful of her then,
and she had found that quite appropriate in him. She remembered the
lightning, and how satisfied she had been to go round the five-mile
curve, if only to show that she was not timid in a storm. Then it seemed
as if Peter had been unable to forego the delight of having her with
him; but now it appeared that he could absently sit there hugging his
knees and guying the occasion.

"I believe I can cramp the wheel," he was saying sunnily, out of an
absolute content in his limitations. "Only I never can remember which
rein does it. Can you turn either way, Electra, right or left, one just
as well as the other?"

Electra could not answer in that vein.

"Don't!" she said involuntarily.

In some moods Peter had a habit of not waiting for answers.

"It's beyond me how they do those things," he was saying, "drive, ride,
swim. Shouldn't you like to be a fish? I should be mighty proud."

"Shall I leave you here?" asked Electra, drawing up at his gate.

Peter came out of his childish muse. He saw Rose in the garden, and knew
it was better that Electra should find her alone.

"Yes, let me out," he said. "I'll run back and see if Osmond is where I
left him."

Electra also had seen Rose, lying in the long chair under the grape
arbor, and left her carriage at the gate. Rose was in white. A book lay
in her lap, unopened. The idle hands had clasped, and her eyes were
closed. Electra, coming upon her, felt a pang, an inexplicable one, at
her loveliness. It seemed half lassitude, not alone to challenge pity,
but a renewed and poignant interest when she should awake. At Electra's
step her eyes came open slowly, as if there were nothing in that garden
ground to move her. Then with a rush of color to the face, her eyes grew
large. Life, surprised life, poured in on her, and she had gained her
feet with a spring. Before Electra could insist upon her own decorous
distance, Rose, with a charming gesture and an insistent cordiality, had
her by both hands.

"How good of you," she was saying. "How good of you!"

"Not at all," returned Electra, with a stiff dignity she hated, as not
in the least the armor she had meant to wear. "I came to see if you
would drive over to the house." This she had not meant to ask, but it
seemed easier to deal with problematic characters in the course of
motion than face to face and standing. Rose was eagerly ready.

"My hat is here," she cried, "and my parasol. I thought I might walk up
the road a bit,--but it was so hot. How good of you!"

As they went down the path together, Rose in her slender grace and eager
motions the significant note in the garden, Electra felt the irritation
of having, for any reason, committed herself to even a short intimacy
with her. But presently they were together in the carriage, and Electra
spoke.

"My grandmother is at home this morning. We have a guest for a few days,
Mr. William Stark, of London. I thought you might be interested in
meeting them both."

"I shall be delighted," returned Rose, still in that warmly impulsive
tone.

Electra had a strong distaste for unconsidered things. They seemed to
her to show lack of poise. Now she was conscious of the inconsistency of
proposing that Rose should meet anybody, even Billy Stark. But in the
moment of conceiving it she had remembered that Mr. Stark was a man of
the world; he would know an adventuress when he saw one. Afterwards she
would ask him frankly how his judgment had been affected by the siren's
song.

At the house she led the way into the vine-shaded sitting-room where
Madam Fulton and Stark had been engaged for an hour in a battle
delightful to them both. Madam Fulton sat beautifully upright in a
straight-backed chair, and her old friend, with her permission, lay upon
a bamboo couch, where he held his eyeglass by its ribbon in one
outstretched hand and gesticulated with it, while he urged torrentially
upon her the rights of a publisher to the confidence of his author. Now
he came to his feet and stood punctiliously.

"Ah!" said Madam Fulton. She had remembered a little lack in her
reception of Rose when, hot and tired from her journey, she had found
her in the house. "So here is our young lady again. I have been
wondering why we haven't seen you, my dear."

While Rose, in her grateful sweetness, was bowing over her hand, Electra
had said to the gentleman, with the air of its being quite the usual
thing to say,--

"You know all about Markham MacLeod, Mr. Stark. This is the daughter of
Markham MacLeod."

Somehow, save to Rose, it seemed an adequate presentation, and that
instant Stark was bowing before her.

"I can't say Mr. MacLeod," Electra added, with the elaborate grace that
fitted what seemed to her that skillful preface. "He is quite too great
for that, isn't he, Mr. Stark?"

Billy had no extravagant opinion of Markham MacLeod. He had rather the
natural dubiousness of the inquiring mind toward a man whom the world
delighted to honor and who had, according to dispassionate standards,
done nothing, as yet, save telling others what to do.

"We don't say Mr. Browning often," he concurred, "certainly not Mr.
Shakespeare. But, my dear young lady, I don't forgive your father."

He seated himself, for Electra was now decorously smiling in a chair
that became her. It had a high carved top like Madam Fulton's, and in
these the older woman and the younger looked like the finest-fibred
beings bred out of endurance and strong virtues. Rose was in a low chair
near Madam Fulton's knee. She was leaning forward now, listening in her
receptive way, and Billy Stark looked at her anew and wondered at her
beauty and her grace. But he recalled himself with a sigh, and
remembered it was the old commonplace--youth--and it was not for him.

"You don't forgive my father?" she repeated, with a slightly foreign
accent that came sometimes upon her tongue, no one knew why, whether to
enhance her charm or in unconsciousness. "Why?"

Billy Stark had thrown one of his short legs over the other, and held it
with his well-kept hand.

"He is a renegade," he said. "He began to write, and stopped writing.
You can't expect a publisher to condone that."

Madam Fulton was having a strange pang of liking and envy as she looked
at the girl, one such as she never felt over Electra. Rose for her, too,
had youth, beautiful and pathetic also. As the girl only smiled without
answering, she said kindly,--

"Your father got very much interested in people, didn't he, my dear? the
working classes?"

"Labor," said Electra, as if it were a war-cry.

Madam Fulton glanced at her involuntarily, with a satirical thought.
Electra had a maternal attitude toward her servants, shown, her
grandmother thought, chiefly by interfering in their private lives. She
worked tirelessly at clubs to raise money for labor, and she listened to
the most arid talks on the situation of the day. But did Electra love
her fellowman? Madam Fulton did not know. She had seen no sign of it.
But Rose was returning one of her vague answers that always seemed
significant, and, to any partial ear, quite adequate.

"My father founded what he calls the Brotherhood. He speaks for it. He
works for it. But you know that already."

Stark nodded.

"I know," he said. "It is tremendous. He says to this man 'Come,' and he
cometh, and so on. I should think it would make him lie awake o'
nights."

"No," said Rose, smiling brilliantly in a way she had when the smile had
no honest mirth in it, "my father never lies awake. Responsibility is
the last thing he fears."

Now Electra was smiling upon her so persuasively that Rose bent toward
the look as if it were a species of sunshine.

"We want you to do something for us," Electra said.

"Oh, I'll do it," Rose was responding eagerly. "Gladly."

"We want you to give us a talk on your father."

Rose, painfully thrown back upon herself, looked her discomfort.

"Do you mean"--she began. "That was what you asked me before."

"For the Club."

"They want me to give a talk on my book," said Madam Fulton, looking at
Stark with a direct mirth. Then, still with a meaning for him, she
added, to Rose, "You do it, my dear. So will I, if they drive me to it.
We'll surprise them."

"That would be very sweet of you, grandmother," said Electra, innocent
of hidden meanings. "Then we might count on two afternoons."

"What do you want to know about my father?" asked Rose, and Electra
answered with a contrasting enthusiasm,--

"His habit of thought, something about his daily life as seen by those
nearest him, anything to interpret a great man to us."

"I can't do it." Rose had answered with a touch of harshness strangely
contrasted with her facile ways. "I really can't."

Now she saw why she had been summoned, and her gratitude sobered into
dull distaste. She felt cold.

"That sort of thing is very difficult," said Stark, in a general desire
to quell the emotional tide. "I often think a person next us has to be
inarticulate about us. He doesn't know really what he thinks of us till
we are gone. You know a big Frenchman says it is like being inside the
works of a clock. You can't tell the time there. You have to go
outside."

Rose was upon her feet, a lovely figure, wistful and mysteriously sad.

"I must go back," she said. "Thank you for letting me come." She had
turned away when Madam Fulton called to her.

"Miss MacLeod!" Rose stood, arrested. Madam Fulton continued, "Why not
stay to luncheon with us?"

The girl did not answer. Apparently she could not. Tears were swimming
in her eyes. She looked at Electra in what might be reproach or a
despair at the futility of the fight she had to make. She returned to
Madam Fulton and stood before her.

"You didn't know," she said, in a low tone. "No one has told you!"

"Sit down," said the old lady kindly. "What is it?"

Rose stood before her, proudly now, her back turned upon Electra, as if
she repudiated one source of justice and appealed to another court.

"You called me Miss MacLeod," she said, in her full-throated voice. "I
was your grandson's wife."

"Tom's wife!" cried the old lady, in a sharp staccato. "Tom's wife! For
heaven's sake!"

Rose turned from her to Stark with an eloquent insistence. Electra,
outside the circle of the drama, stood ignored. But Madam Fulton called
to her,--

"Electra, do you hear?"

"I have heard it," answered Electra, with composure.

"You have heard it? Why didn't you tell me?"

But Electra made no reply. Madam Fulton gave way to her excitement. It
seemed to put new blood into her veins.

"Sit down here," she said imperiously, pushing forward a chair. Rose
sank upon it in a dignified obedience. "Now tell me,--how long were you
married?"

"Two years."

"Did Tom"--there were many things the old lady, knowing Tom, wished to
ask. But Tom was in his grave, and she contented herself with remarking,
"I certainly am petrified."

Stark gave a little smiling nod at them, and began making his way to the
door. It seemed to him emphatically that this was a family conclave.

"Billy," called the old lady, "did you ever hear of such a thing in your
life? Tom had a wife two years before he died, and not a word. Did you
ever dream of such a thing? Electra, I could trounce you for not telling
me." Then, as no one spoke, she asked sharply, "Does Peter know?"

"Yes, Madam Fulton," Rose returned. "He brought me here. Not quite that.
He assured me I might come."

"Come! of course you had to come. You belong here. Why aren't you
staying with us? Electra, haven't you seen to it?"

Electra was immovable, and the other girl turned to her a mute glance.
To Billy Stark it said many things. Reproach was in it, and a
challenging, almost a hard appeal. Rose looked like a gentle thing that
has been forced to fight. But she spoke to Madam Fulton.

"I must go," she said, with her exquisite deference. "I mustn't tire
you."

"Tire me! I'm never tired. Well, you must come again. You must come to
stay. Electra will see to that."

But Electra only walked to the library door with the departing guest,
and presently Billy Stark caught the white shimmer of a gown, as Rose
went down the path. Electra was looking eagerly from him to her
grandmother.

"Well, Mr. Stark," she said, as if she hurried him, "what do you think
of her?"

Stark indicated a chair, with a courteous motion, and then allowed
himself to be seated.

"She is a remarkably beautiful young woman," he returned, in his
impartial way of shedding optimism. Electra made an impatient gesture.

"I know--I know. It's easy enough to be handsome."

"Oh, is it?" commented Madam Fulton.

"But what do you think of her?"

"What do you mean, Electra?" asked her grandmother testily. She was
prepared to hear that Electra thought the stranger lacking in poise.

A deep red had risen to Electra's cheeks. Her hands flew together in a
nervous clasp. She had momentarily lost what poise she herself
possessed.

"Can't you see," she urged, "that girl is an adventuress?"

Grandmother was leaning forward, enchanted at the prospect. She seemed
to have before her an absorbing work of fiction, "concluded in our
next."

"Now what makes you think so?" she inquired cosily. "Wouldn't that be
grand! Stay here, Billy. If there's any scandal about Queen Elizabeth,
you must share it."

Electra was speaking with a high impatience.

"Of course she is an adventuress. You must see it, both of you."

"Is that all the evidence you have?" asked the old lady dryly.

Electra blenched a little. She liked to have irrefutable fact on her
side, and allow other people the generalities. Yet her certainty
remained untouched.

"Does Peter say she is Tom's wife?" inquired Madam Fulton, in some scorn
at herself for putting elementary questions.

"Yes. Peter says she was Tom's wife."

"There, you see!" But at Electra's look, the old lady cried out to
Stark, in irrepressible annoyance, "No, she doesn't see! It doesn't mean
a thing to her."

"It will be quite easy," said Stark soothingly, "to assure yourself,
Miss Electra. She will no doubt tell you where she was married. That can
be confirmed at once."

"She must present her proofs," said Electra. "I shall not ask for them."

"What do you hate the poor girl for?" asked Madam Fulton. "Is it the
money? Are you afraid you've got to share with her?"

Billy Stark had been nearing the door, and now he was out of the room.

"Have you told Peter how you feel about it?" asked the old lady keenly.

Electra seemed to herself to be unjustly upon her own defense when she
had meant to place the stranger there.

"He knows it, grandmother." She spoke as impatiently as decorum would
allow.

The old lady watched her for a moment steadily. Then she inquired,--

"Do you know what's the matter with you, Electra?"

"With me, grandmother?"

"You're jealous, child. You're jealous of Peter, because the girl's so
pretty."

Electra stood still, the color surging over her face. She felt out of
doors for all the world to jeer at, and without the blameless habit of
her life. Nothing, Electra told herself, even at that moment, had the
value of the truth. If she believed herself to be jealous, she must not
shirk it, degrading as it was. But she would not believe it.

"You must excuse me, grandmother," she said, with dignity. "I can't
discuss such things, even with you."

Madam Fulton spoke quite eagerly.

"But, bless you, child, I like you the better for it. It makes you
human. Your decorum is the only thing I've ever had to complain of. If I
could find a weakness in you now and then, we should agree like two peas
in a pod."

Electra stood taller and straighter.

"At least," she said, "the young woman is here, and we have got to do
our best about it."

"The young woman! Don't talk as if she were a kitchen wench. What's the
use, Electra! What's the sense in being so irreproachable? Come off your
stilts while we're alone together."

"But, grandmother," said Electra, with an accession of firmness, and
leaving irrelevant strictures to be considered in the silence of her
room, "I shall neither acknowledge her nor shall I invite her here."

"You won't acknowledge her?"

"Not until she brings me proof."

"You won't ask for it?"

"I shan't ask for it. It is for her to act, not for me."

"And you won't have her here? Then, by George, Electra, I will!"

Electra raised her eyebrows by the slightest possible space. It was
involuntary, but the old lady saw it.

"You're quite right," she said ironically, "the house isn't mine."

"The house is yours to do exactly as you please with it," said Electra,
with an instant justice instinct even with a dutiful warmth. "Any guest
you invite is welcome. Only, grandmother, I must beg of you not to
invite this particular person."

"Person! Electra, you make me mad. Be human; come, unbend a little. Take
the poker out of your training. Do the decent thing, and ask her here,
and then find out about her, and if she's a baggage, turn her out, neck
and crop."

"I must refuse, grandmother," said Electra. "Now aren't you getting
tired? I will bring your food."

Madam Fulton spoke with deliberate unction:--

"Perdition take my food!"



IX


Rose came down out of her chamber after supper on a warm still evening.
She had stayed in retirement nearly all day. Grandmother had been
suffering discomfort from the heat and was better alone. Peter had gone
to town, and he had not come back. The girl stopped in the doorway of
the silent house and looked out into the night. It was all moonlight,
all mysterious shadows and enchanting stillnesses. The glamour of the
hour lay over it like a veil, and her heart responded to the calling
from mysterious distances, voices that were those of life itself
springing within her and echoing back from that delusive world. She
stood there smiling a little, trying to keep the wholesome bitterness of
her mood, because she thought she knew what a deceiving jade fortune is,
and yet with her young heart pathetically craving life and the fullness
of it. Rose thought she had quite fathomed the worth of things. She knew
the bravest shows are made by the trickiest design, and she had sworn,
in desperate defense of herself, to "take the world but as the
world,"--a gaming-ground for base passions and self-love. But to-night
all the instincts of youth in her were innocently vocal. Here was the
beautiful earth, again fecund and full of gifts. She could not help
believing in it. She gathered her skirts about her, and stepped out into
the dew, and with no avowed purpose, but, straight as inevitable intent
could lead her, crossed the orchard and went down across the field to
Osmond. She had selected that way, in her unconscious mind, when
grandmother had that morning sent her into the attic to look at some
precious heirlooms in disuse. Looking out of the attic window she had
noted his little shack and fields of growing things, and some impatience
then had said to her, That would be the way to get to him. Before the
last wall, she came out on a low rise where there was a spreading tree.
It was an oak tree, and though there seemed to be no wind that night,
the leaves rustled thinly.

"Where are you going?" It was Osmond's voice out of the shadow near the
wall.

Rose answered at once,--

"I was going down to see you."

"I thought you would come."

He was sitting there, his back against the wall, and at once she sank
down opposite him on a stone that made her a prim little seat. The
shadow lay upon her in flecks, but the outline of her white dress was
visible to him.

"Did you call me?" she asked. There was no trace of her unrest of the
moments before, either in her manner or in her own happy consciousness.
She felt instead a delicious ease and security that needed no explaining
even to herself.

Osmond answered as if he were deliberating.

"I don't know whether I called you. I hope I didn't. I was thinking
about you, of course."

"Why do you hope you didn't?"

"Because I haven't any right to."

"Doesn't my coming prove you had a right to? You see you did call me,
and I came."

After a moment he answered irrelevantly,--

"I'm a cowardly sort of chap. When I feel like calling you, I choke it
down. I don't want to get the habit of you."

"Why not?"

"One reason--it will be so difficult when you go away."

A sense of freedom and happiness possessed her. Words rose tumultuously
to her lips, to be choked there. She wanted to say unreasonably, "I
shall never go away. How could you think it?" But instead she asked,
with a happy indirection, "Where am I going?"

He, too, answered lightly,--

"How should I know? Back into your cloud, I guess--dear goddess." The
last words were very low, and to himself, but she heard them. Instantly
and against all reason, she, who had never meant to be happy again,
laughed ecstatically.

"Think," she said, "a month ago I didn't know you were in the world."

"Oh, yes, you did. Peter told you he had a kind of a brother, that
worked on the farm. But I didn't know you were in the world."

"Of course," she deliberated softly, "I knew Peter had a brother. But I
didn't know it was you."

The moonlit air was as beguiling to him as it was to her. Everything was
different and everything was possible. He put his hand to his head and
tried to recall old prudences. In vain. The still, bright world told
him, with a voice so quiet that it was like a hand upon his heart, that
it was the only world. The daylight one of doubts and dull expediency
had been arranged by man. This was the home of the spirit. For a moment
he felt himself drowning in that sea of life. Then, perhaps lifted by
his striving will, he seemed to come out again to the free air that had
touched him at her coming. Again he was at peace and incredibly exalted.
He tried to bring lightness into their talk.

"I suppose," said he, "you are one of the charmers."

"What do you mean by charmers?"

"Don't ask me what I mean, when you know. If you do that, we shall
forget our language."

"What do you mean by our language?"

"Yours and mine. Don't you hear it going on, question and answer,
question and answer, all the time our tongues are talking? Those are the
things we never can speak out loud."

"Yes, I hear them. But I couldn't tell what I hear."

"Of course you couldn't. Only when we really speak with our lips, we
must tell each other the truth. If we don't, we shall jar things. Then
the other voices will stop."

When she spoke her words had a note of pain, mysteriously
disproportioned, he thought, to the warning he had given.

"I don't think I have told you what wasn't true," she faltered. Life had
gone out of her.

The tenderest comforting seemed to him too harsh for such pathetic
sorrow. But he clung to his lighter, safer mood.

"We've simply got to tell each other the truth. When we don't, it's like
the clanging of ten thousand bells. Of course that drowns the other
voices. So when I ask you if you are one of the charmers, you mustn't
ask what I mean. You must answer."

She began to laugh. His heart rejoiced at it.

"Yes," she owned gleefully. "Yes, I am."

"That's a good lady. You're very beautiful, too, aren't you?"

"Yes," she corroborated. "Oh, I'd swear to anything!"

"If it's true," he corrected her. "What are your accomplishments, missy?
Do you play the piano?"

For his life, Osmond could not have told why he addressed her as he did,
or how he got the words. Some strange self seemed to have sprung up in
him, a self that had a language he had not learned from books nor used
to woman. The new self grew rapidly. He felt it wax within him. It was
loquacious, too. It seemed to have more to say than there would be time
for in a million years; but he gave it head.

"I play a little," said Rose. She was meeting him joyously. "I sing,
too."

"Yes, you sing. I guessed that. Let me hear you."

At once she folded her hands on her knees and sang like a child in
heaven, with the art that is simplicity. She sang "Nous n'irons plus au
bois," and Osmond felt his heart choking with the melancholy of it. His
own voice trembled when he said,--

"You must not sing that often. It's too sad."

"Are we never to be sad?" She asked it in a quick tone full of eager
confidence, as if whatever he told her was bound to come to pass.

"Not when we are together."

Premonition chilled him there. Why should they ever be together again?
Why was it not possible that this was his one night, the first and the
last? So if it was to be the last, he would taste every minute of it,
and make it his to keep.

"Well," he said consideringly, "so you are a charmer. You can charm a
bird off a bush. That would be one of the first tricks."

She answered, in what he saw was real delight,--

"I can try. Want me to?"

"No, no. You can't tell what will become of the bird--in the end."

His voice sounded to her ineffably sad. Eager words rose again to her
lips, and again she held them back, even against the glamour of that
light and air.

"You broke your promise to me," she adventured presently.

"What promise?"

"You said you would come to the house."

"I said I might." He spoke with an embracing tenderness, as if to a
child. She fancied he was smiling at her through the dusk. "Besides," he
continued, "I shan't come to see you there, anyway; I have decided
that."

"Why not?"

"This is better."

"This?"

"This tree."

It seemed quite just and natural that she should meet him there. Why
should she disclaim it?

"But you won't go to the house to see your grandmother?"

"Oh, I see grannie. She wakes before day. We have a little talk every
morning while you're asleep. The last time"--he stopped.

"Well!" she urged him.

"The last time I passed your door I heard your step inside. When I went
out at the front door, I heard you on the stairs." It had apparently
enormous significance to him. "The next morning I came earlier," said
Osmond, in a low tone, "but I dropped a handful of rose leaves at your
sill."

"I saw them--scattered rose leaves."

"For you to step on."

There was a moment's silence.

"But I didn't," she said. "I didn't step on them."

"What did you do?"

"I gathered them up very carefully in my handkerchief and left them in
my bureau drawer."

"Now, why"--he spoke curiously--"why did you do that?"

"I hate to throw away flowers. They are precious to me."

There was silence again, and then he said reprovingly,--

"No, you mustn't do that."

"Do what?"

"You mustn't get up earlier to catch me scattering my rose leaves. That
wouldn't be fair."

"That was what I was thinking." She mused a moment. "No, I suppose it
wouldn't be fair."

"You see we shall have to play fair every minute. That's the way to be
good playmates."

"That's what we are, isn't it--playmates?"

"It's about the size of it." Then he asked her gravely, across the
distance between them, "Don't you hear a nightingale?"

She was taken in.

"But there aren't any nightingales in New England!"

"I almost think I hear one. You see if you don't."

She caught the pace then, and listened. Presently she spoke as gravely
as he had done.

"I am sure I hear one--over there in the rose garden."

"I knew you would." He breathed quickly, in a gay relief. "Yes, in the
rose garden, 'her breast against a thorn.' Well, playmate, it's a
wonderful night. I smell the roses, too, don't you?"

"Yes, and lilies. The nightingale sings very loud."

"Let us talk, playmate. Where have you been since I saw you last?"

"Since that other night I came down here?"

"Since that other year, so long ago. We mustn't forget there are other
years, though we can't quite recall them. If there hadn't been, we
shouldn't be hearing the nightingale to-night and talking without words.
You see it's a good while since I saw you. How old are you?"

"Twenty-five."

"Twenty-five! A quarter of a century. That's a long time. Well, what
have you been doing all that twenty-five years?"

She seemed to shrink into herself, as if a hand had struck her.

"Don't!" she breathed. "Don't ask me to remember."

"Why, no! not if it troubles you."

"Troubles me! it kills me. Can't we begin now?"

"We will begin now. There, playmate, don't shiver. I feel you're doing
it through the moonlight. Don't let your chin tremble either. It did,
that night down in the shack."

"When I was talking about Electra?"

"I guess so. Anyway it trembled a lot, and I made up my mind it mustn't
any more. Cheer up, playmate. Be a man."

"I wish I were a man." She spoke bitterly. The beauty of the night
seemed to break about her, and this castle of whim that had looked, a
moment ago, more solid than certainty, was crumbling.

"Now you're doing what I told you not to," he warned her gravely. "You
have stopped telling the truth. You don't wish you were a man. Think how
happy you were a minute ago, only because you are a beautiful woman and
you heard the nightingale."

She was struggling back into the clear medium that had been between them
the moment before.

"I only meant"--she spoke painstakingly, hunting for words and
pathetically anxious to have them right--"I only meant--I have been
unhappy. No man would have been as unhappy as I have been."

Osmond smiled a little to himself, in grave communing. The uphill road
of his life presented itself to him as a thorny way so hard that, if he
had foreseen it from the beginning, he would have said it was
impossible. But at the same instant he remembered where it had led him:
he had come out into clear air, he was resting in this garden of
delight. And she, too, was resting. He knew that with a perfect
certainty.

"We have begun over," he warned her. "We don't have to remember. See the
moon driving along the sky. We are going with her, fast. Look at her,
playmate."

She looked up into the sky where the moon seemed to be racing past more
stable clouds. It was as if their spiritual gaze met there, to be welded
into a mutual compact. This was the ecstasy of silence. Presently a
sound broke it, a whistle loud and clear from the other field. Osmond
was at once upon his feet.

"Come," he said, "we must go. There's Peter."

"But why must we go?" She was struggling out of her trance of quietude,
almost offended at his haste.

"Come with me. We will meet him in the field. It is too--too splendid,
here. This is our castle under the tree. Don't you know it is? We can't
ask anybody in--not even Peter."

"Not even Peter!" She tried to say it gayly, but a quick sadness fell
upon her as she rose and went with him along the path. The moon had gone
into a cloud, and a breath sprang up. The night was cooler. That other
still langour of too great emotion seemed like something generated by
their souls, and dissipated when they had to come out of the world of
their own creating. All her daily fears rose up before her in
anticipation. She was again alien here in her own land, and Electra was
unkind to her. But there was a strange confidence and strength in
knowing this silent figure was at her side.

"Courage, playmate," he said, as if he knew her thought. "We shall think
this night over, shan't we?"

"Yes. When"--her voice failed her.

"Every night," he said, with an unchanged assurance that amazed her like
the night itself. "I shall be there every night. If you don't come--why,
never mind. If you come"--his voice stopped, as if something choked it.
Then he went on heartily, "The house will be there under the tree, the
playhouse. Nobody will see it by day, you know. Nobody'll run up against
it by night. But you've got the key. There are only two, you know. You
have one. I have the other. And here's Peter."

The whistle had come nearer, clear and pure now like the pipe of Pan.
Peter stopped short.

"Rose!" he cried. "Osmond! What is it?"

Some accident seemed to him inevitable. Nothing else could have brought
about this meeting. Osmond answered, stopping as he did so, when Peter
turned to join him.

"I'll go back, now you've come, Peter. We were taking our walks abroad.
So we met. Good-night! good-night!"

It seemed a separate and a different farewell to each of them, and he
walked away. Peter stood staring after him, but Rose involuntarily
glanced up to heaven to see if the moon, out of her cloud now, would
give again the radiant assurance of that other moment. She longed
passionately for an instant's meeting even so with the man who had gone.
Then an exalted calm possessed her. She and Peter were walking rather
fast along the path; he had been talking and she was conscious that she
had not heard. Now a name arrested her.

"Had you met him before?" he was asking,--"Osmond?"

Her old habit of elusive courtesy came back to her. She laughed a
little.

"We haven't really met now, have we?" she responded pleasantly.

"He said he was afraid of you." Peter put it bluntly, out of his
curiosity and something else that was not altogether satisfaction. He
was not jealous of Osmond. He could not be, more than of a splendid
tree; but there was a something in the air he did not understand. He
felt himself pushing angrily against it, as if it were a tangible
obstruction. "He was afraid of you," he continued blunderingly, "because
you are a Parisian."

Rose laughed again, with that beguiling gentleness.

"But he spoke first, I believe," she explained carelessly. "I was
walking along and he asked me where I was going."

"What were you talking about?" Peter's voice amazed him, as it did her.
It was rough, remonstrating, he realized immediately, like the mood that
engendered it. He was shocked at himself and glad she did not answer.
Instead, she gave him her hand that he might help her over the low wall.

"See," she said, "your grandmother has a light in her room. She is lying
in bed reading good books."

"Does she read them to you?"

"A little word sometimes when I go in to say good-night."

"Grannie's a saint."

"Yes, and better. She's a beautiful grannie."

When they stepped into the hall, Peter, under the stress of his
inexplicable feeling, turned to look at her. Instantly the eyes of the
man and of the artist agreed in an amazed affirmation. The artist in
Peter got the better, and gave him authority.

"Wait a minute," he bade her. "Stand there."

She obeyed him, and looked inquiringly yet languidly. The angry man in
him told him at once that she could obey because she was indifferent to
his reasons for commanding her. Out of that indifference she stood and
looked at him, kind, friendly, yet as far from him as the remoter stars.
He stared at her and thought of brush and canvas. Never had he seen a
woman so alive. Her eyes, her wayward hair, her very flesh seemed
touched with flame. Her lips had softened into a full curve, strange
contrast to their former patient sweetness. The pupils of her eyes,
distended, gave her face a tragic power. As he gazed, that wild bright
beauty seemed to fade. Her eyes lost their reminiscent look and inquired
of him sanely. The lips tightened a little. Her languor gave place to a
steady poise. Now she shook her head with a pretty motion, as if she
cast off memories.

"Do I look nice to-night?" she said kindly, as if she spoke to an
admiring boy. "Do you want to paint me?"

Peter turned aside with an exclamation under his breath. He had never,
again he told himself, seen a woman so alive, so radiating beauty as if
it bloomed and faded while he looked at her. She was beginning to mount
the stairs.

"Good-night," she called back to him, with her perfect kindliness.
"Good-night, Peter."



X


Madam Fulton and Billy Stark sat in the library, wrangling.

"I say she'll come," said Madam Fulton.

"I say she won't," replied Billy with a hearty zest. "No woman of
self-respect would."

"Maybe she hasn't self-respect."

"Oh, you go 'way, Florrie. Of course she has, any girl as pretty as
that."

Madam Fulton looked at him smilingly. There were few left, nowadays, to
call her Florrie.

"You see Electra never in the world would have invited her," she
continued. "I simply did it, and she had to confirm it or appear like a
brute. Electra won't do that. She's willing to appear like a long and
symmetrical icicle, but not a brute."

That was it. She had boldly asked Rose to luncheon, and then told
Electra she had done it. Now it was fifteen minutes to the time, and the
hostess had not appeared. Madam Fulton looked up from her work. There
was a laughing cherub in each eye. Her work, let it be said, was no work
at all, only a shuttle plying in and out mysteriously, and lyingly doing
the deed known as tatting. She usually tied knots and had to begin over;
still, as she said, she liked the motion.

"There was a reporter here yesterday," she remarked, watching the effect
on Billy.

"The mischief there was! What for?"

"To see me. To ask about the book."

"You didn't talk to him?"

"Oh, yes, I did!"

"What did he ask you?"

"Everything, nearly. He wanted to see the Abolitionist letters I had
quoted."

"What did you say?"

"I refused. I told him they were sacred."

"Did he suspect them? Was that his idea?"

"Oh, dear, no! he wanted to reproduce some of the signatures. Then he
asked me about my novels."

"What about them?"

"How I used to write them--if the characters were taken from life. I
said every time."

"Florrie, what a pirate you are!"

"Then his eyes sharpened up like knives, and he wanted to know about the
originals. 'Dead,' I said, 'years and years ago.'"

"You didn't use to be a freebooter, Florrie. You were just a bright
girl."

"Of course I didn't. I was walking Spanish then. I was on my promotion.
I always had faith life would do something for me if I'd speak pretty
and hold out my tier. I held my tier a great many years and nothing
dropped into it. I'm an awful example, Billy, of what a woman can become
when she's had no fun. This may seem to you insanity. It isn't. It's the
abnormal and monstrous fruit of a plant that wasn't allowed to mature at
the right time. I am a mammoth squash."

"What did you tell him about your novels?"

"I told him they weren't written. They wrote themselves. My characters
simply got away from me and did things I never dreamed of. I said they
were more alive to me than people of flesh and blood."

"Do you suppose he put in all that?"

"I know he did."

"Have you seen the paper?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I haven't dared to look."

Billy Stark glanced at the floor as if he wanted to get down and roll.
Then he lay back in his chair and went gasping off. Madam Fulton watched
him seriously, that unquenchable spark still in her eyes.

"I don't know what you can do next," said Billy, getting out his
pocket-handkerchief, "unless you become engaged to me."

Madam Fulton laid down her tatting, to look at him in a gentle musing.

"It would plague Electra," she owned.

"Come on, Florrie, come on! Get up early to-morrow morning, and we'll
post off and be married."

"No," said Madam Fulton absently, still considering, "I don't want to be
married. Harsh measures never did attract me. But I'd like very well to
be engaged. Tell you what, Billy, we could be engaged for the summer,
and when you go back to England we'll call it off."

Billy rose, and possessed himself of one of her hands. He kissed it
ceremoniously, and returned it to its tatting.

"You do me infinite honor," he announced, with more gravity than she
liked.

"Don't get too serious, Billy," she said quickly. "It'll remind us of
being young, and mercy knows that isn't what we want."

"May I inform your granddaughter?" asked the gentleman gravely.

"No, no, I'll do it. That's half the fun."

At that moment Electra came in. She was dressed in white, as usual, but
her ordinary dignified simplicity seemed overlaid, to the old lady's
satirical gaze, with an added smoothness of glossy surfaces. Her dress
fell in simple folds. She seemed to have clothed herself to meet a moral
emergency. Her face was pale in its determination. She was like a New
England maiden led to sacrifice and bound, at all hazards, to do her
conscience credit. Madam Fulton, seeing her, hardened her heart. There
were few pirouettes she would not have essayed at that moment to plague
her granddaughter.

"Electra, my dear," she said, in a silken voice, "we have something to
tell you, Mr. Stark and I. We have become engaged."

Electra looked from one to the other, not even incredulity in her gaze,
all a reproachful horror. Yet Electra did not for a moment admit the
possibility of a joke on such a subject. She saw her grandmother, as she
often did, peering down paths that led to madness, and even, as in this
case, taking one.

"Please do not mention it," grandmother was saying smoothly. "The
engagement is not to be announced--not yet."

Electra could not look at Billy Stark, even in reproof. The situation
was too intolerable. And at that moment, flushed from her walk, eager,
deprecating as she had to be in this unfriendly spot, Rose came in. She
went straight to Madam Fulton, as if she were the recognized head of the
house.

"It was so good of you," she said. "I am so glad to come." Then she
turned to Electra and Billy Stark with her quick, beautiful smile and
her inclusive greeting. This was not the same woman who had run away to
trysts under the tree, or even the woman Peter had seen when she
returned, glowing, lovely, as if from a bath of pleasure. She was the
Parisian, as Osmond had perhaps imagined her in his jesting fancy,
regnant, subtle, even a little hard. Electra felt for a moment as if it
were wise to be afraid of her. But they sat down, and she essayed the
safe remark,--

"I believe luncheon is late."

"What have you been doing with yourself, my dear?" Madam Fulton asked
Rose, who was looking from one to another with an accessible brightness,
as if she only wanted a chance to respond to everything beautifully. She
bent a little, deferentially, toward Madam Fulton.

"Reading aloud this morning," she said, "to grannie."

"You call her grannie, do you?"

"I begged to. I adore her."

"Does she like it?"

"Oh, yes, she likes it," Rose returned, with her lovely smile. "Don't
you think she likes it?"

"I know she does. That's what I can't understand. Every time I hear
Electra say 'grandmother' it's like a nail in my coffin."

"Grandmother!" exclaimed Electra, in an instant and quite honest
deprecation.

"That's it, my dear," nodded the old lady. "That's precisely it. Nail me
down."

Then luncheon was announced, and they went out, Rose with that instant
deference toward Madam Fulton which suggested a hundred services while
she delicately refrained from doing one.

"I know you," said the old lady dryly, after they had sat down. "I know
quite well what you are."

"What, please?" asked Rose, bending on her that warm look which was yet
never too flattering, and still promised an incense of personal regard
not to be spoiled by deeds.

"I know exactly what you are," said the old lady, with her incisive
kindliness. "You're a charmer."

Instantly Rose flushed all over her face, a flooding red. With the word
she remembered the other voice out of the moonlit night, telling her the
same thing. Now it was almost an accusation. Then it was a caressing
loveliness of the night, as if an unseen hand had crowned her with a
chaplet, dripping fragrance. In that instant, with a throb of haste and
longing, she was away from the circle of these alien souls, back in the
night where voice had answered voice. It was immediately as if she were
hearing his call to her. "I will come to-night, to-night," she heard her
heart repeating. "Did you wait for me last night, dear playmate, alone
in the dark and stillness? And the night before? Did you think I was
never coming? I will come to-night."

Meantime Billy Stark, seeing the blush and knowing it meant discomfort,
was pottering on in his kindly optimism, throwing himself into the
breach, and dribbling words like rain. He talked of Paris and
continental life in general. Rose had been everywhere. She spoke of
traveling with her father on his missions from court to court. When
MacLeod's name recurred upon her lips, Electra, who presided, still and
pale, roused momentarily into some show of interest. But Rose would not
be led along that road. For some reason she refused to speak freely of
her father. At a question, her lovely lips would fix themselves in a
straight line. Back in the library again, she seated herself
persistently by Madam Fulton, like a dog who has at last discovered the
person friendliest to him.

"Run away, Billy, if you like," said the old lady indulgently. "You want
your cigar on the veranda. I know you."

Billy was going, in humorous deprecation, when there was a running step
along the veranda, and Peter came in with a bound. And what a Peter! He
looked like a runner--not a spent one, either--with the news of victory.
It was in his face, his flushed cheeks and flaming eyes, but chiefly in
the air he brought with him--all tension and immoderate joy. Electra
held her hands tight together and looked at him. Rose got half out of
her chair. In those days when she thought continually of her own
affairs, it seemed to her that nothing could be so important unless it
had to do with her. Billy Stark by the door waited, and it was Madam
Fulton who spoke, irritated at the vague excitement.

"For heaven's sake, Peter, what's the matter?"

He addressed himself at once to Rose.

"I have heard from him. I have had a letter."

"From him!" She was out of her chair and facing him. For the moment,
with that hidden communion with Osmond hot in her heart and sharp in her
ears, she had almost cried, "Osmond!" But he went on,--

"I have heard from your father."

Instantly the blood was out of her face. Billy Stark wondered at the
aging grayness, and reflected curiously that youth is not only a
question of flesh and blood but of the merry soul. Peter could not
contain his pleasure. He cried out irrepressibly, like the herald beside
himself with news,--

"He is coming here!"

"Here!" Rose made one step to lay her hand upon a little cabinet, and
stood supporting herself. Electra, who caught the movement, looked at
her curiously. Her own enormous interest in Peter's news seemed to merge
itself in watchful comment on the other girl.

"Here!" Peter was answering. "To America! He writes me the most stirring
letter. I didn't think I knew him so well. He has so many friends here,
he says, friends he never saw. He wants to meet them. The best of it is,
he's coming here--to us."

"Here!" repeated Rose again. She seemed to be sinking into herself, but
the tense hand upon the cabinet kept her firm.

Peter looked at her with eyes of innocent delight.

"Here, to us. I told him if he ever came over, we should grab him before
anybody got a hand on him. I've told grannie. She's delighted."

"You told him that!" Her voice held a reproach so piercing that they
were all staring at her in wonder. She looked like a woman suffering
some anguish too fierce, for the moment, to be stilled. "You've been
writing him!"

"Of course," said Peter. "Why, of course, I wrote him. I sent him word
when we first got here, to tell him you were well."

"How could you! Oh, how could you!"

At her tone, the inexplicable reproach of it, he lost his gay assurance.
Peter forgot the others. There was nobody in the room, to his eager
consciousness, but Rose and his erring self; for somehow, most
innocently, he had offended her. He took a step toward her, his boyish
face all melted into contrition. There might have been tears in his
eyes, they were so soft.

"Sit down," he implored her. "Rose! What have I done?"

It was like a sorry child asking pardon. Electra gave him a quick look,
and then went on watching. At the tone Rose also was recalled. She shook
herself a little, as if she threw off dreams. Her hand upon the cabinet
relaxed. Her face softened, the pose of her body yielded, She seemed
almost, by some power of the will, to bring new color into her cheeks.
Peter had drawn forward her chair, and she took it smilingly.

"I'm not accustomed to long-lost fathers appearing unannounced," she
said whimsically. "Dear me! What if he brings me a Paris gown!"

But Peter was standing before her, still with an air of deep solicitude.

"It was a shock, wasn't it?" he kept repeating. "What a duffer I am!"

"It was a shock," said Electra, with an incisive confirmation. "Mayn't I
get you something? A glass of wine?"

Rose looked at her quite pleasantly before Peter had time to begin his
persuasive recommendation that she should spare herself.

"Let me take you home," he was urging.

It was as if Rose had been drawing draughts from some deep reservoir,
and now she had enough to carry her on to victory.

"No, no, Peter," she denied him. "I won't go home. Thank you,
Electra,"--a delicate frown wrinkled Electra's brows. The girl had never
used her familiar name before--"thank you, I won't have any wine. Well,
my father is coming. Let's hope he won't turn the country upside down,
and keep the trains from running. Get in your supplies, all of you. He
may instigate a strike, and if the larder isn't full, you'll starve."

"Stop the trains?" repeated Electra, who was not imaginative. "Why
should he stop the trains?"

"Ah, Miss Fulton, you don't know my father," Rose answered gayly. She
had seen that tiny frown punctuating her first familiarity, and took
warning by it. "Don't you know how, in great gardens, you can take a key
and turn on the fountains? Well, my father can turn on strikes in the
same manner. He has the key in his pocket."

Electra warmed, in spite of herself.

"I should like"--she hesitated.

"You'd like to see him do it? You may. Perhaps you will. We'll sit in a
circle and point our thumbs down and all the bloated capitalists shall
go in and be killed." She was talking, at random, out of a tension she
might not explain. Billy Stark, the coolest of them, saw that Madam
Fulton had some vague inkling of it. Billy, as usual, began talking, but
Rose had risen. Having proved her composure, she was going. She listened
to Billy with smiling interest, and then when he had finished,
humorously and inconsequently, nodded concurrence at him and said
good-by. She had a few pretty words for Madam Fulton, a gracious look
for Electra, and she was gone, Peter beside her. Billy Stark followed
and stayed on the veranda with his cigar. But Electra remained facing
her grandmother. She looked at her, not so much in triumph as with a
fixed determination. Suddenly Madam Fulton became aware of her glance
and answered it irritably.

"For mercy's sake, Electra, what is it?"

Then Electra spoke, turning away, as if the smouldering satisfaction of
her tone must not betray itself in her face.

"Do you realize what this means?"

"What what means?"

"She is terrified at his coming--Markham MacLeod's."

"Well, you don't know Markham MacLeod. Perhaps if you did, you'd be
terrified yourself."

"But his daughter, grandmother, a girl who calls herself his daughter!"

Madam Fulton stared.

"Don't you believe that either?" she inquired. "Don't you believe she is
his daughter?"

"Not for a moment." Electra had turned and was walking toward the door,
all her white draperies contributing to the purity of her aspect.

Madam Fulton continued, in the same inadequacy of amaze,--

"But Peter knows it. He knew them together."

"Peter knew her with Tom," said Electra conclusively. "One proof is
worth as much as the other."

At the door she turned, almost a beseeching look upon her face, as she
remembered another shock that had been dealt her.

"Grandmother!" she said.

"Well!"

"You spoke of Mr. Stark--"

The old lady's thought went traveling back. Then her face lighted.

"Oh," she said. "Yes, I know. I'm engaged to Billy."

"Grandmother--" Electra blushed a little, painfully--"You can't
mean--grandmother, are you going to marry him?"

Madam Fulton laid her head back upon the small silk pillow of her chair.
She never owned to it, but sometimes the dull hour after luncheon
brought with it a drowsiness she was ceasing to combat. She smiled at
Electra, who seemed very far away from her through the veil of that
approaching slumber and through the years that separated them.

"We shan't marry at once, Electra," she said, dropping off while the
girl looked at her. "Not at once. I expect to have a good many little
affairs before I settle down."



XI


On the way back to the house, Peter kept looking solicitously at Rose,
breaking now and then into quick regrets.

"What have I done?" he asked her, in his impetuous stammer. "Shouldn't I
have written to your father? Rose, what have I done?"

She seemed not to hear him. Her face had a strained expression, the old
look he remembered from the days of Tom's illness and her not quite
natural grief. Then she had never given way to the irrepressible warmth
of sorrow, like a loving wife. She had seemed to harden herself, and
that he accounted for by his knowledge of Tom's hideous past. The woman
had known him, Peter reflected, from illuminating intercourse, and his
death meant chiefly the turning of a blotted page. But now! over her
bloom of youth was the same shadowing veil. She was not so much a woman
moved by strong emotion as made desperate through hidden causes. Still
he besought her to forgive him, finally to look at him. Then she
wakened.

"It's all right, Peter," she said absently. "It had to be."

But still he saw no reason for her blight and pain. It was not merely
incredible, it was impossible that any one should shrink because Markham
MacLeod was coming. At the door she did look at him. He was shocked at
the drooping sadness of her face. Yet she was smiling.

"Don't bother, Peter," she said. "You've done nothing wrong, nothing
whatever."

Then she went up the stairs, and Peter, after watching the last glimmer
of her dress, strode away into the orchard and threw himself on the
grass. Thoughts not formulated, emotions one yeast of unrest went
surging through him, until he felt himself a riot of forces he could not
control. It was youth that moved him, his own ungoverned youth, but it
seemed to him life, and that all life was like it. Peter thought he had
experienced enormously because he had lived in Paris and painted
pictures. Yet he had never governed his course of being. It had been
done for him. The greatest impression it had made on him thus far was of
the extreme richness of things. There was so much of everything! He was
young. There was a great deal of time, and if he did not paint his
pictures this year, he could do it next. There were infinite
possibilities. He had ease and talent and power. He had, even so far,
won laurels enough to be a little careless of them. Since he had by the
happy pains of art got so much out of life, he made no doubt that by
superlative efforts, which he meant to make in that divine future where
the sun was always shining, he should set all the rivers afire. There
was money enough, too. He had never lacked it, thanks to old Osmond's
thrift, Osmond who did not need it himself in the ordinary ways of man.
He found such pure fun in the pleasures money bought that there was a
separate luxury in giving it up, turning it in to the sum of things, and
living straitly that labor might take some ease.

And here he lay on the grass, youth seething within him and pointing
like a drunken guide, a vine-crowned reveler, to a myriad paths, all
wonderful. His mind wandered to Rose and settled there in a delighted
acquiescence. He had never before given himself wholly up to her spell,
but now, whether the summer day beguiled him, or whether her mysterious
trouble moved him, he thought of her until they seemed to be alone
together on the earth,--and that was happiness. Beauty! that was what
she meant to him, he told himself when thought was at last uppermost,
and not mere passionate feeling. She was delight and harmony, and
allegiance to her was like worship of the world.

When he got out of his dream and went in to dinner with the noon sun
upon his burning face, she was on the veranda with grannie, a little
pale still, but sweet and responsive in the quiet ways she had for every
day. Peter, looking at her, felt the sun go out of his blood, and the
mad worship of that hour in the orchard seemed like a past bacchanal
rout and triumph when the worshipers go home to feed the flocks. His
will, recalled, took him by swift revulsion to Electra, but it could not
make the journey welcome. She seemed to be far away on some barren plain
at the top of climbing. Rose, too, was far away, but the mountain where
she lived was full of springs and blossomy slopes, and at the top the
muses and the graces danced and laughed. There were flying feet always,
the gleam of draperies, the fall of melody,--always pleasures and the
hint of pleasures higher still,--and echoes from old joys tasted by gods
and nymphs in the childhood of the world. The way there, too, was hard,
but what would the path matter to such blisses of the mind and soul? In
his daze he became aware that grannie was looking at him kindly.

"I guess you've been asleep," said she.

"He's been dreaming, too," said Rose, in her intimate kindliness, always
the same to him as if he were a boy with whom she had a tender and
confident relation.

Peter rubbed his eyes.

"I got lost," he said ruefully. "I went up on the mountain and got
lost."

"I guess you dreamed it," said grannie. "Come, let's have our dinner;"
and they went in together, both the young things helping her.

Peter reflected that Rose had not even heard what he said. She did not
care what the mountain was, or whether he was lost. But at the table,
while grannie talked about gardening and the things Osmond meant to do
another year, and Rose glanced up with involuntary question in her eyes
whenever Osmond's name was mentioned, he seemed to have the vision of
the mountain again before him and to hear the laughter and the sound of
dancing feet. The picture, little by little, faded and would not be
recalled, and by afternoon it had quite gone. Sobered, his feet on the
earth again, he went away in the early evening, to see Electra.

Rose waited until the dark had really fallen and evening sounds had
begun. Then she stole out of the house and, a black cloak about her,
this time, went across the fields to the oak tree. At a little distance
from it she paused, her heart too imperious to let her speak and find
out whether he was there. But when she was about to venture it, a voice
came from under the tree.

"Don't stay there, playmate. Come into the house."

Then she went on.

"Where are you?" she asked. There was an eloquent quiver in her voice.

"Never mind. I'm in the house. Stop where you are. There's a little
throne. I made it for you."

She had her hand on the back of a rough chair. At once she seated
herself.

"I never heard of a throne in a playhouse," she said, with that new
merriment he made for her.

"You never saw a playhouse just like this. That's a beautiful throne. It
fits together like a chair. It's here in the playhouse by night, but
before daylight I draw it up into the tree and hide it."

"What if somebody finds it?"

"They'll think it's a chair."

"What if they break it?"

"That's easy. We'll make another. There's nothing so easy as to make a
throne for a playhouse, if you know the way. Well, playmate, how have
you been, all this long time?"

When she came across the field she had meant to tell him how sad she
was, how perplexed, how incapable of meeting the ills confronting her.
But immediately it became unnecessary, and she only laughed and said,--

"It hasn't been a long time at all."

"Hasn't it? Oh, I thought it had!"

"Have you been here every night?"

"Every night."

"But it rained."

"I know it, outside. It doesn't rain in a playhouse."

"Did you truly come?"

"Of course. What did I tell you? I said 'every night.'"

"Did you have an umbrella?"

"An umbrella in a playhouse? You make me laugh."

"You must have got wet through."

"Not always. Sometimes I climbed up in the branches--in the roof, I
mean. You're eclipsed to-night, aren't you?"

"What do you mean?"

"That dark cloak. The other night you were a white goddess sitting there
in the moonlight. You were terribly beautiful then. It's almost a shame
to be so beautiful. This is better. I rather like the cloak. You're
nothing but a voice to-night, coming out of the dark."

Immediately she had a curious jealousy of the white dress that made her
beautiful to him when he did not really know her face.

"You have never seen me," she said involuntarily.

"Oh yes, I have. In the shack, that night. Then the day you came. I saw
you driving by."

"Where were you?"

"In the yard looking at some grafted trees. Peter was late from the
train. I got impatient, so I went round fussing over the trees, to keep
myself busy. Then you came up the drive, and I saw you and retreated in
good order."

"You needn't have hated me so. You hadn't really seen me."

"I saw enough. I saw your cheek and one ear and the color of your hair.
Take care, playmate, you mustn't do that."

"What?"

"You mustn't say I hated you. You know it wasn't hate."

Some daring prompted her to ask, "What was it, then?" but she folded her
hands and crossed her feet in great contentment and was still.

"Tell me things," she heard him saying.

"What things? About the house up there? About grannie? About Peter?"

"No, no. I know all about grannie and Peter. Tell me things I never
could know unless we were here in the playhouse, in the dark."

Her mind went off, at that, to the wonder of it. She was here in strange
circumstances, and of all the occurrences of her life, it seemed the
most natural. Immediately she had the warmest curiosity, the desire that
he should talk inordinately and tell her all the things he had done
to-day, yesterday, all the days.

"You tell," she said. "Begin at the beginning, and tell me about your
life."

"Why, playmate!" His voice had even a sorrowful reproach. "There's
nothing in it. Nothing at all. I have only dug in the ground and made
things grow."

"What people have you known?"

"Grannie."

"She isn't people."

"She's my people. She's all there is, except Peter, and he hasn't been
here."

Something like jealousy possessed her. She was stung by her own
ignorance.

"But there are lots of years when we didn't meet," she said.

"Lots of them. But I don't care anything about them. I told you so the
other night."

"Don't you care about mine?"

"Not a bit."

She was lightheaded with the joy of it. There were things she need not
tell him.

"Not the years before we met?" Then because she was a woman, she had to
spoil the cup. "Nor the years after I go away?"

"No, not the years when you've gone away. You can't take this night with
you, nor the other night."

He had hurt her.

"That's enough, then--a memory."

Osmond laughed a little. It was a tender sound, as if he might scold
her, but not meaning it.

"You mustn't be naughty," he said. "There's nothing naughtier in a
playhouse than saying what isn't true. You know if you go away you'll
come back again. You can't help it. It may be a long time first. You
were twenty-five years in coming this time. But you'll have to come. You
know that, don't you?"

"Yes," she said gravely, "I know that." Then the memory of her wandering
life and the sore straits of it voiced itself in one cry, "I don't want
to go. I want to stay."

"Stay, dear playmate," said the other voice. "There never will be a
night when I'm not here. Is the playhouse key in your hand, all tight
and warm? I wear mine round my neck. We shan't lose them."

Immediately she felt that she must tell him her new trouble.

"My father is coming here," she said, in a low tone.

"Ah!" he answered quickly. "You won't like that."

"How do you know?"

"From what you said the other night. You don't like him."

"Is it dreadful to you, if I don't like my father?"

She put it anxiously, with timidity, and he answered,--

"It's inevitable. He hasn't treated you well."

She was staring at him through the darkness, though she could see
nothing.

"You are a wizard," she said, "a wizard. Why do you say he has not
treated me well?"

"Because I see how you hate him. You would never hate without reason.
You are all gentleness. You know you are. You'd go on your knees to the
man that was your father, and beg him to be good enough so you could
love him. And if you couldn't--George! that settles him. Why, playmate,
you're not crying!"

She was crying softly to herself. But for a little unconsidered sniff he
need not have known it.

"I like to cry," she said, in a moment. "I like to cry--like this."

"It's awful," said the other voice, apparently to itself, "to make you
cry and not know how to stop you. Don't do it, playmate!"

She laughed then.

"I won't cry," she promised. "But if you knew how pleasant it is when it
only means somebody understands and likes you just as well--"

"Better," said the voice. "I always like you better. Whatever you do,
that's the effect it has. Now let's talk about your father. We can't
stop his coming?"

"No. Nobody ever stopped him yet in anything."

"Then what can we do to him after he gets here?"

"That's what I am trying to think. Sometimes I'm afraid I must run
away--before he comes."

"Yes, playmate, if you think so." There was something sharp in the tone:
a quick hurt, a premonition of pain, and it was soothing to her.

"But I've so little money." She said that to herself, and his answer
shocked her.

"There's money, if that's all. I'll bury it here under a stone, and you
shall find it."

"No! no! no! How could you! oh, how could you!"

The voice was hurt indeed now, and willing to be thought so.

"Why, playmate, is that so dreadful? Money's the least important thing
there is."

"It is important," said she broodingly. "It seems to me all my miseries,
my disgraces have come from that."

"You don't want to tell me about them? You don't think it would make
them better?"

"You said you didn't care. You said what we had lived through--what I
had--these twenty-five years, made no difference!"

"Not to me. But when it comes to you, why, maybe I could help you."

She thought a while and then answered definitely and coldly,--

"No, I can't do it. I should have to tell--too many things."

"Then we won't think of it," said the voice. "Only you must remember,
there's money and there's--Peter to take you off and hide you somewhere.
You can trust Peter." Again he seemed ready to break their
companionship, and she wondered miserably.

"You seem to think of nothing but my going away."

"I must think of it. Nothing is more likely."

"You don't seem to care!"

"Playmate!" Again the voice reproached her.

"Well!"

"There's but one thing I think of--really. To give you a little bit of
happiness while you are here. After that--well, you can make the picture
for yourself. I shall come to the playhouse every night--alone."

The one thing perhaps that had been the strongest in guiding her
romantic youth had been eternal faithfulness. Her heart beat at the word
"forever." Now her gratitude outran his calm.

"Will you do it?" she cried.

"Shall I promise?"

"No! no! I would not have you do it really--only want to do it. Do you
think you will remember--to want to come?"

He said the words after her, so slowly that they seemed to come from
lips set with some stern emotion.

"I shall remember. I shall want to come."

She rose.

"Good-night," she said. "Shake hands?"

"No," said the voice, "not that. In playhouses you can't shake hands.
Good-night--dear lady."

She turned away, and then, because she was silent the voice called after
her,--

"Playmate!"

"Yes."

"I shall follow you to the wall and watch you home. You're not afraid?"

"No, I'm not afraid."

"And you're almost happy?"

At the anxiety in his voice, she was unreasonably happy.

"Yes," she called back. "Good-night."

"Got the key safe?"

"All safe. Good-night."

"God bless you, playmate." That was what she thought she heard.



XII


Madam Fulton was at the library table, considering her morning mail, and
Billy Stark sat on the veranda just outside the window where she could
call to him and be cheerfully answered. Presently Electra came in, a
book, a pencil, and some slips of paper in her hand. There was intense
consideration on her brow. She had on, her grandmother thought with
discouragement, her clubwoman's face. Billy Stark, seeing her, got up
and with his cigar and his newspaper wandered away. He had some
compassion for Electra and her temperament, though not for that could he
abstain from the little observances due his engagement to Madam Fulton.
He had a way of bringing in a flower from the garden and presenting it
to the old lady with an exaggerated significance. Electra always winced,
but Madam Fulton was delighted. He called her "Florrie," prettily, and
"Florrie, dear." Again Electra shrank, and then he took the wrinkled
hand. One day Madam Fulton looked up at him with a droll mischief in her
eyes.

"I suppose it's an awful travesty, isn't it, Billy?"

"Not for me," said Billy loyally. "Can't I be in love with a woman at
the end of fifty years? I should smile."

"It's great fun," she owned. Then more than half in earnest, "Billy, do
you suppose I shall go to hell?"

This morning Electra had found something to puzzle her.

"I've been working on your book a little, grandmother," she began.

"What book? My soul and body!" The old lady saw the cover and laid down
her pen. "That's my 'Recollections.' What are you doing with that?"

"They are extremely interesting," said Electra absorbedly. She sat down
and laid her notes aside, to run over a doubtful page. "We are going to
have an inquiry meeting on it."

"We? Who?"

"The club. Everybody was deeply disappointed because you've refused to
say anything; but it occurred to us we might give an afternoon to
classifying data in it, naming people you just refer to, you know. I am
doing the Brook Farm section."

Madam Fulton sank back in her chair and looked despairingly from the
window for Billy Stark.

"I shall never," she said, "hear the last of that book!"

"Why should you wish to hear the last of it?" asked Electra. "It is a
very valuable book. It would be more so if you would only be frank about
it. But I can understand that. I told the club it was your extreme
delicacy. You simply couldn't mention names."

"No, I couldn't," murmured the old lady. "I couldn't."

"But here is something, grandmother. You must help me out here. Here
where you talk about the crazy philanthropist who had the colonization
scheme--not Liberia--no, that's farther on--Well, you say he came to
grandfather and asked him to give something to the fund." She was
regarding Madam Fulton with clear eyes of interrogation.

"No, no, I don't remember," said the old lady impatiently. "Well, go
on."

"You don't remember?"

"Yes, yes, of course I remember, in a way. But go on, Electra."

"Well, then the philanthropist asked him to be one of the five men who
would guarantee a certain sum at their death, and grandfather was
indignant and said, 'Charity begins at home.' Listen." She found her
page and read, "'I shall assuredly leave every inch of ground and every
cent I possess to my wife, and that, not because she is an advanced
woman but because she is not.'"

"Of course!" corroborated the old lady. "Precisely. There's a slap at
suffrage. That's what I mean it for, and you can tell 'em so."

Electra did not stop to register her pain at that. She held up one hand
to enjoin attention.

"But listen, grandmother. You don't see the bearing of it yet. That was
five years after grandfather made his will, leaving this place away from
you."

"Well, what of it?"

"Five years after, grandmother! And here, by his expressed intention, he
meant to leave it to you--not to his son, but you. Do you see what that
implies?"

"I don't know what it implies," said the old lady, "but I know I shall
fly all to pieces in about two minutes if you don't stop winding me up
and asking me questions."

Electra answered quite solemnly,--

"It means, grandmother, that legally I inherited this place. Ethically
it belongs to you. My grandfather meant to make another will. Here is
his expressed intention. He neglected doing it, as people are always
neglecting things that may be done at any time. It only remains for me
to make it over to you."

Madam Fulton lay back in her chair for a moment and stared. She seemed
incapable of measuring the irony she felt. But Electra went quietly
on,--

"There is simply nothing else for me to do, and I shall do it."

Madam Fulton gasped a little and then gave up speaking. Again she
glanced at the window and wished for Billy Stark. Electra was observing
her compassionately.

"It excites you, doesn't it?" she was saying. "I don't wonder."

Now the old lady found her tongue, but only to murmur,--

"I can't even laugh. It's too funny; it's too awfully funny."

"Let me get you a little wine." Electra had put her papers together and
now she rose.

Then Madam Fulton found her strength.

"Sit down, Electra," she said. "Why, child, you don't realize--I don't
know what you'd do if you did--you don't realize I put that in there by
the merest impulse."

"Of course," said Electra kindly. "I understand that. You never dreamed
of its having any bearing on things as they are now, they have gone on
in this way so long. But it would be shocking to me, shocking, to seem
to own this house when it is yours--ethically."

"Don't say ethically. I can't stand it. There, Electra! you're a good
girl. I know that. But you're conscience gone mad. You've read George
Eliot till you're not comfortable unless you're renouncing something.
Take things a little more lightly. You can if you give your mind to it.
Now this--this is nothing but a joke. You have my word for it."

"It isn't a joke," said Electra firmly, "when grandfather could write
that over his own signature and send it to a well-known person. How did
it come back into your hands, grandmother?"

But Madam Fulton looked at her, wondering what asylum Electra would put
her in, if she knew the truth. She essayed a miserable gayety.

"Very well, Electra," she smiled, "call it so, if you like, but we won't
say any more about it. I can't have houses made over to me. I may totter
into the grave to-morrow."

Electra's eyes went involuntarily to the garden where Billy Stark was
placidly walking up and down, smoking his cigar and stopping now and
then to inspect a flower. The old lady interpreted the look.

"I know, I know," she said wickedly; "but that's nothing to do with it.
Besides, if I marry Billy Stark, I shall go to London to live. What do I
want of houses? Let things be as they are, Electra. You keep the house
in your hands and let me visit you, just as I do now. It's all one."

Electra spoke with an unmoved firmness. Her face had the clarity of a
great and fixed resolve.

"The house is yours; not legally, I own, but--"

"Don't you say ethically again, Electra," said the old lady. "I told you
I couldn't bear it."

She sank back still further into her chair and glared. At last Madam
Fulton was afraid of her own emotions. Such amazement possessed her at
the foolish irony of things, such desire of laughter, that she dared not
yield lest her frail body could not bear the storm. Man's laughter, she
realized, shout upon shout of robust roaring, was not too heroic for
this folly. Electra was speaking:--

"I insist upon the truth from others," she said, still from a basic
resolution that seemed invulnerable. "I must demand it from myself."

"The truth, Electra!" groaned Madam Fulton. "You don't tell the truth."

"I don't tell the truth?"

"You don't know anything about it. You've thought about it so much that
now you only tell horrible facts."

This Electra could not fathom, but it was evident that she was putting
it away in her consciousness for a thoughtful moment. Madam Fulton was
rallying. She felt a little stronger, and she knew she was mentally more
vigorous than her young antagonist. It was only in an unchanging will
that Electra distanced her.

"Electra," she said, "you've got to be awfully careful of yourself."
There was a wistful kindness in her voice. It was as if she spoke to one
whom she wished to regard leniently, though she might in reality shower
her with that elfin raillery which was the outcome of her own
inquietude.

Electra opened her eyes in a candid wonder.

"Careful of myself?" she repeated. "Why, grandmother?"

"You've trained so hard, child. You've trained down to a point where
it's dangerous for you to try to live."

"Trained down, grandmother? I am very well."

"I don't mean your body. I mean, you've thought of yourself and your
virtues and your tendencies, and tested yourself with tubes and examined
yourself under a glass until you're nothing but a bundle of
self-conscious virtues. Why, it would be better for you if you were a
care-free spontaneous murderess. You'd be less dangerous."

"Suppose we don't talk about it any more," said Electra, in that
soothing accent suited to age.

"But I've got to talk about it. I never have done any particular duty by
you, but I suppose the duty's there. I've got to tell you when you sail
into dangerous latitudes. You mark my words, Electra, assure as you sit
there, you've trained so hard that there's got to be a reaction. Some
day you'll fly all to pieces and make an idiot of yourself."

Electra had risen.

"Excuse me for a moment, grandmother," she said. "I must get you a glass
of wine."

Madam Fulton, too, got up and rested one hand upon the table.

"If you leave the room before I've finished," she cried, "I'll scream it
after you." A small red spot had come upon each cheek. She looked like a
fairy god-mother, a pinpoint of fury in the eye. "I insist upon your
listening. God Almighty meant you for a handsome, well-behaved woman.
You're not clever. There's no need of your being. But you've made
yourself so intelligent that you're as dull as death. You've cultivated
your talents till you've snapped them all in two. You've tried so hard
to be a model of conduct that you're a horror, a positive horror. And
you mark my words, the reaction will come and you'll do something so
idiotic that you won't know yourself. And then when you're disgraced and
humble, then will be the time I shall begin to like you."

She was shaking all over, and Electra looked at her in great alarm. She
dared not speak lest the paroxysm should come again. A little new gleam
sprang into Madam Fulton's eyes. At last she realized that she had,
though by ignoble means, quite terrified her granddaughter. That one
humorous certainty was enough, for the time, to mitigate her plight. She
drew a quick breath, and shrugged her shoulders.

"There!" said she. "It's over. I don't know when I've had such a
satisfying time. Run along, Electra. It won't happen again to-day." Then
it occurred to her that she was foregoing an advantage, and she added
shrewdly, "Though it might at any minute. But if you bring me anything
to take, anything quieting or restorative, I'll throw it out of the
window."

Electra, relieved slightly at the lulling of the storm, looked
delicately away from her and out at the peaceful lawn. She would have
been sorry to see again the red of anger in those aged cheeks. Her gaze
hung arrested. Inexplicable emotion came into her face. She looked
incredulous of what so fired her. Madam Fulton sat down again, breathing
relief at the relaxing of her inward tension, and she too looked from
the window. A man, very tall and broad, even majestic in his bearing,
stood talking with Billy Stark. Billy, with all his air of breeding and
general adaptability, looked like comedy in comparison.

"Grandmother!" Electra spoke with a rapid emphasis, "do you know who
that is?"

"No, I'm sure I don't."

"It is Markham MacLeod."

"What makes you think that?"

"I know him. I know his picture. I know that bust of him. He is here
before Peter expected."

Life and color came into her face. She laid down her book and papers,
and went with a sweeping haste to the hall-door. Billy was coming with
the stranger up the path, and MacLeod, glancing at the girl's waiting
figure, took off his hat and looked at her responsively. Electra's heart
was beating as she had never felt it beat before. Greatness was coming
to her threshold, and it looked its majesty. MacLeod had a tremendous
dignity of bearing added to the gifts nature had endowed him with at the
start. He was a giant with the suppleness of the dancer and athlete. His
strong profile had beauty, his florid skin was tanned by the sea, his
blue eyes were smiling at Electra, and in spite of the whiteness of his
thick hair he did not seem to her old. She would have said he had the
dower of being perennially young. Meantime Billy Stark, who had known
him at once from his portraits, had named him to her, and the great man
had taken her hand. He had explained that he was in advance of his time,
that he had driven to Peter's and had been told that the young man was
probably here. So he had strolled over to find him.

"He is not here," said Electra. "Please come in." She was breathless
with the excitement of such notability under her roof. She led the way
to the sitting-room, judging hastily that grandmother was too shaken by
her mysterious attack to see a stranger, and also even tremblingly
anxious to speak with him before any one could share the charm. MacLeod
followed her, offering commonplaces in a rich voice that made them
memorable, and Billy stayed behind to throw away his cigar, and debate
for an instant whether he need go in. Then he heard a voice from the
library softly calling him.

"Billy, I want you."

He stepped in through the long window, and there was Madam Fulton, half
laughing, half crying, and shaking all over. He ran to her in
affectionate alarm.

"Billy," said she, "I've had a temper fit."

Billy put his arm about her and took her to the sofa. There he sat down
beside her, and she dropped her head on his shoulder.

"Shoulders are still very strengthening, Billy," said she, laughing more
than she cried, "even at our age."

"They're something to lean on," said Billy. "There! there, dear! there!"

Presently she laughed altogether, with no admixture of tears, and Billy
got out his handkerchief and wiped her face. But she still shook, from
time to time, and he was troubled for her.

"Now," she said presently, withdrawing from him and patting her white
hair, "Now I think we've weathered it."

"What was it?" ventured Billy.

"I can't tell you now. I might die a-laughing. But I will." She rested
her hand on his shoulder a moment before she went away. "I'll tell you
what it is, Billy," she said, "the beauty of you is you're so human.
You're neither good nor bad. You're just human."



XIII


Markham Macleod's great advantage, after that of his wonderful physique,
was his humility. A carping humorist, who saw him dispassionately, the
more so that women were devoted to "the chief," said that humility was
his long suit. There was his splendid body, instinct with a magnetic
charm. He was born, charlatans told him, to be a healer. But he
deprecated his own gifts. With a robust humor he disclaimed whatever he
had done, and listened to other voices, in specious courtesy. Now, face
to face with Electra, he had convinced her in five seconds that it was
an illuminating thing to come to America and find her there. This was
more than the pliancy of the man of the world. It seemed to her the
spontaneous tribute of a sincere and lofty mind. As for her, she was
abounding in a tremulous satisfaction.

"You have not been in America for a long time," she was saying.

"Not for years. I have been too busy to come."

"You are needed over there."

She glowed the more, and he looked upon her kindly as a handsome young
woman whose enthusiasm became her.

He smiled and shook his head.

"I don't know whether they wanted me so much. I needed them."

"Your brothers, you mean. The units that make your brotherhood."

She was quoting from his last reported speech, and her spirits rose as
she felt how glad she was to have been ready. It seemed to her that
there were so many things she had to say at once that they would come
tumultuously. MacLeod, when his position was assured, was quite willing
to let the disciple talk. It was only over ground not yet tilled that
his eloquence fell like rain. And Electra, leaning toward him in a
brilliant, even a timid expectation, was saying,--

"Tell me about Russia. What do you foresee?"

A reporter had asked him the same question a few hours before, and the
answer would be in the evening paper. He smiled at her, and spread out
his hands in a disclaiming gesture.

"You know what I foresee. You know what you foresee yourself. It is the
same thing."

"Yes," said Electra, "it is the same thing."

But there were times when MacLeod wanted to escape from posturing, even
though it brought him adulation.

"I haven't apologized for breaking in on you like this," he said, with
his engaging smile. "They told me at Grant's that I should probably find
him over here, in the garden. The next house they said. This is the next
house?"

"Oh, yes," returned Electra. "He has not been here, but I will send for
him. He shall come to luncheon. You must stay."

"Shall I?" He was all good-nature, all readiness and adaptability.
Electra excused herself to give the maid an order, and while she stood
in the hall, talking to the woman, temptation came upon her. Yet it was
not temptation, she told herself. This was the obvious thing to do.

"Tell Mr. Grant I wish him particularly to come to luncheon," she said,
"and to bring"--she hesitated at the name and shirked it, "and to bring
the young lady,--the lady who is staying there."

Then she returned to MacLeod. But she was not altogether at ease.
Electra was accustomed to examine her motives, and she had the
disquieting certainty that, this time, though they would do for the
literal eye, they had not been entirely pure. Still, was it her fault if
Rose, confronted by the newcomer, proved unprepared and showed what was
fragile in her testimony? But she was not to be thrown off the scent of
public affairs.

"Talk about Russia," she entreated. She had never felt so spontaneously
at ease with any one.

MacLeod was used to making that impression, and he smiled on her the
more kindly, seeing how the old charm worked.

"I'd rather talk about America," he said, "about this place of yours.
It's a bully place."

Electra was devoted to academic language, and to her certainty that all
great souls expressed themselves in it. She winced a little but
recovered herself when he asked with a new conversational seriousness,
"and how is my friend Grant?"

"Well." She found some difficulty in answering more fully, because it
somehow became apparent to her that he had not really placed her. Peter
was his only clue in the town. It hardly looked as if he expected to
find a daughter here.

"Is he painting?" MacLeod went on.

Electra frowned a little. Peter was doing nothing but idling, she
suspected, up to yesterday, and then, driving past, she had caught a
glimpse of him in the garden before a canvas and of Rose lying before
him in her long chair. That had given her a keener, a more bitter
curiosity than she was prepared for in herself. She had shrunk back a
little from it, timid before the suspicion that she might like Peter
more tempestuously and unreasonably than was consonant with
self-mastery. But while these thoughts ran through her head she gazed at
MacLeod with her clear eyes and answered,--

"I fancy he looks upon this as his vacation. He must have worked very
hard in Paris."

MacLeod entered into that with fluency. Peter must have worked hard, he
owned, but that was in the days before they met. When they met, Peter's
talent was at its blossoming point. It was more than talent. It was
genius, it was so free, so strong, so unconsidered. He implied that
Peter had everything that belonged to a fortunate youth.

Electra's eyes glowed. Here was some one to justify her choice. The
newspapers had done it, but she had not yet heard Peter's praises from
the mouth of man.

"You have had an enormous influence over him," she ventured.

He deprecated that.

"He has an enormous affection for me, if you like," he owned, "but
influence! My dear young lady, I couldn't influence a nature like that.
I'm nowhere beside it. All I could hope for is that it would think some
of the things I think, feel some of the things I feel. Then we could get
on together."

Billy Stark, coming in at the door, thought that sounded like poppycock,
but Electra knew it was the wisdom of the chosen. She rose and indicated
Billy.

"You know Mr. Stark?"

The two men recurred humorously to their meeting in the garden, and
owned their willingness to continue the acquaintance. At the moment
there were steps and MacLeod turned to see Rose coming into the room.
Electra's heart beat thickly. She felt choked by it. And there was, she
could not help owning, a distinct drop of disappointment when MacLeod,
with an exclamation of delighted wonder, went forward and kissed Rose on
the cheek. Then he kept her hand while he gave the other one to Peter,
and regarded them both with expansive kindliness. Rose was the one who
had blenched under the ordeal. Yet she had herself immediately in hand.
She let her fingers stay in MacLeod's grasp. She looked at him, not
affectionately nor in pride, but with a sad steadfastness, as if he were
one of the monumental difficulties of life, not to be ignored. Peter was
ecstasy itself.

"How did you get here?" he was insisting. "How did you know I might be
over here? You hadn't met Electra."

Then the stranger dropped the hands he held and turned to her.

"I haven't met her yet," he said, with a humorous consideration that
stirred her heart. "Is this Electra?" He put out his hand, and she laid
hers in the waiting palm. She felt bound to something by the magnetic
grasp. The certainty was not weakened by any knowledge that other men
and women felt the same.

Madam Fulton came in then. She had removed the traces of past emotion,
but with the red still burning in her cheeks she looked very pretty.
MacLeod greeted her with an extreme deference, which presently slipped
into the ordinary courtesy of man to woman as he found she had no desire
to exact any special consideration. They went out to luncheon with that
air of accelerated life which contributes to the success of an occasion,
and then MacLeod talked. Rose sat silent, looking on with a sad
indifference, as at a scene she had witnessed many times before, to no
good end, and Madam Fulton listened rather satirically. But Electra and
Peter glowed and could hardly eat, and MacLeod addressed himself chiefly
to them. Now he did exactly what was expected of him. The brotherhood of
man was his theme, and it was no mere effusion of sympathetic
propaganda. His memory was his immense storehouse behind emotion, his
armory. He could mobilize facts and statistics until the ordinary mind
owned itself cowed by them. When they rose from the table, the
millennium was imminent, and it had been brought by the sword. At the
library door, Peter, beside Electra for an instant, irrepressibly seized
her hand, as it hung by her side, and gave it passionate pressure.
Instantly she looked at him, responsive. The sympathy they lacked in
their personal relation sprang to life under MacLeod's trumpeting.
Electra was in a glow, and Peter, with a surprised delight, felt all his
old allegiance to his imperial lady.

MacLeod would not sit down.

"I must catch my train," he said.

There was outcry at once from two quarters. He was not to return to the
city. He was to stay here, Peter declared. It was absurd, it was
unthinkable that he should do anything else. MacLeod took it with a
friendly smile and the air of deprecating such undeserved cordiality;
but he looked at Electra, who was frankly beseeching him from brilliant
eyes. It was settled finally that he should go back to his hotel for a
day or two, see some newspaper men and meet a few public engagements,
and then return for a little stay.

"Get your hat," he said to Rose, in affectionate suggestion, "and walk
with me to the station."

And as it became apparent that father and daughter had had no time for
intimate talk, they were allowed to go away together, Peter following
them with impetuous stammering adjurations to MacLeod to rattle through
his business and come back. When they were out upon the highroad,
MacLeod turned to Rose.

"Well," he said, "you don't look very fit."

Rose had one of her frequent impulses to tell him the crude truth: to
say now, "I did until you came." But she answered indifferently,--

"I'm very well."

They walked along in silence for a moment, and she felt the return of
old aches, old miseries he always summoned for her. In the first moment
of seeing him, she always recurred to the other days when to be with him
was to be in heaven. Nobody ever had so blest a time as she in the
simple charm of his good-will. No matter what she was doing, for him to
call her, to hold out a finger, had been enough. She would forsake the
world and run, and she never remembered the world again until he loosed
the spell. It was broken now, she thought, effectively, but still at
these first moments her heart yearned back to the old playgrounds, the
old lure.

"What did she call you," he was asking--"Madam Fulton? Mrs. Tom?"

"Yes," said Rose, with a quiet bitterness, "Mrs. Tom."

"Have they accepted you?"

She raised her eyebrows and looked at him.

"You heard," she answered.

"Extraordinary people! Who is Electra? I couldn't call her anything.
Everybody was saying Electra."

"She is Madam Fulton's granddaughter. She and Peter are engaged."

"Ah! I'd forgotten that. I rather fancied it was you--with Peter."

She summoned the resolution to meet him bluntly.

"Don't do that, please. Don't assume anything of the sort about me."

He went on with unbroken good humor. She had never seen him angry, but
the possibility of it, some hidden force suspected in him, quelled her,
of late, when she considered the likelihood of rousing it.

"No, of course not," he said, with his habitual geniality. "Why aren't
you staying with them?"

She temporized, only from the general certainty that it was unsafe for
him to know too much.

"Peter asked me to stay there. His grandmother is very kind. I like
her."

"Ah! Have these people money?"

"What people?"

"Electra. Tom's family in general."

"I don't know."

"They must have. They have the air. Will they do anything for you?"

Her face contracted. The look of youth had fled and left her haggard.

"I have not accepted anything."

"Have they offered it?"

"No."

"There! you see! No doubt they will."

"Why did you come over here?" she cried irrepressibly.

But he ignored the question.

"The prince is much disturbed about you," he volunteered, throwing it
into the talk as if it were of no particular validity, but only
interesting as one chose to take it.

"Ah! that's why you came!"

"I saw him two weeks ago, in Milan. He was greatly troubled. I had to
own that you had left Paris without seeing me, without even telling me
your whereabouts."

"Then--" said Rose.

She knew what else had happened. The prince had urged, "Go over to
America. Influence her. Bring her back with you." But this she did not
say. The unbroken cordiality of his attitude always made his best
defense. If she had ever known harshness from him, she might brave it
again. But many forces between them were as yet unmeasured. She did not
dare.

"You must remember," he said, with the air of talking over reasonably
something to which he was not even persuading her, "the prince is
exceptionally placed. He could give you a certain position."

"I have a certain position now. Don't forget that, will you?" She seemed
to speak from an extremity of distaste.

"He offers a private marriage. He is not likely to set it aside; the
elder line is quite assured, so far as anything can be in this world.
Besides"--he looked at her winningly--"you believe in love. He loves
you."

"I did believe in it," she said haltingly, as if the words were
difficult. "I should find it hard now to tell what I believe."

"Well!" He took off his hat to invite the summer breeze. It stirred the
hair above his noble forehead, and Rose, in a sickness at old affection
dead, knew, without glancing at him, how he looked, and marveled that
any one so admirably made could seem to her so persistently ranged with
evil forces. Yet, she reflected, it was only because he arrogated power
to himself. He put his hands upon the wheels of life and jarred them.

"Well! I believe in it. Isn't that enough for you?"

"Not now, not now!" She had to answer, though it might provoke stern
issues. "Once it would have been. There is nothing you could have told
me that I would not have believed. But you delivered me over to the
snare of the fowler." Grandmother had read those words in her morning
chapter, and they had stayed in her ears as meaning precisely this
thing. He had known that it was a snare, and he had cast her into it.
She turned her moved face upon him. "We mustn't talk about these things.
Nobody knows where it will end. And you mustn't talk to me about the
prince."

"If it doesn't mean anything to you, wouldn't it move you if I told you
it meant something to me?"

"What?"

"It would mean a great deal if you formed an alliance there."

She answered bitterly.

"You are humorous. Alliance! An alliance is for princes. There are other
words for these things you propose. I try not to think what they are. I
dare say I don't know all of them. But there are words."

"It would make me solid with the prince. He would get several
concessions from his brother. They would be slight, but they would mean
a great deal to the Brotherhood."

"I see. You would pull a wire or two in Germany. In Russia, too,
perhaps? You think you would disarm suspicion, if the prince stood by
you. Maybe you'd get into Russia, even. Is that it? It would be dramatic
to get into Russia after you'd been warned."

She was following his mind along, as she often did, creeping with
doubtful steps where he had taken wing. "But still!" She looked at him,
smiling rather wistfully. "Still, you wouldn't throw me to the wolves
for that, would you?"

He met her look with one as candid, and little as she believed in the
accompanying smile, she felt her heart warmed by it. Now he was gazing
about him at the summer prospect.

"I am delighted to find you here," he volunteered. "It's a change. It
will do you good--do us both good."

"Are you quite well?" She hesitated slightly in asking that, but he
turned upon her as if the words had given him a shock of terror or
dismay. In her surprise she even fancied he paled a little.

"What makes you ask that?" he cried. "What do you mean by it?"

"Why, I don't know! You look well, but not quite yourself,
perhaps,--somehow different."

MacLeod took off his hat and wiped his forehead beaded with a moisture
come on it, he knew, at that moment.

"I should like to ask," he said peevishly, "what in the devil you mean.
Have you--heard anything?"

"No," said Rose, entirely amazed. "What is there to hear?"

They had reached the station, and she led him to the bench under a tree
where lovers and their lasses assembled at dusk to see the train come
in. She sat down, dispirited and still wondering, and he stood before
her, all strength, now, and candor, as if he had thrown off his dubious
mood and resolved to be himself.

"About the prince," he was saying. "I want you to think of him. He would
give you experiences such as I never could. You'd live on velvet. You'd
have art, music, a thousand things. He likes your voice. He'd insist on
fostering that. You would meet men of rank, men of note--"

She interrupted him.

"Men of rank! I've no doubt of it. How about their wives?"

He shook his head. A look of what seemed noble pain was on his face,
impatience at the shallowness of things.

"Rose," he said, "you know how little I respect society as it is. Take
out of it what good you can, the play of emotion, the charm, the
inspiration. Don't undervalue the structure, my dear. Live, in spite of
it."

She looked at him wearily and thought how handsome he was, and that
these were platitudes. Then his train came, and he left her with a
benedictory grace, standing on the step hat in hand, majestic in his
courtesy. But as she watched him, suddenly, an instant before the train
was starting she saw him yield and sway. He leaned upon the rail with
both hands and then, as if by a quick decision, stepped to the platform
again. She hurried to him, and found him with an unfamiliar look on his
face. It might have been dread anticipation; it was surely pain.

"What is it?" she asked him. "Tell me."

He did not answer, but involuntarily he stretched out his hand to her.

"Rub it," he said. "Hold it tight. Infernal! oh, infernal!"

As she rubbed the hand he suddenly recovered his old manner. The color
came back to his face, and he breathed in a deep relief.

"That's over," he said, almost recklessly, she thought. "Queer how quick
it goes!"

"What is it?" She was trembling. It seemed to her that they had each
passed through some mysterious crisis.

"Is there another train to town?" he was asking an official, who had
kept a curious eye on him. There would be in three minutes, an
accommodation crawling after the express he had lost.

"Good-by again," he called to Rose, with a weaker transcript of his
usual manner. "I'm to be down in a few days, you know. Good-by."

This time he walked into the car, and she saw him take his seat and lie
back against the window-casing. But he recovered himself and smiled,
when his eyes met hers. If anything was the matter, she was evidently
not to know.



XIV


As the two had walked away, Peter turned to Electra, stammering forth,--

"Isn't he a great old boy?"

He was tremendous, she owned, in language better chosen; and this new
community of feeling was restful to her.

"Come out into the garden," he said, and as they went along the path to
the grape arbor he took her hand and she left it to him. They seemed
restored to close relations, as if MacLeod had wrought some spell upon
them. By the time they reached the liquid greenness of the arbor light,
Peter was sure he loved her. He could turn to her quite passionately.

"Electra," he said, holding both her hands now, "I've missed you all
these days."

She smiled a little and that, with her glowing color, made her splendid.

"You have been here every day," she said, conceding him the grace of
having done his utmost.

"Yes, but it hasn't been right. There's been something between
us--something unexplained."

She knew, so she reflected, what that was. Rose had been between them.
But she listened with an attentive gravity.

"We must go back to Paris," Peter was urging. "I shall work there. We
will live simply and turn in everything to the Brotherhood. We must be
married--dear." He looked direct and manly, not boyish, now, and she
felt a sudden pride in him. "Electra, you'll go with me?"

She withdrew from him and sat down, indicating the other chair.

"Something very queer has happened," she said. "I must tell you about
it." It had just come to her again as it had been doing at moments
through the absorbing hour at luncheon, that she was in a difficult
place with grandmother, and that here was the one creature whom she had
the right to count upon. Rapidly she told him the facts of the case,
ending with her conclusion,--

"The house belongs to grandmother."

Peter was frowning comically. In his effort to think, he looked as if
the sun were in his eyes.

"I don't believe I understand," he said, and again she told him.

"You don't mean you are building all this on a casual sentence in a
book?" He frowned the harder.

Electra was breathing pleasure at the beauty of the case.

"It is not a casual sentence," she insisted. "It's an extract from a
letter."

Peter had no intimate acquaintance with the business of the world, but
he knew its elements. He regarded her with tenderness, as a woman
attractively ignorant of harsh details.

"But Electra, dear, that isn't legal. It doesn't have the slightest
bearing on what you should give or what she could exact from you--if she
were that kind."

"No," she said, "it isn't legal. But it is--ethical." She used the large
word with a sense of safety, loving the sound of it and conscious that
Peter would not choke her off.

"But it isn't that. You don't know how your grandfather wrote that
letter. He may have done it in a fit of temper, or malice, or
carelessness, or a dozen things, and forgotten it next day. A letter's
the idlest thing on earth. There's no reason for your considering it a
minute."

"I am bound to consider it," said Electra. "There it is, in black and
white. I shall make over the place to grandmother."

"Well!" Peter felt like whistling, and then unpursed his lips because,
according to Electra, whistling was not polite. He had no restrictions
relative to her giving away her property; but he felt very seriously
that she must not be allowed to indulge herself in any form of insanity,
however picturesque. A detail occurred to him, and he said quickly, with
a look at her,--

"But Electra, you and Tom inherited this place together."

She knew what was coming and her color deepened. Again Rose had stepped
between them, and Electra felt herself back in their old atmosphere of
constraint.

"I have inherited it from Tom," she rejoined.

"You ignore his wife?"

Electra was silent for a long time. It was a hard struggle. But she
spoke at last and in a tone which made the difficulty of speech
apparent.

"Since Mr. MacLeod has been here--"

"Well?"

"I must recognize her as his daughter."

"Didn't you believe that, Electra? Not even that?"

"I am forced to believe it now. When he comes back, I shall ask him to
corroborate her story. If he does--I shall be obliged to--give her what
is just."

"Not otherwise, Electra? You believe him."

"I believe him implicitly." Her tone rang out in an astonishing
assurance. She might have been pledging fealty to some adored intimate.

"You believe him. You would not believe me?"

She hedged a little here. "You gave me no proof--only the woman's word."

"Would you believe him without proof?"

She was silent, yet she knew she must.

"But," she said, with the haste of finishing an unwelcome subject, "I
shall settle the matter as soon as possible after he comes back. If he
tells me his daughter was married to my brother, she shall be paid every
cent she is entitled to. But she shall not share this house--not an inch
of it."

"Why not?"

Electra seemed to be carried on by a wave. Hurt pride found its
voice,--all the revulsion she had felt in these days of Peter's divided
allegiance.

"The house is ours. It belongs to the family. I shall make it over to
grandmother, but not to that girl. She shall never own a timber in it."

Peter spoke involuntarily, with an unpremeditated wonder:--

"What makes you hate her so?"

Tears came slowly into Electra's eyes. They surprised her as much as
they did him. She was not used to crying, and she held them from
falling, with a proud restraint. Electra felt very lonely at that moment
in a world which would not understand. She was upholding truth and
justice, and she was accused of mean personal motives. She had proposed
a picturesque sacrifice for the sake of abstract right, and she could
not be unconscious that the act ought to look rather beautiful. Yet
Peter saw no beauty in it, and grandmother had called her a fool. Peter,
seeing the tears, was enormously embarrassed by them. He could only kiss
her hand in great humility. He, on his part, put justice cheerfully
aside.

"How could I?" he murmured, with the contrition of the male who has
learned that tears are to be stanched without delay. "How could I?" But
Electra, on her feet, had drawn her hand away from him. She felt only
haste, haste to conclude her abnegation, perhaps even to forestall any
question of the house by getting the matter out of her hands before
MacLeod came back and she had to reckon with his testimony.

"I am not crying," she said proudly. "I must go and talk to grandmother.
Promise me this. Don't tell her"--she hesitated.

"Rose?"

"Don't tell her I have spoken of this."

She had gone, and Peter helplessly watched her walking up the path. Then
he took his own way home. "My stars!" he muttered from time to time. His
chief desire at the moment was to escape from anything so strenuous as
Electra's moral life. It made a general and warm-hearted obliquity the
only possible condition of conduct in a pretty world. Peter looked round
at it admiringly then, as the shadow of Electra's earnestness withdrew
into the distance. It was such a darling world, there were such dear
shadows and beguiling lights and all things adorable to paint. He cast
off the mood that teased him, and walking faster, began to whistle. It
seemed to him that there were so many agreeable deeds to do, and so much
time to do them in, that he must simply bestir himself to use half the
richness of things. But when he got into the garden, the honeysuckle
smelled so sweet that he sat down at its foot and breathed it until he
went to sleep.

Electra walked into the library, where Madam Fulton sat at her tatting
and Billy Stark read aloud to her from an idle book. Electra felt that
she could not possibly delay. All her affairs must be settled at once
and the ends knit up.

"I beg your pardon," she said. "Grandmother, may I speak to you a
moment?"

Madam Fulton laid down her work.

"Is it the same old story?" she inquired.

"Yes, grandmother. I don't feel that I can wait."

"Electra," said the old lady kindly, "I can't listen to you. It's all
fudge and nonsense. If we talk about it any more, we shall be insane
together. Don't go, Billy."

"I should like to put it before Mr. Stark," said Electra, with her clear
gaze upon him, as if she summoned him to some exalted testimony.

Billy stirred uneasily in his chair. He had confided to Florrie the
night before that Electra's hypothetical cases made him as nervous as
the devil. Madam Fulton cast him a comical look. It had begun to occur
to her that a ball, once rolling, is difficult to stop.

"Go ahead, then," she agreed. "I wash my hands of it. Billy, keep a
tight grip on yourself. You'll die a-laughing."

Then Electra stated her case; but Billy did not laugh. Like Peter, he
looked at her frowningly, and owned he did not understand. Electra
stated it again, and this time he repeated the proposition after her.
Madam Fulton sat in a composed aloofness and made no comment.

"But, my dear young lady," said Billy Stark, "you quite misunderstand.
An extract from a letter has no legal value compared with a document
signed and sealed in proper form."

"I know," said Electra, "not legal, but--" She was aware that Madam
Fulton's eye was upon her and she dared not finish. "It was at least my
grandfather's expressed wish," she concluded firmly. "I shall carry it
out."

"But--" Billy sought about for a simile, "my dear child,"--Electra, in
the weakness of her lofty reasoning, seemed to him pathetically to be
protected,--"don't you see you're putting yourself through all kinds of
discomfort for nothing, simply nothing? You've gone and got a big
sword--you call it justice--to cut a thread. Why, it's not even that.
There's nothing, absolutely nothing there. It's very admirable of
you"--Electra's waiting attitude quickened at this--"but it's
fantastic."

She spoke decisively.

"It is the thing to do."

Now Madam Fulton entered the field. She looked from one to the other, at
Electra with commiseration, at Billy in a community of regret over that
young intellect so dethroned.

"Now you see what I told you," she warned them. "Here we are, all crazy
together. We've let you say it, and we've addled our own brains
listening to it for a minute. I'll tell you what, Electra!" She had
discovered. "If you're so anxious to get rid of the place, I'll tell you
what I'll do. I'll buy it."

"Buy it, grandmother? what belongs to you already?"

"Don't say that again. It gives me a ringing in my ears. That's what
I'll do. You're going to marry Peter Grant and go abroad. I'll take the
place off your hands. I've always wanted it. I've made a shocking sum
out of my book, shocking. I can well afford it. There's an offer for
you!"

Electra shook her head.

"I couldn't," she said gently. "How could I sell you what is yours
already? The letter--"

"The letter!" repeated the old lady, as if it were an imprecation. She
looked at Billy. He returned the glance with a despairing immobility.
She reflected that the case must be worse even than she had thought,
since Billy had not smiled. Electra must be madder than she had
imagined, and her own culpability was the greater for weaving such a
coil. "Shall I tell her, Billy?" she asked faintly.

He nodded.

"I should," he said commiseratingly, and got up to leave the room. It
seemed to Billy this summer that he was constantly trying to escape
situations with a delicacy which was more than half cowardice, only to
be dragged back into the arena. The mandate he had expected promptly
came.

"Don't go, Billy," cried the old lady. "Sit down." Madam Fulton
continued, in a hesitating humility Electra had never seen in her,
"Electra, I don't believe you'll quite understand when I tell you
there's something queer about the letter. You see there never was any
letter. I--made it up."

The boot was on the other foot. All the values of the scene had shifted.
Now it was Electra who doubted the general sanity. Electra was smiling
at her.

"No, grandmother," she was saying, with a pretty air of chiding, "you
mustn't talk that way. You think that convinces me. It's very dear of
you, very dear and generous. But I know why you do it."

"Bless my sinful soul!" ejaculated the old lady. "Oh--you tell her,
Billy."

Billy shook his head. He was not going to be dragged as far as that. He
was sorry for her, but she had had her whistle and she must pay for it.
The old lady was beginning again in a weak voice,--

"You see, Electra, that book isn't what you think. It isn't what anybody
thinks. I--I made it up."

Electra was about to speak, but her grandmother forestalled her.

"Don't you go and offer me wine. You get it into your head once and for
all that I'm telling you a fact and that you've got to believe it. I
made up my book of recollections. They're not true, not one of them. As
I remember, there isn't one. The letters I wrote myself."

Electra was staring at her in a neutrality which was not even wonder.

Finally she spoke; her awed voice trembled.

"The Brook Farm letters!"

Perhaps it was this reverent hesitation which restored Madam Fulton to
something of her wonted state.

"For heaven's sake, Electra," she fulminated, "what is there so sacred
about Brook Farm? If anybody is going to make up letters from anywhere,
why shouldn't it be from there?"

Electra was looking at Billy Stark as if she bade him save her from
these shocks or tell her the whole world was rocking. But Billy twirled
his eyeglass, and watched it twirling. Finally he had to meet her eye.

"Yes," he said, with a composure he did not feel, "the book is
apparently not quite straight--a kind of joke, in fact."

Electra rose. She looked very thoughtful and also, Madam Fulton thought,
with a quaking at her guilty heart, rather terrible. She was pinched at
the nostrils and white about the lips.

"What I must do first," she was saying, as if to herself, "is to notify
the club we cannot possibly have our inquiry afternoon."

"Notify them!" repeated Madam Fulton, in a spasm of fearful admiration.
"Are you going to tell all those women?"

Electra included her in that absent glance. Now that there were things
to arrange, dates to cancel, topics to consider, she was on her own
ground. She spoke with dignity:--

"I shall most certainly tell nobody. A thing like that had better die as
soon as possible. I cannot"--she turned upon her grandmother, a look of
passionate interrogation on her face--"I cannot understand you."

Madam Fulton answered humbly, yet with some eagerness, as if Electra
might readily be excused from so stiff a task,

"You never would, Electra, not if you lived a hundred years."

Electra was the accuser now, age and kinship quite forgotten.

"Why did you do a thing like that?"

"For fun," said the old lady faintly.

"For fun!" The tree of sin grew and flowered as she thought upon it.
"You offered to buy this house with that money, unclean money from the
sales of that fraudulent book!"

Madam Fulton turned to Billy Stark with a childlike gesture of real
surprise.

"Is it unclean money, Billy?" she asked. "Do you call it that?"

"We mustn't go too far," Billy temporized, with a warning look at
Electra.

She was on the way to the door. There she paused.

"I do not fully understand it yet," she was saying. "It is monstrous. I
dare say I never shall understand it." Then they heard her rustling up
the stairs.

Madam Fulton and her old friend looked at each other. When a door closed
overhead, Billy's face relaxed and Madam Fulton put a hand over her
lips.

"Billy," said she weakly, "am I so bad?"

"You're a dear, Florrie. Don't you worry."

"But, Billy, is she right?"

"Oh, yes, my dear, she's right."

"I'm a shocking person, then!"

"Yes, you're truly shocking. But you're a dear, Florrie, you're a dear."



XV


And now it was night again and Rose hurried away to the tryst. She made
no doubt that she should find him there.

"Playmate!" she called.

"Here," answered the voice. "There's your chair. There's your throne."

She plunged into the thick of the confidence intended for him.

"He has come."

"I know it. Peter told me."

"It's all as bad as I thought. Playmate, I'm afraid I shall have to go
away."

"Can't you stand up to it?"

"I don't know. It's pretty bad."

"I guess it will have to come to your telling me about it."

"Yes. You see, the worst of it is, he wants to make me love somebody I
can't love."

"Peter?"

"No, no, not Peter. Not nice, like Peter."

"Could you love Peter?"

"Why should you ask me that? Peter belongs to Electra."

"Not so very much. Could you love him if he asked you to?"

"Oh, that's not fair, playmate!"

"Yes, it is, when the night's as dark as this and it's only you and me.
Could you love Peter?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"I want to know everything about you. Could you love Peter?"

For some reason, she felt constrained to use one of her small
obstinacies.

"I couldn't love any man when another woman stood between us."

"That's a good girl. Did you love your husband?"

"My husband!" She choked upon the word. "Tom Fulton! Did you know him?"

"Oh, yes, I knew him."

"Was it likely I loved him?"

He was considering, it seemed.

"Yes," he said then, "it's very likely. Tom was a handsome devil."

"But he was--a devil."

"A woman wouldn't know that, not at first."

"No. I didn't, at first."

"Who is this other man?"

"A prince."

"So you would be a princess."

"No, I should not be a princess." Her voice had a curious sound.

"What has your father to do with it?"

"Everything. The prince can advance him in certain ways. My father plays
for high stakes."

"Are you sure you don't want to be a princess?" The voice seemed to coax
her. "Even if you do want it very much," it seemed to say, "why not
relinquish it and stay here under the tree?"

"No," she said, "I don't want to be a princess, even if I could be. And
I don't want anything my father can offer me, or buy for me, or steal
for me."

"Then, playmate, when he comes back, you'll have to stand up to him
or--cut."

At that moment he saw before him the imagined picture of her face with
the tears upon it.

"It isn't easy," she was saying. "If you knew my father, you would see.
You can't withstand him, he looks so kind. You can't refuse him, because
he seems to want nothing but your good. You can't say you won't have a
splendid time with him, because you simply have it."

"Are you sure he is so bad?"

"I am sure," she answered gravely. "He is very bad. And it is not
because he wills to be bad. It is because he wills to have power, and as
if he were better fitted to have power than almost anybody--except that
he is not good. Why, do you know what power he has? He wears a ring, the
seal of the Brotherhood. Whatever order is stamped with that seal is
carried out, even if it is thousands of miles away. When Ivan Gorof
died"--she stopped, shuddering.

"What was that?"

"I can't tell you. It is too dreadful. He withstood my father. And when
he was found, they picked up in the chamber a bit of red wax on a shred
of paper--there was nothing else--but I know and we all know it was a
part of the seal that held the warrant they read to him--the
assassins--before he died."

"Did your father sentence him to death?"

"Who else? Sometimes I get thinking about it at night, and then it seems
to me as if all the people in the world had been delivered into his
hand. That is because I know I have grown to be afraid of him."

"Was he always cruel to you?"

"Oh, never! never in the world! When I was little, I traveled about with
him, and I had the best time a child ever had. I was fêted, and carried
on shoulders, and made much of because I was his daughter. Then I grew
up and it all--changed." Her voice fell. She remembered the snare of the
fowler, but that she could not tell him.

"Is he unkind to you now?"

"Never! it is unbroken kindness,--a benevolence, shall I call it? But it
terrifies me. For under it all is that unbending will. And I keep
hardening myself against it, and yet I know the time will come when he
will have his way, because he is stronger than I."

"You must not let him be stronger than you. The birch bends, but it can
resist."

"You don't know! If he were outwardly cruel, I could defy him. But he is
like the sun that nourishes and then burns. He seems to have such life
in himself, such great inborn power, no one can resist it. You almost
feel as if you were going against natural laws when you go against him;
and you know you'll be beaten because the laws are inevitable."

"That wasn't what you said of him that first night down in the shack."

"No! I scoffed at him then a little. He was so far away! Now I have been
near him again and I tremble."

"But as you picture him, he's all good, all benevolence. You could
convince a man like that."

"Never! He hasn't any soul. He is this great natural force that radiates
power."

"Power!" echoed Osmond. "No wonder he's drunk on it. I could go down on
my knees and worship it."

"Not such as his!"

"Such as anybody's, so long as it is power."

For the first time she began to comprehend his mortal hunger.

"Don't you go over to him, too," she said jealously. "Peter is under his
foot. So is Electra. If you go over, I shall be alone."

"I shall never go anywhere to leave you alone." Then, after a moment, he
continued, "So you are not sure whether the prince loves you?"

"He would call it that. It is not that to me."

"Of course he loves you!"

"Don't be too sure, playmate. I know the world. You know your garden."

"Then why does he want you?"

"It's a game. My father wants to buy him. He may want to buy my father.
Then maybe he wants the prestige of owning the woman with the most
beautiful hair in Europe."

"Is that your hair, playmate?"

"He says so."

"Well, a man might do worse than gamble for a thing like that."

"You amaze me." But he would not continue that, and presently she asked
him, "What have you been thinking about lately?"

"About you."

"When?"

"All day long while I was at work, and every night when I sat here and
you didn't come."

"Was it a happy thing to do?"

"Very happy."

"Even when I didn't come?"

"Even when you didn't come."

"Then it's just as nice to think about me as to talk to me?"

"Almost!" He said it quite cheerfully, and through her pique she had to
laugh.

"What do you think, playmate?"

"I make a world and I put you in it. Then I put myself in, too."

When he spoke like this, simply and even with a gay indifference, she
wondered whether the world was a pageant to him, which it cost him no
pains to relinquish, and whether, too, though he had great kindliness
and understanding, deep emotions were forbidden him. At least, since he
was impersonal and remote, she could ask him anything.

"What is your world? Is it like this?"

"It isn't my world. It's yours and mine. We go about in it, having a
bully time, and nobody looks at us or asks us questions."

"Don't they see us?"

"Oh, yes, I dare say. Only they don't stare after us and say, 'Why do
they do thus and so?' They don't even speak of your beautiful hair. I
talk about that myself, all the time, and you like to have me. But we
should both think it mighty queer if anybody else did."

"Do we speak to the other people?"

"Sometimes. If we want to. If you see a diamond or a sapphire, or I see
a new patent weeder, then we say, 'We want to buy that.' But we don't
have much time for other folks. We travel a lot. You tell me about
pictures and Alps and thrones and principalities, because I don't know
much except about grafting trees and sowing seed at the best time. But
always we come home here to the plantation because I find that's where I
feel most at peace. And you are at peace here, too. I am delighted when
I find that out."

"Be delighted now, then. I am at peace here, more than anywhere else."

"And when we are here, we live in our house. At first, I built a large
one up there on the hill, and I had you bring over pictures for it from
abroad, and I planted trees, and it was very grand. But I wasn't
contented there, and you weren't, because of it. You saw at once that my
shell had got to fit me, and the plain house did. So I kicked over the
big house, and we lived in the old one."

"With grannie?"

"Yes, only I didn't think very much about her. She was always there, I
suppose, like the sun through the windows, very kind and warm, and glad
we were contented; but it was our house. That's what makes the charm of
everything--that it's yours and mine. I couldn't sleep in the house
though. It had to be outdoors."

"Did I have my hammock swung in the upper veranda?"

He laughed out delightedly.

"How did you know? Yes, I slept down here or under the fir by the house,
but you were afraid of caterpillars and you had to be up there."

"I'm not afraid of anything else," she explained humbly. "Not of bears
or anything in the deep woods. But caterpillars crawl so!"

"However, it didn't make any difference where you were, because while we
were asleep it was just as it is while we are awake--there is a fine
thread that goes from me to you. There might be processions of people
between us, chariots and horses and marching armies, but they couldn't
break the thread."

"And what do we do all day?"

"Talk. Think. I think to you and you think back to me."

"But we must work. If we don't, you'll get tired of me." She spoke out
of sad knowledge.

"Why, playmate!"

The reproach in his voice recalled her, and she was ashamed to find her
belief less warm than his.

"Well," he conceded, "maybe we work. I go on grafting and sowing seeds
and sending things to market, and you sit on a stone and sing."

"Shall I sing to you now?"

"No, playmate. It makes me sad."

"I could sing happy songs."

"That wouldn't make any difference. When you sing, it wakens something
in me, some discontent, some longing bigger than I am, and that's not
pleasure. It is pain."

"Are you afraid of pain?"

He waited a long time. Then he asked her,--

"Have you ever known pain?"

"Yes. I thought my mind was going."

"But not pain of your body?"

"Oh, no, not that."

"The pain of the body is something to be afraid of. If we have it once,
we cringe when we see it coming. But your singing--can I tell you what
it wakens in me? No, for I don't know. Pain, the premonition of pain.
Something I must escape."

"Yet I was to sit by and sing to you while you were at work."

"Yes, but that would be when we were quite content." It was the first
wistful hint that things were lacking to him. He could not be contented;
yet, against reason, his manner told a different, braver story.

"You said," she began, "if armies came between us, they could not break
the little thread. Suppose I go away?"

"That wouldn't break it. Don't you suppose my thought can run to London
or Rome? It isn't worth much if it can't."

"Suppose I"--she stopped, appalled at herself for the thought, but
jealously anxious to be told.

"Suppose you marry the prince? That would be dreadful, because you don't
love him. But it wouldn't break the thread. It would muffle it, I guess.
We couldn't think back and forth on it. But it would be there."

Immediately it seemed to her that she had something even more precious
than she had guessed, something not to be imperiled.

"I must not do anything to muffle it," she said. "Either with the
prince--or any one."

"The only thing I'm afraid of," he went on, "is that you won't stand up
to your father. Why, you must, playmate, if you feel like that about
him."

She answered bitterly.

"I am afraid, I suppose."

Osmond spoke out sharply in the tone of a man who dismisses dreams.

"Don't be afraid. Stand up and fight."

Her pathetic voice recalled him.

"But think! You said you were afraid of pain. You ought to know what
fear is."

He answered slowly, and in what seemed almost exaltation,--

"I am afraid of pain; but when the time comes I shan't wait for it. I
shall go out to meet it."

"What do you mean?"

He seemed another creature, all steel and fire, not an impersonal thing
speaking out of the dark.

"Don't you know we all want something big, something bigger than we are
to fight and conquer? Before we leave this earth, we want to make our
mark on it, that shall not be washed away."

"Are you ambitious?"

"I don't know. I do know I mean to live--when I am free."

Alarm was quickening in her. He seemed to be withdrawing into dark halls
where she could not see to follow. He was building the house of his
heart, yet there were apparently other edifices, fortresses or dungeons,
it might be, where he walked alone.

"When you are free?" she insisted.

"When Pete has got his gait and I needn't back him. When grannie is
dead--dear grannie! Then I shall do my one free act."

She was so shaken that it seemed as if the night itself terrified her,
not he alone.

"Not"--she paused, and then whispered it. "Do you mean--to kill
yourself?"

He laughed.

"Not on your life! I am going to get all that's coming to me. But I am
going to get it in my own particular way."

"I cannot understand you."

"Of course you can't. But remember all of you have something to bring to
life. You give as well as take. You have your beauty and your voice.
Peter has his brush. Grannie has her mothering gift. That's better than
being a queen. There's power in it. Your prince has his inheritance. I
have had to look about and choose my gift. I chose it long ago."

"Is it something that makes you happy?"

"It made me wild when I discovered it, because I saw it was mine.
Nothing had ever been mine before. As it comes nearer and nearer, it
looks pretty grim to me. But it's mine, still. When men used to go out
to fight, they must have said a good many times, 'This is a nasty
situation, but it's my quarrel.' And this is mine."

She felt her loneliness. At once it seemed that she had not yet known
the real man. Their play at friendship, sympathy,--what was it?--had
been only play. Like all men, he could bring the woman a flower, a crown
even, "a rosy wreath," but the roses must wither while he chose his
sword. She could not speak.

"What is it, playmate?" he asked presently. It was the old kindly voice.

"I must go back. I'm cold."

"Cold! It's warm to-night."

"Good-night."

He followed her.

"I did it. I chilled you somehow. Forgive me."

She could not speak, and he was at her side.

"I know. There are things that can't be talked about. They sound like
twaddle. These things I've told you--they're well enough to think about.
They can't be said. You're disappointed in me!"

But it was not that he had told her too much; he had told her too
little. He had put her away from him.

"Good-night," she said again. "It's all right, playmate, truly."

His anxious voice came after her.

"It's not all right. I've muddled it."



XVI


Electra felt very much alone in a world of wrongdoers. To her mind moral
trespassing was a definite state of action fully recognized by the
persons concerned in it. She made no doubt that everybody was as well
able to classify obliquity as she was to do it for them. She had stated
times for sitting down and debating upon her own past deeds, though she
seldom found any flagrant fault in them. There was now and then an
inability to reach her highest standard; but she saw no crude
derelictions such as other people fell into. It was almost impossible
for her to think about grandmother at all, the old lady seemed to her so
naughty and so mad. Billy Stark, too, though he was a man of the world,
admirably equipped, was guilty of extreme bad taste or he could never
have asked Madam Fulton to marry him. Why was he calling her Florrie and
giving her foolish nosegays every morning? Rose and Peter, when it came
to them, seemed pledged to keeping up some wild fiction beneficial to
Rose; only Markham MacLeod was entirely right, and so powerful, too,
that his return must shake all the warring atoms into a harmonious
conformity with Electra and the moral law.

Moreover, she had the entire programme of the club meeting to
reconstruct. Nothing, she inexorably knew, would tempt her to allow for
a moment any further consideration of her grandmother's pernicious book.
Yet the club was to meet with her, the honorable secretary, and it had
no topic to whet its teeth upon. In her dilemma, she put on her hat and
walked over to inquire of Rose when her father was to return. MacLeod's
bubbling kindliness seemed to her so generous that she made no doubt he
would talk to them for an hour, or even allow her to give him a
reception.

Rose was in the garden, as usual, in the long chair, and Peter was
painting. Ostensibly he was painting her, but the mood escaped him and
he was blurring in a background. Electra remembered, as she went up the
path, that still nothing had been said to her about Peter's painting. He
might have been any sort of young 'prentice for all she heard about his
work; and here it was beginning incidentally, like an idle task, with no
reference to her. She had thought painting was something to be carried
on gravely, when one had reached Peter's eminence. There ought to be
talk of theories and emotions inspired by pictures in the inception, not
merely this prosaic business of sitting down to work and characterizing
beauties with a flippant jargon of words misused. "Very nice,"
"stunning"--that was what she had heard Peter say even of sunsets that
ought to have moved him to the skies. He had a delicate-fingered way of
touching everything, as if the creative process were a little one, of
small simplicities: not as if art were long.

When she appeared that morning, behind the hollyhocks, Rose was about to
spring up, and Peter did stand, expectant, with his charming smile.
Electra at once made proper disclaimers, and insisted that the sitter's
pose should not be broken and that it would be an immense entertainment
to see the work go on. Peter brought a chair out of the arbor, and she
sat down, erect and handsome, while Rose sank back into her
unconstrained reclining. Rose wore the simplest dress, and her slender
arms were bare. There were about her the signs of tasks abandoned, even
of pleasures dropped and not remembered--the book half closed upon her
finger, the rose and fan. Her great hat with its long feather lay beside
her on the ground, and Electra, justly appraising its picturesqueness
and value, thought, with brief distaste, that it looked as if it might
belong to an actress. She asked her question at once and Rose answered.
No, her father would not be here in time for the important meeting. She
had no doubt he would indeed have said more than a few words, since the
entertainment had fallen through. Here Electra interrupted her
delicately and challenged the use of that term for so serious an issue.
It could hardly be called an entertainment; they had simply been unable
to consider the topic fixed upon, and it was necessary to find a
substitute.

"Let me do something," said Rose, with her appealing grace. "I'll sing
for them."

That accounted for her again, Electra thought, the unconsidered ease,
perhaps the boldness. She belonged to public life; yet as such she might
well be taken into account.

"What do you sing?" she asked.

Rose forgot all about her picture and sat up, looking quite in earnest.
Peter held his brush reproachfully poised.

"I tell you what I can do," she said, after a moment's thinking. "I can
give a little talk on contemporary music--what they are doing in France,
in Germany. I can give some personal data about living musicians--things
they wouldn't mind. And I really sing very well. Peter, boy, tell the
lady I sing well."

"She sings adorably," said Peter. "She has a nightingale in her
throat:--

    "'Two larks and a thrush,
    All the birds in the bush.'

"You never heard anything more sympathetic. I never did."

The "Peter, boy," had spoiled it. Electra grew colder. She wished she
were able to be as easy as she liked; but she never could be, with other
people perpetually doing and saying things in such bad taste.

"The club is composed of ladies who know the best music," she heard
herself saying, and realized that it sounded like a child's copy-book.

Rose was still sitting upright, Peter patiently looking at her,
evidently wishing she would return to her pose, and yet quite as
evidently enriching his attention with this new aspect of her. She had
turned into a vivid and yet humble creature, intent on offering
something and having it accepted. The thought that she had something
Electra wanted seemed for the moment the next best thing to knowing that
Electra tendered her kinship and recognition.

"Please like me," her look begged for her. "Please tolerate me, at
least, and take what I have to give."

The end of it was that Electra did accept it, and that Peter's painting
was quite forgotten while Rose ran eagerly over the ground she could
cover. One moment of malice she did have. While Electra was hesitating,
she looked up at her with a curious little smile.

"You can introduce me," she said, "as you always have, as 'the daughter
of Markham MacLeod.' That will give your afternoon an added flavor."

Electra answered seriously, "Thank you," and resolved to do it. Madam
Fulton, she thought, would have the decency not to break the situation
by her intemperate "Mrs. Tom's." Electra had no experience of contrition
in her grandmother, but she could but feel that any woman who had done
what that old lady had might be trusted to observe the decencies for at
least a week thereafter.

"That was my public name," Rose added hastily, as if she had invalidated
her claim. "I sang for eight months or more as Rose MacLeod."

It was a new triumph for her, Electra realized when the day was over.
The ladies came down from the city and, in perfect weather, sat about on
the veranda and in the two front rooms, while Rose, at the piano, sang
to them and then gave them a charming talk. Electra, who could do no
creative work, could not take her eyes from the young creature, all
eager brilliancy and dressed in a perfect Paris gown. The dress, Electra
knew, was no finer than she herself could amply afford to buy in her own
country. Only it was worn with a grace, the air of a woman born to be
looked at, and used to fervid tributes. The other women, too, were
worshipers of notability, and Rose knew she had raised a wave of
admiration. To her, unused to the American woman's passion for new
things, it was a real tribute, something she could count upon to-morrow
after the epoch of to-day; and the afternoon left her exhilarated and
warm in momentary triumph. The women crowded about her with intemperate
comment and question. They wanted to know as much about her father as
they did about her. They were all eager to show their conversance with
the Brotherhood, its aims and potencies, and they were more than ready
to besiege her father and to entertain her. Some of them even wanted to
make dates for the coming autumn, and Rose found herself the recipient
of a score of visiting cards, all pointing to new alliances. She slipped
away before the afternoon was over, to spare Electra the pains of
thanking her, and going home, found Markham MacLeod at the gate.
Immediately her hopes died. She had forgotten the issues she had to
reckon with in him. From these no ladies' club could save her.

He was affection itself in greeting her.

"I have just come," he explained. "Peter is in town and Mrs. Grant is
taking her afternoon rest. Let us walk a little way."

"I haven't my hat," she demurred.

He looked at her sufficient parasol and took her hand, turning her
toward the road again.

"Come. We'll walk along to that grove. It is shady there. I want to see
you before we meet the others."

She yielded, and presently they stepped in at the bars to the field
where the grove invited. Under the trees she furled her parasol, and sat
down on a stone. She looked involuntarily toward the plantation, below
them to the west. There were the little clumps of nursery trees, the
green patches of seedlings, and, dotted through the working area, men
with backs bent over the rows. She wondered if Osmond were there, and
the thought gave her, if not courage, at least the defiance that answers
for it. MacLeod threw himself on the ground, and her eyes came back to
him. He looked so strong, so much a part of all living things, that he
seemed to her invincible. He spoke quite seriously, as if there were
matters between them to be gravely settled.

"I have been wondering about the bearing of these people toward you.
What explanation did you make when you came?"

"I made no explanation."

"What attitude did you take?"

"Peter introduced me to her. He went in advance, to tell her I was
coming."

"Electra?"

"Yes, Tom's sister."

"What did Peter tell her?"

"He told her I was her brother's wife."

"Ah! and she accepted you?"

"No, she has never accepted me."

"What!"

He glanced sharply up at her, and she met the look coldly. Her cheeks
were burning, but there was nothing willingly responsive in her face.
She repeated it: "Peter told her Tom had married me. I have reason to
think she told him she did not believe it."

"Has Peter said that to you?"

"No, but I think so."

"Did she send for you, to go to see her?"

"No, I went without it."

"Now, how did she receive you?" His voice betrayed an amiable curiosity.
He might have been interested merely in the vagaries of human nature,
and particularly because Electra, as a handsome, willful creature, had
paces to be noted. Rose laughed a little, in a way that jarred on him.
He liked mirth to sound like mirth.

"She was civil to me. But she has never once given me Tom's name, nor
has she allowed me to introduce myself by it."

"The old lady used it."

"That was because I followed an impulse one day and told her. She
followed an impulse and used it. She is a naughty old lady."

"Ah!" He considered for a moment. "If she did believe you, is it your
impression she would expect you to--inherit?"

"I wouldn't have it." Her face quivered all over. "I never thought of
that for a moment. Can't you see why I came? I was beside myself in
Paris. There were you, hurrying back from the East and bringing--him."

"The prince?"

"You had written me he would come with you. When he saw me again, you
said, he would not take 'no.' Peter was going home. Kind Peter! He said,
'Why don't you come with me?' He said Electra was beautiful, quite the
most beautiful person in the world. I thought she would receive me. I
could tell another woman--and so kind!--everything, and I could settle
down for a little among simple people and get rested before--" She
stopped, and he knew what she had meant to say: "Before you and your
prince began pursuing me again."

But he did not answer that. It was a part of his large kindliness never
to perpetuate harsh conclusions, even by accepting them.

"I shall go to see your Electra at once," he said.

She raised a forbidding hand.

"Do nothing of the kind. I insist on that."

But he was again reflecting.

"That puzzles me," he said at last; "that she should receive you at all
if she does not believe you. Why?"

She looked at him steadfastly for a moment, a satirical smile coming on
her face. These emotions he was awakening in her made her an older
woman.

"I really believe you don't know," she said at length.

"Certainly I don't know."

"Why, it's you!" He stared at her. It was, she saw, an honest wonder.
"She adores you. They all do, all her ladies. They meet and talk over
things, and you are the biggest thing of all. I am the daughter of
Markham MacLeod. That is what she calls me."

"I see." He mused again. "I must go over there to-night."

"No! no! no!" It was an ascending scale of entreaty, but he did not
regard it. He got up and offered her his hand.

"Come," he said. "Peter will be back. By the way," he added, as she
followed him laggingly, "does Peter know why you came to America?"

"Peter thought it the most natural thing in the world to wish to be with
Tom's relations."

"You haven't told him about the prince?"

"I have been entirely loyal to you--with Peter. Don't be afraid. He,
too, adores you."

They walked on in silence. At the house they found grannie, now in her
afternoon muslin, cheerfully ready for a new guest, and Peter in extreme
delight at seeing him.

Markham MacLeod, once in his own room, sat down and stretched his legs
before him. As he ruminated, his face fell into lines. Nobody ever saw
them,--even he,--because in public, and before his glass, he had a way
of plumping himself into cheerfulness. His tortuous thoughts were for
his inmost mind. Whatever he planned, no one knew he was planning; only
his results came to him in the eye of the world.



XVII


After supper, which had been, grannie thought, a brilliant occasion,
MacLeod took his hat and said to Peter, with an air of proposing the
simplest possible thing,--

"I am going over to pay my respects to your neighbor."

Peter stared frankly.

"She was so kind as to invite me to luncheon, you know," MacLeod
explained from the doorway. "I want to call at once."

"I'll go with you," said Peter.

"No, no! It's a first occasion. She'll want to catechise me, and you've
heard all the answers. I rather depend on her putting straight
questions."

It was not the custom to wonder at MacLeod. Whatever he did bore the
stamp of privilege. He was "the chief." So he walked away through the
summer dusk, and Peter and Rose, on the veranda, talked Paris while
grannie listened, in a pleasant daze, not always sure, through age's
necromancy, whether all the movement and action of their tone and
subject belonged to the reality they knew, or to her own dream of a land
she never saw.

Electra, the lights turned low, was sitting at the piano, nursing her
discontent. She could hear the murmur of Madam Fulton's voice from the
next room, broken by pauses when the old lady waited for Billy Stark to
laugh. It all made Electra feel very much alone. Perhaps she had gone to
the piano in a tacit emulation of the mastery Rose had shown, to see if,
by a happy miracle, she also could bring to birth some of those magical
things she never knew she felt until she heard others expressing them.
But when she struck a chord, it was no richer and no more responsive
than she remembered it in her old practicing days. Then she tried
singing a little:--

     "'Drink to me only with thine eyes.'"

And all the time she was recalling the liquid flow of another voice, its
restrained fervor and dying falls. A thing so beautiful as this song, so
simple, had its root, she began dimly to feel, not in happy love but in
despair, and as it often happened with her, she seemed to be timidly
reaching out chilled fingers toward emotions she feared because they
were so unrestrained, and yet which had to be reckoned with because the
famous people made them of such account; they were like the earth where
all creative power has life.

Electra had given carefully apportioned time to music. She knew
something of harmony, in a painstaking way; but at this moment she felt
more than ever outside the house of song. She was always having these
experiences, always finding herself face to face with artists of various
sorts, men and women who, without effort, as it seemed, could coax trees
out of the ground and make them blossom before your eyes. And sometimes
she had this breathless feeling that the incredible might happen and
she, too, might do some of these amazing things. Often, it seemed to
her, she was very near it. The turning of a key in the lock, a wind
driving through vapor, and she might be on the stage of the world, no
longer wondering but making others wonder. These were real hungers. She
wanted great acknowledged supremacies, and her own neat ways of action
had to end ingloriously.

And at the moment MacLeod came up the steps, without hesitation she went
to meet him. Any one that night might have been a messenger from the
richer world she coveted. She saw him there smiling at her in the dim
hall light, and the old feeling came back that she had known him before
and waited for him a long time. They had touched hands and he had gone
with her to the sitting-room before she realized that such silent
meetings were not the ordinary ones.

"Did Peter come with you?" she asked unnecessarily.

"No. He wanted to."

"I am glad to see you!"

MacLeod spared no time.

"You have been very kind," he said, "to my little girl."

Rose, as any sort of little girl, implied an incredible diminishing; but
the phrase served in the interest of conversational ease. Electra's eyes
were on him, absorbed and earnest. There was nothing she believed in so
much, at that moment, as the clarity of MacLeod's mind and heart. It
seemed belittling him even to withdraw into the coverts of ordinary
talk, and, if she wanted his testimony, to surprise it out of him by
stale devices. She was worshiping the truth very hard, and there was no
effort in putting her question crudely:--

"Mr. MacLeod, was your daughter married to my brother?"

He met her gaze with the assurance she had expected. It seemed noble to
her. At last, Electra reflected with a throb of pride, she was on the
heights in worthy company.

"Yes," he said, not hesitating, "she was his wife."

Electra drew a long breath.

"Then," she answered, "I shall know what to do."

He bent toward her an embracing look. It promised her a great deal:
comprehension, sympathy, almost a kind of love.

"What shall you do?" he asked.

Electra choked a little. Her throat hurt her, not at the loss of what
she was going to relinquish, but at the greatness of sacrifice with
somebody by to take cognizance of the act. He would not, like Madam
Fulton, call her a fool. He might even see where the action placed her,
on ground he also had a right to, from other deeds as noble.

"I supposed I had inherited my brother's property," she said, in a low
and penetrating voice. "I shall make it over to her."

MacLeod put out his hand, and she laid hers within it. When he spoke, it
was with a moved restraint.

"That is a good deal to do."

"It is incumbent on me--ethically." At that instant she had a throb of
high triumph in remembering that he, at least, would not gird at her
choice of terms.

"It is what you would do," he said warmly. "It is exactly what you would
do."

"I cannot do otherwise."

They seemed to be engaged in antiphonal praises of abstract right. It
gave Electra a solemn satisfaction. She could hardly leave the subject.
"I wish to do everything in my power," she announced. "I cannot ask her
to live here, because I may not be here long myself."

"You will marry Peter and go away!"

Electra felt her face growing warm in the dusk, and an unreasonable
vexation possessed her against any one who should have mapped out her
purposes and given him the chart. He might know her. He was evidently
destined to, she intemperately thought, better than any one else, but
she could herself induct him into the paths of intimacy. There was no
pleasure in feeling that he was bound to prejudge her through cognizance
of this other tie she had for the moment forgotten.

"Did Peter tell you that?" she asked.

"I'm afraid I guessed it."

His frankness put her back on their pleasant ground of intimacy; it even
brought them nearer.

"Why did you guess it?"

Here was foolish talk, she following upon the heels of his venture, as
if there were something in the very dust of his progress too precious to
be lost. But MacLeod, who cared nothing about inanities once their
purpose was served, whirled her away from further challenge and reply.

"You must come to Paris," he said; "with or without Peter, you must
come."

Her heart warmed and her voice trembled as she answered,--

"I should like it. I should like nothing better."

"You have been in Europe?"

"Oh, yes, for a year at a time. Three times in all."

"Lately?"

"No. The last time I was very young."

"You will see things with different eyes."

He seemed to be promising her something, in the fervor of his speech.
Some one had said of him once that, in talking to women, he always said
"you" as if it meant "you and I." It may not have been to women alone.
Young men felt that in the reconstruction of the earth it would not be
merely MacLeod who led the van, but MacLeod and each one of them.

"I should like," she dared, "to see the things you are doing. I should
like to know--the Brotherhood."

"You shall know it. There are as many women in it as men. When the
starving citizens marched up to Paris to ask King Louis for bread, the
women's voices were loudest, I fancy. There is no distinction in our
membership. Men and women serve alike."

"When could I join it?"

"Not too fast, dear lady." He was smiling at her. That warm tone of
personal consideration soothed her through the dusk. "It involves
hardship, the laying down of self. Are you ready for that?"

"I am ready," said Electra. Her heart beat high. At last life seemed
large enough and rich enough to satisfy her.

"Your entire allegiance and a tenth of your income," he went on. "Do not
pledge it unless you can keep the pledge."

"I promise. I pledge it, myself and all I have."

In her uplifted state, it seemed as if some spell had been laid upon
her, and she sought to recall her lost composure. The occasion, she
knew, was a very large one, and she must not, she earnestly thought,
deprive it of dignity. He rose.

"Stand up," he said; and she also was upon her feet, with a swift
compliance. "Give me your hand." She laid her hand in his. "Do you
believe in the Brotherhood of Man?"

To say "yes" was not enough. She repeated the words,--

"I believe in the Brotherhood of Man."

They stood so for a moment, and then he released her hand.

"That is all," he said.

Electra felt as if she had sworn allegiance not only to some unknown
majesty, but to him, and she was ineffably exalted. They two seemed to
be together in a world of wrong, pledged to right it, and taking the
highest delight in their joint ministrations.

"When do I"--she hesitated--"when do I pay in--money?"

"Twice a year," he answered cheerfully. "Peter will tell you those
things, if I am not here."

If he were not there! Her wings of pleasure drooped. It seemed as if he
were always to be there. And Peter! he looked like a small and callow
personage seen through the diminishing end of a glass, compared with
this great presence.

"I must go," he said, and Electra pulled herself out of her maze. "May I
tell my daughter you accept her?" He made it all very delicate and yet
prosaic, as if he quite understood Rose could hardly expect to be
received without difficulty, but as if Electra had made it magnificently
possible. Still she felt a little recoil.

"I can't talk about it," she faltered, "to her. I could to you. Let me
settle all the details, and my lawyer shall submit them to you. Would
that satisfy you?"

She spoke humbly, and Markham MacLeod, the chief of the Brotherhood,
bent over her hand and touched it with his lips. Then he was gone, and
Electra was left standing with that incredibly precious kiss upon her
hand. She was poor in imagination, but at the instant it flashed into
her mind that this was actually the touch of the coal red from the
altar.

Markham MacLeod, walking with long strides through the summer night,
drew in deep breaths, and delighted, for the moment, in the
voluptuousness of his own good health and the wonder that he had been
able to carry youth on into middle age. He had not been accustomed to
think about the past or what might come. It was enough to recognize the
harmonious interplay of his muscles and the daily stability of a body
which until now, and that briefly, had shown no sign of revolt. What
insurrection there was he meant to quell, and meantime to forget its
possibility, as a chief may, for the time, ignore rebellion. MacLeod was
plagued neither by unsatisfied desires nor by remorse. In his
philosophy, to live meant to feed upon the earth as it appeared to the
eye and to the other senses. He believed, without argument, that all the
hungers in him were good lusty henchmen demanding food. Now, in spite of
certain grim warnings he had had of late, he was filled with the old
buoyant feeling that his body was a well-to-do republic with his own
impartial self at the head of it. Justice should be done to all its
members that they might live in harmony. If discomforting forces
assailed the republic, they must be crushed. Some of these he might have
recognized as regrets, the sort of spectre that was ready to visit
Napoleon on a night after the campaign in Egypt. They were, he thought,
inseparable from great power and the necessities attending its
administration. But they were enemies of the republic, and he killed
them. So his voice was always hearty, his eye clear, and his cheek that
healthy red.

Peter he found in fits of laughter, and Rose mimicking certain
characters known to them in Paris. It was encouraging, he judged, to
find Rose out of her dumps. But she was only keeping Peter by her until
MacLeod should come and help detain him. Peter had said something in the
early evening about going down to find Osmond, who had of late, he
averred, been off at night on his deep wood prowls. "No," Rose wanted to
say,--and there would have been a choking triumph in her throat,--"he
has been in the playhouse waiting for me." And because she could not go
that night to the wide liberty of the fields, she would not have Peter
wandering off that way and hunting up her playmate, breaking spells and
spoiling wordless messages. MacLeod had not seen her so gay, not since
the days in Paris before she met Tom Fulton, when she had been one of a
changing wave of artist life, made up of students delirious with
possibilities and all bent toward the top notch of reputation. He joined
her and Peter now in precisely their own mood, his laugh and voice
reinforcing theirs. Rose warmed more and more. Not all her dreary
memories could keep her from delighting in him. He carried her along on
that high wave of splendid spirits, oblivious for the moment to all his
faults. Thus, she paused to remember again, it had been in her too-wise
childhood when, seeing her mother wan with tears, she had yet put her
little hand in his and gone off with him for an hour's pleasuring,
though he was the fount of grief as well as gayety. He compelled her,
the sheer physical health of him.

Peter rose finally, to give them a moment alone, and wandered off down
the garden, singing a light song and then whistling it farther and
farther into the dark. Something constricted the girl's throat. She
remembered, in the silence fallen between them, that she was alone with
the enemy of her peace, and felt again that old passionate regret that
he had not allowed her to keep the beauty of her belief in him. He had
swept away something she had thought to be indestructible. That, more
than any deed, was the wrong he had done--he had set his foot upon the
flower of hope. But MacLeod, his forehead bared to the night air, hummed
to himself the song Peter was singing, and then spoke with a commonplace
assurance:--

"She asked me the question."

"Electra?"

"Yes. She asked me plainly whether he married you."

"She asked you! How could she?"

"She did it without preamble. It was really rather magnificent."

"Did you answer without preamble?"

"I think so. At all events, it contented her. I said, 'yes,'--not much
more, if anything."

There was a long silence, and he felt her determination to remain
outside the issue, even to the extent of denying herself the further
news he brought. When that became apparent, he spoke again, rather
lightly:--

"She took my assurance without question. She said she should know what
to do."

"What will she do?"

"The simplest thing possible--make over Tom's money to you. She doesn't
consider, apparently, whether you are entitled to the whole of it, any
more than she had previously guessed that, if your claim were just, you
could have pushed it without her concurrence. She is a very intemperate
person."

Rose did not intend to comment on the situation, however warmly she
might express herself over Electra's personal standpoint.

"Electra did not strike me as intemperate," she said. "She seemed to me
very collected, very cold and resolute."

"Yes, but her reactions! they'd be something frightful. I can fancy that
pendulum swinging just as far the other way. They are terrifying, those
women."

"How are they terrifying?"

Governing the wild forces in herself at that minute, she felt as if all
women were terrifying when they are driven too far, and that all men
might well beware of them. MacLeod rose, and stretched himself upward in
a muscular abandon.

"Good-night, my dear," he said. "I'm going upstairs. I will see her
again to-morrow. You need give yourself no uneasiness about the outcome.
You needn't even concern yourself with the details. I shall arrange them
with her."

Rose was quickly upon her feet. She felt more his equal so than when he
towered above her at that height.

"If you see her," she threatened, "I will overturn everything."

"No, no, you wouldn't. Run upstairs now and go to bed. You are
overwrought. This whole thing has been a strain on you."

"Yes." She spoke rapidly and in a low tone, fearing grannie's window
above. "It has been a strain on me. But who brought it on? I did it
myself. I must meet it. But I will not have you meddling with it. I will
not."

"Not to-night, at least," said MacLeod, with unblemished kindliness.
"Don't do anything intemperate. But you won't. I know you too well."

After a good-night she could not answer he went in and up the stairs.
She could hear him humming to himself that gay little song. She stood
there quite still, as if she were in hiding from him and he might return
to find her. When the door closed above, she still stood there, her
nails clasped into her palms. And for the instant she was not thinking
of herself, but of Electra. It seemed to her that it would be necessary
to protect Electra from his charm. Then she heard Peter whistling back
again. She stepped down to the end of the veranda and stole across the
orchard into the field. The night was still, yet invisible forces seemed
to be whispering to one another. In the middle of the field she stopped,
tempted to call to Osmond, knowing he was there. But because it was
late, and because her thoughts were all a disordered and protesting
turmoil, she turned about and fled home.



XVIII


The next night Rose went early to her own room, and when she heard Peter
and MacLeod on the veranda, their voices continuing in a steady
interchange, she took her cloak, locked the chamber door behind her, and
ran downstairs and out by the long window to the garden, the orchard,
and the field. The night was dark and hot, and over in the south played
fitful lightnings. In spite of the heat, she wrapped her cloak about her
for an invisible shield: for now that MacLeod had come, she felt
strangely insecure, as if eyes were everywhere. It was apparent to her
that these meetings might be few, and as if this even might be the last;
so it must not be interrupted. When she was once in the field, the hush
of the night, the heat, and her own uneasy thoughts bewildered her. She
stopped in doubt. His voice assured her.

"This way, playmate."

"I am coming," she found herself answering, not once but twice, and
then, as she reached the seat he had ready for her, it came upon her
overwhelmingly that such gladness was of the scope and tumult to bear
two creatures to each other's arms, to mingle there, face to face and
breast to breast.

But the quick thought neither threw her back in shame upon herself nor
forward to his side. The night and the things of life together were too
great to admit of fine timidities or crude betrayals. It was not of so
much avail to consider what was done as whether the deed was true. She
sat down, in deep relief at finding herself near him.

"Playmate," she said, "things are very bad indeed."

"Are they, my dear playmate?"

Her breath came in a sob, his voice sounded so kind, so altogether
merciful of her, whatever she might do.

"Dreadful things are happening," she said.

"The prince?"

"Not the prince, this time. Worse things."

"Tell me, child."

She had ceased to be altogether his playmate. Deeper needs had called
out keener sympathies, and she found some comfort even in his altered
tone. She waited for a time, listening to the summer sounds, and vainly
wishing she had been a more fortunate woman, and that these sad steps
need not be retraced in retrospect before life could go on again.

"You will have to listen to a long story," she said at last. "And how am
I to tell you! Ask me questions."

"How far shall I go back?"

"To the beginning--to the beginning of my growing up. Before I met Tom
Fulton."

"When you meant to sing?"

"I did sing. But you mustn't think that was what I wanted. I never
wanted anything but love."

"Go on." To him, who, in his solitude, had never expected to find close
companionship, it was inconceivable that they should be there speaking
the unconsidered truth. She, too, who, in the world, had tasted the
likeness of happy intercourse, only to despair of it, had found a goal.
Here now was the real to which all the old promises had been leading.

"You must understand me," she said, in a low voice. "I'm going to tell
you the plain truth. How awful if you didn't understand!"

"I shall understand. Go on."

"I don't know how it is with other girls, but always I dreamed of love,
always after my first childhood. I thought of kings and queens, knights
and ladies. They walked in pairs and loved each other."

"What did you mean by love?"

"Each would die for the other. That was my understanding of it. I knew
the time would come some day when a beautiful young man would say to me,
'I would die for you,' and I should say to him, 'And I would die for
you.' It was a kind of dream. Maybe it would not have been, except that
I was never much of a child when I was a child. I had ecstatic times
with my father, but I was lonesome. The lover was to change that, when
he came."

"When did he come?"

"He came several times, but either he was too rough and he frightened
me, or too common and he repelled me, or--"

"And Tom Fulton came!"

"Yes, walking just the right way, neither too fast nor too slow, and all
chivalry and honor. Oh, my heart! my heart!" She was sobbing to herself.

There was a long pause.

"So you married him," Osmond reminded her.

"Osmond!" At last she had said his name. She knew it with her mind, but
how did her heart have it so ready? To him it seemed natural that she
should use it, until he thought of it next day. She continued in that
hurried voice that pleaded so, "I must make you see how I had thought of
those things always."

"What things, dear child?"

"Loving and being loved. It was like your plants, coming to flower.
There was to be one person who would give me a perfect devotion. There
would be music and dancing and bright weather, day after day, year after
year. That was coming to flower, like your plants."

"A rose in bloom!" he murmured.

"It was a kind of possession with me. I can't tell you what hold it took
on me. There were years when I tried not to have a wrong thought or do
an ugly act, so that I could be beautiful to him when he came."

"Behold, the bridegroom cometh!" mused the voice, in involuntary
comment, as if it responded to the man's own wondering mood.

"He came. He made himself irresistible to me. He knew my father first."

"Were they friends?"

"My father has no friends--not as you would understand it. He touches
people at one little point. They think they have everything; but it is
nothing. Still, they understood each other. My father sold me to him."

There was silence from the darkness under the tree; only she heard him
breathe.

"I was to blame, too," she cried. "But I did not see it then. I truly
did not see it. My father told me it was nobler and purer to go with my
lover so. Marriage, he said, had been profaned a million, million times.
Where was the sacrament, he asked, in a church that was all rotten? He
told me so, too--Tom Fulton. I went with him. I never married him." She
paused for the answering voice, but it delayed. The silence itself
constrained her to go on. "Do you know what Tom Fulton was?"

"He was a handsome beast."

"You never knew the half. But my father knew. He knew men. He knew Tom
Fulton. And he delivered me over to the snare of the fowler. I lived a
year with him. I left him. He had the accident, and I went back. He
died. I thanked God."

Osmond had not often, to his remembrance, formulated gratitude to any
great power, but he also said, "Thank God!" In a way he did not
understand, she seemed to him austere in her purity and her rebellion
against these bitter facts. There was no hesitation and no shame. She
had only wrong to remember, not willful sin. One thing he had to know.
He asked his question. "Was Fulton--kind to you?"

"At first. Not at the last."

"How was he--not kind?"

That, too, she was apparently thinking out.

"I can hardly tell you," she said at length. "He seemed to hate me."

"You!"

"I have seen the same thing twice, with other men and other women. You
see, it was a terrible blow to him--his vanity, his pride--to stop
loving me."

"I don't understand."

"You may not, ever. But he had had unworthy things in his life,
attachments, those that last a short time. When he cared for me, he
thought he cared tremendously. He believed it would last. But it didn't.
He had nothing left to give me."

"He had gambled it away!"

"I think it hurt his pride. He could only justify himself
unconsciously--it was all unconscious--by finding fault with me. By
proving I was not worthy to be loved. Do you see?"

"You are a strange woman to have guessed that. You must be very clever."

"No, oh, no! It was because I thought so hard about it. For a long time,
night after night, I thought of nothing else. When it died--what he
called love--I thought the world died, too."

"My dear good child!"

"When he was dead, what was I to do? I thought I should sing. But my
father was coming from the East with another suitor, the prince. The
prince had seen me here and there for a couple of years. I had always
been known as Madam Fulton. I called myself so at first, proudly,
honestly. Then other people called me so, and even when I had left him,
I let them do it. Peter stepped in then, honest Peter in his ignorance.
He wondered why I didn't come here to Tom's people. Electra was a kind
of goddess. I came. That is all." She paused.

Osmond spoke musingly.

"So you were not his wife! And Electra knew it."

"She did not know it."

"But she suspected it. She refused to own you."

"She suspected me because she knew Tom too well. I believe he had
shocked her and frightened her until his world was all evil to her.
There was another reason." This was a woman's reason, and she was
ashamed to have put her finger on it. Electra's proud possession of her
lover and her instant revolt at his new partisanship, what was it but
crude jealousy? Yet there were many things she could not even dimly
understand in Electra's striving and abortive life--the emulation that
reached so far and met the mists and vapors at the end. "But there was
one thing I did not want," Rose cried--"their money. I never thought of
it. I only thought how I might come here for a little and be at peace,
away from my father. Then when Electra hated me, I had to stay, I had to
fight it out. Why? I don't know. I had to. But now it's all different."

"How is it different?"

"Because she has accepted me."

"But you wanted her to accept you."

"Ah, yes, on my own word! I believe I had it in my mind to tell her the
next minute,--to throw myself on her mercy, the mercy of the goddess,
and beg her to see me as I was, all wrong, but innocent. It is innocent
to have meant no wrong. But when she met me like an enemy, I had to
fight."

"And now she has accepted you."

"Yes." The assent was bitter. "On my father's word."

"His word?"

"Yes. He stands by me. He confirms me. She asked him if I had been
married to her brother. 'Yes,' said my father."

"Why?"

"The money. Always that--money, position, a pressure here, a pull
there."

"Then"--his tone seemed to demand her actual meaning--"your case is won.
Electra owns you."

She was on her feet gripping the back of her chair with both hands. The
rough wood hurt her and she held it tighter.

"Range myself with him--my father? Sell myself in his company? No! When
I was fighting before, it was from bravado, pride, mean pride, the
necessity of the fight. But now, when he confirms me--no! no! no!"

"We must tell the truth," she heard Osmond murmuring to himself.

To her also it looked not only necessary but beautiful. There were many
things she wanted to say to him at that moment, and, as she suddenly
saw, they were all in condonation of herself. Yet the passionate justice
in her flamed higher as she remembered again that it was true that
others had marked out her way for her. When she walked in it, it had
been with an exalted sense that it was the one way to go.

"I cannot understand about the truth," she said. "I can't, even now."

"What about it?"

"Once it seemed as if there were different kinds. He told me so--my
father. He always said there was the higher truth, and that almost
nobody could understand. Then there were facts. What were facts? he
asked. Often worse than lies."

"I don't know," said Osmond. Whatever he might say, he was afraid of
hurting her. It seemed impossible to express himself without it. "Facts
are all I have had to do with."

She seemed like a bewildered creature flying about in a confined space.

"You wouldn't say what my father does," she concluded miserably. "You
wouldn't feel we have a right to the higher truth, if we feel great
desires, great hungers the world wouldn't understand?"

"I only know about facts," said Osmond again. "You see, I work in my
garden all day, nearly every day in the year. I know I must sow good
seed. I must nourish it. I know nature can't lie. I didn't suppose
things were so incomprehensible out in the world--or so hard."

"Haven't they been hard for you?"

"For me!" He caught his breath, and immediately she knew how the
question touched him. It was as monstrous as his fate. But he answered
immediately and with a gentleness without reproach,--

"Things are different for me in every way. But I should have thought you
would reign over them like a queen."

"A queen! I have been a slave all my life. I see it now. A slave to
other people's passions--Tom Fulton's cruelty, my father's greed."

"His greed for money? I don't always understand you when you speak of
him."

"For money, power, everything that makes up life. My father is one great
hunger. Give him the world and he would eat it up."

Images crowded upon her. It seemed to her that here in the silence, with
the spaces of the dark about her and that voice answering, her thought
was generated like the lightning.

"Do you see," she asked suddenly, "how I blame those two men, and not
myself? I am the sinner. The sinner ought to own his sin. I don't know
whether I have sinned or not. I believed in love, and because I believed
in it, those two men betrayed me. That was how I was taught not to
believe in anything."

"Don't you believe any more?"

"Oh, I don't know! I don't know!" It was a despairing cry. "There is
kindness, I know that. Peter is kind. Your grandmother is the kindest
person in the world. But that one thing I dreamed about--why, Osmond,
that one thing was the most beautiful thing God ever made."

"Tell me more about it."

"You have thought about it, too. We can't be so much alike, you and I,
and not have thought the same things."

"Are we alike?"

It was a wistful voice. She laughed, a little sorry laugh.

"Well," she said, "at least we are in our playhouse together."

"Ah!" He seemed to speak in spite of prudence. "That's not because we
are alike. It is because we are different." But he went on at once, as
if to keep her from interrogating that, or even perhaps remembering it.
"I have forbidden myself to think of some things. When they came upon
me, I went out and dug them into the ground."

She was filled that night with an imperative sense of life. It made her
forget even him and his claim to be heard. The great resolve in her to
be for once understood was like a crowning wave drenching the farthest
shore.

"I have never had enough of life," she avowed passionately. "I have
always had the appearance of it, the promise that the next minute the
cup would be given me. But the cup was never there. Or if it was, there
was muddy water in it. The lights have never been bright enough, the
music has never gone on long enough. Why!" She seemed frightened. "Is
that like my father? Do I get that from him?"

"It is because you are young," said Osmond. "And because you are
beautiful and the world ought to be yours--to put your foot on it."

The passion of his voice recalled her.

"No," she answered humbly. "Not to put my foot on anything. No! no! no!
Playmate," she added, "you are the dearest thing in all the world."

The voice laughed out harshly. The man was lying prone at full length
where she could not see him, his hands upon the earth he loved, his
fostering, yet unheeding mother that had saved his life for her own
service. At that moment, it seemed to him, his eye turned inward upon
himself, as if there were foolish irony in that friendly comment. He
looked to himself rather one of the earth forces, supremely strong,
waiting for some power to guide it.

"Elemental things are no good until they are harnessed and made to
work," he heard himself saying, as in a trance; and then it was apparent
she had not noticed, for she went on,--

"To be able to speak to any one as I speak to you! Playmate, it seems to
me men might as well kill a child as kill women's innocent faith in
love."

"But men love, too," he heard himself answering her.

"If I thought that! But when anything so beautiful turns into something
base, and the creature we worshiped laughs and says it is always so, he
kills something in us. And he can't bring it to life again. Neither he
nor any other man can make it live. It is a dream, and the thought of it
hurts us too much for us even to dream it over again.--What is that?"

Out of his web of pain he could only answer,--

"What, playmate?"

"Something sweet in the air."

That recalled him to his dear garden and the homely sanities that
awaited him. He sat up and brushed the wet hair from his forehead.

"It is the lily field," he said. "A wind has risen. The flowers have
been coming out to-day, and you get their scent." He laughed a little,
tenderly, as at a child. "You said you never had enough of anything. You
would have enough of them if you were there."

"Why should I?"

"The fragrance is so strong. You can make yourself drunk with it."

"Come, playmate! Take me there. Let us walk through them in the dark and
smell them."

"No!"

"Why not?"

"It isn't good for you." He spoke seriously. "I know all about the
preservatives of life, the medicines that keep us sane. I know we
mustn't go and smell strong lilies at ten o'clock at night. We must go
home and say our prayers and brush our hair and go to bed."

"Do you say your prayers?"

"Not exactly."

"But almost?"

"Well, since I have known you, I say something or other to the heathen
gods at night about making you safe and sleepy."

"The heathen gods?"

"Well, not precisely. Grannie's unknown God, I guess it is. Unknown to
me!"

"Why do you say we must brush our hair?"

He laughed a little, yet soberly.

"I read it in a novel, the other day. There were two young women talking
together while they brushed their hair. Then I thought of yours and how
it must hang down your back like a golden fleece."

"That's in Shakespeare."

"It's in me, too. A golden mane, then."

"Do you like novels?" Suddenly she had back her absorbing curiosity over
him.

"Not much. I haven't read many."

"Why?"

"It's best not. They make me discontented. Seed catalogues are better."

"But you are reading them now!"

"That's because you have come."

"What's that to do with it?"

"For the manners and customs. I want to know how young women behave."

"You know how Electra behaves."

"Electra behaves like a Puritan's god. If an early colonist had hewn him
a deity out of stone, it would be like Electra."

"Poor Electra!"

"Yes. You're far happier, all fire and frost."

"But why do you read novels to find out about me? Why don't you observe
me?"

"Because I don't see you in the light."

"But you will."

"Never!"

"Never, playmate? You hurt my feelings. What if we should meet face to
face in the lily field at twelve o'clock to-morrow?"

He answered sternly, and she believed him.

"I should never speak to you again. You must keep faith with me, or we
shall both be sorry."

"Why, of course!" Rose said it gently, as if she wondered at him. "Of
course I shall keep faith with you."

She heard him rising from his place.

"Now," he said, "you must go home."

"Why must I? The little side door is never locked."

"No, but you have been through a good deal. We must take care of you."

"I feel as if I had all the strength in the world. I could waste it and
waste it, and then have enough to waste again."

"It isn't altogether strength. It's fire--the fire of youth. Bank it up
and let it smoulder, or it will burn you up."

"How are you so wise, playmate? You are as wise as dear grannie."

He stretched up his hands in the darkness. The face he lifted to the
shrouded heavens only the unseen citizens of the night could see, the
beneficent powers that nurse and foster.

"It has been my study," he said, in a tone of awe, as if he had not
before thought how strange it is never to squander. "All these years I
have done nothing but think of my body, how to build up here, how to
husband there. So much exercise, so much sleep, so much turning away
from what burns up and tears. Well, I have done it. I have made myself
into something as solid as the ground, as enduring as the rocks."

"Has it been--easy?" she ventured. "Have you liked to do it?"

"No, I have not liked to do it." Afterwards, in her own room, she
thought of that question and understood the answer better. "I have never
lavished anything," he said. "As soon as I saw what grannie was about,
trying to give me a body to live in, I began to help her. We have done
it. Sometimes I think she did it sitting there in her chair and praying
to her God. I haven't done any spending. It has been all saving. But
when the time comes, I shall spend it all at once."

She felt very far away from him.

"How, playmate?" she asked timidly.

He roused himself. "Never mind," he said. "That's not for us to think
about to-night. Now run home, child, and go to bed."

"But we haven't decided about me. What must I do?"

He was silent for a moment and then he said,--

"A long time ago, grannie told me what to do. She said, 'Do the thing
you think God wishes you to do.'"

"But I don't know anything about God."

"Nor I, playmate. But I think very often about what grannie said."

"Have you tried to do it?"

"I have kept it in my mind."

It was her turn to brood in silence. Then she said to him,--

"It doesn't seem to mean anything to you,--that thing--I told you."

"Everything you tell me means more than anything else in the world."

"But about Tom Fulton. I was not married to him. I lied about it. It
isn't possible that I seem--the same--to you."

"You would always seem the same to me," he answered,--and she found
herself smiling at the beauty of his voice. "How could you be different?
These things are just things that happen to you. Should I like you less
if you were caught in the rain, or got your pretty dress muddy?"

"How do you know it is a pretty dress?" she asked irrepressibly.

"Because it's your dress. Run home, now, and brush your hair."

She went at once, and, in spite of her doubts, light-heartedly. He made
her feel, as the night did, that here in this present life, as in the
outer universe, are great spaces still unexplored. Everything had
possibilities. Sprinkle new pollen on a flower and its fruit would take
on other forms. Stretch out a hand and you might be led into unguessed
delights, even after you were dulled with pain. Sleeping in the air,
even, were forces to nourish and revive, dormant only because we do not
call upon them. She smiled into the night, and her heart called
believingly.



XIX


Madam Fulton sat on the veranda, in the shade of the vines. It was
rather early in the morning, and Electra was about her methodical tasks.
Billy Stark sat reading the paper, but nevertheless not failing, from
time to time, to look up and give his old friend a smile. Madam Fulton
could not answer it. She felt estranged in a world where she had failed
to learn the values.

"Billy," she said at length, "do you think she is right?"

"Who?"

"Electra. She says the money I got out of that pesky book is tainted
money. Is it?"

Billy folded his paper and hung it over the veranda rail. His face began
to pucker into a smile, but, gazing at Madam Fulton, it became apparent
to him that she was really troubled. She even looked as if she had not
slept. Her faint pinkness was overlaid by a jaded ivory. Her eyes
interrogated him with a forlorn pleading. All his chivalry rose in arms.

"Hang the book, Florrie!" he said. "Forget it. You've had your fling
with it. You wanted fun and you got it. Stop thinking about it."

"But," she persisted, "is it really true? Have I done a shocking thing,
and is it monstrous to use the money?"

"You've been exceedingly naughty," said Billy. He eyed her with anxiety.
"You ought to have your hands slapped, of course. Electra's done it, so
far as I can see. So now let's get over crying and go out and jump
rope."

"It isn't so much the book nor the money nor Electra. It's because I
can't help wondering whether I'm a moral idiot. Do you think I am,
Billy?"

"I think you're the gamest old girl that ever was, if you want to know.
Let me have the horse put into the phaeton, Florrie, and we'll go out
and jog awhile."

But she was musing. Suddenly he saw how old she looked.

"It's always been so, Billy. I never was able to see things as other
people saw them. These rules they make such a pother about never seemed
so vital to me. It's all a part of life, seems to me. Go ahead and live,
that's what we're in for. Growing things just grow, don't they? They
don't stop and take photographs of themselves on the twenty-third day of
every month. Now, do they?"

"Florrie," said her old friend, still watching her, "I'll tell you what
you do. You just run away with me and come to London. We've got fifteen
good years before us yet, if we take 'em soberly."

She seemed to be considering. Her face lighted.

"I could almost do it," she owned. "Electra's having me here helps out a
lot, but I could almost do it-on my polluted gains."

Billy Stark looked into the distance. In his earlier years he had loved
to ride and take his fences well, even when they loomed too high. He
could not remember many great challenges in life; but what he had
recognized, he had not refused. Everything he had met like an honest
gentleman.

"Florrie," he said, "I shan't want to leave you here in Electra's
clutches. You come--and marry me."

She laughed a little. It was sadly done, but the pink came back into her
cheeks.

"As true as I am a living sinner, Billy," she said, "I'd do it, if I
were half sure how we were coming out."

"Coming out?"

"Yes. If I thought I should be pretty vigorous up to the end, and then
die in my chair, like a lady. Yes, I'd do it, and thank ye, too. But a
million things might happen to me. I might be palsied and helpless on
your hands, head nodding, deaf as a post--damn, Billy! I could swear."

"I might give out myself," he said generously. "You might be the one to
tote the burden."

The old lady laughed again.

"The amount of it is, Billy, we're afraid. Own up. Now aren't we?"

Billy thought it over.

"I'm not so sure of that," he said contentiously, "I'm not prepared to
say I'm afraid. Nor you either, Florrie. Come on, old girl. Chance it."

"I'll think it over," said Madam Fulton. The brightness had come back to
her eye. So much was gained, at any rate, Billy told himself. "There's
that handsome girl coming, Tom's widow.--Electra!"

Electra's scales were beginning, with a serious emphasis.

"I love to see them together," Madam Fulton said. "She makes Electra mad
as hops."

Rose was coming very fast. She had the walk of women well trained, for
the stage perhaps, the spring and rhythm of art superadded to nature's
willingness. She wore no hat, and the sun made her bright hair brighter
and brought out the tragic meaning in her face. She had been thinking in
the night, and this morning forbade herself to falter. All through her
fluctuating moods there had been a division of joy and dread. The
perplexing questions of her past lay heavily upon her; but when she
thought of Osmond, she was light as air. He made everything easy, his
simplicity, his implied truth. She felt a great loyalty to what seemed
good to him. Her conscious life throughout the night and morning became
a reaching out of hands to him in the passionate asseveration that she
would be true.

Electra came, in answer to Madam Fulton's call. She, too, was grave, but
with a hint of expectation on her face. She had been looking for
MacLeod. Since their meeting, she had done nothing but wait for him
again. Rose was running up the steps. She glanced from one to another of
them with a recognizing swiftness, and when Billy Stark rose and placed
a chair for her, she thanked him with a word, and took her place behind
it, her hands upon it, so that she faced them all. There was a momentary
hush. Madam Fulton put up her eyeglasses and gazed at her curiously, as
if she were a species of tableau arranged for notice. Billy Stark felt
uneasily as if this were one of the occasions for him to take himself
away. Rose spoke rapidly, in her beautifully modulated voice, but
without emotion.

"I want to tell you something. I was not his wife."

Electra was the one to show dramatic feeling. She threw her hands up
slightly.

"I knew it." Her lips formed the words. Her triumphant glance went from
one to another, saying, "I told you so."

Rose stood there with perfect self-possession, very white now and with
the chilled look that accompanies difficult resolution. She glanced at
Madam Fulton, and the old lady met her gaze eagerly with an unbelieving
query.

"For heaven's sake!" she ejaculated, "Electra, why don't you speak?"

"I lived with Tom Fulton as his wife," said Rose, in the same moving
voice. She might have been engaged in the rehearsal of a difficult part.
No one looking at her could have said whether she duly weighed what she
was announcing. "I called myself his wife because I thought I had a
right to. Other people would have called me a disgraced woman."

Billy Stark now, without waiting to find the step, walked off the edge
of the veranda and was presently to be seen, if any one had had eyes for
him, lighting a cigar in the peaceful garden. Madam Fulton had spoken on
the heels of these last words. She brightened into the most cordial
animation.

"This is the most extraordinary story I ever heard in my life," she
commented, with relish. "Sit down, my dear, and tell us all about it."

"There is nothing more to tell," said Rose. Her eyes traveled to
Electra's face, and stayed there, though the unfriendly triumph of it
shook her resolution. "I had to say this because I must say, too, that I
do not want money and I will not take it. I do not want to be known as
Tom Fulton's wife. I was not his wife."

"You wanted it a week ago," said Electra involuntarily. She had made up
her mind not to speak, not to be severe, not to be anything that would
destroy the picture Markham MacLeod must have of her in his own mind;
but the words escaped her.

"That was before--" Rose stopped. She had almost said it was before her
father came, but it was borne floodingly in upon her that this was not
alone the reason. It was before she had felt this great allegiance to
Osmond Grant.

"Your father confirms you," said Electra, yielding to her overpowering
curiosity. "He says you were my brother's wife."

"My father"--Rose held her head higher--"I have nothing to do with
that," she concluded. "It is the truth that I was never married."

Electra turned away and went into the house. They heard her step in the
neighboring room. She had paused there by the piano, considering, in her
desire to be mistress of herself, whether she should not go on with her
music as if nothing had happened. But the thought of Rose and her
mastery of the keys forbade that, as display, and she turned away and
went upstairs, with great dignity, though there was no one by to
consider the fashion of it. There she sat down by the window, to watch
for Markham MacLeod. Madam Fulton had been regarding Rose with an
exceedingly friendly smile. The girl looked tired, though her muscles
had relaxed with Electra's going.

"Come here, my dear, and sit down," said the old lady, indicating a
chair. Rose shook her head. Then, as she found herself trembling, she
did sit down, and Madam Fulton laid a hand upon her knee. "You are a
very interesting child," she said, with an approving emphasis. "Now what
in the world made you fall in love with Tom Fulton? Did he seem very
nice to you?"

"I can't talk about him," said Rose. It seemed to her as if now his
shadow might be lifted from her. "It is over. He is dead."

"Of course he's dead. It was the best thing he could do. Well, well, my
dear! What made you come over here and play this little comedy for us?"

The girl's eyes had filled with tears.

"I can't tell you," she answered. It was easy to defend her cause to
Osmond; not to this eager creature who wanted to read her like a curious
book. But Madam Fulton was almost whispering. She looked as if she had
something of the utmost importance to communicate.

"I ask you, my dear, because I am thoroughly bad myself, and it's beyond
me to understand why it's so important whether we are bad or good. And I
thought maybe if you could tell me--did you know you were bad before you
came and Electra found you out?"

Rose was looking kindly into the vivid face.

"No," she said, "I didn't think I was bad."

"That's it!" cried the old lady, in high triumph. "We don't any of us
know it till they find us out. My dear, it's the most awful system--now,
isn't it? You go on as innocent as you please, and suddenly they tell
you you're a criminal. It's as if you made up your mouth to whistle,
walking along the road, and somebody pounces on you and tells you
whistling's against the law and claps you into jail."

Rose was smiling at her now, forgetful, for the moment, of her own coil,
Madam Fulton seemed to her so pathetically young and innocent of
everything save untamed desires.

"What under heavens does it mean?" Madam Fulton was insisting, with the
greatest irritation.

"I must go now," said Rose. "I had to tell you."

Madam Fulton kept the detaining hand upon her knee.

"But where are you going?" she insisted. "Back to France?"

"No, I shall stay in America. I shall sing."

"Do you think anybody'll want to hear you?"

"They'll love to hear me!"

Madam Fulton eyed her smilingly.

"You're a brazen hussy," she said. "But of all things, why did you come
here with your little comedy in your hand, if you didn't mean to play it
out?"

"I did mean to play it," said Rose, laying her head back against the
high rail of the chair. She closed her eyes, for again she felt the
tears coming. "But I--got sick of it."

Madam Fulton nodded confirmingly.

"That's precisely it," she agreed. "We do get sick of it. We get sick of
conduct, good or bad. They don't, the good ones. They go on clambering,
one step after another, up that pyramid, and peering over the edge to
see us playing in the sand, and occasionally, if they can get a brick,
they heave it at us."

"Who are the good ones?" Rose asked languidly. "Electra?"

"Electra? She's neither hot nor cold. But she's of the kind that made
the system in the first place."

"Grannie is good," said Rose absently.

"Bessie Grant? Yes, she's God's anointed, if there is a God. My dear, I
love to talk with you, almost as much as with Billy Stark. You come and
stay with me next winter."

Rose smiled.

"There's Electra," she reminded her.

"Bless you, Electra and I don't live together! I only visit her here
half the year, to save my pocketbook. That's another proof of my general
unworthiness. I flout her and mad her all the time. She wouldn't do that
to me, but she'd drive me to drink trying not to. No, I've got a little
apartment in town, like a hollow tree, and I crawl into it in the
winter. You come, too, and I'll introduce you to all the people I know,
and you can make 'em listen while you sing."

Rose was looking at her in a moved warmth and wonder.

"How kind you are!" she breathed.

"No! no! Only when you said you were a liar, and worse, I suddenly felt
the most extraordinary interest in you. I feel as if you might speak my
language. I don't know that I want to do anything bad, but I don't want
to be kept so nervous trying to decide whether things are bad or not.
You come, my dear--unless I marry Billy Stark. I may do that. I must, if
it will plague Electra."

Rose gave her a quick glance, at once withdrawn, and while she allowed
the last possibility to sink into the depths of her mind, Madam Fulton
was interrogating her again.

"You don't think it is possible," she was urging, with the insistence of
one who sees incredible good fortune, "you don't suppose you haven't any
moral sense?"

She seemed to hang upon the answer. Rose, in spite of herself and the
unhappy moment, laughed.

"I hoped I had," she rejoined, "but I don't believe I ever thought much
about it."

Madam Fulton nodded quite gayly.

"That's it!" she cried. "Don't you see you haven't? When they have it,
they're always thinking about it. It's like a cinder in the eye. My
dear, you're just as bad as I am, and I thank my stars I've met you."

But all this touch and go was a strange, poor sequel to the task of that
confession. It had all turned out very small beer indeed, except so far
as Electra was concerned. Electra, Rose was convinced, in a moment of
sadly mirthful fancy, was upstairs setting her judgments in order and
decorously glad to have been proven right.

"I'll go now," she said, rising. She felt very tired with it all. "I've
told you."

"But come again, my dear," the old lady insisted. "Be sure you come
again. You are so understanding, I shall miss you sadly. Come every
day."

Rose went down the garden path and noted, with some irony, that Billy
Stark, still smoking, turned away into the grape arbor. It looked like
the shyness of decorum. She could hardly know that Billy felt unable to
bear any more revelations from womenfolk. And now she said to herself,
"I shall have to tell grannie and I shall have to tell Peter."

Opportunity was easy, for Peter was at that moment coming whistling
along the road on the way to Electra's. When she saw him, her purpose
failed. He looked so boyish, so free and happy-hearted. How could she
give him a sordid secret to keep, in place of their admiring
comradeship?

"Where is my father?" she asked him, when they met and Peter had pulled
off his hat and salaamed before her.

"Gone down to the plantation to see Osmond."

She took fright.

"To see Osmond! How does my father know anything about him? How does he
dare--"

"Osmond sent for him," said Peter, turning to walk with her. He was
tossing up his stick and catching it, in love of the day. "It's the
first human being Osmond has expressed an interest in. But I don't
wonder. Everybody wants to see the chief."

"Why should he have sent?" she repeated to herself.

"I'll tell you something," continued Peter. "The chief will tell you
when you see him. He has been summoned."

"My father?"

"Yes. He is needed."

"Where?"

"He won't tell me. But it's urgent. It means canceling his engagements
here. Of course there's but one supposition."

"Russia?"

He nodded.

"I wish I could go with him," he said impetuously.

She looked at him, and his face was glowing. She had seen that look so
many times on other faces, that wistful longing for the unnamed
beautiful. It was what Markham MacLeod was always calling out in faces.
They might be young, they might be the faces of those who had suffered
long experience, but always it was those who were hungry, either with
the hunger of youth or the delay of hope, the cruelty of time. He seemed
to be the great necromancer, the great promiser. Could such promises
come to naught?

"To leave here?" she suggested. "To leave--" she hesitated.

"I shouldn't leave Electra," said Peter simply. "When I met you, I was
going to ask her to go with me."

She stopped and held out her hand to him.

"Go," she said. "Go to her and ask her. I wish you luck, Peter--dear
Peter!"

He did not look altogether a happy lover, as he stood holding her hand.
He gazed at her, she thought, sadly, as if he dreamed of things that
could not be. What was it in youth that made everything into twilight,
even with the drum and fife calling to wars and victories? She was
impatient with it, with deceiving life itself that promised and then
lied. She took her hand away.

"Good-by, Peter," she said, sadly now in her turn, because it occurred
to her that after Peter should have seen Electra, he would never again
be her own good comrade. He would know. She left him standing there
looking after her, and then, when he found she would not loiter, he went
on his way. But Peter did not toss his stick up now. He walked slowly,
and thought of what he meant to do.

They seemed to be walking with him, one on each side, Rose and Electra.
It was chiefly the thought of Electra, as it had moulded him from year
to year while he had been absent from her; but it was the delicate
presence of the other woman, so wonderful by nature and so equipped with
all the arts of life that the pleasure of her was almost pain. They
seemed to keep a hand upon him, one through his fealty to her and the
other by compelling and many-sided beauty.



XX


Electra, in her excitement, found herself unable to stay upstairs at her
accustomed tasks. She had to know what grandmother thought of this
ill-bred woman. But speeding down, she saw grandmother in the garden
path with Billy Stark. There they walked intimately arm-in-arm, and
grandmother talked. There was something eager in the pose of her head.
Evidently what she had heard quite pleased her, if only because it was
some new thing. And there was Peter at the door. Instantly the light
sprang renewed into Electra's eyes. Peter would do still better than
grandmother to confirm her triumph, though at the moment even she
charged herself to be lofty in her judgments and temperate in expressing
them. Peter did not look at all like one who had himself heard unlovely
news. His face glowed. There were points of light in his dark eyes. Rose
had left them there, and Electra, with the sick certainty of the
jealous, knew it. They went silently into the library, Peter holding, as
well as he might, the lax hand hanging at her side. In the morning light
of the room they faced each other, and she asked her question, the one
that, unbidden, came leaping to her lips.

"Did you meet her?"

He knew whom she meant, for his thought, too, was full of her.

"Yes," he said, and then swept even Rose aside as deflecting him from
his purpose. "Electra, I have decided to go back to France."

Immediately she thought she saw why. Rose was going and he had to
follow.

"What did she tell you?" she cried sharply. The pang that came
astonished her, it was so savage. Even in the haste of the moment, she
had time for a passing surprise that she could be so moved by Peter. He
was looking at her with innocent perplexity.

"Rose?" he said. "Nothing. I told her I was coming here and she--" He
paused, for he was on the point of adding, "She sent me." Peter could
see how ill-judged that would be.

Electra, her proud glance on him, was considering, balancing
probabilities. With his artist's eye he saw how handsome she was, how
like, in the outer woman, to his imperial lady. Such spirit in her could
only, it seemed, be spent for noble ends.

"Has she told you?" asked Electra, and there was something, he saw,
beyond what he suspected. Her voice rang out against her will: "No, she
hasn't. She means, for some reason, not to tell you. But she has had to
tell me."

Peter was staring at her.

"Has something happened to her?" he asked quickly. "I must know."

That mysterious rage she was so unwilling to recognize got possession of
her again.

"It means a great deal to you," she breathed.

"Of course it does," said Peter honestly. "Don't keep me dangling,
Electra."

Electra's mouth seemed to harden before his eyes. She looked like some
noble and beautiful image of justice or a kindred virtue.

"She thinks I shall not tell you," she declared. "But I shall. It is no
more right for you to be deceived than it was right for me. I shall tell
you."

"Don't tell me anything she wouldn't wish," said Peter earnestly. He
began to see the need of holding down the flaming spirit in her, lest it
consume too much. "If there is anything she wants me to know, she will
tell me."

"My instinct was right," said Electra, now with equal steadiness. "She
was not his wife. Tom never married her."

Peter was tired of that issue. His controlled manner showed it.

"I know what you think about that, Electra," he said. "You see we don't
agree. We mustn't talk about it."

Electra answered him with a gracious certainty.

"That was what she told me, Peter. She told grandmother, too. For some
reason she has abandoned her deception. She has a reason for ending it.
That was what she said. Tom never married her."

Peter's face was blazing, the indignant blood in it, the light darting
from his eyes. He straightened. His hands clenched. His voice was thick
with anger.

"Tom never married her?"

"That was what she told us."

"The damned scoundrel!"

Electra had been regarding him in serene certainty of her own position
and her ability to hold it. But human nature flashed out in her, the
loyalty of blood.

"Are you speaking of my brother?" she demanded.

"I am speaking of your precious brother. And I might have known it."
Ire, gathering in him, suffused his face anew. "I might have known Tom
Fulton would do the dastardly trick in any given situation. Of course he
never married her."

"You don't seem to think of her," she reminded him, under her breath.

"Not think of her! What else am I thinking of? Poor child! poor child!"

Electra was always having to feel alone in the world. Art left her
desolate when other people sang and painted and she could only praise.
Love and the fierce loyalty she coveted were always failing her and
lavishing themselves elsewhere. She had one momentary impulse to speak
for herself.

"Do you wonder now," she said, "that I wouldn't accept her."

"Not accept her, when she had been hurt? Good God, Electra! how
monstrous it is. You, a delicate woman, fully believed he had wronged
another woman as lovely as yourself, and yet the only impression it made
on you was that you could not accept her."

Electra resisted the impulse to turn away or put her hands to her face;
the tears were coming. She held herself rigid for a moment, choking down
the shuddering of her nerves, lest her lips quiver and betray her.

"I suppose,"--the words were almost inaudible, yet he heard them,--"I
suppose that is because you have lived so long in France."

"What, Electra?" He spoke absently, his mind with Rose.

"These things have ceased to mean anything to you. It is not a moral
question. You see the woman is pretty and you--"

"No, no! She is beautiful, but that's not it. I can't theorize about it,
Electra, only the whole thing seems to me monstrous. That he should
wrong her! That he should be able to make her care about him in the
first place--a fellow like him--just because he was handsome as the
devil and had the tongue of angels--but that he should wrong her, that
she should come over here expecting kindness--" It was Peter who put a
hand before his eyes, not because there were tears there, but as if to
shut her out from a knowledge of his too candid self. But in an instant
he was looking at her again, not in anger, but sorrowfully.

"Isn't it strange?" she exclaimed, almost to herself.

"What, Electra?"

"Strange to think what power a woman has--a woman of that stamp."

"Don't, Electra. You mustn't classify her. You can't."

She was considering it with a real curiosity.

"You don't blame her at all," she said. "You know Tom did wrong. You
don't think she did."

"Electra," he said gently, "we can't go back to that. It's over and done
with. Besides, it is between those two. It isn't our business."

"You could blame Tom!" She clung to that. He saw she would not release
her hold.

"Electra!" He put out his hands and took her unwilling ones. Then he
gazed at her sweetly and seriously; and when Peter was in gentle
earnest, he did look very good. "Electra, can't you see what she is?"

His appealingness had for the instant soothed that angry devil in her.
She wrenched her hands free, with the one hoarse cry instinct with
mental pain,--

"You are in love with her!"

Peter stepped back a pace. His face paled. He could not answer. Electra
felt the rush of an emotion stronger than herself. It swept her on, her
poise forgotten, her rules of life snapping all about her.

"I have always known it, from the first day you spoke of her. She has
bewitched you. Perhaps this is what she really came for--to separate us.
Well, she has done it."

Something seemed demanded of him, and he could only answer in her own
words,--

"Has she done it?"

Her heat had cooled. Her soberer self had the upper hand again, and she
spoke now like the gracious lady called to some dignified dismissal.

"I find," she said, "I must have intended to say this for days. We must
give up--what we meant to do."

"You must give me up, Electra?"

"I give you up."

"I came to-day,"--Peter's voice sounded very honest in his endeavor to
show how well he had meant,--"I came to ask you to go back to France. We
would live on a little. We would serve the Brotherhood--the chief says
you have joined already--" Electra bowed her head slightly, still in a
designed remoteness.

"I shall go to France," she said, "later. But I shall never marry you.
That is over. As you said of something else, it is over and done with."

She glanced toward the door, but he kept his place. Peter was conscious
that of all the things he ought to feel, he could not summon one. It did
not seem exactly the woman he had loved who was dismissing him. This was
a handsome and unfriendly stranger, and in the bottom of his heart
surged a sweet new feeling that was like hope and pain.

"Let us not talk any more," she was saying, with that air of extreme
courtesy which still invited him to go.

Peter walked slowly to the door.

"I am wondering"--he hesitated. "Why do you say that, Electra? Why do
you tell me I am in love with her?"

He looked as shy as a girl. It struck her full in the mind that even in
this interview she had no part. She had refused a lover, and he was
going away with his thoughts stirred by another woman.

"I said so," she repeated clearly, "because it is true. You are in love
with her. Good-by."

Peter turned to her with one of his quick movements and held out his
hand. She did not take it.

"Won't you shake hands, Electra?" he asked. "I should think we might be
friends." Honest sorrow moved his voice. Now, at least, he was thinking
of her only.

Electra meant to show no resentment, no pain. But she had to be true.

"I can't," she said, in a low tone. "Good-by."

And Peter, seeing the aversion in her face, not for him, perhaps, but
for the moment, got himself hastily out of the room and into the summer
road. And there, before he had walked three paces, Peter began to sing.
He sang softly, not at all because melody was unfitted to the day, but
as if what inspired it were too intimate a thing to be revealed. He
looked above him, straight ahead, and on every side.

The world was beautiful to him at this moment, and he had a desire to
drink it up, to be as young and as rich as Apollo. He did feel very
rich, not only in his youth, but in the unnamed possibilities trembling
before him; and Peter denied himself no pleasure because it was
inappropriate to the moment. It would have seemed to him a refusal of
the good gifts of life and an affronting of the God who created plenty
if, because he had lost Electra, he renounced the delight of a happiness
he really felt. By and by he would remember Electra, how dignified she
was, how irreproachable, in the moments when her virtues did not get the
bit between their teeth and dash away with her; but now, under this
abounding summer sun, with the leaves trembling, she withdrew into a
gray seclusion like an almost forgotten task--one that had resolved
itself into a beneficent fulfillment quite unlike what it had promised.
Noble as it was, he had been excused from it, and he felt blissfully
free. Something else that swam before him like the gleam of a vision did
not look like another task. It was more like a quest for a hero's
arming. It fitted his dreams, it went hand in hand with the visions he
had had years ago about his painting, when that was all possibility, not
work. This was the worshipful righting of an innocent lady.

She was there in view when he got home, as if she had waited for him,
under a tree, trembled about by the summer green, her white dress
flickered upon by leaves. She was pale; her mouth looked piteous to him,
and his heart beat hard in championship. She half rose from her chair,
and let her unread book fall to the grass beside her.

There were two things Rose wanted very much to know: whether Electra had
shocked him out of his trust in her, and why her father stayed so long
in that visit to Osmond at the plantation. The last question was the
great one, and she asked it first.

"What can my father be saying to him?"

"Osmond? I don't know. Equal rights, labor, capital, God knows. Rose,
don't sit there. Please get up!"

She obeyed, wondering, brushed out her skirt and put her hair straight,
and then glanced at him.

"What for?" she asked. "What do you want me to do?"

Peter looked to her about eighteen, perhaps, nothing but youth and gleam
and gay good luck. She felt a thousand years older herself, yet she
loved Peter dearly. She would do anything for him. This she told herself
in the moment of smoothing down her hair. His face brimmed over with
fun, with something else, too. The seriousness that dwells housemate to
comedy was behind.

"I couldn't say it with you lying there and looking at me," said Peter.
"Nobody ever made a proposal to a lady in a steamer chair unless he was
in another and the deck was level."

"Peter," she said gravely, "don't make fun."

Peter shook back the lock of hair he encouraged to tumble into his eyes.
It was his small affectation. It kept him at one with his artistic
brotherhood.

"I am rejected," he said, and do what he might, he announced it
exultingly, and not in the least with the dignity he would have admired
in the lady who had refused him. But at that moment Peter had had enough
of dignity and the outer form of things. He wanted to be himself, light
or sad, bad or good, and speak the truth as the moment revealed it to
him. "But I am rejected," he continued, when she looked at him in a
quick reproof, "turned down, jilted, smashed into a cocked hat. And I
came just as quick as I could. Rose--"

"Don't!" she warned him. "Don't say that, Peter."

"Just as quick as I could get here without running--I couldn't run,
there were so many pretty things to look at--to tell you, to beg of
you"--Peter's voice broke. He was behaving badly to conceal how much he
was moved. "I came to offer it to you," he said seriously, in a low
tone. "Not what was given back to me, but something else, so much better
you couldn't speak of 'em in the same day. When I think of what might
be, it's all light and color--and the leaves of the wood moving. It's a
great big dream, Rose, and you fit into it. You fit into the dream." He
was intoxicated with youth and life. She was not sure whether it was
with her.

"I hope you haven't quarreled," she said soberly. She wished she might
recall him. "But if you have and are patient--"

Peter could not let her go on. He put out his quick, clever hands in an
eager gesture, as if he pushed something away.

"Ah," he said, "I don't want to be patient! I want to be rash. I don't
want anything back. I want something new and beautiful. I want to tell
you a million things in a minute--chiefly how much I love you."

His voice had deepened. It swept her on apace, in spite of herself,
because it was like Osmond's. For a moment she felt the kinship between
them, the same swift blood, the picturesque betrayals. There was
something at the heart of each that was dear to her, and Peter, for the
moment, speaking in the sunshine with her eyes upon him, was also the
voice out of the dark. But she had nevertheless to recall him.

"Have you really given each other up?" she asked.

"Yes," said Peter, in the same glad acquiescence. "And what do you think
she told me, the last thing of all?"

She shook her head.

"She told me I loved you. And I do, Rose. Oh, I do! I do!"

"But that mustn't part you. Think what it is to me--to know my coming
here has done it."

"Oh, you had to come!" said Peter light-heartedly. "It was preordained.
It's destiny. I was a fool not to see it the first minute. She had to
tell me."

Rose, in spite of herself, smiled a little. But her thoughts settled
gravely back upon her own hard task.

"Did she tell you"--She hesitated, and then asked her question with a
simple directness. "Did she tell you how much mistaken you are in me?"

"Please don't," said Peter. His face flushed. He looked his misery.

"You see she is the only one who was not mistaken in me. Those of you
who believed in me--well, I must tell all of you. Even grannie, dear
grannie! I am afraid--" She stopped because she meant to show no
emotion; but it seemed to her that grannie, in her guarded life, must
view her harshly. "I was wrong, Peter, ever to let you mix yourself in
this miserable coil. If I could lie, well and good. Let me do it and
take the consequences. But I should have known better than to bring you
into it."

Peter stood thoughtfully regarding her in a very impersonal way, as if
he debated how she could be moved.

"I wonder," he said at last, "how it is possible to tell you how lovely
you are to everybody, how perfectly splendid, you know, quite different
from anybody else! And when you add to that that you've been wronged
and--and insulted--oh you've simply no conception how it makes a fellow
feel! Why, I adore you, that's all. I just adore you."

He stretched out his hand like a bluff comrade and she put hers into it
as frankly.

"You're a dear boy, Peter," she said, and her eyes were wet.

He spoke perversely, when she had taken her hand away:--

"That's all very well, you know, but I'm not a boy--not all the time. I
love you awfully, Rose, in the real way, the bang-up old style, Tristan
and all that, you know. I'm going to keep on and you'll have to listen."

"Shall I, Peter?" She was still smiling wistfully. Love, sweet, clean,
young love looked very beautiful to her. She wished she could see it
crowning some head, not hers, some girl quite worthy of him. "Well, not
to-day."

"No, maybe not to-day," Peter agreed obstinately, "but other days, all
the days. I can't give up the most beautiful thing there is, and you're
that. You're simply the most beautiful there is."

"There's grannie coming out on the veranda." Then she added bitterly, "I
wonder if she will think I am the most beautiful thing there is!"



XXI


MacLeod was not used to being summoned, except by high officials, and
then if the meeting would not advantage his cause, he was likely to take
a journey in another direction. But when Osmond's man invited him to go
down to the shack that morning, he had agreed with a ready emphasis, and
now walked along, smiling over the general kindliness of things. The
change of air after his sea voyage was doing him good, and he had been
able to command anew the sense of physical prosperity which had once
been his habitual possession. That forbade him morbid premonitions and
withdrawals relative to the bodily life. It hardly seemed possible, this
robust guardian declared, that anything should happen to him, save after
a very long period, when inevitable decay would set in. But in a
harmonious mood and prospect retreated so far that it might almost as
well not threaten at all. He had no doubt that when change fell upon the
aged, it was as beneficent in its approach as the oncoming of sleep. But
of these things he need not think, except as they might be brought to
his mind by the disasters of other people. Acquiesce in the course of
nature, said his philosophy, and refuse to anticipate trouble as
trouble. It could always be curbed or stamped out when it came. That
abounding certainty was a part of his power.

He found his way without difficulty. The neat rows of growing things led
him in from the road, and directing his steps toward the shack, where he
had understood Osmond lived, he saw a figure advancing to meet him, a
man in a blue blouse, like a workman, beating his hands together as he
came, to dust the soil from them. When they were at a convenient
interval, the man looked at MacLeod with a measuring gaze, and MacLeod
returned the challenge with what was, perhaps, too frank encouragement.
He put out his hand, but Osmond shook his head. He opened his two palms,
displaying them.

"I didn't expect you for a few minutes yet," he said, "or I should have
washed. I'm just out of the dirt. Come on down to the house. We won't go
in. There are some seats outside."

MacLeod knew at once, through the keen sense that served him in his
fellowship with men, that the excuse was a true one, yet that Osmond was
glad he had it to offer. He evidently had no desire to shake hands. That
seemed reasonable enough. The man was quite unlike other men in his
unstudied speech, the clear, healthy, and yet childlike look of his
eyes. It was as if, working in the earth, he had become a part of it.
When they were in the shade of the great oak tree by the house, each in
his rough chair, MacLeod stretched out his legs, with much enjoyment,
and offered his host a cigar.

"No, thank you," said Osmond. He felt briefly, and was ashamed of
himself for entertaining it, a childish regret that he did not smoke.
Every easy habit gave the man of the world an advantage the more. "Light
up," he said grimly, as MacLeod, after a questioning look which seemed
also a commiserating one, was about to return the case to his pocket. "I
like to see it--and smell it--rather."

So MacLeod brought out his pipe and did light up.

"I smoke very little," he explained. "That's the way to skim the cream.
It's the temperate man for flavors. Know that?"

Osmond, temperate in all ways from necessity, hardly knew how he should
have felt about it if desires and delight had presented themselves to
him as companions, not as foes. He pulled himself up, with an effort.
MacLeod's effect on him was something for which he was not prepared. The
man's physical fitness, his self-possession in the face of anything that
might be required of him, made hot blood in Osmond. There was no ground
for them to meet upon. Temperance of life in order to enjoy the more
keenly? Then, to be honest, he would have to confess that for him
temperance was his master, and that was a confidence he would not give.
There could be no easy commonplaces. He spoke bluntly:--

"I wanted to see you."

"I wanted to see you, too," said MacLeod cordially. "Of course I know
all about you. Peter talks about you by the yard."

Osmond's rebellious tongue formed the words, "I don't believe it." But
he did not utter them.

"You've worked out a mighty interesting scheme down here," MacLeod
continued, taking his pipe out of his mouth and looking about him.

"We have worked," said Osmond.

"It's like the older peasant life of Europe." MacLeod spoke rather at
random, seeking about for some thoroughfare with his crusty host. "A
sort of paternal government--"

"Not in the least," said Osmond. "My men are my neighbors. They work for
me and I pay them."

"Without discontent?"

"I hope so. If I found a man doing half time and grumbling, I should
kick him out."

"They don't combine?"

"We all combine. I get good work. They get good wages. It's a square
deal."

"Profit-sharing?"

"No, not exactly."

"It strikes me as a sort of community," said MacLeod. "Everybody at work
and everything in common."

"Now, why does it strike you that everything is in common? The place is
mine."

"Ah, my dear fellow!" MacLeod forgot the simplicity of the moment and
put on his platform voice. "Nothing is ours."

Osmond regarded him with a slow smile coming,--his perfect clothes, his
white hand, his air of luxurious equipment.

"Isn't it?" he asked ironically. "Well, it looks mighty like it. But I
haven't any data. I know what goes on inside my own fences. I don't know
much more. What do you want of Peter?"

"To-day?"

"Any time. All the time. He has joined your league. What do you intend
to do with him?"

MacLeod put his hands in his pockets and stretched his legs a little
farther. He regarded the outer circle of hills, and then brought his
gaze back over the pleasant rolling land between. Finally he looked at
Osmond and smiled at him in what seemed a community of feeling.

"My dear fellow," he said, "I am not considering the individual."

"I am," said Osmond, with an offensive bluntness. "I am considering
Peter. What are you going to do with him?"

"Your brother joined us of his own free will."

"Yes. But now you've got him, what do you want to do with him?"

"Isn't it of any use for me to tell you that when a man joins us, he has
passed beyond personal recognition or privilege? Outside our circle, he
is an individual; he counts. Inside--well, it is difficult to say what
he is. We want him then to consider himself one of the drops that make a
sea. The sea washes down things--even the cliffs. The drop of water is
of no importance alone. With a million, million others, it moves. It
crushes."

Osmond sat looking straight at him with eyes that burned. His hands,
hanging at his side, were clenched. He recognized the might of the man,
the crude physical power of him like an emanation, and he felt the
despairing helplessness of trying to move a potency like that. Cliffs
might be corroded by the sea; but a human force that respects no other
cannot be easily invaded. He spoke without his own will, and heard
himself speaking:--

"You haven't any soul!"

MacLeod was regarding him with as direct a gaze.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, with a moderate interest. "Do you
mean I haven't any mercy, any kindness? Is that what you mean?"

It was not what he meant. It was the indwelling spirit such as he saw in
grannie, the mobile thing in Peter that, changing, blossoming in errant
will here and there as the sun of life bade it, seemed in one form or
another to proclaim itself undying. He shook his head.

"No," he said, "that's not what I mean."

A smile ran over MacLeod's face and moved it most delightfully.

"Well," said he, "if we're going to take inventories--have you a soul?"

Osmond shook his head again.

"I don't know," he answered.

"Well, then, what's the use of slanging me? If you're in the same box
yourself--Come, who has one? has anybody?"

Osmond thought then of Rose, and of the fire of the spirit playing over
her, that brightness he could neither classify nor define. Yet he must
believe in it.

"Yes," he said. "I have seen it."

"You have? And you think I'm exempt. Why?"

Osmond was not getting anywhere. MacLeod and his own ineptitude of
speech seemed to be forcing him into the solicitous fright of the
mother, bent on shielding her child from the wolf.

"You are too powerful," he said, and realized that he was using the
evidence Rose had given him, thought for thought.

"I hope so. I ought to be. I've got to overturn power."

"What's the use? You're a czar yourself. You're only another kind."

MacLeod looked at him thoughtfully, as if struck by the form of words.

"My dear fellow," he said, "is it possible you believe in the present
state of things? Do you want one man to possess everything and the next
man nothing?"

Osmond frowned his negation. MacLeod, unfairly it seemed to him, made
him feel young and inadequate to the matter. He had the eyes to see what
cause was just, yet he had not the equipment to maintain any cause at
all.

"What is the use," he essayed, "for you and men like you to head
revolts? It only means you are ruling instead of the rulers you
overturn. It will all be done over again. The big man will rise to the
top. The little man will go under. And in time you will have the same
conditions repeated. It's because you are not teaching love. You are
teaching envy and hate."

"How do you know I am?"

Osmond kept on as if he were speaking to himself, groping painfully for
what he found.

"You are not preaching good work. You are preaching revolt against
work--class hatred and discontent."

"Do you believe in non-resistance?"

"No."

"Do you believe in Midas, king of gold, swelled up with power, sitting
smiling on the throne he has forced others to build for him, and saying,
'I am not as other men are'?"

"No. But I believe in work. You mustn't take it out of a man, that
certainty that his own work is the greatest privilege he's got. Oh, you
mustn't do that!"

There it was again, his hungry worship of achievement. It might even
have seemed to him that oppression was not much to bear if, at the same
time, a man had the glory of setting his hand to something and seeing it
prosper. MacLeod, who knew something about his life, but nothing of its
inward processes, began to feel that here was more than at first
appeared, and answered rather temperately,--

"I don't believe you know much about the general conditions under which
work is done. Work means to you Peter's painting a picture. Let it mean,
for example, a great many Peters in a mine delving all day for some smug
capitalist who wants to endow monuments to himself and get his children
into society. What then?"

What then, indeed? Osmond could not answer; but a moment later he said
again, tenaciously,--

"I don't want you to destroy the idea of good work."

"Well, now!" MacLeod spoke impatiently. He realized that here was not a
man whom his torrent of bloody facts would move, but who demanded also a
more persuasive rhetoric. "Well, now, you acknowledge the world is
upside down. Shall we leave it so?"

Osmond shook his head dumbly.

"Shall we say the great scheme counteracts its own abuses, and we won't
interfere? When an empire gets sufficiently corrupt, it tumbles apart of
its own rottenness? Or when we see just cause, shall we go to war?"

"Grannie has the whole secret of it in her hand." This he said
involuntarily, for he had no idea of talking to MacLeod about grannie.
But the subject had passed beyond their predilections of what was best
to say. "Science won't do it--war won't do it. Religion will."

"Ah! You are an enthusiast."

"No. But there is something beyond force and beyond reason."

"Religion, you mean."

"You can call it that. It is what has made that old woman up there at
the house live every day of her life as if she were the
multi-millionaire of the universe--without a thought of herself, without
a doubt that there is an inexhaustible reservoir, and that everybody can
dip into it and bring up the water of life. Sometimes when she told me
that--how rich we all are, if we only knew it--I used to see the
multitudes of hands dipping in for their drop--old wrinkled hands,
children's hands."

He was musing now, and yet admitting the other man to his confidence. It
was proof of MacLeod's charm that even Osmond, who kept his true self to
himself, and who started by hating a girl's oppressor, had nevertheless
fallen into a maze of self-betrayal. MacLeod spoke softly, as if he
recognized the spell and would not break it:--

"Yet, the Founder of her religion said, 'I came not to send peace, but a
sword.'"

"How do you know who the Founder of her religion is? I don't know it
myself. I don't know but she dug it out of the ground, or breathed it
out of the air. She has her sword, too, grannie has. You never saw her
licking a boy for torturing a rat. I have."

"What shall we do?"

Osmond roused himself a little from his muse.

"I read something the other day in a book--about the town of Abdera. I
suppose you know it."

MacLeod shook his head.

"In the town of Abdera they suddenly began to love one another, that's
all. They went round chanting, 'O Cupid, prince of God and men!'"

"Is that going to obviate all the difficulties?"

Osmond looked at him with dog's eyes, the eyes that seek and wonder out
of their confusion of incomplete knowledge.

"Every man would refuse to rest," he said, "while any other man was
hungry. They would all be humble, the rich as well as the poor. Now,
one's as cocky as the other. I don't know that the cockiness of the
ignorant is any more picturesque than the cockiness of the privileged."

MacLeod was smiling a little. These, he saw, were pretty dreams, but
hardly of the texture to demand destruction. They would fall to pieces,
in good time, of their own flimsiness.

"Do you believe in kings?" he asked idly.

Osmond glowed.

"I know it's a mighty pity not to," he said. "Some people have got to be
fostered chiefly because they have gifts. If you don't draw a little
circle round them, you lose the gifts maybe, and you certainly lose the
fun of adoring them. I'd like to be a soldier of Alexander--if I
couldn't be Alexander himself. But you'll never get anywhere smashing
round and yelling that one man's better than another because he works
with his hands. No! the man that brings peace will bring it another
way."

MacLeod regarded him for a moment curiously.

"But why," he said at length, "why won't you trust me to bring it
precisely that way?"

Osmond smiled faintly.

"No," he said, "you couldn't."

"But why? You say I am extremely powerful. You rather accuse me of it. I
am too powerful, in fact. Wasn't that what you said?"

"Yes."

"Well, why not trust me to administer your great awakening?"

Osmond kept his ironic smile of unbelief.

"You are not the man," he said. "You would not believe in it. You
wouldn't live it. You are very powerful. But your mastery wouldn't serve
you. That's where you can't pretend."

"Now where have you got your idea of me?" MacLeod was looking at him
sharply. "You never saw me before to-day. Yet your idea was already
formed before I came down here. Who's been talking to you?"

Osmond had entrenched himself at last in his customary reserve.

"You are a public character," he said indifferently.

"Has Peter been talking about me?"

"Yes. He speaks of you."

"But not in this fashion. Peter believes in me, over head and ears."

"Yes. He believes in you. I wish he didn't."

"Ah!" MacLeod drew a deep breath. "My daughter! Do you know my
daughter?"

The question was too quick, and Osmond quivered under the assault of it.
He felt the blood in his face. His heart choked him. And MacLeod's eyes
were upon him.

"Do you know her?" MacLeod was asking sharply.

"Yes," Osmond heard himself answering, in a moved voice. "I have seen
her."

MacLeod spoke with what seemed to the other man an insulting emphasis.
Yet Osmond had not time to calm himself by the reminder that he was not
used to hearing Rose spoken of at all as mortal woman. In his dreams she
was something more than that.

"My daughter," MacLeod was saying, "has an intemperate habit of speech.
If she has talked me over with you, she has inevitably made your
opinions. For Rose is a very beautiful woman. I needn't tell you that."

Then something strange happened to Osmond. He experienced a sensation
which he had accepted as a form of words, and had only idly believed in.
He saw red. A rush and surge were in his ears. And as if it were a
signal, known once but ignored through years of tranquil living, he as
instantly obeyed. He was on his feet, his fists clenched, and MacLeod,
also risen, was regarding him with concern and even, Osmond thought in
fury, with compassion. The red deepened into black and Osmond felt the
suffocation and nausea of a weakness MacLeod instantly formulated for
him.

"My dear fellow," he was saying, "sit down here. You're faint."

But Osmond would neither sit nor accept the cup of water MacLeod had
brought him from the pail left on the bench for the workmen. He stood,
keeping his grip on himself and battling back to life. Presently he was
conscious that Peter was there, calling him affectionately. Now again he
felt the blood in his face, the wetness of the hair above his forehead,
and he knew he was not the man he had been. MacLeod was speaking, in
evident solicitude.

"Your brother has had an ill turn. He's all right now, aren't you,
Grant?"

Osmond looked at him, smiling grimly. MacLeod seemed to him his foe not
only for the sake of Rose, but because the man, great insolent child of
good fortune as he was, represented the other side of the joy of fight.
Osmond almost loved him, because it was through him that he had been
inducted into a knowledge of that unknown glory. MacLeod picked up his
pipe from the bench, tapped it empty, and pocketed it. He gave them a
pleasant inclusive nod of fellowship.

"I'll trot along," said he. "See you at dinner, Peter."

"What was it, Osmond? What was it?" Peter was asking, in a worried
voice.

Osmond suddenly looked tired. He passed his hand over his forehead, and
put back his matted hair.

"Pete," he said, "I suppose it was a hundred things. But all it really
was, was the rage for fight, plain fight. But whatever it was, I've got
something out of it."

"What?"

"I know how men--other men--feel."

"Other men don't want to tackle one another, as a general thing, like
bulldogs."

"Oh, yes! they recognize the instinct. They're ready to stamp on it. I
wasn't ready. I'm glad to have met that instinct. It's a healthy old
devil of an instinct. I respect it."

Peter was staring as if he did not know him.

"What was it, Osmond?" he asked again.

Osmond shook his head and laughed.

"I'll wash my hands," he said. "I feel as if there were dirt on them and
the touch of clothes that are not mine." He stopped on his way to the
bench where there was a basin and towel for hasty use. "Pete," he said,
"you don't want to scrap a little, do you?"

He did not look like the same man. Light was in his face, overlying the
flush of simple passions. He looked almost joyous. It was Peter who was
distraught, older with a puzzled sadness.

"Don't!" he said. "Don't think of such devilment. There's no good in it.
Why, we get over that when we are under twenty--except in an emergency."

"Ah, but this is an emergency," said Osmond, coming out of his washing
with clean hands and a dripping face. "It was an emergency for me, if it
wasn't for him."



XXII


MacLeod kept his thoughtful way on to Electra's gate. There he turned in
with no lack of decision, and walked up to her door. She had seen him,
and came forward from the shaded sitting-room. It was as if she had been
expecting him. Whether she had acknowledged it to herself or not, it was
true that Electra had never felt so strong a desire for the right
companionship as at that moment. As soon as she saw him and he had put
out his hand to her, she felt quieted and blessed. He was, as he had
been from the first, the completion of her mood. As he looked at her,
MacLeod, little as he knew her face, noted the change in it. She seemed
greatly excited and yet haggard, as if this disturbance were nothing to
what had preceded it. And her bright eyes fed upon him with a personal
appeal to which he was well used: that of the lower vitality
involuntarily demanding the support of his own magnetic treasury.

"You are tired," he said, as she drew her hand away and they sat down.

"No," returned Electra. "I am not tired."

"Tell me what has done it!"

The tender disregard of her denial broke down reserve. She looked at him
eloquently. It seemed to her that he had a right to know. She answered
faintly,--

"I have been through such scenes."

"Scenes? With whom?"

"Your daughter has told me"--She hesitated for a moment, and then, still
confident that his worship of the truth must be as exalted as her own,
ended with unstinted candor, "She says she was not my brother's wife."

Electra was looking at him, and it appeared to her now as if, in a
bewildering way, his gaze absorbed hers. It was very strange, how he
seemed to draw the intelligence of the eye into his and hold it
unresisting. She hardly knew how he looked, whether surprised or
sympathetic, or whether he was moved at all. But she was conscious of
being gripped by some communion in which she acquiesced. After a moment
he leaned forward and took her hand.

"Will you promise me something?" he asked.

"Anything!" The quickness of the answer was as eloquent as its force.

"Promise me that this thing--this subject--shall never come between you
and me."

"Gladly."

"We won't talk of it."

"No."

"We won't ask each other how it seems to us."

"No."

"There!" He released her hand, and seemed also to free her, in some
subtle way. He was smiling at her, and she felt a keen gladness, like a
child who is told he has been good.

"Then we can be friends," he said, with a spontaneous relief, it seemed
to her, like her own. "The best of friends."

"Yes. The best of friends."

Electra felt rich. Her heart swelled, as now she reflected that here was
one who understood her. She had that warm consciousness common to all
MacLeod's partisans, that his world and hers were alike. Each was
mysteriously prevented by other people from enjoying the full freedom of
that world, because each had been, until now, uncompanioned. But they
had met at last. The path was plain. All sorts of gates were opening to
them.

"Was that all?" MacLeod was asking her. "Were there other scenes?"

Immediately she wished to tell him everything. Yet this was difficult.
She hesitated.

"I am"--she flushed redly--"I am not engaged to Peter. He doesn't care
about me."

"My dear lady! He would say you do not care for him."

Then Electra saw her good fortune. She was enchanted with the freedom
which had fallen upon her in time for her to accept a more desirable
bondage. She lifted her head and looked at him in a proud happiness.

"No," she said, "I do not care for him. I never did. I see it now. I am
free."

"Are you glad to be free?"

MacLeod had a way of asking women persuasive questions. Though they were
interrogative, they had the force of suggestion, of the clinching
protest he might make in answer, when confession came. And they only
noted, long after, that he never did answer. Electra did not know that
form of communion, and it struck her as something holy. She looked him
in the eyes, with a clear and beautiful gaze.

"Yes," she said, "I am very glad. Now I am free to devote myself to the
most wonderful things, to worship them if I like."

There was passionate sincerity in her tone. It would have made a smaller
thing of her vow if she could have said she was free to worship him.

"I am going to tell you something. You must not repeat it."

"I never will."

"I am going back to France."

"You have been summoned!"

He smiled at her and shook his head slightly, as if the manner of it
were the only thing he could deny. She followed with another question,
rather faintly, for his news left her shivering.

"To France, you said?"

"That is all I can say," he assured her. "It will be France first."

"You will be in danger!" She did not put that as a question. It was an
assertion out of her solemn acceptance of his task. But that he did not
seem to hear.

"When are you coming to France?" he asked her.

Electra had now no more doubt of the unspoken pact between them than if
it had been sealed by all the most blessed vows. It would have cheapened
it rather if he had delegated her to the classified courts of sympathy.
Instead, it left them a universe to breathe in. It pointed to
undiscovered cities beyond the marge of time. It made her his in a way
transcending mutual promises. This same full belief rose passionately to
assert itself, and perhaps to soothe that small sharp ache in her heart,
the kind that rises in woman when man, though he takes the cup, yet
offers none in turn.

"Immediately," she answered, without question. "Or, when you tell me to
come."

"Will you write to me there?" He scribbled a street and number on a
blank card and gave it to her. "I shall not get word from you for a
month, at least. Perhaps not until the late autumn. But I shall get it.
And if I don't answer, you will know I shall answer by coming--when I
can."

Even that seemed enough. It was evident that until he came she would be
upholding something for him, keeping the faith. It was beautiful in a
still, noble way, one that left her indescribably uplifted. Her eyes
were wet when he looked at her. Seen thus, Electra was a fine creature,
her severity of outline softened into womanly charm. It seemed
unnecessary to claim from him any high assurance of what he had for her
to do, yet she did say, for the pleasure of saying it,--

"You are going to let me help you?"

"What else is there for either of us to do," he said quickly, "but to
help everybody?"

The blood rushed swiftly to her face and showed her in a glow. She
leaned toward him in a timid and what seemed to her, for a moment, an
ignoble confidence, because it touched such sordid things.

"I have some money. I will give that--and anything I have. You must
teach me. I have everything to learn."

He seemed to promise that, as he seemed to promise other things, partly
by his answering smile, partly by the inexplicable current of persuasion
pouring from him. He rose.

"Now," he said, "I must go. It is nearly noon."

"You won't stay to luncheon?"

"Won't the others be here?"

"My grandmother and Mr. Stark."

She was hardly urging him, because it seemed to her, too, a doubtful
pleasure, if it must be shared.

"Not to-day, then. But I shall see you again."

"Before you go."

Her face called upon him like a messenger beseeching news.

"Many, many times," he told her smilingly. "Many times, even if they
have to be within a few days. Now, good-by."

She watched him down the walk, and as if he knew that, he turned, as the
shrubbery was closing about him, and waved his hat to her. That seemed
another bit of prescience,--to know she was to be there. Electra was
very happy. She sat down again in a swoon of the reason and a mad hurry
of what cried to her as the higher part of her nature, unrecognized
until now, and thought of her exalted fortune.

MacLeod found Rose ready to question him. She was at the gate, to have
her word immediately. He noted the signs of apprehension in her face,
and, taking her hand, swung it as they walked.

"Has anything happened?" she asked irrepressibly.

"I've been down to--what do they call it?--the plantation."

"What did you talk about?"

"Oh, crops!"

"You don't know anything about crops!"

MacLeod laughed.

"Well, the other man did. I can always listen."

"Have you been there all the time?"

"No. I went in to see Electra."

Rose stopped short in the path between the banks of flowers. It was a
still day, and the summer hush of the plot--a velvet stillness where the
garden held its breath--made the time momentous to her. Unconsciously
she gripped her father's hand.

"She has told you!" she breathed. Her eyes sought his face. MacLeod was
looking at her smilingly, fondly even. She shuddered.

"You are a goose, Rose," he said lightly. He released his fingers from
the clasp of hers and gave her hand a little shake before he dropped it.
"But I can't help it. If you will go on tipping over your saucer of
cream, why, you must do it, that's all."

They walked on, and at the steps she paused again, though she heard
Peter's voice within.

"You're terribly angry with me, aren't you?" she said, in a low tone,
seeming to make it half communion with herself.

"Angry, my girl! Don't say a thing like that."

"You look exactly as you did the night Ivan Gorof defied you--and the
next day he died."

MacLeod laughed again, so humorously that Peter, coming forward from the
library, his own face serious with unwelcome care, smiled involuntarily
and returned to his every-day mood of belief that, on the whole, things
go well.

"I didn't kill him," MacLeod was saying, as he mounted the steps.

Rose shivered a little.

"No," she insisted. "But he died."

MacLeod was beguilingly entertaining at dinner that day, and in the
afternoon he and Peter went to drive. At supper, too, he was in his best
mood, and that evening Rose, worn out by the strain of his persistent
dominance, escaped to her own room. There she sat and counseled her
tense nerves. She was afraid. Then when she heard the closing of
grannie's door, she slipped downstairs to her tryst. The night was dark,
and there was a grumble of thunder from the west. In her excitement she
took swift steps, as if all her senses were more keenly awake than they
had been in the light, and kept the path unerringly. She had no doubt
that he was there, but he called to her before she could ask. His voice
vibrated to the excitement in her own heart.

"Good child, to come!"

She found her chair and sank into it.

"I had to come." At once she felt light-hearted. There seemed to be no
bounds to his protection of her. "I have told Electra."

"I knew you would."

"She has told Peter. They know it now,--all but grannie,--dear grannie."

"She can wait. She won't flicker. She won't vary. Nothing can shake
grannie's old heart."

"What did he say to you to-day?"

Osmond laughed. It was a low note of pleasure.

"Platitudes," he rejoined.

"And what did you say to him?"

"Platitudes again. He said his kind, I said mine. I learned a few
truths."

"About his business?--that's what it is. I can say it when I'm not in
the same room with him--business."

"About me. I learned what other fellows know when they are boys."

"Did he teach you?"

"He? No. Yes. Through my hatred of him."

"Ah, then you hated him! Was it because I taught you to?"

"Partly. Partly because he is an insolent animal. He is kind because he
is well-fed. Yet I think it was chiefly because he has ill-used you."

"Yes," she owned sadly. "I betrayed him to you."

But Osmond had escaped from recollection of the day into a mood half
meditative, half excited fancy.

"I have been thinking back, since he left me," he said, "ever so many
years. I see I haven't had any life at all."

"Ah!" It was a quick breath of something sweeter than pity. It could not
hurt.

"I have been turning away from things all my life, because they were not
for me. But now I think--what if I didn't turn away? What if I met them
face to face?"

"What, playmate? You puzzle me."

"Grannie indulged Peter. Even in his eating, she couldn't refuse him
anything."

"But she loved you best!"

"No doubt of it. But he was well. He could have anything, even hunks of
cake. Grannie hates to deny pleasures to any living thing. 'I guess it
won't hurt you!' I've heard her say it to him over and over. But to
me--"

"To you?"

"Why, to me she never varied. 'Son,' she'd say, 'that isn't the way to
do. We can't risk it.' So I turned aside and ate good crusty bread and
drank milk. I didn't want cake. I didn't want Peter's coffee. But I
wonder how it would seem to have ridden them all bareback, all vices,
all indulgences, and conquered them after I'd known them--not turned
aside and gone the other way."

In that mood she hardly knew him. The clean, sweet, childlike quality
had gone; it had fled before this breath of the passion of life. She
felt vaguely how wrong he was. He was idealizing the world as he did not
know it and the conquest of the world as it appeared in her father, the
master of all its arts.

"Playmate," she said, though she was doubtful of her own wisdom.

"Yes, playmate."

"There isn't anything desirable in evil knowledge. I've heard him
say--you know--"

"Tom Fulton?"

"Yes. I've heard him say he wanted to know everything about life--bad
and good. He was black with knowledge. I might have learned it from him.
I thank God he spared me that. I wish you would be grateful for your
clean life. I wish you'd see there's no magic in the things my father
knows, for instance. It's better to make a lily grow."

"Ah, but I've discovered things in myself that are exactly like the
things in other men--and other men are used to them. So when an ugly
beast puts up its head, the man gives it a crack and knocks it silly.
Then it lies down a spell, and the man goes about his business. He gets
used to its growling and clawing away at intervals. He's only to knock
it down. But I don't fully know yet what is in that pit of mine. I
discovered something to-day."

"What?"

"The lust for fight."

She shuddered.

"I wasn't prepared for it. Another time I should be. It was an ugly
devil--but I loved it."

She was silent, and after a moment he asked her, in his old anxious,
friendly tone, "Have I hurt you?"

"No. But somehow it seems as if you'd gone away."

"I know. I'm still communing with that brute in me--the fighting brute.
I must be honest with you. I can't help thinking he'd give me a special
kind of pleasure."

"Would he?" She asked it wistfully. He had opened the windows of their
house to strange discords from without. "What kind of pleasure?"

He was glad to tell. The magnitude and newness of his emotion that day
made it something to be flaunted while the disturbed currents of his
blood kept their fervor. Later he might put it to the test of equable
judgment. Now it was all a glory of hot action.

"Playmate," he said, "I wanted to kill him."

"My father? Oh, why, why?"

"Maybe for your sake. Yes! there was an instant when I said I would kill
him and free you from him." She could not answer. He heard the rustle of
her dress and added quickly, "Now, don't go. Of all nights, to-night is
the night I can't spare you."

"I thought it was the one when you didn't need me."

"I need you to listen. I'm a blaring, trumpeting egotist to-night.
Please understand me! Stop being a woman a minute, and see how it would
seem to be a man--not like me, but free to live and sin and refuse to
sin."

"You are free," she said, in her low, pained voice. "You have refused
all the ignoble things."

"Ah, but I didn't even parley with them. I wish I could feel I'd whacked
them and broken their skulls instead of going the other way."

"Playmate," she cried, "you are all wrong. You must not parley with
them. You must refuse to look at them."

"Refuse to look at the worm that eats the root? No. Find him and stamp
on him. The worst of it is, I begin to be rather terrified. I see that
life is a bigger thing than I thought."

"Not to grannie. To her it's big and simple."

"Because she knows the way. Well, what if there are many ways,--not like
hers, not the true way,--but ways we ought to look at before we can say
we know life at all? Think of it, playmate. You are a woman, younger
than I, delicate as a rose; yet you know more about life than I. You
know how to meet men and women. There aren't surprises you can't
master."

She sat wondering what it was that had moved him, and whether it was not
simply the power of MacLeod's personality, equally compelling to love or
hate. But Osmond was going on in that fierce monologue.

"I feel as if I had been waked up. Once I had my riding dream. Now I
have a million dreams. Did I tell you my riding dream? Some
nights--chiefly when there's a moon--I wake and lie there and fancy I am
on a horse. There's the smell of the horse and the leather, the creak of
the saddle, and we are riding like the devil or the wind, always over
plains that stretch out into more miles, however far I ride. I am bent
over the saddle, peering forward. That's what I had when my blood moved
too fast for me. Now I shall dream of fight. Playmate, what is it?"

"It isn't anything. I didn't speak."

"Yes, but there was that quick little breath. I keep hurting you
somehow. Do you suppose I want any of it except for you? I want to ride
to you. I want to fight because I could fight for you."

"Ah," she said sadly, "you think so now for a minute. But you had
forgotten me."

"Yes, I had," he owned. "That's being a man, too. We have to forget you
or we couldn't ride and we couldn't fight. But it's all for you."

There was the thunder again.

"I must go back," she said.

"Yes, it's going to rain. You must go. One minute. It won't come yet.
Does he know you have told Electra?"

"My father? Yes."

"What did he say?"

"He--accepted it." For some reason, she dared not tell him how that
acceptance troubled her. Osmond himself seemed like an unknown force as
ready to bring confusion as calm.

But he knew.

"You are afraid of him," he said. "Dear child, don't be afraid. Sit down
hard and say 'no' and 'no,' whatever he demands. You are here with us.
Grannie is an angel of light. She'll send for shining cohorts and
they'll camp round about you. There's Peter--your Peter. And I'll die
for you."

"No! no!" The assurance of his tone was terrifying to her. She saw him
dying in unnecessary sacrifice. "Nobody must die for me. We must all
live and be good children and do what grannie would want us to."

"Then the first thing is to run home and go to bed. The storm is coming.
Good-night, dear playmate. I'll follow on behind and see you don't get
lost."

"One minute!" She paused, not knowing how to say it. "Can't you take it
back?" she adventured. "What you said about my father?"

He laughed, with an undertone of wild emotion.

"Not even for you! I did want to kill him. If I got my hands on him, I
should want it again. But it was for you."

"Good-night."

She was going, and he called after her,--

"Remember!"

"What shall I remember?"

She halted hopefully, and the old kind voice was near her:--

"Remember I would die for you."



XXIII


Peter was early at Osmond's door. He did not find him working, though
the other men had been many hours afield, but standing still gazing off
into the distance. Osmond was pale. He looked as if he had not slept,
and the lines about his mouth hinted at decisions.

"I want to speak to you," said Peter abruptly.

"Yes. I want to speak to you, too." The answer was gravely and almost
unwillingly given. "Come out under the tree."

They took their way silently to the apple tree, but there neither could,
after old custom in a talk, throw himself on the ground to luxuriate
and, in moments of doubt, chew a blade of grass. Peter walked back and
forth, a short tether. Osmond, fixed in some unexplained reserve,
awaited him. Peter spoke first, nervously.

"Electra has given me up."

"Well, it was bound to come."

"Why was it?"

"It was a dream, Pete. You dreamed it when you were a boy. It was the
best you had then."

"Well, there's something else. That's not a dream. But I don't know that
I can talk of it yet. What was it you wanted to say to me?"

At intervals all night Osmond had been wondering how to broach it.

"You know, boy," he began at last, "it isn't good for you any more to
have me send you money."

Peter stared.

"But it's our money," he said.

Osmond too stared, but not at him. He was wondering whether Peter could
possibly fail to see that the money, all these years, had not come by
favor, that it had been earned by Osmond's own arduous grappling with
the earth, that struggle out of which the man had gained strength and
the earth had yielded her fruits.

"You see, boy," he hesitated, "there isn't anything but the place, and
that's grannie's."

"Yes, but the place earns something."

"Not without a good deal put into it."

"Ah!" Peter drew a breath of pure surprise. "You're tired of overseeing,
old boy. I don't wonder. Of course you must let up."

Again Osmond waited, not so much to commune with himself as from sheer
disinclination to face the awkwardness of speech. It was impossible to
say, "I am not tired of serving you, but you must not be served. You
must carry your pack."

"You see," he began again, "the place must stand intact while grannie
lives. After that, we don't know. But now--Pete, you must paint your
pictures."

"Of course!" But the response was wavering. Peter smiled radiantly.
"Come, old chap," he said, "you're not going to make rules for me,
because it's better for the white man to bear his burden."

Osmond, too, tried to smile, and failed in it.

"I don't know but I am," he said, with a wry face. "Pete, I want you to
go in and conquer--earn your fame, earn your bread. I don't want you to
depend on anybody, even on me."

Peter was wrinkling his brows. He was delightfully good-tempered, and
money meant very little to him save as a useful medium of which there
was sure to be enough. He had never regarded it as a means of moral
discipline.

"That's very awkward," he said, "because--Osmond, I want to marry."

"To marry! You said she had given you up!"

"Oh, Electra!" That issue had withdrawn into a dim past. "Osmond, I have
spoken to Rose."

"Rose!" Now again Osmond felt the blood beating in his ears. Was it the
impulse of fight, he asked himself, or another, as savage? But this time
he did not mean to be overborne. Peter was speaking simply and boyishly,
with a great sincerity.

"I see now there never was anybody but Rose, from the minute we met. I
told her yesterday."

"So you are--engaged." Osmond brought out the commonplace word with a
cold emphasis.

Peter looked at him, surprised.

"No. She's not to be had for the asking. I had to tell her. But I've got
to earn her. If you knew her as I do, you'd see that."

Osmond's brain was in a maze of longing to hear what she had said, and
with it a fierce desire to escape that knowledge. Also he was overborne
by a passionate recoil from his own suggestion of cutting off his
brother's income. At least he might have some share in their happiness.
He could work here like a gnome underground, delving for the gold to
deck their bridal. And underneath was that new pain at the heart: that
earth pang so sickening that it might well threaten to stop the heart's
beating altogether.

"There never was anything like her," said Peter, out of his new dream.
"She needs happiness, sheer happiness, after what she has been through.
That settles it about living abroad." He looked up brightly. "We must be
in Paris."

"You think she would wish it?"

"We should be near her father, near headquarters. For of course we
should be working for the Brotherhood."

Osmond turned abruptly.

"I must get to hoeing," he said.

Peter followed him. Something in the air struck him with a new timidity.

"You know," he qualified, when they were well into the field, "she
hasn't accepted me."

"No."

"I'm not the man for her, in many ways. Who is? But by the powers! I bet
I could make her happy."

He took off his hat to strike at a butterfly, not to destroy it but to
prove his good-will, and Osmond, without glancing at him, knew exactly
how he looked, and thought bitterly that to Peter Rose was only one of a
hundred beautiful things that made the earth a treasury. And to Osmond
there was but one, and that was Rose.

Peter took the path homeward, and Osmond kept on across the field. At
the farthest bound, he stepped over the stone wall into the bordering
tangle on the other side, and crossed that field also and went on into
the pasture, to the pines. This land was his, and the deep woods,
stretching forth in a glimmering twilight, had been in many moods his
best resort. He did not enter far, but sat down in a little covert where
in spring there were delicate flowers. There he faced himself.

Everything brought its penalty, even life. This he knew at last. He
could not feed on what he called his kinship with Rose and escape the
suffering from a bond unfulfilled. Instead of halting outside the garden
of being, smelling its fragrance and thankful for a breath, he was
inside with other men who owned the garden and felt free to eat the
fruit. He had never really been outside the garden at all. He had merely
been turning away from the blossoming trees, denying himself the
certainty of what the fruit might be, working carefully about the roots
and learning the unseeing patience of the earthworm. And the one flower
had bloomed in the garden at last, so sweet he could not ignore it, so
white it lighted the air like a lamp that was stronger than the sun. He
had bade himself never to forget that he was not like other men; but he
was exactly like other men, for he loved a woman.

As he sat there, overcome by this conviction of the tyranny of the
universe, one thought pierced him like the light of stars. He could have
made her happy. A sweet exultancy told him that her nature turned to him
as irrevocably as the needle to the north. He could sway and dominate
her. He could comfort her with the unconsidered tenderness that, when he
thought of her, came with his breath. As by a revelation he understood
what she had meant when she told him how love had been her waiting
dream. In a passion of sympathy he saw her trailing through sad
undergrowths in pursuit of that luring light--now stumbling in the bog
of earthy desires other hands had led her to, now pricked by thorns of
disappointment, but never for a moment sullied through that wretched
progress; and when the marsh was past, washing her garments and her feet
in the water of life--that unquenchable spring of belief in the mystery.
That was what it was, the divine mystery, the force that led through all
appearance to the real, through all false glitter to the light. It was a
heavenly vision, the possibility as she saw it: the rounded life, the
two bound in a mutual worship, carrying their full cup carefully to the
altar where they would make their vows. He saw how lesser desires could
be wiped out by one pure passion, how no price is too great to pay for
the soul's treasure, not so much the possession of it, but the guarding
it for all the uses of the world.

While he lay there, the scent of the pines in his nostrils, it seemed to
him that he was living through the progress of his completed life with
her. There was not only the overwhelming passion of it, but the intimate
communion of quiet days. She would turn to him for counsel and for
sustenance, as he would turn to her. This would be the interchange of
needs and kindnesses. There would be funny little queernesses of the day
to keep them laughing; and they would be kind, not forgetful in their
castle of content, but kind, the stronger that they had multiplied their
strength by union.

And then settled upon him again his wonder at the inexorability of
things, that a man could not escape the general laws because he willed
to live outside them. He was bound round by necessity. Merely because he
would not take a mate, he was not exempt from crying out for her. And as
the day went on and the vividness of his first high vision faded, his
mind went back to Peter and the incredible truth that Peter also knew he
could make her happy. The cloud of jealousy darkened again, and he met
earth pangs and strangled them. But as he slew them, more were born, and
lying there in the fern he hated his brother and his brother's body,
born to regnancy. MacLeod, too, appeared before his inward vision,
wholesome, well-equipped, riding the earth as Apollo drives the horses
of the sun. Him, too, he hated, and for Rose's sake longed again to put
him away with his own hands out of the air she breathed. Spent by his
passions, he lingered there in the coolness of the unheeding woods while
the afternoon gloomed into night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Madam Fulton sat on the veranda, thinking sadly. She found herself
puzzled by one thing most of all. Several times a day she had asked
Billy Stark, "Do you really believe there's anything in that notion
about money's being tainted?"

"Don't fret yourself," he counseled her, in his kind voice; but she
would sit wrinkling her brows and putting the question again to herself,
if not to him.

"The trouble is, Billy," she had said, this morning, "I get so puzzled.
It's like trying to learn a new language when you're old. My eyes are
too blurred to see the accents. My ears are dulled. There's that girl
that comes looking like an angel and says she's a sinner. I thought she
might be a comfort; but no, if you please. She just looks Electra in the
face and says, 'I'm as good as the best, only I prefer to do things in
my own way.' I wish Electra hadn't made me so frightfully
self-conscious."

But smile at it all she might, something had wrought upon her. She
looked older and more frail, a pathetic figure now, leaning forward in a
ruminating dream, and reminding Billy Stark, in a hundred unconsidered
ways, of the shortness of the time before she should be gone. His heart
ached. He had truly loved her in his youth, and afterwards, in other
fashions, for many years.

As she sat there in her daze of past and present, she was aware that a
tall white figure stood before her in the sun. She recalled herself with
a start from those never-to-be-explored bounds, and came awake,
humorously frightened at the thought that here, judging from the height
and whiteness, was an angel come to make remarks upon tainted money. But
it was only Electra.

"The next thing to it," said Madam Fulton, with her broad-awake smile.

"What did you say, grandmother?" asked Electra.

"Nothing, my dear. What were you going to say? Sit down. You dazzle me
in that sun."

Electra sat down and considered how she should speak, having triumphant
news to tell. Then, in the midst of her reflection, the news got the
better of her. She began with an eloquent throb in her voice.

"Grandmother, I am going abroad."

"So Peter has spoken, has he? When is it to be?"

"I am not going with Peter. That is all over."

"Well, you're a silly girl. You never'll get such a nice boy again.
Peter could make a woman laugh from morning till night, if she'd have
the sense to please him."

"I am going for a year. At least, I say a year. I put no limit to it in
my own mind. Do you want to go with me, grandmother?"

"No, I'm sure I don't. If I go with anybody, it will be Billy Stark."

"Then I must go alone," A high determination ruled her voice.

"Alone! Mercy, Electra! you're a young woman. Don't you know you are?"

"I am glad I am young," said Electra. Her eyes were shining. "I shall
have the more years to devote to it."

"You don't mean to say you propose crossing alone? Did you want to drag
me out of my coffin to see you landed there respectably?"

"I am quite willing to go alone," said Electra, still with her air of
beatific certainties. "I shall be the more unhampered. You must stay
here all you want to, grandmother. Keep the house open. Act exactly as
if it were yours."

A remembrance of the time when she had thought the place not altogether
her own tempered the warmth of that permission. Some severity crept into
her demeanor, and Madam Fulton, recognizing its birth, received it
humbly as no more than she had earned.

"When are you going, Electra?" she asked.

"In about a month. Grandmother!" Electra, in her worship of the conduct
of life, hardly knew how to express strong emotions without offense to
her finer instincts. "I don't forget, grandmother," she hesitated, "that
I ought to be with you."

"Why ought you?"

"Because--grandmother, haven't I a duty to you?"

"A duty!" the old lady muttered. "The devil fly away with it!"

"I beg your pardon, grandmother?"

"I beg yours, my dear. Never swear before a lady! No, no. You haven't
any duty towards me."

"But there are other calls." Electra struggled to find words that should
not tell too much. She ended lamely, "There are calls I cannot
disregard." There rose dimly before her mind some of the injunctions
that bid men leave father and mother for the larger vision.

"There's Billy Stark," said the old lady, with a quickened interest.
"Fancy! he's been away all day."

Electra rose and went in again. She was not sensitive now to the ironies
of daily life, but it did occur to her that her grandmother was more
excited at seeing Billy Stark home after a day in town than by her own
great conclusion. Electra had thought solemnly about the magnitude of
the decision she was making when she gave up the care of grandmother to
follow that larger call, but again she found herself outside the line of
recognized triumphs. She had announced her victory and nobody knew it.

Billy Stark had brought his old friend a present: a box of the
old-fashioned peppermints she liked. She took off the string with a
youthful eagerness.

"My dear," said she, "what do you think has happened now?"

"I know what has happened to me," said Billy. He threw himself into a
chair with an explosive sigh, half heat and half regret. "I've had
business letters. I've got to be off."

"Off!" She regarded him in a frank dismay. "Billy, you break my heart!"

"I break my own heart," said Billy gallantly. "I've taken my passage.
Say the word, dear girl, and I'll take it for two."

She looked at him in silent trouble. Tears had dimmed her eyes.

"Well, Billy," she said at last, "this is the pleasantest summer I shall
ever have."

"Say the word," he admonished her again. "We've got more summers before
us."

She smiled at him, and winked away the tears.

"Then come back and spend them here. Electra's going, too,--like a
stowaway. You won't let her cross with you, and see at least that she
doesn't hold services on board?"

"God forbid!" said Billy. "I'm afraid of her."

"I don't blame you. Billy, I suppose we ought to be saying solemn things
to each other, if you're really going."

"Clip ahead, old lady. What do you want to say?"

"I'd like to clear up my accounts a little. I want to get my books in
order. I don't intend to die in a fog. Billy, how much of it was real?"

"How much of what, Florrie?"

"Of life. Of the things we thought and felt. Is there such a thing as
love, Billy?"

He got up under the necessity of thought and stood, hands in his pockets
and legs apart, looking over the garden beds. He might have been gazing
out to sea for the Islands of the Blest.

"Florrie," he said at length, "I guess there is."

"Did you love me, Billy? No compliments. We're beyond them."

"Yes," said Billy, after another pause. "I think I did. You were a great
deal to me at that time. And when I found it was no use, other people
were a great deal to me, one after another. Several of 'em. I looked
upon it then as a species of game. But they didn't last, Florrie. You
did. You always give me a kind of a queer feeling; you're all mixed up
in my mind with pink and blue and hats with rosebuds on 'em and college
songs."

It was not much like a grand passion, but it was something, the honest
confession of a boy.

"I thought it was a game, too," she said musingly. "Do you suppose it
was, Billy? Or were we wrong?"

Billy whirled about and faced her.

"Dead wrong! No, Florrie, it never was meant for a game. It's earnest.
The ones that take it so are the ones that inherit the earth. No, not
that--but they go in for all they're worth and they've something left to
show for it. They don't put their money into tinsel and see it fade."

"Well, what else? Did Charlie Grant love me?"

"Yes. No doubt of it."

"But he loved Bessie afterwards."

"Yes. She lived the thing through with him. She built up something, I
fancy. He probably remembered you as I did, all pink ribbons and fluff;
but she helped him rear his house of life."

"And my husband didn't love me and I didn't love my husband," the old
lady mused. "Well, Billy, it's almost the end of the play. I wish I
understood it better. And I've written a naughty book, and I'm going to
be comfortable on the money from it. And you wish I hadn't, don't you?"

He saw how frail she looked and answered mercifully,--

"I don't care much about the book, dear. Don't let's talk of that."

"You wish I hadn't written it!"

"I wish you hadn't been so infernally bored as to think of writing it."

"And I'll bet a dollar you wish you'd come back and found me reconciled
to life and death, and reading daily texts out of little pious books,
and knitting mufflers for sailors, instead of seething with all sorts of
untimely devilishnesses. Don't you, Billy?"

What Billy thought he would not tell himself, and he said with an
extreme honesty,--

"You're the greatest old girl there is, Florrie, or ever was, or ever
will be."

"Ah, well!" she sighed, and laughed a little. "I can't help wishing
there weren't so many good folks. It makes me uncommonly lonesome. For
you're good, too, Billy, you sinner, you!"

He read the gleam in her eyes, the reckless courage, the unquenched love
of life; after all, there was more youth in her still than there had
ever been in him or in a hundred like him. He laughed, and said,--

"Oh, I do delight in you!"



XXIV


It was the early twilight, and MacLeod was going to Electra to say
good-by. But first he tapped at Rose's door. He had seen her from time
to time through the day, and nothing of significance had passed between
them. That unbroken level had been exciting to her. She knew he had
things to say, and that he would not go leaving them unspoken; delay was
only the withholding of bad news. Now she came to the door, a fan in her
hand and the summer night reasonably accounting for the breathlessness
she felt. Her pallor made a white spot in the dusk; she was like a
ghost, with all the life drained out of her. MacLeod stepped inside and
closed the door.

"Hot!" he breathed, taking a place by the window.

She could not quite compose herself, and stood near him, fanning him to
give herself a pretext for movement. MacLeod looked up at her, smiling.
He saw how pale she was.

"Why," he said, with his beguiling kindliness, "you mustn't look as if
you were afraid of me."

She moved a little, to escape his eyes.

"No," she said, in a low tone, "I don't mean to be afraid. But I am."

"What of, Rose?"

She wanted to say, from her confused suspicions, that he was inevitably
contemplating some course that would involve her freedom. But he had
turned, and was looking at her in a smiling candor. There was evidently
no more guile in him than in the impartial and cherishing sun.

"I wish life didn't present itself to you as a melodrama," he
volunteered, with almost a brightness of reproach.

She shook her head. The tremulous expectancy of her face remained
unchanged.

"I wish so, too," she answered.

"Well!" He spoke robustly, with a quick decision. "I'm going back. I
shall sail next week."

She drew a quick breath. Ready as she was to disbelieve him, it was
impossible to deny herself an unreasonable relief. She held herself
rigid with anticipation, knowing what the next words would be, and how
he would command or entreat her also to go. But they amazed her.

"Rose," said he, "this may be the last little talk we have together
here. I want to speak to you about your mother."

"My mother!" Unconsciously she drew nearer him. Her mother was--what? A
banished dream, not forgotten, but relegated to dim tapestried chambers
because the air of the present seemed to blur out memory by excess of
light. She had awakened from her girlhood's dreams; to them, chiefly,
her mother had belonged. Now that past beneficence was a faded flower
found in a casket, a scent of beauty touched by time.

"Sit down," said MacLeod, and she obeyed him. He stretched out his legs
at ease, and put his head back, his eyes closed, in an easy
contemplation. "We don't speak of her very often, do we, little girl?"

"No!" Her irrepressible comment was, "I thought you had forgotten her."

But he continued,--

"I was thinking the other day how much you lose in not having known her
as she was when I met her first."

"I have the miniature."

"I know. But that's only a suggestion. It doesn't help me bring her to
life for you. She had beauty--not so much as you have--and an
extraordinary grace and charm. She had, too, that something we trace
back to breeding."

He had always undervalued the virtues claimed by gentle birth, and she
looked at him, amazed. He understood, and laughed a little. His best
weapon against the aristocrat had been tolerance, at its mildest, or a
gentle scorn. Where a mob threw eggs, he tossed a rounded epithet.

"I know," he said, "you think I laugh at breeding. Not in her. She had
its rarest virtues. She was like an old portrait come to life. She
couldn't think of her own advantage. She couldn't lie. Ah, well! well!"

He seemed to be musing over the sadness of things begun and ended all
too soon, over a light quenched, a glory gone. Rose found herself
passionately anxious to hear more. He had brought her a jewel, a part of
her heritage; she might have seen it, but without knowing how bright it
was. She was acquiescing, too, in the old spell of his kindness, but
never, it seemed to her, so beguilingly administered: for he had come,
like a herald accredited by an impeccable authority--the talisman of her
mother's name. He was, she thought from his voice, gently amused, even
smiling a little to himself.

"You see, Rose, your mother made a bad match. Her people, the few there
were, repudiated her. I had no qualifications. I was a poor scribbler,
too big, too robust, too everything to suit them. I breathed up all the
air. I just went into their stained-glass seclusions and carried her
off. They never forgave me."

"Her father died very soon?" She had never referred to the two old
people as her grandparents. She found, in her emotional treasury, no
right to them, even as a memory. This hesitating question, indeed,
seemed a liberty, as it subtly brought them nearer.

"Yes. Your mother was prostrated by that. She had a strong sense of
family feeling."

Immediately Rose pictured to herself the wonder of having such clinging
tendrils, to aspire upward, and such filaments of root, to mingle with
kindred roots in a tended ground. Until now it had seemed to her brave
and desirable to walk alone without inherited ties, the cool wind
breathing about her, unchecked by walls of old restraint. Now, whether
he was gently guiding her thoughts toward his desired ends, or whether
some actual hunger in her was impelling them to seek lost possibilities,
she did not know; but she was sad. She wanted the spacious boughs of a
tree of family life to sit under, to play there and rest. He was
continuing,--

"Above all, your mother was a woman of great loyalties, not only to
individuals but to her inherited pride. You know that threadbare phrase,
_noblesse oblige_? I can laugh when most of them use it. I never laughed
when I saw her cutting her conduct by it."

"I never knew--" She was about to say, in her glowing surprise, that she
never knew he cared so much for her mother, or that he had been
cherishing such memories.

"That's the reason, my dear," he was saying now, "why you must model
yourself on her, and not on me. I don't know that you ever had the least
desire to model yourself on me, but I feel very strongly about your
knowing what kind of woman she was and letting her--well, letting her
decide things for you."

"I wish"--All sorts of longings were choking her and crying for
expression; but she could only finish, "I wish she had not died."

"Yes, child. Now these people here, Rose,"--his voice had changed into a
decisive affirmation,--"they are a good sort, very gentle, very well
worth your meeting them with fairness. You haven't met them fairly. Now,
have you?"

"What do you mean?" She was trembling, not so much under his words as
from her own dreary shame. The shame had been with her all day, until
she was tired with it, and the words seemed to be little separate
floutings to make the burden heavier.

"Electra called you an adventuress. She had every right to."

"Yes. She had every right to." But Rose spoke with the unreasoning
bitterness of youth that, finding itself in the wrong path, is sure the
way, once entered, has no turning.

"She says you came here with a lie on your lips. Isn't that true?"

"But you told me"--She was seeking to get back her lost self, the one
that still believed in its own integrity. "I didn't choose to lead the
life she thinks I led. You told me it was the noblest thing to do."

"Ah!" He took the words out of her mouth. "I did. But did you make your
stand magnificently and face the conventions you defied? No! you came
here and told a lie. You chose the cheapest part you could, and played
it."

His righteous anger was sweeping her away. Everything helped him, even
her own sad sense of inexorable destiny and her poor desert.

"You have taken a very unfortunate step, child," he was saying. "You
came here on a questionable errand. Now you have owned up to these
people. They know what you are."

"Oh!" She threw out her hands at the horror of it. Until now she had not
seen herself as she must be, even in Electra's eyes. His way of
presenting things made them intolerably vivid.

"But they--they will not--" She quivered before him, and seemed to
crouch and lessen.

"They won't tell? I don't feel sure of that. But do you want to trade on
their not telling? Such things are always known."

"Well, I have done wrong. I must suffer for it."

"Who suffers? You--and I. The blow to me is incalculable. I don't
understand it. Your mother's memory--that should have kept you straight.
So far, child--why, you're a liar."

She was, she told herself, the tears streaming over her face. The happy
certainties she had felt with Osmond withdrew into a vague distance. At
last she understood; she had sinned, and she was not forgiven.

"Now!" said MacLeod. His voice had a ring she knew. "Now, we must
consider what is to be done. One thing I have done already. I have taken
passage for you. I will stand by you if you go back to France. I won't
support you here. Nor shall they. Think what you did. A cheap
adventuress could do no more, except persist in it." He was all
breathing indignation.

"Do you mean"--Her voice broke. "Do you mean to take me back to him?"

"The prince? By no means. I mean to take you back to work, to be good
and clean and honest. You must retrieve this step. You shall be
independent of me, if you like. You shall sing. My dear daughter, you
may not think I have shown you much affection,--but your honor is very
dear to me." He looked nobly sincere, and yet she bent her brows upon
him, and tried to read a deeper soul than he displayed.

"Father!" The word was wrung from her. She had not willingly called him
by it for the two years past. "You have persuaded me before. How can I
believe you?"

A melting change came over him. It was evident in his voice, his
suffused look, his whole manner.

"My child," said he, "can't you believe I loved your mother?"

Immediately the tides of her filial being were with him. If she denied
him, she must hurt something to which her very blood bade her be
faithful. The house of life, the father, mother, and their child,--these
were the sacred three, and it might be her high emprise to keep their
union holy.

"Can you be ready to-morrow?" he asked, with that emphasis his followers
knew. "You will stay in town with me until we sail."

"Yes."

"Will you be ready?"

"I will be ready."

He got up and bent to kiss her forehead. But she retreated.

"No," she breathed. "I'll do it, father, but don't be kind to me."

He gave her a little pat on the shoulder, and a reassuring, "Nonsense!
I'm always kind. We'll have famous times yet, my dear."

She stood droopingly while his steps went down the stairs and out
through the veranda and ceased upon the grass. Then she opened her door
and crossed the hall to grannie's room and tapped.

"Come in," called the kind old voice. Grannie was in bed, a candle by
her, a book in her hand. She looked, in her nightcap, like a beautiful
old baby. "I had to crawl in here," she said apologetically. "I get so
stiff sitting about. But I don't want to sleep. Draw up the
rocking-chair."

Rose went up to the bedside, and dropped upon her knees, looking up so
that the light could strike her face. It was a wretched face, but she
tried to keep it calm lest it should plead for her.

"My father is going to take me away," she began. "I must pack to-night.
But I want to tell you--"

"Take you away? where?" asked grannie.

"To France."

"Why, I don't like that!"

Rose continued,--

"I am not a good woman. My father has told me so. He has shown me. I
believe it."

"I guess you're tired," said grannie. She laid a motherly hand on the
girl's forehead. Then she smoothed her hair, and tucked a lock behind
her ear. "I guess I wouldn't say such things."

"I was never married to Tom Fulton. I thought it was right not to be.
But I came here and called myself his wife. I am an adventuress. My
father says so."

The old lady sat looking at her with a puzzled glance.

"You blow out the candle," she said then. "It makes it kind of hot. Now
I'll move over, and you climb up here and lie down a spell. I guess
it'll rest you."

Rose put out the candle, and breathed her relief now that even that
light was off her tortured face. Then she did stretch herself on the
bed, and grannie put out a hand and held hers.

"'T won't hurt your skirt, will it?" she asked. "You've got such pretty
clothes. I shouldn't want to have 'em tumbled."

Rose spoke again with her insistent haste,--

"I am an adventuress."

"There! there! don't say that. It's a miserable kind of a word. Did your
father come here to take you back?"

"I don't know why he came--not entirely. But he tells me to go with him.
I must go."

"Do you want to go, dear?"

She hesitated a moment, and they both listened to the sounds of the
summer night.

"I want to be honest," Rose said at last. "It is too late--but I must do
the best I can."

"It isn't ever too late," said grannie. "But I don't seem to want you to
go. I'm fond of you, dear." Rose lifted the cherishing hand to her lips.
"Peter is fond of you, too. He told me so to-day. It is all over between
him and Electra. He told you that?"

"Dear Peter! But after this"--she was quivering with impatience to put
that test--"you wouldn't be willing to have him like me--after this?"

Now grannie was silent, but only because she was thinking. The
tightening clasp of her hand made that evident.

"My dear," she said at last, in her soft old voice, "you can't imagine
how stupid I am. I never know how to say things right. But if it was a
transgression--I suppose you'd say it was--"

Honesty rose up in the girl, and cried to be heard.

"I thought it was right," she protested sharply. "I did think it was
right. About coming here I didn't think much, except that I was lonesome
and afraid. Now I understand. I must pay my penalties. I must be honest.
It is too late,--but it's all I can do."

"You see, about transgressions," said grannie, "why, they're not to be
thought of, my dear, not for an instant after we are sorry. We've just
taken the wrong road, that's all. We've got to clip it back into the
right one. We can't sit down to cry."

"We've got to take our punishment!"

"Yes, mercy, yes! I guess we have. But we've got to be happy, too. The
punishments were given us in love. We've got to be thankful for 'em.
Now, do you feel as if 't was right for you to go back with your
father?"

"There are hard things there. I ran away from them. I must face them."

"Then you go, dear," said grannie. "But don't you forget for one minute
that there's the love of God. Peter and I love you, too. And when all
the things are done, you hurry right back here, and we shall be
here--some of us, anyway--and your room'll be ready for you just the
same."

Rose lay there with the ineffable sense upon her of that readjusted
balance which we call forgiveness. Life, even the narrow piece of it she
was touching, greatened with possibilities.

"Grannie," she said, "there's one thing more."

"What is it, dear?"

"I want to leave a message with you. I want you to tell Osmond
something."

"Why, honey, do you know Osmond?"

"Yes, I know him." Then she rehearsed the bare details of their
meetings, and finishing, said, quite simply, "I can't see him. I can't
say good-by. If I spoke to him, how could I bear to go? But it's he who
really sends me."

"What do you mean, dear?"

"I don't know how to tell you. Only, he is so true he makes me want to
be true, too. He wants to do the hardest thing. This is the hardest
thing for me. And I want to go and be honest, not stay and have you all
make it easy for me to be honest. And I want to prove myself, to use my
voice. I don't intend to be supported by my father. But when I have
established myself, I shall come back."

She felt as if she were talking to Osmond himself, and as if his idea of
great world spaces and inevitable meetings made it certain for them to
part without loss.

Grannie was thinking. She gave a little sigh.

"What is it?" asked Rose.

"Osmond likes you very much, doesn't he?" asked the old lady.

"It isn't exactly liking. We understand each other. He is different from
anybody."

"Yes."

"He understands me almost before I speak. It is comfortable to be with
him."

"Yes. And the boy finds it comfortable to be with you."

"Oh, yes! It is because it is so exactly alike for us both. That is why
we are so contented together."

"He will miss you when you are gone."

"Oh, but not as I shall miss him! He is so sure of things. He knows so
well when the cord between us is holding. But I shall doubt. I shall
want to hear his voice."

Grannie sighed again. She was a happy old woman in her certainties; but
sometimes she felt tired, with the gentle lassitude of the old. She had
been with Osmond through every step of his difficult way, and she had
hoped some tragedies would be spared them both. Much as she believed in
ultimate good fortune, she had to shrink from his desiring woman's love.
Yet this was to be. A little jealous doubt of the girl crept into her
troubled heart. Was she light of love, a lady of enchantments who could
appear out of nowhere and make all these strange happenings seem
commonplace until her fickle destiny should snatch her away again,
leaving hurt and mourning hearts behind? Grannie was humbly conscious
that there were many things outside her world, exotic flowers of life
her upland pastures did not breed. That they were poison flowers she
could not well believe; but when her dear boy tasted the essence of
them, she had to pause and sternly think it over, whether it was well.

"My dear," she said, "you must be honest with him." The gentle voice had
steel in it.

"Honest? With Osmond? How should I be anything else? What reason--why,
grannie!"

"Osmond is not like other men."

"He is better. He is like a spirit."

"No. He is only a man that's had heavy loads to carry. You mustn't be
cruel to him."

"Grannie, I never heard you speak like that. You have been so kind."

"I am kind now, but Osmond is my boy. Do you feel to him as you did to
Tom Fulton?"

"Oh!" It was a cry of pain. "What has Tom Fulton to do with it, to do
with me?" the girl asked, in that hurt surprise. "All I want is to
forget him. He made himself beautiful to me because he lied to me. The
things I loved he said he loved--and then he laughed at them. But
Osmond--what has Osmond to do with Tom Fulton?"

"You have made Osmond love you," said grannie. "That's all."

The chamber was very still. Rose could hear the ticking of grannie's
watch beside her on the stand. Presently she spoke in a wondering tone.

"Love me? Grannie, is it that?"

"What did you think it was?"

"I didn't think. I thought it was something greater."

"There is nothing greater, Rose. Is there anything more terrible?"

The girl turned her face over, and dropped it for a minute on the hollow
of the old woman's arm. Then she spoke, and to grannie's amazement she
laughed a little, too.

"Oh, I never dreamed I could be so happy!"

"Happy! But is he happy?"

"He must be, if he knows it. Do you think he knows it, grannie?"

"I'm afraid he does, my dear," said grannie sadly.

"Has he told you so?"

"Not a word."

"If he does, tell me, grannie. Betray him. I need to know everything he
knows--everything."

It was a new Rose, one none of them in America had yet seen. There were
tumultuous yearnings in her voice, innocent insistencies; she seemed to
be clamoring for life, the boon that it was right and sweet for her to
have.

"He doesn't speak of you," said grannie. "What could come of it, if he
did?"

"What could come of it? Everything could come of it. I shall write him
by every mail. Tell him that. I will write him all my life, every minute
of it from morning till night. And I will come back, soon, soon,--as
soon as I have earned money to be honest on. Tell him that, grannie."

But grannie sighed.

"I am afraid you are not very reasonable," she said. "And I shouldn't
dare to give him such messages. How do I know what they would mean to
him? Why, my dear, you may meet some young man to-morrow, any day. You
may want to marry him. What do you think Osmond would feel, if you wrote
and told him that?"

"Why," said Rose, in a pained surprise, "you haven't understood, after
all. But he will understand. No, don't tell him anything, grannie, only
that I'll write to him every mail and that I shall come home. He will
believe me. Now I must go and pack."

But grannie held her anxiously.

"I'm afraid I've made you troubled," she said.

"No, you've made me rich. I don't care what happens to me now. I can
face it all. Dear, dear grannie! I thank you for forgiving me." She
kissed the two kind hands, and stood beside the bed for a minute. "He
comes to you in the morning, doesn't he? Tell him all that then. Only
tell him I couldn't bear to say good-by. But I shall come back, and
there will be welcomes, not good-bys." She went softly out, and grannie
heard the closing of the door.

Rose, in her own room, did not begin at once to pack. She was alive
again with the most brilliant triumph and delight. Her father's
influence had slipped from her, and she stood there shuddering in the
delicious cold of a strong wind of life. If she was to go forth, to make
herself whole with her own destiny, she was going, not as the puppet of
his will, but exhilarated by marvels. There were still large things in
the world, strong loyalties, pure faithfulness. She felt like a warrior
girded with a sword.



XXV


Osmond was sitting in his playhouse under the tree. He did not expect
Rose to come, but he had things to think about, and in the playhouse he
never felt alone. He was studying his own life as it had been and as it
was. The past looked to him all submission and a still endurance. He
marveled that a man could live so long and not look man's lot in the
face. A thousand passions had been born in him at once, and they seemed
almost equally good to him because they were all so strong. He sat there
drunk with the lust of power and reviewing his desires as, one by one,
they came and smiled upon him.

First he desired a woman, the one woman, Rose, not now romantically
through the mist of dreams, but as the wild man wants his mate. Was that
love? he asked himself, in this dispassionate scrutiny, and decided
that, as men chose to name it, it was love. They crowned it with
garlands, they sang about it and drank to it, but that was only to make
it sweeter.

He remembered again the passion of protection he had felt for her, the
desire to slay whatever crossed her path. That was hate, he knew, and it
seemed to him good. All these things were the forces that made up life,
and life was a battle.

And then, as he did intermittently after every wave of thought, he
remembered that Peter was in love with Rose, he recalled the gay
certainty of the boy when he had said he could make her happy, and he
saw her in Peter's arms. And this was jealousy.

At once he rose to his feet and listened. A step was coming nearer,
heavy and halting, pausing for frequent rests. The familiar sound of it
and the appeal of a presence not yet known made him knit his brows and
peer forward through the dark. When the step ceased again, for an
interval, he cried out, "Grannie!"

"Why, dear, you there?" called grannie.

He ran to her and put his arm about her, and so they came onward to the
chair which had been a throne for Rose. When she had sunken into it, he
began to scold her gently. She had not been so far from home for many a
day. She had chosen night and a rough path. Why did she do it?

"I had to see you, dear," said grannie. "Maybe I didn't consider how
hard it would be, but when I started out, I wasn't thinking much about
my aches and pains. I had to see you. So I just dressed me and came."

"But, grannie, it's the middle of the night!"

"Yes, child, I suppose it is. Night or day, it's all one. Osmond, her
father's going to take her away from here."

"Rose!"

"Yes, dear, she's going. Do you think it's best to let her go with him?"

"No! It's outrageous and impossible."

"I thought you'd say so. Well, Osmond, she meant to go away to-morrow
morning without seeing you. But she sent you her love. It seemed to me
that.... So I thought you'd better have it to-night."

She heard him breathing heavily, but he did not speak. Once he walked
away from her and back again.

"What has made her want to go?"

"She doesn't want it. But he has worked upon her. He's told her she is
bad; some dreadful things I guess he said. I don't believe in that man,
Osmond. I never did, first minute I laid eyes on him."

"No, grannie, he's not to be believed."

"I thought maybe you'd better have the night-time to think it over in.
You may want to do something."

"Grannie, what can I do?"

"I don't know, son. But you're the head of the house."

Again he strode away on his impatient march, and grannie waited and
prayed a little, and thought how her knees ached and how she hoped God
would help him. He was back again.

"You know how it is with me?" he said roughly.

"Yes, child."

"It's a big proposition."

"It's the biggest there is, son. I've just been telling her so."

"Rose? What has Rose said?"

"Not much. Only I had the feeling, when I was with her, that she loved
you and didn't hardly know about your loving her. So I came down here."

"You did right to come."

Grannie drew a long breath. The thing was out of her hands, now, she
knew. What his hands would do with it did not yet appear. She rose.

"Well, son," she said, "I'll go back. Come with me to the wall. Then
I'll manage it alone."

He did go with her, helping her in a tender silence, and at the door she
kissed him good-night.

"What time is breakfast, grannie?"

"Eight o'clock."

The next morning when they had assembled in the dining-room, grannie,
standing with a hand on the back of her chair, waited. Her face had a
flush of expectation. Her eyes sought the window.

"There!" she said, "he's coming. Peter, I've moved your place. Osmond
will sit opposite me."

"Osmond!" Peter almost shouted it.

"Yes," said grannie, in what seemed pride. "I thought Osmond would be
here."

Osmond came in, a workman in his blouse, fresh from cold water and the
night's stern counseling. Rose, hearing his step, could not, for a
minute, look at him, because he had once forbidden it. The commonplace
room, with the morning light in it, swam before her. After he had spoken
to grannie, he walked up to her and offered his hand. Then their eyes
met. Hers were full of tears, and through their blur, even, his face
looked stern and beautiful.

"I wanted to see you," Osmond said; and she answered, feeling his
kindness as from some dim distance,--

"To say good-by?"

"No, not to say good-by."

Then they sat down, and there was no constraint, but a good deal of
talking; and, strangely, it was Osmond who led it. He did not touch upon
things of wider interest than his own garden ground, where he was at
home. He had pleasant chronicles of the work to give grannie, and
MacLeod took a genial interest. Only Peter sat, wide-eyed at the turn
things were taking, and Rose grew paler and left her plate untouched.
She did not know whether it was joy that moved her, or grief at parting
with him. Only the morning seemed like no other morning. When they rose
from the table, Osmond turned at once to MacLeod.

"May I see you for a minute or two?" he asked. "We'll go into the west
room, grannie."

While Peter started forward, as if to help or hinder as the case might
be when he understood it, Osmond had led the way, still with the air of
being master of the house, and Rose stood with downcast eyes, as if
miserably conscious that the interview would concern her. Inside the
west room, cool in the morning, and with a restful bareness about it, a
retreat where people went to sleep or read, Osmond turned at once to the
man whom, at that moment, he delighted in as a worthy foe. Osmond had
never known before the keen, salt taste of victory. All his triumphs up
to this time had been as slow as the growth of a tree that recovers
itself after lopped branches. Now he felt the anticipation of combat.

"We needn't sit down," he said rapidly, yet with self-possession. He
looked taller, even, MacLeod thought with wonder. His dark eyes were
full of fire. "I love your daughter," said Osmond, in a full, steady
voice. He chose the words the poets had taught him to use simply, and
also, perhaps, the novels he had been reading since he had known Rose.

"My dear fellow!" cried MacLeod expansively. And then, remembering the
peculiar circumstances of the case, "I'm sorry, devilish sorry for you."

Osmond smiled. He felt capable, if there were no other way of doing it,
of wresting the lady's fate from evil chances with his hands. Yet he
liked MacLeod to resist. It made the fight more splendid.

"She must not go back with you," he said. "You are not to insist on it.
Don't insist. That will save us all trouble."

MacLeod had gathered himself together. He put his hand in his pocket and
meditatively brought out his pipe, fingering the case with an absent and
lingering interest, as if he felt the call to a lost rite.

"My dear fellow," he said again, "this is too bad. I'm sorry."

"Rose will remain here," said Osmond briefly. "My grandmother will take
the kindest care of her."

"But I can't allow it, you know," said the father, still with tolerance.
"Rose is due in Paris. We're both due there. It's very good of you, very
hospitable and all that,--but you mustn't carry this Lochinvar business
too far. It's too rapid a world, you know. I'm too busy, my dear fellow.
That's the truth."

Osmond stood gazing at him reflectively, not in doubt or hesitation, but
because he liked the look of so big an animal, and considering that it
would be charming to see the creature yield. Osmond had not sharpened
his weapons or even decided what they were. He only knew MacLeod must
bend, and that there was in himself a big, even an invincible force to
make him.

"Rose is not going," he said quietly.

Then MacLeod laughed. The morning was hurrying by and this vaporing was
a hindrance to be shuffled off. "You say you love my daughter?" he
remarked, with a veiled meaning in the tone. "What then? You don't
propose to marry her?" The tone said further, "You don't tell me you
propose to marry anybody?"

"I only said I loved her," returned Osmond simply. "I thought it would
be well for you to know that. It seemed fairer."

MacLeod smiled again, as if he were smiling down on something. Osmond
opened the door, knowing where he should find her. She was there at the
end of the hall, sitting in one of the high-backed chairs, her hands in
her lap, her head bent sweetly as she listened. She was pale, and there
was terror in her face. As Osmond read that, his own passion quieted,
and he spoke with perfect gentleness:--

"Rose, will you come here?"

She obeyed at once, and they three were in the room together and Osmond
had closed the door. He put out his hand to her, and without hesitation
she gave him hers.

"Rose," he said, "I have been telling your father you will not go back
with him."

Her eyes dilated. Her lips parted eagerly.

"I have said I would," she began; but he forestalled her.

"I have forbidden it, Rose. I have told him I forbid it."

His touch on her hand seemed to be leading her, drawing her into his own
breast. They looked at each other, and both forgot the other presence in
the room. The color came back slowly to her cheeks, and Osmond's eyes
filled with tears.

"Answer, dear," he said, with the same gentleness. "Let me hear you
answer."

"Very well," she returned, like a gentle child. "Shall I go now,
Osmond?"

He led her to the door, opened it, and closed it after her. Then he
glanced at his adversary. MacLeod had sunk into a chair and was sitting
astride it, his chin bowed upon its back. He looked terror-stricken. One
hand held a little box, and he was tendering it to Osmond.

"Open it," he gasped. "Crush one in your handkerchief. Let me smell it."

Osmond ignorantly but deftly did it, and held the handkerchief to
MacLeod's face. MacLeod breathed at it greedily. He lifted his left hand
as if it were half useless to him. "Rub it," he said savagely. "Wring it
off. Such pain! my God, such pain!"

In a moment more the attack was over, and he looked like an old man,
inexplicably ravaged. Osmond's question sprang impetuously.

"Is it--excitement?"

MacLeod smiled a little and moistened his lips.

"You think you did it?" he suggested. "No. You didn't do it. It
comes--of itself--like a thief in the night, like the very devil.
Nobody's to know it. Understand that."

"Then you need her with you!" Osmond broke out, in a fresh
understanding.

"Need her? need Rose? Get that out of your mind. The world is full of
women. She'll go back with me, but not because I need her."

He walked past Osmond and out through the empty hall, and slowly, but
still erect, to the driveway and the road. Osmond stood watching him. He
saw him straighten more and more, and assume his wonted carriage though
without its buoyancy. Osmond followed for a little distance, but when
MacLeod turned to look at him and then went on again, he stepped over
the wall and crossed the lot to his own plantation. MacLeod, he knew,
was going to Electra's for a last word, and for himself, he had struck
his one sharp, quick blow for Rose. She should have an interval alone,
to make her abiding decision calmly, and when the moment came for
MacLeod's going, Osmond would be there again, to hearten her.

But MacLeod, when Osmond had really turned aside, halted more and more.
At last he was sick with fear of that enemy inside his breast. There was
no moment now, he knew, when he might not expect it, tearing away at the
delicate harmonies within the gates of life. What would happen when the
pain grew fiercer still? The enemy would let in that other he refused to
think upon, though even that was more tolerable than having this evil
creature claw at him when men could see him cringe. And as life itself
is death when it is once sapped of power, he threw up his head and
strode on faster. One step with the old vigor and abandon--and there it
was again.



XXVI


Later that same morning, Peter was hurrying along the road, for the
carriage was due and MacLeod had not returned. Peter was not more than
reasonably sorry to lose his chief, because he meant to follow soon. He
had the excited sense of being ready for flight, of great freedom before
him and strength in his wings, and of leaving Osmond and grannie with
regret, yet happily, for something untried and as wonderful as youth. He
ran along the road, hat in hand, in love with the morning breeze, and
Electra met him. She looked wan, he saw, and with an incredulous pang,
he questioned whether she could be moved by their separation. But he was
glad of a definite and hurried question to ask.

"Where is MacLeod?"

A look like hope flashed into her face. She stopped and turned half
about, as if for instant flight back to the house.

"Was he coming to me?" she asked breathlessly.

"We thought he might be there."

"Did he say he was coming?" Her eagerness looked like hunger for a
desired good, slipping, by some chance, away from her.

"No! no! he may have gone to the plantation. I'll run down there and
find him."

He hurried on, and Electra, watching his light, easy lopes, wished she,
too, were a man and running to find Markham MacLeod.

At the pasture-bars, in a bed of roadside fern, Peter found him. MacLeod
lay majestically, stretched at length, upon his side, as if some one had
disposed him in the attitude of sleep. Peter knew. Yet he stooped and
touched one of the beautifully shaped hands with his finger. He stood
there a long time, it seemed to him, looking not at the figure at his
feet, but off into the morning sky, and MacLeod was not in his mind:
only Osmond and what Osmond had said about the lust for fight. Osmond
seemed to fill the world. He had wished to kill the man, but God instead
had killed him. Yet the other thing might have been. Peter wondered that
he had not realized what his brother was to him, and again that he had
too often foregone Osmond's companionship, this summer of their reunion,
for lesser loyalties. He comprehended him, at the moment, with an
exaggerated passion that was pain: a gigantic figure, all sacrifice, all
patient truthfulness, and, in its own bounded life, as much to be loved
and protected as a woman, and yet untrained and ready for a savage deed.
And all the time Electra was advancing rapidly toward him on the road,
aimlessly, but, as she afterwards believed, drawn by some premonition of
what she was to find. Her approach broke Peter's fearful vision. She was
like a figure walking into his dream, and he hurried toward her,
remembering what she must not see. He motioned to her harshly with his
hand.

"Go back!" he called.

But Electra came inevitably on. Then Peter placed himself before her.

"Something has happened," he said quietly, while she looked him in the
face. "Go home."

But now she was gazing past him, and the figure in the bracken caught
her sight. With a low cry, the inarticulate sound that throws suffering
woman back to her kinship with the mother brute, she ran past him and
stooped over MacLeod; Peter, dull with feeling, thought she tried to
raise his head, and failing that, she took the hand and nursed it on her
bosom. Peter judged apathetically that he had never really known
Electra; she looked now like a woman numb with grief over a dead child.
Then he waked himself out of his maze.

"Don't!" he heard himself calling. "People will come."

"Who will come?" she returned sharply, as if she challenged them all to
show why this should not be her dead. Then she wakened. "Go!" she cried.
"Get help. It can't be true."

"I will call the men. We can get him home among us."

He ran over the wall and on to the field where men were hoeing. When
they had dropped their work and followed him, they found Electra sitting
there by the roadside, as if she were the one mourner over the dead, and
she did not rise until they stooped to lift him, and arranged how he
should be carried. Then she said to Peter, again as if it were her
right,--

"Have him taken to my house."

Peter stared at her, but he remembered Rose.

"That will be better," he said; and added, "but who will tell her?"

"His daughter?" said Electra, in her clear tone. "I will tell her. But
there is a great deal to do before that. She can wait."

So they walked along the road like a strange funeral procession, Electra
in front, as if she had a right to lead. She turned in at her own gate,
and they followed, and she walked on up the steps and into the library,
where they laid him down. Madam Fulton and Billy Stark had gone for a
drive, and the house, in its morning order, looked as if it had been
prepared for the solemnity of this entrance. Now Electra's methodical
capacity came into play. She sent one man for the doctor and another to
the kitchen for hot water and for brandy. But when they were hurriedly
dispersed, she turned to Peter and said, with a heart-breaking quiet,--

"And yet, he is dead!"

She sat down upon the floor beside the couch and laid her head on the
dead man's heart. Peter knew it was to listen for a flutter there, but
with his sensitive apprehension of all emotion, he felt also that she
was glad to put her head upon MacLeod's breast. He was conscious of
being useless in his inactivity, but he could only stand and stare down
at them, the dead man and the mourning woman. Presently Electra got up
and stood, dry-eyed, and looked at him.

"He was coming to me," she said, in awe at the loneliness of the event.
"I couldn't sleep last night. I wish I had known a little more. Instead
of thinking about him, I could have met him. I could have been with
him."

Peter shuddered.

"I am glad you were not with him."

Electra was not listening. She had placed her hand on the hair of the
fallen man, tenderly and yet with reverence.

"He is splendid, Peter, isn't he?" she said, as if she wondered at life
and its fleeting forms. "He looks like a god, sleeping." Some echo of
her words came back to her, and she felt a momentary pleasure at their
sound. Then, very shortly it seemed, men came, the doctor and others who
had authority, and Electra was turned out of the room.

"Go upstairs," Peter besought her.

But she stepped out, bare-headed, into the air.

"No," she answered, "I am going to tell his daughter."

"No!" Suddenly Peter remembered how little she was fitted to be a kindly
messenger. "No, Electra. I will go."

Electra looked at him in a calm surprise.

"He would wish it," she said. "He would wish me to do everything." And
she was gone.

Peter went back into the room, where there were quick voices and
peremptory demands. Markham MacLeod was being interrogated in a way that
had never befallen him before. His body was being asked to bear witness
of the fashion by which it had come to its dumb estate, wherein it could
not compel others, but was most ruthlessly at their will.

Rose, at grannie's knee, in a mute gratitude that now she was to stay
here, because it had been wonderfully decreed, saw Electra coming up the
walk. She ran to meet her light-heartedly; in her flooding delight it
seemed to her as if even Electra might acquiesce in her reprieve.

At the foot of the steps they met, Rose all pleadingness, as if again
she begged Electra to love her. But Electra delivered her news
straightway. She felt like nothing but the messenger of MacLeod.

"He is dead," she said, with the utmost quietude.

Rose stared at her.

"Who is dead?" she managed to ask.

"Markham MacLeod."

Rose leaned forward and gazed still in her face. She was well convinced
that this look was real: a look of hopeless grief, though the words were
so fantastic.

"Electra," she said gently, and even put out a hand and touched her on
the arm. "Electra! What is it?"

"I have told you," said Electra, "he is dead. We found him in the ferns,
Peter and I. He is at my house. We thought you ought to know it."

"Come!" said Rose. She seized her hand, and Electra pulled it away
again, quietly, and yet as if it had no business in that hasty grasp.
"Let me go home with you."

"If you wish," said Electra. "I suppose you have a right to be there.
They may want you." And in silence they hurried down the path together
and out into the road. At Electra's own gate, she turned to Rose.

"It is strange, isn't it?" she said.

"What, Electra?"

"That he could die."

"Electra, he has not died. No one has died." Rose spoke gently, knowing
that in some way the other woman had been shocked and her reason shaken.
"Come into the house and we'll find Peter."

But at the moment Peter and the doctor appeared together in the doorway,
and the doctor turned to give orders to a servant in the hall. Peter saw
them and came quickly down to them. It was apparent to Rose that
something had happened.

"Tell her, Peter," said Electra, in some impatience. "She won't believe
me. Tell her he is dead."

Peter and Rose stood looking at each other, she questioning and he in
sad assent. Then there crept upon her face a look that was the companion
to Electra's. The color faded, her eyes widened.

"My father?" she breathed, and Peter nodded.

"Yes," said Electra, as if she were astonished at them both and their
dull wits, "Markham MacLeod is dead."

That evening grannie was in her own room, and Peter and Rose, below,
talked intermittently of that strange morning.

"It is incredible, Peter, isn't it," she began, "for him to die like
this?"

He nodded.

"I expected violence," he said. "We all expected it."

"Isn't it strange, too, that I can't feel grief! I'm neither glad nor
sorry. I feel very still."

"The whole world will feel grief," said Peter loyally.

"Yes, but to me--Peter, it is just as if he were not a man, not
something I had loved, but a thing that was great to look at and had no
soul. It was like a tree falling, or a huge rock undermined. Don't you
see? As if it were the natural thing, and there was no other way
possible."

She began to feel the inexorability of great revenges, and to see that
when a soul has for a long time denied us answer in our needs, we refuse
to believe that it can speak. MacLeod had grown to be a beautiful
spectacle of the universe, full of natural health and power. Now that he
had fallen, there was nothing left. She had no vestige to remember of
those responses in the dim reaches of being when one calls and another
answers: homely loyalties, sweet kindnesses, even overlaid by later
pain. He had lived what he called the natural life, and its breath had
failed him and he was no more. Some time, she knew, in this dull
brooding, she might try to whip herself up into an expected grief; but
now, in the bare honesty of the moment, she accepted the event as it
was.

"Osmond has been great," said Peter.

She started back to life.

"What has he done?"

"Everything. He's been Electra's right-hand man. I'll run down to see
him a minute presently."

He hoped Rose would send some word of appreciative thanks. Old Osmond,
he knew, would like it. But she got up and gave him her hand, in her
grave affectionate way, and said good-night. She remembered how Osmond
and her father had met in contest, and she knew Osmond would not seek
her until Markham MacLeod was wholly gone.



XXVII


Peter met his brother midway in the field, and waited for him.

"I'll go with you," he said.

"No," said Osmond, "I'm not going now. Come back to the shack."

"You're a regular night-owl," said Peter, as they turned. "When I don't
find you after dark, I know you're in the woods, prowling. What makes
you?"

"It's a good place to think things out,--and swear over 'em."

"What things, old man? You know I wouldn't tell. Nothing would tempt me
to."

Osmond laughed a little.

"If you care so much as that, I'll tell you," he said, with a sudden
harshness for himself in retrospect. "I go into the woods to think about
life, my life, my difference from other fellows."

They sat down on the bench at the door, and a whippoorwill, calling,
made the distance lonely. Peter had no answer for the truth he had
evoked. It was too harsh. Only a woman could have met it, and that with
kisses, not with words.

"Do you know," he said abruptly, "what all this makes me want?--this
horrible excitement?"

"No, boy."

"It makes me want to paint. I want to paint everything I see: Markham
MacLeod lying there in that bed of fern, Rose with all the life washed
out of her, and you now, your face coming out of the dark. Everything's
been unreal to me since it happened--except paint--and you."

"Poor old chap!" said Osmond. But he fled on from that concurrent
sympathy to a dearer plea. "Paint, Pete," he urged. "Let all the rest
go. Let MacLeod die. But you paint."

Peter was looking at him now, fascinated. The pale face out of the dark
was all one glowing life. Peter wondered at him, his strength, his
beauty. Again he felt as he had that morning, as if he had never known
his brother, and as if it would pay for any pains to comprehend that
pathetic and yet adventurous soul. Peter was more than half woman, with
his quick perception of what went on in other minds. He understood, at
that moment, that the great adventure of all is life itself: not, as it
seemed to him, to paint, to love, but to taste all things with this
richness that was beginning to be Osmond's, this hunger for the
forbidden, even, so it was hunger. Osmond had begun to recognize his own
nature, and for the first time his brother began to recognize him.

"Osmond," he said, in a wistful eagerness, very beguiling, "whatever you
did, I should believe in it."

Osmond looked at him with that faint sweet smile upon his face, and his
eyes offered hints of ineffable meanings.

"Would you, boy?" he asked.

Peter went on. It was almost like a woman's confession of her love.

"Osmond, you say you think about your life when you are alone. What do
you think?"

"I think it is full of passions as an egg is of meat. They have been
growing while I ignored them. I saw them marching before me and round
and round me. They thought they were my masters."

"What then?"

Osmond remembered how the morning seemed when he met Rose in the
sunlight, and touched her hand.

"Then," he said gravely, "I was their master. That's all."

"Oh," said Peter exultingly, "you'd be the master in the end. You're
great!"

"Pete," said Osmond suddenly, "is this death coming?"

"Is what death?"

"It's too queer for life."

"To sit here talking like this?"

"No, not that exactly, but the sense of things to come. It seems as if
life wasn't going to be the same again, and nothing was quite big enough
to come after things as they've been lately,--but death, and that's only
big enough because it's unknown."

"What will come?" asked Peter. He felt at once like a little boy, half
afraid, and afraid of his fear, yet with his brother to uphold him.

"We won't go to bed to-night, will we? We'll sit here, even if we hold
our tongues. I can't go to bed."

They did sit there for an hour or so. Peter spoke.

"What are you thinking, old man?"

"Of Rose."

It was not strange to Peter to hear him speak of her familiarly. He
returned,--

"I've been thinking of her, too."



XXVIII


The deed was over. The great emotional wave that mounted, in Europe and
America, at the death of Markham MacLeod, threw its spray upon this
quiet shore. Letters came from his disciples and his lovers, and Rose,
wondering as she read them, answered in a patient duty. If a great man
is one who moves things, then her father had been great. He was bigger
to her now than when she feared him. Though there were mutterings afar
of what must come now Markham MacLeod was dead, this country spot took
on its old tranquillity. Peter sat in the garden and painted. He seemed
to think of nothing else. Rose was too busy to sit, and he began a
portrait of grannie; then his only communication with the world seemed
to be his flashing glance at her and at his canvas. Osmond, in the
plantation, bent his back and worked with the men, and no one knew what
he thought. To Peter he was gravely kind, and Rose, with a growing
emotion that seemed to her likely to become terror in the end, realized
that he had not sought her.

One morning while Peter was in the garden smoking, before he called
grannie to her chair again, and Rose was at the library table answering
letters, Madam Fulton appeared at the door.

"Where's Bessie Grant?" she asked.

Rose was at once on her feet and came forward to give her a chair,
relieve her of her parasol, and stand beside her in a deferential
waiting that, for some reason, never displeased this pulsating age with
its memory ever upon the habitudes of youth.

"Where's Bessie Grant?"

"She will be in presently. Peter is painting her."

The old lady lay back in the chair and gazed at her absently, as if she
merely included her in a general picture of life. Madam Fulton had
changed. Her eyes were wistful, and she looked very frail.

"Billy Stark sails on Saturday," she volunteered, as if it were the one
thing in her mind.

Grannie came in at the moment, and laid a kindly hand on her old
friend's shoulder. Rose went back to her chair, and left them to their
talk, while she put up her papers before quitting the room. Madam Fulton
looked at grannie now.

"You've had your morning coffee, haven't you?" asked grannie, because
she could think of nothing else to offer.

"Yes, I've had coffee, and I've had cereals. Electra is looking after me
with that kind of an air, you know, as if I were a rockbound duty. My
soul! If it wasn't for Billy Stark, I should die."

"Poor Electra!" said grannie softly.

"Now what do you want to call her that for? Why is she 'poor Electra'
because she chooses to go round like a high priestess strapping me down
on altars and pouring libations of cereals and cream? I could stand it
if her heart was in it, but it's miles away. And Billy Stark is going."

Grannie only patted her hand.

"Well, well!" said she. "It's been nice to have him here."

"It's been heaven. It's the only heaven I shall ever know."

"We get a little mite of it here every once and a while," said grannie.
"Don't you think so?"

"No, except when Billy Stark comes,--and he won't come again. Electra's
going, too."

"Abroad?"

"Yes. She's going abroad. At once, it seems. Rose MacLeod!"

Rose looked up from her papers.

"What was it about your father that put the devil into people?"

Rose answered with an unsmiling candor.

"I don't know, Madam Fulton."

"But you know what I mean?"

"He had great personal power."

"You are not in mourning for him?" She had been considering the girl's
dress and its fluttering ribbons.

Rose returned with dignity,--

"I am not in mourning."

"Well, Electra is. She hasn't put on black, but it's all over her. She's
perfectly shameless. I asked her this morning why she was hurrying her
sailing, and she said it was because he would wish it. There were things
to do for him."

"That he would wish it?"

"Your father. Don't you see? She's got an idea that she's his earthly
vicegerent, and there's some majestic poppycock about the Brotherhood. I
can't understand it, and I don't want to. All I know is, she's mad.
Bessie Grant, when I told the Lord I wanted things to happen, I didn't
mean this kind, and He knew it perfectly well."

Rose had risen and stood in grave attention.

"Oh, she mustn't do that," she said earnestly. "I must tell her."

"Well, go and tell her, then," said the old lady, turning back to Mrs.
Grant. "If you can make her listen, you'll do more than I can. I ought
to chaperon her, though you might as well chaperon the Lion of Lucerne.
Bessie!" And then as Rose left the room, she bent forward, and leaned
her head on grannie's breast. "Bessie," she repeated, "it's a miserable
world."

To grannie all ages were as one. The old and the young were alike
defenseless, when they were in trouble, and she put her arms about the
frail creature and held her warmly.

"Hush, dear!" she said, and forgot this was not one of her own children.
"Mother's sorry." Then they both smiled a little, but grannie went on:
"You must come right here, you know. Electra will be gone, and Billy,
and you don't want to carry on the house alone. You come here, dear, and
stay with me."

"Could I?" Madam Fulton lifted her tear-wet face. "If I could stay here
a little while, maybe I might pull myself together. I don't know how to
do it, Bessie. I don't know how to live. I never did."

Rose had run over to the other house in an unreasoning haste. Electra
was in the library, putting her desk in order. Her firm white hands were
busy, assorting and arranging. She turned her head as Rose came in, and,
without rising, spoke to her collectedly and bade her be seated. She was
older, Rose thought; she looked even like a different woman, not merely
one whom middle age had overtaken. Purpose sat on her brow, and her eyes
looked straight at you, as if she bade you tell your business and be
gone. The one effect upon Rose was to make her sorry, infinitely sorry
for her. Electra had broken the globe of her hopes upon a rock, and she
was not even going to walk on and leave the shards forgotten there. Rose
spoke at once, to use her courage while she felt it hot.

"Madam Fulton tells me you are going abroad."

"Yes. I sail next week."

"Is it with any purpose? Electra, did my father make you love him?"

Electra faced her. Color flowed into her cheeks. Her eyes glowed beyond
any promise they had ever given.

"I am glad you ask me that," she said, and her full tone was strangely
unlike the even consonance of the old Electra's voice. At last she
forgot how she did things or why. Life was sweeping her along. "He never
made me love him. It was ordained. It was like nothing else on earth."

Rose felt cold with the sad knowledge of it.

"Yes," she said, "he had great power over people."

A smile stole upon Electra's lips.

"We had planned it all," she said. "I was to go to Paris. I was to work
with him. Now that he is gone, I must carry on the work for both of us."

Rose regarded her with a wistful compassion, not knowing how much she
might help her, and yet wishing to offer all she had.

"Electra," she said, "what do you mean by carrying on the work?"

"His work, the Brotherhood."

"But, dear child, you would have to submit yourself for years and years
to all sorts of tests before you would be trusted. I don't even know
whether it won't fall apart, now he has gone. It may do that and
reorganize in a different form. And how would you find it? You think of
it as a definite body with headquarters anybody can reach. Why, Electra,
you might stay a dozen years in Paris and not put your finger on it."

Still Electra turned to her that look of rapt allegiance. She heard
apparently, yet the words made no impression on her fixed resolve. Now
she spoke, and rather sweetly. All the tones of her voice, all her
looks, had a reminiscent value, as if they were echoes from her lost
relation with him.

"He told me where to write," she said, as if she were satisfied with
that. "I shall go there."

"I know, the address for his letters. But he was never there. Now that
he is gone, the place will be for other uses. Everything connected with
the Brotherhood keeps fluctuating, changing. There would be no safety
otherwise."

Electra was looking at her in that removed, patient way that made
another woman of her. It was almost like a mother who has cares to think
of and can spare no time from them for alien presences.

"I must go," she said again. "He would wish it."

Rose now had her moment of delay. Her mind went back over that weary
road, to the past the present had so illumined for her. It tired her to
think the trouble ever attendant on her father's life was to go on,
ripple after ripple, now that he had sunken into the mystery of things.
Once over the horror of his death, there had been a throb of
thankfulness that at least an end had been made to his great power of
bringing pain. And now here was another life to be thrown into the void
after him, another woman to love a dream. She awoke from that momentary
musing, to hear Electra saying,--

"You will excuse me, if I go on working? I sail so soon, and I must
leave everything in order."

"Electra," said Rose. Then she called her name again, as if appealing to
the softest of her moods. "How can I tell you! Electra, you mustn't love
my father."

Again that swift smile came to Electra's face. The face itself was all a
burning truth. The old crude precision in her seemed suddenly to have
flowered into this warm candor that spoke and liked to hear itself
disclosing, regardless of its auditor.

"You cannot"--she looked at Rose with happy inspiration, as if she had
been the first to make the saying--"you can't kill love with reason."

Again Rose deliberated. When she spoke it was with an air of sad
decisiveness.

"Electra," she said wistfully, "did he ask you to marry him?"

"I never thought of it," said Electra at once, in the simplest
unreserve. "It would have seemed too small, to limit it and bound it."

"Yes. That is what he would have said, too small. You were a quick
pupil."

Electra glowed.

"I know what he would have said, if he had had time. He did not need to
tell me."

Rose sat wondering what argument would move her.

"Electra," she ventured, "have you had any curiosity about my father's
relations to other people?"

"He had no time to tell me," said Electra, with a proud dignity.

"No, he would not have told you. He never confused his relations. Did
you know he was adored by women?"

Electra's face flamed. She made no answer. If she could have set forth
adequately what was in her tumultuous thoughts, she would have told Rose
that nothing seemed so entirely her own as her part in Markham MacLeod's
life. She had no curiosity over his past, no doubt of what her future
would have been with him, accepting what he chose to give her, and
finding it enough.

Rose pursued her into the cloister of her thought.

"Do you know, Electra," she was urging, "do you know how women devoted
themselves to him?"

"They must have devoted themselves to him. I am one of them. I am proud
to be."

"Ah, but, Electra, to take so much and give nothing!"

"How do you dare to say he gave nothing?"

"I know. I was slow in learning. I learned it first through your
brother. No, don't put me off with a gesture. I must speak of him. It
was he who showed me the cruelty of my father's attitude toward women.
He laughed over it, but he showed me."

"He was never cruel." Electra seemed to be dreaming away in a sad
reminiscence of his kindness.

"But to promise so much, Electra, and give nothing! He implied to every
one, I have no doubt, that she was his great helper, that he would have
married her if he had not been set aside by his work. That was like him.
He was a sponge drinking up devotion."

"Yes, and he gave it back to the hungry and the thirsty and the cold."

"I don't know. I do know what he absorbed. One woman did translations
for him. She worked like a dog, and he paid her with one of his looks.
Another--she was a titled lady--kept his suite of rooms ready for him,
and when he came, treated him like a prince. And they all had this sense
of intimacy with him. Each thought she was the only one. Each felt she
was divided from him by hard circumstance, but she should possess him in
the end."

"In heaven?" asked Electra, eager for the slightest knowledge of him.

"No, not in heaven. My father always said his expectations stopped here.
He never carried the game on there."

"The great souls"--Electra began, and stopped. Trouble was upon her
brow. She knew there was a goodly reason for every act he did, yet human
jealousy was in her. She had to seek out arguments. "The great souls are
different," she halted. "They are many-sided. Look at Goethe--"

But Rose had heard that reason. She was tired of it.

"It's a pity they make it so hard for other people," she said wearily.
"Because they are great, must they be greedy, too? But that was my
father. He may have been a great man, but he was not the man you think
him. If you saw him as he was,--he was a big, dominating animal, that's
all."

Electra sat staring at her, condemning, Rose knew, not Markham MacLeod,
but his daughter. The charm of his mastery was still upon her. Rose and
Peter, more mobile than she, had escaped with the cutting of his cord of
life. It was as if they had been under a crude natural magnetism, and
now that the magician had gone into another room, they were free. But
Electra had petrified in the attitude where he had left her. She had a
pitying certainty that Rose had never known him. Something like
indignation came now into her face. She spoke passionately:--

"Why do you want to take it away from me?"

Rose could not answer. Tears were in her eyes from pure pity at the loss
and pain of it all.

"We knew each other so short a time," brooded Electra; and it was
apparent that she believed the relation had been as much to MacLeod as
to her. "Why can't you let me have the comfort of it?"

"If it didn't mean so much time, so much energy wasted! If you wouldn't
devote your life to it,--you might, you know. It's quite like you,
Electra. And that would be a pity; because he was never for a minute
such a person as you think him,--never, Electra, never in the world."

Electra rounded upon her in a flash of indignation.

"Tell me what you think him."

Rose's mind ran back to that first night when, with the daring inspired
in her by their meeting, she had given Osmond a portrait of her father.
Now was the time to paint it again, but, for some reason, she could not.
The man had not changed, but his aims obscured him. Behind them, he was
nothing, but they were large enough to make his monument. Instead of
answering directly, she found herself saying,--

"I have had such letters about him!"

"From the Brotherhood?"

"Yes. And they will keep on coming for a long time now, because it is
everywhere, you know, in far, far-off places. And there's a tremendous
loyalty in them, not only to him but to the Brotherhood."

"How can you read them and not be loyal, too!"

Rose considered why she could. Was it because the Brotherhood seemed, in
her latest acquaintance with it, to have all the seeds of the old
conditions that made a world of hate? If it had been the pure bond it
promised to be, could even her father's sins have quenched the flame in
her? Then she remembered one night when, in her father's absence, some
one had spoken like a poet and created, in shining imagery, a new world.
She had seen it, the new world, hanging like a crystal in the rejoicing
sky.

"One night Ivan Gorof spoke," she began.

Electra's brows came together.

"He was the man that died."

"How did you know?"

"Peter told me."

"Yes. Well, there was a time when Ivan Gorof was like a flame. He was
more moved than any one. He was a student,--and so enthusiastic, so
believing,--I can't tell you! Afterwards he changed. That came suddenly.
But this night he spoke about the Brotherhood as he wanted it to be. He
said it could be a chain of hands round the earth, of people who wanted
to do justice and show mercy. The old oppressors killed, he said. The
Brotherhood must not kill. It can put to death,--but justly."

"What did he mean by justly?"

"Ah, that I don't know. I don't believe he knew, that night. He was like
a man seeing a vision. But if such a thing could grow and grow, he said,
that would be the kingdom of God. It would begin with the poor. Then
some day a king would join it, and there would be rejoicing and wonder
because some would think the king was mad and others would know it meant
a great step upward. And they would all choose law, not liberty as the
Brotherhood sees it. And then, he said, there would be a new heaven and
a new earth, and it wouldn't be possible for oppressors to live, because
everybody would love love and be afraid of hate. But it would all come
through men who hated injustice more when they did it than when it was
done to them."

"But that," said Electra, in no great interest, "is only Christianity."

"Is it? I don't know about that. I thought it was Ivan Gorof."

"What did he say?"

"My father?"

"The chief."

"It was reported to him, and I believe he said it was visionary. He
probably smiled a little. He said there would be no peace without the
sword. And afterwards Ivan told him to his face--I heard him--that it
would come by the sword, but not the sword of war. It must be the sword
kept hanging in the temple to be used for the god of the temple."

"Was the chief indignant?"

"He disapproved. Ivan was ignored, after that. He was quietly crowded
out. My father," she could not resist saying,--"my father was very
intolerant of new leadership."

"Naturally! He thought of the general good."

Rose sighed.

"Perhaps he did, Electra; I should like to think he did."

But she had told Electra nothing yet, she realized, to keep her from
going forth with an ignorant intent. She tried once more, not to destroy
the image of MacLeod, but to make it a just one. Yet if it were better
to have the image broken, that, too, must be done.

"My father," she said, "took life like a great play."

"A game!" put in Electra quickly. She had heard him use the word, though
as he said it, it seemed noble.

"Yes. He was always rearranging scenes on the big stage, ringing down
the curtain and putting it up on another act. But what Ivan Gorof
wanted--that silent spread of good--that he couldn't understand. He
wanted war and himself a big figure in the midst."

"He was a leader!" cried Electra jealously, "the greatest of all."

Rose smiled wistfully.

"I haven't weakened your faith, have I?" she asked. "You don't doubt the
wisdom of throwing yourself into this."

Electra rose suddenly from the desk, with an air of terminating the
interview. Her voice rang like metal.

"If you talked to me until you were an old woman, you couldn't convince
me. He was great--great! I should have followed him, if he had lived. I
shall follow him all the faster now."

Rose, too, came to her feet.

"I almost think," she said, "I shall hear of your speaking for the
cause."

A flush went over Electra's face. She looked wonderfully equipped for
some high task, and also as if she recognized her own value and was glad
she had that to give. Rose went back to Ivan Gorof and his great night.

"I keep remembering more and more of what he said," she mused. "He said
the Brotherhood, as he saw it, would have its way because it was so
beautiful. It would be like men in shining raiment regarded because they
made a light, and people would see the light and want to walk by it."

"I must put that down," said Electra absorbedly. "I may at any time have
to talk about him as I knew him."

"Ivan Gorof?"

"The chief. Was it Ivan Gorof who said that?"

Immediately, Rose saw, the words had lost their lustre. They were of no
value, save as they had the sanction of MacLeod. Electra moved a pace
nearer the door. She was impatient, Rose believed, to have her gone.

"Good-by, Electra," she said lingeringly and sadly. "I can't persuade
you, can I?"

"No, you can't persuade me."

"And you glory in it!"

"Yes. And I thank God I have something to glory in."

At last she had it, the purpose of her life, though it was only a
memory. But after all, what might she not turn it into? For she was
pressing on as rashly as if the army of her desires were not at the
cliff's edge below which foamed the sea, and in the sea, perhaps, lay
glorious disaster.

"I shall be in Paris within a month," Rose hesitated. "If I can do
anything for you there,--I told you the Brotherhood was not easily
found, but I could introduce you to the leaders."

"They will flock about you," said Electra, with a candid bitterness,
"because you are his daughter."

"Not long. There are things to do,--money to make over to them, money
that stood in his name. Everything was in his name. I don't know how
much he had of his own, so I shall keep my mother's and give back the
rest."

"That will be right," said Electra. She did not add "ethically."
Outlines had grown too sharp for that.

Rose held out her hand, and Electra, after a perceptible hesitation,
took it in her firm grasp. Having it, she seemed warmed, through the
contact, to something more humble and more natural. Still holding it,
she looked Rose in the face, as if she tried to read her deepest self.

"Tell me," she said, and stopped.

"Yes, Electra." The girl's voice was very soft. She felt as if she could
tell Electra anything that would help her.

"Did he love you?" The words came with difficulty, whether from jealousy
or pure interest Electra herself could not say.

Rose stood a moment, not so much considering her answer as grieved that
she must give it.

"No, Electra," she said then. "My father loved nobody,--but himself."

Then, as Electra dropped her hand, she went away. But after three paces
she returned, doubtful of her own judgment, but ready to venture it.

"Electra," she said, "the papers have begun already to report a woman's
speeches to the Brotherhood. You saw that yesterday."

Electra bowed her head silently. She was white to the lips.

"That woman was Ivan Gorof's mistress. My father separated them, for a
time, just as he is separating you now from all your past. Ivan Gorof
accused him of it, and next day he died. But I know, as well as I know
anything, that now she has gone back to Ivan Gorof's memory. She will
preach the Brotherhood as he saw it. Don't you see, Electra, until a man
rises that is strong enough, she will lead the Brotherhood herself?"

Electra struck her hands together in a passionate, unconsidered gesture.
But she recalled herself immediately.

"Good-by," she said coldly, and, turning about, went in.



XXIX


Rose, unquiet over her useless mission to Electra, sought out Peter
where he sat in the sun, his mind swaying in its constant rhythm between
his happy work and his charming dreams. He left the garden chair and
came forward to her, struck by the pathos of her face, and a little
irritated, too, because MacLeod's death was a sorrow past, and it seemed
unfortunate, at least, that there should be so much melancholy in bright
weather.

"Electra is going abroad, you know," she said.

Peter turned with her and they paced along the grass. Rose went on,--

"She was much impressed by my father."

"I know."

"She belongs to the Brotherhood now."

Peter nodded, his mind still with Osmond, but cheering a little in the
consciousness of her graceful presence.

"Peter!" She stopped, and laid a finger on his sleeve. "Say something to
her! She is going over there to work, to throw herself into that
movement. She might as well jump into the Seine."

"Yes," said Peter musingly. "Yes, of course! I'll go see her. I'll go at
once."

She assented eagerly. She seemed to hurry him away, and not knowing
quite what he was to do when he got there, he found himself, obedient
but unprepared, at the other house, before Electra. She was agreeably
welcoming. Peter had ceased even to remind her of young love, chiefly
because it was a part of her dignity to put the incomplete dream aside.
When she was forced to remember, sometimes by a word of grandmother's,
it gave her an irritated sense of having once been cheek to cheek with
something unworthy of her. But this morning Peter meant nothing
whatever. A larger bulk had blotted him out. He plunged, at once.

"I am going to Paris, too, Electra. We shall meet there."

She smiled at him with a fine remoteness.

"Perhaps," she said. Then a wave of her old distaste came over her, and
she asked, with the indifference that veils forbidden feeling,--

"Are you going together?"

"Together?"

"Yes. Are you going with Rose MacLeod?"

Peter frowned.

"We have not mentioned it," he said. Their coming to America together
had seemed most natural, but some intonation of her tone made the
implication odious. Seeing his look, she said, not giving him time to
answer,--

"You will help me with the Brotherhood. I must get in touch with it by
every possible means."

The color came into his face. He looked half ashamed, half wondering.

"I can't account for it," he returned, "but--Electra, I shan't have time
for those things any more."

"Not have time--for that!"

It was as if she accused him of lacking time to breathe.

"I can't help it," said Peter. "It's all true, Electra, as true as it
was; but I've got to paint. That's my business."

"Don't you feel that you owe anything to Markham MacLeod?"

He looked at her with interest, noting the indignation that made a
handsomer woman of her; but only for that reason, not because the
indignation stirred him. Peter hardly knew how he felt about Markham
MacLeod. He scarcely thought of him at all, save as Rose recalled him.
As to the Brotherhood, now that this great persuasive force was gone,
Peter could view it dispassionately, and it did not move him. It was
like waves heard a long way off, the waves of a sea he once had sailed,
but from which he had escaped to this upland meadow where the light was
good. Only when Rose, possessed by the remembrance of Ivan Gorof's
vision, had gone home and told him about it, had he felt the flare of
that old enthusiasm to be in the surge of the general life,--but chiefly
then because she had chanced to use the phrase "shining armor," and he
saw a knight pricking through a glade, with sunlight dappling between
leaves, and knew it would be good to paint. There was nothing to say to
Electra, because, as Rose had told him, she could listen to nothing but
the Brotherhood, and wakened only to MacLeod. It was not that she
refused other challenges; but her face grew mystical and he knew her
mind was afar from him. He got up to go.

"In Paris, then, Electra," he said awkwardly.

Her brows contracted. She remembered the other tryst that was to have
been, and could not answer.

"You will let me know where you are. I shall find you," Peter said, as
he went down the steps, "at once."

But as he walked away, he knew it would have to be some incredible
chance to bring them together. There was no room for him.

Electra sat there, her feet together, her hands in her lap, like a
carven image, and held herself still in her dream of fantasy. She hardly
knew where she was in these days. This was not the world as she had
known it. Bound beyond bound of possibility lay over its horizon. There
had been her former world, full of disappointments, lacking in
opportunities for picturesque morals, and Markham MacLeod had walked
into it, and turned on a light under which the whole place glittered. He
had caused things to be forever different. One such illumination made
all things possible. She felt like an adventurer setting sail. There in
the room where he had talked to her, she sat and thought of him and even
felt him near. The great stories flashed out before her, as if she
turned page after page. Dante--how many times did he see Beatrice? She
must look that up. But once would be enough, once for souls to recognize
each other and then be forever faithful. At a step in the hall she
recalled herself. It seemed as if everybody interrupted her in her
passionate musings. This was Madam Fulton, and Electra remembered she
had something to say to her. Madam Fulton looked very tired and irked in
some way, as if she found the daily burden hard to bear. Electra rose,
and waited scrupulously for her to sit.

"Billy Stark comes back to-morrow," said Madam Fulton. She took a chair,
and laid her head back wearily.

"When does he sail?"

"Next week. You go Wednesday. He goes Saturday."

Electra dared not remind her of that wild threat of marrying Billy Stark
and sailing with him. Her grandmother looked a pathetically old woman,
and such fantasy seemed to have withdrawn into its own place.

"Grandmother," she began delicately. She had a fear of disturbing
something frail that might fall to pieces of its own weakness.

"Well."

"Shall you stay on here?"

Madam Fulton roused herself.

"No," she said. "I am going to Bessie Grant's. She'll help me pull
myself together, and in the fall I shall move back to town."

Electra came awake to her pathetic look.

"You are not feeling well, grandmother," she said solicitously.

"Feeling well!" The old lady repeated it with a fractious emphasis. "I'm
worn out."

"Is it anything particular, grandmother?"

"Billy Stark is going away, isn't he? Isn't that particular enough? He's
the only human creature left, except Bessie Grant and that pretty girl."

"Rose MacLeod?"

"Yes; but she's too young. She tires me; you all tire me, all but Billy
and Bessie Grant. No, you can close the house, or I will, after you're
gone. I shan't be in it."

There was something inevitably foolish to Electra in the regret of an
old woman at losing the company of an old man whom she had not married
at the proper time. She found herself hoping, with some distaste, that
grandmother would forget him as soon as possible, and settle down into
the decencies of age. But Madam Fulton seemed to have gathered herself
and summoned energy for action. She sat upright now, and composed her
face into more cheerful lines. She looked at Electra, and a wicked smile
flickered out.

"I believe," said Madam Fulton, "if I have the strength, the day he
sails, I believe I'll marry Billy Stark and go along with him."

Electra looked her pain and then her purpose to ignore it.

"I have left everything in complete order, grandmother," she said. "It
will be easy to close the house. I have made my will."

"Bless me!"

"I have given you half my property. The other half I leave to the
Brotherhood."

"For heaven's sake, Electra! What do you want to act like that for?"

Electra was too enamored of that deed to keep it hidden.

"It is for a monument to Markham MacLeod," she said, from her abiding
calm. "But it is to be used by the Brotherhood. He would wish that."

Madam Fulton was regarding her, not satirically now, but in an honest
wonder.

"Electra," she said, "I glory in you."

"Grandmother!"

"I do. I can't help it. You've gone bad, just as I said you would. And
you never were so human in your life. Brava! I'm proud of you."

But Electra lifted her head a little and did not answer. Grandmother,
she knew, could hardly understand. It made her isolation the more
sacred.

"You give me courage," the old lady was saying. "Why, you put some life
into me! I don't know but I've got the strength to fly with Billy, after
all."

Electra rose. She could not listen. But at the door she turned, a new
thought burning in her.

"Grandmother," she said irrepressibly, "if you would make your will--"

"Bless you, I haven't sixpence," said the old lady gayly, "except the
tainted money from the book."

"That's what I mean." Electra came back and stood beside her. She
breathed an honest fervor. "That money, grandmother,--it is tainted, as
you say,--if you would leave that to the Brotherhood--"

Madam Fulton was on her feet, with an amazing swiftness.

"My money!" she cried. Then a gleam of humor irradiated her face, and
she ended affectionately, "My own tainted money? Why, I'm devoted to it.
And I tell you this, Electra: if there's one scrap of it left when you
inherit, if you give it to your brotherhoods, I'll haunt you. As I'm a
living woman, you shan't have a chance. I'll make my will and Billy
Stark shall help me, and I'll leave it to that pretty girl, and she
shall buy ribbons with it. And--My heavens! but there's Billy Stark
now."

He was coming up the walk, and she flew to meet him in an ingenuous
happiness, half dramatic fervor to plague Electra, who, walking with
dignity, went out the other way.

Madam Fulton was laughing, at Electra, at life itself.

"Billy," said she, "I'd rather see you than all the heavenly hosts."

Billy took off his hat and wiped his forehead.

"I found I'd got things pretty well in order," he explained. "I thought
you wouldn't mind my coming sooner."

"Mind! I'm enchanted. Come along in and have cold drinks and things.
Bless me, Billy! how it does set me up to see you."

She led the way into the dining-room, and when no one answered the bell,
on into the kitchen for exploration in the icebox. She tiptoed about,
her pretty skirt caught under one arm, her high heels clicking. The pink
came into her cheeks. She had the spirit which is of no age. Then they
sat down together at the dining-table in the shaded calm, and while
Billy drank, she leaned her elbows on the table and, with the ice
clinking in her glass, drank and made merry. She might have been sixteen
and in a French café. Her spirits were seething, and she feared no
morrow.

"I never can let you go in the world, Billy," she said, out of her gay
candor.

He was instant with his gallant remedy.

"Come with me, then!"

"Sometimes"--she paused and watched him--"sometimes I almost think I
will."

William Stark was a tired man that day. He had been telephoning and
besieging men in their offices and talking business; he felt his age. It
was one of the days when it seemed to him that sacred business even was
less than nothing,--vanity,--and when he wondered, without interest, who
would spend the money he might make. He was plainly fagged, and here was
a gay creature of his own age, beguiled by the old perennial promises,
whom life had not yet convinced of its own insolvency. He wondered at
the youth of women, their appetite for pleasure, their inability to
realize when the game is done. There was the curtain slowly descending
between age and its entertainment, and Madam Fulton was clapping her
unwearied hands as if things could go on forever. Grant her an encore,
and she would demand another. As for him, he would fain go home to bed.
But Billy was a man of his word. His loyal heart could not allow itself
to recognize the waywardness of his sad mind. The one had done with life
in all but its outer essences. The other, in human decency, must go on
swearing the old vows to the last. His face took on a resolution that
made him more the man, and sobered her. He put out his hand.

"Will you come, Florrie?" he asked.

"Yes, Billy," she answered. "I'll come."

"You honor me very much." He sat there holding the frail hand and
wondering at himself, wondering at them both. If he had known he was to
go back in this guise, he might not have had the courage to come. But it
was well. It was a good thing, having missed many ventures, not to let
this one pass. Madam Fulton was having one of her moments of a renewed
grasp on life, a gay delight in it which was a matter of nerves and
quite distinct from memory or hope. She was discoursing gleefully.

"We won't tell Electra."

"Not if you'd rather not."

"She shall sail, and we'll sail after her. We'll send her cards from
London. My stars, Billy! do you think we're mad?"

"You may be," said Billy. "As for me, I'm a great hand at a bargain."

And while there were flutterings of wings before sailing, Osmond bent
over his ground and delved and thought. His brows were knitted. He
hardly saw the earth or his fellow workmen, but answered mechanically
when men came for orders, and went on riving up the earth, as if it were
his enemy, and then smoothing it in tenderest friendliness.



XXX


Rose and grannie had been living in an atmosphere of calm. Something was
not determined yet, and they had to wait for it. Osmond had not come to
the house for his early calls on grannie, and Rose, awake in her room to
hear his step, at least, listened for it with a miserable certainty of
disappointment. Every morning she gave a quick look of inquiry as she
and grannie met, and the old lady would say,--

"No, dear, no!"

She sickened mentally under the delay, and at last her heart began to
ask her whether he would ever see her again. On the day she told grannie
that she was going to Paris to settle MacLeod's estate, grannie said,--

"That's right. But you'll come back."

"I must come back. You must let me." It was a great cry out of a warring
heart. "But I must see him before I go. May I send for him to come?"

"You must send for him, my dear, and have your talk," said grannie.

So it was grannie who gave the message to Peter, and afterwards told him
Rose was to see Osmond alone. Peter walked up and down the room. He did
not altogether understand.

"What is it now, child?" asked grannie.

"I wondered if Rose needs to see him. This is all so painful for her!
Why should she be bothered?"

"She must see him," said grannie. "It wouldn't be possible for her to go
away without."

"She demands too much of herself," said Peter, stopping in his stride.

Grannie was smiling at him in a way that indicated she was very old and
Peter was young. A wave of knowledge swept upon him.

"What is it, grannie?" he demanded. "What is between them?"

"You must let them find out."

"But what is it? I ought to know. Don't you see what I mean? I'm going
to marry her, grannie, when all this is over."

Grannie looked at him in quick concern.

"Oh, no, Peter," she said. "No, you can't do that."

"Why can't I?"

"She doesn't love you, Peter."

"But she will. I can make her happy. I depend on showing her I can."

"That isn't enough, Peter."

"What?"

"To make her happy. You might make her miserable, and if she loved you,
it would be all one to her."

"Tom Fulton made her miserable. Was that all one to her?"

"She isn't the girl Tom Fulton hurt. She's a woman now."

"Then what is it between her and Osmond?"

Grannie looked at him a few moments seriously. She seemed to be
considering what he should be told. At last she spoke.

"Peter, I believe it's love between them."

"Love!"

"Yes, dear. She has a very strong feeling for Osmond."

"Osmond!"

Grannie got up out of her chair. She was trembling. Peter could almost
believe it was with indignation against him, her other boy, not so dear
as Osmond, but still her boy. Her calm face flushed, and when she spoke
her voice also trembled.

"Peter," she said, "whatever we do, let us never doubt the kindness of
God."

It was a little hard on Peter, he felt, for here was he, too, devoted to
Osmond with a full heart; yet nature was nature, and life was life. He
could not help seeing himself in the bridegroom's garment.

"Osmond is the greatest thing there is," he said. "But, grannie--" He
stopped.

"I know, I know," said grannie. She was not accustomed to speaking with
authority. The passion of her life had all resolved itself into deeds,
into a few simple words like the honey in the flower and the slowly
fructifying cells. Now she stood leaning on her staff and thinking back
over the course she had run. Osmond had been the child of her spirit
because he was maimed. She had drawn with him every breath of his horror
of life, his acquiescence, his completed calm. What withdrawals there
were in him, what wrestlings of the will, what iron obediences, only she
knew. There was the sweetness, too, of the little child who, when they
were alone, in some sad twilight, used to come and put his arms about
her neck and lay his cheek to hers, with a mute plea to her to
understand. And now when Osmond had harnessed himself to the earth, God
had let a beautiful flower spring up before him, to say, "Behold me."
God did everything, grannie knew. He had not merely created, in a space
of magnificent idleness, some centuries ago, and then, with the
commendation that it was "good," turned away his head and let his work
shift for itself. He was about it now, every instant, in the decay of
one seed to nourish another, in the blast and in the sunshine. He was
ever at hand to hear the half-formed cry of the soul, the whisper it
hardly knew it gave. He was the still, small voice. And He had
remembered Osmond as He had been remembering him all these years. He had
led him by painful steps to the hilltop, and then had painted for him a
great sunrise on the sky. The night might lower and obscure it, the rain
fall, or the lightning strike. But Osmond would have seen the sunrise.
And all grannie could say was,--

"It may not turn out well, dear, but it's a great thing for him to
have."

Peter strode away into the garden. She followed him, in an hour or so,
and asked if she should sit for him, and all that afternoon he painted
on her portrait, with the dash and absorption of one who knows his task.

"Tired, grannie?" he asked at length.

"No, Peter."

"You're going to be a sweet thing with your white cap here against the
hollyhocks," said Peter. "I must hurry. When it's done, I'll leave it
for exhibition, and then I'll go back to France."

That night he strode away for a walk, and grannie betook herself to her
own room. So Rose was alone when Osmond came. She had dressed for him,
and she looked the great lady. There was about her that air of proud
conquest worn by women when they are willing to let man see how much he
may lose in lacking them, or how rich he is in the winning. It says
also, perhaps, "This is the wedding garment. It is worn for you."

When Osmond entered, these things were in his mind because it was a part
of his bitter thought that he had no clothes to meet her in. For many
years he had seen no use for the conventional dress of gentlemen, and
grannie had never failed to like him in his clean blue blouse. So he
came in, as Rose thought at once, like a peasant of an Old World
country. All but the face. What peasant ever wore a mien like that: the
clarified look of conquered grief, the wistfulness of the dark eyes, the
majestic patience of one who, finding that the things of the world are
not for him, has put them softly by? There were new lines in the face,
Rose could well believe; in spite of those appealing softnesses of the
eyes, it was a face cut in bronze. She held out her hand, and he took it
briefly.

"I had to see you," she said, rushing upon the subject of her fears. "I
am going away."

They were seated now, and Osmond was looking at her steadily. "But I am
coming back," she smiled. "Please be glad to see me."

"I can't seem to talk to you," said Osmond abruptly, also smiling a
little, in his whimsical way. "You are such a fine lady."

She glanced down at her dress, and hated it.

"I don't know why I put this on, except, perhaps, I didn't want you to
despise me for what I am going to say."

"Despise you!"

She choked a little and dared it.

"You haven't been to the playhouse lately."

"No."

"Why?"

"Have you been there yourself?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because I couldn't."

"Well, I couldn't, either."

"Why?" cried the girl passionately. "Why has everything got to change?
Why should you tell me you would be there always and then never come
again? Why?"

Osmond regarded her in what seemed a sad well-wishing.

"Youth can't last," he said. "That was youth. We are grown up now."

Tears gathered in her eyes. The finality of his tone seemed to be
consigning her to fruitless days without the joy of dreams.

"Well," he added, "it doesn't matter. You are going away."

"You said once I should take the key of the playhouse with me."

He smiled humorously, as at a child who must, if it is possible, be
allowed some pleasure in the game.

"Take it, playmate," he said.

The color ran over her face. She sparkled at him.

"Oh, now you've said it!" she entreated. "You've called me by my name.
Now we can go back."

Osmond still smiled at her. He shook his head.

"You are very willful," he remarked.

"That's right. Abuse me. I like it, playmate."

But he could abuse her no more. Fancy in him was dead or dumb. He was
tired of thinking, tired of his own life, with its special problems. A
deep gravity came over her own face also. When she spoke, it was with a
high dignity and seriousness.

"Osmond," she said, "I sent for you because I want to give you something
before I go away. I can't bear to go. I can't bear to leave this place
and grannie--and you. Sometimes I think I shall die of homesickness over
there, even in the few weeks I stay, to think what may happen to you
before I see you again. So I want to give it to you."

She was under some stress he did not understand, yet speaking with a
determined quiet.

"What is it?" he asked gently.

She had no words left, only the two she had thought of for days and days
until it had seemed to her he must hear her heart beating them out. She
held her hands together in her lap, and spoke clearly, though it
frightened her:--

"My love, Osmond, my love."

He had turned his look away from her, and feeling the aloofness of that,
she fell to trembling. When he began to speak, she stopped him. It
seemed to her that he was bringing rejection of her gift, and she could
not bear it.

"No," she said, "don't say it."

But he did speak, in that grave, moved tone:--

"That is dear of you. I shall always keep your present, just as grannie
will keep your love for her. It's very precious."

Hope and will went out of her. She put her clasped hands on the chair in
front of her, and bent her head upon them, trembling.

"What is it?" she said at last, "what is it that has come between us? Is
it what you told me once in the playhouse? that you were going to give
your life away when you chose?"

He laughed a little, sadly, to himself.

"How long ago that seems!" he mused. "No, it was a different thing I
meant then."

"What was it? Tell me, Osmond."

"I can tell you now, for I shall never do it. It smells of madness to
me, now I see what living demands of us. It was only,--well, my body
hadn't done me much service in the ways I should have liked."

"Tell me, Osmond!"

"I meant to give it, living, to some scientist, to experiment on. To a
doctor, if I could find one that would meet me as I wanted to be met, to
work on,--with drugs, with germs,--the things they do to dogs, you
know."

She forgot how he had held himself aloof from her, or that some grain of
pride might well have met his coldness. She was kneeling beside him, her
hands about his neck, her head upon his breast.

"No, Osmond, no," she sobbed. "It would kill me."

The man sat still. Then he spoke, and his voice was hard as iron.

"It will never happen, I tell you."

"To have you tortured," she was sobbing. "To have them hurt you--your
hands, your dear hands--"

He lifted one of them, in a dazed way, and looked at it, all brown with
work and yet a wonder in its virile power. Then a flame passed over him
and burned up what kept him from her. His arms were about her and he
bent his mouth to hers. For the first time since he could remember, he
forgot what he had called his destiny. And after they had kissed, he
said,--

"Now, sweetheart, now we can talk. It's better so, even if we say
good-by to-morrow."

She drew apart from him and went back to her chair. But there she
stretched out her hands to him and Osmond took them, and so, holding
them, they spoke out their true minds. Her eyes were brimming full.

"I wasn't sure you would take my present," she said. "It's dear of you
to take it, Osmond."

"Your love, your wonderful love!"

"I selected it with great care, dear." She was laughing. "It's very
shiny, and nice, and warranted to last. It's the strongest love I could
find. I never saw one like it. Shall we live in the playhouse now,
dear?"

"You will live in my heart. Rose, I kissed you."

She bent to him.

"Kiss me again. Kisses are little blooms budding out of my love. You are
a gardener-man. You know the faster flowers are picked, the sooner they
bloom again."

He was regarding her in wonder.

"You must be crazy to think you like me!" he said honestly. Again she
laughed.

"I am! stark mad. I feel as if a thousand birds were singing and all the
lilies opening: You remember how they smelled that night, Osmond? You
wouldn't go with me to smell them. They've come to us. They're here."

He held her gaze.

"Be serious," he said.

"I can't, I like you so!"

"Only till I ask you this. You said once you had always been in love
with love."

"Always. Ought I to be ashamed of it? I am not. I am proud. To find the
half of you that you have been lonesome for, and then be faithful to
it,--oh, beautiful!"

"Are you in love with love, or are you in love with me?"

"With you, dear Osmond." The clear eyes answered him in a joyous
confidence.

"I must have taken hold of your imagination."

"Yes! You make me see visions and dream dreams. Hear how fast I talk to
you! The words can't tumble out quick enough, there are so many more
pushing them."

"No, I mean I have taken hold of your imagination because I am so
queer."

"You are queer, Osmond. It's queer to be so darling."

"If I were sure!" He loosed her hands and looked away from her, and his
face set gravely.

"What, Osmond?"

"If I were sure it was fair to you--best for you to let you know the
truth--then I'd tell you."

"Tell me what?"

He drew her hands back into his. He was looking at her with the first
voluntary yielding of his whole self. It lighted his face into beauty,
the chrism of the adoring spirit laid upon trembling lip and flashing
eye. "I have withheld from you," he said, in quick, short utterance,
"because it had to be. But if you care, too, why deny us both one hour
of happiness, if we part to-morrow?"

"Deny me nothing," she was murmuring. "Let me see your heart."

"You should see my soul, if it could be. Dearest, it was so from the
first minute. I was afraid of you with the terrible fear of love. Don't
you see how different it is with us? You longed for love because you are
the angel of it. I was afraid of it because it would have to mean hunger
and pain and thirst."

"But not now! not now! We have found each other, and it means the same
thing for both of us."

"We have got to part, you know, for a couple of ages or so, or even till
we die. Maybe I can get into some sort of trim by that time, if I give
my mind to it; but here it's no use, dear, you see."

"No use! Osmond, I have given you my love. What do you mean to do with
it?"

He caught his breath miserably.

"I am going to--God! what am I going to do! You are honest," he cried,
"you mean it all, but--sweetheart, look at me, and see it is not
possible. To-night ends it."

She withdrew her hands from his, and sat upright in her chair.

"Then," she said, "you are a coward."

"Am I?" He looked at her, blanched and sorrowful. "Am I, Rose?"

"You are a coward. You love me--"

"You know it! You do know that!"

"You know you do, and then you refuse to take the simple, sweet,
faithful way with me."

"What way, my dear?"

She did not even flush at the words, sprung from a great sincerity.

"Shall I ask you? Shall I ask you to let me take your name and live with
you, and be true to you?"

They looked at each other in the terrible recognition that brings souls
almost too close.

"You are a great woman, my dear," said Osmond. He rose and stood before
her. "Look at me. I hate my body. Could you love it?"

"I do love it," said the woman. "And I love your soul. And I am ashamed
to think we can know the things we have known and then think of the
bodies we live in. Grannie believes in immortal life. I believe in it
too, since I have known you."

"There are a good many hours, my dear, when we forget immortal life. The
world goes hard with us. In those times, shall you look at me and hate
me?"

She was smiling at him through tears.

"I shall look at you and love you, stupid!" she said. "Oh, how little
men know!"

"And then," he was continuing, in his bitter honesty, "I am a laboring
man. I told Peter you were a terrible Parisian."

She shook her head.

"You don't quite know what you are, Osmond. There's a good deal of
grannie in you. Perhaps that is one of the things I love. You work with
your hands. Everything is possible to you, every kind of splendid thing,
because you have not been spoiled by artificial life, the ambitions of
it, the poor, mean hypocrisies. Strange that I should be talking about
labor!"

"Why strange?"

"Because I hated the mention of it while my father lived. But now I seem
to have gone back to my old feeling of a kind of pity for them all,--the
ones that work blindly out of the light,--I see them as Ivan Gorof saw
them, that great sea of the oppressed."

"But not every workingman is oppressed."

"No, no! Not here. But in other countries where they are surging and
trying to have their ignorant way. And they are no more to be pitied
than the rich. And I keep wishing for them, not money and power and
leisure, such as the rich have, but something better, something I wish
the rich had, too."

"The heart that sees God, grannie would say."

"Maybe grannie would pray for it, Osmond. Maybe I could sing it--I hope
to sing now--maybe you could put it into the land and bring it out in
flowers."

"That's poetry!" said Osmond. He was smiling at her unconscious way of
showing him how lovely she was and how loving. "I am going now, dear. I
am going to take your present home carefully and look at it alone."

She knitted wistful brows a moment. Then she too smiled.

"You will see how valuable it is when you look at it," she said. "It
will shine so."

He had risen and stood before her, looking at her.

"Rose," he said, "you're a darling."

"Am I?" She was radiant.

"I am going to think up the things lovers have said, and read Solomon's
Song, maybe! But now I'm going back to the plantation, to let the
Almighty God and the undergods have a chance to tell me how to give you
up."

"Ask them now, Osmond," she breathed. "Ask here, while I am here to
answer, too."

"No," said Osmond. He shook his head. "Not while we are together. I
can't listen to Him."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the road he met Peter. They stopped, and Peter said at once,--

"I've got three orders from New York. When they're finished, I'm going
back to France."

Osmond could not at once recall himself, even for his boy. Peter seemed
only a figure of the night, familiarly dear, and yet unrelated to the
great dream that swept across the sky with banners. Peter spoke again
bluntly.

"I shall paint again all right. You needn't worry. It's got hold of me."

Then they shook hands.



XXXI


Osmond went back to his little house, not to sleep, but to think. The
old habit of his life was changed. Henceforward, whether he took a
woman's love or left it, things would not be the same. Say she loved him
with the enduring passion of a woman at her best, could he let her
undertake the half of his strange lot? Could he cut her off from a
thousand sources of happiness to be found in the world she knew, even
though he forced her to go out into that world and sing, and lessened
his claim on her to a swallow flight now and then back to his waiting
heart? If her lot were to be a public one, she would have, in a measure,
to make it herself; for here was he, with his plants and trees, almost
one of them, and he could not give up his hardy life, lest he dwindle
and fail utterly. Besides, this was his business, as music was hers.
Whatever communion they had, it could never be a unison of pursuits, but
rather an interchange of rich devotion. It looked, he concluded, very
bad for her.

As he thought that, the night grew chill, and the stars waned in their
shining. These were the dull old ways of a world that had swung so long
in one orbit that it could never be otherwise. He was bringing the woman
to break bitter bread with him, and though she ate it cheerfully in the
morning of her hope, it would seem intolerable in the evening, and at
night she might refuse it utterly. What right had he to let her vow
herself to such things and swell the list of proven failure? But say she
loved him! And after all, what was love? Was it the ever-living germ of
desire to create new life, that life might live? Was it the gift shut in
the hand when life left the creating source, to be squandered or
hoarded, to be used for honor or dishonor, but always ignorantly, to
serve the power behind creation itself? Was this beautiful creature the
sport of her woman's blood, doing the will of the earth, and so most
innocently walking into the lure of his arms because they longed for
her? He wondered.

And his side of it, the man's side, what did it mean for him to know he
worshiped the divinity of her beauty, the sun of her good pleasure, the
might of her yieldingness? When he thought of her, the body of things
became mysteriously transmuted to what he had to call their soul,
because it wore no other name. There was the flame of passion and the
frost of awe. The mystical call of her spirit to his had become the most
natural of all created impulses. Yet, say that he, too, was in the grip
of that greatest force, and nature was tricking the woman out with all
the colors of the dawn, to blind him into stumbling along nature's ways.
Did nature want him to say, "This is Paradise," until she was ready to
let him know it was the unchanged earth? If it was all a gigantic
phenomenon of a teeming universe--well, it was good. It was to be
worshiped as the savage worships the sun: but not greatly. For clouds
hide the sun, and, in spite of it, men die. Better not spill too much
blood for a savage god that gives but savage recompense. And, thinking
so, he closed his eyes and lapsed into a dull recognition of the things
of earth.

How far his mind had rushed upon its track he did not know, but suddenly
it came to a stop and jolted him awake. It was as if he had come to a
great gulf, the darkness girdling the natural life, and across it were
the colors of the dawn. They breathed and wavered in sheer beauty. And
at that moment there began in him the fainting recognition of what love
might be if men would have it so. First, there was the lure, the voice
of the creature calling to its mate. Then there was the unveiling of the
soul, the recognition, the sight of the soul as God sees it, so that the
two creatures can only breathe, "How beautiful you are!" And that must
not continue, because the soul is a delicate though an indestructible
thing, and cannot walk naked through the assaults of time. It would
consume the beholder; it would even scorch under the flame of its own
being. It withdraws, only to appear again, like the god from the brake,
when it is greatly summoned. But always it is there, and the two that
hold high fealty remember what they have seen. When the flame sinks,
they say: "But it is the flame on the altar. It must not die." So they
renew it. When the outer habit of life fails in one of them, to grow
poor and mean, the other remembers that one glimpse of the soul, and
calls upon it tenderly.

"Revive," says his patient love, "I stay you with the flagons of my
hope, I comfort you with the apples of my great belief." And always it
is an interchange of life, the one feeding the other with eternal
succor.

And now, to come back to the old question: Say a woman loved a man like
this man. Osmond seemed not to be debating now, but hastening along the
thread of a perfect certainty. Something had put a clue in his hand.
Wherever it might lead him, he was running fast. It came upon him, like
the lighting of a great fire, that this was a call for high emprise. He
loved nothing so much as courage. Here was the summons to the world-old
battle where all but a few fail and none are said to succeed unless they
die for passion and so life drops a curtain on the after-fight. The
great lovers--chiefly they are those for whom the fight never was
finished, who chose death rather than endure. He had bitten his teeth
all his life on the despair of adventure, but now it came upon him that
life itself is the great adventure, and love the crown of it. Say he,
loving a woman, went out to fight the dragons of the way. He had no
armor such as youth delights in. He was not a Prince Charming, who wooes
the eye even before he speaks. He had only the one treasure--love. Say
he crowned the woman with it, and then challenged God to give their
hungers food, be the unseen combatant and fight out the fight beside
them? Say he vowed himself like a knight to her service, and their
mutual worship scorned the body save as the instrument of life, and
glorified the soul? "I am the soul," something cried out in him. "Do not
deny me, or you blaspheme the God that also lives. Give me food, the
large liberty to be faithful. Lay bonds upon me, patience and loyalty,
and I shall rejoice in them and grow strong enough to break them, and
delight in perfect liberty."

It all resolved itself, he found, into this question of the soul. Was
the marvel true? Did it really exist? For if it did, it must have food
and cherishing. Inevitably then he thought of grannie, and his
struggling mind seemed to appeal to her clarity, question and answer,
and to every question she smiled and told him the dream was true. It did
live, this mystery, this imperishable one that came from the bosom of
God and would return in safety there.

Osmond rose, in the dewy midnight, and stretched his arms to heaven. He
felt what he never had before, in his iron acquiescence, an ecstasy of
worship. This was what grannie felt, he knew; it was the daily draught
that kept her spirit young. He made no doubt she was praying for him at
that moment, and that their buoyant certainties were meeting in the air
of quickened life. Hitherto he had walked. Now he saw the use of wings.

He knew what Rose was doing. She would not be waking. She would be lying
in her bed asleep, too secure in her glad confidence to wonder over it.
Another thought swept in and awoke his quivering sentience to the marvel
of his life. Some recognition of the cherishing maternal seemed to grow
in him, and as grannie had saved his body for him, so now Rose seemed to
have given birth to his new soul. It was like a shining child. With his
bodily eyes he almost saw it through the dark, and he longed to take it
in his arms to where she slept and lay it on her breast. He could fancy
how the shining child would lie there and how, sleeping, her sweet soul
would cherish it. And whether he began the next day with the resolve to
give her up or to relinquish his own doubts, at least he had had the
vision. As the dawn broke he seemed to see her coming toward him, the
spirit of it, rosy-clad, bearing in her hands, outstretched, a beaker
for his lips. It was the water of life, and her face besought him to
know finally that they were to drink of it together. He was shaken with
the wonder of it. All his past had been preparing him for ignominy and
loss. He trembled when he saw what the girl in the vision meant: that
the greater quest is farther yet.



XXXII


Madam Fulton and Electra were busy, each in her own track, making ready
to go. Electra was truly concerned because grandmother had fallen into
this frenzy of setting her belongings in order and would even fly up to
town to her little apartment, on mysterious errands. But Madam Fulton
was as gayly confident as she was inscrutable, and even when Billy Stark
warned her that she was doing too much, she only whispered,--

"Got the tickets, Lochinvar?"

On the last day, when the house was partly closed and the servants
lingered only for an hour or two, Electra, ready to her gloves, came to
kiss her grandmother good-by. Madam Fulton drew back a pace and looked
at her.

"Electra," said she, "you'll be horribly shocked and you'll want to
laugh at me. But don't you do it. Don't you do either of those two
things."

Electra's brows came together in a perplexity that yet betokened only a
tepid interest. Her own affairs were too insistent. They crowded out the
pale, dim hopes of age.

"When, grandmother?" she asked. "Why should I want to laugh?"

"Never mind. But you will. And when you do, you say to yourself that,
after all, youth and age are just about the same, only age has tested
many things and found they're no good. So if it finds something that
seems good--well, Electra, you're off on your fool's errand. Don't you
deny other folks the comfort of theirs."

"I don't understand you, grandmother."

"No, of course you don't. But you will. Once I shouldn't have cared
whether you did or not, but I've taken a kind of a liking to you. I told
you I should when you turned human and made a fool of yourself like the
rest of us. And now you're going out into the wilderness, to found a
city or something of that sort."

"I am going to help the Brotherhood," said Electra, with punctilious
truth.

"And build a monument to that handsome scamp that had the bad taste to
come over here to die."

"Grandmother, you must not use such words."

"Must not? Don't you suppose I know a scamp when I see one? If I'd been
fifty years younger, I dare say I should be starting out to build him a
monument, too. But I'm glad of it, child, I'm glad of it. He's your
preserver. He has roused in you the capacity for being a fool. Make much
of it. Prize it. It's God's most blessed gift to man. When you've lost
that, you've lost everything."

"There is the carriage, grandmother. I must go."

Madam Fulton presented a kindly cheek.

"Good-by, my dear," she said. "I'm sorry I've harried you. I had to,
though. I should again. Now we'll meet in Paris, or London--or another
world."

Electra, a perfect picture of the well-equipped traveler, in her
beautiful suit, her erect pose, was at the door.

"The maids will go in an hour," she said. "Then you've only to turn the
key and walk over to Mrs. Grant's. I wish you'd had your trunks taken
out before."

"My trunks can wait," chuckled the old lady. "They'll be sent for."

As Electra's carriage turned from the driveway into the road, Madam
Fulton laughed again.

Electra had five minutes at the station, and there appeared Peter,
wearing the air of haste. He had been painting in the garden, when the
carriage went by, and he had dropped brush and palette to run. Why,
Peter could not have said, only it seemed cold and miserable to have an
imperial lady taking the train alone and then setting sail with no one
by.

"You wouldn't let me go up to town with you?" he ventured, with his
eager stammer.

"No," returned Electra, "thank you."

"I'd like to awfully," said Peter. "Maybe I could be of use."

"Everything is done. My luggage is on board. We sail at three."

"It seems an infernally lonesome thing to do!"

Electra smiled. She had gained that smile of late. It was a subtle
indication of the secret knowledge she had of the resources of her own
future. With a perfect and simple conviction, she believed she should be
guided by Markham MacLeod or some unseen genius of his life. She should
follow his star. She should know where to go.

"Rose said you didn't take the letters she offered you. Is that wise,
Electra? If you want to know the Brotherhood--"

"I shall know it," said Electra, with entire simplicity. "The way will
open."

She did not say that she could not bear to blur her secret by sharing it
overmuch with any one. She was going on a mission for the chief. Other
voices would confuse the message. The medium must be kept clarified
between his soul and hers. Peter stood back, feeling, in another form,
Madam Fulton's hopeless admiration of this magnificent futility.

"Well," he said, "I shall be there in the late autumn, and I shall find
you."

"I may not," said Electra decisively, "want to be found."

But when he thought of the elements into which she meant to hurl
herself, he was of the opinion that she would as gladly long to be found
as the maiden in the arena before the beasts walked in. Then the train
came, and she bade him a civil and correct good-by and was taken away.

Peter went home wondering, his eyes on the ground. Life seemed to
resolve itself, not into the harmonious end of tragedy, but into more
tragedy. Human things, when a solution was reached, deliberately began a
new act. Peter had the childlike egoism of the very religious or the
devotee of art. He never could help feeling that, in a way, the world
was created for him. Its fortuitous happenings strengthened that belief.
He had come home to lose Electra whom he did not love. Markham MacLeod,
who, he now saw, had been too bright a sun, blinding his eyes to his own
proper work, had been removed. Perhaps that, too, was done for him. And
now he should paint his pictures. The Brotherhood still seemed far off
and, if not vain, at least a clamorous sea of discontent, the hope of a
palace beautiful beyond the touch of time. But near him were dear and
intimate things: the feel of the brush in his fingers, the adorable
combination of colors as delirious as the sunsets God could make. And in
the future there were men and women who also would go singing along the
path to perfect pictures and leafy glades. In them was infinite
possibility of more pleasure, more delight. And there was his broken
heart! For Peter's heart was truly broken. That he knew. He had lost
Rose, for she had gravely told him so, and given the simple reason, if
he needed it. There was no man for her but one. And the one was Osmond,
to whom he would gladly relinquish even the delight of her. So, thinking
of his brother who was the best thing born, of his broken heart, of his
pictures and the general adorableness of the world, crammed full of
things to paint, Peter threw his stick into the air, caught it, and
burst into song.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the maids had left, after their good-by to Madam Fulton, giving the
keys into her hand, she sat awhile in the silent house, and took a
comfortable nap. It was amazing, she thought, as she sank off, what a
lessening of tension it was to have Electra gone. When she awoke, it was
still quiet and Billy Stark had not come. He was to run down from town,
his last preparations made; the country minister was to meet them at the
Grant house, and there they would be married. Then they would take the
late afternoon train, and, in due course, sail for Liverpool. Even
Bessie Grant did not guess they were to be married; but she, Madam
Fulton knew, was ready for the last trump and welcoming evangels, and
that prepared her for all lesser things.

It seemed a little chilly in the house, shut up as it was for the
flitting, all except the room where Madam Fulton sat, and she took her
chair out of doors, not pausing on the veranda, but going on to the
garden beds. It would be pleasant, she thought, to sit there in the sun
with the bees humming on their way, and take her last look at the place.
As well as she knew she was going to leave it, she knew she should
return to it no more. It was not only that her age made it
improbable,--for she had no doubt of Billy's ability to run over a dozen
times yet; it was some inward certainty that told her she was going for
good. It pleased her in every way. She liked new peoples and untried
lands.

Yet, as she sat there, old faces crowded upon her, and they were
pleasant to behold. Her husband was not there. With his death he seemed
to have withdrawn into a remote place where no summons could reach him,
even if she wished to call. And she had never wished it. But these were
faces scarcely remembered in her daytime mood, very clear in the
sunlight and with no possibility of mistake. One was like her own, only
where hers sparkled with irony and discontent, this was softer and more
sweet. "Why," said Madam Fulton aloud, "mother!" It gave her no
surprise. Nothing seemed disturbing in this calm world, where things
were throbbing warmly and, she knew at last, for the general good. Then
she reflected that this was probably the effect of happiness because she
was going to marry Billy Stark. It must be love, she thought, instead of
their gay friendship. Youth and age were perhaps not so unlike after
all, when one shut one's eyes and sat in the garden in the sun.

Billy Stark faded out of her musings, and the forgotten faces came the
more clearly, all smiling, all bearing a mysterious benediction. She
found herself recalling old memories with them, doings that had been
once of great importance, but of later years had been packed into the
rubbish hole of childish things. There was the summer day when she had
lost the stolen prism from the parlor lamp, and mother had looked at her
gravely for a moment and then smiled, seeing that tears were coming, and
said it was no matter. Mother had never known that the tears were all
for the loss of the red and blue lights in the prism, and somehow her
kindness had not mattered then, because it could not bring the colors
back. But now it seemed to the old lady in the garden that mother had
been very kind indeed. "Don't mind it," the sweet face seemed to be
saying. "Don't mind anything." And as she listened, she was restored to
the pleasant usages of some morning land where one could be reassured in
a blest authority that made it so.

It seemed a long time that she sat there in this pleasant company, so
far removed from the conditions of her own life that it was actually, at
moments, as if she were in another country. But forms began to fade,
and, mingled with their going, was the sense that another personality
was thrusting itself into their circle, and, being more solid than they,
was pushing them out. Billy Stark was calling, in his kindly tone,--

"Florrie! wake up, child."

Her eyes came open.

"Yes," she said, "that's what mother was just calling me." She winked,
and rubbed her eyes. "My stars, Billy," said she, "I've been dreaming."

Billy pulled up a garden chair. He looked at her with a tender
consideration. Florrie was pretty tired, he thought. She had worn
herself out with these forced hurryings. Now he had no doubts about his
ability to take care of her, or his wish to do it. Billy was one who,
having made up his mind to a thing, cast care behind him, and if it
climbed up on the saddle-bow, he promptly knocked it off again. That was
why he proposed to be hearty for twenty years to come.

"Shall we turn the key in the door, and be poking over to Bessie
Grant's?" he asked. "We'll call here for your trunks, on the way to the
train."

"By and by, Billy." She leaned her head on the chair back, and regarded
him with her friendly smile. "I haven't waked up yet. What time is it?"

"Five minutes before three."

"No! Electra'll be sailing in five minutes."

"And in half an hour, the reverend parson will be waiting for us at
Bessie Grant's."

"Yes, I know. But let me sit a minute, Billy. I had the most
extraordinary dream."

"Last night?"

"No, no. Sitting here in the sun. And yet I didn't think I'd slept a
wink. Billy, do you remember the day mother stood me in the corner for
going fishing with you, and then, when she found you'd stood yourself in
the other corner, she laughed and gave us cookies?"

"Seems to me I do. I'd forgotten, though."

"So had I. I hadn't thought of it for years. Then there was the time
Jeanie Lake was married and they found out he'd deceived that girl over
in the next township, and Jeanie died of a broken heart."

"What makes you think of it now, Florrie?"

"I remember so well how Jeanie looked through the weeks she was fading
out, before she died. I remember I thought I shouldn't have taken it so.
I'd have struck him on his lying mouth and lived to love another man.
But Jeanie looks exactly like herself now."

"You've been dreaming, Florrie," said the old man anxiously.

"Didn't I tell you I'd been dreaming? I saw them in crowds. Don't you
hurry me, Billy. Let's sit here a minute and talk about old times." She
blinked her eyes awake again and looked at him reassuringly. "You
mustn't think I don't want to go, Billy. I do. I'm a little tired, but
I'm all keyed up to go. I'm perfectly sure we shall have a lovely
time,--the loveliest time that ever was."

"The voyage will do you good," he said, in the same affectionate
concern. "The maid will meet us on the pier. And once in London, you'll
be the centre of the crowd."

"Fancy! And Electra shall come over from Paris, and you'll make love to
me, to shock her. Billy, isn't it queer I didn't dream of Charlie Grant
this morning?"

"Why, Florrie? Why should you?"

"Because they were all there, crowds of them I haven't told you about.
But not he. I suppose he was with Bessie Grant. Billy, it was when I
gave him up, my life went wrong."

"Yes, dear, you told me so."

"It wasn't that I couldn't bear to lose him. I never broke my heart. It
was because I made a bad choice,--a bad choice. I said deliberately I
wanted the world and the things the world can give. Everything began
when I gave him up."

"Time's going, Florrie. The parson will be there."

"Yes. Don't hurry me. Do you suppose we find things because we believe
in them?"

"What things, dear?"

"Will Bessie Grant have heaven because she believes in it? Will she find
him because she thinks he's there?"

"Come, dear, wake up."

"Well!" The old lady roused herself. The light came back to her eyes,
the old smile to her lips.

"I'll tell you what, Billy," said she, "there's one thing I swear I
never will forget. Living or dying, I never will."

"What is it?"

"I never'll forget you saw me an old woman and treated me like a young
one. I never'll forget you did your best to bring back my lost youth.
And if there is a heaven and I set foot in it, and they bring up their
archangels, I'll say, 'Away with you and your fine company. Where's
Billy Stark?'"

But the light faded as she spoke and her face changed mysteriously, in a
way he did not like. A clever thought came to him.

"Florrie," said he, "have you had your luncheon?"

"I guess not."

"Have you been sitting here ever since Electra went, dreaming and
starving?"

"I guess so."

"Well, that's it. Now you get on your two feet and take my arm and come
over to Bessie Grant's. And she'll give you food and coffee. Bless us,
Florrie, we're not going to own we miss Electra's patent foods as early
in the game as this!"

She smiled at him. "I believe I am hungry, Billy," she owned. "That's
why I had my dream. They always have visions fasting. But it was a
beautiful dream. I wish I could have it again."

"You wait a minute. I'm going to get you a nip of brandy." She was
rising, and he put her back into her chair. "I know where it is." He
hurried down the path, but her voice recalled him sharply.

"Billy, come back. Don't leave me."

He returned to her, where she had risen and was standing tremulously.
That same dire change was on her face, as if old age had passed a sponge
over it. Her eyes regarded him, in a keen questioning.

"What is it, Billy?" she whispered. "What's coming?" He put her into her
chair, and she said again, "Don't leave me."

"I must." There were tears in his kind eyes. "Let me go one minute,
dear. I'll get you something."

But her frail hand detained him.

"Sit down, Billy," she was whispering. "No, kneel--there--where I can
see you. Keep hold of me."

He knelt at her feet, and she bowed her head upon his shoulder. He put
her back gently into her chair, again with the determination to get the
brandy; but her face forbade him.

"Florrie!" he called loudly.

No one answered. With the keenness of the shocked intelligence, summoned
to record the smallest things with the same faithfulness as the large,
he noted how the bees were humming in the garden. He and the bees were
alive, but his old friend was dead.



XXXIII


In the hushed interval after Madam Fulton had died and Billy Stark had
gone away sadly, knowing he should return to America no more, Osmond
went to find Rose. He had seen her briefly, in the common ways of life,
but it was evident to her that they were not to meet alone. Perhaps his
mind had fixed itself inexorably against her, she thought, and he meant
to see her only to say good-by. But even that contented her, if it must
be. The splendor of their understanding abode with her and made his will
seem easy. When the tide of new love went down, it would be another
thing; but now it was at the flood, and the light of heaven shone in it.

He came walking through the garden, and she saw him come. Grannie sat
out there among the hollyhocks, waiting for Peter. He had left his
painting to bring her a glass of water from the house, and she rested in
a somnolent calm. Grannie liked the sunshine, and to-day it was opulent
and flooding. To Osmond, looking at her as he came, her serenity seemed
even majestic. She had forgotten the world, he saw, and a smile brooded
upon her face, that face where no evil passions had ever dwelt, and
where peace had lain like a visible sign for many years. As he passed
her portrait, he glanced at it in proud wonder because Peter had done
it. To Osmond it looked complete as it was, and he found it another and
only less beautiful grannie in the garden, with an added touch of life
upon the face, something that did not lie there every day. It was a
shade of sadness in the midst of the tranquillity, as if grannie also,
in spite of her calm, had known great hungers. It tempered her childlike
quality and made what might be called her character as enduring as time
that had wrought it. She opened her eyes, when he neared her, and her
smile came, the one that was for him alone and never failed him.

"What were you thinking about, grannie?" he asked her.

"A good many things," she said. "Florrie and poor Billy Stark."

"You'll miss her, grannie!"

"Not long, son. And I'm very glad she's gone. Florrie never was one to
bear old age. She'd have had to meet it soon!"

Osmond smiled tenderly at the ingenuous implication, but then he
bethought him it was true. Madam Fulton never had been old. Grannie put
out her hand to his.

"I've been thinking of you, son, all the morning. I hoped you'd come."

"Yes, grannie. I couldn't come before."

"No. You look like a new man."

"I am a new man, grannie."

He gave the kind hand a little tight grasp, and left her. Peter was
coming with the glass of water, and Peter, too, had a morning light on
his face, only his was the look of the maker who sees the vision of
fulfillment.

"Good picture, Pete," said Osmond.

Peter nodded in entire acquiescence.

"I don't know what grannie looks like," he said. He was gazing into the
glass of water, as if it were a crystal and he could find the answer
there. "I've been trying to think. Like a baby--with a sort of
innocence--like a fate, a kind one,--like the earth goddess. If I've put
in all I see, it's a corker."

"It's the mother look," said Osmond. "But it is a corker, safe enough."

They parted with a nod, but Peter stopped.

"Hear that!" he said.

Rose was singing. The song began so triumphantly, with such dash and
splendor, that it was almost like improvising. Osmond felt it like a
call. He went on to the house, and Peter, after that moment of
listening, also kept on the way that took him to his work. He, too,
walked with quickened step, and there was light in his eyes. All the
vibrations of his being quickened to the song; but he was thinking what
a stunning world it was to have such things in it: paint and canvas and
disturbing songs and broken hearts. The song ceased suddenly. He knew
why. Osmond had gone into the room and Rose had met him. Peter sighed.
Then he laughed, took grannie's empty glass from her, and sat down to
work.

"It's a funny world, grannie," he remarked.

Grannie smiled at him. She understood him also, though he was not in her
heart as Osmond was.

"You like your work, don't you, Peter?" she remarked. "It's just the
right thing for you."

Peter plunged at it.

"It's the best thing out," he affirmed. "It's the top bubble on the
biggest wave." Then he too, because the song had ceased, began one on
his own account, with an inward rueful apology to his broken heart. For
the song should have been a sad one, but Peter could not paint when the
vibrations lagged, and so he made it gay.

Osmond followed the voice, and met Rose in the sitting-room, where she
stood waiting for him. She wore a morning gown of demure dimity, with a
little ruffle about her singing throat. When she saw him, she laughed,
for no reason. Then she blushed. For Osmond was not the same. He came up
to her and took her hands.

"You don't look like a goddess," he said.

They were smiling at each other out of an equal hope.

"I'm not a goddess. I'm just girl."

"Not a terrible Parisian?"

She looked down at her dress, that had wrought the simplicity.

"I put it on for you," she said. "You didn't like my chiffons that other
night."

"How did you know I should come?"

"You knew it. Why shouldn't I know it? Are the wires down?"

Then, by one impulse, they began to walk back and forth through the
room, hand in hand, like children.

"You go next week," he said, although he knew she did.

"Yes."

"When do you come back?"

"As soon as I can race through all the business there. In a month, I
hope--perhaps less."

"Shall you come straight here?"

"I may stay a day or two in New York. I shall bring letters. I shall try
to get a footing there."

"I will meet you in New York. Grannie has folks there. I'll take you to
them."

It was a different man that spoke, decisive, dominating. She flushed in
keen delight. They stopped at the window and looked out on the garden
beds, in that tranquil summer hush, all growth and bloom. He drew her
hand to his lips and spoke intemperately.

"What a fool I was to come by day!"

"Why, Osmond?"

"I wanted it to be by day, with no glamour round us, to make you judge,
accept, reject things as they are. But now I need the night to help me."
She was a picture of breathing happiness. He forgot his part. "Rose," he
cried, "it's love between us!"

"It's love," she answered.

"I came to tell you the past is past. It's not to be remembered. Not a
doubt! not a fear! not even a fear for you. You're not to love a coward.
I won't have that. Will you take me, make what you can of me?"

The light on their faces spoke without their will.

"I'm not going to mark it down," he said. "I'm not going to say it isn't
worthy of you. It's going to be, the sort the big lovers died for. I
have looked the thing in the face. I adore it. I'm going where it leads
me."

She calmed as he grew fervid.

"Sit down, Osmond," she said. "We must talk. There aren't many days to
talk in."

But as he sat, he kept her hand.

"Shall I tell you why I've been staying away from you?" he asked.

"If you want to. But I know."

"You don't know the half. I have had to conquer all sorts of fears,
chiefly for you. For me it's nothing. I'd rather have one minute of you
and lose you to-morrow than not to have had you. But for you!" A wistful
shade fell upon his face. "My own dear child!" he mused. "It must be
well for you."

"It will be well."

"It shall. It's a great adventure, Rose. It's a big challenge--the
biggest. I promise you--"

"No! no!"

"Yes. I promise you my undying faith. And I won't be a coward."

She was looking at him, smiling.

"You're a darling lover," she said. "Such pretty words!"

Then they laughed.

"This is nothing to what I can do," said Osmond. "I shall read the
poets."

He leaned to her and they kissed, like children. Tears came into his
eyes. He foresaw strange beauties he had never dreamed of. There would
be the sweet, slumbrous valleys and the sharp lightnings of fierce love,
but there would be also the homely intimacies, the foolishness of
children who, hand in hand, can smile at everything.

"Do you suppose you could tell what I am thinking?" he wondered.

The air of the playhouse seemed to be about her, and she knew.

"You are playing we are on a ship," she said.

"Yes, we two alone--"

"We're just starting on the great adventure--"





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rose MacLeod" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home